Thursday, July 31, 2008
So I realize things have been rather zombie-heavy in these parts as of recent, but when I find a video of two guys dressed as zombies, reciting haiku and playing the saxophone how can I not at least link to it? "My rigor mortis/is mainly why I'm slower/and the severed foot."  Ahh... Makes me realize it's been a while since I've waxed poetical up in this piece.  You know you miss it.

Speaking of creepy, dark and awesome, have you seen the trailer for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? Little Tom Riddle gives me the chills! Can't. Freakin'. Wait.

And if you're the strange sort who doesn't get all hot and bothered by all things zombie and/or Harry Potter, then perhaps you'd be interested in watching a tiny wee puppy while it's dreaming.   Aww!  I don't know what's going on inside the little fella's head, but I'd bet dollars to donuts it involves either kibble or Harry Potter.  What else could get a person salivating like that?

And if you found none of the above worth your time, then I'm sorry and forget you ever came here.  You may want to check that you still have a heart, however.  After all, who doesn't like puppies?

Voldemort and Zombies.  That's who doesn't like puppies.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, July 30, 2008
livin' a life with one less shame: take that, citizen kane!
A funny thing happened to me yesterday.  Unfortunately, it happened to my face.  

See, ever since I started swimming I've developed an unfortunate eczema issue around my eyes.  It had calmed down for a while, but then flared up again on Tuesday, so I thought I'd treat it with a super-strong lotion.  Apparently this was a very bad choice, because I woke up this morning to a scaly, red-hot, swollen mess.  Seeing how I currently look a bit like a cross between a raccoon and a battered wife, I thought it best I stay in today.  (After all, I already have an uncanny knack for reducing small children to tears even when I don't look a monstrous mess.)

The silver lining to all of this is that staying holed up indoors forced me to cross something off my bucket list: Citizen Kane.  You may recall me mentioning this film on my list of secret cultural shames, and seeing that I'm teaching a film course next month and I'd be just about the worst film teacher in the world if  I'd never completed a viewing of this cinematographic masterpiece, I decided it was time to set my swollen, red 'coon eyes on the prize and just finish it already.  And so I did.  And so...

...I...genuinely...freakin' loved it, which sort of came as a surprise, honestly. Sure, everyone says they love Citizen Kane - to claim otherwise is to risk your taste level becoming immediately suspect - but how many average, modern viewers really do love it?  And for perfectly understandable reasons: the plot was a bit scattered, some of the visual effects that were so innovative at the time look downright hokey today, and damn that's a long time to spend watching a movie without one single boob, car chase or explosion! It takes considerable effort to watch Kane, and the twist at the end explains everything while at the same time explaining absolutely nothing.  It's a taxing, frustrating, beast of a flick.  But despite all of this, I was completely won over.  It was such a visual pleasure that I didn't particularly mind all that other stuff.  And the best part was watching it a second time through while listening to Roger Ebert's commentary, available on the extras of my DVD. It was like having the opportunity to drop in on a free, two hour-long lecture given by one of the all-time greatest film professors.  Consider it highly recommended.

Of course, undercutting my enjoyment of Kane was the realization that my students will most likely loathe this movie.  Lack of boobs and blood aside, it's long, tedious, and black-and-white (the kiss of death), and in this current culture of instant Internet gratification I fear the modern young adult may not have the requisite attention span to appreciate an epic such as this.  But perhaps I'm not giving my future students enough credit.  For both our sakes, I truly hope so.

So all-in-all, though I might look a fright, at least I'm one monstrous, scaly, red-hot swollen mess who's seen Citizen Kane.  Whoohoo! Score one for the freaky lookin' chicks!


Tuesday, July 29, 2008
i'm going to target! who's comin' with me?
I've been trying very hard recently to be a more responsible consumer - buying less stuff, more ethical stuff, stuff I need over stuff I merely want, and all that other crap - but I have a feeling that Target's new GO International line is about to blow all my smug new ethics to hell.  

But for good reason. See how cute it is!?


random posts of pretty
A few of us were discussing our favorite Paul Simon songs a few days back. He's one of my all-time favorite singer/songwriters so picking just one song is difficult for me, but  when pressed to choose I replied "Born at the Right Time".  And although I do love that song very much, I realized a few days later that the correct answer should have been "The Obvious Child". It's a song that makes me stupidly happy every time I hear it, and what I would give to have been able to see him perform it in his 1991 concert in Central Park.

Labels: ,

Monday, July 28, 2008
monday book review: the complete persepolis, by marjane satrapi
I am not a comic book person. Honestly, I'm not even a "graphic novel" person. But I love art, and I love stories, and I love it when stories teach me things, so I figured that I couldn't go wrong with a book that managed to combine these three loves. Thus, when I realized I could trade a few crappy old movies for The Complete Persepolis, I was so excited that I actually did a little dance in my dining room. True story. (I love Swaptree!) But I digress...

