Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I've been out of town with spotty internet reception for the holidays. I will be posting more soon.
I hope everyone had a great holiday!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pitchfork Top Songs of 2008 (1-50)

Here is the other half of Pitchfork Media's '100 Best Tracks of 2008' list. I will wait to post the top albums until they post the list in its entirety. You can check out (50-26) here.
In typical Pitchfork fashion, a good number of dance singles pepper the list, with a good mix of indie favorites thrown in for good measure.


Pitchfork 100 Best Tracks of 2008

NPR Readers Pick Their Top Albums of 2008

It is list time. 2008 is growing to a close and 'best of' lists are popping up everywhere. To some this may be overkill, but I love it. I am currently crafting my own list, perfecting it before I unveil it on this blog. It's so hard to choose with so many excellent releases out this year. But, I will have the list out before the Christmas holidays, never fear.

NPR has released its list of reader favorites for the year. I must be an NPR listener because I agree with most of their list and own 18 of the 25 titles. But, they did omit a few of my personal favorites.

Check it out.

Death Cab for Cutie on Craig Ferguson

Death Cab for Cutie appeared on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson last night with a hilarious introduction by James Lipton from Inside the Actor's Studio. This week has been an excellent week for indie music on late night shows. Fleet Foxes were on Conan on Tuesday night, performing an excellent version of "English House." Before the Death Cab performance, viewers got to see Broken Social Scene appear on Letterman. Tonight we have Of Montreal on Letterman and the Cure on Carson Daly.

Check out this video of Death Cab performing "Cath" off of their latest album "Narrow Stairs."

Jack White Interviews Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett.

Not only is she beautiful and an excellent actress, Blanchett is also an engaging and interesting interview subject as well.

In the recent edition of Interview magazine, we get the pleasure of Cate in a well-crafted interview with White Stripes frontman Jack White. They talk about their kids, Blanchett's upbringing, and Blanchett's new job as co-artistic directer (along with her husband Andrew Upton) of the Sydney Theater Company.

Did I mention the striking photos that accompany the article?

Check it out here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pitchfork names 51-100 of top songs of 2008

The exalted music website Pitchfork Media has released numbers 51-100 of their top tracks of 2008, with promises that 1-50 would be coming soon. They will also be releasing their picks for the best albums of the year later this week.

My favorite track on the list, "Little Bit," an infectious dance number by Swedish songstress Lykke Li, comes in at #54.

Check it the whole list here.

"Dark Was the NIght" album benefits AIDS research

"Dark Was the Night," a double-disc album to benefit AIDS research, will be released February 17th on the Beggar's Banquet imprint. Curated by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of the National, the album features performances by Spoon, Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird, My Morning Jacket, Bon Iver and Yo La Tengo, to name a few of the stellar cast of performers.

The disc will benefit the Red Hot organization, to fund research to help find a cure AIDS.

According to Billboard magazine, the tracklist for the two discs is as follows:

Disc one:
"Knotty Pine," Dirty Projectors and David Byrne
"Cello Song," the Books featuring Jose Gonzalez
"Train Song," Feist and Ben Gibbard
"Deep Blue Sea," Grizzly Bear
"So Far Around the Bend," the National
"Tightrope," Yeasayer
"Feeling Good," My Brightest Diamond
"Dark Was the Night," the Kronos Quartet
"I Was Young When I Left Home," Antony and Bryce Dessner
"Big Red Machine," Bon Iver and Aaron Dessner
"Sleepless," the Decemberists
"Die," Iron & Wine
"Service Bell," Grizzly Bear and Feist
"Blood," Sufjan Stevens

Disc two:
"Well-Alright," Spoon
"Lenin," the Arcade Fire
"Mimizan," Beirut
"El Caporal," My Morning Jacket
"Inspiration Information," Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
"With a Girl Like You," Dave Sitek
"Blood Pt. 2," Buck 65 remix featuring Sufjan Stevens and Serengeti
"Hey, Snow White," the New Pornographers
"Gentle Hour," Yo La Tengo
"Another Saturday," Stuart Murdoch
"Happiness," Riceboy Sleeps
"Amazing Grace," Cat Power
"The Giant of Illinois," Andrew Bird
"Lua," Conor Oberst and Gillian Welch
"When the Road Runs Out," Blonde Redhead and Devestations
"Love vs. Porn," Kevin Drew

SXSW 2009

I know. SXSW 2009 is three months away, but i'm already getting ants in my pants in anticipation of my own adult Disneyland, as my friend Kimberly calls it. Plus, this freezing weather has got me dreaming of March. I've been scouring the internet for some tasty tidbits. Here is what I found.
SXSW announced the first round of official bands a few weeks ago. Here's the list:
Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele
St. Vincent
Beach House
Anni Rossi
Future of the Left
White Lies
Passion Pit
Sage Francis

Some other bands that are playing (unofficially, so far):
These Arms Are Snakes, Past Lives, Human Highway, Cotton Jones, The Coathangers and Youth Group. This info comes via donewaiting.com, an excellent blog for all things South by Southwest.

Also, Ana over at Austin Soundcheck confirms that Liverpool duo Dirtblonde will be making an appearance at SXSW 2009.

I will be posting updates as I find them.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

La Blogotheque

I discovered the fabulous Take-Away sessions on the website La Blogotheque featuring some stellar acts directed by up-and-coming directors. I especially love The National's take-away session that showcases stark, beautiful versions of the songs "Start A War" and "Ada" off The National's exceptional 2007 album "The Boxer."

Bon Iver, an artist on a lot of short lists for best album of 2008, is also featured on one of the take away sessions. Originally a solo project of Justin Vernon's, Bon Iver has clearly graduated into a band effort. Backed by former guitar student Mike Noyce and multi-instrumentalist Sean Carey, the trio's exquisitely layered harmonies shine through on versions of "Skinny Love" and "Flume" off of Bon Iver's stellar album "For Emma, Forever Ago."

The Take-Away sessions also feature performances by Okkervil River, Vampire Weekend, Fleet Foxes, Voxtrot and countless others. The best thing is this: you can download these performances for free!

The Calm Blue Sea @ the Mohawk tomorrow.

The Calm Blue Sea, a local instrumental five-piece, play tomorrow night at the Mohawk with locals The Midgetmen, Follow That Bird! and The Bubbles and also on January 2nd during free week with Til We're Blue or Destroy. If you haven't seen these guys live yet, you are in for a real treat.

It's hard to avoid the inevitable comparison's to Explosions in the Sky. But with that said, The Calm Blue Sea sets itself apart from falling into the carbon copy comparison category. With its soaring crescendos and sad melodies, The Calm Blue Sea creates a sonic landscape reminiscent of early Pink Floyd. Melancholy piano arpeggiations color each passage with depth and resonation. Sparse acoustic guitars suddenly burst into Loveless-era distortion creating an impenetrable wall of sound. More akin to the dry, inhospitable climate of Mars than Earth, their music is clearly meant to transport the listener to another astral plane.

Their self-titled EP, released this year, is available on digital outlets such as iTunes and eMusic, as well as locally at Waterloo Records and End of an Ear.

Monday, December 8, 2008

And the winner is....

One of my favorite blogs Stereogum has released the results of their annual Gummy Awards. The winners can thank the readership of Stereogum who voted on their favorites in categories like "Best Album," "Best Music Video,""Best Live Act," and my favorite "Best Indie Crush." There are a ton of other categories to check out.

You can see them all here.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A-Rod and Madonna Just Friends?

