i have a question...

Monday, December 31, 2007

Best of 2007

In honor of the many, many end-of-year lists that I've been reading faithfully, I thought I'd compile my own. So, below lies an incomplete list of my favorite movies, books, music, and theater of 2007.

(Note: these aren't all originally written or released this year, but most of them are.)

Knocked Up
The Lives of Others
This is England
I Am Legend

On Beauty by Zadie Smith
A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas by Chuck Klosterman
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
365 Days/365 Plays by Suzan-Lori Parks
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Neon Bible by Arcade Fire
Favourite Worst Nightmare by Arctic Monkeys
Future Sex/Love Sounds by Justin Timberlake
Infinity on High by Fall Out Boy
Sam's Town by The Killers
"Sober" from Kelly Clarkson's album, My December
"Cupid's Chokehold" from Gym Class Heroes' album, As Cruel as Schoolchidren
"Falling Slowly" from the Once soundtrack
"The Long Way Around" from Dixie Chicks' album, Taking the Long Way
"Waiting on the World to Change" from John Mayer's album, Continuum
"Breathe Me" from Sia's album, Colour the Small One
"Everything" from Michael Buble's album, Call Me Irresponsible

Grey Gardens
Spring Awakening
Gypsy at City Center
The Seagull at BAM, Royal Shakespeare Company
Anna Karenina at City Center, Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg

Sunday, December 30, 2007

i heart denial, vol. II

It's easy enough to distract myself about the fact that I'm moving when I'm with K. She's sort of the perfect neutral party, and I've felt like I've been on vacation since she's been visiting. Plus, S isn't here, so I've been able to get a lot done, while ignoring the weightiness of the actual deeds.

K's out this afternoon, and I'm forcing myself to pack all my clothes except for what will fit in my suitcases.

My dresser is half-empty; my closet is mostly empty; my walls are bare; nothing of mine is in the living room, kitchen, and almost the bathroom.

I'm starting to freak out a little.

thought of the moment, 16: body function

When I stop to contemplate it, the number of times I've done some version of the peepee dance in my elevator is truly staggering.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

i heart denial

I've begun packing. All my books are packed, which is really the majority of my stuff. Books, bedding, and even some clothes. Seven boxes total. Probably 4 or 5 more to go. Still, none of it feels quite real.

It's good S isn't here this week. I think we'd just moan and cry too much for any packing to get done. K is helping so much--she did all the books in my room.

In other news, I think my Austin application got lost in the mail. They still don't have it and it's a holiday week. And it's due in 5 days. I'm not sure there's anything I can do about it, and I'm not freaking out because I have other things to worry about. Good thing it wasn't my first choice. :-/

Thursday, December 20, 2007

another last thing, vol. III

Time is weird. I have all these plans, dates I'm anticipating, things on my to-do list, and I keep just buzzing through them and crossing them off. It's sort of making my head spin. Last night was my office going-away party; tonight is the university party; tomorrow, S and I have plans all day long and into the night, and my weekend is shot because of a co-worker's holiday party. Then K comes for a week, and suddenly, it'll be 2008 and less than a week before I leave New York.

This is really it. My last day at the job I've been at for 777 days today. (I promise I just did the addition--I didn't even make that number up!!)

Maybe today will be a lucky day.

UPDATE: I gotta say, it feels a little weird. I'm home at a regular time, but I'll NEVER make that commute again (and I don't think I'll miss it). What strange things, all these endings are. Today was not so much lucky as...anticlimactic.

Monday, December 17, 2007

thought of the day, 26: minutiae

I keep meaning to post: little things, like witty comments I hear throughout my last days of work, things and people I note on the train, but I seem, instead, to be overwhelmed and obsessed with my DESPERATE NEED FOR MOVING BOXES.

Seriously. It's all I'm thinking about right now. Even though I just collected five.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

two down, one to go

Sending off the rest of my Austin application today. I read over the curricula I had to prepare as part of the supplementary materials and was actually really proud of myself. It was a shock to learn that there was another essay to write, but when I had a chance to reflect on the assignment itself, I realized how exciting it was, and then I produced something I think deserves some attention.

That's pretty satisfying.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I am a Pop Culture Genius, Vol. IV

This is a good one, folks. Anyone remember him? Gordon from Sesame Street was on an episode of Sex and the City during Season 5, playing a waiter on the train Carrie and Samantha take from NYC to San Francisco during Carrie's book tour. Poor Gordon.

on the F train, vol. II

I was sitting near a young woman on the train today that I only noticed because she was right in front of me. I was busy with my iPod; she seemed just like every other person on the train. I noticed a chain of dark red beads, hanging out of her bag, that I thought was just a pretty necklace, until I realized she was running her fingers over the beads slowly, gripping, white-knuckled.

She was praying, eyes squeezed shut. The pretty beads were a rosary.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

well, it's official

S just found a new roommate. She's buying most of my furniture, is fine with the later move-in date, and seems very nice. S isn't relieved yet. I am, mostly. S is off to do some retail therapy, and I'm planning on getting my Austin application mostly done today.

The gravity and reality of this situation all still feels very far away.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Music Explorers, vol. XII, the final volume

Oh, how time flies. It's already December 5, which means tonight was the night I said goodbye to this project, which feels like an entire chapter of my life.

Our plan tonight didn't differ too greatly from last week, except it was a Holiday Edition. We started with the 19 kids (to 9 volunteers) making nametags on paper shaped like ornaments. Stickers, people. The key is stickers. Those kids went BATTY for them.

Then, we set them up in groups and divided the "Twelve Days of Christmas" verses among them and sang it through a couple times, with everyone having a moment to shine by singing their verse and doing a movement that went with their number. Too hilarious, especially because the version we sang along to seems to have been the Muppets.

That part of the agenda ended up taking up a lot of time, so we reviewed "Jingle Bells" and "Deck the Halls" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," so they all could bellow at the top of their lungs, mostly. Their assignment again was to perform their own versions of one of these songs, to be judged American Idol-style.

There was some inspired choreography, some impressive solos, but the winning group was the one who performed a "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and "Feliz Navidad" remix. 'Nuff said.

During snack, I thanked all the kids for having taught me so much and told them they could really do whatever they set their minds to. At least they were quiet while I talked; that's about as much as I could have ever wished for.

I come away from this project with confidence that I've picked the right career path, despite all the frustrations, head- and footaches. This has been an absolutely invaluable experience. I hope one or two of the children I've met in the last 7 months reflects on it in the same way, someday.

thought of the day, 25: this sounds just like me, but i'm not 3 years old

Quote courtesy of dooce.

"I will remember this last month as one long string of poop talk coming out of you, a phase when everything revolved around being poopy. It has become your favorite noun, your favorite verb, your favorite exclamation. Sometimes you will shout it in the middle of dinner, sometimes you will read a book and for ten pages it's all poopy, poopy, poopy, poopy? poopy, POOPY! poopy, poopy, poopy, The End. I'll ask you to spell your name and you'll scream POOPY!"

Monday, December 3, 2007

another last thing, vol. II

I got really sad on my way home today, after spending 3 1/2 hours with my favorite coworker, after our Monday. She's only in the city for a couple days, and I'm busy the rest of the time she's here. It's the last time we'll spend time together while I'm living in New York.

Also, I don't understand this. Please to explain.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

thought of the moment, 15: when did this happen?

This year has gone so fast that I'm completely disoriented it snowed last night. Does this mean winter is really upon us? I didn't notice.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thursday, November 29, 2007

thought of the day, 23: sometimes things just have a way of working out

The stagehands' strike is over, which means we will get to see the show I've had tickets to for months!

Don't tell her--it's a surprise!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Music Explorers, vol. XI

Tonight, I'm proud to announce, was a great success! We split the kids into groups and had them decorate their nametags. It's always slightly hilarious to watch how determined they are to spell their own names and precisely decorate--one little girl came in late and didn't recognize her name in block letters, then slowly and deliberately drew "hearts" on the back of her nametag. (They weren't really hearts, but she sure was working hard.)

Then, we introduced the kids to Rock N Roll, starting by teaching them dance moves: the jerk, the monkey, the swim and backstroke, the twist, the bird, and the mashed potato. They LOVED it, all writhing and shaking to "Rock Around the Clock." I took a few minutes to go over some of the history of the genre, as quickly and painlessly as possible. I dare say, I think they may have even enjoyed the lesson.

Finally, they were broken into groups to adapt, sing, and/or dance to "Great Balls of Fire" or "Rock Around the Clock," and the night culminated with performances that were judged by me and the two Henry Street employees, a la American Idol. These performances ranged from inappropriate pelvic thrusts and muttered "Goodness gracious, great balls on fire," to one girl who'd memorized the verse, to a version of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" set to "Great Balls of Fire." We even picked a winner--the group who performed with the greatest gusto.

It's amazing how quickly things can change in one day. I was extremely sad that next week is my last session with the kids. I've learned so much, had so much fun, and this is sort of the first of many endings to come. It's certainly bittersweet.

this is gonna be a long day

This is one of those rare but poignant days when I hate New York. When I try to take up as little space on the subway but still get sat on. When it's cold and everyone's all elbows and loud voices and too close. When I'm hungry but can't eat again until after brownies get delivered. When it doesn't matter that I'm seeing my kids later because first I have to worry about buying my boss goodies she can eat, even though the balance in my account reads 2-digits. When I just found out UT Austin requires I write one more essay. When the stagehands' strike means I might not see a show I've been planning to for months. When I'd so much rather just be not here and asleep.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


This apartment abuts The Flea Theater, which doesn't really mean anything to me, except that there are sometimes crowds coming in and out. Tonight, however, I saw a package downstairs addressed to one Marisa Tomei c/o The Flea Theater.

Friday, November 23, 2007

thought of the day, 22: i should have known better

This apartment is lovely: spacious, full of DVDs and hundreds of cable channels, a stocked fridge, kitties to keep me company, a welcoming bathtub. Still, I found myself determined to get out today and thought I'd go out for some shopping. I figured everyone would be at Macy's, not down here.

First of all, I was wrong. It wasn't particularly any worse than normal down here, but the weather was definitely too many people out.

