Guys. It's Been Real...

...and the party will continue but in a peak of wanting to understand more about the software I use at work I bought my own domain and all future sporadic bouts of blogging will take place there.


Hope to see you there!
<3 <3 <3


Books Read In February 2011

February was not a great month for me to get any sort of reading done. I spent most of the month trying to finish one book only to finally give up on it and complete 2 books and start another. 

Books Read (Or Mostly Read):

1. Aurorarama by Jean-Christophe Valtat
Rating: ??
Comments: I'm not really sure how to rate this book or even talk about it since I didn't finish it.  I thought about not including it all on the chance that I do finish it but I don't see that happening soon.  I wanted to like this book and the story was a very good story told in a very fascinating way but picking this up and continuing felt more and more like a chore each time.  I think steampunk is one of those things I want to like more than I actually do or I just need to give myself more of a chance to warm to.  I think this is a great book and one that will connect with people who are already familiar with and enjoy the style it was told in but for me reading it became a crash course in too many different things all at once.

2.The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
Rating: 5/5
Comments: Oh this book.  This our book club book for March so once again I need to be careful what I say here and what I save for then.  I started to read this after downloading it not meaning to really start reading it but within two very enjoyable long reading sessions I had finished the whole thing. Logan Circle was the first part of DC I really got to know after moving down to this area. I worked just off of it and one of my coworkers/best friends lived there so it became my DC neighborhood even though I didn't live in it myself.  This book painted such a beautiful, semi-tragic, politically charged portrait of it that I could easily picture the whole time.  All the places the author describes are real places and even when the book ventures to Dupont Circle or Georgetown this path of factual geography remains in place.  Even more importantly the spirit and attitude of the city are perfectly captured.  DC doesn't get much written about it that isn't Capitol Hill-centric in nature and I think this book is a perfect example of why more authors need to tackle the other parts of the city.

3. Talking To Girls About Duran Duran: One Man's Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut by Rob Sheffield
Rating: 5/5
Comments: I talked about this book a little bit in my last blog post and I'm not sure what to add other than I loved it and I love everything Rob Sheffield writes.  I wish more people wrote about pop culture with the humor and heart that he does.  If the music or movies of the 80s meant anything to you than reading this book is a must.  It explores why the teen culture of the 80s was so powerful not just to the teens of the decade but each generation of teens that have come after and Rob is one those great biographical authors who manages to inject parts of his life into everything he talks about it without it seeming exploitative or self-centered.

And that's it for February!  The fourth book I started will be finished soon and will go on March's list.  March might be another light month for reading new material.  I'm looking for a new place to live and the impending premiere of the Game of Thrones television series is making a reread of the book series an absolute must. 


My List of 80s Teen Idols is Creeping Closer to Being An In Memorium Tribute

I wish I could say I'm posting the above clip in memoriam of Jennifer Grey's old nose or to celebrate her well deserved win on Dancing With The Stars.  [[And I am just self conscious enough to feel the need to point out that I've never watched a single episode of DWTS but I did watch clips of all of her dances on Youtube.]]

No I'm posting this because of the male in the clip. You know the guy that the whole internet and Hollywood gossip world has been talking about for 24 hours straight now? And yes I've laughed at much of what has come out of Charlie Sheen's mouth because it's insanely quotable but it's been a sad laughter. 

Ferris Bueller's Day Off is easily one of my favorite movies of all time and has been since I first saw it. Nothing about it isn't perfect and with all due respect to its extremely talented lead cast in one scene Charlie Sheen stole the whole movie. Of course he stole it by playing a bad boy rebel in a leather jacket who was in jail for drugs, a role that even back then I'm sure he had no trouble drawing personal inspiration from.  But that didn't change how dryly funny and painfully beautiful he was.  You had no trouble believing that he could turn sour faced Jeanie into the giddy girl who almost falls down the stairs after kissing him. I fall a little bit in love with him every time I watch that scene even knowing that the character and the actor aren't the sort of guy you should give any part of your heart to or probably even hold hands with without ample protection.

