August 4, 2011

Preserve Your Memories, They're All That's Left You

Howdy and Happy August to you, peeps!

I can't make any excuses for my posting lag, this time, besides utter laziness. Like many of you, I'm sure, the heat has been atrocious where I live. And the weather does not inspire productivity. I've been very nostalgic for this past spring. Or better yet, a time machine to catapult me into this coming autumn.

August should be an interesting month. I am broke as a joke for good reasons (both list-related, so I shall not reveal.) So while I recover financially, I'm laying low at home. Perhaps this will inspire more frequent posting. Or perhaps not. But at the very least, I'll try and catch you up to date.

List Item #100 - Have Professional Photos Taken


I figured it was about time I cop to the origins of my new banner. Not that I was keeping it a secret. I am alternately in awe of it, but also a little bashful about its boldness. It's so swanky and professional and I am...well...not. I never could have pulled such a thing off by myself, so I had a little help from an uber fabulous reader and longtime internet friend, Kathryn Kaye. Who just also happens to do photography for a living.

So yeah. That's little old me, up there vamping it for the camera in the outrageous purple frock of my dreams. If you've been following me since Closet365, you probably know that (with very few exceptions) I've always taken my own photos, with a crappy point-and-shoot and a tripod. No big thing. There was also this whole little issue of me hating to have my own picture taken. At least I used to hate it. Taking one's own picture and putting it on the internet, every day, for a year, tends to lessen one's inhibitions where portraiture is concerned.

Still, I remain extremely self-conscious about being captured on camera. My own photoshoots consist of hundreds of takes. Thank you self timer! And I sort through them obsessively until I find maybe one or two that I don't totally hate. I am that person who un-tags themself in every picture you could ever put on Facebook and cringes at social gatherings, when someone insists upon busting out the point-and-shoot. I may have conquered my initial fear of being photographed, but it's still an angsty issue for me.

On the other hand, I've been admiring Kathryn's work forever, and I've never seen a bad shot. Thus, when she approached me about doing a fun fashion shoot for her portfolio, I decided not only to do it, but add it to my list. See, THE LIST is all about experiencing new things, many of which are new to me and force me outside my comfort bubble.

I saw this photoshoot as both a personal challenge, but also a lovely way to commemorate some of the other obstacles I've overcome in this crazy little life, lately. If I could wear 365 outfits, and photograph them, and blog about it every day for a year, throughout even the toughest phase of my life, surely I could handle putting on one more outfit (or two) and going pro.


As soon as agreed, I became super excited for the shoot. Kathryn had very few specifications, other than giving me a feel for the settings and asking me to just bring some dress options. Dresses? Did someone say dresses? Why! I've got a few of those! I agonized a bit about this, but ultimately picked out a couple of my favorites. And the rest I guess, is obvious.

We met up back in April in Denver, as we both hail from parts nearby. It was a ridiculously windy day, which wrecked my hair pretty much the second I stepped from my car. Still, the wind was no match for our dynamic camera/dress duo as we hit the streets. At first, I was very uncertain as to how this whole thing was supposed to work, but my photographer friend put me very at ease. Kathryn merely told me to do what I always do in front of the camera. Which posed another challenge. I've always tried to conduct my photo shoots away from prying eyes. It didn't always work, but for the most part, I know how to evade onlookers while posing for my pictures.

I felt a little awkward at first. I may have watched my fair share of Top Model marathons, but I never ever consider myself photogenic or model-esque. I'm not sure I ever did manage to bring the fierceness, but I did eventually loosen up to the extent that I would for my own picture-taking shenanigans. After some more casual shots in my first dress, we ventured downtown. It was there that I adapted quickly to the creation of a public spectacle.

As it turns out, prancing around in an obnoxious purple dress and four-inch heels is not your everyday occurrence in downtown Denver. (I maintain, I haven't gotten the memo, but to each her own.) Most people kept their staring to polite surreptitious glances. But while posing against the bright yellow backdrop of the Curtis Hotel, one man felt the need to yell catcalls from his car, which then inspired the man behind him to yell back at him. I'm still not sure if he was defending my honor or just irritated with the holdup.

The rest of the magic, I assume happened on Kathryn's end, because...damn...I love these pictures. Although I still feel a tinge of vanity when I look at them, mostly I'm just so impressed at how they turned out. I was convinced that my awkwardness would ooze through even the most meticulous Photoshop handiwork. (Check out her mad editing skillz on her own blog post about the experience.) But when I look at these pictures, I just see myself. Poised and calm. Ready for the next challenge. And that, I believe, is a testament to some beautiful beautiful airbrushing.


If anything, I've been remiss to take my own pictures again, since this experience. It's like the difference between posing for Annie Leibovitz and mugging for the TMZ crew. I might have been afraid of her fancy lens before, but now I just want Kathryn Kaye to follow me around and be my paparazzi every day of the week. Sigh.

