The Great iTunes Experiment

Apologies for my recent silence.  I've become literally sick of this holiday season and have been battling a cold for a little over a week. With my continuing lack of energy, fear of cold weather and the huge amount of Christmas shopping I still have to do I'll probably be somewhat silent for the rest of the month.  But like all other bloggers and editors I'm a sucker for Best of Lists this time of year so I'll be throwing out some Top 10 lists.

First I thought I'd talk about the minor epiphany I had yesterday. Someone on my Facebook news feed asked what everyone's Top Played song on their iTunes was and when I went to check I realized how many songs had never been played in my iTunes library.  Granted some of them have received play on my iPod during workouts and Metro rides and even more have been played on the many mix CDs I've burned for my ancient car which once upon a time was all cool and modern for having a CD player instead of a tape deck.  But if I have to be honest I'm a little bit better at collecting awesome music than I am at actually listening to it.  If I like one song by a group I'll download all their CDs.  If  a friend tells me I need to check an artist out I'll acquire their music and usually stop there. 

So I opened my iTunes today, went to my full music library, selected Shuffle by Song and hit Play.  I don't care how many new songs or CDs I get in the next month I'm not listening to them until I've listened to everything in my library at least once. 

5509 songs, 14.8 days, 38.21 GB.   The very real possibility of some very interesting sets of songs. In the past hour my iTunes has been nice enough to stay in the Bright Eyes/Modest Mouse/Radiohead/The Hives/Franz Ferdinand areas but I'm waiting for that one Ke$ha song I downloaded for my workout mix to come on and scare me while I clean the house.


Talking About Art

I have this desire to blog all the time or at least on some sort of consistent schedule but two weeks into this restart I'm already reminded that I don't consistently have anything to talk about. I don't want to turn this into a public diary so I can't talk about the horrors of family holidays without getting too personal about my Thanksgiving and I do have a half written draft about 40s era musicals, Glee and how I'm trying to balance culture that I enjoy while being mindful of the messages in some of it that bother me. But I'm still trying to find the right words that say what I need to without saying something I don't. 

Working off of that I can talk about how as much as I consume art in all its form I find it hard to talk about because so much of it just is what it is to me. I very rarely have some sort of deep, theoretical explanation for why I enjoy something. Art is all emotional expression and response to me.

I love Modern Art but I'm not good at defending it against its detractors who see nothing but splatters of paint on a  canvas because I can't put into intellectual, debatable terms the emotions some pieces of art provoke in me. There are books I love because they were written by an author who knows how to use words and loves language and writes something that evokes a strong response from me whether or not I got into the story at all and there are books that I love because no matter how simply written the book consumes me with a need to know what happens.

I have my music to dance to, my music to work to, my music to drive to and my music that crawls under my skin, becomes a part of me and/or says something that I need to say but can't. Sometimes there's a song or an artist that fill more than one box.  I love Bruce Springsteen because he writes good songs. They're well composed, well sung, well written, meaningful, etc. But I also love Bruce because I'm from Jersey, went down the Shore every summer, have driven Route 9, the Parkway, the Turnpike, etc hundreds of times and can see and hear and smell (no jokes on that one) home in all of his early work.

There's a recording out there of a live performance of Thunder Road from 1975 that's just Bruce, Roy Bittan, a piano and a harmonica and I'd love to write a thesis paper on why its the best thing ever but it all really just boils down to everything I feel when I listen to it and all the places and moments it takes me back to. I think that's why I love social networking sites like Tumblr and Blip because I can just throw a photo or a song or a quote up with the intended purpose of simply stating "I like this." or "I'm inspired." or "This is how I feel right now but playing you this song will be better than me trying to talk about it."


I Love The 90s

Saw Love & Other Drugs today which was a good but not great movie.  It was set in the late 90s and the background music got me thinking about one of my favorite topics: 90s music.