I don't remember the Charlie vs. Emilio debate being quite as polarizing as the Mighty Battle of the Coreys that separated the girls from the other girls in the late 80s. Maybe because it was more a Mighty Battle Of The Young Guns cast and I separated myself more by being a Charlie girl in a sea of Kiefer acolytes than in picking Sheen over Estevez.  I just know that Charlie Sheen was certainly on my List of Future Husbands for part of my pre-teen adolescence. Emilio was cute but Charlie was all dark hair and danger, a combination that attracted me even when the most dangerous thing I did was walk the couple of blocks home from my friend's house in our suburban neighborhood after dark instead of having someone pick me up.

While I was Team Feldman, Corey Haim held a special place in my heart because my heart was big enough and fickle enough for two Coreys.  River Phoenix? Yeah he was on that future husband list.  I saw Soapdish when I was 12 and added Robert Downey, Jr. to the top of the list.  I'm 30 now, well past the age of obsessing over celebrities on quite that level and I still hope above many other more pressing worldly issues that RDJ stays clean.

I kept a poster of River Phoenix on my bedroom wall for a year after his death and am only a little ashamed to say I shed a few tears when Corey Haim passed away last year.  It's irrational but it hurts to see people who meant so much to my formative years destroy themselves even though we're both grown-up now.  What was bad boy cool to 11 year old me who had no concept at all of what those future husbands of mine were actually doing to themselves off screen is just sad and beyond pity now that I'm older and only really a little bit wiser. 

I recently read Talking To Girls About Duran Duran by Rob Sheffield, one of my favorite authors to quote.  The quote of the book that I had to put up on Facebook and Tumblr was
“A “girls’ artist,” whether it’s Depeche Mode or Neil Diamond or Duran Duran or Jeff Buckley or Luther Vandross or R.E.M. or the New Kids, commands a certain loyalty that never really goes away. An adult woman might have a slightly mocking, slightly ironic relationship to her teenage Duran-loving self, and yet she can still feel that love in a non-ironic way. And when adult women talk about them, they turn into those girls again.”

When thinking of the music I loved then and how I feel about it now I could only nod my head and think, "That is exactly right, Rob Sheffield." NKOTB still fill me with a certain amount of joy that will never die no matter how old or deep any of us get.   But when I think about the actors I've loved it's a little bit different.  Maybe it's because movies meant more to me than music during that time in my life or maybe it's because many of the actors that I've loved lived more of a rock n roll lifestyle than the musicians that I loved.  All I know is that all I can think now is that watching Lucas is more of a sob fest these days than it ever was before.

This Youtube clip of the final scene is horrible quality and I still got something in my eye while watching sweet little Lucas get the slow clap he deserved. Time and tabloid reading makes it painful to look at Corey Haim, Charlie Sheen and even Winona Ryder then  and the part of me that to quote Rob Sheffield turns into that girl wonders why they couldn't have stayed that way forever. 


The Water's Clear and Innocent

Oh, Radiohead.  The internet will be full of nothing but talk of you this weekend.  It is a little sick how we fall all over ourselves every time Thom Yorke opens his mouth but there's no way not to.  When my download from http://www.thekingoflimbs.com finished this morning I had a brief moment of fear before opening it. Along with the fear were a bunch of questions. What if it sucked?  What if everyone loved it but me?  What if this was the CD that made me finally realize we're giving Radiohead way too much credit?  Why is Radiohead so amazing?  What is it about them that caused them to float inside my radar but not very close to my heart until a few years ago when I caught whatever the Radiohead version of Bieber Fever is and have never fully recovered from?

I don't have the answers to all those questions but the album is brilliant.  It's only 8 songs and under 40 minutes long so I've been able to listen to it a few times already. 

I want to write so much about Codex and so much because of it.  Until then I invite you all to listen to it and get yourselves over to their website to order the album.


Chili Cook Off 2011, The Blog Post

I have a great admiration for food bloggers and have spent many happy hours pouring over beautifully written and illustrated blog entries from the home cook to the professional chef.  When I started culinary school I had big plans for a food blog of my own but the truth was in the heat of a kitchen packed with other students all trying to make the food possible and get an A there was usually no time or energy in my free hours to photograph or discuss what I had done at school.  Now that I've transitioned back to a home chef after a brief foray into student chef-dom I've been tempted to try on the food blogger hat again.  This has evolved into a pop culture blog and I'm happy with that because it's what I talk about best but there will be occasional guest appearances from Christina, Food Blogger.