According to People magazine, Yankees star Alex Rodriguez claims that he and Madonna are "just friends -- that's it."
Rodriguez says he has only been to two of her concerts, not the twenty plus that the tabloids are claiming. He also said, contrary to the tabloid rumor mills, that he and Madonna have never been on a plane together and are not planning to buy an apartment together.
The two recent divorcees have been in the tabloids frequently this year, most recently when A-Rod was spotted at Madonna's concert in Mexico a couple of weeks ago.
Rodriguez' wife Cynthia filed for divorce in July, citing A-Rod's alleged infidelities, while Madonna divorce from British film maker Guy Ritchie was finalized last month.

Coldplay Rips Off Joe Satriani?

Guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani is suing Coldplay over their song "Viva La Vida," which can be found on their recent album of the same name. Satriani claims that Coldplay's song contains a significant amount of original portions of his 2004 song "If I Could Fly."

Pitchfork Media dug up this YouTube video comparing the two.

I have to admit, the songs do sound very familiar.

According to Reuters (via Pitchfork), Satriani is asking for compensation for damages and "any and all profits from the song."
That could amount to a lot of money, considering that the album (and the song itself) has just been nominated for several Grammy's.

Longest Band Names Ever.

Speaking of trends, why do certain bands feel compelled to stir things up by making their band names super long? Some like to make their song titles inexplicably long. Sufjan Stevens, i'm talking to you.

I thought it might be time to explore some of these bands. A few of them even come from right here under our very nose. I'm sure that there are a ton of obscure bands with longer names. But, for the sake of space (and time) I will stick to some of the more well-known artists.

I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness
From right here in Austin, this is the funniest name of all. I use the name in conversation frequently to be silly. According to Wikipedia, the band name is also the name of an episode of "One Tree Hill," a show on the WB.

What Made Milwaukee Famous
Signed to indie imprint Barsuk, these boys also hail from Austin. The name comes from the Jerry Lee Lewis song "What's Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me).

...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
Another Austin band. Probably the most well-known out of the long named Austin alumni. The band's website says the name is taken from an ancient Mayan ritual chant, although this is suspected to be a joke.

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

An indie pop band from Springfield, Missouri signed to Polyvinyl Records. The name refers to the former Soviet president Boris Yeltsin.

Margot and the Nuclear So & So's
Hailing from Indianapolis, this indie rock band got their name from Gwenyth Paltrow's character in "The Royal Tennenbaums."

Thao With the Get Down Stay Down

Led by the smooth-voiced Thao Nguyen, this San Francisco group made waves this year with their album "We Brave Bee Stings and All."

My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult
This industrial electro-rock band goes way back to the 1980's and features a revolving cast of characters and musicians. Their album titles, including "Kooler Than Jesus," "Sexploitation," and "Gay, Black & Married," are almost as funny as their name.

The Presidents of the United States of America
PUSA is a twice Grammy-nominated band originally from Seattle, Washington. Their self-titled debut album sold millions of copies, yielding the singles "Lump," "Peaches," and "Kitty."

Where Have I Heard This?

At work the other day I heard a familiar song on the radio. Where had I heard the song? Why was I humming along to the chorus? I looked at the XM box to find out the artist's name.

Kind of a silly name.

Then I realized I had heard the song on an Apple commercial for the new, colorful iPod nanos. It's amazing the ability Apple has to cherry pick catchy songs for their commercials: Songs that stick with you, whether you like them or not. Past ads have featured Feist, The Ting Tings and Yael Naim.

I have to admit, I kind of like this little ditty.

Check out the commercial for yourself.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Prop. 8, The Musical!

Check out this video "Prop. 8: The Musical." Directed by Marc Shaiman, it features a star-studded cast, including Jack Black, John C. Reilly, Margaret Cho and Maya Rudolph, among others.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

School of Seven Bells.

School of Seven Bells is the new project from ex-Secret Machines guitarist Benjamin Curtis and twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza, formerly of On! Air! Library!
With soaring harmonies by the Deheza sisters and Mr. Curtis, "Alpinisms," their exquisitely layered debut, transports the listener into SOSB's sleepy dreamscape. The album is equal parts Kate Bush and Stereolab with a little prog. rock and psychedelica thrown in for good measure.

"Iamundernodisguise" gets things started with chanting vocals complemented by a mixture of analog and electronic instrumentation, conveying a more Eastern motif. The lyrics, sparse but powerful, show the underlying spiritual undertones found throughout the entire album:

I am neither breather nor speaker
I am neither walker nor sleeper
I am neither sister brother son nor daughter
Solely in my chest is my heart a drum of water

I am under no disguise

"Half Asleep," the first single off of "Alpinisms," starts off with shimmering vocals, showcasing the Deheza sisters perfect pitch harmonies. It's a catchy piece, surely to help pick up a few new fans on their recent tour with M83, a band who shares some of the same sonic elements with School of Seven Bells.

"Alpinisms" evokes the inevitable shoegaze comparisons, My Bloody Valentine in particular, especially on closer "My Cabal," with its crushing wall-of-sound effects and layered vocals.

Some may find the Enya-like new age vocals off putting on songs like "White Elephant Coat" and "For Kalaja Mari." Those songs, although not the strongest points on the album, add color and depth to an already stellar collection of tunes.

The name of the album references French poet René Daumal, who defined alpinisms as "the art of climbing mountains." According to guitarist Alejandra Deheza, the term refers to "mountain climbing songs," a fitting description of the songs, which combine billowing grace with ethereal beauty to lift you to great heights.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Grammy Nominations Announced.

In an obvious attempt to make up for the poorly rated 2008 Grammy's, The Recording Academy announced the 2009 Grammy nominations on a prime time concert this evening. The show featured performances by Foo Fighters, Taylor Swift and Mariah Carey, among others.

Album of the year nominees included Coldplay, Lil Wayne, Radiohead, Ne-Yo and Robert Plant & Alison Kraus.

Best new artist nominees? Adele, Duffy, The Jonas Brothers, Lady Antebellum and Jazmine Sullivan.

For the full list of nominees go here.

I Heart Sirius XMU

We subscribe to XM Radio at my place of employment. I haven't paid too much attention until we discovered channel 43, Sirius XMU. I think it came about as a result of their XM and Sirius' merger. It is an indie station that plays every song I love. Seriously. I could put my iPod on shuffle and get a lot of the same songs.

I especially love Josiah's show.

Will you marry me?

A sample playlist:

Ra Ra Riot - "Ghost Under Rocks"
Bon Iver - "Skinny Love"
Pinback - "Penelope"
LCD Soundsystem - "Time to Get Away"
Beck - "Orphans"
M83 - "Kim & Jessie"
Vampire Weekend - "M79"
The Walkmen - "Donde Esta La Playa"

Kristin Stewart to play Joan Jett.

Twilight actress Kristin Stewart is slated to play Joan Jett in a new biopic about the Runaways, Jett's first band.

According to Pitchfork Media, the biopic will be directed by veteran video producer Floria Sigismondi (Sigur Ros, Christina Aguilera, Interpol, The White Stripes). Jett has signed on as executive producer.

The movie is set to start filming next year.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Best of the Best.

"Best Albums of 2008" lists are popping up everywhere. It seems like they come earlier every year. I am still delicately crafting my own top 20 list. These things take a lot of time and deliberation, at least for me they do.

Here are some links to some of the just-released lists.

Paste Magazine Top 50

Blender Magazine Top 33

Q Magazine Top 50

Uncut & Mojo Magazine Top 50

Amazon.com Top Picks

Heavy hitters like Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and Spin have yet to release their year
end lists.