At the end of the day, I came away feeling inspired. Not only did I have a wonderful time working with Kathryn, but I now have a collection of amazing shots to remember the experience by. Photographic evidence of a risk taken, that also happened to pay off.

Title courtesy of Simon and Garfunkel - "Bookends"

Images courtesy of
Kathryn Kaye Photography

July 22, 2011

All I Know Is I'm Clean as a Whistle, Baby

G'day friends! Hope the summer is treating you well. I've been a busy busy girl myself. But if you're so inclined, do tell me how life is going. I know this blog doesn't illicit as much commentary as say a fashion blog. But I do so enjoy hearing from you guys when it happens.

In the meantime - a little music, yes?

100 Great Albums - #95 "Exile in Guyville"

Ahem. Liz Phair. As I mentioned earlier in the week, I was going for a sort of roundabout theme pertaining to relationships with my media selections. Which then somehow became more of a quick study on gender relations, as I delved into "Rabbit, Run" and "Annie Hall." So I thought, what's better to round out the discussion that some angry chick rock from the early 90s? Enter Liz Phair.

For starters, I find her a really interesting choice for the VH1 list. The original TIME list of albums took a different approach by including P.J. Harvey and Hole on their list to meet the alternachick quota. And I have to say I would have much preferred either, just based on my own personal nostalgia. In the 1990s, I'd wager that most girls of my generation found some sort of affiliation to the girl rocker movement. It was a great time to find feminine solace in music, but that said, a girl's got preferences.

I have this theory that you can tell a lot about a girl by which 90s rock iconess she claims allegiance too. Obviously, anyone that cites Fiona Apple is a kindred spirit to me. I personally find myself intimidated by anyone who was cool enough to be up on their Poe. Gwen Stefani enthusiasts are a lighter hearted bunch. But I have yet to meet a Tori Amos fan that wasn't completely a completely abrasive human being. And then there's Liz.

Perhaps my angst about Liz Phair is completely personal. Although she was off my radar in her prime, she turned relatively mainstream in the early 2000s and regained momentum with her self-titled release. So. I have this vivid memory of being on a California roadtrip with a friend that made me listen to "Why Can't I Breathe?" on a loop for the vast majority of our ride down the PCH, with only occasional allowances for "Extraordinary." And as a result of that complete overexposure, I haven't really been able to stomach Liz Phair for some time.

Have you ever had a friendship that turns into a complete psychodrama? Like one minute you're in this whirlwind bonding phase. You just met but already you have sooo much in common! You're besties for life! Sisters from another mister! Attached at the hip 24/7! Like, the same person in two different bodies! OMG! And it starts out really exciting but before you know it, that intensity turns to a quibble over something small, which then gets blown way out of proportion and suddenly everything goes completely awry. All of a sudden words get heated, the claws come out you're like Sweetheart, there is NO need for this level of drama from someone I'm not even romantically involved with so STEP OFF. And then you never talk to that bitch ever again in your life.

No? Well maybe it's just me then. But in any event, my formative years were filled with a number of these scenarios. I now know. Lessons learned: 1) Bitches be crazy. 2) Don't make friends with girls named Erin, or Ashley spelled in a non-traditional way. 3) Stay far far away if the girl in question has ever been employed by Starbucks. And 4). Especially, especially if she expresses any inkling of fandom for Liz Phair. I'm serious. Fool me once...shame on me. Fool me four or five times? Well...Let's just say these days, I keep my distance where females are involved, unless we've already got some sort of long-standing drama free friendship. You live and learn.

I had a point here. Oh yes. So. Prior to busting out "Exile in Guyville" I had some pretty fraught opinions about Liz Phair. Still, the angsty 90s chick-rock-listening, 13-year-old girl in me never really died. So I decided to embrace my mission. In my early teens, I was all about that scene. I didn't understand half of what was going on in these songs, but I wore my flannel and my eyeliner and listened to "Live Through This" like it was my job. If anything it's strange that I don't have a lot of knowledge of Liz Phair, given my history. She's like that girl at the party that I never talked to even though we ran with the same friends. A mutual acquaintance running around the perimeter of my social circle. It was time to introduce myself.

As albums go, this is an intimidating one. One of the things that struck me right off was just how drippingly nineties it is. Fair enough since it was released in 1993. Even though I'd never listened to any of these songs before, it felt oddly familiar. Which in the end, though, it kind of what I wound up not loving about the album. The 1990s were very much a time and a place, but these days the message of "Guyville" feels so incredibly dated. It's a very tired refrain, this whole I'm-a-pretty-but-pissed-off-girl. And-men-are-awful-and-they-hurt-you-but-I'm-gonna-sleep-with-them-anyway-and-fuck-you-for-judging-me-I'm-so-miserable-yet-so-cool thing. Set to strummy guitar and melancholy riffs. It's a slightly edgy episode of "Friends." The One Where Phoebe Gets Chlamydia.