I briefly mentioned in my last post that Super Bowl Sunday 2011 was also to be Chili Cook Off 2011 for my friends and I.  Being the research nerd I am I spent many a free hour this week delving into the world of chili and chili recipes.  I came away with an overwhelming library of recipes and some interesting chili factoids.  The history of the Chili Queens is particularly worth mentioning. The end result of my week of research and day of cooking was the following recipe.  It didn't win the chili cook off but I was happy with the results and it was still a crowd pleaser. 

Christina's Ground Beef and Red Bean Chili

The original ingredients I started out with were:
2 lbs of lean ground beef (this ended up being a lot of beef.  If you like your chili less beefy you'd be better with a 1 1/2 lbs)
2 cans of Red Kidney Beans
2 cups of diced tomatoes
6 oz of tomato paste
1 bottle of beer (I went with Yeungling because it was in my house but I think next time I might try something in the stout family or just a little darker)
1 large yellow onion
1 red pepper
2 habanero chili peppers
1 Cubanelle pepper (I'd have switched this out for a poblano but my grocery store didn't have any)
2 Jalapeno peppers
2 cloves of garlic
2 squares of bakers dark chocolate
Chili powder, cayenne pepper chili powder, cumin, salt, red pepper flakes, crushed annatto seeds - all to taste and added through the cooking process

Brown the ground beef over a medium heat
Cut onions and peppers into a small dice, mince garlic, saute together in a large pan
Add all ingredients to a crock pot and set on low
Begin the long wait to deliciousness. Most recipes I studied called for the chili to warm in the crock pot from 5-9 hours.  Mine ended up on low for 5 hours, off for an hour car ride in the crock pot in an insulated crock pot carry bag and back on low for another hour before switching to warm for the rest of the evening.

What It Looked Like When It First Went In:

What It Looked Like After 7 Hours (Including The Car Ride):


Every 1 1/2 hours I would sprinkle the chili with a blend of all the spices I had.
At about 3 hours in I did a taste test and while it tasted really good I wanted more depth to the flavor so I got creative. Ingredients added:
3 tablespoons of light brown sugar
1 more square of bakers dark chocolate
1/4 cup of hot sauce

The end result didn't quite have the punch of heat I was originally going for but the flavor was unique in a good way and it stood up as a mostly traditional, hearty chili. It's something I want to try again and experiment with changing out the peppers, type of beer, etc.


A Non Football Fan's Take On Super Bowl Sunday

There's something pretty awesome about how America stops in its tracks and devotes one day a year to one sports game. But there's something more awesome about how Super Bowl Sunday has become about so much more than football.  Obviously I'm only speaking from personal experience and I'm sure that there are people, families, groups, possibly whole communities out there who treat this day like any other.  The thing for me is that while I'm not remotely into football I always look forward to this day.  Why? Because I love funny commercials, rock concerts, the National Anthem, beer and food that is bad for you. And just like so many holidays have become more about food or presents or parties than their original intent I don't at all think it's necessary to like football to like the Super Bowl.

Before any football fans jump all over the post or me allow me to state that I respect everyone's reasons for loving this sport.  I'm surrounded by football fans, was raised by football fans, dated football fans and have befriended many football fans over the years.  There's just nothing about the way the game is played that is capable of holding my interest.  I will root for the NY Giants because they're the home team but that's more home pride than being a fan.

But I LOVE a good commercial.  I do most of my TV watching online these days so I miss a lot of seeing commercials as they air but I actually think that works better.  I can separate my shows from my ads and better enjoy viewing both. I love how most of the Super Bowl ads leak ahead of time even (mostly?) because it gives me one less reason to watch the game.  Everyone is already buzzing about the Darth Vader Volkswagen ad and it's well deserved buzz but it's a great commercial.  Though like most truly great ads I have no more desire to own a Volkswagen than I did before. 

I also love a really good concert so the Half Time show is a must see for me.  I have fond memories of the Aerosmith/ NSYNC halftime show and I couldn't even tell you which teams played in the game.  Speaking of rooting for the home team I have to give a shout out to Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band's performance in 2009.