Thanks to the excellent site Stereogum for the links!

Stephen King likes Austin Music.

Stephen King has released his top ten album list for 2008.

Yes, you read right. Stephen King. Author of such classics as "It," "The Stand," and "The Shining."

You may ask what qualifies Stephen King to be writing about music? Well, what qualifies anyone to write about music? It is refreshing to read his insight on the music that made him excited this year. And the selection is suprisingly diverse for an old dude. I mean, hard-rock band Buckcherry competing for the top spot with The Pretenders? King even adds electronica sampling wunderkid Greg Gillis, aka Girl Talk, to his list.

Austin artists James McMurtry and Alejandro Escovedo hold two of the top spots on his list, numbers 3 and 5, respectively. King confesses his love for McMurtry in this blurb:

McMurtry's songs inhabit a different universe from most of the Nashville crap in heavy rotation on the mainstream country stations. ''God knows she tries, but when you're that far down you're just gonna get high,'' he sings on ''Fire Line Road.'' You won't hear that observation on a Kenny Chesney album, and you'll hear little there that rocks as infectiously as ''Bayou Tortous.'' Everything here works.

Stephen King's list:

10. "Hey Ma" - James
9. "Harps and Angels" - Randy Newman
8. "Gift of Screws" - Lindsey Buckingham
7. "Lay It Down" - Al Green
6. "Viva La Vida" - Coldplay
5. "Real Animal" - Alejandro Escovedo
4. "Feed the Animals" - Girl Talk
3. "Just Us Kids" - James McMurtry
2. "Black Ice" - AC/DC
1. "Black Butterfly" - Buck Cherry
"Break Up the Concrete" - The Pretenders

You can check out the whole article, with King's witty comments here.

Celebrity alter egos.

With the recent unveiling of Sasha Fierce, Beyonce's alter ego, I wanted to revisit some other famous folks who reinvented themselves by taking on another persona.

Garth Brooks- Chris Gaines
Garth Brooks, in an attempt to go back to his rock and roll roots, unveiled his alter ego Chris Gaines. Apparently no one was interested. The album was a flop.

David Bowie- Ziggy Stardust
David Bowie was one of the first to adopt an alter ego. Flamboyant and androgynous, the character ushered in the glam movement of the early 1970's.

Eminem- Slim Shady
Eminem allegedly came up with this alter ego on the toilet. Nasty!

Mariah Carey- Mimi
Mariah Carey claims that Mimi is a very personal nickname used only by close friends and family. Not anymore. Carey's multi-platinum album "The Emancipation of Mimi" made sure of that.

Miley Cyrus- Hannah Montana
There is not much difference between the two besides a blonde wig and a hopped up Disney-created persona. She is the first alter ego star to have her own 3D movie.

Thanksgiving toast.

Cheers to you!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Is Winona Thievin' Again?

Convicted of shoplifting in 2001, embattled actress Winona Ryder is in the headlines once again. This time, it involves the whereabouts of a diamond encrusted bracelet and ring loaned to her for a Marie Claire event.
Ryder says that she handed the items over to staff at her Madrid hotel for safe keeping. According to The Daily Mail, the hotel denies any involvement in the transaction, stating that they have no surveillance footage of the actress handing over the jewels to staff.
Bulgari, the company who owns the diamonds, allegedly called the police when they learned that the diamonds were missing.
Ryder appeared the picture of health at the Marie Claire event, a stark contrast to the state she was in upon arriving at London's Heathrow Airport a day earlier. She collapsed twice on the flight, due to an apparent tranquilizer overdose.
Oh, Winona.

Real Food Daily in L.A.

One of the restaurants we got to try on our short trip to L.A. was Real Food Daily, a vegan restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard.
All of the menu choices are vegan, including the beer and wine list, which was quite extensive. I had a California-brewed Santa Cruz Pale Ale, a hoppy high alcohol concoction.
For appetizers we started with the Better With Cheddar Nachos ($11.75), which consisted of crispy housemade chips piled high with beans, vegan cheese and sour cream, and the Nori Maki sushi rolls, made with sweet brown rice, avocado, tempeh and collard greens (10 pc. $10.95). Both were very delicious.
For my main entree I decided to try the Salisbury Seitan ($13.25), their version of the salisbury steak. It came with hearty mashed potatoes coated with cream gravy and a divine Caesar salad. I also sampled the BBQ Tofu Chop Salad ($13.95). With small cubes of flavorful barbeque tofu, various vegetables, cashew cheese and ranch dressing, this was a clear winner.
Salads seem to be Real Food Daily's strong point. Another person at our table had the Mexicali Chop ($12.95). It had pinto beans, avocado, vegetables, tortilla strips in a lime-cilantro dressing. It was very good.
The Club Sandwich ($15.25), with seitan, tempeh bacon and avocado on sourdough, was a hit with the big meat eater at our table. He said it tasted better than a traditional club.
The deserts were not as good as the rest of the meal, but they still held their own. We sampled the Chocolate Birthday Cake ($6.00) and found it to be a little dry and not very flavorful. The Pecan Pie ($6.00) was pretty good. The best dessert we tried was the Fudge Brownie Bowl with soy vanilla ice cream ($6.00).

OU Heads to the Big 12 Title Game.

It looks like the BCS computers have determined that Oklahoma will go to the Big 12 title game, regardless of the fact that they were beaten by Texas in October. I have to say this time that i'm happy with the confusing BCS computing this time. I know this will get me tarred and feathered in these parts.
I'm from Oklahoma. Don't want to live there. That's why I moved here. But, i've always been an OU fan, and I can't shake that loyalty. I will root for Texas against anybody else but Oklahoma.
If Oklahoma beats Missouri in the title game, it will guarantee them a berth in the national championship game. If they lose, Texas may still have a chance to play for the championship. And in that case, I will be behind them 100 percent. But for now?
Go Sooners!

The Getty Museum

Perched atop a hill overlooking the city of Los Angeles, the Getty Museum offers more than just beautiful panoramic views. It also features a diverse collection of art, incased within intricately designed buildings surrounded by sculpted gardens and landscaping.
I had the pleasure of visiting The Getty Museum while in Los Angeles this past Friday on an unusually cooler, windy day.
We rode the shuttle bus on the way up, skipping the line for the train, which offered a more spectacular view, but promised a longer wait. We decided to save the train ride for the trip down the hill. What I first noticed, besides the sweeping vistas, was the architecture of the museum. Built from travertine, a beige colored, textured, fossilized stone, the immense buildings absorb the morning sun, making the stone emit a warm glow.
As you move through the museum grounds you find that the landscaping is the crown jewel of the Getty Center. Gardens of many varieties surround the museum. With a huge swath of prickly pears, aloes, and countless other cacti species, the cactus garden, located at the south end of the museum is impressive. But most impressive is the huge Central Garden, a 134,000 square foot wonderland featuring over 500 varieties of plant material. The path leads you down through a winding stream, surrounded by beautiful plants and flowers, ending as the stream cascades into a reflecting pool with a floating maze of azaleas.
Some of the permanent exhibits that are housed at the Getty include ancient illuminated manuscripts, sculptures, photography and oil paintings. I must admit that most of my time was spent admiring the outdoor areas. Next time I visit, I will spend more time exploring the many galleries.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The canals of Venice.

Venice, California, that is.

Today we took a pleasant walk through the canals. Staring at all the nice houses that I wish were mine, I took in the uncommonly cool air, wishing we didn't have to leave so soon. Boo. Why do vacations go by so fast?

