Friday, December 30, 2011

Cute photo dump

Bumper and Flossie were just excited as I was when I actually cleaned my room and made my bed upon arriving back in Athens.
From Christmas morning. 
I wish I could just pay my niece to finish this damn dissertation.
Daisy and I lounging in good light.
I miss this chicken.
Photo-shop.  Wishful thinking.  Sometimes I want my life to be a romantic comedy.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy holidays my friends!

Lesson to my niece Eleanor: if you leave your tiara just laying around, I will wear it.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

You can stop holding your breath now.

My top ten songs of 2011.  Over the last few years, I've concocted my own little tradition of making a "best of" playlist that occasionally I will pass along to a few close friends as a mix tape.  Last year I posted it here, and even though it didn't provoke much conversation then, I decided, what the hell.

What's most interesting to me is that although much of my list (which I run to 25 in my own collection, but I won't bore you with that much chatter here) usually matches up with the lists coming out of NPR Music and Paste this time of year, there's always a few songs that they forget about.  And it's not that they never noticed.  There are always a few bands and songs that they laud in the moment of release, call "epic," and then forget to remember come year-end list time.  Lots of those big-time list makers at the well-trafficked music blogs get on my nerves, too, because they pull out odd obscure shit at the last minute to look cooler.  Come on.  The best songs are the ones that you listened to over and over, the ones you talked about with your friends, the ones you'll remember.  So I'm remedying that.

Without further ado:

10) Future Islands, "On the Water": Close to the end of the year, I was serendipitously introduced to this band (which has actually been around for awhile).  This is from their 2011 album release, the title track in fact, and I'm kind of shocked that they didn't make any of the lists this year.  Imagine putting Tom Waits, synth pop, the Yeah Yeahs, and Johnny Cash spoken-word all in a blender.  Their best song is from a previous album, so go listen to it too--"Tin Man."  They're also dance-a-licious.

9) The Civil Wars, cover of "I Want You Back" (Michael Jackson): I couldn't decide which song of theirs to put on here.  I listened to the album (Barton Hollow) on and off all year.  It's just good, solid Americana.  Many of them are very simple, very beautiful tales of love or lost love.  This cover is soulful.  So soulful, in fact, that it changes the whole nature of the song.  In this version, the woman knows full well she is never getting her guy back.

8) Young the Giant, "Cough Syrup": Back in February, when I was still selling green tea lattes part-time, one of my co-baristas brought me a copy of this self-titled album and proclaimed with confidence that he'd "already found the single best album of the year."  Can I be honest.  I left that damn CD in my car for months, never listened, and it only came out of hiding in September because my boyfriend at the time loved this song (which had made it to mainstream radio at that point).  So I finally gave the album a chance.  And now, I don't think this was the best album of the whole year, but it definitely is stellar.  This song, oddly enough, came back to haunt me as a little bit of a break-up anthem that highlighted the mediocrity of aforementioned relationship.  "Life's too short to even care at all, waaa hoooo."  Exactly.

7) The Decemberists, "Rox in the Box": It's no secret to anyone that knows me.  I LOVE the Decemberists.  I love them like I used to love Care Bears and Popples and TGIF.  I think The King is Dead was hands down the best album of the year, but this band has gotten so well-known that most of my music geek friends won't admit to agreeing with me on this one.  I picked this song to put on this list because, for real, what could help us navigate a sucky economy better than a pop-y ode to the grim realities of coal mining?

6) cults, "Go Outside"[they lower-case their name on purpose, mind you]: I fell prey to this song.  I hated it at first.  I thought that if I liked this band then I would have officially gone off the hipster deep-end.  But it caught me and reeled me back in tight, with the hook and the melody and the reverb.

5) College (featuring Electric Youth), "A Real Hero" (from the Drive soundtrack): So yeah, Ryan Gosling was in too many movies this year, but this is one you should have seen.  The whole film feels like an homage to 1980s Los Angeles (even though it takes place in present day).  The music took great acting and pushed it all over another edge.  Best soundtrack I have ever, ever heard.

4) The Joy Formidable, "The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade": This is the entry which has the least real meaning.  It's the song that has to be high on the list simply because it brings me so much infectious joy.  I've had it on repeat for weeks.  There's chanting that crescendoes into two amazing choruses.  The band is a little bit reverb, a little bit cliche honestly, but it's the strong female vocals that stand out.

3) Brett Dennen, "Sydney (I'll Come Running)": From, by any measure, the MOST underrated and unfairly forgotten album of the year.  Dennen always has to swim in a sea of folky singer-songwriters like Ryan Adams, Josh Rouse, Josh Ritter...and everyone else named Josh I guess.  But the thing is, his stuff is more upbeat and more rhythmic than those guys'.  A lot more.  This song found me early this year when I got stuck in a lot of traffic all the time on Mopac Thruway in Austin.  It's a weird combination of pep and an utterly depressing scenario.