I spent my entire teen years in the 90s and it was a great decade to be an angry young woman who felt like her family, her men and the whole damn universe didn't understand her.  In Rob Sheffield's "Love Is A Mixtape", a book everyone should read, he says:

The nineties fad for indie rock overlapped precisely with the nineties fad for feminism.  The idea of a pop culture that was pro-girl, or even just not anti-girl - that was 1990s mainstream dream, rather than a 1980s or 2000s one, and it was real for awhile.  
Something was happening in nineties music that isn't happening anywhere in pop culture these days...with women making noise in public ways that seem distant now.
I still can't listen to Don't Speak by No Doubt because fourteen years later it still reminds me of my junior year heartbreak, an event I don't even think about unless that comes on. I learned all the important lessons on love and loss from Fiona Apple, L7, The Breeders, Liz Phair, Alanis Morrisette and Courtney Love. Maybe smearing too much eyeliner on and screaming into a mic wasn't the healthiest way of dealing with issues but when you're young and still trying to trust your voice to see the women who were doing it was to look at heroes.

This is not to ignore all the great male musicians and the impact they had on me but to have so many amazing female musicians who wrote and/or sang music that cut through all the BS and made everything I felt seem more justified was a gift I'm glad the 90s gave me. 

And, of course, I have to give a big shout out to Sassy magazine for being the big sister I didn't have and introducing me to so much of the music that helped. Not to mention all the other ways in which it was the best magazine ever.


I Don't Wanna Grow Up

This past Thursday's episode of Community involved two of the main characters, Troy and Abed, building a blanket fort in Abed's dorm room that eventually spread out into the hallway and became a dorm wide fort. For those that don't watch the show it should be noted that it often deals with absurd situations and Troy and Abed are both characterized by a case of arrested development. They even questioned the possibility of being too old for what they were doing before continuing on. But all I could think about the whole time was how much fun it looked. The building of and spending time in blanket forts were two of my favorite past times as a child and on rainy days or need to hide days the urge to build one still exists very high on my Ways To Deal With This list.

My childhood bedroom was very small and building the fort was very easy.  It usually only took two blankets stretched from the bed to the dresser to the hutch to the other bed for the structure to be complete and then I had hours to enjoy the illusion that I was somewhere else for awhile.  That somewhere had warm air, lighting that looked dark and mysterious from being filtered through the blankets and even snacks if my mother was in a baking mood. It was the perfect hideaway and every one I built was different but still became the best place to be in the universe. 

I guess it's a childhood activity because adults aren't supposed to be able to hide so easily or because we grow too big for them though at 5'0" that's not too much of a problem for me. The hiding part is harder to excuse away and one of the short stories in my abandoned until I can figure out how to fix it holder is about a woman who spends time hiding in the blanket fort she and her boyfriend had built for his niece and nephew after they've gone home. Below is a quick excerpt from it:

Stuck firmly in that phase where her wishes were more about still being a kid instead of having one of her own, building the fort had left her with a relaxed but accomplished feeling she wasn’t ready to let go of.  Taking it down would remind her too much of the dishes she knew he hadn’t done yet and the work they both had in the morning.  The complaints about their living room being too small already and too full of her stuff and abandoned projects started as soon as the kids left but he’d stopped pushing the point and disappeared into the back of the apartment.Left alone with this perfect kingdom made of pillows, blankets and the edges of their shabby furniture she crawled back inside. Each blanket had a different pattern and as the sun filtered through each it created a vast array of shadows that played across the floor and her skin.
It was partially inspired by this photo and the Karen O song "Hideaway" from the Where The Wild Things Are soundtrack. 

There are books published on treehouses made by and for adult. If treehouses can get the For Grownups stamp of approval I say it's time to claim blanket forts as something not just for the 10 and under crowd. It might be harder to make them architectural wonders but I think everyone needs to reminded that sometimes it just takes that mess of blankets and pillows on your bed to change the way the world looks for an afternoon.


There's No Escaping The Meme

Been a long day, like got up at 4, worked a 12+ hour work day and should probably be asleep right now long day, so there will be no discussion about anything tonight.  I thought about simply writing "Sleep is awesome" because there are some truths that can best be summed up in one, simple sentence.  But my friend Shelby tagged me in this meme and it looked like a fun thing to do before passing out. Not so much going to tag anyone as encourage you all to visit the following corners of the internet:

- Shelby's Blog
- Shelby's Music Blog
- Jenelle's Blog
- Karen's Tumblr
- Rick's Blog

The Meme:

1) Link to the person who tagged you.
2) Paste these rules on your blog post.
3) Respond to the following prompts. 

4) Add a prompt of your own and answer it.
5) Tag a few other bloggers at the bottom of the post.
6) Leave “Tagged You” notices on their blog/Facebook
7) Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve written the post.