Exhausted from a long, fun day. I will post some highlights tomorrow.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

I have lapsed into a food coma from a delicious Thanksgiving dinner. Why do we gorge ourselves into oblivion on this holiday? All in good fun. The diet starts tomorrow.

I Should Never Grow So Old Again

My grandparents when they first were married.
My mom as a child.

It's Thanksgiving, but also my mother's birthday. She passed away last August and I wanted to post a piece of her writing as a tribute to her life. She was always a great writer and wrote amazing poems. One day I hope to be as good a writer as she was. She had her own blog and even designed her own web page. She was quite tech-savvy. This was one of her posts about her mother, my grandmother. I thought it was fitting.

Happy birthday Mom.

To Never Grow So Old Again by Rosa Willis

Today is the anniversary of my mother's death. Eleven years ago today, at 4 in the afternoon it was a brilliant October day much like today, filled with the light that never comes at any other time of year, that liquid amber, almost preternatural glow, that seems to shine through the windows from another world, a brighter, more perfect, more real place than this. A day when the turning leaves and even the trees themselves glow like jewels with that same light, when the sky is an impossible shade of lapis lazuli that one would think occurred only in some artist's vision, when the wind seems filled with a fragrance like a life-sustaining Breath, meant to remind us that the loveliness here is only a shadow of the beauty of our Home and Destination.. It was an eternally beautiful autumn day and my mother lay dying in a hospital bed of end stage COPD. My father, her soul mate, had preceded her in death just over a year before, and we knew that she was swiftly on her way out that Door to join him - and so did she.
My mother was probably one of the most wonderful, strange, frightening, beautiful and wise souls I will ever know. She loved to read, and taught me to love books - my earliest memories of her are of her reading and reciting poetry aloud to me - real poetry, Keats and Shelley and Wordsworth and Frost and Millay and Auden and cummings, not just nursery rhymes, though Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verse was one of the first books I ever owned. She was an "emancipated woman" - at least in her own mind, before there was a term for it, and even though society forced her into the mold of a "stay at home" fifties wife and mother, she never fit it well. My father was equally wise and unique, but he was less verbal, less outspoken and vehement than my mother, so he rarely spoke of the things that stirred his heart, the things he believed, the things that were important to him - he didn't need words as much as she did, he was content to know, and to know that we children knew that he knew. There are four of us, I'm the eldest, my only sister is four years younger than me and our two brothers are six and twelve years younger. And I know that we four and our parents (and our children and several others we have met and recognized on our sojourn here this time, including my sister's husband and my baby brother's wife - who are, themselves, brother and sister) comprise a Circle which has existed for aeons, bound by ties forged in the Heart of the One at the beginning of Time, taking countless turns at one role or another, together in one form or another over and over again. One thing that makes our Circle so strong is that we know this and one of the reasons we know it is because our parents knew it and taught it to us. They were both Pisces, born within two days of each other, three years apart. Try growing up as a child or a teenager and trying to lie to two Pisces parents, lol! It was usually Mom who caught us and spoke up, but if she didn't - Dad had a way of making us realize much later, after the fact, that he had known the truth of the matter all along.

My mother was a nominal Catholic - and she "believed" in all of the sin and guilt that seems so inevitably to attach to that faith for a woman, especially a woman of genius and independence who dared to rebel against authority in any way. But she also read Tarot and told dreams that came true, and saw and talked to spirits and believed in Atlantis - and was firmly convinced that we had all lived many lives before and were destined to live many lives in the future. Don't ask ME how she reconciled all of this with her belief in Christ the Lord, the Virgin Mary, the Saints and her idea of Purgatory - and her fear that it was her destination for her sins and failures in this life - I wasn't privy to her intimate religious philosophy - I just know that reconcile it she did and that she taught us that we were free to choose our OWN religious philosophy, just as she had. My sister's middle son was two years old one night when my sister and I were driving my mother home - probably from a Bingo game, lol....she loved to play and, of course, she nearly always won, and she DID always break even.. it was knowing how to pick the cards, she'd say. We were having an ordinary conversation about how long we'd lived in various places, saying things like "Well, I lived in such and such a town for seven years but I've been here for thirteen..." etc. when my two year old nephew broke into the conversation - looked at Mom and said "Oh, Grammy, you're REAL old - you've been here for many, many, many, many, many times...." We looked at each other over his head and my sister said "you mean many years?" and he said, in the frustrated voice of a child whose adults haven't understood him "NO, I said TIMES!"
And there was no need to ask him to explain, because we all knew it was true. My mother (and my father, too) were both very ancient Souls, just as we four children were (and my nephew too, how else had HE known, lol). My mother had started in reinforcing our bond very early. We could all repeat by rote, her standard speech whenever a couple of us would get into a sibling squabble (or try, she usually stopped those cold in their tracks well before they ever got to the "nyah, I hate you" stage). "Your family is all there is in the end , kids. That is the only sister (brother) you will ever have and you must stick together. When I die if ever any one of you turns their back on the other when they need you, I promise I will come back and haunt you forever!" She was raising us for an ideal world though, one that didn't exist as yet - a place of harmony and equality and tolerance, where, if you meant well, all would BE well, where violence of any kind was unacceptable, where if you just LOVED someone or something enough, it could be redeemed. Our teenage friends all adored her, because that was the way she treated them - especially the lost and struggling ones, the ones who were fighting with their own parents or marked by some terrible hidden tragedy in their own homes. She was the one I came to and in whose lap I wept when I saw the little black children (my age!) being spat upon and called "bitches" by women the age of my mother as they walked with a police escort to their first day of school....she was the one of whom I asked "Why...?". And when an old movie we were watching on tv once showed a little boy with a tattooed number on his arm, she was the one who dealt with my awakened horror when I turned to her and asked what it meant and she floundered trying to explain the Holocaust to an eight year old. In the end her explanation was this "They just didn't understand...." and, if you think about it, that is just about the most concise definition of bigotry ever heard - people fear what they do not understand and fear leads to hate and makes them do terrible things; which, if they truly understood and knew their victim, and saw them as a person like themselves, they could never do.
Understand, I am not painting a picture of a rosy idyllic childhood - far from it. Both my mother and father had problems with alcohol abuse and our early lives were filled with all of the terrible consequences that scenario engendered (my mother used to say wryly that they were both a couple of drowning Pisces, pulling each other down trying to stay afloat). But they both conquered many of their demons later in life, and through it all, the ample demonstration and evidence of their undying, and accepting love for each other and for us was something that we could never lose sight of - and we never did. And as we grew up and grew older and began to see them as fallible human beings, with lives and feelings and griefs of their own in which we had no part (my father suffered all his life from the same bipolar disorder I have been diagnosed with and my mother lost her own mother to pneumonia when she was 7 years old and her father became a drifter who abandoned his family [my mom, her two sisters and a brother] to be raised by different relatives all over the country and proceeded to drink himself to death), we were able to see them whole and to forgive whatever scars they had dealt us unaware in the depths of their own pain. But my mother suffered, felt that she had done us harm, and that perhaps she had some time to do in her Purgatory - or what we called the place between the worlds - because of it. At her request we even had a priest come to take her last confession and administer her last rites in that hospital bed on that day....
That day, that October day - my mother had been admitted early that morning to the hospital with extreme shortness of breath which nothing could relieve. Her admitting diagnosis was ARDS - adult respiratory distress syndrome - secondary to advanced COPD, and as a nurse, I knew that meant...this was IT. She knew it too. The doctors asked her did she want to be placed on a machine to help her breathe and she emphatically told them no, that she had a living will and that in the event she became unable to decide it would be up to us and we all knew her wishes. So, with just an oxygen mask (she had always used a cannula before and the mask so that they could give her a little more oxygen than was possible through her "nose hose", as she called it, was her only concession to any "life saving" procedure) and "reasonable" comfort measures as her doctors orders - she and the four of us, who had gathered during the year she lived after my father died to live within blocks of each other in the same town and who had been scattered over three different states before, prepared for her Crossing.
It took a little time to assemble everyone in that hospital room. My sister and I were the first and each of us went and got our brothers (and my sister's husband and brother's wives) as soon as each was able to get off work, get to the hospital....but Mom hung on, still conscious, still able to squeeze hands and nod when she was no longer able to talk, until we were all there, around her bed. We told her goodbye, told her to kiss Dad for us, told her it was alright, that we would stay together, that we would manage...that the Circle would be unbroken (that was, by the way, the only song played at her funeral services, by her own request, years and years before). I held one hand, my brother (he was her 'favorite', it was unthinkable for it to be any other way) on the other side held theother, and each of the four of us kissed her. I asked "Can you hear us, Mom? Do you know we're all here now? Do you understand?"..and she squeezed my hand firmly once, in reply..yes. Then she smiled, smiled in the midst of those agonal respirations - we all saw it - and breathed one last time and that was all. My brother leaned over, pulled the oxygen mask from her face (so that we all saw the smile even more clearly), and said "Won't need THIS damned thing any more now!" and threw it in the trash.
Later that night at her wake - again, one of her requests, "When I'm gone I want a real Irish wake, everyone in the Circle, and everyone who loved me and knew me, get together and party down! Play the music we love, talk about me, raise your glasses and your beers and say 'she was a hell of a gal!'" We had the picture of her and my father that I have reproduced here sitting on a table wreathed about with white candles. My daughter was in charge of the music and she was putting in CDs of the music my mother loved, early blues and rockabilly like Patsy Cline, and Johnny Cash, mixed with classic 60's music like Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan.
There is an album by Van Morrison called Astral Weeks. Its title song has some lyrics which I have used as my personal quote on just about every profile I've ever filled out and which have been emblazoned on the inside cover of every bound journal I've kept since I first heard the song....and in the years I was nursing they became like a mantra, because, well, it's what I do.... "If I ventured in the slipstream, twixt the viaducts of your dreams..could you find me, would you kiss my eyes, and lay me down in silence easy...to be born again...in another place, with another face...ain't nothing but a stranger in this world, got a home on high...." My Mom loved this song, knew its significance for me, loved the whole album and a lot of other music by Van Morrison too, but that album was her favorite. So it wasn't a surprise when my daughter put that CD in. What was a surprise was that she didn't start it at the title track. She started it at another track called Sweet Thing. Some of the words in the chorus to that song go "and you shall take me strongly in your arms again, and we shall walk in talk in gardens all wet with rain..and I shall never never grow so old again..."
As I listened to that song looking at the picture of my mother and father on their wedding day, young and beautiful, never so old as they became later (we all did, my daughter had gone immediately to the picture as soon as she put the song on and gazed at it) my eyes closed and I saw them (and I found later that all of us had seen the same thing, and had smelled the lilacs) , not in the photograph but real, standing together, looking as they did in the picture, and beginning to walk up a wooded hillside - rather like the mountainside in Arkansas where my father's childhood home had been and near the old pine tree haunted cemetary where his grave and my mother's lie - except that the trees looked like the trees in Lothlorien might have looked (we all agreed on that, though the movies to give us the picture of what we had imagined when we'd read the books were years in the future) - when my parents reached the crest of the hill, they turned to us and waved and then walked over it and I smelled lilacs, the way they smell after a rain, that intense green, powerful yet fragile fragrance, that you just catch a breath of as you walk past them. and I knew that, at least for a while, they had begun to walk in those gardens all wet with rain and that they had vowed to each other - at least for a time - to "never grow so old again".
And today, eleven years later to the very day - I am playing that mp3 on my computer and writing this down and remembering that glorious October day and that glimpse we had of them, that glimpse that all of us in the Circle were granted, that there was an eternity ahead and behind us all and that we would be together for all of it....again and again and again. So mote it Be.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Here Comes the Sun.