2) Florence + the Machine, "Shake it Out": I would have named this the best song of the year if not for the emotional connection I have with the number one I chose.  This a ballad for the modern woman if I've ever heard one.  "It's hard to dance, with a devil on your back, so shake him off."  Sigh.


1) Bon Iver, a tie, "Beth/Rest" and "Calgary": Most emotionally stirring album of the year.  No one thought his second album could be better than the first, because the first was a revelation, but everyone was wrong.  Some people were divided about the "Beth" track, because it's so synth that its opening resembles something you'd hear over a John Cusack movie from the 80s.  BUT, once you listen to it a few times you realize that's where the beauty is coming from.  I listened to this album all summer while I inhabited a house near downtown Athens by myself.  I spent a lot of time on the porch, being solitary, with a bottle of beer, these songs, and blank sheets of paper.  This album hit me as a grown-up lullaby at just the moment I was really starting to feel like being an adult.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


I'm always late with these things.  Today I FINALLY sync up all my cyber lives with an iPhone 4S.  Mac girl all the way now.

Also, read this article on "facebook resistance" from the New York Times--apparently I'm part of a mini-movement of facebook exodus:

Friday, December 9, 2011

The writing life:

Here's what December in Austin looks like so far:

The stapler is crucial because if I didn't keep my research piles bound together I'd probably be sleeping on top of them at night.  The cup is full of coffee of course.  And I've one eye on "Up All Night's" Christmas episode.  Sue me.  It's the holidays, and if I have to keep working day in and day out on this damn dissertation, then NBC sitcoms will keep me company. 

The air is crisp and cool here right now, doesn't even feel like Texas.  I have very little to complain about.  I've been lunching at Whole Foods' salad bar, running in the afternoons, and sipping on cheap wine in the evenings.

More soon.  Well, some actual content soon.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Facebook-free Day Five

Something I never expected, but I should have: some people can't find me!

Let the world know my email:  If you're a weirdo, don't write that down.

All you fine folks out of the country, or maybe you knew me from college and we ended up without current cell phone numbers, shoot me a message.  I would love it.  Forget Facebook, let's actually catch up.


Monday, December 5, 2011

A post-Facebook world.

That sounds nearly apocalyptic, now doesn't it.  Hey Internet friends.  I return to you a little worse for wear, but a lot hopeful for the major life changes to come over the next six months.  I have a largely-written dissertation to my name, and job applications floating out there in the academic ether.    I've got a plane ticket to Austin for Wednesday.  I'll spend the holiday there recuperating, writing, and hugging my niece.

I've found lots of pieces scattered around on the Internet about "going Facebook free."  There seems, sadly, to be an air of pretension associated with this particular way of going off the grid.  Me?  I'll be totally honest.  I left for two reasons: embarrassment (and let's not dwell on the details of that one) and my web reputation.  I doubt academic search committees want to see me out partying at Normal Bar or read my statuses about new bands or where I ate lunch.  I want a clean slate.  I admit my own faults in allowing a social media site to infiltrate my life as much as it did.  So it is without pretension or expectation that I have exited the world's most popular address book.

Here are a few things I've noticed since my Facebook page went black:

1) In order to know what my friends are up to, I've actually got to call them or text them.  So far this new form of check-in has resulted in several fun and spontaneous outings.  I look forward to actually talking to my friends again, and finding out about their life's happenings in person.  Over coffee, or cocktails.  Imagine that--NOT knowing what everyone is up to every second of every day.  Makes you think a lot more about what YOUR day looks like too.

2) Emails are letters again.  They can't be short anymore, because they're no longer backed up by the information I updated on Facebook.  Most of what I email is actually news again, and I check my Gmail account excitedly now--because I know there will be more waiting for me there than Urban Outfitters ads and Graduate School paperwork.  And if there are links I want to send out, I can send them directly to the people I know will be most interested in them!

3) Any romantic relationship or friendship I enter into from now on, I realize, will be lived out ONLY in the real world.  If I want to disconnect from someone, I can just do it.  None of this "defriending" crap.  None of this "what are they up to" drama.  Why would I want to wake up every morning to that?

4) We have all gotten WAY too used to expressing ourselves through brief status updates.  It's like we want to constantly contradict ourselves.  Or convince everyone that our day is actually more interesting than it is.  Now that the Facebook avenue for talking to folks is gone, I'm evaluating my time a lot more realistically.  Today I: ate breakfast, paid bills, made some mix CDs, went on a walk, and now I'm writing.  Not that exciting.  But I am me, so I know all the little ins and outs of significance, all the moments that meant something to me today.

5) I do not miss seeing endless albums of baby pictures, birthday parties, vacations, or random mobile uploads.  But I do miss seeing my friends' faces everyday.

See y'all more often again!