18 December 2010

great moments in tacoma cycling, part 3.

An efficient way to move three adults and three kids to and from the kindergarten singing program.

11 December 2010

a radical turn.

When I was in Utah, I got involved with protest culture. Utah's is distinctive; participatory democracy goes a long way in the state and many groups have successfully found ways to build awareness about their causes. It was exciting to find opportunities to express my beliefs in the public sphere, particularly as I became more aware of my own politics and values after leaving the Church.

I took a class called "Urban Crime" this semester. It was poorly titled; its focus extended well beyond the urban and I learned very little about crime. In fact, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what constitutes a real crime and what crimes are constructed by society for sake of maintaining order and reducing risk to the middle-class.  That I came to conclude there is such a distinction is evidence, perhaps, that the crime part wasn't necessarily a misnomer.

The emphasis of the course was on incarceration.  There are over 2 million people presently incarcerated in the United States right now; over 7 million people have been incarcerated.  Up until very recently, historians have done little to explore incarceration and the punitive process in the United States.  I read the works of sociologists, legal scholars, historians.  I found their arguments very persuasive.  

The penal system in America is, amongst developed nations, one of the most punitive in the world.  Our systems of lawmaking, policing, prosecution, sentencing, and warehousing prisoners rest on racialized assumptions.  The poor and the non-white are disproportionately punished.  Politicians use crimefighting for political currency. A culture of fear has been built up, granting government carte blanche to prevent risk. The humanity of criminals and their potential to reform is, in many states, off the table.  While there are those who do deserve to be in prison, it is taken for granted that every person in prison deserves to be there.  The impact of incarceration on communities, partners, children, families is not a part of how we, as a nation, think about crime.

I point this out-- and give you this summary of what I took from fifteen books and probably as many articles-- because I recognize that I have developed this habit of blowing up my Twitter feed when a story pertaining to criminality or incarceration hits me a certain way.  There are things I never noticed that are now everywhere.  I am at the beginning of an activist moment.  I will stake my career on it; I believe the system is that unjust.  So bear with me this raised consciousness.  

If you can get your hands on this month's Journal of American History, make sure you seek out this article. If not, check out the JAH Podcast. It will give you some insight into the import of this emerging field of study and the scholars influencing my thinking.

02 December 2010

we wondered if martha came up with the recipe in prison.

I interrupt this blog's regularly scheduled programming of Heavy Stuff and Bike Concerns to talk to you about an issue of great importance, an issue that touches us all.

I am here to talk to you today about pancake recipes.

Every semester brings with it different cravings. There was the semester I lived on ice cream, and who can forget last fall, when all I ate was arugula? It occurred to me recently that this semester has been a pancake semester. Unknowingly, I've been trying to make the perfect pancake, and I think I've actually done it.

Effort 1- Sour Cream Pancakes
these are good, but they are mostly sour cream. I have nothing against eating straight sour cream, but you don't really need all the effort of pancakes to do that.

Effort 2- Traditional Pancakes
these are what you make when you have a very limited range of ingredients on hand. dense. much too dense. you don't eat these pancakes- they eat you. put some jam on it as you head out into the mean streets, so heavy it would double as a weapon.

Effort 3- Buttermilk Pancakes
these are IT. post-Thanksgiving we had a lot of leftover buttermilk (thank you, ranch mashed potatoes). lacey and light, they are so perfect and dreamy. comfort food to the max, best drenched in warm Pennsylvania maple syrup.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming. Up next: further embracing of life's magic and mysteries, Wald rear basket installation, and probably a youtube video. Maybe in reverse order.

30 November 2010

my eyes are opened, and in this life i shall have joy.

an unexpected moment on an unexpected trip in my unexpected life

This morning I read sad news from an acquaintance. She wrote of a great life change with the kind of grace and dignity you might expect from her, but at such a time in her life it still caught me off guard. I carried her in my heart all day. Her news brought back lots of heartaching memories and induced the kind of empathy that kept tears near the surface at every moment.

One of the things I loved about Mormonism was the predictability. There was a plan for everything- the Plan of Salvation when you die, food storage when you go broke, a million committee meetings with a million agendas, a plan for your life with marriage and kids and how to respond to temptation. Amidst the dislocations of my teenage and college years I found those plans so comforting.

And then I lived.