"Lil darling. It's been a long cold lonely winter. Lil darling, it seems like years since its been clear. And I say it's alright. Here comes the sun." -The Beatles

After some intermittent showers, the sun finally made an appearance just in time for us to take a nice bike ride up the beach from Santa Monica to Malibu. We rode into the sun, witnessing a beautiful sunset in Malibu. If I lived here I would make that trek every day. It is good for the soul and the body. Tonight we will head back up to Malibu, by car this time, to a nice seafood restaurant on the beach.

We had lunch at The Blue Plate, a cute little restaurant on Montana. Supposedly there have been numerous star sightings outside of the restaurant.

We also checked out some shops along Montana Street in Santa Monica. I gazed at clothing and shoes I couldn't afford and sipped a yummy Peet's latte. Tasty!

Sunny Santa Monica?

We are here to spend Thanksgiving with my partners family. Her mom rented a very modern condo in Santa Monica proper within walking distance to everything. Her brother and his wife live about a mile away, 2 blocks from the beach. We rolled into LAX last night, to be greeted by thousands of early holiday travelers like ourselves and rain... wait a second, rain? In Southern California, where the sun always shines?!? Oh well. We are happy to be here nonetheless. The agenda? We are going to ride bicycles to the promenade, a popular shopping destination, then we will head down to Montana Street, for shopping and a bite to eat. Then after that we will take a beautiful drive to Malibu to have dinner. Yay vacation!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Top Trends of 2008

1. Vampire themed books, movies and TV series.
2. Artists independently releasing their own music.
3. Raw food: Not just for hippies any more.
4. YouTube videos for everything you can imagine.
5. Consumers not consuming.

Get Your Skate On!

Whole Foods will open its yearly ice rink "Skating on the Plaza" this Friday. The temporary outdoor rink, which is located atop the Lamar store, will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m through January 11th. $10 will get you access to the rink for one of their 50-minute skate sessions and a skate rental. Tickets can be purchased at the guest services desk up to an hour before each session.

Prince on gay marriage.

"God came to Earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out," he said. "He was, like, 'Enough.'

This is allegedly a quote from the man of purple himself, the artist formerly known as Prince, now known as Prince again.

Confused? Me too.

This is coming from a guy who marched around, scantily clad in bikini breifs and outlandish costumes, who wrote the controversial sex filled songs "Dirty Mind," "Head" and "Do It All Night."

This quote and others are from a piece in "The New Yorker," where Prince was asked about abortion, religion, politics and Proposition 8. Some, including blogger Perez Hilton, have said that the Purple one was misquoted and some of the article was made up. "The New Yorker," a highly respectable publication, stands by its story.

Red River Bar District

I was asked to provide a brief summary of the Red River Bar District by Michael Barnes, my Entertainment Journalism instructor, who also happens to be an entertainment writer for the Austin American Statesman. They are compiling their annual bar guide, and our class was asked to help with the research of the various districts. I immediately picked the Red River District, being fairly familiar with it. Here is my summary:

The Red River bar scene is interesting because its bars represent a wide variety of cultural differences. First, I think that this area is primarily recognized as a live music destination.
You have your metal heads, old skool Red River scenesters, indie hipsters,
goths and gays and let's not forget the crackheads hanging in the alley by
Room 710.

Here's a breakdown of the bars in that area starting at E. Sixth and Red
River and ending at Tenth and Red River.