Secondly, shopping alone isn't fun. Why would anyone want to wait on the line at a fitting room by him or herself? That just sounded sad and boring to me.

Whenever I try to venture out to shop by myself, I end up at a bookstore or a Starbucks, sipping a Chai Tea Latte. I suppose one can never be lonely with a great book.

I did, however, manage to buy an iPod case, which I've needed for more than a year. It was under $10. I suppose after-Thanksgiving sales are good for something.

I'm happy enough to be back inside anyway--it's COLD out there. Besides, there are hundreds of cable channels and kitties to keep me occupied.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Disillusion

I woke up about an hour ago, in my empty apartment, mostly fine with that--I'm heading out soon to housesit at the most beautiful apartment I've ever seen in Manhattan, and figured I'd check out the Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV. It's sort of a self-inflicted tradition; I'm always curious to see which Broadway shows are represented and how.

But this may be the first year that I noticed just how badly everyone lip-synchs.

It's a little bit like learning Santa doesn't exist.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

thought of the day, 21: marathons

It's really bad when I discover TV marathons on my days off because that inevitably translates into me doing something like sitting on the couch watching the entire Season 2 of Project Runway in one sitting.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

on a crosstown bus

I'm always curious to peek at what people are reading and listening to on public transportation. The woman next to me on the crosstown bus was listening to her iPod, so naturally, I snuck a look at her console:
Redeemer--Various Artists--The Great Praise and Worship Classics IV.

I didn't realize there were Praise and Worship Classics, let alone enough to fill four (IV) CDs.

my job, in a nutshell

me: ME TOO
even though i'm explaining stuff to [my replacement].
which is kind of fun
S: this is how you sharpen your pencil, this is where you make the copies
this is where the light switch is


Monday, November 19, 2007

the plight of the 9-5er

S: sometimes, i get the urge to pull my turtleneck over my head
cuz it's soft and also everyone is annoying

Thursday, November 15, 2007

thought of the moment, 14: satisfaction

Sometimes I get the same kind of satisfaction from cleaning my filthy glasses as I do from flossing something large and unreachable from between my teeth.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

holy mother of god. what the hell is going on? will someone tell me? because i think my brain just exploded and will soon be oozing out my nose.

I just bought a one-way ticket to San Luis Obispo for the afternoon of Sunday, January 6, 2008.


Monday, November 12, 2007

a chat among friends

me: yeah
she's kind of reserved
but really nice and interesting.

S: i'm reserved too

me: she's grown on me a lot
that's true.

S: i grew on you

me: you grew on me like some kind of infection.

S: hahahahaha
a snuggly infection

thought of the day, 20: super foxy

It's like a rite of passage into womanhood that I'm wearing a pair of boots with a heel small enough that I officially have to avoid walking on street grates.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

for my fellow word nerds

Put your expertise to some worldly good use.

another last thing

Part of my job every month is to consolidate American Express receipts, justify the charges, and allocate them to grants we get money from. It's not a time-consuming task so much as potentially tedious and just not that fun.

I think I just did it for the last time.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Music Explorers, vol. X

I keep starting these posts with sentences like..."Today I was a stresscase" and "tonight was hard," but...Tonight was tough. We keep getting large, antsy groups of kids and hoping against all hope that they'll get something from our frenzied lessons. The fact is, we're really good at being flexible, and tonight we basically threw our plan out the window.

We started with a craft--making headbands with 3 feathers, on which they had to write 3 things they were thankful for. This was pretty much the only part of the night that went swimmingly. The kids were eager and creative and were thankful for a varied range of things: from Mom and Auntie to baseball and chicken nuggets.

I was hoping to have them master my notorious Cup Game. (Many of you have played it with me.) I think with a small group, we would have been able to conquer it, but they couldn't get the rhythm down, even though they all REALLY loved making noise together.

Then, we attempted to introduce them to Rounds and all sang Row, Row, Row Your Boat...with the intention of also teaching them Frere Jacques (in French and English) and then breaking them into groups to perform their own versions of the rounds as a final project. Of course, somehow that turned into WHO CAN SCREAM THIS SONG THE LOUDEST?! We got them to do a round as a group at least.

Then we got up and let them dance. I think they just needed to not be sitting for so long.

Lessons learned.

At the end of the evening, we always provide the kids with a snack. I bought them cider, in honor of the season and because it had been a hit one time before. One boy took a sip, then went "Blehhhhh. It tastes like mop!"

I was, at once, irritated by his rudeness and impressed with his creativity.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

and now, we wait

I've just officially submitted my graduate application to UC Berkeley.

Now, I get to not breathe for 5 months.

Oh yeah, and work on two other applications.

a dose of reality (tv)

Should I be more embarrassed that I am so familiar with the formula of The Bachelor that I knew I wasn't going to miss anything by not watching next week because it's the "Women Tell All" episode and not the finale?

Monday, November 5, 2007

a dose of reality

There's nothing like hearing that your replacement has been hired to remind you how soon you are (and that you are, in fact) moving across the country. Again.

thought of the day, 19: it's really the simple things

My day was just made by the fact that they now offer Dill Havarti as a cheese at the sandwich bar in my office cafeteria.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Having already partied the night away for Halloween on the Saturday before (I was an 80s party girl; S was a stewardess), I sort of opted out of any mid-week reveling, anticipating a trip to Boston and not really looking forward to, as I told one friend, "walking around in mobs of people wearing makeup and angel wings poking me in the eye, looking for something to do."

So, the only true taste of Halloween I got happened just now, on my walk home from the 7th Avenue subway station. Park Slope has a pretty large Halloween parade every year, and 7th Avenue is full of shops that dole out candy, so the kids were in full effect as the sun was setting this evening.

I saw several Spidermen, a couple Ninja Turtles, a lovely mermaid and her pirate lady (her dad in drag, no less), a family all decked out in white and neon, including a pregnant mom. I fell in step with a group of girls in football jerseys. Robin Hood sat outside a bar and a little lamb was afraid of him. (I would have been too; he gleefully explained that he was wearing a codpiece that said "Mr. Happy" on it, which was why he was sitting down.) Mind you, none of the kids were quite as cute as these.

And then as I turned down my street, I walked behind the Fantastic Four: Mom was the Invisible Woman, Dad was Thing, and the boys were Mr. Fantastic and Human Torch. Another family walked near them and one of the kids asked who each of them was. His dad explained and then asserted, they weren't all from the same movie; they were all from the same comic book.

Friday, October 26, 2007

particularly for Chuckee D

I think he will find these especially funny.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Music Explorers, vol. IX, the Halloween Edition

Today, I was a stresscase. A combination of feeling unprepared for volunteering (sometimes emails aren't that effective, and that's the only way my co-leader and I plan), having 3 hours of meetings at the end of the day, needing to run errands for the evening beforehand, and anticipating seeing both parents tomorrow, left me anxious for the evening's lesson.

Then, we ended up with 19 kids for 5 volunteers, and those kids love to yammer. Boy, do they ever.

The biggest thing I've learned working on this project is how to stay flexible. My co-leader and I have to always be ready to change our plans because we see different kids every week and also work with different volunteers. We had an initial plan to dress up, make masks, sing and dance this week. We ended up scrapping the arts and crafts part and focused instead on learning the lyrics of and a dance to Michaels Jackson's "Thriller."

But first, we played a rousing game of musical chairs, where the person who misses a chair has to go around and name everyone. If he/she gets them all right, he/she can pick someone else to leave the circle. If he/she gets them wrong, he/she is out. (How PC of me.)

Then, I went over the first 2 verses and chorus of Thriller. We listened first, then read along to a beat, then sang it through a couple times. It was hilarious.

My co-leader masterminded a dance for the chorus, and we threw it all together, complete with an introduction of spooky sounds: witches cackling, doors creaking, zombies groaning, cats meowing, and ghosts booing. They creeped in, making their sounds, then danced the chorus.

It was a spectacle.

Next time, I think we're going to focus on singing--probably Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Is that how that's spelled?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

thought of the day, 18: damn

Deleting someone's phone number from your phone does not mean you stop thinking about the possibility that he'll call you.

Friday, October 19, 2007

thought of the day, 17: ugh

Raise your hand if you hate phone tag!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

busted tees

First laugh, then buy me some.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

thought of the moment, 14: moving on

I realized today that I will be visiting Emerson College for an open house on the 2-year anniversary of my first day at my job.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Music Explorers, vol. VIII

So my co-leader and I entered today's session with a strategy: occupy the adults, make sure they're all really prepared, play a game with the kids as they filter in so we're not all affected by them as they sweep in, then start the lesson when everyone has arrived. We've been competing with a performance group that gathers in the park, and kids haven't been rounded up until after 7 some weeks, which just doesn't allow much work between 630 and when everyone has finally arrived.

It was a strategy we were really confident in, but I showed up at 6 to 12 kids, which of course meant we had to shift our plans. Everything worked out well, nonetheless, but it was interesting that we had planned for things to be much more difficult than they ended up being.

We started with a name game, something we'll probably stick to every week so we can all learn everyone's name. We all stood in a circle and threw a ball of yarn around, saying the name of the person who threw the ball and the name of the person then being throwing to. It was a hit, not to mention helpful.

Then, I asked how many of them knew the ABCs, Twinkle, Twinkle, and Baa, Baa Black Sheep. (Of course, the point is they're all the same song.) I was able to prove that by having half the kids sing one song while the other half sang the other. One of the kids, who hadn't quite understood the concept, was SO excited as he discovered the point. My co-leader introduced them to On Top of Ol'Smokey/Spaghetti as another example of two songs with the same melody.

They're assignment for the night was to write their own songs, to either melody. My brilliant example was (sung to the ABCs):
Hi, my name is Annie [not printing my last name here]
Last year, I was 23.
This June, I turned 24.
Next year, I'll be even more.
Hi, my name is Annie...
Last year, I was 23.

The kids were broken into groups to write their own and then performed them, like the stars they are.

A group of boys came up with this:
Old man, old man, look at you.
[Something, something, something] shoe. (Sorry, I forget)
He fell down, his teeth fell out,
Now he cannot eat his sprouts.
Old man, old man, look at you
[Something, something, something] shoe.