I left the garden. The path I am wasn't the first path I would have chosen. There are days when I do not feel up to the challenge, that the struggles seem too immense. So much agency, so much new, so much I never thought I would have to face. But then I have these moments that I encounter something so totally unexpected, something so indescribably beautiful that only the right here, right now could have revealed. The eyes of my eyes were opened. I am surprised, but my joy is full. It took a lot of pain. It took a lot of reconfiguring-- of my priorities, my goals, my family. But it was so worth it. What I have does not look a thing like what I would have planned. 

It is better.

Peace be with you.

28 November 2010

what is the matter with pennsylvania?

Nothing like a little indulgent historical writing for you. I love that in 1935 you could publish an incredulous essay on your state's mediocre national political contributions. Russ uses the phrase "What is the matter with Pennsylvania?" so many times that it merits a bumper sticker.

"Pennsylvania has become used to pulling the chestnuts out of the fire for others, by throwing its huge electoral vote for the Presidential candidate from some other state. Like a good-natured muzhik, it does all the work and gets none of the credit. One second-rate President, one Vice-President who is often not even mentioned in our history books, two or three well-known Congressmen, not one Chief Justice, a fair showing in several cabinet positions and a good record in one or two others, a string of political bosses whose only reputation comes from machine politics and corruption, an imperviousness to reform, and until recently, a total lack of pride (perhaps justified) in the state's contributions to history? In fine, a century and a half of utter futility. What price glory!"

William A. Russ Jr, "What is the matter with Pennsylvania?" Pennsylvania History  2, No. 1 (January, 1935), pp. 17-35. Accessed on JStor today.

For more on Pennsylvania political culture, check out this episode of This American Life from October 2008.

14 November 2010

the top ten things i've learned this year.

My sister-in-law has lots of good ideas, and blogging is one of them. In honor of her recent foray into the world of internet freewrites, I am copying her idea to meditate on the top ten things I've learned this year, though after writing them out it seems like, for a most part, a list of stuff I'm still learning.

10. How to change a flat. I resisted bicycle maintenance for a long time.

9. I eat a million times better when I avoid grocery stores. After a summer of farmer's markets and a fall of shopping at Reading Terminal, I feel so much better. Quality produce makes such a huge difference.

8. Blush. Voila, cheekbones! Voila, I don't look so tired and pasty and hungover! It's a makeup miracle.

7. The neighborhood I live in has significant implications for the life I lead. I am glad that I live close to friends, lovely bars, and good public transportation. Although it means a slightly longer commute (which is good for staying fit and having a little longer to decompress), my quality of life has improved greatly. Put succinctly: god, what a good time I'm having in South Philly!

6. I need beautiful language. The book of e.e. cummings always on my desk at work and the prose of Updike always next to my bed have eased my mind.

5. Something about men and agency and what I want from my life and having a voice. I can't say exactly what I've learned about those things, but the tension between them is finally coming into view and has brought with it some needed clarity as I consider what I want and expect from relationships, who I want to be in those relationships, and who I want to be with in relationships.

4. I don't think America is really being governed in a way that is constitutional. My readings for graduate school have made me aware of this, but haven't presented any clear solutions- but I'm pretty sure a solution would involve an immense collective rethinking of federalism, a reduction of the powers of the court and policing systems at all levels, and an intensive expansion of the number of positions in legislative bodies... or something. 

3. There is a small way to reconcile my work with how far from home it takes me. It's called doing research on where I'm from. I can't wait for that brilliant idea to pay off next summer.

2. The present is all we have. We can value and learn from the past, and we can anticipate our futures, but now- now is it

1. Reciprocity. As my nieces get older, I'm finding that they love me as much as I love them. I don't know why this shocked me, to suddenly feel aware of who I am in their lives. Their generosity of spirit is disarming. It's not just that they fill my life with a big love- it's that they teach me to expect nothing less than a big love. 

04 November 2010

the demise of my basil basket.

On Halloween, I made my way to Target for the makings of a holiday fete. I tossed my Basil basket on the ODT and off I went.  When I arrived at the cherished big box retailer, I was bummed to find that one of the welds on the arms had weakened.

Fortunately, I was able to make it home with my precariously balanced 5lb bag of sugar, multiple 2 liters, and gobs of candy and hair product. This is just the kind of thing that would happen when I'm carrying a load like this, I thought.