Then there's the food.  I'm very into healthy eating these days and old enough to not crave the grease as much as I used to but once a year I can fully get behind a menu that typically includes chicken wings, pizza, nachos, pigs in a blanket, chili, etc. We're doing a Chili Cook Off this year and in the long week I took to contemplate my recipe the Important Things on my wish list were "Goes well with beer", "Goes well with cheese", "Tastes really good".  Good for you didn't really factor into the occasion though the end result is looking fairly on the won't give you a heart attack side.

Finally I have to give credit to any occasion when friends and family can come together for a good time. A good party is a good party no matter the purpose and even I inevitably find myself sucked into the spirit of things and full of hope that the worthiest team gets the victory they deserve. 


This Would Have Hurt A Lot More In 2003

Maybe this is the snobby, snarky side of me talking but I can't help from laughing at how dramatic the headlines for The White Stripes announcement that they're breaking up are.  I seriously doubt anything more passionate than Jack & Meg sitting down, realizing they haven't made music together in forever and Meg seems to have lost the drive for it while Jack seems intent on starting a record labels worth of super groups happened. 

I'm still sad because whether you're Team It Was All Jack or Team Jack & Meg, The White Stripes had a distinct sound that I loved and that I doubt either could create on their own or with others.  But I guess I've thought of them as a former band for a long time now and the frenzy around this surprises me. 

With all that said their music will still get some extra play from me for the next few days.


Books Read In January 2011

As I walked through Barnes & Noble on Sunday and browsed the shelves of real, actual books only to purchase ebook versions of the three I wanted the most for my Nook even I had to admit that it was a shame that this is what books have become to me.  But the truth of the matter is I'm not sure I read 7 books total in all of 2010 and I read 7 books in January alone with hopefully another 7 or more to come in February. To be fair I was bedridden for close to a week with the flu and I've been taking public transportation more frequently but last year when I was sick or on the Metro it was TV and music that entertained me not books. I don't like loving my Nook but it's helped me recapture my love of a good story and for that I thank it.

*All reviews below contain very minor spoilers though I've done my best to not mention any major, story altering plot points. Depending on your attitude towards spoilers proceed with caution. 

Books Read:

1. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Rating : 1/5
Comments: This is my book club's book this month so I'm not going to get as profuse as I want to because I know at least one member reads this blog. The first few times I ranted about this book to people I phrased my dislike of the book as "Well written but I hated all the characters for being such miserable people". After thinking about it some more I've come to the conclusion that it's not so much that the characters were miserable people or horrible people because I certainly think you can write a good story about bad people but that what really made this book so annoying to me is that I didn't find anyone in it very interesting.  It wanted to be this epic Victorian-esque soap opera but it was full of middle class white suburban people who never did anything more or less tragic than anyone who's actually lived that same life.  I was also increasingly bothered by the book's constant references to actual popular bands and music artists of the late 90s/early 00s. The author's seeming attempt to make me feel like this was a real story only made me feel pandered to. There's a whole scene that takes place at the 930 Club in DC, a music venue I've been to countless times, and I was so bothered by the scene that I almost stopped reading the book right there and then.
I look forward to discussing this book with my fellow Vikings (as we call ourselves in my book club) in two weeks but  I don't see myself ever wanting to revisit this book again.

2. On The Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Rating: 5/5
Comments: After suffering through the immature "adult" stories of Freedom I turned to a YA novel that had come highly recommend as a palate cleanser.  I spent a few years working in the childrens book department of a Barnes & Noble and if there's one thing I learned it's that most of the best books being written today are being written for young adults and teens.  On The Jellicoe Road is one of the most beautiful stories I've ever read and it was perfectly written. I'm not at all ashamed to say that every one of the last 50 pages brought a tear to my eye and I wanted the story to go on forever.  The book tells two parallel stories of two connected groups from different time periods and even though many of the connections between the stories are easy to figure out the payoff is still worth it. Though it's written by an Australian author and takes place in Australia I think any starry eyed American youth would instantly connect with the story and this starry eyed 30 year old felt a deep yearning for feelings that have already passed me by in every page.

