Thursday, January 31, 2013

When I imagine you I think of that room.

One of my favorite albums of all time is The Con by Tegan and Sara, and though I didn't like their followup entitled Sainthood, I still get excited for new music. It's probably mostly due to my subscription to Rdio, but more on that later. The only song I'd heard off Heartthrob previous to its release was "Closer," and it's a catchy electronic tune. It really set up what the album would sound like -- and it's pretty good. I have some issues with some of the songs - there's a few sounds I cringe at (particularly the intro to one song) and some lyrics are quite plain and seem uninspired in comparison to what I know these two brilliant women are capable of. The beats are fun though, and I did some cleaning tonight with them as my soundtrack. My current favorite track is "Drove Me Wild." After a few days of listening, I'd give Heartthrob a solid B.

Has anybody else listened? Thoughts?

In other music-related news...

>> She & Him announced their album will be released May 7th! And they will have a summer tour! HOORAY! Thanks to Emily from NeverBeenHeard for letting me know at the same moment that I got the She & Him newsletter in my inbox! (Also, her music blog is rad.)

>> Jason Tate, founder of, wrote about why he prefers Rdio to Spotify and I have to agree with him on all counts. For myself (unlike Tate, my job is not 'music'), I think Rdio has piqued my interest in music again; I might not have checked out Tegan and Sara's new album on release day had it not been available to stream on Rdio. I know for a fact I never would have checked out the Nashville soundtrack without it. By the way, Rdio sends me e-mails whenever a new song by the Nashville cast is added to streaming - these are great e-mails to receive.

>> How convenient, Rdio is currently offering up to six months of their service for free. Go forth and check it out. Thanks to Erica for giving me my own free subscription for three months originally!

>> Speaking of, I signed in today and realized next month I will have been a member of that site for ten years. Dude, I feel old. I remember when I first signed up as a sophomore in college, it was to read stories about Midtown, Dashboard Confessional, Drive-Thru records (and their owners), Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, etc. OLD. Yet, the site is still relevant, and that makes me happy.

>> Besides Tegan and Sara, I'm also listening to The Lone Bellow's new self-titled album. They are great at harmonizing, something I witnessed last Monday night when I saw them play a live acoustic set at the Union Square Barnes & Noble. Talent! Check check.

What are you listening to? I'm always looking for recommendations!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Movie goal achieved!

I have seen all nine Best Picture nominees! Hurrah! Jesse and I went to see Lincoln last night, and it was good, just as I expected it to be. It was quite moving, and Daniel Day-Lewis was undoubtedly awe-inspiring. But, it was not Spielberg's best. There were some odd moments. And while I don't wholly agree with one of my favorite movie reviewers, I do in part. Sometimes the sentimentality grated. Also, I'm not sure why Tommy Lee Jones is the frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor? Hm. Overall, still a good film.

I was asked today by Erica how I would rank them. I think so far out of all nine, Zero Dark Thirty is still my favorite. And behind that Amour. After that, it depends on my mood. Sometimes I look back at my Top Ten list and want to rearrange; some days I think Beasts was definitely better than Silver. But, you know, lists are made in a moment in time. But these are all great movies -- well, except for Les Miserables. I think, if I were to rank them from favorite in descending order, it would look like this:

Zero Dark Thirty
Life of Pi
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Silver Linings Playbook
Django Unchained
oh right, Les Miserables. (Pah-tooh!)

At this point, I think Argo will win Best Picture. However, that could all change in the next month!

And you guys, this weekend is not only the Superbowl, it's the DGA! You know, best director's guild award? I really hope Ben Affleck sucks it and this goes to Kathryn Bigelow. Or Ang Lee.

In other news, Jesse and I met up after work tonight for a delicious, DELICIOUS meal at a place called Tommy Lasagna. Tommy. Lasagna. You may, as I first did, think this would be a joke place, a place that wouldn't even harbor anything worth eating. But I had delectable truffle lasagna! A wonderful, full-bodied red wine! Non-adjective needing creme brulee because it was THAT GOOD. If you are ever in the Union Square area of Manhattan, I suggest you check it out. It's nice to find a good restaurant that isn't overcrowded or too loud. It was nice, peaceful, and Jesse and I had a relaxing time catching up on our days.

I just watched last night's episode of Downton Abbey and I cried myself sick, so I had to go to the internet. Next up, the time suck that is Letterboxd.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Analog time.

During these winter months, Jesse noticed that sometimes when we don't have a busy schedule we have a routine of being sucked into our electronics while sitting next to each other. He'll be playing a video game while I go through my RSS feeds on my computer. We are spending time together, but without any interaction. Jesse decided we should start having 'analog time' where we hang out without our electronics -- like playing card games. We've done this the past two days and it's been pretty great. We put on music and have conversations while I beat him in rummy (okay, we are tied currently). I even suggested we only listen to records as part of the 'analog' theme. Future analog fun may include cooking meals together (joke: we have a gas stove, not an electric one! second joke: us, cooking) and backgammon.

Today: tie-breaking our current Rummy 500 tournament and a screening of Lincoln afterwards. Finally.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The way my brain works and random links.