But the reality is, I have been hauling loads like this several times a week for the past year as I've done my grocery shopping and commuting. The year before that it was daily loads of books.  The demands I have made on this basket have not been insignificant.  I mean, the day before it broke I hauled a pumpkin in it, and the day before that I filled it to overflowing with objects from a thrifting excursion. While I think I may be able, in the short term, to jimmy it back together with some super glue and industrial tape or something, but I'm taking the demise of my basket as a cue that I need to reevaluate my cargo hauling strategies.

I've been thinking about that for a while. I tend to hoard library books at home because the thought of one bulky trip to campus with them all is so unappealing.  Recently I bought and subsequently got in a fight with a plastic drawer unit that I attempted to anchor to my rear rack (it came apart- I had no idea those were so modular!).  There are limits to what I can haul even with the basket- macaroni and cheeses work better than enormous packages or Ikea hauls

So, what to do? In a fantasy universe (one where I have a garage and more extra cash), I'd maybe opt for an Xtracycle setup like Big Brother's. But realistically, I see two good options. One is to get another basket or pannier. I really like the concept of Public's rear bike basket, as I prefer rear loads, but I've been spoiled by the mesh on the Basil Bern.  There are of course a number of options around the web if I wanted to go in that direction.

The other option, and the one that I think might be most practical in the car-free long run, would be to get a trailer. I've been loving on trailers since I saw Jeff's bicycle ice cream trailer last summer.  Kent's review of the Burley Travoy only heightened the appeal-- I love that the Travoy is Dahon compatible (like my defunct basket!) and that it folds up for storage.  It is quite expensive though. Yet coming across the Bike Trailer Blog today further enhanced my trailer awareness.  Philly's Craigslist trailer postings unfortunately tend towards the suburbs- outside my car-free access area- but certainly there must be a cost effective way to move in the trailer direction.

For now, I'm limited to my rack and my unfortunate little pannier (its hooks aren't quite big enough for the ODT's meaty rack).

What are your thoughts on upping the cargo capacity of my bikes?


a jolly start to fall riding, I'd say.

02 November 2010

an election day blessing.

"Government requires make believe. Make believe that the king is divine, make believe that he can do no wrong or make believe that the voice of the people is the voice of God. Make believe that the people have a voice or make believe that the representatives of the people are the people. Make believe that governors are the servants of the people. Make believe that all men are equal or make believe that they are not.

The political world of make-believe mingles with the real world in strange ways, for the make-believe world may often mold the real one. In order to be viable, in order to serve its purpose, whatever the purpose may be, a fiction must bear some resemblance to fact. If it strays too far from fact, the willing suspension of disbelief collapses. And conversely it may collapse if facts stray too far from the fiction."

-Edmund Morgan, Inventing the People, quoted in Larry Kramer's The People Themselves, 34

May your highest ideals be joined by your deepest pragmatism on this Election Day. May you see through all the fictions to find the facts. Please vote- your voice needs to be heard to make this whole democracy thing work!

23 October 2010

three years with the Old Dutch [Treat] and review: schwalbe marathon plus tires.

The Old Dutch and I are celebrating our three year anniversary around this time of the year. As a bike owner, I've gone from a terrified first year grad student to a seasoned fourth year with a dissertation topic and comps committee.  I've gone from a casual campus rider to an aggressive daily city commuter.  I have even started to tackle the art of bicycle maintenance.

I have mixed feelings about the Old Dutch at this point. Don't get me wrong- I love it and have no intent to ever get rid of it. The rigor of my longer commute-- now around ten miles a day-- leaves me longing for a lighter bike. With a lock and loads of books, hauling 50+ pounds of bike up and down the hill leaves me pretty exhausted. As someone with anxiety issues who otherwise has difficulty falling asleep at night, this is not necessarily a bad thing. But it is a thing.  Additionally, that some of my components have not held up very nicely (skirt hards, chain guard, headlight, I am looking at you) leaves me a little sad. Bike shops hate working on this bike. Hauling it up narrow stairs for a year took its toll, on me and the bike. 

Still, I love my rolling bike church.  Putting new tires on it has renewed this love. Philly's streets demand a substantial tire-- there is too much broken glass and pothole-ery for anything less.  The Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires have increased the smoothness of my ride-- I now merrily bounce over bumps. The tires have great traction. The Schwalbe Marathon Plus are the urban assault tires that my bike has needed.  I am happy to say that I even installed them myself (though my roommate checked my work).  I feel confident that these tires will serve me well during the miserly winter bike commute. 