And one very prolific girl wrote:
On top of the TV
Is the remote.
Oh no, I can't reach it.
My back is broke...
and then 2 more verses.

Next week, we're doing a country-themed, Halloween project, where they'll have bandannas and paper hats, learn a song and line dance. Should be a hell of a time.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

shifting priorities

Dear friends,

It struck me last night, while drunk on wine after a weekend full of too much smoking and some drinking and mostly playing, that I really needed to crack down on my grad school writing. I'm about 2/3 done with the Berkeley requirements but must just finish. Not to mention start/finish my UT Austin application, which is due mere weeks after the Berkeley one.

Considering that every other Wednesday is occupied with my volunteering, and Tuesdays I get home late from therapy as it is, I thought it best to try to use my time better when I'm home and get some good writing done. For as long as I can or need to.

In short, the review column is put on hold until further notice. Indefinitely, but not finally.

Thanks for your understanding.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


It is nearly impossible for me to separate the music on Jeff Buckley’s album Grace from the incredibly potent experiences I had getting high in college. In fact, since then, I actually haven’t been able to listen to the CD all the way through, but it was specifically requested that I review it this week; I figured I’d be able to finally listen to it critically. I think the conclusion is I failed miserably, considering I nearly burst into tears on the subway. So this might not be a review, so much as a trip down memory lane…or something.

The fact of the matter is that Buckley’s life was way too short—he drowned when he was 30—and I’m just not convinced his posthumous success has outshone the success he might have had if he had lived a longer life, even though that’s what everyone always says about posthumous success. His voice has been described as “ethereal,” and I couldn’t think of a better word. It’s ghostly at times, strong and striking when he wails, and his falsetto rules the CD. The way it soars from one part of his range to the other is part of his remarkable talent.

Like I mentioned, these songs are kind of engrained in me and they’re honestly hard to separate as distinct from each other. In “Mojo Pin,” Buckley starts with an echoing “ooh,” whispers about how he loves her so, and then screams about his “black beauty.” It’s a stirring song to listen to while sober, let alone…um…not. In “Grace,” he eerily sings about his mortality: “Drink a bit of wine, we both might go tomorrow.” In all the times I’ve heard the album, it wasn’t until this listen that I heard the clock ticking in the background. Creepy.

“Last Goodbye” was always a particularly sentimental track in our house, if for nothing but the lyrics “Kiss me, please kiss me. Kiss me out of desire, baby, not consolation.” I can’t quite recall why that hurt us all so much, but I remember a lot of swooning. The bridge of this song is Buckley basically screaming perpetually higher until he explodes into singing. It’s pretty powerful stuff.

The covers on this album, Nina Simone’s “Lilac Wine,” Leonard Cohen’s “Hallejulah” and the hymn “Corpus Christi Carol” are, in my opinion, what make the album. (I guess it can be mentioned here that when I was introduced to this music, I had no idea what era Buckley had lived. I assumed he had been famous during the 60s.) Buckley’s version of “Lilac Wine” is sung in his ridiculous falsetto. His version of “Hallejulah,” probably his most famous track, is a revelation. It’s beautifully sung and played, so sad, and the crazy note he holds at the end never ceases to amaze me. And “Corpus Christi Carol” seriously stuns me every time because he sings so high through the whole song; he sounds like a woman, but I mean that in a good way.

On the track “So Real,” there’s a break in the song that always made us impressionable girls die a little, when Buckley growls, “I love you, but I’m afraid to love you.” That line always struck us as so a propos in those days. Ah, youth.

The track that always struck me as a buzzkill was “Eternal Life,” but listening to it now, I’m not sure why I didn’t like it then. Maybe because the hard-driving beat was a contrast to all the melancholia of the rest of the album and I was always forced out of my reverie. Or maybe it just sobered me up a little. I suppose both were equally boring to me then. I’d never even heard the strings in this song before today.

The thing is, this album is one of those that will just always vividly remind me of a certain time in my life. There’s no way around it. The other thing, though, is that this may be one of the best albums in my collection. Too bad I can’t listen to it anymore.

Monday, October 1, 2007

we all have our vices

I decided this weekend that The Dog Whisperer is to me what What Not to Wear is to my roommate.

We both want to purchase the subjects of the shows.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Music Explorers, vol. VII

Last night was hard. Kids streamed in, unattended, unnoticed. I didn't know any of their names. We got through our agenda ok (a brief dance routine, the orchestra game--where they all made animal sounds, and a story rap), but the volunteers, for the most part, were apprehensive and less than enthusiastic.

The main obstacle on this project is that the employees of the organization where we're working don't help us. They gossip and make noise and generally disrupt. And they are technically in charge, so there's not much we can do...

The main thing, though, is that we learned a lot last night. About how to iron out the kinks of the project, in general. We're going to do ice breakers with the adults, make sure they understand our agenda really well. Then, we'll always start with a game, during which it doesn't matter if kids stream in. We're also pushing back the class by 15 minutes, so we don't compete too much with activities in the nearby park.

I'll try not to be too discouraged. I suppose it's all a major learning experience.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


The movie Once has been dubbed a modern-day musical, but I stand by the fact that it’s just a movie about musicians…so of course there’s music in it. I fear that spoilers may lie within the review because the music is basically the plot of the movie, which makes it even more beautiful.

In the film, the magic of the first playing of “Falling Slowly” can’t be separated from the song itself. It is a seriously stunning scene, illustrating spontaneous harmony, in more ways than one. It starts with just guitar and piano, the instruments of Guy (Glen Hansard) and Girl (Marketa Irglova) in the movie (pointedly, they remain unnamed) and explodes into one of the most beautiful choruses I’ve ever heard. The song gains momentum and strings, but the electricity of it is that in the film, it’s the first time these musicians are playing together, and it foretells an intense, prolific relationship.

What is particularly striking about the music in this movie is that not only are entire songs played (not just snippets) but the way they are unveiled within the plot seems completely organic. They materialize out of the natural occurrence of the film—like I said, the music is the plot. “If You Want Me” is one of Irglova’s solos. Within the plot, Guy has given her the gift of writing lyrics to one of his songs. The characters call it romantic, but it’s strikingly sad. The wonderful mystery of these songs is that you can’t quite ever tell who they’re singing about. We find out that both characters, though obviously drawn intensely to each other, are also pulled to their own previous spouses—for her, it’s a husband, for him, it’s his ex-girlfriend whom he plans to win back. But on first listen, “if you want me, satisfy me” seems to be a yearning plea to Guy. This song also features a drum machine and Hansard on backing vocals, which makes it an anomaly on the soundtrack.

One of the turning points of the movie revolves around Guy arranging to record some of his music. He recruits Girl and some fellow buskers to play with him, and “When Your Mind’s Made Up” is the first track they record. It features bass and drums and Irglova playing piano that could only have been inspired by the Amelie composer, whimsical and melancholy, as well as Hansard’s intense, emotional screams that crescendo and then just keep going. There’s no resolution, which is perfect at this point in the movie.

As Guy sings “Lies,” he watches an old video of his ex (we find out early on that she “screwed some guy she knew”) and it seems that she and this have inspired most of his music. It’s about the unraveling of his relationship—“the little cracks that escalated.” Hansard’s wispy falsetto brings Jeff Buckley to mind, and the Irish fiddles shudder along with him.

At one point in the movie, Guy and Girl go to dinner at a pub where it seems like the only requirement for dining there is that you sing. “Gold” is a song that Guy sings with his cronies, all guitar players. The sound of this song is so full, many guitars, many voices, and sweet, melancholy lyrics like “And if your laugh was gold/how long do you think you’d stay livin?” I think that may be my new philosophy in life.

During the recording session, the emotional climax of the film occurs when Girl sings “The Hill” to Guy. It is just her voice and her piano playing, sounding a bit like a melodramatic movie and singing slightly trite lyrics: “Walkin up the hill tonight/And you have closed your eyes/I wish I didn’t have to make all those mistakes and be wise.” (In the movie, she admits the lyrics need work.) Still, as she sings about her husband, obviously just a young girl trying to figure out how to be a wife and mother, she breaks down to Guy and they really touch for the first time, finally concretely admitting their connection. It’s a potent moment, despite the immaturity of the song.

The crux of the movie lies within the above songs. The others don’t sit with as much weight in terms of the entire movie, although “Trying to Pull Myself Away” is the obvious radio single of the album, with Hansard sounding an awful lot like Ben Harper, featuring a broad chorus and intricate descending strings. Further, “All the Way Down” is a sleeper favorite of mine.

The song “Once,” which runs under the end credits is a duet between Hansard and Irglova (who are a couple in real life, after this movie) about the fleeting moment of recognition they’ve shared: “Once, once/I knew how to look for you/Once, once/But that was before/Once, once/I would have laid down to die for you/Once, once/But not anymore.” It should be mentioned here that Hansard’s falsetto is stunning.

I find it fascinating and poignant that the last song on the album is “Say it to Me Now.” The guitar here is reminiscent of a Beatles song I can’t identify. It begins with a benign enough verse and erupts into Hansard’s wrenching scream. The poignancy lies in the fact that, in the film, this is the song Guy sings right before he meets Girl. It actually starts the whole romantic, hopeful and sad story.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

thought of the day, 16: wonderwear

This show has taught me more about the importance of good underwear than anything else in my life.

I feel like I have a new body...and it's just new bras.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

As Cruel as School Children

Gym Class Heroes’ album As Cruel as School Children features the combination of smart, funny lyrics, catchy beats, and a charming lead performer. The band obviously takes a few cues from Outkast, but there’s something even more…playful and young about these guys and their album.

The first track, “The Queen and I,” is underlain by a funky Spanish guitar and Travis McCoy sarcastically railing against his woman’s drinking habits. There are recurring themes, as is expected from men who’ve newly found fame, of hook-ups, partying, and keeping one’s integrity (although none of those things is ever mentioned simultaneously in the same song). “New Friend Request” is one of the only songs I’m aware of that boasts a “MySpace” reference. Love in the digital age has never sounded so clever (“On the scale from 1 to awesome, I’m the shit)…or realistic. (He sends the lady he’s wooing a dozen digital roses and admits to checking his inbox 10 times a day.) “Clothes Off!” insists that we have to take our clothes off and have to party all night to have a good time. No questions about it. The charm oozing out of McCoy rivals Justin Timberlake, and the lyrics are hilarious in their overtness: “The way you stole my attention was flat out burgulary/What do you say let's exit stage left so me and you can/Possibly reconvene and play some naked peekaboo.”