If you've read Art Spiegelman's brilliant, Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus: A Survivor's Tale, then you should easily be able to wrap your head around Persepolis - a memoir in the form of a graphic novel. (Or, rather, several graphic novels, since both Spiegelman and Satrapi chose to release their stories in multiple volumes. I am reviewing The Complete Persepolis, which is actually two graphic novels: The Story of a Childhood and The Story of a Return.) Like Maus, Persepolis uses art to tell a personal story while also educating its reader on a particular history and culture. Also like Maus, it's brilliant and wholly worth your time, even if you, like me, claim that comic books aren't really your thing.

Persepolis is the coming-of-age story of Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian woman who is both the author as well as the protagonist. Her story begins in 1980 when Marjane was 10 years old. The Iranian Revolution had just taken place the previous year, and thanks to it, Marjane and her educated, liberal mother are both forced to wear the traditional Islamic veil. Coming from a very free-thinking household, the Satrapis have a difficult time adhering to the new regime, and Marjane's childhood is full of rebellion. She loves punk music, refuses to wear her veil properly, delights in pointing out the hypocrisy of her teachers, and follows her parents on political demonstrations. Eventually, her parents recognize that Marjane's outspokenness is putting her in increasing danger, so at age fourteen she is sent to live in Vienna where she experiences freedom and liberation, but also learns what it's like to be a Iranian immigrant in Western society. After spending four years in Vienna, Marjane returns home to Iran and discovers that while her Iranian heritage made her an outsider in Europe, her Western life has made her an outsider in her own homeland.

For a simply drawn, black-and-white graphic novel, Persepolis is a complex little thing. It's a breeze to read, yet incredibly thought-provoking. I think I learned more about the history of modern Iran from this book than I had from reading any number of newspaper and magazine articles on the subject. Furthermore, I gained an empathy for the Iranian people that one can't truly get from a newspaper or a magazine. While it's easy to dismiss the majority of Iranians as religious and political extremists, Marjane's story suggests that many Iranians are more like her - scared, rebellious and frustrated with the regime - than like the extremists the media tends to focus on. It's easy to see a veil rather than a individual, however Marjane's story reveals that although our politics may be different, we really have more things in common than we have differences to separate us.

All-in-all, I may not love comic books, but I loved Persepolis. It's smart, edgy, funny and sad, and I would recommend it to absolutely anyone.

Marjane Satrapi
352 pages, 2003, 20007

Labels: , , , ,

because the apocalypse doesn't have to be lonely
For fast-moving zombies seeking slow-moving zombies for moaning, gnawing, hanging out in dimly lit stairwells and staring off vacantly into the sunset:

I found a date through zombie harmony - one of the best free dating sites for zombies

Love it! (Via)


Sunday, July 27, 2008
random posts of pretty
Although they look as if they have to be photoshopped, Chinese artist Li Wei says he uses mirrors, metal wires and acrobatics rather than computers to create these impossible images. Featured in his own photographs, he also often admits to being in very real danger while making them. But aren't they amazing? (I'd make a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon reference here if it weren't such an obvious and easy joke.)


Labels: ,

Friday, July 25, 2008
secret cultural shames
A few days back, this piece on secret cultural shames appeared in the online entertainment section of New York Magazine. Its inspiration came from The Times of London, which asked a group of authors to share the books that they're ashamed to have never read, and answers ranged from The Bible, to Catch 22 to The Joy of Sex. One particularly candid author even admitted to earning the highest score in his class on a university thesis written on Wuthering Heights, despite the fact that he had never actually read the novel. Brave.

Though the Times only pressed the authors (who are so. very. British. in their video interviews) to share their secret literary shames, NYM contended that "there's just as much pop-culture cachet to great cinema these days as there is to literature," so their responses included films as well as books. Of course all of this got me thinking of what my responses would be, and so here they are: my secret cultural shames listed in order of least shameful to most.

Honestly, I don't feel particularly ashamed to have never seen this 1925 Russian silent film masterpiece so I'm not sure this one should even count, but when I found out I was teaching a film class next year, noticed this film was in the curriculum and then admitted to a roomful of colleagues that I had never seen it, everyone looked at me as if I had goat ears. So, though I don't feel particularly ashamed to have never seen it, I gather that I should.

The Sound of Music
I don't particularly feel as if I was missing out on anything by not seeing The Sound of Music, however any time I admit this to a woman my age or older I am given a look of such kind sympathy that I feel as if by not seeing it I've automatically forfeited my membership in some secret girls' club.

(See comments re: The Sound of Music.)

Anything by Jane Austin or any of the Brontë Sisters
Not to say it was for lack of trying, however. I've made several very serious attempts at both Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice over the years, but then somewhere around page 70 it hits me, 'Oh yeah - I forgot that I really hate 19th century British literature!' Why do I have such a difficult time remembering that?