Last night was finally a relaxing Friday. I ate Jesse's Thai food leftovers, poured us each a hot cider and whiskey, and settled in. He eventually went to a show in the city, and I watched Nashville and Parenthood, which are two great shows if you don't watch them. Then, since Nashville was created by Callie Khouri, and she wrote Thelma & Louise, and that was directed by Ridley Scott...I decided to watch Prometheus since I'd gotten the blu-ray for Christmas. (Yes, this is how my brain works.) However, my decision to turn off all the lights and snuggle into a blanket on the couch proved disastrous: I fell asleep half an hour into the movie. I awoke two hours later during the credits. Woops. Will have to watch again sometime soon.

Here are some other things in my brain waves this week...

J.J. Abrams officially directing the new Star Wars movie the story that definitely surprised me.

Mainly because he said he never would a month ago, and the fact that because of this I defended my opinion to Jesse back then that why would he mire himself in another franchise with similar fandom? Of course, my number one choice would have been Ridley Scott. Yes, that guy again. I love Abrams, but he has an aesthetic and quality to his films and television shows that is great, but do I want to see two similar-feeling franchises about space? We'll see. I like the levity of Scott, but I do trust Abrams. We'll just have to see.

M. Ward declares new She & Him record ready to release this spring an album I didn't even know was in the works in order to anticipate it!

I'm a huge fan. Liz can attest to this... I mean, we spent an entire weekend together in two cities seeing them play shows. Also, this. So, it's going to be called Volume Three, I would guess?

I'm just going to leave this here right now a story that's really just about technology and our time.

Dating was different in the '90s. I wrote a whole (unpublished) short story on the theme, because something happened to me that was pretty similar to this article. I don't know who's reading, but for those that I've read, I usually begin to admire from afar, forgetting the reasons why I sought you out in the first place.

LETTERBOXD my new favorite internet thing.

Thanks to Michelle for telling me about it and sending me an invite!! Basically, and I've been saying this for years, I've always wanted a site like Goodreads for movies. Goodreads is a fantastic way for me to keep up with my reading and my friends' opinions on books I've read or want to read. Letterboxd does that for films, and it's got a great design. I'm slowly and surely keeping up with my DVD collection blog of personalized reviews, but what about all the Netflix movies and in-theater movies I watch? For Christmas I got a Film Moleskine, which I love, but with Letterboxd I'm able to make lists and keep track and friends can check out what movies I loved or disliked. It's fantastic! DO YOU HAVE IT YET? BE MAH FRIEND!!! I have two invites left for now...

Miniature pencil drawings by Marie Harnett via The Film Experience

Friday, January 25, 2013

My Mom, the Panamanians & the City.

Courtesy of Jesse
On Wednesday morning, Jesse and I woke up and headed to Grand Central Station to pick up my mother who was arriving to visit with some of our Panamanian family - my Tia Belinda, cousin Cheli, her daughter Sofia, their friend Milly, and my mother's friend Judy. Most of them had never been to New York, so my mom thought a two day trip would be fun while they were visiting from their paradise-like country.

Unfortunately, they picked the two coldest days of the year so far. When I woke up on Wednesday it was 12 degrees, but supposedly felt like -1 degrees. Hooray!

Jesse being the good guy watching the bags at Grand Central
My Tia Belinda and Mom, so sassy. 
Bundled Mom & Jesse
They came fully prepared and bundled up, and after dropping off their things at the hotel I brought them to Brooklyn in order to enjoy some of my favorite Venezuelan food at Caracas. Venezuelan food is similar to Panamanian cuisine - plantains, white cheese, arepas, etc. We had a fun time catching up, and as usual with me, my Spanish started off slow and as the day progressed so did the velocity of my conversation.

I was born in Panama and my first language was Spanish. Since my father was in the U.S. military and we moved from base to base growing up, I also learned English almost simultaneously. I consider myself lucky to have visited Panama almost every other year of my life -- all of my mother's side of the family resides there. I don't use Spanish nearly as much as I do when I'm at home or in Panama, of course, but it always comes back. Especially with such a fun group like these ladies. Sometimes Jesse was a little lost, but he's learning!

The ladies and Brooklyn graffiti
After showing them Brooklyn and our apartment, we trekked back to Times Square, which everyone wanted to see. Too bad the wind was cutting everybody's cheeks! We walked briskly to the TKTS booth and picked up evening tickets to see Phantom of the Opera. Rather than shop at the souvenir stores as they are wont to do, they wanted to take a break and go back to the hotel. I had no objection, as my cheeks were bright red without wearing any blush.

We rested while everyone readied themselves for dinner and the show, and then we headed out bundled up as much as possible. After a delicious dinner in the theater district and a few glasses of wine, we were ready for PHANTOM! Before, though, I explained the plot of Phantom for the Spanish-only folk, and I felt pretty, pretty proud of myself (this was after the wine, of course, who knows how it all came out).

My mom and I before the show
Phantom of the Opera was the first Broadway show I ever saw (but, you know, "Broadway" in Kansas City with my family and grandmother when I was 10). I still love it. I unashamedly love the Joel Schumacher movie starring Emmy Rossum as Christine and a surprisingly good Gerard Butler as the Phantom (he should have played Javert in Les Mis, just sayin'). It was great seeing it live again, and I tell you, those songs still give me goosebumps! "The Phantom of the Opera," "Music of the Night," and "All I Ask of You" are tremendous songs.