1) The best investment you ever made: 
Every single dime and minute I spent getting the hell out of Jersey when I did was worth it times twenty.

2) If you could’ve written any book, directed any movie, and composed any song, which three would you pick:
Book: The Egyptologist
Movie: Royal Tenenbaums
Song: Arcade Fire - "Crown of Love"

3) Weirdest quirk:
I am nothing but weird quirks

4) One wish immediately granted:
a place of my own

5) Most expensive hobby:
My social life 
6) An inexhaustible gift-card at which store:

7) In another lifetime, you’d be:
Joan of Arc

8) The most famous/interesting member of your family tree:
...Jefferson Davis
9) What would you say to your teenage self?
You are not as smart or put together as you think.

10) Which celebrity would you most want to look like?
If I'm aiming slightly realistic I'd say Drew Barrymore, if I'm deep in dream land I'd say Scarlett Johansson.

11) What would your last meal be?
Baked ziti

12) What's your favorite place on earth?
my head, Rutgers Gardens, Garden State Parkway late at night (I may be happy I left but I still pine for what I had to leave behind).

13) If someone made a mixtape about your life what three songs would have to be on it?
"Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd, "Go Places" by The New Pornographers, "Thunder Road" by Bruce Springsteen


Names Matter

Sorry, Bill, but I'm going to have to disagree with you on the whole rose thing. It might smell as sweet if we called it something else but there's nothing that says it wouldn't smell completely different and totally horrible.

Names matter.  Yes they're given to us by someone else but at some point in everyone's life there comes a time when you own your name, change it, adjust it or resign yourself to it. Nicknames, pet names, last names, etc are all avenues towards taking the biggest identifier any of us have and making it our own.  There's the name your family calls you which might be different from the name or names your friends use and your significant other could easily have their own special name for you which you may or may not want your coworkers to refer to you by. Names are given to us because today's society requires us to have them from the start and we're not yet advanced to do the job ourselves. But power over your name can be achieved and should never be given up.

I don't love my name but it's mine and I guard the identity it helps create for me. I have many nicknames but none of them come free of charge.  I can't 100% stop anyone from calling me what they want but I can and do make it known what I want them to call me. Each one is a marker of certain times and places and the doors to those places are carefully guarded.

Spelling is important too. My FB status today, brought on by a frustrating work episode that has also inspired this post, was Christina =/= Cristina=/=Christine. It wasn't my hands that put Christina on my birth certificate but in my 30 years on this earth it's become mine.

Maybe it's just Christina's that aren't as sweet if called something else (and as a side note, dear Bill, I think we're also all too smart to fall for a boy who was in love with someone else mere hours before meeting us) or spelled a different way but I like to think there's a power in every name and every person who has that name owns that power in their own unique way.


Nothing Lasts Forever

Today's post was going to be on fiscal responsibility, being a grown up and my day of shopping for important things yesterday.  But it's raining, it's November and I've had a certain song stuck in my head all day.

It took me years to let go of my dream of wearing the wedding dress in the video to my own wedding.  Still want Slash playing guitar outside.


Happy National I'll Never Get That Novel Done Month

If you have a friend/family member/coworker/whatever who fancies themselves an aspiring writer and always looks a little stressed out in November they probably participate in NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month.  The basic idea is to write a novel of at least 50,000 during the month of November and it's both as successful and controversial as you would think. I tried it once and I remain proud of the 6000 words I wrote between 11/1 and 11/3 in 2005 and never looked at again.

I try to call myself a writer but the label doesn't sit right with me.  I know too many people who embody the term better and after years of trying at it I'm still more unfocused and neurotic about the whole thing than I am nurtured by it. I did win a prize for a short story I wrote about Halloween in 5th grade.  The prize was a $10 gift certificate to Sam Goody and I bought Wilson Phillip's self titled album on cassette so if I never actually succeed as a writer I'll at least have those hours spent listening to "Hold On" to cherish.