I love the clear caps on the Schwalbe tubes.

Last year's bike-a-versary here.

it's ok if you cook the sandwich in bacon grease.

I was inspired recently by this post on Big Girls, Small Kitchen about grilled cheese and mushroom melts. I have been playing around with variations on the theme this week. I brought in elements from a favorite salad at Prohibition Bar-- namely frisee, which goes lovely with mushrooms, and of course, bacon. This is a fall sandwich of no regrets. You're burning off extra calories just by staying warm, so I promise there's no harm.

Cook bacon.
Take come of your bacon grease and saute' mushrooms in it, with a bit of garlic.
Place sliced havarti on wheat bread, and pile all elements together. 
Cook sandwich in bacon grease.
Top sandwich with frisee.
Eat with fork and knife.

11 October 2010

up with joy.

from the Queen's garden at Sandringham Castle

I recently added a complete volume of e.e. cummings poems to my desk. When I need a moment of tranquility I crack it open. Here's a piece of this morning's study. I like it because it reminds me of a toast. We could all use a toast on Monday morning.

here's to opening and upward

here's to opening and upward, to leaf and to sap
and to your(in my arms flowering so new)
self whose eyes smell of the sound of rain

and here's to silent certainly mountains;and to
a disappearing poet of always,snow
and to morning;and to morning's beautiful friend
twilight(and a first dream called ocean)and

let must or if be damned with whomever's afraid
down with ought with because with every brain
which thinks it thinks,nor dares to feel(but up
with joy;and up with laughing and drunkenness)

here's to one undiscoverable guess
of whose mad skill each world of blood is made
(whose fatal songs are moving in the moon

03 October 2010

are we here for a reason?

When my school friends here in Philly met me last year, they got the impression that I was something of a patriot. We were in a class discussing an article that critiqued the Korean War Memorial and I, new blonde person from Utah, seemingly out of the blue gave a forceful defense of the monument based on my grandfather's love of the monument as a veteran of that conflict. It was an awkward moment in a conversation amongst the ivory tower bourgeois. As they got to know me, they got to know me as a member of my family-- a military family. From birth, it seems, I have been reared to see the primacy of sacrifice for country. That trip to see the travelling Vietnam Veteran's Memorial come through Tulsa, the POW-MIA sticker on the Jeep, the flagpole dominating our front yard, home, and street-- it's in my cells.

So I got teary over this article about the lady Marines serving with combat units in Afghanistan. Their sacrifice requires them to take extra steps so that they avoid official combat designation. Their sacrifice requires them to do something that isn't acknowledged by their employer- something our country pretends not to practice is their daily reality.  Congress and DoD's continued denial of the sacrifices these women are making as combat troops is an effort to pretend that out-moded traditional gender norms surrounding war are still in place. Pretending that these women, now full protectors of our country, are doing something less is shameful.  Their sacrifice is real, and policy cannot diminish it.

I am proud of these women, and I am proud of the leaders that trust them and train them as Marines, not women, to be so close to the action. Of the official line, I think the sentence that concludes the article is especially poignant: 
"In the end, she said, “They’re going to remember what we did.” 

02 October 2010

individual portions.

I love cooking for myself. 

It's not that I don't mind cooking for others. I belong to a group of food-loving foodies who celebrate food, and we cook for each other often, celebrating the strengths of that potato salad and reveling in the fact that one pound of butter really went into that pound cake. Hauling side dishes on the back of my bike brings me great joy. Talking with people about food is a daily occurrence. So much of my food life is social.

But cooking for myself, that I really love.  In an empty house, with the tunes turned up. Nobody will know the excesses of butter and salt. With my mind clear I futz with the temperature, add a little more flour. In the calm of my head I make important decisions about how I will unthaw the spinach. My family and friends are all around me, in gifted butter dishes and mixers and rubber spatulas. Individual portions fill me with intense and quiet satisfaction. In solitude I worship at the feet of proteins, fats, and carbs.

My therapist recently labelled this kind of activity "deliberate self care." I know that this kind of recreation is important for my well-being. I know that the times and seasons of my life may someday make this pursuit a rare event. But for now, in the moment, beyond all the present meaning and possibilities of the future, I delight in cooking for one.

22 September 2010

i'm still here.