Afterwards, Jesse met up with us at a bar near their hotel and we warmed ourselves from the four-block walk with - what else?? - wine! It was a great close to a long and awesome day with family. They weren't able to see much of the beauty of the city from Central Park to the Highline to the Statue of Liberty to exploring the different neighborhood, but it was great to spend time with family I hadn't seen in a long time.

My mom and I ending the night with one more glass of wine!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Swing low.

I don't like writing when I'm in a sour mood. Well, sometimes I do, but I don't like writing here. I don't like to explain bad moods (sometimes I don't even know why -- I try to Dobler myself out of it), and if there is a reason, that stuff is usually private. It's hard to write (or even recap) fun and good and happy when I am anything but. It's hard to write those things well, or with any real enthusiasm. So those last two posts are dreck. I re-read them today and cringed.

But you know, that mood's done and over. It was successfully killed by a wonderful day with my mom and visiting Panamanian family yesterday. I have plenty to write about and photos to share, but tonight I'm seeing Louis CK perform. Mood meter keeps climbing! Updates soon.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Don't gasp at the predictable.

I spent most of my day off today listening to my new vinyl of No Doubt's Return of Saturn. It's definitely my favorite album of all time. Even listening to it while playing games with Jesse and Jaime, each person was tapping or singing along at some point. I liked getting up from the table to flip the record over. I smiled when the last track faded out and the familiar silence stretched out before the last hidden instrumental track began. I will always come back to this album.

What's your favorite album of all time?

Apparently Dave Stewart took this awesome photo of Gwen a few years ago.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

Fridays are usually my days of rest. I rarely go to one bar, let alone two on a Friday. After a week of work and whatever activities after-work, I love coming home and getting on the couch or going to a neighborhood restaurant for dinner or even just stopping by a nearby bar for a chill evening. However, there were a couple of shows going on, so I prepared for an evening out.

Jesse and I stopped by a bodega on the way to Fette Sau in Williamsburg--I needed a Five Hour Energy to make this work. We met up with Tyler, Diaz, and Meghan at the BBQ joint and waited in line. I was a bit out of my element, as I'm not a big fan of the set-up in the restaurant which is cafeteria style and on a busy Friday night includes waiting around with a tray of meat trying to find a place to sit. Also, they charged me for someone else's side and I didn't realize until I found the receipt later when I was complaining about how expensive my meal was. The pulled pork was good, but I was uncomfortable the entire time eating with a drunk and I think probably drugged young guy next to me. Had to watch my elbows, couldn't hear Jesse across the table, and generally did not like the atmosphere. Most people love that place, so I may just be crotchety. Or just like places that are comfortable to eat.

After dinner we went to the Knitting Factory which is probably my favorite venue because it has a bar that is separated and soundproofed from the stage. You can still see the stage from the bar, but you don't have to hear it. A marvelous concept. They also have a SuperNintendo and N64 hook-up to play in the bar. That night I gave up my plus-one that Jesse had for me to a friend since my heart wasn't into the bands, and I could sit in the bar area with friends. Jiscilla met up at one point and when the Smoking Popes' "Need You Around" started playing in the bar we both sang along in our best bass-y voice and then we discussed how formative the Clueless soundtrack was for each of us.

Diaz & Jesse playing a Street Fighter
Jesse, Tyler, Lisa and I jumped in a cab and headed up to Greenpoint to check out our friend's band United Nations at the metal bar Saint Vitus. The show was great, but by 1am I was fading fast. I had a very important 10am brunch in the morning as a maid of honor in a wedding, so I needed to sleep.

Tyler & Jesse at Saint Vitus, camera focus not working
Tyler couldn't get it to work for me & Lisa, either
On Saturday, after a delicious "working" brunch with the bride and the other maid of honor, Jesse and I linked up with my friend Jess. We headed to Chelsea to finally see the Haroshi exhibit, which was small but the few pieces were interesting (first picture and below). It was a beautiful day and Jesse and I proceeded to walk around Manhattan running errands and enjoying the weather.

Unfortunately by the evening a terrible headache (and fatigue) took over so I got in bed with Pee Wee and we finished reading Gillian Flynn's Dark Places (review here) and watched Haywire. It was a pretty mediocre story, but I always enjoy Soderbergh's directing.

I woke up on Sunday feeling much better. Jaime called me and we deliberated over where to brunch for five after noon on a Sunday in Brooklyn. It's quite an art to get this right, but we chose correctly for us, Cara, Lisa, and little Lowe. Good food, no wait. We didn't kidnap the kid, though it was fun to have a coloring-on-the-table type brunch.

Cara & Lowe

Lowe is a true artiste

Cara & Lisa

Jaime, Lowe, me (you can see my grays! Eek!)

I arrived home to start getting ready for the football games and the people coming over. I'll just stop talking about my Sunday there, I can't go on about the Patriots right now!

Friday, January 18, 2013

I'll draw on the wall and you can play UFC rookie.

Last night we gathered in the East Village apartment like we were still middle schoolers. Jesse and I rode the subway from Brooklyn prepared with a board game and two bottles of wine for a nice evening in with some good friends.

