30 August 2007

Playing catch-up.

My new job started this past Monday. I can tell that commuting over such a distance has its good days and bad days. As of yet, there have mostly been bad days. There are a lot of variables that weasel their way into an otherwise normal, lengthy commute and just turn it to crap. As I learn and can handle more at my job, it'll reduce the stress factor somewhat, but that commute just kills me. So far, however, everyone's nice at the new travajo, which is encouraging.

In my life that is not related to work (which was hastily reduced to pretty much nothing), I got two pretty good seats (middle of the 7th row, orchestra center), for Josh Ritter in October. I'm very excited. I've heard/seen some of his live recordings and they're amazing. His voice is just as wonderful live as it is in studio... and he smiles and rambles when he sings, which may be my favorite thing about him... apart from the awesome lyrics and our similar geographic history.

To sum up this rather brief posting, I shall quote the great contemporary poet, Megan Collins.

I'm so beat. Like someone picked me up cause they thought I was a tennis ball and just chucked me against a garage door for 4 hours singing Hanson songs.

As true today as it was when it was written...

23 August 2007

The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter

Josh Ritter's The Animal Years was released last year to critical acclaim, and rightfully so. The songs are a gorgeous cross-section of styles and themes: from the poignant "Girl in the War," to the run-away train of a song "Lillian, Egypt," to the sweet and satisfying "Good Man." Just a short year later, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter is a vibrant continuation of his increasingly exceptional body of work.

Even from the opening song, "To The Dogs or Whoever," Ritter effortlessly works a thematic dichotomy involving love and... everything else. It's a kaleidoscope of a song– a loose and playful ode to a lover, juxtaposed with passing philosophical mentions of generals and Jesus, water and war– all set to a foot-stomping beat, chugging along on its own accord. As if to remind the listener how seriously they should take this song however, he belts out, "lemonade on your breath, sun in your hair–did I mention how I love you in your underwear?"

The album quickly takes a dark turn into "Mind's Eye," a surprisingly aggressive track with tight, sharp vocals riddled with just the right amount of spite: "my day might be comin', yours is comin' first..." It's followed by "Right Moves," a groovy, upbeat love song with playful intentions and a danceable beat. Other highlights include the gutsy and in-all-ways-rocking "Rumors" and "Wait For Love (You Know You Will)"– a beautifully sloppy song with colorful, twangy vocals and production so warm it could have been recorded on a front porch in Austin. The album keeps a brisk pace with enough quiet moments to catch your breath (with the delicate song about love and nuclear war, "The Temptation of Adam" and the sentimental "Still Beating.") Throughout the album, piano and horns add an appealing texture to a solid acoustic base. The production varies appropriately from track to track, but remains cohesive– breathing just enough heat into each song to create a perfect album for late summer. Thunderous and lusty, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter blithely rides the line between out-right levity and late-night rumination.

Josh Ritter is the cream of the crop of this generation–his music is smart and dense and beautiful–riddled with history, metaphor, mystery, winks of the eye and nods of the head. He's frequently gets the flattering comparisons to the likes of Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and Johnny Cash–but Ritter is very much his own man, with a body of work worthy of the aspirations of his peers. Richly complex, his songs are swaddled in tradition without ignoring the immediacy of now. In Josh Ritter, American songwriting has found its balance and its hero–with his head in the present and his heart in the past.

22 August 2007

An Andy Rooney moment

The fleur-de-lis is a decorative royal symbol of France, Quebec and even part of Switzerland. Also, a variety of the fleur-de-lis is the symbol of Florence. AND it's the symbol of New Orleans. And speaking of the Big Easy, the fleur-de-lis is also the symbol which graces my favorite coffee cup, which Rachel made me a couple years ago.

I went to the mall with my mom today, looking for clothes... and trouble... but mostly clothes. And everywhere we went, there was a plethora of fleur-de-lis. It is truly "le symbole du moment." We went to a craft store yesterday (just furthering my nerdom), and everywhere we looked there were stencils and iron-on's and bedazzling pattern kits for fleur-de-lis- yes- it has trickled down to the backwardly-chic Bedazzlers of America.