At the end of last month, I found myself with a doubled commute.  My new job and school year began.  Overnight, I acquired an office, a demanding schedule, and sixty people whom I call "my students."  The transition was rough. I quickly came in contact with my own limitations as a student and teacher, as well as the limited number of possible North / South routes through Center City.  4.7 each miles, these days.

But now that I've found my legs and the heat has abated, I'm back to a point of reflection on my rides.  I've started worshipping at that bike church I used to attend.  Relaxed by now-familiar routes and the timing of the traffic signals (I always get to rest at Spring Garden), I can breath deeply and work through the daily puzzles of my life, putting them together in my mind to find clarity.

One such problem that's emerged lately was what to make of a particular recent outcome, a termination of sorts. I had strategized, when it happened, to "remain selfless, cold, and composed." When I found myself failing at this, in, you know, a mature internalized way, I asked myself, rolling along, what to make of it. And then it hits me, powerfully, so hard that I forgot traffic and potholes and the city's glittery pervasive coating of broken glass.

This doesn't make a difference in my long-term happiness.

Sure, I was a little sad in the moment.  But it was temporary, fleeting. So many of the things that I've mourned in fall's past didn't have a lasting impact on my long-term happiness. Things that hurt-- well, they did hurt-- but they didn't constrain my ability to be happy.  I pushed forward, plowed through, and ran over these miseries and seized happiness. I built myself a life.

It came in a flood, these beautiful flutters of memory of the moments that have made a difference in my long-term happiness-- the moment I put my application in the mail for my Masters, the rush of buying a big red bike, the series of mouse clicks that have purchased plane tickets for home and adventure. Taking a job at a restaurant where I learned to cook, making a drive to Park City to find that I really did want to come to Philly. These memories washed away the problems, and suddenly, I found myself twenty-six years old, settled, on my way to a job I really love, where I get to use my talents, where being who I am fills the qualifications.

And then I felt my hands grip my brakes, heard the clackity hymnody of the folding bike's noisy chain, and stopped at the stop light, satisfied. And, lucky me, I still had three and a half more miles to go.

21 August 2010

great moments in tacoma cycling, part 2.

Last night around 11:30pm my cousin- today, a blushing bride- called with a crisis: she had forgotten to get flowers for the church. No problem! Big Brother lives close to the Proctor Farmers Market and has equipped his long-staying houseguest with a bike. This haul may be one of my favorite ever.

You can see the flower stand where I picked up the flowers in the front on the left! 

13 August 2010

great moments in tacoma cycling, part 1.

A chance encounter with Jeff of Jeff's Ice Cream. Don't you wish your town had a bicycle ice cream vendor?

03 August 2010

a dispatch from the summer of 2010.

It's been a while since I blogged.  I think the whole internet slows down during the summer, and personally, I think it's fantastic.  I haven't been posting because I've been playing pretty hard.  Playing too hard to finish LGRAB's summer games... or to even ride my bikes.  Playing too hard to do the reading and language study I should be getting to... or to even get to the library.  Playing too hard to clean my floors or paint that bookshelf.... or to even buy groceries.  

It's been delightful.  

My body bears the telltale signs of a summer well-spent-- a range of ever changing tan lines, a tummy that's a little soft after a good many beers, and a headful of hair that's getting white blonde.  My friendships feel strong and ready for the assault of another year of graduate school-- my fourth.  After going all over-- to Delaware, South Jersey, The Shore, New York, Boston and Cambridge-- I am eager to fly home tomorrow to continue the summery process of replenishing my spirit.  This summer has taken on an unexpected richness, a kind of abundance that would seem inconceivable if you saw how low my bank balance is or knew how hot it got in the house we moved out of or about any other number of dramas.  But still, life is sweet, and there is nothing more to do, I suppose, than finish with my favorite poem, because it seems to capture all the joy of living that I'm so high on right now.  It's funny how life gets to be so good when you aren't finishing all the items on the to-do list, or, even better, when you forget the to-do list existed at all.

wishing you a merry summer from Philly!

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
- e.e. cummings

Don't forget: It's not too late to help the children and win a bag o' swag at Tacoma Bike Ranch!!

18 July 2010

win a yuengling lager hat, help the children.

My Big Brother got me into bikes.  He sent me the link to Copenhagen Cycle Chic, has done his fair share of in-person and over the phone maintenance on my bikes, and every month we report our miles to each other.  Bikes: they are what we do.