1. Emo's: A name synonymous with live music for many years now. In addition to a small indoor dive-y venue, Emo's also has a large outdoor venue that attracts many big-name artists. They also have a lounge next door, but I heard that they were closing it to put in El Sol Y La Luna (a
restaurant on Congress). Not sure when that will happen or the details.
Also known for the nastiest bathrooms in town (It's rumored that they have
never been cleaned).

2. Spiros: A dance-y, frat/sorority club with loud thumping beats bleeding out into the street. Crowd more akin to Sixth Street crowd. College kids. No live music, except during SXSW. Mainly dj's.

3. Plush: A lounge club that specializes in dance, hip-hop, primarily dj-based music.

4. Elysium: Goth-y dance bar straight out of the 80's. You will see people clad in black with tons of eyeliner looking like they are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. They also have a good 80's night, where old people like me can dance to all the favorites from high school and
junior high. They also have a strong gay/lesbian crowd. Elysium features live
music from time to time.

5. Beerland: Dive bar featuring live music. Usually punk-y bands, with a good mix of indie and garage thrown in. Bad sound if you happen to be playing there. Love the name.

6. Red-Eyed Fly: Another dive bar. Has good-sized stage and bar in outdoor area. Think that this bar is mostly metal and hard rock, with a few butt-rock (hair metal-ish) bands thrown in for good measure.

7. Room 710: Live music. Metal, metal, metal! Used to be a little more diverse in its musical tastes, but seems to be steering towards the heavier bands these days. Gutter punks and aging metal musicians (the old
skool Red River crowd) are at home here.

8. Headhunters: The name says it all. Another bar that caters to old skool Red River crowd. Usually the same mix of people. Metal and hard rock.

9. Stubbs BBQ: Premier live music venue. Music featured outdoors and indoors. Outdoor area showcases touring bands that have achieved a larger measure of success. Indoor is more local bands and smaller touring acts.
I heard that they were doing a renovation of the outdoor area to make the stage
more accessible and expanding to make the capacity higher.

10. Club Deville: A hipster hangout. Great outdoor area that now features bands often. Indie-rock is the main staple at this joint. Mostly local bands, but sometimes touring bands are featured.

11. The Mohawk: Another hipster hangout for the late twenties/thirty-something set. Owners have been successful in turning
this formerly cursed location into a crucial component of the live music
scene. Indie-rock/pop/dance touring acts frequent the outside stage,
while the inside stage keeps it mainly local. Transmission Entertainment,
which features Graham Williams, the former booker of Emo's and local booker Rosa Madriz, is the main reason this bar is so successful.

These bars embody the Red River feel but aren't located on Red River

The Jackalope: Same grungy old skool Red River feel.
Beauty Bar: Hipsters on cocaine. Live music, mainly dance, dj and indie acts.
The Side Bar: Cool little hangout bar with stiff drinks.
Creekside Lounge: Also a nice little low-key hangout spot. They also feature some live music.
Casino El Camino: Old skool hangout. An oasis on Sixth Street. Delicious burgers if you don't mind waiting a while.
Red 7: Metal, metal and more metal! Sometimes featuring emo and punk bands.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Instrumentals for Relaxation and Studying.

If you're like me, you like to listen to music constantly, but get easily distracted by music when trying to complete schoolwork (assignments, blogs, papers, etc.). I have an annoyingly short attention span and get distracted easily. Some may call this A.D.D. My solution to this? Instrumental music. There's a lot of good stuff out there, some yet to be discovered. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order.

1) Air
I love anything from this French electro-pop group, but some of my favorites are "Moon Safari," "Talkie Walkie" and "Pocket Symphony."

2) The Album Leaf
Not all of their songs are instrumental, but I particularly love the ethereal, soothing instrumentals on "In a Safe Place."

3) Ratatat
I just recently discovered this dance rock combo. Love it. I really like their self-titled debut album. It makes me want to dance while doing school work!

4) Sigur Ros
I know that this band is not entirely instrumental, but singer Jónsi has invented a new instrument with his voice, not to mention a new language called Hopelandic. Beautiful music. One of my favorite bands. I saw them at Bass Concert Hall not too long ago. Amazing.

5) Explosions in the Sky
This Austin band plays hauntingly beautiful melodies equipped with intense crescendos and echoing guitars. I love everything they have put out, but "The Earth is Not a Cold, Dead Place" and the soundtrack for the movie "Friday Night Lights" are my favorites.

6) Booker T. and the MG's
Old school all-instrumental soul band from the 1960's and 1970's. Several members were part of the legendary house band for imprint Stax records, backing Otis Redding, Sam and Dave and Wilson Pickett, among others. This music is soothing and fun. You can sit back and enjoy the exceptional musicianship and soulful sounds. My favorites include the seminal "Green Onions" and Beatles cover album "McLemore Avenue."

7) The Bad Plus
Avant-garde jazz trio that likes to infuse jazz with pop and rock influences. They've done jazz covers of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana and "Heart of Glass" by Blondie, among others. My favorite album is "These Are the Vistas."

8) The High Llamas
Also, not an entirely instrumental band, but I do enjoy their instrumental songs, especially off of their 1996 release "Hawaii." With its lush sound, borrowing a wee bit from the Beach Boys "Pet Sounds," "Hawaii" is a classic on its own.

9) Mogwai
This Scottish post-rock band has been making beautiful and frightening music for some times. With slow, reverb-drenched soundscapes that sometimes abruptly burst into loud distortion, this band doesn't disappoint. My favorite albums? "Young Team" and "Rock Action."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Proposition 8 Passes in California

As we bask in the glow of the election of our first president of color, clearly a momentous occasion and a victory against discrimination in our great nation, I find myself saddened by the events in California and other states in regards to gay rights. As most of you know, Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in the state of California, has passed by a fairly narrow margin. This bill, primarily financed by religious rights groups, including the Mormon church, is championed by these religious groups as a necessary move in "defending the institution of traditional marriage," which is being eroded by gay people getting married.
Please! Why do these people care? Because this country is ruled by the religious right. We are supposed to be a democracy that practices a clear separation of church and state, as clearly specified in our constitution.
In addition to creating a bond of love and commitment, most of these gay couples seek marriage primarily to protect their rights legally and medically. If I were to get sick in the state of Texas, somewhere besides liberal Austin, would my partner be allowed to make the necessary legal and medical decisions? If we did bring a child into this world, would the non-biological parent be able to make decisions regarding their own child? If we wanted to adopt a child, considering that there are millions of unwanted children in the world, could we? Not in Arkansas, where they just passed an amendment banning non-married couples from fostering or adopting a child. Bans on gay marriage were also passed in Florida and Arizona.
I personally think religion, especially the intolerant evangelical Christian version, practiced by a large number of Americans, is eroding the national fiber of our country. We live in a country where even our liberal politicians have to profess a religion, a Western religion that is, in order to be elected. Proposition 8 and countless other acts of intolerance and injustice, are making the United States a laughingstock around the world.

Monday, October 27, 2008

L to the G to the Style.

Celebrate Diversity with "Black and White and Read All Over"

"L Style G Style," a gay-centric magazine based in Austin, is turning one this year. They will be celebrating this Saturday, Nov. 1st at Austin's high end shopping destination The Domain. There will be giveaways throughout the evening, with prizes from Ralph Lauren, Neiman Marcus, Shabby Chic and others. Ladies, you will also have a chance to win the entire fifth season of the L Word on dvd!
There will be a live jazz band for your listening pleasure, as well as tasty treats from some of the area restaurants, such as North, The Steeping Room, and Viva Chocolato.
Hurry and RSVP now, to receive two tickets for free wine provided by Grapevine Market. Follow this link.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Oh, the Horror!