And I get that there was a time when this movement was new and empowering and it meant something. I can appreciate that "Exile in Guyville" was really one of the early albums that sparked an entire movement. It belongs on the VH1 list for its groundbreaking attributes. I just didn't find it particularly uplifting in modern-day context. Or even shocking. Just sort of a musical been there/done that. Which is not to say that it lacks truth. As a lyricist, Liz Phair packs a hell of a confessional punch. At the party, she's the girl that even though you've just met, she's already telling you her life story and making everybody uncomfortable. (See: "Fuck and Run")

It's said that Liz Phair, penned this album as a call and response to the Stones' album "Exile on Main Street" and had I known that, I might have done further investigation which might have aided my appreciation. Maybe the problem isn't you, Liz Phair. Maybe it's me.

Listening to "Exile in Guyville" for nearly two weeks, I admit I found it cathartic at times. Eventually 1990s Jenny won out and I was digging on the mood with songs like "Help Me Mary" , "6'1"", and "Mesmerizing." Other times it's just the one-liners that get you to the core: The fire that you like so much in me, is the mark of someone adamantly free ("Strange Loop") or You put in my hands a loaded gun and then told me not to fire it. ("Divorce Song") This album for me was equally enlightening to me as it was a big huge downer and I haven't yet been able to reconcile that.

Musically, it's pretty simple but it did make for good driving music. Many a night, did I find myself singing along in a low pitch, windows down, just feeling the various emotional depths of the songs. "Exile in Guyville" is not a light listen.

Perhaps my discomfort with Liz Phair stems from the fact that they just don't make music like this anymore. My nerves have been soothed into submission by the likes of Katy Perry and Brit Brit, et al. Yes, chick rock has devolved greatly in this millennium. These days, edgy means Ke$ha showing her bra straps on purpose. The new generation lacks anthems and power ballads. Which really, is a shame if you think about it. There ought to be a happy medium, and maybe there is somewhere out there in the indie scene. It's just hard to cut through all that cotton candy radio static.

So now I'm not sure where Liz Phair and I stand. I find her a little intense and possibly a bad influence. I think she's worth talking to for perspective and cautionary tale, but I'm not about to go taking relationship advice. She's intriguing, yet she makes me nervous. I'm glad we met, but the next time I see her at a party, I think I'm making a beeline across the room for polite jibjab with Alanis Morrisette.

Title courtesy of Liz Phair - "Never Said"

Supplemental Materials:
*"Exile in Guyville" Wikipedia page
*"Exile in Guyville: The Oral History" courtesy of The Village Voice

July 17, 2011

And We Still Watch Movies, but We Don't Share the Couch

Oh joy. It's that time again, during which I get to fight with Blogger to write an entry. If I disappear from this scene one of these days, I'm afraid there won't be a big link off to my new hiding place. But rest assured it will not be on this Godawful platform. I know I bitch about it constantly, but I haven't gotten over the fact that I can't center my own banner. If any of you lurkers are savvy about these things and holding out on me, I beg of you to send me an email with any advice for fixing it. In the meantime, I reserve my right to whine ceaselessly. So there.

On the topic of whining ceaselessly...let's talk about Woody Allen!

100 Great Films: #35 "Annie Hall"

"Annie Hall" is a movie I've wanted to see for some time. A source for endless pop culture references, not to mention various androgynous fashion trends, it's been on my radar forever. If only because I have a long-standing vendetta against Diane Keaton's outfits, and I've long suspected that "Annie Hall" is their film of origin. For what it's worth, I read that Diane Keaton was dressing that way before the film and Woody Allen actually let her use her own outfits as costumes. Not that that lends any validity to bad dress, but I guess I give her kudos for being true blue. Or something.

In any event. I finally recently took in what is arguably Woody Allen's most famous film. I've never been a huge Allen buff, but it has more to do with my lack of context. I've only seen a handfl of his more obscure films, but have always intended to take in more. Poor Woody sort of fell out of vogue right around the time that I turned old enough to appreciate film and his child bride Soon Yi, turned old enough to buy cigarettes. But the few works of his I have seen, have always intrigued me. Woody Allen is an icon. And in spite of his personal issues (of which he has in spades) there is still something loveable about a man who can write that kind of intellectual dialogue and craft such precise commentary on people and relationships. I'd argue that his brilliance is subtle. But it definitely exists.

So I had pretty high expectations for "Annie Hall" that it would explain everything I ever needed to know about dating and relationships. As someone who's not ready to re-enter that world completely, I prefer to stay off the grid and do my "research" from afar. I find that most of what pop culture has to say about men and women and their relationships is harsh and mildly terrifying. Fortunately, however, this is hardly the case with "Annie Hall." It's actually vaguely optimistic and a fun romp through 1970s dating life. The story is seen through the eyes of Alby Singer (Allen) a neurotic comedian type who already has two failed marriages under his belt when he meets bohemian Annie Hall and they begin a relationship.