I used to write a lot because I had stories that needed to be written before I could think of doing anything else. Then I started working at a book store and like many an employee surrounded by that many books with a hunger to read them all I began to see what passed for publishable and wrote because I was better than these other so called authors. But the well's been dry for a long time and I'm left with:

- 2 unfinished short stories
- 1 character from a different story who needs a better home
- Not enough hours in the day

Jim Hines is a fantasy writer who keeps a blog on the writing process. I've never read any of his books but I'm a huge fan of his blog especially the weekly First Book Friday feature which highlights various authors and their journeys to their first published book. This past Friday was all about Chris Dolley and I couldn't help but feel inspired by his tale of three separate ideas combining into the perfect book. I realized I could take those two short stories, make the protagonist my beloved character and maybe produce something that would make me feel like a writer again.

Goal #1 is to work on those hours in the day which is why I think NaNoWriMo is a great idea but not for me. I might need a NaNoWriYear to pull this off but I'm not looking to get published at this point. A sense of accomplishment would be great and if someone wants to give me a $10 gift certificate to iTunes (RIP, Sam Goody) I won't object. My Wilson Phillips cassette disappeared a long time ago and it might be nice to replace it.


I Less Than 3 DC, Part 2

Last night I went to see Sarah Vowell give a reading at the Lisner Auditorium at GWU. I'm a huge fan of hers because she's funny and because she makes me feel better about being a history geek. It was a great talk followed by a great Q&A in which she deftly handled some of the more awkward questions from the audience (Note - Asking someone who just spent an hour talking about dead presidents and humorously bitter cartographers if they've ever been to the Black Cat is not cool). But what I've found most memorable is how it happened at the end of a day that accidentally became all about this new phase in the love affair between me and DC and yet the one remark that got the loudest response from me and several others was about the time her friend, who was living in DC, told her that everyone who lives here thinks about living somewhere else. Of course we applauded that which seemed to shock her a little.

Three years in and not a week goes by that I don't pause and think "I should be back in Jersey/I didn't live in NYC long enough/I've never even been to the West Coast so of course I should live/Florida is great this time of year/Man those pics my friends post of New Mexico are gorgeous/A cruise ship, that's it, I'll live and work on a cruise ship." DC is home of military personnel who do nothing but move all the time, students who graduate and politicians whose terms always eventually end. It's very pulse beats with the reminder that there are a lot of roads out of the city and a lot of nicer places to be.

But I'm here and I'm staying. Probably not forever but those other places can wait. I'm still putting my map together and fusing the city into one experience for me. I went to the Lincoln Memorial yesterday with a friend who lives in DC and I realized when we got there that I haven't been to the Lincoln Memorial since I was three and we stopped on our way back to Jersey from Disney World.

I have evidence courtesy of my mom and our Polaroid camera. Yes that blurry blob in front of Abe is me and my dad:
DC in October 1983:

I'm not a very touristy person. I blame it on growing up close enough to NYC to share their ire at the throngs of curious out of towners who make a big deal out of everything New York. I've driven by the Statue of Liberty well over a hundred times in my life but never been inside, I've walked past the Empire State Building but never been inside and I went to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center once and vowed never to go again.I'm not even that big a fan of Central Park. I've treated my time in DC as an exercise in getting to know the "real" part of the city. I go to the museums because going to museums is one of my favorite things to do and I'll go to them anywhere but I tend to avoid the monuments. I visited a few of them when a friend was in town from Canada last fall but for the most part they're really big things I occasionally drive by or close to.

And yet it was fun to be touristy for a day especially on an off season, unseasonably warm November day. There were tourists, especially at the Vietnam memorial and the Lincoln memorial but they didn't seem like a throng. I'll even forgive the guy who ran up the marble steps at the Lincoln Memorial and did the whole Rocky routine, either confused as to what city he was in or just not caring.

There's no denying the beauty of that part of the city. I think the Tidal Basin is even prettier in the fall than during Cherry Blossom season. Evidence courtesy of me and my Blackberry Torch:

Abe and the Reflecting Pool are still there, just as they were in 1983:

It was a nice bonding afternoon with a section of DC I don't give enough credit. Of course after dinner in Dupont Circle with friends, and the Sarah Vowell reading at GW I ended my evening at a house party for a friend of a friend in Shaw. It was in an apartment tucked away in a part of DC that I've gotten to know very well but that few if any tourists venture to. There's not much to see besides a neighborhood full of people who are there for a long haul or just for awhile. And of course everyone I met was from somewhere else and conversations varied from Midwest politeness versus East Coast politeness to dating in DC (Everyone is root-less someone answered to the question of why is it so hard to meet someone here).