With the people dressed up like all of your favorite fictional characters, a haunted house brings to mind horror films and scary novels of yore. They spring out from the darkened corners and scare the beejesus out of you, while Death Metal pipes, surround-sound style, from the speakers. The House of Torment, located in North Austin, was no different. We strolled through the maze of rooms with various ghouls and ghoulettes jumping out at us, uttering sweet nothings into our ear. One guy even told me he wanted to give me a kiss. Aw, how sweet!

The thing that stood out the most was the set design, most memorably the "butcher shop" scene, which looked like something straight out of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," complete with dead animal and human carcasses spread-eagled before our very eyes. I was expecting Leatherface to jump out at any moment, reminding me that I saw way too many horror films in my youth. Carcasses seemed to be a recurring theme throughout, with half-rotten torsos, a giant horse, several animal-like husks, unindentified bloody objects hanging from the ceiling, and even a dead lady in a bathtub. "The Shining," anyone? A clown with a giant mallet made several appearances, bringing to mind Pennywise the Clown from Stephen King's seminal novel "It," a book that scared the wits out of me at the ripe old age of thirteen. I think my mom was the one who gave me the book to read. Sick.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ra Ra Riot- The Rhumb Line

Ra Ra Riot, a five-piece band hailing from Syracuse, New York, first made some waves with their 2006 appearance at the CMJ Festival in New York City. Critics praised their live performance, christening them the next big thing in high profile publications such as Spin and Pitchfork. They were approached by several labels and were on their way to bigger things.
Unfortunately, tragedy struck when drummer and founding member John Pike drowned in Massachusetts following a show in June of 2007. After a long period of grieving, the remaining members decided to move forward with Ra Ra Riot, knowing that Pike would have wanted them to continue. In fact, Pike co-wrote about half of the tunes that appear on "The Rhumb Line."
"The Rhumb Line" is a jangly, infectious blend of tunes, bringing to mind Spoon, Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend, without being derivative. Opener "Ghost Under Rocks" gets things going with staccato drum lines and mournful string parts, kicking into an upbeat chorus where singer Wes Miles sings, "Here you are, you are breathing like little ghosts under rocks, like notes found in pockets..."
"Winter '05," a complex, sorrowful number showcasing cellist Alexandra Lawn and violinist Rebecca Zeller, brings to mind the passing of friend and bandmate John Pike: "If you were here, winter wouldn't pass quite so slow." The strings really add an element of originality and depth to Ra Ra Riot's music, not only on this song, but on all the others as well.
"Can You Tell" is immediately danceable, with Milo Bonacci's cascading guitar lines pairing beautifully with Miles' catchy vocals.
In "Suspended in Gaffa," the second to the last song, Miles asks "Can I have it all?" Yes, you can. Throughout its entirety, this album emanates a fresh and original sound, with not one disappointing song on the album.

Jeff Mangum makes rare live appearance.

Jeff Mangum, the reclusive singer and mastermind of Neutral Milk Hotel, made a rare live appearance the other day at the NYC stop on the Elephant 6 Holiday Suprise Tour (a large gathering of original Elephant 6 collective musicians playing the music of The Olivia Tremor Control, The Music Tapes, Elf Power and others). Mangum is most famous for NMH's magnum opus "In The Aeroplane Over The Sea," which many critics consider one of the greatest albums ever made. After the tour for that album ended in 1998, Mangum has made only a handful of live appearances, turning down all show requests, including an opening slot for fellow Athens, Georgia scenesters REM.
Many hoped that Mangum would appear at one or more of these shows along the way. The lucky New York City audience wasn't disappointed. Fans chanted "Jeff, Jeff, Jeff" and shouted out requests for anything from "Aeroplane." Mangum only appeared three times during the long set, first stepping out discreetly for a chorus of Elf Power's "The Arrow Flies Close," then during Olivia Tremor Controls "I Have Been Floated." The icing on the cake was during the closing song "The Opera House," also by OTC. Mangum sang throughout the whole song with a look of intensity in his eyes, at one point tackling fellow NMH/OTC member Scott Spillane.
We can only hope that this is not the last we see of Mangum. A new release? A tour? Throw us a bone.

Ten Spins.

Here are ten cd's i'm listening to this week.

1. Ra Ra Riot- The Rhumb Line
2. Keane- Perfect Symmetry
3. TV on the Radio- Dear Science
4. Mercury Rev- Snowflake Midnight
5. Jennifer O'Connor- Here With Me
6. Brightblack Morning Light- Motion to Rejoin
7. Lucinda Williams- Little Honey
8. The Walkmen- You & Me
9. Beck- Modern Guilt
10. Conor Oberst- Conor Oberst

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Reno 911

Reno, Nevada. Las Vegas' step-sister.
Last night, after a wonderful dinner at Oceana, a seafood restaurant within The Peppermill casino, I decided to spend $5 on slot machines, being not much of a gambler. After basically putting dollar bills into the machines with no winnings, I decided to throw in the towel. I had one dollar left and said 'what the hell' as I ventured over to one of the many video poker machines. I hit the Bet All button and gave it a spin. Deuces Wild. I got three deuces and two Aces. I watched my dollar turn into $25. I decided to cash out while I was ahead. Hmmm, gambling is not so bad when you win.
Winter decided to happen while I was here. On Friday, we awoke to see a ton of snow falling from our tenth story window. What a pretty site. I went from sunny and hot in Austin to snow in Reno. Of course, it all melted here in town, but the surrounding mountains have a beautiful dusting of white.
Today we are going for a hike above Lake Tahoe. It's sunny, but still a little nippy. Better bundle up!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Lake Tahoe

Late Wednesday my partner and I arrived in Reno, embarking on a much-needed vacation.  We are here visiting her father and her stepmother, who have a condo overlooking downtown Reno.  When we told people we were visiting Reno, we got a lot of  'Why Reno?'  Reno is actually undergoing a renovation from sleazy, seedy second rate Vegas town to a vacation destination.  It is surrounded by mountains, in close proximity to Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Sierra Nevada mountains, the Truckee River, etc.  

Yesterday we took a drive around Lake Tahoe, a beautiful lake nestled within the Sierra Nevada mountains, located along the border between California and Nevada.  The lake is a beautiful aquamarine color in its shallow areas, with the deeper areas taking on a more deep sapphire blue color.  It is the second deepest lake in the United States, with a maximum depth of 1645 feet, second only to Oregon's Crater Lake. 

Our first stop was Sand Harbor State Park on the Nevada side of the lake, a pristine area with large Jefferey pines dotting the sandy landscape.  We climbed and hiked throughout the parks many trails, breathing in the pure mountain air.  We shared a picnic on a secluded sandy beach surrounded by large, smooth, round boulders.  Our vantage point offered amazing views of the Sierra Nevada mountains across the lake on the California side. 

Our next stop was the Taylor Creek Visitor Center on the California side of the lake, which offers a stream profile chamber where visitor's can see the creek and its various wildlife through a panel of aquarium like windows.  We also found out that October is the spawning season for the Kokanee Salmon, a fish introduced to Lake Tahoe in 1944.  In October the salmon make their way upstream in Taylor Creek to lay their eggs in Taylor Creek, the place of their birth.  The fish turn a beautiful bright red during this process, coloring the clear stream with their vibrant colors.  Bears roam the creek in search of dinner.  Luckily, we didn't encounter any bears, although we did see a few photos on a local photographer's camera of some bears that had been there earlier.  

