Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Flickr: Ice-hockeying women in bathing suits

From photo description:
Vrouwen spelen ijshockey in badpak, St. Paul Lake, Minneapolis, Verenigde Staten van Amerika, 24 januari 1925.

Ice-hockeying women in bathing suits. Minneapolis, USA, 1925.
I'm adding this to the "Minnesotans are Cray-Cray" pile, along with my husband's claim that ice cream is a winter food.

Muse, "Resistance"

I saw Muse semi-accidentally at the 2006 Download Festival; I went primarily to watch TV On The Radio, The Shins, and Beck, but Muse totally blew everyone away with their live performance. I have been hoping to catch them again, but they rarely come to this part of the US.

However, I can kind of recreate the experience with their newest video, "Resistance." They even break out the green lasers. Via Spinner.

(On a side note, I found some really great photos from the 2006 Download Festival here if you want to take a look).

Monday, January 25, 2010

Flickr: Walter Reed fashion show, ca. 1956

WRAMC DPW 09-4934-1, originally uploaded by otisarchives1.

From photo caption:
[From letter:] Fashion Show at Walter Reed. May 11, 1956. TV singer, Denise Lor, will be a featured guest at the "Cabana Fashion Show" for patients and personnel of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, that will be held in the Formal Gardens of the Center May 16 at 2:00 P.M. At the Show some of the outstanding fashion models in the Washington Area will present the season's latest beach and vacation wear for women, while members of the Walter Reed staff will model the men' summer wear. A combo from the U.S. Army Band will furnish musical entertainment for the show; Miss Pat Mayfield, Washington fashion coordinator, will be commentator. The entire production is under the direction of Miss Estelle Druskin. Apparel for the show will be furnished by local clothing shops. [Portraits.] [Scene.] [Walter Reed General Hospital (Washington, D.C.). Walter Reed Army Medical Center. WRAMC.] Folder 54 : Main Section, Personnel and Events, Personnel. Credit: Walter Reed Army Medical Center Garrison Directorate of Public Works Archive

Sunday, January 24, 2010

sometimes First Exposures be like that

Hakim showing frustration

Hakim trying to figure out his sticker during a First Exposures icebreaker. It was "Gavin Newsom."

Questlove's expalanation of walk-on music financial structures

Questlove (drummer and bandleader for The Roots), is a prolific twitterer. He occasionally posts stuff on Twitter that leaks over onto outside sites because 140 characters is just not enough to express some of the really fascinating thoughts and opinions he has on music, etc. I've usually don't crawl into the rabbit hole for these often, since I access Twitter through my iPhone, but I happened to click on one of his missives from today, about the financial structures of walk-on music. It was inspired by this tweet that he posted regarding Tom Hank's walk-on music ("Lovely Rita" by the Beatles) on Friday during Conan O'Brien's last Tonight Show.

Questlove Itw, originally uploaded by Jacques-O.

I would definitely take a few minutes to read this, if you're at all interested in this topic. There were a lot of things that I learned from this, such as any time a supermarket plays music in their stores, they have to pay the fees to use it. Or that there seems to be a hierarchy of fees depending on who you talk to. There are probably others. However, the latter fact is exemplified by this story Questlove recounts:
back when i was the music guy at the chapelle show, outkast's publisher might tell us they want $150,000 for "the way you move" in that puffy/real world/fonzworth bentley/cambodian breast milk sketch....BUT if you just ring up Big Boi and explain to him the nature of the sketch and how we just want 6 secs of it next thing you know Big Boi says "ill tell my lawyers to request the standard basic rate....if yall write me into a sketch"

deal done. we get our outkast song for 10 secs, dave and neal write big boi in that "nick cannon is hiwwalrious" sketch and the rest is comedy history.

Friday, January 22, 2010

saving best for first: the first song

I'm a huge proponent of the first song on an album; it's the make-or-break track for me. If the first song doesn't grab me, it's hard for me to appreciate the songs that follow. I value the first song so much, in fact, that it's sometims possible to notch up a weaker album for me on the strength of that first song.