I'm pretty proud of BB-- not only is he a strong advocate for cycling in our hometown of Tacoma, Washington, but he set some pretty big goals for himself this summer to bike for charity.  So far he's completed the Puyallup Valley Wheels to Meals ride (75 miles in one day!) and the Seattle Livestrong challenge (100 miles in one day!).  He's now coming upon the last leg of his quest for velo-powered do-goodery-- the Courage Classic.  3 mountain passes in 3 days. 174 miles.  Why? FOR THE CHILDREN.  Or, as BB put it:

The Courage Classic Bicycle Tour is a fundraising ride that benefits the Rotary Endowment for the Intervention and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.  This endowment is the largest single source of funding for the Child Abuse Intervention Department at Mary Bridge Children's Hospitalin Tacoma.  For the third consecutive year, I will be riding my tiny bicycle over three large mountain passes in an effort to raise money for this cause and to Stop the Cycle of Abuse.
BB knows that by a lot of small contributions, great things can be done FOR THE CHILDREN.  

What does this mean for you?

If you donate just 5 bucks FOR THE CHILDREN (just the cost of a decent beer!!) you get entered in a drawing to win this fat / phat swag package:

Which includes also this sweet Tacoma Rainiers jersey:

and a handmade Rainier Beer hat:


If you donate more than $5, you get entered in the drawing for every $5 you donate.  And if you-- the winner-- are from the mid-Atlantic (holla!), BB has made a special offer-- he will replace the Rainier hat with a custom made YUENGLING LAGER HAT.  As you may recall, only ballers get to wear them:

So what are you waiting for? Click here to win-- and to donate to a great cycling event that does a lot for a community in need.  Do it FOR THE CHILDREN.

Raffle ends August 9th at 4pm Pacific time.  Don't wait! Rules and raffle info are available here.

17 July 2010

great melanies in popular culture.

It's funny-- I've been thinking about this post for a couple of days, and then a very successful filmmaker friend of mine emails me today to tell me he's naming a character after me in a script he's writing-- not because the character and I are all that much alike, but because the name sounds right.  Let us review some of the great Melanies of popular culture, real and fictional, who often bear little resemblance to the name's meaning-- "dark."

Melanie Hamilton, Gone With the Wind, 1939
Good... pure...... helpless...self-abnegating... one of literature's biggest doormats, really.  Miss Mellie serves as a foil to the evil Scarlet.  I can't think of any good quotes for her because she is totally spineless.

Melanie, Rabbit is Rich, 1981
I've been working my way through Updike's Rabbit tetraology this summer.  Updike is far and away my favorite author, so you can imagine my pleasure at finding a character called Melanie in the series' third book.  Melanie comes home with Rabbit's son Nelson from college at Kent State.  A Californian unfamiliar with small-town Pennsylvania, she throws the family for a loop with her happy embrace of 70s trends-- she gets the whole Angstrom family eating wheat germ and studies various yogis in between rides on her 12 speed Fuji bicycle, her curly red hair flying in the wind.  

My favorite quote about Melanie occurs as the family discusses her impending arrival--
"We don't know the girl is a slut," Harry apologizes.  "All we know is her name is Melanie instead of Susan." 

"Melanie" by Wierd Al Yankovic, 1988

Well, he's stalking her... so that's not creepy at all. But you can't help but like the song.
(true confession: I once went to a Weird Al concert with my filmmaker friend. Everything comes full circle!)

UPDATE: Photo evidence of Weird Al singing to me:

Melanie Griffeth, film actress

I haven't really seen anything she was in other than Now and Then but  Antonio Banderas wasn't such a bad catch in the 1990s.

Melanie Chisholm and Melanie Brown, members of Spice Girls, mid-90s
Not one but two Spice Girls were named Melanie.  Sporty Spice and Scary Spice never really appealed to my middle-school sensibilities (I was Team Baby Spice all the way, as my blonde loyalty knows no bounds).  Nonetheless, a good excuse to post a Spice Girls video on my blog.

Melanie Ralston, Jackie Brown, 1997
Nobody talks about this Tarantino flick very much, but Bridget Fonda's beachy surfer-stoner Melanie is endearing.  As is Samuel L. Jackson's line:
"You can always trust Melanie to be Melanie." 

Melanie Smooter, Sweet Home Alabama, 2002
I like this Melanie.  I mean, what's not to like?  A sassy fashion designer with tons of gumption played by turn-of-the-century star Reese Witherspoon.  Sure, she's kind of a liar, but she comes around, right?  And she can't help but keep snagging good looking guys.  Unfortunately, this movie coined the term "Melanie taco," a practice I've been in the middle of on more than one occasion (by guys; guys would never admit to watching this movie).