3.Going Bovine by Libba Bray
Rating: 3.5/5
Comments: If I was only allowed to use one word for this review it would be weird. If allowed two words they would be very weird. I'm a huge fan of Libba Bray's Great and Terrible Beauty series and for those three books alone think she's one of the best authors for teens out there today. Not to mention that I appreciate how well she captured the voice and personality of a teenage male in in Going Bovine.  But I can't quite get past how inaccessibly bizarre whole chapters of this book were.  There's also my deep shame in not seeing it as a modern retelling of Don Quixote until several reviews pointed it out to me (this is me doing you all a solid by mentioning this) even when the enigmatic main female character goes by Dulcie. My only excuse is that I was only an English major for a little over a semester before switching to theater and we never did Man of La Mancha. By the time I finished with the book I loved it but I can't enthusiastically recommend it because it's not a book for everyone and there were long parts of it I didn't enjoy reading very much at all.

4. The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman
Rating: 4/5
Comments: I've been meaning to read this book since reading a review of it this past summer.  The review I read mentioned that it's about two sisters and something of a modern retelling of Sense & Sensibility and while I have no sisters of my own I've always been a sucker for a well told sisterly tale not to mention one of the legion of Austen-ites. And the story the book tells about the sisters is good, it's really good. There's also a lot in there about the importance of books which made it a little awkward and guilt ridden to read on my Nook but was still very interesting and beautifully told. But the love stories were clunky and there was way too much space taken up with a story line involving dot com start ups pre-9/11 that I found dull and out of place. Maybe it's because I wasn't expecting that to be a major part of the book but it was not a pleasant surprise to find myself reading page after page of clueless characters dealing with a downfall I could see coming.  The book also deals quite directly with 9/11 and as someone still working through my only personal connection to that date with the exception of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close I don't like seeing it pop up in my literature.

5. Juliet,Naked by Nick Hornby
Rating: 5/5
Comments: This book did everything right that I thought Freedom did wrong.  It was populated mostly by unlikeable people but they were interesting unlikeable people that I wanted to continue reading about and it took a fictional musician and gave him a storyline so understandable and real that I felt like I was reading about someone real. There was a scene towards the end that threatened to ruin everything for me but on the whole I liked it. I can only say if you read the book version of High Fidelity and enjoyed it you'll really love this book. Hornby does male music obsessed geek very well.

6. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Rating: 2/5
Comments: They are writing some strange books these days for young adults and teens.  This book crawled under my skin and made it feel dirty and I can't imagine what kind of damage it would have done had I read it as an actual young adult or teenager.  I can't go into particulars without getting overly spoilery but the main "romance" in this book was not a love story I enjoyed reading and the amount of sex scenes as vague and non descriptive as they were made me feel like an old lady b/c in my day we had to sneak Danielle Steele or Anne Rice novels for that kind of thing.  The world building was cool and its take on "apocalyptic" scenario was interesting but the main character was not someone I wanted to spend much time around.  This book was less than 200 pages and took me over a week to read because I couldn't read too much of it at once.

7. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Rating: 4/5
Comments: I just noticed that Good Reads lists this as Book #1 and while I didn't read this as the first of a series I'm not against the author continuing the story. There's really not all that much I can say about it.  Teen SciFi is about the only SciFi I ever enjoy reading but this put the soap opera in space opera. It was a good easy read and the two main characters were likable but for something that told such a vast story there was very little meat to it.  I think while most YA/Teen novels can be enjoyed by adults some are more strictly written towards their audience and this book felt very young to me even though like all of the other YA/teen books I reviewed it contained a healthy dose of sex.  I do have to give the author credit because while I figured out half of the mystery very early on the other half took me very much by surprise in a good way.


Alvin Tostig Has A Son Today

I knew Elton John and his husband recently had a child. I'd even heard that the child's middle name was Levon, a fact that thrilled me because Levon is my favorite Elton John song.  Today I was informed that the child was born on Christmas Day.  Far from being born a pauper to a pawn this little boy is now blessed not just with two loving fathers, one of whom is one of the greatest musicians of the late 20th century, but with one hell of a story behind why he was named what he was.

I guess we'll have to wait a few decades to see if Zachary Jackson Levon has a son of his own and if he calls the child Jesus. I'm not ashamed to admit that my fingers are crossed.