(yay to "I Don't Feel Like Dancing"; meh to the rest of the album)

Inspired by this post over at Hulu Seventy, here are my favorite first songs (for which I can find linked media):

  1. Basement Jaxx, featuring Lisa Kekaula, "Good Luck"

  2. Beach Boys, "Wouldn't It Be Nice"

  3. Belle and Sebastian, "Stars of Track and Field"

  4. Ben Folds Five, "One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces"

  5. Bjork, "Hunter"

  6. Blonde Redhead, "23"

  7. Califone, "Horoscopic.Amputation.Honey"

  8. Camera Obscura, "Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken"

  9. Cat Power, "The Greatest"

  10. Coldplay, "Don't Panic"

  11. The Decemberists, "The Crane Wife 3"

  12. Ephemera, "Last Thing"

  13. The Flaming Lips, "Fight Test"

  14. Gnarls Barkley, "Go-Go Gadget Gospel"

  15. I'm From Barcelona, "Oversleeping"

  16. Janet Jackson, "Control"

  17. Les Nubians, "Demain (Jazz)"

  18. Kings of Convenience, "Winning a Battle, Losing the War"

  19. Love, "Alone Again Or"

  20. Metallica, "Enter Sandman"

  21. Michael Jackson, "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough"

  22. Radiohead, "Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box"

  23. Ryan Adams, "New York, New York"

  24. Scissor Sisters, "I Don't Feel Like Dancing"

  25. The Shins, "Kissing the Lipless"

  26. The Smiths, "The Queen Is Dead (Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty)"

  27. Stars, "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead"

  28. They Might Be Giants, "Birdhouse in Your Soul"

  29. Tori Amos, "Pretty Good Year"

  30. TV On The Radio, "Satellite"

  31. Twilight Sad, "Cold Days from the Birdhouse"

  32. The Weepies, "Can't Go Back Now"

  33. Weezer, "Tired of Sex"

  34. Weezer, "My Name is Jonas"

  35. Wilco, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart"

(I'm realizing that there's no hip-hop on this list, mostly because first tracks for that genre tend to be "intros" or "preludes" and not a fully-formed song).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Crazy Heart

I saw Crazy Heart on Monday. I was really looking forward to Jeff Bridges' performance, and he didn't disappoint. He usually plays such quirky characters that I usually try not to go into his movies with any expectations, and I am almost always impressed. The story is a little prosaic, but it has a bittersweet ending that somehow satisfies.

Other pleasant surprises:
  1. Maggie Gyllenhaal, whose performances usually wind up being distracting for me (I have no idea why), was actually quite good in this one.

  2. Colin Farrell (who I did not expect to see AT ALL) is a surprisingly good singer. He is perhaps less successful at affecting a southern accent.

  3. The music is fantastic. Spinner is streaming the entire album right now. I would definitely have a listen.

Acorn Mittens, by The Sitting Tree

Can I just say that I love these mittens?

Via simplesong.

Stanford Mini-Med School: now available on iTunes

Stanford's continuing education course, Stanford Mini-Med School (previous post here) is now iTunes. From Open Culture:
We’ve posted the first two lectures (in video), and eight more lectures will soon be coming online. (They will also eventually appear on YouTube).

Abraham Verghese gave the inaugural lecture for the mini-med school course in the fall. Since this video is only available on iTunes at this point, I'm going to embed this video of Dr. Verghese responding to questions during one of his virtual office hours:

OK Go, "This Too Shall Pass"

I love marching band ephemera; my circa-1996 band geek squees in delight. Here's OK Go's new video, "This Too Shall Pass," with the Notre Dame Marching Band.

OK Go - This Too Shall Pass from OK Go on Vimeo.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Julia Child's french onion soup

I made French onion soup from Julia's The Way To Cook book. Here's the recipe (I did not make my own beef stock, but please don't stone me). It was the first recipe I made by her. Watch out, Julie Powell.

french onion soup

It took about 6 hours, and was worth every moment.

french onion soup

foggy palo alto morning

foggy morning

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mos Def and K'naan: first hip-hop act featured on Austin City Limits

So, it looks like Mos Def and K'naan will be the first hip-hop artists performing exclusively on Austin City Limits.

Now, I don't necessarily fault ACL for not featuring any hip-hop artists; the show started out featuring mostly music coming out of Texas (country, Tejano, etc.), and while it started expanding into other genres, the featured artists sort of remained firmly entrenched in, well, not hip-hop.

However, I take issue with this quote from Terry Lacona, the producer of ACL:
When I asked him why no rappers had been exclusively featured before, he noted the difficulty of finding acts whose lyrics weren't, in his own words, "sexist, or tinged with violence."

OK, really, I have a problem with this generalization of hip-hop. But in addition, I have an issue with this because ACL has featured artists such as The Decemberists, whom I love, but who have lyrics tinged with questionable intentions. Such as these:
What can one do when one is widower
Shamefully saddled with three little pests
All that I wanted was the freedom of a new life
So my burden I began to divest...
Charlotte I buried after feeding her foxglove
Dawn was easy, she was drowned in the bath
Isaiah fought but was easily bested
Burned his body for incurring my wrath...
"The Rake's Song," The Decemberists. Listen here.