However, once we arrived and started catching up, Kelly, Amber, and I just kept going with the conversation amongst ourselves. We leaned against the countertops in the kitchen sipping red wine and nibbling on peccorino cheese. We screeched our exclamations and whispered our more salacious news. We discussed Manti T'eo, Lance Armstrong, Matt Lauer, Ann Curry, and Joss Whedon. We moved to Amber's bedroom and talked bedroom talk, laughing to the point where no noise comes out -- like we do. We took pictures and talked about the internet and generations and getting old and how crotchety we were going to be. We went to Kelly's bedroom and watched an old video of the three of us from college with tearful laughter. Amber is moving out of the apartment they share next weekend, and Kelly commemorated their time living together by giving her half a heart drawing. It was sweet; there were tears.

And where were the husbands? Parked in front of the television with beers and a video game, laughing on their own. What was supposed to be a fun, little co-ed game night turned into the women talking for hours (a task easy for us three) and the dudes pretending they were NFL football teams. We laughed on opposite sides of the room, occasionally throwing sideways glances at each other. We should have passed notes.

Jesse and I left much too late for a week night; we didn't have parents waiting up at home. We smiled at each other on the ride home, recounting our night to each other even though we spent it in the same place. I'm a little tired today at work, but it's always worth it to have laughed a whole night away with your best friends in the entire world.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The view of my desk today.

Usually three days of meetings produces a huge mess of my desk. However, I'm pretty proud of this today. Not too messy (though I'm only showing you a portion of my desk--the papers continue beyond). Pretty boring, but now you know what my space looks like. I've worked at the company for six years, but last year I got this sweet desk in a room with three other people next to a WINDOW. Do you know how important a window is at work?! A window that overlooks Madison Avenue?! It's important.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I sent it via pantomime.

I suppose the overall point of this place is to write about my life. Even when not much happens. Can I write it in a way to make it at all interesting? Worth a go, I suppose. The past three days? Let me report: things have been extremely busy at work.

But also.

On Monday I found myself drinking coffee at 3pm. This happens after spending Sunday watching two high-stakes football games with friends and clinking beer bottles together in good cheer...and then watching the entirety of the Golden Globes. Lethargy can be genuinely tiring, I've concluded.

I had to stay a bit late on at work, and Jesse went off to meet some friends for 'all you can eat' BBQ. Since I usually can't eat much more than one helping and I despise coming home smelling like a restaurant, I decided to spend the evening catching up on American Horror Story. It was a good choice.

Jesse came home smelling like fragrant meat, and I crawled into bed with Pee Wee for a good night's sleep. Unfortunately Jesse also crawled in bed, smelling as he did, and proceeded to complain about how full he was and how he ate far too much. Go figure, more reasons to dislike all you can eat BBQ. And you never know what his full beard might bring home, either.

Last night I also had to work late, and when I came home Jesse and I went to our favorite local restaurant for dinner. We're regulars and we love it. To demonstrate my earlier professed aversion to smelling like restaurants, when we go to this restaurant (which has become more fragrant since they remodeled a few months ago) I wear my 'old' winter coat instead of my 'new' beloved winter coat. Because smelling like food the next day on my way to work makes me feel like barfing.

Still with me?

We watched The Mindy Project which is probably my favorite new sitcom of the season. Jesse even admits he enjoyed it, too. Pee Wee's opinion is unknown.

Today I had about five bajillion meetings (estimated figure) and though I've been trying to figure out a good time to see Lincoln or Flight, I knew Jesse had his heart on seeing Django Unchained. He hasn't seen it yet because when I bought my ticket to see it a few weeks ago as part of a Les Miserables double feature, Jesse joined for the later movie and it was by then sold out. So I conceded to see it again, because it's a good flick.

I liked it just as well the second time around, but I noticed the jarring editing and oddities even more than the first time. However, I didn't cover my eyes as much during the violent parts. Great performances like Christoph Waltz's were great to relish in again. Still a good movie, just not great. I think Inglourious Basterds may be Quentin Tarantino's best. Or Pulp Fiction. Those two, at the very least, are better than Django.

One of my favorite things to do is watch a movie I've seen with a person who has not seen it, though. I like knowing what's about to come and seeing if the other person will react to it in a similar way. 'Jesse will laugh out loud at this part,' I thought.

We just got home a half hour ago, caught Jessica Chastain on The Daily Show, and now I sit here writing with Pee Wee on my lap. I'll press 'publish' and then head up to bed to read more of Gillian Flynn's Dark Places before I fall asleep.

Oh, and I'll insert some cool art on this here post and call it a day.

Photos by artist Laurent Chehere for his series Flying Houses.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

And the rivulets had you riveted.

Ever since college, I've made a habit of reading the annual compilation of The Best American Magazine Writing. I recently finished the 2012 edition, and as always, found truly great writing and articles. This is one of the best editions in years, and they are always good. I didn't find one piece skippable. The thing about reading it, though, is that I want to share it and talk to people about what I read! Here are the award-winning and nominated pieces from the book, I recommend them all. Save the links to some of the articles that may interest you for your subway ride, lunch hour, downtime, etc. (And then maybe come back here and tell me what you thought.)

01 "Joplin!" by Luke Dittrich, Esquire [Winner - Feature Writing]

The first piece in the anthology, I have to admit this made me cry on the subway. Dittrich paints a wonderful and terrifying portrait of a group of people who hide in a convenience store beer freezer during the tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri. It made me appreciate my life.