If you're anything like me and spent years wondering who exactly Alvin Tostig was this page does a very good job of breaking it all down.

Say Hello To Your Friends

Back in the day we were pre-teens instead of tweens and as a pre-teen I was all about every and any book series I could get a hold on. Like most similarly inclined young women of my generation I read and adored everything in the Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley canon. But there were other smaller, less remembered series that kept me company on rainy days and lazy Saturday mornings when playing outside wasn't possible or appealing and nothing on TV seemed worth it. One such series was the Sleepover Friends. Everything about it is right there in the title but if you need a deeper explanation it was about a group of young girls who were friends and held a sleepover together every weekend. They each had their own distinct personality and background so that the majority of the reading audience would have at least one character to identify with and my favorite was Stephanie.  Stephanie was the Loud One (which I was) and the Fashionable one (which I wasn't) and had a play house in her backyard (nope but I did have an above ground pool, swing set and a few really cool trees).  What I remember most about Stephanie is that "her thing" was she always wore red, black and white.  All three colors at the same time and nothing else.  I wanted nothing more to do the same but my mother who bought my clothes and thus picked them out was more enamored with all the neons and pastels the early 90s had to offer. 

This morning I got dressed to leave the house and without really thinking any further than "These are clean and go together" I put on black jeans, a red and white shirt and a black cardigan.  Some 16 years since I last read one of these books my old friend Stephanie was who I immediately thought of.  These books weren't great literature, weren't even the best of their genre but I applaud the author (authors? so many of these series were written by committee) for planting something in my brain that will never go away.  I'm sure a lot of space could be taken up arguing for or against the idea that what is good literature or literature at all is only debatable up to a certain point and that any author worth his or her salt should strive to be remembered for the right reasons.  But the truth is I see no shame in the Wakefield twins of the trashy, non educational, shallow world of Sweet Valley being as much a part of my reader DNA as Anne Shirley and Jo March, two women who belong in books that almost always made the list of Great Classics. If/when I ever get published I'll be just as happy to write something that someone out there loves as I will to write something that someone out there respects. 

I do promise to never, EVER pay any sort of fashion homage to Claudia from the Babysitters Club and if you need to know why that's such an important promise to make I'll direct you over here and bid you a very entertaining reading experience.


New Year

Hey there, blog world!

Didn't totally mean to drop off the face of the planet there.  December was a joyful mess of staying on top of things work wise, holiday wise and social times wise.  January has just been a plain ol mess of illness and car issues. I've had a lot of time to spend in front of my computer but most of it has been spent watching or listening to something while my body fought off that nasty sort of cold that only exists this time of year.  I've become the consummate consumer with little to show of the producer side of me.  With monthly subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu and eMusic and a decent portion of my paycheck dedicated to iTunes and B&N's NOOK store I feel more than confident that I'm doing my part in keeping the entertainment industry alive and over paid.

I've often thought that the best use for this blog would be that of a dumping ground for my thoughts on music, TV, movies and books.  But there's that defiant part of me that doesn't want to waste my words on the works of other.  I want to create and be known for my creations not just the pretty words I put to others blood, sweat and tears.  I had a day off today and after taking care of a dozen mind numbing errands I treated myself to an afternoon at Starbucks with my laptop and my Soy Mocha (no whip). The plan was to get on to the screen a story that's been trying to develop in my head for going on a year now.  I know the characters, the setting and how it all begins but as I sat there staring at my blank work document everything else going around me became easier to look at.  There was the elderly couple doing a crossword puzzle together and breaking and warming my heart with how well they fit together, the two women in the corner with a quilt between them and a heated discussion that seemed to be about quilting or knitting and the group of high school kids with their Frappuccinos and conversation about who knows what.  Everything I wanted to write seemed not worth writing about so I ended up listening to the new Decemberists album instead. (It's great by the way.)

So maybe I will talk about other people for awhile because frankly the amount of good books I've read, good movies I've seen, amazing albums I've listened to and TV shows I've lost whole days to watching lately is staggering. Nothing in life is as important to me as art whether it be consuming it, producing it or both. It's been the focus of most of my life so to not make it the focus of my blog seems disingenuous and pointless especially when the best part of stumbling across something you love is getting everyone around you to love it too.