The relationship has it's ups and downs. Okay. It's... less that ideal. For one thing, they aren't a very good match. But what breaks the relationship, I'm convinced, is not their differences, but rather Alvy's obsession with their differences. If there is anything terrifying about this movie, it's the Alvy character. Woody Allen (playing himself, basically) is the ulimate annoying male. He's emasculated to a point, but mostly by himself. He's cloying and insecure. And rather than just dealing with these issues for the 15 years that he's been in therapy, he chooses to take these issues out on Annie. He constantly feels the need to point out her shortcomings, the most pressing of which being her intellegence and her ideals. I found him to be relentlessly irritating. If only because I've only been single since early this year, and I feel like I've already dated this guy.

Who knew, I would ever side with a badly dressed Diane Keaton character in a movie. I've never been a huge fan. But in "Annie Hall" I think she's onto something. Again, I read that the title character is actually very closely based on Diane Keaton and her real life relationship with Woody Allen. This something I find fascinating - the life inspiring art, which imitates life.

Further, for some time, I've been intrigued for some time by the idea of the manic pixie dreamgirl archtype. Have you guys heard of this? The Manic Pixie Dreamgirl is that effortlessly cool, slightly off-kilter chick in films that's always ruining the movie with her dry witticisms ("Listen to this song, it will change your life...blah blah blah") and her stupid vintage dresses that don't make any sense in context. Somehow she always ends up with the uptight protagonist and her mere presence inspires him to become a better person, while the MPDG just gets to seem like a complete flake. I'm both appalled and entralled by this concept. But anyway. I thought I was terribly clever pinning Annie Hall in this category, but it turns out The A.V. Club already called it. So now I just feel clever for reaching the same conclusion as The A.V. Club.

The Annie Hall character is simple but lovely. Even when she's wearing harem pants and a tie. She isn't perfect, but I like that she's true to herself in the end. Through the course of the movie, Annie undergoes quite an intellectual and emotional evolution. Which I think is kind of the point. This is a movie about how relationships make us better people, even if/when they don't work out. And that is something I can totally get behind.

Something else I can get behind? The 1970s. An oft overlooked era in my book, I became quite inspired by watching this movie. The bad lighting, the hair dichotomy, the high-waisted pants. Seventies fashion is actually making a comeback right now, so I saw a lot of ties to the current trends in this film. It made me want to don a headscarf and some giant hoop earrings. Not to mention, even walking fashion disaster Diane/Annie knew the importance of rocking the giant sunglasses. So at least we've established some common ground.

Everyone is sexier in the 1970s (Hello young Jeff Goldblum cameo!) Well...except for Woody Allen. When they were handing out sexy, Woody Allen was probably too busy sitting in an attic writing emails accusing Diane Keaton of having an indeterminite I.Q. and bad political leanings. Oh hey, am I projecting again? Well then. Moving on.

So what have we learned here? In all honestly, I expected "Annie Hall" to have a little more depth and to speak to me on some profound emotional level. That it did not. However, it did hold plenty of truth in a more subtle and lighthearted portrayal of modern-day relationships. It may not have helped me crack the dating code as per my "research" but it did give me hope that not every dating experience is meant to batter you for the worse. And then the end, we can all get coffee and wear big sunglasses while recognizing that we're better off as friends. Isn't that what life is really about?

Ditto "Annie Hall."

Title courtesy of Bright Eyes - "
It's Cool, We Can Still be Friends"

Supplemental Materials:

July 14, 2011

Leave All Your Love and Your Loving Behind

Happy day to you, summer friends! Is it blogging time again? I guess it is. I'm really trying to keep up, but I'm warning you now that my upcoming movie post will be slightly delayed. Netflix sent me a completely banged up copy of "Annie Hall" so I can't watch it and report back, until I've obtained a replacement copy. You know, I was all but supportive of the Netflix price hike that everyone's been whining so incessantly about. But I must say, I hope my extra monies go to buy some new discs. There's nothing more disappointing than sitting down to take in a flick and having it skip around to the point of being unwatchable. FAIL.

But enough movie talk. I've been gettin' my read on too!

100 Great Novels - #76 "Rabbit, Run"
Here's a book I probably never would have picked up, if not for this project. For years, I've been listening to various literary types in my circle of friends give John Updike some mixed reviews. I had one female friend who lauded him frequently as a genius. Critics call him one of the great American authors. While still another male friend told me that Updike was just "a penis with a pen." The latter is the more common assessment I've been given. The author has quite a reputation for being a misogynist, when it comes to writing about women and relationships.

But that wasn't what scared me away from reading any Updike. I have to admit, I just find the idea of him very boring. By all counts, he's a dude writing about other dudes. Being dudes. I might as well watch an episode of "Entourage" and call it a day. I'm also quite guilty of judging books by titles and "Rabbit, Run" just doesn't do it for me. Even his name is dry. Updike. Doesn't that just smack of banality? Still, I've had a copy of "S." sitting on my shelves unread for years, so I must have had some intention of giving him a look at some point. And while choosing my latest read, I decided to bite the bullet.