Next, we stopped at Emerald Bay State Park, by far the most breathtaking stop on our drive, offering spectacular panoramic views of the lake.  It offers a view of Fannette Island, the only island that is found on the lake.  

We drove through the mountainous California side through treacherous mountain passes, ending the night with a sunset dinner at Gar Woods, located on the lake.  I sipped a California cabernet with a wonderful dinner of scallops, very content with my first day of vacation. 

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hot off the presses!

Today I had the pleasure of visiting Michael Barnes, author of the exquisite blog "Out & About" and contributer to the Austin American Statesman, at the news room. Michael also happens to be my instructor for a class that I am taking -- and the reason for this blog -- Entertainment Journalism.
In the spirit of cranking out a quick, but professional blog, like I saw Michael do today. I will try to do the same myself.
The Statesman building is located on the corner of Riverside and Congress Avenue, nestled in a little hollow right by Lady Bird Lake. It is a large building, that recently underwent some remodeling, in order to make room for the giant multi-million dollar vertical printing presses that were recently installed.
The first place we visited was the newsroom, a bright room with several people, some that I recognized from their pictures in the Statesman, milling around cluttered desks. I even saw John Kelso lurking around. After I was told the logistics of the various writing departments --music over there, editorials here, food writers here, etc. -- I was led over to Michael's desk, which was very clean and organized, by the way. We proceeded to go through the heap of emails that he recieves on a daily basis. I thought my email account was out of control! He went through the emails, deleting what was spammish and writing short replies to the emails worthy of his reply.
Next, we took a tour of the building, which included the aforementioned printing press room, and culminated with Michael buying me a cup of much-needed joe. Thanks!
We went through all the class photos that were taken a couple of weeks ago to see which pictures of the class Michael would use, if and when he felt our writings were worthy of a mention on his page. I know a lot of the students, including myself, were worried about how scary the photos might look, but I thought they all looked very good, especially for a impromptu photo session.
Next, Michael quickly posted two blogs for "Out & About," one about a ballet social event with a Frank Sinatra theme, and the other about the Palm Door preview party. It was interesting to watch him post his blogs because it gave me some insight and tips on how to maintain my blog. It was also nice to see the workings of a news room from the inside, a first for me.
Thanks Michael.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Die Mosquitos, Die!!!

Today, between my classes, I decided to venture outside to thaw out my extremities from the tundra-like atmosphere of the Ragsdale building.  I thought to myself what a beautiful day it was and I should get out and enjoy it.   
I chose a spot under a tree, far away from any wafting cigarette smoke and loud people, and proceeded to begin enjoying the outside atmosphere (and to do some school work, of course).  As I typed away, enjoying the soothing sounds of a nearby waterfall, I noticed an itch, then another.  Mosquitoes, dammit!  Bloodsuckers!  When will they die?  Seriously, we've had hardly any rain this year.  It's almost Fall, for chrissakes!  
So, now here I sit, in the tundra, my feet and hands frozen solid.  Back to square one.  

Achy Feet and Dusty Lungs.

As you can see from my lack of posting, I have had a crazy week chocked full of fun and music, music, music!!!  It all came to an end last night when the final notes rang out at the Band of Horses show at the 2008 Austin City Limits Festival.  I didn't have the energy to stay and watch the festival headliners The Foo Fighters, a band that I have only a marginal interest in.  
As for the festival.  This was the first year that I didn't attend all three days.  I had other obligations on Saturday that kept me from attending.  I did get to go on Friday and for a good part of Sunday.  And today, the sad reality hit me:  Time to get back to the business of school and work. 
I did get to see some great music.  Some highlights include the aforementioned Band of Horses and M. Ward, along with the Silversun Pickups, Okkervil River, Hot Chip, David Byrne and Mates of State.  The Swell Season, featuring Glen Hansard of The Frames and his girlfriend Marketa Inglova (you may remember them and their songs from the independent movie "Once"), would have been a highlight if I had been able to hear it properly.  Their delicate harmonies accompanied by a string section and a full band were drowned out by Alejandro Escovedo wailing away on the stage right next to them.  This particular stage has had a history of sound problems throughout the years of ACL.  I noticed that they are playing The Paramount Theater later this year.  This might be a more appropriate venue to showcase their wispy, orchestral songs.  Count me in.
Some acts that I was sad to miss:  Vampire Weekend, Robert Plant and Alison Kraus, MGMT, Conor Oberst, Beck, Yeasayer and AA Bondy.  Oh well, better luck next year.  I'm sure by next year I will have forgotten about my achy feet and dusty lungs of the present moment.  
Now that ACL is over, I have the Fun Fun Fun Fest festival to look forward to in November and the mother of all festivals, South by Southwest, which I like to refer to as my adult Disneyland.
Bring it on!

Tribella at Fitzgerald's H-Town.

As we drove into Houston on I-10 I didn't know what to expect.   I could see some of the damage inflicted by Hurricane Ike from the highway.  Lots of trees had been uprooted, some skyscrapers and buildings downtown had plywood over a lot of the windows and there was debris strewn every where.  I'm sure that this damage is minor compared to the onslaught that Ike inflicted on Galveston and other surrounding areas.  My thoughts go out to the people who were affected.  
On a lighter note, I was there to see Tribella perform at Fitzgerald's, opening up for Houston buzz band Girl in a Coma.  I had reluctantly given up a day of the ACL festival to come to Houston to see these ladies rock out.  I thought to myself 'This had better be good!'  
According to their website, Fitzgerald's is one of the oldest and widely recognized music venues in the greater Houston area.  From the outside it looks like an old two story house that has maybe seen better days.  The inside is cozy and dark, featuring both an upstairs and a downstairs venue.  Tonight's event was in the downstairs venue, which featured a large stage and plenty of indoor seating with an spacious outdoor patio if you felt like experiencing some of the post-Hurricane mosquitoes.  Our waitress at the restaurant across the street said she loves the place but is always afraid the floor might cave in, especially in the packed upstairs area.  Seeing that the show was happening in the downstairs area with a wrestling (yes, I said wrestling) event being held upstairs, I hoped that tonight would not be the night for that to happen.  Luckily it didn't.
Tribella didn't disappoint.  In their short but sweet 45 minute set, they managed to bring an innovative and professional vibe to the stage, with the colorful lights providing a fitting backdrop for their multi-faceted sound.  Singer and guitarist Sarah Glynn managed to crank out solid, catchy guitar licks while belting out intricate and layered vocals, reminiscent of Tanya Donnelly of Belly.  Drummer Dena Gerbrecht kicked out the beat, peppering the songs with exciting drum rolls and fills, looking like she was having a blast the whole time.  Bassist Rae Goldring, looking stoic on her side of the stage, rounded things out with smooth bass lines that complimented Gerbrecht's excitable drumming.  
Glynn and company rocked the stage with a reckless abandon, especially on "WTKN," an upbeat number with echoing guitar crescendos and a catchy vocal line.  "Saucer Eyes," with its infectious chorus and two-part harmonies, was a definite crowd pleaser.  They closed the set with the riveting "Feel Feel," where Glynn sings "I take it all back/I take it all back" like she really means it.     
The two bands in between didn't seem to fit the bill, with their thrash metal sounds and sometimes unintelligible vocals.  My guess is that they were chosen because they were female-fronted and local.  Girl in a Coma was great, but sounded kind of muddled and fuzzy compared to the clear, concise rhythms of Tribella.