But what gives? Who started this trend? I feel like I should write a letter... but... to whooom? There have got to be some French watching MTV right now saying, "quoi?" And in Italia, SGM tilts his head and sighs in all-too-familiar disappointment, for he knows his city's wonderful symbol has been used on something that has undoubtedly been worn by Lindsay Lohan between arrests.

Or, it could just be like everyone wearing "I <3 NYC" shirts. Except, everyone knows what NYC is... does everyone know what a fleur-de-lis is? But, I could just be overreacting since I've been working on a fleur-de-lis print and am now pissed that the mass consciousness is saturated with this symbol enough and has lost all meaning.

Next time your out at your local "centre commercial," take a look around and try not to furrow your brow at the numerous abuses against our beloved Firenze... and France, too, I suppose.

18 August 2007

Cupid's gettin' married, y'all!

Why do I feel like I should get this shirt for The Amalgamation?

Instead of buying something constructive with my Borders gift certificate, I went with something perhaps more absorbing. What can I say? Bernini's my boy. Had I found a particular book on Caravaggio, I would have been at an awkward stand-still in Borders, weighing the two options out in my hand as though choosing which would live on and which would die on the shelf, all while my brother stood aggravated, while we were supposed to be at the Superbad veiwing. I have to wrap up Travels With My Aunt, that's been a pretty great read, itself... and then I'll dish on all the Baroque shenanigans (of which there were surely aplenty.)

And lastly, my friend and all-around awesome chick, musician Roz Raskin just put up her fun acoustic take on "Umbrella" on youtube. The audio's a little flat, but it's pretty sweet. If you like it, check out her myspace.

17 August 2007

Third time's the charm.

I was offered a job today. Nice, huh? I had the interview for it yesterday and they just called me this afternoon. It's not a super cool position or anything, but it's at a good college. Employees can take two classes a year, amongst other pretty sweet benefits. It's a long commute, but it will encourage me to move my ass up to Boston sooner than later.

I didn't formally respond yet, just because I wanted to sleep on it, so as to look like a responsible adult... before I eat ice cream in celebration.

Waffle cones, sucka!

16 August 2007

You don't want to meet a woman in a bar... go to a farmers' market... a pumpkin patch...

I've been dying to see Superbad since I first saw the trailer back in March or something and was afraid it would disappoint- one of those movies where they stick all the jokes in the trailer... Well, I don't want to oversell this or anything, but...

Superbad may be the greatest movie of all time.

The bro and I caught a free screening this evening and it not only had a large quantity of laughs, but said laughs were quality, as well. I'm already wondering when I can see it again since I was too busy doing my best ErynExplosion™ impression over half of the jokes. The movie so crammed with goodness you get neither bored, nor fatigued. Everyone is perfect. There are essentially two storylines in the movie: one involving Seth and Evan trying to get to a party and the other with Foggle (McLovin) being taken under the wing of a couple of doltish cops. Seth (Jonah Hill) is the human id personified– so skeezy and lecherous, but his snappy, crass humor is in perfect balance to the relatively sensible, naive, and sweet Evan (Michael Cera... also of "Arrested Development" fame) who was FANTASTIC. And McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) was also amazing- especially for what is his first role, apparently. Seth Rogen (who co-wrote), and Bill Hader are completely hilarious as the cops (hence the subject line of this entry).

Long story short, I can't even do a half-way decent faux review because I just freaking loved it so much. Just go see it. Then we can talk about it. Maybe go to the mall. Hold hands. Whatever.

13 August 2007

I was singing without knowing the words

I'd had a few Josh Ritter songs sitting in ye olde iTunes library for a while, but for some reason, I didn't give any of them (other than "Wolves" and "Lillian, Egypt"), more than a couple listens. But something just clicked recently and I fell head over heels for his music. He's got a new album coming out next week and the first single, "To the Dogs or Whoever", is exuberant and gorgeous. In spite of low funds, this may be an album that I buy day of, without hesitation.

Below is a video from his last album, The Animal Years, for the beautifully moving "Girl in the War."

And you've got to love a ridiculously cute Idahoan who smiles so much while he's singing. (HOW did I miss that show?? In my favorite and most-visited part of Boston, no less!)