For starters, the description of the book intrigued me far more than the cover or the title. "Rabbit, Run" is about a man, Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom, who goes out to buy a pack of cigarettes for his alcoholic, pregnant wife, Janice. And instead of returning to home, bolts from the marriage and goes on the lamb. Dicey stuff! Especially for 1960 when the novel was published. The other reason for reading this now, is that I've got a bit of a theme going with my media this week.

If you've ever noticed that I post my current selections over on the side bar, you may notice a bit of a commonality. I was calling it my "cynical about relationships" week but after taking most of this stuff in, it turned into more of an exercise in gender studies, with Updike covering the male contingent and Liz Phair leading up the feminine take. I anticipate "Annie Hall" will be a nice little convergence of the two, but I guess we won't know until Netflix gets its shit together. (Tangential.)

Anyway. There is plenty else going on in this novel. After Rabbit bolts from his suburban existence, he finds himself forced to examine life anew and figure out what it is he really wants. Basically, Rabbit is one of those guys who never got over high school. So after a quick trip down the East Coast without a map, he heads straight back to his hometown, and seeks out his former high school basketball coach for guidance. A real prize of a guy, Coach Tothero initially urges Rabbit to go back home, but then quickly recognizes an opportunity to live vicariously through his former favorite student and hooks Rabbit up with a local floozy named Ruth.

For a would-be call girl, Ruth is actually one of the most sound characters in the novel. She quickly takes Rabbit in, and they shack up for awhile. Playing house, going for hikes and going to waterparks and what-not. They fall briefly in love, but Rabbit has a very Don Draper quality about him, in that he's only in love with the beginning of a thing. Ruth, recognizing this, never really opens up to Rabbit. Even after he knocks her up, too. (So it's not just a clever nickname?) The two of them use each other for companionship while Rabbit attempts to sort out his life, but their relationship never really comes to fruition.

There's also a little bromance in this one. Shortly after he leaves Janice, the small town of Mt. Judge begins to scorn Rabbit. But it's a local priest, named Eccles who takes Rabbit on as his own personal cause. He becomes obsessed with giving Rabbit guidance and trying to persuade him to do the right thing. They play a lot of golf, and Rabbit hits on his wife. It's all very a very Dr. House/Dr. Wilson dynamic, which made their friendship my favorite part of the novel. Eccles remains dutiful to righting Rabbit's wrongs and upon the birth of Janice's baby, convinces Rabbit to return to his family.

I don't want to spoil the ending, so I'll stop there. There is a lot to take in, in "Rabbit, Run." but for what it's worth, rampant misogyny wasn't it. Trust me, I was looking for it really hard. I consider myself to have feminist leanings aplenty, but I just wasn't seeing it. What I saw, was actually a very raw representation of the male spirit. Primal though Rabbit can be in this novel, he strikes me as someone just very human and lost. There's nothing ultimately malicious about him. He's just kind of a typical dude, having a midlife crisis. Granted, it's pretty annoying for everyone involved. But I think Updike does a good job of communicating to the readers that these people are not exactly upstanding citizens themselves.

If anything, I thought "Rabbit, Run" was a very authentic portrayal of a an American family. Blue collar drama at best. I'd even go so far as to say that Updike almost lends a kind depiction to Janice in the latter scenes, by allowing the readers to see inside her mind and understand her side of things. After Rabbit spends the early part of the novel trashing her to anyone who will listen, Updike turns the tables and makes her nearly sympathetic. Which makes it all the more gut-wrenching when Updike throws the baby out with the bathwater at the novel's climax. Bad pun, bad bad pun. I know.

But anyway. What I'm trying to tell you is that I was actually pleasantly surprised by this whole affair. Updike, while definitely dry, has a prose style that I can appreciate in its simplicity. He has that Hemingway-like quality of using precise description for the most insipid things and making them somehow seem fascinating. Updike liked to pat himself on the back by saying that he gave "the mundane it's beautiful due." But you know something, I can't argue with the man. There's a scene in the early beginning of the novel where Updike describes Rabbit's road trip, simply by making a list of the songs and advertisements that he hears on the radio. And it totally works.

He's also a master at sucker-punch one liners. After two pages of rather pointless dialogue between Eccles and Rabbit about golf, he gives us "Funny, the world just can't touch you once you follow your instincts." The novel is sprinkled with these little gems. I was reading that Updike got his beginnings writing short stories for "The New Yorker" which makes a lot of sense. I think a short story would be the perfect format for Updike, so I will probably have to seek some of those out.

To be honest, although I enjoyed the novel, I don't know that I'll bother with the rest of the Rabbit series. Updike went on to write three more works about the character, and while I don't hate Rabbit by any stretch, I also just don't care. A literary midlife crisis is only interesting to a point. I guess you could say that Updike has succeeded in making Rabbit real to the degree of predictability. I don't need three more novels to tell me where this is going. As existensial crisis-having dudes go: Holden Caufeild > Harry Angstrom. That's all I have to say about that.