02 "The Apostate" by Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker [Winner - Reporting]

I remember spending an entire lunch hour reading this when it was first posted online, and I was not surprised when I opened the book to see it there as a winner. Wright talks to Paul Haggis, famous director and Scientology defector, and delves into the rumors about the religion--to the point where a group of Scientologists showed up at The New Yorker offices to debate his research.

03 Excerpts from "The Encyclopedia of 9/11" by New York Magazine [Winner - Single Topic Issue]

Ten years later, and it's still hard to read about. The encyclopedic structure made it almost scientific, but did not take away any of the emotion. Especially the entries for 'Blue,' 'FDNY,' 'Good-Bye,' 'Television News,' and 'Total Progressive Collapse.' Since not all the entries were featured in the anthology, I'm starting to go through the others online.

04 "Wall Street Isn't Winning--It's Cheating" by Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone [Finalist - Commentary, Digital Media]

I've read Taibbi in past editions of this anthology, and I admire his anger and the ability with which he is able to articulate his points eloquently. After he describes a writer on television news dismissing the Occupy Wall Street movement because he believes "the protesters are driven by envy of the rich," Taibbi states why this is a stupid assertion, quite clearly, and for much longer than below:
...the worse the economy got, the more being a millionaire or a billionaire somehow became a qualification for high office, as people flocked to voting booths to support politicians with names like Bloomberg and Rockefeller and Corzine, names that to voters symbolized success and expertise at a time when few people seemed to have answers. At last count, there were 245 millionaires in congress, including 66 in the Senate. 
And we hate the rich? Come on. Success is the national religion, and almost everyone is a believer. Americans love winners.  But that's just the problem. These guys on Wall Street are not winning – they're cheating. And as much as we love the self-made success story, we hate the cheater that much more.
I've added his column to my RSS feeder. The book also featured "Mike Bloomberg's Marie Antoinette Moment" and "How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the OWS Protests."

05 "Too Much Information" by John Jeremiah Sullivan, GQ [Finalist - Essays and Criticism]

A great piece on the late David Foster Wallace's impact on the literary world, what it has lost, and thoughts on his final, unfinished novel.

06 "Our Man in Kandahar" by Matthieu Aikins, The Atlantic [Finalist - Reporting]

Aikins reports from Afghanistan about Abdul Raziq, the police chief of Kandahar and U.S. ally. He spent two years investigating the rumors of Raziq's brutality; it's startling.

07 "Arms and the Dudes" by Guy Lawson, Rolling Stone [Finalist - Feature Writing]

So a couple of 20-year-olds win a military contract to buy and ship arms to the war efforts in Afghanistan.  This is so strange, I laughed as I read the opening paragraphs. I actually read part of it out loud to Jesse.

08 "The Invisible Army" by Sarah Stillman, The New Yorker [Winner - Public Interest]

If you read anything on this page, read this. There's a reason this is the public interest winner -- it's about something I had no clue was happening, and didn't even think about. Who are the workers at those far-flung U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan? The workers at the PX and who clean the barracks and run the salons? This is astonishing to read.

09 "The Secret That Kills Four Women a Day" by Liz Brody, Glamour [Winner - Personal Service]

A scary article that everyone should read, not only women.

10 "The Signature Wound" by Bob Drury, Men's Health [Finalist - Public Interest]

Currently only available online as a Kindle Single, Drury's report describes what it's like for soldier's to come back from war, not only without legs, but also without genitals--the injury rarely spoken about. Drury talks to soldiers at Walter Reed and explains why the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are producing more of these kinds of wounds. After this article was published, there were significant changes in military policy.

11 "Fractured" by Susan Ince, Good Housekeeping [Finalist - Personal Service]

Another article that changed policy, you should read this if you have a mom, and probably pass it along to her (I did!) just in case she's taking preventative medicine for osteoporosis. The article demonstrates that a certain type of medicine actually has far worse side effects.

12 "Dewayne Dedmon's Leap of Faith" by Chris Ballard, Sports Illustrated [Finalist - Profile Writing]

I look forward to the sports pieces in this anthology ever since I was introduced to the great sportswriter Gary Smith in an earlier edition. For all the terrible things that are reported about in sports these days, there are still great stories. Ballard's profile of a seriously tall young man who wasn't allowed to play basketball due to religion is a just one of those great stories, told over the span of years.

13 "Paper Tigers" by Wesley Yang, New York Magazine [Winner - Essays and Criticism]

In this critical take on Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Yang writes as himself, an Asian-American, talks to others, and reports on the stereotype of the studious, successful Asian-American. The 'tiger mother' upbringing and test-taking ends at some point. An insightful piece.

14 "Game of Her Life" by Tim Crothers, ESPN the Magazine [Finalist - Profile Writing]

The unlikely story of a teenage chess champion from a slum in Uganda. Crothers juxtaposes her impoverished home life and the opportunities learning chess has given her -- like a flight to Russia to face off against other great chess players.

15 "He Is Anonymous" by Tim Rogers, D Magazine [Winner - Profile Writing]

The computer hacker group Anonymous has been making headlines ever since their crusade on Scientology began years ago, and most recently about the terrible Steubenville 'Rape Crew.' This winning profile talks to one of the 'Anonymous' hacktivists, and it's at times funny (sometimes reminding me of that '90s movie Hackers), but mostly informative. Here's your look at what makes up Anonymous.