I'll probably do another post later today, but that's all for now. Enjoy!

06 August 2007

On the subject of Art.

Yes, Art with a capital "A."

I'm a pretty big fan of This American Life. My local PBS affiliate still hasn't picked it up, but recently, the show has been putting their broadcasts out in podcast-form.

For those that aren't familiar, the show follows a relatively consistent format: it's an hour long radio program with an introduction to a theme (sometimes literal, sometimes abstract), followed by three or so stories adherent to that theme. The thing about these stories is that they're all true. They're about real people and the thrills and the cuts and the bumps that they withstand. It's a basic idea, yes, but the execution and the work involved is exceptional. Going out and sifting through people's stories- finding ones that are not only entertaining, but that really strike a chord. Its host, Ira Glass, is a rather straight-forward but compelling storyteller. He usually conducts the interviews and moves the stories along, but the majority of the story-telling is done by the people who are the focus. It really is a straight-from-the-horse's-mouth deal.

This American Life has been additionally adapted into a half-hour TV show on Showtime and is for sale in the iTunes store. I've seen three episodes so far, and they're all quite good. They have an interesting feel: part documentary, part science show, part history program. Once again, shout out to their fantastic editors.

If you find people endlessly fascinating like I do, I recommend both programs.

Back to radio program, one of my favorites episodes is actually the second most recent new one (non-repeat, that is), entitled "Who Can You Save?" Simply an incredibly compelling episode that examines how people value others' lives, both scientifically and socially, how far would one go to save another, and more. Just a warning- This American Life, this broadcast in particular, can make you laugh and weep.

This week's episode is "Blame It on Art," an interesting (and somewhat sympathetic/understanding), take on art and artists. It begins with chatting about France and the Renaissance and Florence and art... so obviously, I was glued to my speakers. But the show explores themes like success, rejection, jealousy, and alienation in the art world in a slightly different way than the norm (can you say "balloon animals?") But those themes and feelings are universally known to all artists in one form or another. Here is the direct iTunes podcast link for that particular show.

You just need to listen to it because I could pretty much just quote Ira Glass' entire intro about how sadly weird and hard it is to be an artist and get respect (though he steers away from feeling too badly). It really is a noble and simultaneously degrading, life-long endeavor... and I'll stop myself there. But do- DO- take a listen to the show. They have them all streaming on their website and the most recent episode is available to download from iTunes at the podcast link just above here. We'll get a coffee and talk about it. It'll be great.

03 August 2007

You know her life was saved by rock 'n' roll.

I could gripe about how I didn't get the job I interviewed for. And the excessive agony of playing phone tag when another position is on the line. And I could gripe about how my Alma Mater has billed me for some reason probably unknown to even them... but I won't.

But in retrospect, I had a pretty good day.

With iced tea in hand and Mr. Lou Reed as our spirit guide, Jojo and I headed down to the sea- to Newport- to escape this stagnant humidity that's crushing the frosty souls of the Northeast. It's the kind of weather that makes the octogenarian crowd drop like flies and prompts PSAs about the danger of keeping children and pets in sealed parked cars.

We went to the Norman Bird Sanctuary, a favorite of my clan. Thank Jebus RI is "the Ocean State," because the coast is a life saver. Now I know why a bunch of Robber Barons (i.e. old, fat, rich white men), had houses there- it's so breezey and lovely. We had some banana bread, sat on a small cliff, saw some nature about which Goulet would be proud to sing, and made a pact to find ourselves some pie. We tried a couple of places around Newport with no luck, but third time's the charm. We had a dinner of some apple pie and nice coffee in a cute little cafe. It feels pretty good to get what you want.

Looking down from the cliff to the marsh.

The marsh and the beach.

The meadow, which was chock full of Monarch butterflies.

Like my trip to New Hampshire a couple weeks ago, it reminded me of how much I like New England. I know I need a change of some kind, but New England can be pretty darn nice sometimes. (Once late October rolls around, I'll surely retract my previous statement.) I know that I'll probably always be counted among those sort of surly, coolly polite, guarded people who have a personal space bubble of 6 feet in every direction... in some capacity...