Interspersed among all the attempts to hook up on the album are three “Sloppy Love Jingles,” all of which are brilliant in their absolute shamelessness. McCoy here is earnest but playful, not taking himself seriously, but seriously charming: “To me she equaled MC squared and everything else was mathematics/I never took the time to practice.” He chronicles one more attempted hookup, this one incredibly drunken and ending in an unsatisfying, forgettable sexual liaison: “With a smile I grabbed the note, lit a smoke and sat back,/"Dear whoever, lose my number. P.S. the sex was whack.”

The bottom line of these songs is that the productions are simple. The choruses are unexpected because, in contrast to the hiphopiness of the verses, they are usually pop-rock. “Clothes Off!” and “7 Weeks” even feature identifiable electric guitar riffs. Still, it is precisely this simplicity that makes it hard to decipher one track from the next.

The highlight of the album is their first single, “Cupid’s Chokehold.” Its unbelievably infectious chorus, featuring Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy, consists of the intricate refrain, “Ba ba da da” and McCoy, again, sings about trying to find the right girl. His definitions of love range from her giving him Alka-Seltzer when his tummy aches and her having her own ring tone. It’s precisely this combination of silly immaturity that wins me over and makes me keep listening.

Plus, McCoy is totally hot.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

thought of the day, 15: i get it now

I touched an iPhone today and it was a near-erotic experience.

Friday, September 14, 2007

thought of the moment, 13: every rose has its thorn

And every payday means pay your credit card bills.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Only in Park Slope

As I walked to the subway this morning, I overheard a mother regaling her 6 or 7 year old daughter with all the benefits of breastfeeding.

I think that trumps the little girl I once saw who asked for a snack of edamame.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Jagged Little Pill

To ease back into writing reviews after a couple weeks off, I thought I’d start with one of the hinges of my adolescent musical life, Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill. This album quickly became a phenomenon after its release in 1995, and it pushed me into an awareness of popular music. In the more than 10 years since its release, it’s become a modern classic.

The album begins with a power chord on electric guitar and a harmonica. “All I Really Want” was never a single, but because it’s the album-opener, it leaves just as much of a lasting impression as her more famous songs. In it, she’s shrieking (sometimes anxiously, deliciously off-key) about seeking a soulmate, finding someone to understand her, testing the limits of her current, unsatisfying situation: “Why are you so petrified of silence? Here, can you handle this?”

“You Oughta Know” and “Perfect” continue this line of angst and bitterness, but in supremely opposite ways. “You Oughta Know” is the infamous rant against a former lover and his new mistress: “Does she know how you told me you’d hold me until you died, till you died? But you’re still alive.” There is a hard-hitting beat, a wail to her voice, and Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers on bass. Then, the acoustic chords of “Perfect” begin and it seems to be an antidote to all the tortured-soulness that’s been heard so far, until the lyrics become clear: “Sometimes is never quite enough, if you’re flawless, then you’ll win my love.” The writing process of this song has become the stuff of pop music lore. Apparently, Morissette and her producer, Glen Ballard, wrote it in one sitting—the song just fell out of her. The sickening sweetness of the verses explodes into an anguished bridge: “…You’ll make up for what I blew, what’s the problem? Why are you crying?”

“Hand in my Pocket” is the first lighter track; even it is bittersweet. “I’m broke but I’m happy…I’m lost but I’m hopeful.” It’s an anthem of self-confidence, despite her youth and uncertainty. And 12 years later, those sentiments are still potent and relatable.

On “Right Through You,” Woman Scorned is back. She’s tired of being disregarded (“You took me out to wine, dine, 69 me, but didn’t hear a damn word I say”) and claims revenge through her success: “Now that I’m Miss Thang, now that I’m zillionaire, you scan the credits for your name and wonder why it’s not there.”

“Head Over Feet,” one of the simplest, prettiest songs on the album, is the closest thing to a love song Morissette can muster. She’s trying to adjust to the idea of finally being cared for, and admits that’s she fallen for him, in spite of her better judgment.

The mega-hit, “Ironic,” has been under scrutiny for years for not accurately illustrating irony. Still, it’s one of the only songs on the album with a fuller sound, more intricate orchestrations, and harmonies. However, most of the examples she writes about as ironic are just plain sad: “A traffic jam when you're already late, a no-smoking sign on your cigarette break, it's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife, it's meeting the man of my dreams and then meeting his beautiful wife.”

I have a couple secret favorite tracks. The bigness of Morissete’s voice in “Mary Jane,” which seems to be a plea for herself or a friend to start making the right decisions, is impressive. And “Not the Doctor” is a simmering song about all the pacifiers she does not want to be for him: mother, babysitter, glue, alcohol. Plus, the bass on the chorus rocks hard.

The final single, “Wake Up,” starts with an instrumentation that portends doom. It’s a rail against her him being contrary, wimpy, and an assertion that karma will come back to him eventually.

I’m not convinced Alanis Morissette has produced anything quite as revelatory as Jagged Little Pill since 1995, but I’m pretty sure she’s not as angry anymore. And that’s got to be a good thing.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

West Side Story, zombies

I never realized this is what that movie is really about. Huh.

Escape to the West

Last night I had a dream that New York City was under attack and I needed to find some place safe to go. So S and I fled to this family's house, but we were unsafe there because we were underground and wouldn't be able to escape if a bomb hit. But when we re-emerged and boarded an above-ground train, that was also unsafe, and we all held our breath as we passed over the bridge on the train, in plain sight of the military.

Suddenly, all these public transportation vehicles were passing us by and one of them said Portland, so I jumped on it and S followed. We were escaping to my brother's house! Of course, a bus ride to Portland would have taken days, so we were waiting to be connected to flights, and this stagemanager was arranging them for us, but she needed to first know what our past theater experiences were.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

i love my kids

Nothing like a little agenda-planning for next week's volunteering to get the ol' inspired juices flowing.

How exciting!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

what I learned this weekend

1. I am a better Scrabble player than I expected, but that last round was a tight race (and my brother wins the Scattergories trophy).
2. FM Transmitters are the best invention ever.
3. My 87-year-old grandmother thinks I don't need to lose weight and that I should get a dog, even though I told her several times I can't afford one and don't have space for one.
4. Diners in upstate New York do not carry fruit.
5. Two dinners in a row at a Chinese buffet is bearable, but three is crossing the line.
6. It's strange to spend 4 straight hours with your family and not drink.
7. When I am 56, I will look 50; when I am 62, I will look 40; and when I am 87, I will look 75. (I've got good genes on my side.)

Family Week Continues

Or is it two-weeks, by now?

In any case, you'll have to anxiously await my music column until next Tuesday.

I know, you're all dying a little as you read this.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Music Explorers, vol. VI

I was so excited about tonight because I was in charge of a whole section of the evening. The volunteers trickled in and I gave them all the planned agenda. It was nice to notice how confident I've become in presenting the ideas and my philosophies about this project. It's totally a new niche for me.

We had about 10 kids tonight, some of whom I recognized and some of whom were new. We started with a story game, to reinforce the rhyming we'd covered last time. Then I had my big debut, where I presented these lyrics from OutKast's fabulous song, B.O.B.

In-slum-national, underground
Thunder pounds when I stomp the ground (Woo!)
Like a million elephants and silverback orangutans
You can't stop a train
Who want some? Don't come un-pre-pared
I'll be there, but when I leave there
Better be a household name
Weather man tellin' us it ain't gon' rain
So now we sittin' in a drop-top, soaking wet
In a silk suit, tryin' not to sweat
Hits somersaults without the net
But this'll be the year that we won't forget

I wanted the kids to keep the beat, but that didn't go over so well, so I did it to a Casio beat. And I was a huge hit. Then we reviewed which words in the song rhymed. The harder part was getting them to understand the metered writing. So my Co-Leader suggested we just take the last 4 lines. I kept the beat and we all repeated it together several times. Then, a couple brave kids got up and of course did it perfectly. It's always so magical when you think they're not understanding and then they prove you wrong.

Their goal for the evening was to write at least 4 metered rhyming lines. We had 2 kids to each volunteer, and I had the best time walking around and peeking over hard-working shoulders. I cannot get over how talented these kids are.

Crystal, 9, wrote
Today I went to the park
I heard a dog bark
I went home to take a shower
I went out to see the twin towers
I went home to watch TV
I was eating cream cheese

Amaney, 6, wrote
Today I went to the park
But it was too dark
I took something to eat
I had a sandwich with meat

Samson, Moises (who was freaked out in the beginning because he can't read yet), and Tommy (a volunteer) wrote
Samson and Moises woke up today
Samson ate blueberries, Moises wanted to play
Samson went to a party, it was fun
Then he took a shower and had to run

I was very impressed. And I think I counted 4 hugs goodbye tonight.

Next time, they'll write their own words over "On Top of Old Smokey." I want them to write blues songs at some point too.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

sorry, kids

Family calls. No music column today.

Don't cry.

well, bully for her

Miss South Carolina Teen USA: 'I Made a Mistake'

Miss South Carolina Teen USA Lauren Caitlin Upton – whose answer to a simple competition question had her reaching all over the map Friday – gave this explanation: "I made a mistake."

Appearing on Tuesday's Today show, Upton, 18, discussed her mangled answer at the nationally televised beauty pageant when she was queried on why she thought one-fifth of Americans are unable to locate the United States on a map.

Today's Ann Curry suggested that everything must have come at Upton at once, to which the beauty queen (third runner-up in the contest) replied, "Yes, everything did come at me at once. I was overwhelmed, and I made a mistake. I'm human."

As for the pivotal moment, "right when that question was asked to me," she recounted, "I was in complete shock, and I was just overwhelmed." Upton says she thinks she heard only one or two words of the question itself. "I drew a blank," she said, "I misunderstood."

The pageant's TV host, Mario Lopez, tells PEOPLE that as the meltdown was occurring he wanted to help Upton but was told that he couldn't talk to the contestants while they were answering questions.

"It was a very intense moment," Lopez said. "It's live TV. You don't know what the question is until you get up there. And I believe that she misunderstood it. She went down the wrong road and couldn't figure out how to get back to the right one. I felt really badly for her."

Sitting in the Today studio, Upton also noted that she was nervous about appearing again on live TV, but then said, "I'm sitting here, laughing at myself ... because I'm thinking, is that really me [on the TV clip]? It's like I'm not in my actual body."

Upton, who said she plans to take graphic design in college and then move to Los Angeles with the hope of a career in movie and TV special effects, was then given another chance to answer the question.

Her reply: "Personally, my friends and I, we know exactly where the United States is on our map. I don't know anyone else who doesn't. And if the statistics are correct, I believe there should be more emphasis on geography in our education so people know how to read maps better."

(from People.com)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

some may call me a cynic

But I stand by my conclusion that most people are dumb.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

everyone, take note

This is what I want for Christmas.


You Are Death

You symbolize the end, which can be frightening.
But you also symbolize the immortality of the soul.
You represent transformation, rebirth of a new life.
Sweeping away the past is part of this card, as painful as it may be.

Your fortune:

Don't worry, this card does not predict death itself.
Instead it foreshadows the ending of an era of your life, one that is hard to let go of.
But with the future great new things will come, and it's time to embrace them.
Mourn for a while, but then face the future with humility and courage.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Infinity On High

Fall Out Boy’s latest album Infinity On High begins with applause and Jay-Z’s invocation. The boys from Chicago seem to know they’ve made it, and this album is confident in its cleverness and catchiness.

In my humble opinion, the hero of this album (if not the band—I’m not a connoisseur of theirs, but I can take an educated guess) is the lead singer, even if he’s not “the cute one.” (Pete Wentz is the bassist. Patrick Stump is the one second from the right.) He’s sincerely a white boy with soul. His voice carries weight and grit but can also soar into a strong falsetto and his riffing skills are addicting.

On “The Take’s Over, the Break’s Over,” he invokes Adam Levine (and I mean that in the best way possible). His battle cry on the rock operatic “This Ain’t a Scene, It’s a Goddamn Arms Race” aches for an arena. (In fact, it ends with an intense call and response.) His falsetto on “Hum Hallelujah” impresses. On the bridge of their current single, “Thks for the Mmrs,” accompanied by Spanish guitar that comes out of nowhere, he growls “Get me out of my mind/Get you out of those clothes.” And his riff at the end of “Bang the Doldrums” soars the track to its incredible climax.

There’s an interesting element on this album too, courtesy of incredible production. Not only are Stump’s vocals the star, but the background vocalists often steal the songs. They take over during the straight-from-Leonard-Cohen “Hallelujah” chorus during “Hum Hallelujah,” and the effect is striking. On “Golden,” the piano ballad on the album, the simplicity of the song itself is intense in contrast to the other harder driving songs, but the chorus and piano take it to further intensity as it concludes. “Thks for the Mmrs,” includes techno-like “One. Night. Stand. Oh,” which seriously makes the song for me, even though I can’t necessarily explain why.

The band’s inspirations are obvious. “The Take’s Over, the Break’s Over” is heavily Maroon 5-influenced. “Bang the Doldrums” sounds like Green Day, and “You’re Crashing, But You’re No Wave” begins with drums that sound like a Strokes track and a baritone part of Stump’s range we haven’t heard earlier on the album. There is serious 80s influence on “The (After) Life of the Party,” and the beginning of “I’ve Got All This Ringing in My Ears and None on my Fingers” sounds like the beginning of the finale in Fame.

Plus, these boys are clever. (My favorite track name is “I’m Like a Lawyer with the Way I’m Always Trying to Get You Off (Me&You).”) And by the time the applause at the end of the album is followed by the robotic voice, I can’t help but obey it. “Now press repeat.” I do. Over and over.

away messages, ed. 2

Here are some more witticisms, courtesy of my Gmail away messages:

If Gmail were a dude, he'd be so hot.
Sometimes we take chances/Sometimes we take pills.
I'm tough, grrrrrrrrrrr. x-(
Mz. Kee, if you're nasty.

Monday, August 20, 2007

unbeknownst to you and despite me

You've taught me how to keep secrets.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Music Explorers, vol. V

I was especially excited about tonight's project because we were going to have the kids write their own raps. It was something that had been mentioned the first night as an offer so kids would come back, and I convinced my co-leader to follow through with the plan.

We started by reinforcing what rhyme was, and all the kids (only 6 of them tonight) enthusiastically yelled out some easy rhymes, when we brought up words. Then we all went around the table and introduced ourselves and something we like that rhymes with it. I like my friend Danny. (I figured I couldn't mention my fanny.)

Then we broke down "Hey Diddle Diddle" and "Hickory Dickory Dock," had the kids point out the rhyming words and established the difference between reading them and reading them to a beat. My co-leader also wanted to introduce a bit of coordination, so we stood in a circle and did hilarious variations on the step-touch. Kids are funny.

And brilliant. When we brought up the creative task of the night, they all jumped in head first. We assigned them to write at least a 4 line "rap," using rhyme, beats, and writing about their favorite hobbies. And then each and every one of them got up and performed them by themselves. This part of it is a bit of a triumph because we have witnessed some crippling shyness from a lot of kids--they do well in a group and then when they're singled out, they clam up. Perhaps it was the smallness of the crowd and the enthusiastic support of us and the volunteers, but they all did SO well. And honestly wrote raps with less self-consciousness and angst than any of the grown-ups.

Here's mine:
"I act and write/Don't like to fight/And I watch my TV each night.
Annie's my name/Teaching's my game/One day I'd like to have riches and fame."

Next week, the plan is to challenge them a little more and expand on their growing knowledge of rhythm and rhyme by teaching them about accented and unaccented syllables. I'm very excited.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Anybody else remember these guys?

Last night I was at Wood Ranch, a BBQ restaurant near my cousins' house in Los Angeles. It's very family friendly, so we brought the grandmother and the one-year old. (It's their regular spot, in fact.) When our waiter came up to greet us, I recognized him immediately as Trevor from O-Town. (He's the one singing "Cuz you...and I, etc." in that video and in the red shirt and strange blond dread things in this video . God, these songs are awful.)

He was incredibly sweet, a gifted waiter, in fact, and after I ordered a Sierra Nevada, that's what he called me. I think he was a little surprised that I recognized him, flattered even. I was determined to ask him if he was still singing and apparently, he's singing and acting here in Los Angeles and even still in contact and working with the other boys.

It was the only celebrity sighting I've had so far in LA. Most of my time here has been spent chasing after a one-year old and napping in the afternoon. Oh, the glories of a true vacation.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

St. Elsewhere

Gnarls Barkley’s album St. Elsewhere is one of the only albums I can remember hearing and absolutely loving right from the beginning. Theirs is a brilliant, almost undefinable sound—heavily and perfectly produced beats by Danger Mouse, running under the staggering wail and low rumble of Cee-Lo’s vocals. It’s music you can’t help but move your body to.

The album begins with the sound of a projector being put on, which adds an element of fantasy to the entire listening experience. We’re immediately suspending disbelief that these are songs that we need to take too seriously. This element of whimsy (with a touch of impending doom) may be the album’s theme, at least instrumentally. The first track, “Go-Go Gadget Gospel” features frenzied horns and incredible key changes. It’s a joyful, manic song, a perfect first taste of this unique sound. It’s the song that grabbed me instantly.

The ubiquitous single, “Crazy,” has running under it a sample from an Italian Spaghetti Western. It’s a biting satire about mental health (“Ha Ha Ha bless your soul, you really think you’re in control”) with a seriously infectious beat. No wonder it was all over the place last summer.

The breadth of the album ranges from the strangely apocalyptic “St. Elsewhere” (“Anywhere you sit you can see the sun/Unfortunately on this island I’m the only one”) to video-game-inspired cover of the Violent Femmes’ “Gone Daddy Gone” to the explosive “Smiley Faces.”

There’s a hint of the macabre on a couple interesting songs: “The Boogie Monster” and “Necromancer.” In “Boogie Monster,” Cee-Lo rumbles like a boogie man and the beat creeps along, sounding like a funkier cousin of “The Monster Mash.” Still, you can’t help but dance to it. “Necromancer” is probably my favorite song, if only because of these lyrics: “She was cool when I met her, but I think I like her better dead.” And yes, I think the song is, in fact, about what it sounds like it’s about.

They throw back to an early 90s R&B sound on “Who Cares?” and “Online.” “Who Cares?” features what sounds like a jazz flute, and “Online” has the girl-group background vocals. And the apocalypse theme comes back with a vengeance on “Storm Coming,” which also strikes me as the most epically musical-theater track. The album ends with the sound of the projection ending, and the fantasy is over.

These songs are short and sweet, perfectly produced, strikingly sung and completely satisfying. I hope the huge popularity of “Crazy” does not curse Gnarls Barkley to one-hit-wonderdom. These guys are way too talented for that.

(Sorry, kids. I’m taking the next two weeks off from the column. Mama needs a vacation.)

Monday, July 30, 2007

a couple teasers for your Monday

Who else can't wait for this and this to come out?

Friday, July 27, 2007

so bogus

As I was walking home this afternoon, I was nearly cut off by a little boy on a battery-operated truck. He seemed to be having a wonderful time. His sister followed him closely behind, little also and pouting.

Then, I heard a call. "NINOOOOO!" The mother of the two kids had obviously lost control of them. I passed the psychic who sits outside a restaurant on 7th Avenue and hocks people for $2 to let her read their fortunes. She called again, "NINOOOOOOO!" Then, she called to me, "How would you like to get read today?"

"Lady," I thought to myself while ignoring her, "if you're not psychic enough to anticipate your children hightailing it away from you on battery-operated vehicles, no way am I going to let you tell me about my future for $2."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

like a fat kid without cake

Last night, I settled down to watch So You Think You Can Dance for the first time in 3 weeks. I've been busy the past few Wednesdays and I was SO EXCITED I'd get to see the entire show.

But at 6 PM, my cable went out. Completely. Internet and tv. Kaput. Nada. No picture or sound. No connection. And Time Warner said they wouldn't be able to fix it until TUESDAY, of all horrors.

It came back in relatively normal form from 7:00-8:00 and then got all scrambly just in time for SYTYCD.

I was determined to watch it through the scramble. It tempted me like crack to a recovering addict for about 7 minutes, then died again. Now, I might not even have a connection to YouTube later, so I can watch the clips online.

Stupid technology. (But the Time Warner people rescheduled for tomorrow afternoon. And, if everyone claps their hands because they believe in fairies, maybe I'll have at least network tv so I can watch the results show tonight.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

It Won't Be Soon Before Long

Maroon 5 have a gimmick. It’s a gimmick that works but a gimmick, nonetheless. Adam Levine sings suggestive lyrics over throbbing bass and drums and we all swoon. On their previous album, Songs About Jane, this formula seemed new and fresh. On It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, their latest release, the point is made. We get it, boys. You write sexy, infectious funky music. Can we move on now? I haven’t decided if I really want to, myself.

Levine’s high tenor sings of randomly hooking up. A lot. In “If I Never See Your Face Again,” he’s surprised about getting further than he expected to that night with some chick. However, on “Makes Me Wonder,” their first single, he’s already giving her the brush-off. He’s wondering if he should cry and “if I ever gave a fuck about you.” That was fast.

The beginning of “Little of Your Time” is probably my favorite opener to any of the tracks. I want someone on “So You Think You Can Dance” to choreograph a dance to it. It aches to be danced to, with its staccato guitar at the verses easing into a smoother and disco-y-er chorus. Levine is an adept singer, with an interestingly…soulful voice for a skinny Jewish kid. (In fact, when I first heard Songs About Jane, I was sure he was black.)

“Wake Up Call” is their most recent single. It’s a song of betrayal and doubt, “Don’t you care about me anymore?” It sounds like a fantasy of revenge, with a chorus that invites screaming along to. I can’t tell if this song is taking itself too seriously, or if it’s actually written to just be a dance jam.

“Won’t Go Home Without You,” the first song on the album that doesn’t pulse with an intense bass-drums combo, sounds a little bit like “Every Breath You Take” by The Police running under “The Way” by Fastball. It’s just nothing new. Neither is “Nothing Lasts Forever.” Both are safe, tepid ballads about relationship regrets. They’re easy on the ears but just not that interesting.

“Can’t Stop” is one of the catchier songs on an album full of them. It’s about the inevitable obsession phase, when you’re not quite getting the attention from someone that you’re craving: “I touch myself like it’s somebody else/thoughts of you are tattooed on my mind.” The refrain “I can’t stop thinking about you” is repeated until the very end of the song.

The opening guitar riff of “Goodnight Goodnight” is pretty much exactly that which opens “Kryptonite” by 3 Doors Down; it’s distracting. He’s sending her off in this song, hopeful that things will work out. Otherwise, the lyrics are just “goodnight.” (That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the lyrics do leave something to be desired. The song ends with him repeating “goodnight” 13 times. That’s too many.)

On “Not Falling Apart,” Levine sings in a startlingly lower key for much of the verses. It adds an element of interest to the track, about a man girded against the heartbreak he may or may not have to endure, as he relives the night of their breakup.

“Kiwi” contains the lyrics: “Sweet Kiwi/your juices dripping down my chin” and continues in graphic and poetic detail to describe a rendezvous. It’s the closest to pop music erotica as I think they could get away with, so hats off to them for at least that.

“Better that We Break” is the piano ballad on the album. It’s definitely pretty. That’s about it.

I do really like the track “Back at Your Door.” The verses are a bit of a throwback to the old doowop songs. I want to hear girl backup singers “da-dooping” in the background. And the song soars into a very pretty orchestrated chorus. This song is definitely the big finale of the album.

The “bonus” track, “Figure It Out,” starts with a cowbell and jerks into heavy distorted guitar and “Never-Gonna-Get-It”-by-En-Vogue-like electric guitar picks. It’s another very sexy song, in terms of the guitar and drums combination.

Like I said, these boys know what they’re doing, in that regard. I just wish a little bit that I could distinguish the songs better between each other and that they left a more lasting impression. But yes, they’ve got sexy down.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Music Explorers, vol. IV

Last night was my inaugural music project as a team leader. I was mostly excited but slightly nervous. I think the biggest thing I've learned, in the last 2 sessions I've spent with kids this age (6-12), is that it's really always an exercise in improvisation. My co-team leader and I had a pretty set plan because our last session was cancelled. We were going to attempt to teach the kids a little bit about rhythm and notation.

The focus game we tried to play basically crashed and burned. Then, we helped them make little shakers with which they would keep the 4/4 rhythm we introduced. (Note to self: Keep children away from dried beans or anything that they can make noise with. Especially kazoos.) Finally, my co-leader started in on the content of the session, introducing whole notes, half notes, and quarter notes, as a start. From the looks and sounds of them, they weren't interested and weren't retaining anything. But, of course, when we had them create their own 4-beat measures and play them by themselves, nearly all of them got it. We were astounded. I introduced the concept of syncopation but decided delving into it too much might just bore/confuse them further.

All in all, it was a pretty successful night, barring our fairly reserved volunteers (only 4 of them) and the fact that we had too many kids for me to give them the Juicy Juice I bought. (16 juice boxes for 17 kids=no one gets any.) By the end of the night, I was pretty exhausted and decided to drink 4 lychee martinis.

Now I'm hungover.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

small frickin' world

I spent the better part of the first few months that I lived in Park Slope turning carefully at each corner, keeping my eyes pealed for some vision of my past, some vaguely familiar face. I've run into a small handful of people I know or have known, but the reality of this city is that you can walk down the same streets everyday and see different people there. No one you'd recognize. I figured I was safe from the awkward, I-knew-you-once confrontation.

This month three girls that I went to camp with and haven't seen in over 10 years moved into my building downstairs. Only slightly guiltily, I've avoided them like the plague.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Reminder

Feist (full name: Leslie Feist) sounds a little bit like every other girl singer/songwriter out there. She’s Sarah McLachlan when she whispers, Tori Amos when she yowls, and Imogen Heap when she sings to electronica. Somehow, she also sounds like no one else, and her vocal range, both physically and in terms of the genres the album spans, is impressive. Her third album, The Reminder, is smarter and more satisfying every time I listen to it, even though it didn’t grab me right away.

On “So Sorry,” her whimper is McLachlan-esque, if Sarah had as much strength and control as Feist exhibits here. The album then shoots into catchy, bouncy, fully orchestrated “I Feel it All.” It’s the first time we hear how gifted Feist is as a pianist. (For the record, Gonzales is also credited as a pianist on the album.) Throughout the album, they make the piano growl, throb, and sing beautifully along with her, and it is often the star of the songs, second only to her interesting vocals.

“My Moon My Man” is the song that convinced me to buy the album. It is an infectious disco song, and Feist’s incessant purr through it is a brilliant and smartly contrasting accompaniment to the driving piano and drums. The song even features a slap bass and an effect that sounds like the cell phone-radio interference. Appropriately enough, it's featured on a currently-running Verizon commercial.

The piano that opens “The Water” sounds like that which might be featured in a Zero 7 song and an unexpected blues instrumental break electrifies the song past its apparent somberness. “Sea Lion Woman” is an interesting track, a veritable African chant, but with a true rock n’ roll instrumental break. “Past in Present” surprises with its country/rock vibe, complete with wah wah guitar and tinny vocal effect. It’s vaguely Sheryl Crow-esque and unlike anything else on the album. On “The Limit to Your Love,” Feist’s vocal range reaches Bjork’s, and again, the piano becomes the featured player.

“1234” is her current single. It’s pretty much all over the place right now, but I still think it’s lovely. The piano break in the song is killer. It sounds like a Tori Amos piano break but with brass, which makes it even better really. And the video’s pretty adorable too.

The album seems to begin dragging after “1234.” I think “Brandy Alexander,” with only piano, bass, and snaps to keep the beat, is interesting and pretty. But followed by “Intuition” and “Honey Honey,” the minimalism of the tracks begins to invoke boredom. It isn’t until the album’s incredible finale, “How My Heart Behaves,” that it is redeemed again. This song’s full orchestration, including a harp, strikes me as much broader than the rest of the album, more filmic. And it’s amazing what a harmonizing male voice does to deepen a song, when you haven’t heard male voices the entire album.

This album isn’t a homerun, but I think Feist is a gifted and risky vocalist and musician. I didn’t think I liked it this much, until I heard it one more time. I bet I’ll like it even more the next time I listen.

Thursday, July 12, 2007


I want my brother to buy this shirt.

And here's a genius commercial, thanks to Kender.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Favourite Worst Nightmare

The young men of Arctic Monkeys are from Sheffield, England, which basically means their accents are so thick, it’s hard to discern the lyrics being sung on their short and sweet album Favourite Worst Nightmare. Still, the catchy, bumping songs are infectious as well as surprisingly mature.

The themes of the album range from bad breakups to random and reckless hookups, which is appropriate for the band made up of four boys under 21. Still, there’s a lot more reflection than one would expect from such youngsters. It’s also a more complicated album in terms of melody and rhythm than their debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.

“Brianstorm” is reminiscent of the surfer rock song, Misirlou, with its electric guitar riff and driving drums. (The high hat then has a hard time keeping up with the beat, but we’ll forgive that because the song is so dang much fun.) It seems to be an ode to(or is it a rant against) a bloke named Brian, who hooks up with chicks with little effort and wears t-shirts and ties combinations that they can’t keep their eyes off. Sounds like a cool guy.

There are certain songs that are just primed for a greater venue. I find myself nearly shouting out with the songs when I’m listening on my iPod. I can’t imagine how ridiculously fun a live show may be. “D is for Dangerous” is one of the most satisfying songs, yearning to be sung along to. The instrumental pauses within the guitar and drum beats make me want to scream along with the song.The syncopation of the drums and wooden block in “Balaclava” are like the best beats in funk.

But it’s in the lyrics on this album that the band really impresses me. They’re nearly Sondheimian in their wordiness and internal rhyme and for boys under 21, they’re incredibly poetic and complex. “Only Ones Who Know” is a veritable poem about how the two people involved in a breakup are the only ones who know what’s best for them: “And even if somebody could have shown you the place you wanted, well I'm sure you could have made it that bit better on your own, you are the only ones who know.” Instrumentally, it’s a departure from the rest of the album, which is otherwise so full of electric guitar and solid, 8-count drum beats; this track uses some kind of sliding guitar that sounds like violins.

“Do Me a Favour” is my favorite song on the album. It too is about a bad breakup and begins with “George of the Jungle”-like drums. It starts innocently and even sadly: “Well the morning was complete./There was tears on the steering wheel dripping on the seat,/Several hours or several weeks,/I'd have the cheek to say they're equally as bleak!” (Note the ingenious rhyme of cheek and equally.) It’s a song that then slowly creeps towards an intense and bitter crescendo: “And to tear apart the ties that bind, perhaps fuck off might be too kind, perhaps fuck off might be too kind.”

In my opinion, the lyrics are the star of the rest of the album. I almost stop listening to the music, even though it too is very smart. On “If You Were There, Beware,” the singer sneaks off into an echo, singing “There's a circle of witches, ambitiously vicious they are.” On “Old Yellow Bricks,” the band bumps through these lyrics: “She said I want to sleep in the city that never wakes up,/And revel in nostalgia,/I know I said he wants to sleep in the city that never wakes up but,/Dorothy was right though.” These are the kind of phrases that continue to run through my head, hours after hearing them on the CD. They’re well worth a listen, and the youthful, garage-bandy innocence and spunk of their music is an added bonus.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

My December

(Posted a bit early in honor of the holiday :))

I am an unabashed Kelly Clarkson fan. I marked the date of the release of her 3rd album, My December, on my work calendar and bought it that day. I think her voice is powerful and unique. I was eagerly anticipating this CD, especially because it’s already made so many headlines. The album itself is almost disappointing, but I think her voice transcends the mediocre music she’s singing. And there are a couple of startlingly beautiful singles, which are definitely worth a listen.

The first released single, “Never Again,” is a bitter but catchy song, full of threats and ill wishes: “I hope the ring you gave her turns her finger green,” “You’ll die together but alone.” This girl is pissed. It’s a song driven by hard bass and drums, full of rage and spite, which is obviously a departure from her previous CDs but nothing particularly shocking to my ears. The overt theme of the album is Woman Scorned; it should really be the subtitle.

On the techno-pop track, “One Minute,” Clarkson sings about how things change quickly in a relationship. This is a new sound for her, but I’m not sure it works. The impression this song leaves isn’t long-lasting. “Hole” sounds a bit too much like “Never Again” for me. It features amateur lyrics and weak segues, but her high belt is really unparalleled when she sings “I can feel it/It’s all wrong/I’m so sick of this.”

“Sober,” however, is simply stunning. It snuck up on me the first time I heard it, making me cry on a subway platform and giving me chills in 90 degree weather. She sings of not being sure who she is or if she’ll survive without him in the aftermath of a breakup, “I could crash and burn but maybe at the end of this road, I might catch a glimpse of me.” In this somber song, a bass tin drum beats forebodingly in the background and she sings at a low boil until she explodes in a literal wail, singing “three months” like an obsessive reminder, a mantra that is failing her.

After such a gorgeous, effective song, the next few are a letdown. The album in general feels a little bit like Clarkson wrote a bunch of songs and they just recorded them and threw them together, slipshod. Still, she’s a gifted singer, and the way she plays with the melody of “Judas” makes the song even sadder. And who doesn’t feel her on these lyrics? “Forgetting me, you took things in your hands and left me out/After we’d been through so much, how could you let me down?” The beginning of “Haunted” sounds like the instrumentation at the doomed end of an Eminem song. The track is reminiscent of Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life,” and ends with Clarkson chillingly whispering “You were smiling” over and over, on the verge of a meltdown. “Be Still” is a bit more of a sweet song, where Clarkson remembers the good ol’ days, “Before we lost hope/when we still touched and love wasn’t so hard.”

Conversely, “Maybe” looks into the possibilities of reconnecting in the future. She bravely sings of her stubbornness and the mistakes she’s made. This isn’t an album full of “Woe is me” sentiment, “Yeah, I’m hard and life with me is never easy to figure out.” It begins with just acoustic guitar and drums but eventually intensifies and keeps getting harder, “I don’t want to be tough and I don’t want to be proud/I don’t need to be fixed and I certainly don’t need to be found/I’m not lost.” She seems to be gaining clarity as the song resolves, wondering if one day they’ll meet and understand each other finally.

On “How I Feel,” Clarkson sounds alternatively like Gwen Stefani, as she vocally scoops to and from notes, and Pat Benatar, when she growls. Here, she’s singing about how all the good men she meets are married with babies, how babies are everywhere, and how she’s sick of hearing about everyone’s wonderful life. Aren’t we all?

“Yeah” is an old, brassy, soulful song, backed by a chorus of girls. It has a spoken word interlude that reminds me of Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” and features a key change that enlivens this otherwise unexciting song.

The melody of “Can I Have a Kiss” is just a tad too sharp throughout the song. It sits funny. Perhaps that’s to suggest a lack of resolution, a pleading, but I just think it sounds unsettling. The lyrics here are also brave; she admits being a mess and that she’s still working on herself and being able to commit.

The final track on the album, “Irvine,” is the furthest departure from the Clarkson with whom we’re all familiar. A guitar strums and this ethereal echo nearly whispers the lyrics. I read this song described as “near suicidal,” and it’s true. “Why is it so hard?/Why can’t you just take me?/I don’t have much to go/Before I fade completely.” It’s a send up to the gods to save her, and the result is haunting and evocative.

The “Deluxe Edition” of My December on iTunes also includes a hidden track after “Irvine,” a bonus track, and two remixes of “Never Again.” It’s certainly chockfull. Too bad it’s not her best. But you should certainly invest in “Sober” the single.

Borat Faux Pas

I typed the following to be included in a preclinical final report for my work:

"Three assays are employed to determine the amount of Carraguard retained in the vagine after various time points."


Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Glimmer of Hope

I feel that if I leave this place behind me, things will shift. I will shed this cracking, bitter, heavy skin and suddenly be myself again. Free and unencumbered by all I’ve been brainwashed about who I am while living here.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Peace of Mind

Admitting something always makes it a reality. It’s like the door to the slippery slope has been opened and somehow the force of gravity downwards is even stronger now. Sometimes there’s relief, but it’s in thoughts like Escape, Run, Move On, Quit. Not in thoughts like Work, Communicate, Evaluate. I’m still looking for a quick fix.

I keep looking down at my hands, surprised that the nails are so pink, surprised there is color in my cheeks and lips, that I still wake up every morning and make the trek to work. I’m healthy. But that comes as a shock.

So I’ve made doctors’ appointments. Three in two days, spanning 3 months. Maybe they’ll convince me.

on the F train

This morning, I found myself strangely mesmerized by a woman across the car from me. She caught my eye at 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, putting on powder so vigorously, I couldn't actually tell if she was putting it on or wiping it off. She continued, applying blush with a brush that she methodically dipped in the color, then brushed off on her jeans and blew through. Then she sucked in her cheeks like a fish and applied the blush, looking confusedly at her reflection in the hand mirror. I can't imagine she actually applied any color, after all of that methodical blowing. She bravely used an eyelash curler on a moving train and even brought out little eyebrow scissors, snipping carefully and then grinning like a maniac to check the shape. (This is when I almost laughed outloud at her.) I imagined her handbag actually contained the contents of a little surgical tray. I mean, she even brought out a little pencil sharpener. Eyebrow liner, lip liner, and lip gloss were also applied.

She didn't finish until West 4th street in Manhattan.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Joanna Newsom is a word nerd. Which I’m pretty sure is what makes her such a startling lyricist. Her second album “Ys” was introduced to me during a wonderful day last December, when my old college roommate and her boyfriend made me breakfast. I knew if I listened to the album more carefully, it would probably dissolve me into tears.

Newsom is both harpist and vocalist on this complicated album. The album is comprised of only 5 songs, most of which clock in over 10 minutes. Each song is so intricately written, both lyrically and instrumentally, it’s hard to encapsulate each one in a paragraph.

“Emily” begins like a dirge. It struck me as some of the most melancholy singing ever and within the first line, she throws the word “chim-choo-ree” at us. Then suddenly the orchestrations hit at such a strong force, the first time I heard it, I nearly had to choke back a sob. That effect hasn’t really decreased any, after many more listens. It’s so intensely visceral, whirling and speeding towards a climax but never reaching it. Newsom’s songs are so wordy, you have to look up the lyrics to appreciate them. “The meteorite is a source of the light/And the meteor's just what we see/And the meteoroid is a stone that's devoid of the fire that propelled it to thee.” Or how about “You came and lay a cold compress upon the mess I’m in/Threw the window wide and cried: Amen! Amen! Amen!” Newsom’s voice is odd; it rises and falls from the squeak of an 8-year-old to the alto hum of an old woman. Sometimes she sounds like Bjork. Sometimes she sounds like she’s whistling, but it’s coming from her throat.

“Monkey and Bear” is the second track and begins sounding like a madrigal. It’s a winding tale about a monkey and bear escaping and in love. Newsom’s rhyming here is astounding, “Your feast is to the East, which lies a little past the pasture/When the blackbirds hear tea whistling, they rise and clap/And their applause caws the kettle black
And we can't have none of that!/Move along, Bear; there, there; that’s that.” Her voice scoops from a bass to bursts of young joy as she sings to the others to dance. There is an Asian melodic theme present, perhaps due to the abundance of strings—she is, after all, a harpist. And this song includes the only use of the word “spelunking” I’ve ever heard in a musical recording.

On “Sawdust and Diamonds,” Newsom accompanies herself on harp alone. This track begins with a chant and returns to the chant at the end. She sings here of a long lost love and the search for him forevermore. This track is probably my least favorite and I think it’s because of the blatant lack of orchestrations. We are left instead to interpret the puzzling lyrics.