Title courtesy of Florence + The Machine -
"Dog Days are Over"

Supplemental Materials:

July 12, 2011

Know I Lived and Missed Some Bullets

Good morning! Just getting caught up here. I have mucho other posts coming up for this week, but in the interest of staying sequential-like... I have a dress post! This is primarily a re-post from over at Closet365 and I meant to get over this way sooner. But such is life. And anyway, I for one am not sick of looking at this one.

All The Pretty Dresses - Dress #5



Kind of obviously, this is my Fourth of July Dress.

True story. Being that I’m in a new place and still have yet to meet a lot of new people to do fun stuff with, I neglected to make real plans for the Fourth of July. Which is a real shame when you consider that I bought this dress back in oh…November…for the express purpose of wearing it for the holiday.

We have previously discussed my affinity for festive attire, so it should come as no shock that I fell hard for this little number, even back then. It was winter and I was selling off old clothes, which I no longer had the room or heart to keep. But this dress whispered promises of a better tomorrow, or at the very least a fashionable and exciting summer.

So then for the Fourth, I ended sitting alone in my apartment on my computer. It was about 100 effing degrees outside and then some. I was also tired and cranky and didn’t feel like going out to find fireworks, even solo, which I usually don’t mind.

Still, I really couldn’t let the dress go to waste. If you can’t rock a dress like this on Independence Day, the really, when can you? Pssh. That’s what I thought. I mean, what was I going to do. Just sit at home and wither from lack of compliments on my fun dress? I think not. So when all else fails and you find yourself without the means to show off your festive duds? Just take pictures of yourself and post them on the internet. Duh. That’s what I’d do anyway.

All is well that ends well though. Later that night, I was just hanging out minding my own business at my apartment when I heard some loud booming noises. Granted the neighbors had been shooting off fireworks all week, but it sounded promising, so I thought I'd go investigate. And sure enough, I was able to catch three major displays from the comfort of my own yard. I didn't even have to go anywhere! Basically, I'm cool like that.

Title courtesy of Kid Cudi - "Pursuit of Happiness"

July 9, 2011

When I Awoke I Spent it on a Necklace

Hey hey to you, friends. I promise, I got here as soon as I could! It's been a weird week. I've had some computer woes. Work has been crazy. The weather is ridiculous. My moods erratic. And I can't seem to get the Britney Spears ballad, "Everytime" unstuck from my brain. Which as you can imagine, is just abysmal.

Still, I wanted to get caught up on some project stuff, as I am hard at it. I've also been tinkering with other blog stuff, but that's neither here nor there. Let's get crackin'!

List Item #42 - Start a Savings Account

Golly gee kids! Let's talk fiscal responsibility! Yawn, right? I know. Of all the things on my list, this has got to be one of the least exciting or inspiring to write about. There's no snark in it. No awe in the antics. It's just straightforward Shit That Needs To Get Done. But frankly, that's a lot of what my life has been about for the past few months.

It's also a wee bit embarrassing to admit that I'm just now getting around to this. I feel like at 28 years old, I should have a lot more to show for myself financially, but such are the circumstances. Let's look at the facts - I'm young(ish), I'm recently divorced, I have some debts and a college degree that is doing little else for me, besides sitting on my bookshelf. Still. What I hope to get across here, however, is that it's never too late to take matters into your own hands and start doing what needs to be done.

Then again, I can't take all the credit for crossing this one off the list. It happened completely by accident. One day, I was just happily minding my own business, making a deposit at the drive-thru of my bank. I had every intentions of making the deposit, heading on my merry way and then wasting three or four dollars on coffee next door (Priorities, man.) when I was pounced upon by the teller working the window. She informed me that there were some changes in the works for account holders, and that I might want to pop into the lobby to speak with a banker. Just to make sure everything was copacetic. She promised me it would only take a couple of minutes.

From there, I sat in the lobby for a good fifteen minutes, before I could be waited on. During which I had a lovely conversation with an elderly woman and her lap dog. At long last, I was pulled into one of the little offices so I could discuss my account with a banker. Long story short, I walked out 90 minutes later with a savings account, an education in online bill-pay, a subscription to their credit reporting service and a quote on my auto insurance. In other words, it was a complete scam to get customers to purchase extra services. It was however, the perfect nudge for me to do something that needed to get done anyway. The universe has a funny way of helping me cross things off my list. Note to self: add Bradley Cooper to the list.

So this savings account of mine? It's pretty piddly. I had the option of taking out a percentage each month and having that deposited into savings, or an automatic deduction of $25 per month. I opted for the latter, as it was all I can really afford at this time. The good news is that, that was back in March. As of last week, my monthly deductions added up to a whopping $100 dollars in savings. It's not much. But it's a start.