Or these:
As I was a-ramble
Down by the water
I spied in sable
The landlord's daughter
I produced my pistol, then my saber
Said, "Make no whistle or thou will be murdered!"

She cursed, she shivered
She cried for mercy
"My gold and silver if thou will release me!"

"I'll take no gold, miss, I'll take no silver
But I'll take those sweet lips, and thou will deliver!"
"The Island," The Decemberists. Listen here.

OK, look. There's lots of hip-hop artists that tell socially-conscious, non-misogynistic stories. And The Decemberists are fabulous musicians that bring storytelling back into indie rock. However, please don't use the content of mainstream, popular hip-hop to exclude the entire genre. Just because violent lyrics are accompanied by accordions and melodicas doesn't make it any less disturbing, and you can't hold one genre of music to a different standard than another. Fin.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sandhill Fields, Stanford

Sandhill fields

Before it started to rain.

love song to Virgin America

For the last year or so, I've flown Virgin America exclusively from San Francisco to Las Vegas. One, I get to fly out of the international terminal at SFO. But mostly two, VX is an incredible domestic airline that makes air travel a real pleasure (and after some not-so-fun trips with the Delta/Northwest chimera, I more than ever appreciate an airline trying to create positive experiences for their customers). I've flown so much that, to my surprise, I was able to accumulate enough points for a free trip back home over President's Day weekend.

I was so excited by this discovery that...I accidentally booked the wrong weekend. Well, crap. I called customer service within 12 hours, hoping that the resolution would be to get my miles back for a $50-100 fee.

Well, the good news is that because I booked with my miles, Virgin would be able to reinstate my miles (for no fee - yippee!) after canceling the flight, and that I could rebook upon receipt of them (the representative assured me this would be within 24 hours).

Then the following took place:
  • Wednesday morning: original customer service call/plea to cancel my flight and reinstate my miles. Aforementioned CS rep said they'd be back in my account in 24 hours.

  • Thursday morning: miles not returned. Virgin America website says 48 hours. I decide to wait.

  • Friday morning: miles still not returned. I call CS again. This representative says that it should take 2-3 days, and to call back if the miles aren't back in my account by that night.

  • Saturday morning: miles still not returned. I call CS again. THIS representative seems perplexed that the miles are not reinstated. She puts me on hold to investigate. She comes back on, says that the original rep (from Wednesday morning) canceled my flight incorrectly, which is why the miles are not back in my account. She regretfully informs me that she has to bump it up to corporate, but that it may take 7 days (she's attached a note for an expedited process). She is very, very sorry. She says that if she were in my position she would be "furious."

I'm bummed, but not furious. It is, in fact, my fault that this is even happening. I keep checking on Sunday, then on Monday. No miles. Sad panda face. I have heard of good things that happen with the Virgin America Twitter account. So, in a last-ditch effort, I tweet this at 3:54 pm on Monday:

At 4:52 pm, I receive this direct message:

What, what, what?

I e-mail the contact person with my story. He replies a couple of hours later, saying that he will discuss my situation with the Elevate team (Virgin America's loyalty program) and give me an update in the morning.

ONE HOUR after he sends this, I receive an e-mail from Virgin America's guest loyalty program manager. She is sorry for the inconvenience. She has reinstated my miles. I am flabergasted. I rebook my flight. The price (in points) has gone up in the 6 days since my original error (I have to pay for some of the flight), but I do not even care because THIS IS A TOTALLY AWESOME CUSTOMER SERVICE EXPERIENCE. This has pretty much guaranteed that I will fly Virgin whenever possible. Thank you, Virgin America, for really pulling out all the stops to get this resolved!

Brittney Cooper, PhD "All The Single Ladies"

My friend from college, Dr. Brittney Cooper, wrote a post on Race Talk re: the "black marriage dilemma", which is basically the argument that educated, professional black women are doomed for spinsterhood if they set their sites on marrying a black man. It's a topic that has been covered ad nauseum historically, but especially in the aftermath of the Barack Obama era (see here, here, and here).

Brittney's post is well-written and thoughtful (she's trained in feminist studies, so take that into account when you read it), and I appreciate how she calls out the tendency to blame black women for this situation, or that this is even a situation that is unique to black women. She also steers clear of the most common critique of her perspective: black male bashing. Instead, she holds our social systems at fault.
Many African American men have become hypersensitive to any level of critique about Black relationships because of the social and political assault on the Black male body and image. This has created a tendency among some Black men to refuse to acknowledge the validity of Black women’s point-of-view....Black women erroneously accept personal responsibility for what is ultimately a social problem, generations in the making...