Ok, that was all of the Melanies I could muster. Did I forget any?

13 July 2010

admiral fell promises.

Ok, I promise, this is the last of the Sun Kil Moon fangirl posts.  You can expect no objectivity from me-- I think you should buy this album.  I think you should play it all the time-- in your car, as you lay on your couch, as you put your children to sleep.  While you weed, on your towel at the beach, with a cocktail on the plane, while you smoke cigarettes on your porch.  You should shut your eyes when you listen to it.

So how do I really feel?

I've been listening to Admiral Fell Promises all weekend. We moved into our new place in South Philly on Friday afternoon and woke up to pounding rain, a dripping ceiling, and flooded patio space on Saturday morning.  Not that I really noticed the chaos-- with this album on I felt completely tranquil, drifting, dreamy, placid.  

This album is not like other Mark Kozelek albums.  I had a hard time getting used to April (Kozelek's previous album)-- I would listen to "Lost Verses" (my favorite song oƒ all time) but couldn't get into the dark sadness of many of the songs until winter hit. Admiral Fell Promises is more neutral.  I wouldn't go as far as saying it's more lyrically hopeful, but the music is brighter, more summer-y.  This has a lot to do with the minimalism of the production-- the entire album is just Kozelek and a guitar.  His strumming is lighter than on previous albums.  After listening to all of that clunky Red House Painters stuff, this album is absolutely elegant.  There is nothing rock and roll about Admiral Fell Promises-- the tone on much of the album is minstrel-like as the long songs sometimes fade into each other, almost indistinguishable from each other.  If you're looking for something quiet, something relaxing, something low-key but still stimulatingly complex, this album will fit the bill.  

You can stream the whole album here.

Probably my favorite tracks from the album:

From the more articulate peanut gallery:
"Regardless of how it's credited, Admiral Fell Promises treats music as a retreat, allowing Kozelek to stand apart form the world and nurse his own disappointments. That safe haven, even more than his descriptive songwriting or eloquently downcast vocals, is crucial to his appeal, allowing the listener to slip into his perspectives, to see these vistas through his eyes, and to feel the ache of his regrets. For an artist who's notoriously difficult to pin down, that sense of refuge is remarkable, as is the fact that two decades into his career, Kozelek is still finding new inspirations."

"...Not only do his lyrics sound like the words of a man pondering his darker moments, but his solitary guitar further underscores that loneliness. That guitar work, though, is where Kozelek truly shines; his subtle plucking ripples beneath the vocals, flirting with his melodies as they create trancelike seances that stretch for the length of his compositions.
Even as Koz himself sounds bleak, his guitar work carries an entrancing energy. "Third and Seneca" finds Kozelek reminiscing about his travels — Oregon, Seattle, Denver and so on — his voice capturing hazy snippets of his journey. He conveys a roadweariness and homesickness that's universally felt and understood. At the same time, his lilting guitar melodies don't sound nearly so desperate; their cascading repetition evokes the feeling of daydreaming while looking out the window at passing landscapes. It's an unusual — and unspoken — juxtaposition, as he blends the buoyancy of his instrumentation with the isolation of his lyrics."

08 July 2010

san geronimo.

My new Sun Kil Moon album has shipped! I'm am still so excited!  I am especially thrilled that the album comes with an additional 4 song LP (indeed, the deal was why I bought the actual CD, something I haven't done in years). Mark Kozelek is very good to his fans.  While Sun Kil Moon puts out studio albums as the mood dictates, Kozelek puts out live albums pretty regularly.

My favorite of these is 7 Songs Belfast.  Its offerings are a good representation of what I have in my embarrassingly large library of the man's music- a lot of covers and rearranged versions of songs from Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters' studio albums.  The song "Michigan" is heartbreakingly beautiful-- lyrically, it may be one of his best songs.  

I love that you can listen to songs you know from earlier albums- like "San Geronimo" fron RHP's Ocean Beach- and get something completely different.  Then you can go back and forth over which one you like better.  Geeky, I know.

I can't find anything from 7 Songs Belfast up on youtube (is it enough just to talk about how good it is?), so indulge me with this cut from Ocean Beach that I can't stop diggin' on: