Saturday, December 30, 2006
2006: a pretty good year
My original intent here was to post several lists ranking some of my favorite movies, albums, books, etc of 2006, but abandoned that because a) I realized that I'd seen very few new release movies this year, b) I realized that I've read very few novels that were published in 2006 and c) I grew tired of trying to decided whether or not I liked Gulag Orkestar better than The Life Pursuit, and I'm not even sure that I care. So screw it, here's a general overview of things that made 2006 a pretty good year.

Book: King Dork by Frank Portman
Admittedly, it's sort of a rare event that I read books when they are newly released, mainly because I'm too cheap to buy hardbacks and there's something about owning a book rather than borrowing it from a library that I find very appealing, so this is only one of two books that I read this year which was actually released in 2006. So although that might make it an automatic shoe-in for my "favorite book of 2006" title, I'd probably give it to it anyway because I enjoyed it that much. It's a mystery story, an awkward coming-of age drama and an homage to The Catcher in the Rye all at the same time. Plus, the glossary at the end containing entries like this one: "atheism: a religion for people who figure they probably already know everything there is to know about everything" was an unexpected treat. What's not to like?

Place: Paris
My apologies to the cities of Boston, Columbus, Bowling Green, Muskegon and Brooklyn, but you just couldn't compete with Paris. I know that traveling isn't for everyone and traveling outside the country comes with its own special set of frustrations, but I'd rather have a trip to a place that blows my mind with its stunning beauty than an expensive car any day.

Live Show: Voxtrot @ The Lager House in Detroit, Michigan
To be honest, I don't see many live shows the older I get, but there's something about seeing a band that you absolutely love in a tiny, little hole-in-the-wall club, and although your shoes may be soaked in beer, the sound quality may be questionable at best and you may be struggling to breathe through the thick cloud of cigarette smoke, you just don't care because you're singing every word of one of your favorite songs three feet away from the person who's performing it.

Documentary Film/Scary Movie: An Inconvenient Truth
Never before have I found a power point presentation to be so gripping and terrifying at the same time. Although there will be plenty of people who will dismiss this as Gore's swan song for a second attempt at the Presidency, I applaud him for focusing such a strong light on an environmental issue that's gone ignored for far too long.

Television Show: Heroes
Since I keep insisting that I'm not really a science-fiction fan it took me a little longer than many other people to start watching this show, but after one episode I was hooked. This is perhaps one of the smartest shows currently on television, and although I'm still not quite ready to say that it's better than Lost, it's awfully close.

Renaissance: Detroit
Thanks in no small part to The Super Bowl and the incredible season that the Tigers had, Detroit was a pretty awesome place to live this year. I've always loved going downtown, but there's something thrilling about walking around on a random Saturday night and seeing a decent number of other people just hanging out there too that people who aren't from Detorit just wouldn't understand. The sporting events might be over, but the improvements are here to stay and the suburbanites have taken note.

Album: Ys - Joanna Newsom
Go ahead, roll your eyes at me. I don't care. I could point to several dozen reviews of this album which would justify its excellence, but that's annoying and pretentious and won't really convince people who have already decided to hate Joanna Newsom anyway. I wasn't really expecting to like this album much since I really disliked
The Mike Eyed Mender, but what Ys has that her first album doesn't is some incredibly beautiful orchestral accompaniment. The more I listen to Ys, the more I adore it, and "Only Skin" has been the most beautiful 17 minutes of my day for the last couple of months.

Albums: the rest of my favorites, in no particular order
Band of Horses -
Everything all the Time, Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat, Beirut - Gulag Orkestar, The Decemberists - The Crane Wife, The Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I am, That's What I am Not, Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther, Morrissey - Ringleader of the Tormentors, The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America, TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain, Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Tapes 'n Tapes - The Loon, Built to Spill - You in Reverse, Belle and Sebastian - The Life Pursuit

And with that, goodbye 2006 and welcome 2007. Do your worst.

Thursday, December 28, 2006
my life has become a series of road blocks and detours
Well, despite a definite lack of "Christmas-y" weather my holiday was good, and I hope yours was too. We were able to spend lots of time with family and friends who we don't see often enough, shower and be showered with gifts, and eat entirely too many empty calories. Overall, it was most excellent.

Speaking of gifts, I had a bit of an epiphany about myself recently at the hands of some of the presents I received, and since it's a bit humorous and I've never been one to shy away from laughing at myself, I thought I'd share it with you. Apparently, I've taken to living my life as if I was a contestant on The Amazing Race. Allow me to explain.

One of my Christmas gifts was a chair from Ikea, parts of which arrived yesterday. I freely admit that my "spatial intelligence" is a bit weak - I cannot "see" three dimensional images in my head, I'm miserable at reading maps and I have been known to get lost driving myself home from work - so when I'm confronted with directions that look like this:

I usually bow out and make my husband do it. But for some reason, this time I decided that I HAD to be the one to assemble the furniture. Indeed, I had convinced myself that absolutely no one else could do it but me, that the fate of the furniture's assembly rested entirely in my hands and that I could not seek outside help for any reason. And the reason for this sudden swell of assemblage responsibility made perfect sense in my mind - what if I was a contestant on The Amazing Race facing a "road block" challenge that I alone was responsible for completing in a timely fashion while my teammate watched and waited helplessly on the sidelines? Failure to assemble the footstool would mean that my team would make it to the "pit stop" in last place, and we'd be eliminated from the one million dollar prize. I allowed this fearful prospect to be my inspiration while I successfully conquered the directions, assembled the furniture, and kicked my spatial intelligence's ass. Go team!

Later on that evening, I was playing a game on our new wii (so awesome!) and found myself on a particularly challenging level. I failed for about 3o minutes at killing the requisite number of rabid bunny rabbits needed to pass the level, and I was frustrated beyond words. Again, I found myself tempted to pass the controller to my husband and make him do it for me until, once again, I found inspiration in The Amazing Race. I hunkered down, gritted my teeth and taught those rabbits a lesson that they won't soon forget. Phil Keoghan would be proud.

Since then, I've sort of let this philosophy permeate my daily life. So far today, it's helped me while I cleaned my house, waited in line at Panera and wrote this very post. It's proven to be a most excellent resource for me, and I hope that you too may take inspiration from it. Consider it my gift to you. Don't say I didn't get you anything for Christmas.

Sunday, December 24, 2006
closed for the holidays - merry christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2006
five things you don't know about me
I've been "tagged" by John Williams, and the result is that I must divulge five things that people may not know about me. This is kind of a stumper, since I don't think that I have a whole lot of secrets, but I managed to come up with a few things nonetheless:

1. I'm total shit at math. As far as "school math" goes, I guess I did alright - I made it to Pre-Calculus at least - but I honestly have no idea how I managed that since I can't do simple addition and subtraction without a calculator and/or using my fingers. It's kind of embarrassing, honestly.

2. I have a weaker stomach than most and the sight of a child wiggling a loose tooth or the mere suggestion of vomit is enough to set me off in a wave of dry heaves.

3. I rarely cry in general and it's even more rare that I cry at movies, but I must admit that I have cried at the end of the following movies: The Elephant Man, The English Patient, My Girl, and Home Alone (those last two were particularly difficult to admit. All I can say is that I was young and apparently Mcauley Culkin is a very fine actor to have reduced me to water works not once but twice.)

4. When I was six years old, my cousin gave me an old Duran Duran poster that he didn't want anymore, and even though I wasn't really a big fan of the band, I thought Simon LeBron was the most beautiful man I'd ever seen, developed quite the little crush on him and kissed the poster every night before going to bed.

5. Even though the intensity of my interest has dwindled a bit in recent years, I really enjoy show tunes. To date, I have committed to memory nearly every line of Rent, A Chorus Line, Jesus Christ Superstar, Little Shop of Horrors, Chicago, Phantom of the Opera and Sweeney Todd. Oh, the shame.

Well, I didn't really intend for it to, but that sort of took a little turn for the embarrassing. Not wanting to be all alone in my shame, I must now insist that Carrie, Steve, and Wife join me. So, let's hear it!

Thursday, December 21, 2006
my christmas letter
Oh my. It appears that I mailed out all my Christmas cards and forgot to put my annual Christmas letter inside! Drat! (And if you didn't get a Christmas cards from me, um, it's in the mail! Really!!) So, here it is. If you'd like, print if off and put it on the refridgerator next to your grocery list and yellowed Dilbert comic stips. Let it warm your heart, fill you with holiday cheer, and do other good stuff for you too.

Dear Friends and Family,

Whew! It’s been such an AMAZING year, and I just can’t wait to share with you the magical journey that 2006 has been for me and my family!!

Chloe, our furry little daughter, continues to fill us with awe and wonder. Her skill at building forts out of pillows and digging holes in the backyard have really peaked this year, and if dogs could be architects, I’d be working on the college loan paperwork as we speak! She’s also made tremendous strides in the impulse control issues that I mentioned in last year’s holiday letter. To date, she has only eaten one cell phone, bitten one neighbor (oops!) and only pees in the house when new visitors come over. Mommy and daddy couldn’t be more proud!

As for human children, Nathan and I are still waiting for the right time. Until that time comes, I’ve been honing my mothering skills by watching weekly episodes of Wife Swap and Super Nanny. I swear, those two shows should totally be required viewing for all perspective parents! I’ve learned so much about nutrition (fast food no more than five times a week), discipline (hitting them is only okay when they REALLY deserve it), mental development (no more than 7 hours of television a day) and safety (try not to let the convicted pedophile two streets over baby-sit) that I totally know we’ll be ready when the time comes!

Nathan has had a pretty eventful year. Last May he changed jobs, and he’s currently working as an executive caffeine technician for a very, very important, top secret company. He can’t really share many of the details since they’re classified, but let’s just say that every day he delivers a coffee buzz to some reeeeeeally important people (they're FBI! Shhhh!!) In his spare time he’s also been working on a cure for juvenile diabetes, developing a new religion and decoding the secret language of dolphins. No wonder he’s always so tired!

As for me, I’m still teaching 9th and 10th graders, trying to squeeze every ounce of juice that I can from their mind grapes! I don’t know how it’s possible, but each year they get cuter, smarter, and better behaved! I’ve only been called a bitch once this year! Like Nathan, I have also gotten involved in some new hobbies during 2006. To date, I’ve managed to master five languages, write three novels on subjects ranging from cooking, horse-back riding and ironing the perfect crease in your husband's dress pants, and reaching self-actualization through a combination of Cabbala, yoga and self tanning lotion. Om!

So, from our house to yours, may you be as blessed, prosperous and fabulous as we are! Merry Christmas!!!!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006
lists o' plenty
Interweb has exploded with year-end lists, and my linear, organization-loving self rejoices. Some of note:

John Williams, who blogs at A Special Way of Being Afraid, has an interesting post series where he has asked a wide variety of guest
bloggers to write about their favorite things of 2006 (I chose YouTube), which makes for some pretty interesting reading.

Largehearted Boy has somehow tackled the massive undertaking of
attempting to compile all the year-end, music related lists from a myriad of bloggers (mine's on there too - a small fleck in the cosmos. You go, tiny fleck!)

Carrie H., who blogs at You and Me Chasing Paper, has compiled a rather interesting list of her favorite television moments of 2006.

Finally, Time Magazine has named you as being its "Person of the Year." Go ahead and celebrate. You deserve it, buddy!

Speaking of lists, I've got a few more of my own up my sleeve. Try to maintain your enthusiasm.

Sunday, December 17, 2006
my favorite songs: 2006
Before we begin, please note that aside from the first
one, these are in no particular order. It was hard enough whittling the list down from 25 to 16 when I had originally envisioned a list of 10, which proved to be impossible. Additionally, I am in no way asserting that these are the BEST songs of 2006, rather, they are MY personal favorites. (My taste is pretty impeccable, though...) So, without further ado, here it is - my favorite songs of 2006. Enjoy.

"Postcards from Italy"- Beirut
This is easily my favorite song of the year. I get inexpressibly happy every single time I hear it, and whether I'm in the kitchen, the shower, or the car I am compelled to dance.

"When the Sun Goes Down" - The Arctic Monkeys
In an album full of tracks that are very good but not earth-shatteringly original, this one stands out as being one of the more interesting moments. Only time will tell if the flame of The Arctic Monkeys' fame has already peaked and died, but if it has, I'll at least have this song to remember them when they were at their best.

"The Funeral" - Band of Horses
I love the hills and valleys of this song. The quiet moments are all the more eerily lovely since they fall between some pretty rockin' power cords.

"Yankee Bayonet (I Will be Home Then)" - The Decemberists
It was very hard for me to choose one moment from this album as my favorite, but if I must choose it would be this one. With lines like, "But oh my love, though our bodies may be parted though our skin may not touch skin, look for me with the sun-bright sparrow I will come on the breath of the wind," Colin Meloy may be at his most poetic in this song, and I do love it when he tells me stories.

"Kilo" - Ghostface Killah
My husband finds it hilarious when I sing along to this song. Frankly, I don't see what's so damn funny. I'm a gangsta, yo.

"Your Mangled Heart" - The Gossip
I discovered this song recently when my i-pod was on shuffle mode, and I maintain that my 5th hour freshmen, along with my attempts to sing along with Beth Ditto on this song, are the top two reasons why my voice has been weak and hoarse for almost two months now.

"I'll Write the Song, You Sing for Me" - Irving
Sometimes I'm a fifteen year old girl who likes her music moody, angst-ridden and with synthesizers. This song did the best job of fulfilling those needs for me this year.

"Wherever You Go" - Built to Spill

I like that this song is a bit darker than the rest of the album, and even though I don't usually like guitar jams, those are some of my favorite moments in this song. I guess that means I'm growing.

"Don't Call me Whitney, Bobby" - Islands
Although I didn't really care for this album, I've been obsessed with this track for the better part of the year. I like the absurdity of the lyrics ("Sugar muffin, dumping baby, this world is going crazy") and the playfulness of the melody. I find the title clever too.

"Another Sunny Day" - Belle and Sebastian
I love the direction that this band has taken with The Life Pursuit, and this song encapsulates that for me. It's pop-y, happy, never fails to make me smile, and was probably my favorite song of the summer.

"Cowbell" - Tapes 'n Tapes

Part of me wanted to list any other song from this album other than "Cowbell" because it was such an obvious, almost cliche, choice, but I must be honest with myself - this song is my favorite moment on one of my favorite albums of the year.

"Wolf Like Me" - TV on the Radio
This song is the best moment on an album that's full of incredible moments.

"Bad Education" -Tilly and the Wall
Violins, trumpets, percussive tap dancing and furious, childish vocals are sort of the way to my heart. If I were in a band, this is the band I'd want to be in. (I'd be on lead vocals, of course.)

"Sway" - Voxtrot
I'm showing incredible restraint by only including one Voxtrot song on this list. Although "The Start of Something" was the song made me fall in love with this band it's songs like "Sway" that will make me stick around. It's achingly beautiful, and a surprising departure from the infectious pop tracks that dominated their last two EPs.

"Hold On, Hold On" - Neko Case
This whole album is fantastic, but this song is my favorite because it's one of the darker "rock" moments on a very, very pretty album.("I leave the party at three am alone, thank God. With a valium from the bride, it's the devil I love. And it's as funny as true love.")

"Gotta Have You" - The Weepies
This song is simple, understated and beautiful. It's adorable, and I absolutely mean that as a compliment.

And that's it! Any questions?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
holiday. celebrate.
Things have been a bit touch and go here recently, and I still don't find myself even remotely in the "holiday spirit," but there have been a few things to celebrate around here as of recent, namely:
  • despite my complete and utter football illiteracy, my fantasy football team has managed to make the playoffs,
  • despite renegade squirrels, my cable seems to be up and running again (for now),
  • despite my inability to prove that I haven't actually made the charges, the good people over at unnamed credit card company have cleared us from all responsibility for the credit card that someone opened up under my husband's name, and, most importantly,
  • I strongly suspect that someone has purchased a Nintendo Wii for me for Christmas. Judge me if you must, but this pleases me greaaaaaatly. Yay! The nerd in me awkwardly rejoices!
By now you should know how we celebrate over here at the "W" house; we upload videos of our dog humping pillows. So, here's a particularly diiiiiiiiiirty one for you. May it fill you with holiday shame and/or cheer - your choice.

Holiday. Celebrate.

Monday, December 11, 2006
i am grumpy. i am furrowed. i am grey. i am sitting through a six hour professional development day.
I have writer’s block.
It is rather severe.
It mocks.
It is not as deep as a well, nor as wide as a church door, but it will serve.
My writing, she is blocked.

It is exacerbated by my attitude.
I have a very BAD attitude.
Today, I am critical and frustrated and annoyed.
I am bothered and tired and cold.
I am two hours into a six hour professional development day focusing on standardized test taking.
Understandably, it has made me grumpy and furrowed and grey.

We have just been asked to write a sentence with sensory details.
This I cannot do because, you see, my writing – it is blocked.
Other people do not have this problem.
One man just read his sentence.
It was dripping with adjectives and alliteration and Kerouac.
It burned, burned, burned as hipsters spun, spun, spun and angels glittered in the setting sun.
This sentence annoyed me very, very much.
But most annoying was the fact that I couldn’t write one at all.

The man sitting next to me is a CLOSE TALKER.
He is eating peppermint lifesavers and periodically leaning in, whispering quippy statements very, very close to my ear.
I am uncomfortable, yet thankful that he is eating peppermint lifesavers.
Because, you see, it could be worse.
But, nonetheless, I wish he would stop.

The Kerouac man has found a jump rope and is jumping with it in the corner.
I wonder if he is attempting to be BOYISH and CHARMING.
I find this neither BOYISH nor CHARMING.
Because, you see, I am feeling rather grumpy and furrowed and grey.

The little lady leading the meeting has just told me that our students should not be writing with first subject, then verb, then object, and NEVER EVER in five paragraph essays.
It is elementary, you see.
So, grumpy, furrowed and grey I am.

The little lady leading the next meeting will tell us that our students will fail the standardized test if they do not write first subject, then verb, then object, and MUST ALWAYS write in five paragraph essays.
So, I remain grumpy furrowed and grey.

But none of this really matters because I have writer’s block -
it burns, burns, burns as hipsters jump, jump, jump and five paragraph essays glitter in the setting sun –
and I also have a very BAD attitude under all this lip gloss.

Friday, December 08, 2006
hello, stranger
You might ask, why so quiet as of recent? Too sick to post? Too busy? Are you hunting down identify thieves? Are you writing your novel? Are you discovering a solution to global warming? Are you figuring out an exit strategy for the war in Iraq? Or, are you just too lazy?

The answer to most of these questions is no. To add to the rather large pile of things that have annoyed me this week, it turns out that squirrels have gnawed through our cable cord and our Internet access has deteriorated from okay, to sporadic, to dormant. It's been frustrating, especially when I think about how much money I give to the cable company each month, but we'’ve been assured that our bill will be pro-rated and things should be up and running again by today or tomorrow, so I guess that means that sometime next week I should be able to get on the Internet at home again. Yippee.