16 "The Right to Write" by William Zinsser, The American Scholar [Winner - Commentary, Digital Media]

Zinsser is in his late eighties, and if you took any writing classes, you may have had to read his book. I thoroughly enjoyed the three columns here, but mostly this one, for this: "Sorry to be so harsh, but I don’t like people telling other people they shouldn’t write about their life. All of us earn that right by being born; one of the deepest human impulses is to leave a record of what we did and what we thought and felt on our journey." See also: "Looking for a Model" and "Content Management" (unavailable online).

17 "America's Next Top Weiner" by Joel Stein, Time [Finalist - Columns and Commentary]

Witty columns about pop culture, obviously I laughed along. See also: "Duck Tape" and "The End of Kardaschadenfreude."

18 "The Hox River Window" by Karen Russell, Zoetrope: All-Story [Winner - Fiction]

When I first started this short story, I was a bit bored after all the non-fiction I'd been reading up to this point. However, by the third page I was riveted and by the end I had goosebumps. Unfortunately, the whole story is not available online.

19 "From Abbottabad to Worse" by Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair [Winner - Columns and Commentary]

I didn't always agree with the late and great Hitchens, but I will always be in awe of his eloquent writing and rhetoric. His opinions are displayed rationally and with a certain distinguished emotion--he never lacks conviction and passion for what he believes in (or does not believe in, as it were). This column is about Pakistan, "When the King Saved God" is about the beginnings of the English-language bible (he is a famous atheist), and most poignantly is "Unspoken Truths," about being diagnosed with cancer and facing, unexpectedly, losing one's voice. (Unfortunately, this column is not posted online.)


I KNOW THAT'S A LOT. But like I said, come here if you are ever for lack of reading. Sometimes I'm at work and I think I've 'conquered' the internet, but then I look up any new works by authors I've read in past editions. I recommend all of these, but if you wanted to narrow it down I'd read (as numbered above): 01, 04, 08, 09, 10, 11, 13, and 19. Okay, that's still a lot.

Hope you enjoy!

Photos by artist Thomas Allen

Sunday, January 13, 2013


It was a good day to be a Patriots fan--Sean, Jesse, and I were certainly excited. We watched the earlier Atlanta-Seattle game with a group of really great, fun, football-loving Seattle fans that we recently came to know in the neighborhood. The tension was palpable in their apartment during the second half, and when they lost by such a small margin after that comeback we were all sad. They are good people though, and even though they were sad, they walked over to our apartment to partake in the Patriots win. Here's to taking down the Baltimore Ravens next week!!!!!

Her cat was clawing the floorboards.

Yesterday the clouds hung low over Manhattan.

My friend Jess and I decided to embark on a New York Saturday on the west side of Manhattan. We took advantage of the cloudy, cool weather conditions and walked the Highline to various galleries in Chelsea. It's a popular destination on clear days and warm days--we rather enjoyed the dead plants and the chilled urban vista.

We stopped by an exhibit entitled 'Suburbia Hamburg 1983' by Nils Karsten, which featured woodcuts of album covers and facts from that old era of punk rock. Then we wandered over to the Jonathan LeVine gallery intending to see Haroshi's repurposed skateboard decks, but it wouldn't open until later that night. We decided to seek out art in other venues of the 529 Arts Building to fill our afternoon.

We climbed back up to the Highline and headed south towards the west village to the IFC Center. We bought tickets to the next showing of the French movie Holy Motors and then looked for an eatery to kill the hour we had before the film. Luckily--another reason to love New York--a nearby restaurant was still serving brunch and limitless mimosas at four in the afternoon.

Why not see a strange, weird, Lynch-ian French film with a couple of mimosas in you?

Jess and I were swept into the world of Monsieur Oscar and his 'appointments.' He dressed in different costumes in the back of a limousine, and proceeded to act as these different characters in different situations--sometimes murdering or kidnapping or consoling his daughter or dying as an old man or simulating for video games, etc. We were never always sure what was really happening during the film, but we talked about it the entire way home on the walk and the subway ride. Was it a treatise on technology? The film business? Reality television? I enjoy films that leave their insinuations to the viewer.

How we perceived reality after Holy Motors:

When I arrived home, I sat on my bed for a few minutes, still thinking about the movie.

Then Jaime texted me and I headed out to Williamsburg to meet up with her, our friend Jenni who was visiting from Boston, Dave, Amber, Mike, and the cantankerous Granville (a profile for another day). It was great fun and ended with attempted dance floor antics. I arrived home only a few minutes past midnight, and fell asleep waiting for Jesse to return home from his own adventurous day in Philadelphia.

I do love New York. I love waking up and not knowing what I'm going to do for that day, but being assured that here, there is always something to do. It's just a matter of seeking it out. And having the right friends around to spend it with always helps.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Short and sweet to the soul.

I went to school for journalism, and I haven't had much chance to make use of my degree since graduating. Working at a corporate fashion label, I'm complimented on my clear and concise e-mails (thanks?). In my personal life, I'm that person that asks a lot of questions. One of my high school teachers told me that I should look into writing as a career at a time when I was considering being a forensic pathologist--figuring out how a person died. I'm beginning to think my true calling would be a detective. Veronica Mars-turns-30-style.