Catch 22
The most shameful thing for me is the number of times I've recommend this title to my advanced male students, gushing over how funny it is. And I'm told that it is, however I have absolutely no first-hand knowledge of this seeing as I've never actually read it. (Furthermore, I've always had a secret suspicion it's a book that members of the boys' club enjoy infinitely more than the ladies do. It seems to be the favorite of nearly every man I know, however I've yet to hear a single woman hold it in such high esteem.)

And here's where things start to get truly embarrassing. So here's the thing: I studied the first 30 minutes of Kane in an introductory film class and loved it, but for some reason we never watched the rest of the film. I know I should have long-since taken it upon myself to tackle the rest on my own, however it's instead been hanging out in the limbo that is spaces 5-115 of my Netflix queue for years. Shameful.

Ah yes, my most shameful of secret shames: I've never actually read Hamlet. Two things are to blame here. First, fancying myself a terribly advanced reader, I tried reading this when I was nine-years-old. Of course I didn't get further than the first act, and like many things we're exposed to before being truly ready, it left a terrible taste in my mouth. Much later, my college Shakespeare professor gave the class the choice of reading either Hamlet or Macbeth. After pointing out that Hamlet is Will's longest piece whereas Macbeth is the shortest, the Danish Prince lost by a landslide. I know I should just read the damn thing on my own, but I've seen the Mel Gibson film several times, so I guess I just always figured that was good enough. Whatever. So I've never read Hamlet. I'm over it.  I think you should get over it too.

And with that admission, I feel as if a considerable burden has been lifted.  If you're brave, you'd share your secret cultural shames too.

Thursday, July 24, 2008
dusty zombies
I wasn't going to post this zombie puppet rendition of "Dust in the Wind",  but I can't stop giggling over it so you're getting it anyway.  

You know you like it.


Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 23, 2008
thoughts i had while watching five hours of daytime television as i assembled my new dining room set
People really require free DVD tutorials on how to use eBay?  Really??

Despite my intense hatred of her, Rachael Ray and I do have two things in common: the same haircut, and the fact that we both make babies cry.

Always point the big, sharp knife away from yourself while you're using it to cut open boxes.  (Don't worry; I'm fine, but that's not to say that there weren't some touch-and-go moments.)

If you're a convicted pedophile, you don't really have the right to complain about your bad reputation.  Furthermore, if you're tired of people discovering that you're a convicted pedophile, then perhaps you shouldn't go on Dr. Phil and announce to his entire viewership that you're a convicted pedophile.

If you're a member of the LAPD patrolling the transgender community, a good rule of thumb is that you'll catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a barrel of vinegar.

Screw the Swedes and their cryptically wordless and crudely sketched instructions on how to assemble their stylish yet affordable furniture.

Regardless whether it airs on Fox or Bravo, television shows that depict beautiful, stupid people who are competing over who gets to date or marry some other beautiful, stupid person are the lowest denominator of television.  I actually heard a guy on Bravo's vomit-inducing Date My Ex say, "Who she picks is symbolic of what she wants in life."  Really?  Thank you, Captain Obvious!  Now please explain to me how you ever managed to purchase your own private jet.

Assuming I can figure out a way to cryogenically seal my face so I can immediately cease to age a day, I could totally be an actress on Days of Our Lives.  Bite my lip while looking away forlornly half the time, then narrow my eyes in sullen rage the other half...yep.  I got that.

I've watched so many episodes of American Justice, Forensic Files and Cold Case Files that a) it's becoming difficult to find one I haven't already seen, and b) I'm pretty sure I could kill you, dispose of your body, easily get away with it, and do it all before supper. I'm not saying I would do those things, but that I could is all. 

Though I've taken my Internet alias from my favorite black widow, I still remain far from being The Deadliest Catch.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008
farewell, estelle
I know I talk a big Bea Arthur game, but you always were my favorite Golden Girl and you will be missed. 

weekly book review: the monster of florence, by douglas preston with mario spezi
From 1968 to 1985 a serial killer is suspected to have roamed the gorgeous Tuscan landscape, killing as many as eight couples while they made love in cars parked in the rolling countryside. The killer's (or killers') viciousness rivaled that of London's Jack the Ripper, and his crimes inspired Thomas Harris's infamous Hannibal Lecter. And although the slayings would come to an abrupt stop in 1985, the Monster of Florence still enjoys a formidable presence amongst the inhabitants of Florence and its outlying areas, as his identity remains undetermined to this day.

Author Douglas Preston moved to Florence with the intention of writing a work of fiction, but after learning that his front yard was the scene of one of the Monster's gruesome murders, he became fascinated with the unsolved case and found he could focus on little else. With the help of journalist Mario Spezi - nicknamed the "Monstrologer" for his expertise in the case - Preston discovered an unbelievable story, one involving real-life monsters, a cast of degenerates, an Internet nutcase, and even a suspected satanic cult. 