I do have plenty more to say and posts have been piling up in my brain, but I have a quiz to write and projects to grade, so until my cable company fixed my squirrel-induced problem, I suppose I better do some actual "work" at work.

Just wanted to check in because I kind of miss you, punk.

Monday, December 04, 2006
an open letter to the man who stole my husband's identity, opened up a credit card, and racked up $6,000 worth of debt
You cheap, heartless bastard.

I hope your mother discovers what you did and never gives you another Christmas or birthday gift ever again.

I hope that your hands and feet are plagued by in-grown nails and warts.

I hope that you go bald and discover that your skull is absurdly lumpy.

I hope that your children develop goat hooves, spiky tails, and belligerent attitudes.

I hope that you develop a wicked case of halitosis and are forever shunned by members of the opposite sex. Or members of the same sex. Whatever your preference may be.

I hope that wherever you go it is perpetually raining.

I hope that John Mellencamp's "Our Country" plays on repeat in your brain for the rest of your days.

I hope you develop restless leg syndrome.

I hope that you go for a relaxing swim only to discover that leeches have attached themselves to your naughty bits.

I hope that you can never erase the bitter taste of failure from your mouth.

And if our paths ever cross, be warned - there will be a pointy reckoning that shall make you shudder.

That is all. For now.


Sunday, December 03, 2006
my husband's silly quote of the day
"A mandolin seems a bit pedestrian for Beirut, don't you think?"

Friday, December 01, 2006
music: november: a little precocious, a little arty
My Internet connection is being about as bitchy as a typical fifteen-year-old girl today, so there's a decent chance that this post will be lost, but I'm crossing my fingers and toes and forging ahead. Believe in hope, ya'll.

Thanks to generous friends, a very affordable e-music subscription and free downloads, I've somehow managed to let my hands on quite a few new albums this month, and there are more than a few that are good enough to blog about. We'll see whether or not any of them make my "best of 2006" list, but for now here's a sampling of some of my favorite new albums from the month of November:

Band of Horses - Everything All the Time
I know that this one's been out for a little while, but it's new to me and I'd like to give a very sincere thanks to those of you who recommended
it. (And I'm especially thankful to one little lady in particular who bent the law a bit so I didn't actually have to purchase it. Bad pirate!) I've been in love with Everything All the Time recently, and I see it as a clear runner for making one of my favorite albums of 2006.

Joanna Newsom - Y's

At the risk of sounding pretentious I must admit that I've jumped on the Y's bandwagon. Like Beirut, Joanna Newsom isn't someone who I would recommend to everyone. I see her to be like anchovies, and while I like anchovies, I fully appreciate the fact that many people do not. Nonetheless, Y's is poetic, multilayered, and incredibly beautiful despite (because of?) Newsom's warbly voice, and it just reinforces how much I've always wanted to learn to play the harp.

Midlake - The Trials of Van Occupanther
I don't know what it is about Texas, but it seems like every other new band that I've fallen in love with this year is from the Lonestar State, and I'm adding Midlake to the that list. The
Trials of Van Occupanther, with undertones of Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young, sounds like it could have been released in 1975, and while that may not necessarily sound complimentary, I mean for it to be.

And finally,

Inlets - Vestibule EP
This EP, put out by Sebastian Krueger who is a part of Sufjan Stevens's crew, is being offered as a free download over at luv sound, so while I don't really consider myself to be a big Sufjan Stevens fan and I haven't really listened to
Vestibule enough to strongly recommend it whole-heartedly, I thought I'd let you know. I know that some of you like Andrew Bird and Beirut as much as I do and comparisons have been made, so you may want to head over there and check it out.

And if you were actually able to read this, that means that my connection had held out and blogger hasn't lost my post like I feared it might. Oh technology, you are a tricky and temperamental mistress...