“Only Skin” is the longest track on the album and my favorite. In listening to it again for this post, it was hard to nail down why it’s my favorite, especially because it’s over 16 minutes long. We hear references to previous tracks with the melodies. (This is an album you must listen to in entirety; it is not comprised of singles.) These orchestrations sound like they should be part of an epic, haunting and sweet film; they are full and symphonic, begging to be performed in a grander scheme. This song also features the only male voice on the whole album, in a gradually more frantic call-and-response, ending with “Come across the desert with no shoes on!/I love you truly, or I love no-one.” The song resolves with Newsom playing alone on her harp, followed by one more frenetic burst of the orchestra.

“Cosmia” features the most conclusive melody of any on the album. Newsom repeats “And I miss your precious heart” over and over throughout the song. Suddenly in the middle, an irish jig begins. And the tune (and the album) then ends, unresolved.

These songs are strange and long, but startlingly written so they make up 50 minutes of time well spent.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

HB, Dawg!

C: We're so ooooooold! We're like the oldest people ever. We're gonna be put in the Guinness.

Friday, June 22, 2007

thought of the moment, 12: some things just never change

I once wrote this in a song: "If you told me that you loved me, that that’s the truth, I’d never believe you, not even for one day."

Sometimes I forget I still feel that way.

fanfare for my 100th post

I was pissed yesterday because we have weekly lab meetings at work, which is when birthdays are usually celebrated. And since my birthday is tomorrow, I assumed they'd "surprise" me at the end of the meeting with cake or chips or whatever. It didn't happen, and my heart sank because I've somehow become the facilitator for other people's birthday celebrations and I was sure that would go unappreciated.

I didn't even think about it today, especially after an exhausting evening of alcohol and food for my roommate's birthday and little sleep followed by going to work, and I just planned on leaving early and returning to my bed. I got convinced to walk outside for a smoke break and noticed that a little party had converged for me outside where we eat. I nearly burst into tears. I forget that people can surprise me.

In other news, I've agreed to co-team lead the music project I've been working with for a few weeks. I was hesitant because I didn't want to step on the current team leader's toes, but apparently she's very excited about it.

And finally...in light of my impending 24th birthday, I'd like you all to seriously contemplate the following term: "birthday suit." Isn't that hilarious??

Thursday, June 21, 2007

thought of the moment, 11: everyone should read it

The Time Traveler's Wife is such a good book, I haven't even been listening to my iPod while I read it on the train!

(My brother bought it for me. He thought I'd dig it. He was right.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Music Explorers, vol. III

Unfortunately, tonight's project had to be cancelled because of a date mix-up between New York Cares and Henry Street Settlement. But, as I crossed the street to continue my walk back to the F train, I saw my little buddy TyShawn. His eyes lit up, he gasped, and he ran across the street to give me a big hug. We chatted for a second, and he reintroduced me to his friend Kouani, whom I remembered from the first day of music exploration. TyShawn yammered excitedly, quoting the game we'd played the first day. Then he insisted on introducing me to his mom, who didn't seem to have any idea who I was or what I did.

Still, I nearly cried about it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Eminem: Curtain Call

I must begin this week’s post with a dedication to my lovely brother who turns 27 today. He introduced me to Eminem. Thanks, Chuckee D! Rub you!

As a disclaimer, I believe that Eminem needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt and listened to as the smart, savvy lyricist and performer he is. I don’t think he’s a homophobe or a racist or a misogynist.

I went through a period of time when I kept realizing how much I missed Eminem. I didn’t have any of his songs on my iPod, even though I’d listened to him a lot in college. So I invested in Curtain Call, his 2005 greatest hits release. There are a couple of his masterpieces that aren’t included on this album (“White America” and “Kim” are among my favorites), but overall, it’s a pretty satisfying collection, spanning the hit singles from 1999’s Slim Shady LP to 2004’s Encore and including lesser-heard duets with Notorious B.I.G. (the most shocking lyrics on the album are on this duet, "Dead Wrong"), Jay-Z, and D12 as well as some new songs, including the dance hit "Shake that Ass" featuring Nate Dogg, and the hilarious track, "Just Lose It," which includes a fart joke.

This compilation begins with an “Intro,” in the guise of a doo-wop song and dedicated to the ladies in the audience, segueing into “FACK,” the title of which makes me giggle even. The bass line throbs and Eminem busies himself rapping about a sexual encounter in which he basically doesn’t want to…finish too quickly. It’s hilarious and strangely hot.

The next track, “The Way I Am,” from 2000’s The Marshall Mathers LP, is a driving, angry tirade against the way Eminem is interpreted in the media. It is a recurring theme in his music, obviously. Aside from the anger (which I understand could easily cloud anyone else’s interpretation of the song and the singer), he also manages to articulate really smart things about how music can certainly influence children, but the parents should be the most important influence: "When a dude's gettin bullied and shoots up his school/and they blame it on Marilyn (on Marilyn).. and the heroin/Where were the parents at?" This, also, is a recurring theme in his music.

One of the fascinating things about Eminem is his many alter egos, his fierce performances on the microphone. He takes on voices: the low, serious toned “Marshall,” the bratty, high-pitched, satirist “Slim Shady,” and “Em” on the tracks where he’s chatting up the ladies or with his boys. We hear Marshall in songs like “Stan,” which is perhaps his most famous and popular single. It’s the track he performed at the Grammys with Elton John, singing the Dido sample and playing piano…watch it here. (This version of the single is also on the album.) “Stan” touches upon what Eminem seems to fear the most, being taken too seriously. The plot of the track hinges on an obsessed fan writing desperate letters to Eminem, who, when he doesn’t hear back from him, drives his truck off a bridge with his pregnant girlfriend in the trunk. It ends with Eminem’s response, also in letter form, assuring him that what he performs is all an act; it’s not how he lives his life. The lyrics in this song are unforgettable, cutting, serious, and haunting: “You ruined it now, I hope you can't sleep and you dream about it/And when you dream I hope you can't sleep and you SCREAM about it/I hope your conscience EATS AT YOU and you can't BREATHE without me.” They leave a lasting impression, especially when the rapper Eminem realizes that the person who's been writing to him is probably dead.

Marshall is also the voice on the single from 8 Mile, “Lose Yourself,” which won Eminem the Oscar for Best Song. It’s a song like a train, trucking along endlessly and powerfully, an apparently autobiographical song about a struggling rapper who’s waiting and working towards his big break. It’s about seizing the opportunities that reveal themselves to us, and the lyrics are so apt that Jodie Foster quoted them in her speech at the Penn commencement last year. Personally, I think the Oscar was deserved, if only for these lyrics: “Snap back to reality, Oh there goes gravity/Oh, there goes Rabbit, he choked/He's so mad, but he won't give up that/Easy, no.” Who else could rhyme “gravity” with “Rabbit, he”?

Eminem, the satirist, can’t be ignored. This is what made him famous in the first place, with “My Name Is…” in which he manages to mention (and insult) the Spice Girls, Pamela Lee, and any fan who wants an autograph. I think the charm and genius in this track is in the interludes between lyrics: “I lay awake and strap myself in the bed/Put a bulletproof vest on and shoot myself in the head (BANG!)/I'm steaming mad (Arrrggghhh!)/And by the way when you see my dad? (Yeah?)/Tell him that I slit his throat, in this dream I had.” It’s the catchiness that keeps me coming back, the hook that I think he must know is impossible for his audience to get away from. This voice comes back in “Without Me” and “The Real Slim Shady.” In fact, as I was listening to the album again for this post, I noticed how similar these three tracks are. He consistently makes fun of the president and his colleagues, pop stars (particularly boy bands and Moby, “And Moby, you can get stomped by Obie,/You 36 year old bald headed fag blow me/You don't know me, you're too old/Let go, it's over, nobody listens to techno”), and his mother.

Apparently, Eminem has officially retired to spend more time with his family. It’s evident from this album how much he seems to be regretful. “Mockingbird,” “When I’m Gone, and “Like Toy Soldiers” are all songs about how he understands how he does influence his fans and his children (a biological and adopted daughter), even though that's not what he initially expected. He knows he needs to be a leader and can't be tempted into feuds by other artists. He is striving for reconciliation with his family, wondering how his daughter can trust how much he loves her when he's insulting her mother in his songs.

Still, the last track, “I Just Don’t Give a F*ck,” probably sums it up best. (There are far too many tracks on this album to write about each one.) I think Eminem’s lasting message is that he, like the rest of us, uses his music as a way of expressing himself. And that’s really the end of the story. He doesn’t care too much about what we think of it: “So put my tape back on the rack/Go run and tell your friends my sh*t is wack/I just don't give a f*ck!!” Despite this, or maybe because of it, he still has plenty of fans.

thought of the moment, 10: my job is funny

Today, I got a phone call from my boss down the hall. He needed to know how to spell "coitally."

Monday, June 18, 2007

One Sentence True Stories

There is something really sad and wonderful about a lot of these.

Highlights from Atlantic City

1. Hot waiter and fancy drinks at Hard Rock Cafe in black and white shirts and festive earrings.
2. Dancing to the greatest songs of all time at Casbah in Taj Mahal. Spontaneous soap bubbles falling from the ceiling at said club.
3. Getting beer drunk out of my high heeled shoe.
4. Getting followed home by aggressive A.C. locals (this happened all weekend).
5. The massage-y sandiness on the beach after dancing for 4 hours the previous night in uncomfortable shoes. Plus frisbee.
6. Walking forever on the boardwalk, salt water taffy, Pier at Caesar's shopping.
7. Getting pooped on by a seagull.
8. Fancy dinner at Continental in Caesar's, complete with the greatest champagne drink and bass I've had in a long time.
9. Being too sleepy to party hard the 2nd night but spending too much money on taxis anyway.
10. Meeting an older couple at lunch our last day there. (They had met when they were 9 years old, were together till they were 16, had a fight, broke up for 17 years, and have been together now for 33. We named them Jack and Iris. She had just won $5000 in a raffle at Donald Trump's 60th birthday party at the Taj Mahal; she also said Carmen Electra wasn't all that pretty up close and that Donald was a creep.)
10. Making $4 profit on slots all weekend! (YES!)