It's also a marker to me, of my own willpower. At that initial consultation with my banker, she explained that the beauty of the savings account was that I was still allowed to pull from the fund at any point necessary. And for awhile, I kept this in the back of my mind as a valid option. When the account hit $50, I then justified the occasional shopping splurge by reassuring myself that I had $50 of play money, and could transfer the funds if need be. The problem of course, was that I spent that same $50 from my checking account about three times instead of one. And the following month, $75. Twice. What? I'm still learning!

The good news is that I never actually touched the savings. And now that it's hit the $100 mark, I feel accomplished enough to never want to touch it. I've even earned an impressive .28 cents worth of interest. Try to contain your excitement for me. I guess this is where I admit that I really hate money and dealing with money. I hate that it controls people and can even ruin lives. I think consumerism is stupid. I like my pennies all in one jar where I can see them and I wish I didn't need a debit card at all.

It's ironic, because I'm actually pretty good with financial matters. I'm frugal to the point of downfall. (I really did think that $7 curling iron would work just as well as the $20 one. Until it failed to heat up at all.) I keep my splurges to a minimum. I shop sales for all my necessities. (Very very few things in life give me thrill like a sale on produce. True story.) I pay my bills days before they're due and track them on not one, but THREE different calendars. Lest I forget to check the first two? I balance my bank account at least once a day, if not three times. I've been known to wake up in the middle of the night and check my account balance from my Blackberry. (Although, I think we call that post-traumatic stress, as opposed to responsibility.)

Still, I believe that knowledge is power. For too long, I ignored the state of my finances, because it stressed me out too badly. I let my someone else do the math for me. But in the end, ignorance did not lead to bliss. In fact, it lead to collection calls and a credit score that gave me ulcers. I no longer consider that an option. As irksome as it feels at times, when I'm sitting at my laptop drinking coffee, reading articles on Yahoo! Finance instead of Perez Hilton. Feeling groggy and hating my life. As difficult as it is, watching that $25 get spirited away from my frosting fund every month, it's still feels a million times better to know the facts and act accordingly.

A person recently told me that you're never truly free until you can afford to do whatever you want. And while I hated that statement. A lot. It's probably true. Another wise (and twice-divorced) man told me that he still believes in love and marriage, but he'll never let a bitch touch his credit score ever again. And to that, I say...WORD.

I still have a lot to learn. Some things still allude me. I have yet to set up my 401k. Stocks and bonds? I got nothin'. I inherited debt in my divorce that I will need to chunk away at. I probably pay way too much interest on things. It's a process, if nothing else. But by taking the reins now, I'm saving myself infinite heartache down the line. Even gangsta rappers know that you keep your mind on your money and your money on your mind.

Today, it might only be $100 in savings. But next month it will be $125. And then $150. And then the month after that, and the month after that? It will be even more.

Title courtesy of Kanye West - "Can't Tell Me Nothing"

June 29, 2011

So Much Larger Than Life

Hi. Can I ask you guys a little favor? Could we possibly do a roll-call and inform me of who is reading these days? A simple hello will do. Email also works. I recently received the most awesomely sweet email from a reader and it was totally amazing but unexpected. It then caused me to wonder who my lurkers are these days.

Now I'm fine with lurkers. I don't mind sparse comments and I admit, I no longer even look at my stats for fear of what I'll find. But I am trying to gauge my readership just a bit. In part, because I feel like it's useful to know a bit about your audience. But also because I'm still considering a change of address, blog-wise. And it would be extremely beneficial for me to know who will and won't follow, should I make the leap.

Anyway. Show of hands anyone? I can't tell you how much it would mean to me to know you're reading. If you're so inclined. Please and thank you. But let's move on to the music, shall we?

100 Great Albums: #100 "So" by Peter Gabriel

Well now. This was an interesting experience. So. (Pun intended.) I was recently in the market for a new album from the list and was having trouble locating my preferred choices. So I decided to go for a wild card. Having just a little working knowledge of Peter Gabriel from watching too much VH1 in the early 90s, I thought his album might be lighthearted and dancey enough to make a good early summer fix. When I think of Peter Gabriel, I automatically think "Sledgehammer," which is in all honesty, one of the few 80s songs that I don't hate. Beyond that, I had a vague idea of some of his other hits and I thought I might be in for some fun.

So imagine my dumbfoundedness when I popped "So" into the deck of my Kia and attempted to jam. No go. The album opens with a promising riff. A little outdated, but powerful nonetheless. But shortly after, that riff decrescendos into a real snoozer in the form of "Red Rain." A little cheesy, a little ballady. A little heavy on the synth. Okay, fair enough, I figure. Things can only get better right? And they do, shortly. "Sledgehammer" is the next track. Man that song rocks. It's got a good beat. Intense vocals. An edgy (for the 80s) music video. and I am reacquainted with the Peter Gabriel that I've always known and loved. And then something bad happens. Real bad. Really, really bad.