But the story of the investigation would prove to be as fascinating as the story of the murders themselves, as time and time again the authorities proved they were more interested in using the case for their own personal gain than in justice; thus, they made false accusations, wrongfully imprisoned several innocent people, possibly planted evidence, illegally spied on dissidents, and even went so far as to accuse Mario Spezi of being the Monster after his investigative work and forthcoming book threatened to paint them in an unflattering light.  It's as hard to imagine such acts of brutality taking place in the breathtakingly beautiful home of The Renaissance as it is to imagine such investigative incompetence in a supposedly civilized country, however every bit of it is true.  

The Monster of Florence is divided into two parts: the first detailing the investigation into the Monster's crimes and identify, and the second chronicling Preston's collaborative work with Spezi and their subsequent indictments for obstruction of justice.  Both parts are of equal interest, and, in the vein of In Cold Blood and The Devil in the White City, the whole piece reads like a work of fiction.  My biggest criticism (aside from the difficulties I had keeping all the Italian names straight) was that the ending disappoints somewhat, but there's not much else the authors could have done seeing as the crime remains unsolved.

Bottom line: Preston and Spezi have created a meticulously researched, well-written and wholly absorbing book, and it's a must-read if you are at all interested in the true crime genre.

Douglas Preston with Mario Spezi
2008, 304 pages

Labels: , , ,

Monday, July 21, 2008
random posts of pretty
VSL featured these abstract satellite pictures of the Earth today, and they are indeed incredible. Apparently, from 400 miles away the Earth turns into one gorgeous piece of abstract art after another. The website features 30 pictures, all of which are amazing, however here are a few of my personal favorites:

Kalahari Desert, Namibia:

Karman Vortices:

Great Sandy Scars, Australia:

Malaspina Glacier, Alaska:

Impressive, eh?


Labels: ,

Sunday, July 20, 2008
is it too much to ask to throw in a prince song?
Despite the fact that I really enjoyed The Dark Knight, my buddy Graham makes some very valid critical points, the bit about The Scarecrow's oddly speedy disposal and Batman's weirdly "menacing bat whisper," esp.  

If you've seen the movie, it's worth a look.

Saturday, July 19, 2008
five years ago today...
...after a year of planning and fretting, jumping through myriad Catholic pre-martial hoops, much pomp and even more circumstance, exchanging vows, then ducking in the loo so my maid of honor could help me remove the corset that had been severely restricting my breathing for the better part of the day, Nathan and I danced to this, the song that played when first we kissed, and perhaps the most beautiful song in the whole wide world:

Happy Anniversary to Us.

Thursday, July 17, 2008
quickie album review: stay positive
Admittedly, I had never even heard of The Hold Steady until their near-perfect third album Boys and Girls in America, but I've been firmly on their bandwagon ever since.  Thus, Stay Positive has been one of my more anticipated album releases of the year, and though it doesn't quite reach the peaks of "Boys and Girls", it's certainly no slouch either.  To be completely honest, "Sequestered in Memphis" - the first single to hit the radio waves - had me nervous.  It's a tight little song for sure, however it sounded a bit too similar to their previous work; like they were just rehashing more of the same.  Fortunately, my fears turned out to be unfounded, as Stay Positive does break new ground with their instrumentation (banjos and harpsichords and theremins - oh my!) while still maintaining their penchant for lyrical storytelling and staying true to their Springsteen-esque rock roots.  Though not my favorite from them, Stay Positive is a solid addition to their discography. How appropriate that it opens with "Constructive Summer", since it's a perfect summer rock album.  I can't wait to hear it live.

Favorite Track: "One for the Cutters"

(A quick postscript: Trust that I have no intention of making album reviews a weekly "thing," however in honor of the fact that a) this is a fairly notable release and b) I'm seeing these guys live for the first time tomorrow, I figured a review was in order.  I'll get back to mocking the trivial details of my everyday life soon enough, but for today, music. Hope ya'll don't mind too terribly much.)

Labels: ,

random posts of pretty
From The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon:
The shaping of a golem...was a gesture of hope, offered against hope, in a time of desperation.  It was the expression of a yearning that a few magic words and an artful hand might produce something - one poor, dumb, powerful thing - exempt from the crushing strictures, from the ills, cruelties, and inevitable failures of the greater Creation.  It was the voicing of a vain wish, when you got down to it, to escape.  To slip, like the Escapist, free of the entangling chain of reality and the straitjacket of physical laws.  Harry Houdini had roamed the Palladiums and Hippodromes of the world encumbered by an entire cargo-hold of crates and boxes, stuffed with chains, iron hardware, brightly painted flats and hokum, animated all the while only by this same desire, never fulfilled: truly to escape, if only for one instant; to poke his head through the borders of this world, with its harsh physics, into the mysterious spirit world that lay beyond.  The newspaper articles that Joe had read about the upcoming Senate investigation into comic books always cited "escapism" among the litany of injurious consequences of their reading, and dwelled on the pernicious effect on young minds, of satisfying the desire to escape.  As if there could be any more noble or necessary service in life. 

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 16, 2008
weekly book review: the amazing adventures of kavalier and clay
Much like Catch-22, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and Fortress of Solitude, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay has long been on my list of "books I'm pretty sure I'll really like, but daaaamn it's long so maybe later."  But after listening to two of my sophomore boys gush over it last spring, I decided that if they can find time for Michael Chabon's materpiece, then so can I. 

And so I did. 

And I am so, so glad.

I realize I'm one of the last people on the planet to have read this Pulitzer Prize winner, but in case there's someone else out there who, like me, felt daunted by the epic size of this tome, please first allow me a short(ish) summary.  

Hailing from Prague and educated in both the fine arts and Houdini-like escapism, a young Josef Kavalier makes his most daring escape when he manages to trick the Nazis and smuggle himself into his Aunt Klayman's home in Brooklyn, New York.  Sam Klayman, a writer, wannabe artist and comic book enthusiast, discovers an instant ally in his refugee cousin, and the two of them immediately begin to collaborate on what will eventually be one of the most popular comic book heroes to ever grace the glossy pages: The Escapist.  Borrowing heavily from Joe's personal experiences, The Escapist battles Hitler and liberates the imprisoned and oppressed.  On the back of their superhero, Kavalier and Clay rise through the comic book industry, earning fame and relative fortune, but also discovering that they are each imprisoned by their own separate chains - chains which they will struggle most of their adult lives to escape from.

Although it might sound like one would have to be a comic book enthusiast to enjoy this book, that is hardly the case.  Though long, "Kavalier and Clay" is a breeze to read, and although about superheroes, it has amazing depth.   Chabon's book covers a plethora of themes and motifs - the most prominent being escapism - but also including the devastating effects of war on families and individuals, embracing one's sexuality, the importance of staying true to oneself, personal responsibility, revenge, guilt and love.  Additionally, golems become an intriguing symbol in the novel, as one earns Joe his literal freedom while The Escapist later becomes another sort of golem, one that will hopefully be lucrative enough to earn the freedom of the family he left behind.  

Clearly there's a lot going on here, but that's the beauty of this novel - it's epic while remaining highly readable.  The characters are so well developed that they feel as if they could leap off the page, and Chabon's writing is positively beautiful.  Basically, I fell head-over-heels in love with The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.  It deserved every accolade it was given, and has earned itself a spot as one of my all-time favorite books.

Michael Chabon
2000, 636 pages 

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, July 15, 2008
random posts of pretty
This has more than made the rounds by now, but in case you haven't already seen it, this video of Joshua Allen Harris's "inflatable street art" is pretty rad.  He uses plastic shopping bags and trash bags to create "balloons," which he then affixes to New York subway grates so they can then inflate to become animated polar bears, Loch Ness Monsters and all sorts of other et cetera.  Pretty ingenious, if you ask me.



Labels: ,

Monday, July 14, 2008
an album for every year
Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to get a book review together for today - these things happen when you decide to read a 600+ page book - so instead I'm going to take a cue from Carrie and participate in this fun little music game that comes via The A.V. Club. The idea is to pick a favorite album for every year you've been alive. It can either be something you loved at the time or something you love today, and though it sounds easy, oh no. Not so.

After spending the better part of the weekend bitterly conflicted over Pinkerton vs. Odelay I eventually realized I had to come up with some sort of universal criteria for my choices. And so, my list primarily consists of the albums that have stood the test of time for me. Thus, you won't see Debbie Gibson's Out of the Blue on here, although I won't pretend that I didn't rock the socks off of that little bugger for the better part of 1988. In the event of a real conundrum - Beck vs. Weezer or Tori Amos vs. Portishead being the two biggest - I ultimately decided that I'd choose the album I still listen to the most today. This does not necessarily make it the better album, mind you. Odelay is a near-perfect album, and yet I had to pass it by because I honestly can't remember the last time I listened to it. (And shame on me for that.)

But without further ado, here she goes:

1978 - Bruce Springsteen, Darkness on the Edge of Town
1979 - Pink Floyd, The Wall
1980 - Joy Division, Closer
1981 - The Go-Go's, Beauty and the Beat
1982 - Michael Jackson, Thriller
1983 - The Violent Femmes, The Violent Femmes
1984 - The Smiths, Hatful of Hollow
1985 - John Cougar Mellencamp, Scarecrow
1986 - Paul Simon, Graceland
1987 - Guns 'N Roses, Appetite for Destruction
1988 - Tracy Chapman, Tracy Chapman
1989 - Beastie Boys, Paul's Boutique
1990 - George Michael, Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1
1991 - Red Hot Chili Peppers, Blood Sugar Sex Magik
1992 - R.E.M, Automatic for the People
1993 - The Cure, Show
1994 - Portishead, Dummy
1995 - Belly, King
1996 - Weezer, Pinkerton
1997 - Radiohead, OK Computer
1998 - tie: Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and Elliott Smith, XO*
1999 - Fiona Apple, When the Pawn...
2000 - Radiohead, Kid A
2001 - The White Stripes, White Blood Cells
2002 - Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head
2003 - The White Stripes, Elephant
2004 - Arcade Fire, Funeral
2005 - The Decemberists, Picaresque
2006 - Band of Horses, Everything All the Time
2007 - The National, Boxer
2008 - So far it's a toss-up between Beck's Modern Guilt and Thao's We Brave Bee Stings, however we shall see...

*I know this is cheating, but I'd rather have these two albums than 80% of the ones on this list, making choosing between these two a Sophie's Choice that I'm just not willing to make. So sue me.

General Post-List Reflections:

Had I actually been born in 1977 and not just a bun in my mama's oven then The Muppet Show Album would have been my choice for that year. I ain't joking. I'm thirty-years-old and that little lovely still holds up.

It was harder than it should have been for me to not choose Deee-Lite's World Clique for my 1990 album.

With the release of U2's Actung Baby, Nirvana's Nevermind, Pearl Jam's Ten and Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik, 1991 was an absolutely ridiculous year for music. Don't think I didn't agonize over my choice, however Blood Sugar Sex Magik was the very first CD I ever purchased, and thus it trumps the rest.

1988 and 2001 were particularly weak years for music. I would totally trade them in for another 1991 or 1997.

My sincerest apologies to the following: Deltron's Deltron 3030, The Cure's Wish, Tori Amos's Under the Pink, Talking Heads' True Stories, Beck's Odelay, Patty Griffin's Living with Ghosts, Over the Rhine's Eve, and Pavement in general. I love you. Don't think I didn't try to find a way to fit you in.

Who in Hades is Anal Cunt, and how did they manage to pump out an album almost every single year for the last 20 years?

For the most part, my list is very "Stuff White People Like".

Overall, though hard, this was a pretty fun little undertaking. Should you feel inclined to post your list on your own blog (or share your thoughts in the comments in the event that you don't have a blog), I'd certainly encourage you to do so. I'd love to hear what others would choose!

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 13, 2008
hot enough for ya?

Friday, July 11, 2008
random posts of pretty
Seeing that I'm in a very Beck frame of mind today, I thought it might be appropriate to end the week with one of my all-time favorites. Off of Mutations, here's "Tropicalia." Enjoy, and have a wonderful weekend.

Labels: ,

quickie album review: modern guilt
If I could list the musical acts who've had me from hello, the first would be Radiohead and the second, Beck; so, despite being largely underwhelmed by his two previous releases and after reading very mixed reviews of Modern Guilt, I still had every intention of giving Mr. Hansen the benefit of the doubt.  Of course, the fact that Danger Mouse produced this newest effort didn't make that decision hard, exactly. If tracks titled "Gamma Ray," "Chemtrails," and "Orphans" hadn't already clued you in, Modern Guilt is apocalyptically themed, which I feel is to its benefit since the most interesting material often comes from a place of darkness.  But the sound of the album, though moody, dreamy and chill, isn't particularly dark. Although Danger Mouse's beats occasionally err on the heavy-handed side, the overall marriage between the two artists is a happy one, and the resultant sound effect is delightfully multi-layered and rich.  My biggest criticism is that, clocking in at just over 30 minutes, Modern Guilt is too darn short, but saying that you wanted something to last longer is the sort of criticism one doesn't mind hearing, I suppose.

The verdict: Though imperfect, I've been listening to Modern Guilt almost exclusively since laying hands on it, so I'm announcing that the negative reviewers can stuff it.  Honestly, I don't think I've liked a Beck album this much since Odelay

Favorite Track: "Volcano"

Labels: ,

Thursday, July 10, 2008
what reading is for
Yesterday, Mrs. Miskadventures and I began our volunteer work at 826 Michigan (refer to this post if necessary) by helping out with a reader's/writer's theater workshop geared toward 10 to 12-year-olds.  Along with getting a healthy reminder of what 10-year-old boys are like (!), I had a blast and can't wait to go back in a few days.  

I anticipate a much longer post on the entire experience sometime later in the summer, but for today I just wanted to share one cute thing that happened on my first day.  The workshop leader - who was trying to hit home the point that books are "elastic" and can be rewritten, reconfigured and reimagined any way the reader likes - asked the kids to respond in writing to a question: "What is reading for?"  

Being 10-year-olds, most of the kids resorted to shouting out funny answers rather than bothering to write anything down, but one tiny little girl, quietly sitting on the fringes of the circle, caught my eye, so rather than give the boys the attention they wanted I headed over her way.  When I asked her if she had answered the question yet, her delicate little face beamed back a mouthful of absurdly huge braces as she shook her head proudly and asked conspiratorially if I wanted to see it.  Indeed I did, so I opened up her little blue book to read this:
Reading is what teachers make their students do when they want to leave the classroom to get more coffee.
And I laughed because it's true - sometimes, that is exactly what reading is for.  Smart little bugger. 

Wednesday, July 09, 2008
things i've learned from men who've dumped me
Taking my inspiration from this week's book review, I decided that today it's my turn.  And so, I share with you three hard-earned lessons gained from the men who've dumped me.  Take them to heart and treasure them well, ladies. (As always, all names have been changed to protect the guilty.)

Lesson #1:  You can't force someone to love you, but trying is a surefire way to end up in the clink. 

Ben was my first love.  He was tan, blond, gorgeous and painfully shy.  We were in the 1st grade and I  - who was the opposite of shy - was smitten.  After months of pining and staring and frustration that offering him sips from my juice box and sniffs of my Mr. Sketch scented markers had yet to win me his love, I decided it was time to force the issue.  Literally.  I elicited the assistance of Amy, who, the victim of a poor diet combined with an unfortunately early growth spurt, was easily twice the size of anyone else in my 1st grade class.  Taking advantage of the predictable post-recess chaos, hulking Amy pinned down my love so I could have my way with him.  I stole my very first romantic kiss from Ben while he wriggled in fear in his tiny little flip-top desk.  And it was magic.  That is until immediately afterwards, when he broke down in tears and alerted Mrs. Smith, a woman who is surely a candidate for the meanest 1st grade teacher to ever walk the earth.  Thus, the day I had my first kiss was also the day I earned my first detention, and the old adage is again proven: you can't make him love you.  With the proper muscle in your corner you can, however, make him kiss you.

Lesson #2: Beware the ego inflation that comes from giving a rejection-prone boy his first shot at love.

After the Ben debacle, I took a much needed break from kissing boys, a break that ended in the 9th grade with Billy.  I was new to town and Billy was sweet, helpful and non-threatening, which was exactly what I was seeking at the time.  He was also extremely cute, so imagine my surprise when one of his buddies - genuinely astonished at my not-so-subtle inquiries - explained to me that Billy, a sophomore, had spent his entire 9th grade year getting rejected by an endless string of girls.  Apparently, Billy had enjoyed a bit of a growth spurt the summer before his sophomore year, however his reputation as a puny, undesirable freshman had not yet caught up with his new size.  Taking confidence in the knowledge that my competition was virtually non-existent, I made my move on the bus ride home from our regional marching band competition.  Billy became my boyfriend on that bus ride, and remained my boyfriend for exactly 24 hours - the time it took for him to figure out that he can finally get girls now. Eager to put his new skills to use, Billy dumped me in a perfunctory and poorly-proofread letter.  The next day he was dating Jenny, a week later Michelle, and a month later Sarah.  And all thanks to me.  I had not yet learned not to overly feed a starved ego.  Always keep 'em a little hungry if you want to keep 'em at all, is my point.  (Not that I really wanted to keep him, mind you.  Dude played the clarinet for Christ's sake.)

Lesson #3:  Never trust a boy who wears leather girl pants.

You'd think this one would be obvious, however not to me at eighteen.  What muddled the issue was that Sam was Australian - a trait that made him nearly faultless in my eyes.  So maybe he shaved his armpits. So maybe he liked to wear my nail polish and stole a spritz of my perfume from time to time.  So maybe he liked to accompany me on trips to the mall where he would occasionally buy things from the ladies' department.  And so maybe he danced a bit too well for a straight man.  What of it?  He's European, sorta!  All that is allowed!  Plus, he looked really, really good in those size 10 silver faux-leather pants from Express, especially when we'd go dancing.  (Dancing in gay clubs - did I mention that?)  What I'm saying is that although I was devastated when he dumped me via email on Valentine's Day, I can now look back on that cold, dark day as a blessing in disguise.  A quick MyFace stalking reveals that he's currently married and living in Australia.  For all I know, had he not dumped me I very well may have become the woman who married herself a closeted gay man, although one who looks like he can still rock a pair of leather girl pants.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008
monday tuesday book review - things i've learned from women who've dumped me, edited by ben karlin
Getting dumped sucks. No matter your age, gender, or the size of your emotional investment, there’s little worse than listening to someone tell you that she’s tried you out, found you to be less than favorable and would like to return you now. And although we’d all like to be able to claim that we’ve never been dumped - that we’re far too desirable to ever be the dumpee, it’s an experience that’s happened to the best of us at one time or another, and one we can all relate to regardless of race, religion, or sexual persuasion. (And if you tell me that you’ve never been dumped, then I’m calling you a liar. Also, your pants are on fire.)

But being dumped - although very painful - can also be very funny, especially after traveling a comfortable distance of time. And so, with a list of contributors that is nothing if not promising, Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Me, a collection of relationship-based essays compiled and edited by Ben Karlin (former editor of The Onion and former executive producer of The Daily Show), certainly had potential. Unfortunately, and as was the case with all my ex-boyfriends, potential isn’t enough.

Just like any relationship, the book certainly had its high points. Tom McCarthy’s recollections on the Christian Camp girl who got away in “Don’t Leave Too Much Room for the Holy Spirit” made me laugh out loud and was my personal favorite, while Neal Pollack’s “Don’t Come on Your Cat” and Patton Oswalt’s “Dating a Stripper Is a Recipe for Perspective” were also particularly enjoyable, but I found these occasional gems to be too infrequent to sustain the entire collection. Many of the essays were fine enough, however not great, and some – like Stephen Colbert’s gimmicky contribution – were downright disappointments.

Overall, Things… is an easy, breezy read that is sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, but sometimes falls short, making it a bit too spotty for my overall taste.  So I dumped it.

Things I've Learned from Women Who've Dumped Me
Edited by Ben Karlin
2008, 223 pages

Labels: , , ,

Monday, July 07, 2008
random posts of pretty: return from the wild
I know Mondays are supposed to be book review days, but I'm still recovering from my weekend so photography's much more my speed. I promise that tomorrow I'll tell you everything you wanted to know about Things I've Learned from Women Who've Dumped Me but were too afraid to ask, but for today allow me to share my five favorite images from last weekend:

Had I brought my camera to the beach, there would be a high-flying kite and a sailboat mixed in here, but, alas, it didn't make the trip. So, you'll have to just imagine them, love.

And my, but aren't they sweet?

Labels: ,

random posts of pretty
Since I just got back from a very fun weekend spent "glamping" (or, glamorous camping) I found these bug glamour shots to be particularly appropriate for today:

See how pretty? See why you shouldn't just kill them without having very good reason to do so, you big meanie?

But on the other hand, these "Ugly Bug Faces" courtesy of the Oklahoma Microscopic Society....not so pretty. Pretty funny, however no, not so pretty at all. Maybe just try sticking to killing bugs like those, yes?


Labels: ,

Thursday, July 03, 2008
into the wild
In just a few hours I'll be heading off to celebrate our great country's independence as patriotically as I know how - by spending four days in the "wilderness" holed up in a musty cabin, enjoying minimal technology, preparing my meals over an open flame, and hydrating myself on a river of beer and dubious coffee.


Because I love America. That's why. USA! USA!

Hope you have a happy 4th, and enjoy your sparklers responsibly.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008
random posts of pretty: detroit edition
Detroit's Guardian Building is one of my all-time favorite skyscrapers. The interior - lavishly decorated with mosaics created with pewabic tiles - is absolutely stunning, but all my previous efforts to capture it on film have failed.

Until now. Because now, I have the technology.

Easy to see how it earned the nicknamed "The Cathedral of Finance," eh?

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, July 01, 2008
oh, canada
Interwebs tells me that today is Canada Day, and although I'm not entirely sure what that means, I'm planning on celebrating this hallowed day by sharing with you some of my favorite people and things from the Great White North.  (Why?  Because nothing even remotely interesting has happened in the past two days, so I have nothing better to write about.  That's why.)

So, and in no particular order, thank you Canada for:

Corey Haim
Of the two Coreys, Haim was always my favorite.  Feldman was cute enough, but something about him always struck me as clownish, while Corey Haim was just cool, cute and so very Canadian.  Even nineteen years later, I can still recall the very vivid fantasies I used to entertain of becoming Mrs. Haim while watching Dream a Little Dream until the tape wore out.  (Some dreams are better left unfulfilled is my larger point.  Go on and watch ten minutes of The Two Coreys if you don't know what I'm talking about.  Thank God I dodged that trainwreck!)

The Wonderbra
Apparently, Canadian.  Roughly around the same time that I was pining over Corey Haim was when I made the harsh realization that I might never make it to a C cup.  Then suddenly: Wonderbra!  Screw you, cruel hand of genetics!!!

The Kids in the Hall
Bruce's affection for the absurd always made him my favorite Kid, but Scott's fabulousness,  Mark's legs in heels, Kevin's gumpiness, and Dave's dry wit each hold their own special place in my heart.  

(Filipino Kid: "Are you 
Tourist: "No, I'm Canadian.  
It's like American, but 
without the gun.")

Canadian Bacon
What makes it Canadian?  I have no idea!  But whatever it is also makes it delicious.  Thank you, Canada.

The City of Windsor
Much like young  South Texans are to Mexico, many young Detroiters such as myself owe their first "legal" drinking experiences to the great city of Windsor.  Windsor, your nineteen-year-old bar clientele is beyond annoying to me today, but I once held your clean streets and open, gin-soaked arms in the highest of regard, and for that I salute you.

The Zipper
In an alternate universe Gideon Sundback was never born, and thus the zipper never was.   This is a place where people are endlessly fidgeting with buttons and hooks like a bunch of cavemen.  It's a slow to dress, dark, joyless place.

For all this and so much more, thank you Canada.  Now I plan to round out the day perfecting my Jennifer Tilly impersonation while I listen to some Rush, practice my curling, and muse over where the wheels fell off of Alanis Morisette's career.  Hoser.