I haven't had many 'cases' to work with. If my friends start dating someone new, I'm to find out if they have a criminal record, or other unsavory facts. Have any doubts? Somebody acting shady? E-mail Jessica! Easy enough; one did and I had to pass along the headshots for multiple DUI arrests in another state. The other day my friend started reading a new blog and couldn't figure out who the blogger's vaguely referenced-to husband was (he was hanging out with famous people)--after two minutes of perusing the blog, I sent my friend the husband's Wikipedia page. Mere Googling work. Elementary, as RDJ would say.

On New Year's Eve, my best friend's husband Jon decided we should play 'Mafia' in which one person is randomly and secretly selected as a mafia hitman, and while everybody's eyes are closed he/she kills another person. The narrator, who sits out, then tells everyone who was killed and the living are left to deduce who may be the mafia hitman. I was the first killed--somebody knew my prowess in deduction--and I knew it was my best friend Kelly immediately. Smart move, Kells! In the second game, I also guessed the killer based on clues (a laugh when everyone's eyes were supposed to be closed). In the third, I had no clue because it did not make any logical sense. It was down to four of us and the hitman killed the person everybody suspected most at that moment--why would the killer choose to kill the person that could make him get away with it? Turns out, the narrator wasn't wearing her glasses and was not calling the right 'dead people.' I felt vindicated.

I know, this is really riveting detective-work.

On Monday at the office, I did exonerate someone from a co-worker's ire. I work in a room with three other people. Jon likes his coffee; he drinks it all day. I like my coffee too, but I put a lid on it so I don't spill between the kitchen and the office. Jon goes lid-less. When we came into the office on Monday morning there were splats of coffee along the floor. Our resident clean-freak and OCD'er Scott was miffed and told Jon he should clean that up, it was extremely messy of him. Jon was mystified that he could spill so much, as was I. But I kept out of it. Later that morning, walking down the hallway I noticed more drips. Next to my trash can I noticed a different spilled-coffee pattern. I turned to my co-workers and declared: Jon did not spill coffee on Friday, it was the janitor and a leaky trash bag. Somebody had thrown away a cup with coffee still in it, the janitor had gone from desk to desk pulling out the trash bags, not realizing he/she was leaking. Next to my desk they had put the leaky bag down, as I could see the trashbag wrinkles in the coffee stain. Scott apologized to Jon, and the office went back to normal. I relaxed in my swivel chair and crossed my legs on top of my desk, relaxing with a cigarette and ready to take a nap as I shoved my fedora over my eyes.

Just kidding about that last part.

Sigh. My job is really boring.

Photos by Berndnaut Smilde for his Nimbus series via Colossol

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Strong animals know when your hearts are weak.

OSCAR NOMINATION DAY! AKA my favorite "hit refresh" day at work. They started this morning at 8:30am, and I usually get to work between 8:30 and 9am. Until last year, the CBS Early Show studios were on my walk into work and I was able to stand in front of their window monitors and see the nominees live--unfortunately, they moved! Work doesn't have livestream capabilities (it hardly lets me use the blogger site) but soon enough I was refreshing a news site to get the full list. There were definitely a few surprises, but overall I was happy. Sure, it's just another awards show, but I've been watching the Academy Awards since I was a kid, and now I even have an annual party with corresponding appetizers to movies. It's fun!

Here are my thoughts -- what do you think about this year's nominees?

Best Motion Picture

Beasts of the Southern Wild
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty
Les Misérables
Life of Pi
Django Unchained

The only film I haven't seen on this list is Lincoln. I am most excited to see Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild appear, and while I shouldn't be making guesses just yet, my first instinct is that Best Picture will go to Lincoln.

Achievement in Directing

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Michael Haneke, Amour
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

What a category! My rant from Tuesday has been dignified -- NO TOM HOOPER NOMINATION! All these directors are better than Hooper, and also better than Affleck. Everybody is calling Affleck's non-inclusion as a "snub," but I'd pick any of these films' directing over Argo. I would have to say I'm disappointed Katherine Bigelow was left off the list for Zero Dark Thirty. If it was me, Russell would be left off for her -- he made a nice film, but Bigelow's directing surpasses his. Again, I haven't seen Lincoln, but y'know, SPIELBERG. Which is why this award will probably go to him.

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Denzel Washington, Flight
Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables 
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Ho ho! Bradley Cooper! I think John Hawkes in The Sessions was better than Cooper and even Jackman (and I love Jackman), but I've also loved Cooper since he played Will Tippin on ALIAS. Daniel Day-Lewis has this on lock, PER USUAL, but, maybe, perhaps... a Phoenix upset? Nah, the voters may nominate him but then they're all like "remember when you were maybe crazy or not?" Having not seen Lincoln or Flight, I would give this to Phoenix, personally--what a performance. 

Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Naomi Watts, The Impossible
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty 
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook 
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild 

Hooray for some truly great performances this year... I HAVE seen all of these films and ALL of these performances are great and deserving. I think Jessica Chastain has my ultimate vote--and not because we share a name! Zero Dark Thirty hinges on her character, it's really a character study, and she's brilliant. But I can't overlook Emmanuelle Riva in Amour (the oldest nominee for Best Actress ever) OR Quvenzhané Wallis (the youngest nominee for Best Actress ever). They're both stunning performances!

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained 
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, The Master 
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook 
Alan Arkin, Argo
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln

Surprises! I am so glad to see Christoph Waltz nominated again (come to think of it, all of these guys have been nominated and won an Oscar in the past!), and I thought we might see Leonardo DiCaprio win a nomination over him. I think Waltz was truly the better of the two in the film, but I know Leo really wants that Oscar. I still can't believe he wasn't nominated for Revolutionary Road, or even The Departed. This will probably go to Jones. I know I'm the only person that was bored by Hoffman. Arkin was good, but not great. I was surprised by De Niro's performance--it was the best I've seen him in years.

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role 

Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Amy Adams, The Master

I'm so glad Helen Hunt got nominated, and I'd give the Oscar to her. She's so great in The Sessions and I would think it was a lead role, but that's neither here nor there now. It's been so long since I'd seen her on screen and it reminded me what a great actress she truly is. I'm a bit perplexed by Jacki Weaver's nomination, and while I think she is a great actress (see Animal Kingdom), her role didn't merit much in the film as a whole.

Original Screenplay

Flight, John Gatins
Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal
Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Amour, Michael Haneke
Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola

Okay, now I really need to see Flight I guess! The four I have seen are all masterful works... Boal with his research, Tarantino with his dialogue, Haneke with his economy, and Anderson/Coppola with their nostalgic take on youth. I really liked all of these scripts... it's hard to choose! I won't choose. Until later.

Adapted Screenplay

Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin
Argo, Chris Terrio
Lincoln, Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell
Life of Pi, David Magee

Lincoln will most likely win, but all of these are great adaptations -- right now I want it to go to Beasts of the Southern Wild for giving us the force that is Hushpuppy.

Best Foreign-Language Film

Amour (Austria)
No (Chile)
War Witch (Canada)
A Royal Affair (Den)
Kontiki (Norway)

I haven't seen any of these except for Amour, but I'm not sure any of them can beat the foreign film that was nominated for overall best picture...

Original Score

Anna Karenina, Dario Marianelli
Argo, Alexandre Desplat
Life of Pi, Mychael Danna
Lincoln, John Williams
Skyfall, Thomas Newman

HURRAH! The soundtrack that I've been playing on repeat -- and which I mentioned in my Top Albums of 2012 post -- was Dario Marianelli's score for Anna Karenina. And while I would have loved for Jude Law and Keira Knightley to be nominated, I'm glad it wasn't completely shutout (lo siento, The Dark Knight Rises!). The music is a true component of the storytelling in this film...I vote for it! I suppose I will have to take another listen to the other scores, though. I will say none of them stuck with me after the movie like Marianelli's did. The only other soundtrack that stuck out was the music for Beasts of the Southern Wild by Dan Romer--listen to "Once There Was a Hushpuppy." So much still makes me all kinds of emotional.

Original Song

"Before My Time," J. Ralph; Chasing Ice
"Pi's Lullaby," Mychael Danna & Bombay Jayashri; Life of Pi
"Suddenly," Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boulil; Les Misérables 
"Everybody Needs a Best Friend," Walter Murphy & Seth McFarlane; Ted
"Skyfall," Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth; Skyfall

Ugh, Ted got nominated? On the real? Okay, I suppose this has to go to Adele and "Skyfall," because that song really is great. Here's what that Les Miserables song was like to me... I have never seen the broadway show, heard the music, nor seen another film. When the movie gets to "Suddenly" I definitely perked up because it was not that great of a song (that's how bored I was), took place in a carriage ride, and could have been cut from the film entirely and nobody would have noticed... then I was like, "OH, this is the Oscar bait." (Since only original songs, not songs that have been written for other productions can be nominated.) It's not a good song.

Achievement in Cinematography

Anna Karenina, Seamus McGarvey
Django Unchained, Robert Richardson
Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda
Lincoln, Janusz Kaminski
Skyfall, Roger Deakins

ANNA! ANNA! ANNA! But: all of these are great. Deakins is a legend without an Oscar yet despite ten nominations, perhaps this will be his year. Life of Pi is also worthy. I might have replaced Django, however -- with The Master, which was not even nominated. Though it is a flawed film, the cinematography was breathtaking. If it was in this category, I'd give it the win.

Achievement in Costume Design

Anna Karenina, Jacqueline Durran
Les Misérables, Paco Delgado
Lincoln, Joanna Johnston
Mirror Mirror, Eiko Ishioka
Snow White and the Huntsman, Colleen Atwood

I knew we'd see Colleen Atwood's name here, and that's because she made some truly awe-inspiring costumes for that film. They were WOW when you look at the details. I'm talking ravens skulls as part of the evil queen's dress above... gorgeous. Of course, I wanted every single dress that Anna wore. ALL OF THEM, GIVE THEM TO ME. Those are my votes.

Achievement in Visual Effects

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Life of Pi
Marvel's The Avengers
Snow White and the Huntsman

Ah, visual effects! The only place we see The Avengers and Prometheus. These all had stunning effects... I think Life of Pi will probably take it, but I can't stop thinking about those effects in Prometheus...

Again, I think it was such a great year in film that there were quite a few surprises, and I'm excited for the awards (minus the host). Good thing the Golden Globes are this week (after the Patriots take down the Texans!), and I'm looking forward to it mainly because Amy Poehler! Tina Fey! As the Oscars near I'll post my final predictions...until then, may the odds be ever in your favor!