Sarah Vowell did answer that question about The Black Cat last night After an evening of proclaiming her love for DC and especially our landmarks her answer was that she'd been there and to the 930 Club but it was when she was living here as an intern in the 90s and all she wanted was to live out in Seattle where the music was happening.


I Less Than 3 DC

Last Saturday marked my three year anniversary of living in our nation's capital. Technically I've spent those three years living in Virginia but I feel more like DC has become my adopted home. It hasn't always been a cozy home and three years in I've learned to live with homesickness for a NJ &NY that is probably never going to go away. DC's still not quite home but neither is there and most days I'm happy to be here. There's still so much about the city I'm discovering and as late as last Friday I was introduced to an area of DC I've never visited but instantly fell in love with.

I owe DC a lot and seeing it filled to the brim with "outsiders" at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear two weekends ago made me realize how close we've become. This was my city all these people were invading and much like that really awesome house party that will still reach an endpoint when you want your space to be yours again I was as glad to see everyone leave as I was to have them there partying with me. And it was even nicer to not be one of the ones leaving.

Thank you DC for:

  • Dupont Circle
  • U Street
  • Black Cat
  • 930 Club
  • The Smithsonian Institute
  • The National Gallery
  • Hello Cupcake
  • Ben's Chili Bowl
  • Big Hunt
  • Playbill
  • Columbia Heights
  • Wonderland
  • Eastern Market
  • DC United
  • The Looking Glass
  • Thai Tanic
  • Logan Circle
  • Russia House
  • Kramer's
  • Fatty's Custom Tattooz
  • Churchkey
  • Pizzeria Paradiso
  • Adams Morgan
  • Biergarten
  • H Street Country Club
  • Parkview
  • anywhere and everywhere I had a good drink, a great laugh and an amazing conversation.

Thank you for my friends and while we still have some work to do in regards to your men that's another post for another time.

Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm.


This Is Not A Music Blog

It's not. But I'm figuring out a few editorial matters before I start with the proper posts and my biggest question is How Personal Do I Get? Talking about music is a great way to talk about me without wondering if I should really tell this story or that one in a place where anyone can stumble upon it.

Side note: Dear exes/former friends, Don't think this means you're off the hook. I'm just going to be nice for as long as possible and when the day comes names will be changed to protect the not always innocent.

I had a day off recently and stuck between feeling social and not I decided the best plan would be to sit with my laptop at Starbucks instead of sitting with it on my couch. I puzzled at the music choices on Twitter, drank some overpriced, over caloried, best stuff on earth and tried to get some Real Writing done. I haven't written a short story in almost two years and have had the perfect idea for one for almost as long. But none of this was meant to be because I started browsing through blogs and came across a piece of news that should have been laughable except for how instantly it broke my heart.

Last month Sony decided to discontinue production on their Walkman.

If I lose my words at any point it's because I just got a little choked up writing that. And yes it's the death of something that hasn't been a part of my life for well over a decade but time and iPods haven't killed my love. My iPod never sat with me on my canopy bed, my front step or the back of my mom or dad's car while I got to know The Beatles. My iPod didn't curl up with me in bed and play NKOTB right in my ears so that I actually believed Joey was singing just to me. It was my Walkman that had the radio that let me listen to Top 40, oldies and hip hop all in the same afternoon. It was my Walkman who kept me company on long car rides, long days at a relatives house or those days at home during my preteen years when I needed that magical transporter away from a world that wasn't making as much sense as I wanted it to. I learned patience and timing from all those times I trained myself how to perfectly fast forward past a song I didn't like without missing the beginning of a song I needed to hear.

We spent hours together and I'll never really be over my Walkman. I love my iPod but it's a business relationship. It gives me something to listen to on the treadmill and Metro and I keep it synced it with my iTunes. My Walkman and I had a friendship and it was one of the best friendships I've ever had.

RIP, good friend.

Did I Listen To Pop Music Because I Was Miserable or Was I Miserable Because I Listened To Pop Music?

Resurrecting the blog and while I get things up and running I felt I should point out that I have been creative in other corners of the net.

Until I can get a real entry up I can't think of a better introduction/reintroduction/explanation of who I am than this Tumblr post: The Goes Up To 11 List of Favorite Albums.