...let’s seriously rethink our investments in a patriarchal gender role system that harms black families in multiple ways. Patriarchy makes women feel guilty for prioritizing careers alongside parenting and men feel less masculine for taking an active role in the home. It makes men feel insecure when women earn more money and causes women to overlook brothers who are good providers, perhaps not financially, but emotionally and parentally.
I don't necessarily think that marriage is the ultimate cause of self-actualization for women or men, but it's not my place to judge people who want it. If this is someone's goal in life, they shouldn't be blamed for trying to achieve other personally-fulfilling goals concurrently. There's someone for everyone, and I don't believe that people have to change who they are to find it.

(As a side note, congrats to Brittney for getting her article picked up on Huffington Post!)

Ghosts In A Burning City now on iTunes, Amazon

More Las Vegas music news: my friend Josh Ellis's album Ghosts in a Burning City (I wrote about his album here) is now available for purchase on Amazon.com and iTunes. Congratulations, Josh!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Big Friendly Corporation KNPR radio interview and performance

My friends' band Big Friendly Corporation (referenced in this earlier post) recorded an interview and performance for KNPR, and it aired today. You can listen to it here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

NYTimes: "Disposed Of" - homeless in Japan

The NY Times photography blog Lens has a really great post about homeless, aging laborers in Osaka's Kamagasaki district. I've come across this population before while wandering around Osaka; they are an unseen group - literally. Japanese people are excellent at not seeing things that make them uncomfortable, and some of these men live hidden under bridges and overpasses. However, they have built strong communities of their own, and create their own support structures while being ignored by everyone else.

photograph by Fukada Shiho

The greatest myth in all of Japan is that everyone is middle class, and this causes a dissonance in which people who fall below this line are deemed to not exist. Despite this, they still attempt to contribute. From the post:
“It’s a community of lonely isolated individuals living together,” [Fukada Shiho, the photographer] said. “One man told me that if you don’t see someone for one week, you just assume that they’re dead.”

But despite their bleak situation, many maintain a strong sense of pride and an eagerness to work.

Anthropologie Corset-Cinch One-Piece

After having to run back in the house this morning for my scarf, I'm thinking ahead to summer, and daydreaming about sitting on burning hot concrete while dipping my feet in a pool. And wearing this.

Big Friendly Corporation, And So It Goes...

Another musical group with which my friends in Las Vegas are involved is a band called Big Friendly Corporation. My best friend Melissa Marth plays keyboard/keyboard-like instruments and sings; she and her brother Ryan write most of the songs. This band is a lot of fun to see live, if you ever get the chance.

Oh, wait! You do have the chance. They're having an album release party/show on Friday, January 8, 2010 at the Aruba Showroom.

I've been listening the crap out of their new album, And So It Goes...You can also listen to it at their website, if you'd like.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Hulu Seventy: 59 things

window full, originally uploaded by girlhula.

Andrea over at Hulu Seventy had a great end-of-year post about all the wonderful, serendipitous things that occurred over the year. Really beautiful, whimsical stuff.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Murakami Haruki and his women characters

Something that has always bothered me about Murakami's writing is his tendency to use women as plot devices that are suddenly picked up and dropped at various points during the narrative. It's interesting to read his reasoning behind it in this interview with John Wray for the Paris Review:
In my books and stories, women are mediums, in a sense; the function of the medium is to make something happen through herself. It’s a kind of system to be experienced. The protagonist is always led somewhere by the medium and the visions that he sees are shown to him by her...

My protagonist is almost always caught between the spiritual world and the real world. In the spiritual world, the women—or men—are quiet, intelligent, modest. Wise. In the realistic world, as you say, the women are very active, comic, positive. They have a sense of humor. The protagonist’s mind is split between these totally different worlds and he cannot choose which to take...

In other words, the protagonist is supported by two women; without either of them, he could not go on.
Although I appreciate his distinction between the spiritual/unreal world with the real/sane world, it just feels too repetitively convenient to keep seeing this same trope throughout each of his stories (however, he did shake it up a bit with a transgendered character in Kafka On The Shore). I don't know if it's fair to expect a male writer who identifies so closely with his male protagonists to see outside of that perspective and form fully-realized female characters. It creates a disconnect for me, however, and interrupts my enjoyment of stories that are otherwise beautiful and moving.

my neighborhood

There was a time when the Las Vegas neighborhood I lived in was considered rather affluent. There are still some really nice houses here, but the creep has become apparent.

my neighborhood