It's a song entitled "Don't Give Up" and it is quite possibly the worst song I have ever heard in my entire life. To be fair, it starts out promisingly enough. Peter Gabriel is giving an eloquent soliloquy about dire circumstances, to a simple swaying beat. But then out of nowhere, the song turns into a sappy duet featuring Kate Bush and the whole thing just devolves into the most Godawful shlockfest. The female voice attempts to encourage sad Peter Gabriel by reminding him that "you still have friends" and "you worry too much" and the ever sage, "It's gonna be alright." It's the melodic equivalent of an Anne Geddes poster.

Throughout the duration of my listening experience with "So," I tried on many occasions to take the song seriously. There were even a couple of bad days in there, where I thought perhaps the song my work it's magic and bolster my spirits. Still, all of my efforts to listen to it in earnest, all ended with me doing bad interpretive dance in my car and crying out What the fuck is this song and why is it soooo bad? Although I was later able to ascertain the real meaning behind the song, I remain convinced that "Don't Give Up" was actually a rejected number from the "Pocahontas" soundtrack. All I can picture is a weeping willow that springs to life and starts singing lackluster affirmations. Actually. The music video isn't a far cry. Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse. There is a video people. I demand you watch it, in order to properly understand the awfulness that is "Don't Give Up." I'll wait while you go watch it.

The rest of the album continues in similar fashion. For every "Big Time" (possibly even better than "Sledgehammer" if only for its use of sarcasm) and "In Your Eyes" (cheesy, but at least it's going somewhere) on the album, there is a "We Do What We're Told" a "Hear That Voice Again." Don't even get me started on "This is the Picture." Actually, do. That song is like complete nonsense set to the tune of a rainstick. What the fuck is an "excellent bird" anyway? Why are the people standing on their heads? What are they ready for? I'm all about strange lyrics, but that song is just stupid. Enough said.

Here I was feeling relatively let down by "So." It just completely destroyed my illusion of "Sledgehammer" Peter Gabriel. Absent were all of the great pop ballads I had been expecting. And it in their place were all these touchy feely slow jams. Where did all the chutzpah of "Shock the Monkey" go? Granted Peter Gabriel has always been a little ahead of my time, but I thought I knew what I was in for. And "Don't Give Up" was not it. I was forced to re-think my perceptions of Peter Gabriel, shoulder pads power dude to sappy Peter. Peter Lite. And frankly, Peter Gabriel without all that oomph is just...well...Phil Collins.

But then something really crazy happened. I was listening to the radio one afternoon, literally because I had to take a break from "This is the Picture" and there was announcement that they were giving away concert tickets to...PETER GABRIEL?!?! I figured, what are the odds that I'm listening to this album AND Peter Gabriel is on tour and coming to my city? Long story short, my morbid curiosity got the best of me. I called in and I freaking won concert tickets to go see none other than Phil Gabriel live and in concert. Even luckier still, I was off work that day. I had some trepidations...namely that I would be the youngest person there...but I still went.

As it turns out? Peter Gabriel in concert? Totally badass. It was a little weird at first. For starters, Peter Gabriel has aged considerably since his VH1 music video days.

True story, I recently was pleasantly surprised at a Bright Eyes concert when Jenny Lewis walked out on stage as part of the opening act. Primed thusly, when Peter Gabriel walked out looking as he does these days, I was like Holy shit, Anthony Hopkins is opening for Peter Gabriel! But as it turns out, that was actually the man himself. And then he proceeded to put on a show. An excellent show, even.

What I learned throughout the duration of the evening is that Peter Gabriel is actually more of an eclectic artist than I would have given him credit for, just based on "So." Not only does perform with a full orchestra in tow, but he then proceeds to do rad covers of Regina Spektor(!!!), Arcade Fire, Bon Iver and Magnetic Fields. And he actually goes to the trouble to explain the origins of his own compositions. It was at the live show that I learned that "Don't Give Up" is actually about a man struggling to find employment and support his family during the Great Depression. Which only made me hate it slightly less, but I still consider it valuable information.

A lot of artists, I think, prefer their lyrics to remain obscure. And I suppose that's the cool thing to do. But I actually really did appreciate his lip service to the back stories, throughout the show. For example, the track "Mercy Street" featured on "So" struck me as a complete bore until I learned that it's actually an homage to Anne Sexton. Suddenly, it not only made complete sense but it also went on to become my favorite track on the album. It's actually kind of brilliant. Seriously love.

In the end, it was Peter Gabriel: Live and in Concert that forced me to change my perceptions of Peter Gabriel once more, and also relax my initially harsh criticisms of "So." Still didn't stop me from trying to conjure an electrical fire with my mind, when it came time to play "Don't Give Up." But I think it's safe to say I'm letting Peter keep his "Sledgehammer" card.

Title courtesy of Peter Gabriel - "Big Time"