4 January 2003
trying again

Much like New Year's Eve two years ago, John and I slept through midnight again.

"It seems like we can't seem to stay awake unless we're actually somewhere, doing something." he observed the next morning.

Yes, I looked at the clock, blearily, and reported it was 11:51, and then we were woken up a little before 4 when someone rang my cellphone. I never found out who, but it was a 610 number. Weird.

We went to see The Two Towers, which was fantastic. Though I'm going to have to see it again because I was in the bathroom for a good portion of it, trying not to ralph. I was beset with the worst cramps I've had since junior high. Times like these makes me want to rip my ovaries out, now.


Well, friends, it has come time for the best of 2002. This year was a great year for music. Between Christina Aguiliera getting naked and Justin Timberlake feeling Justified, there was some great stuff that came out and nearly fell through the cracks into oblivion, only to be picked out by chance or word of mouth.

1. Rasputina, "Cabin Fever!"
It's sad that Melora Creager is probably one of the most talented and inventive musicians out there today, and no one knows who she is. But at least she keeps on releasing albums, albums that keep getting better and better. Cabin Fever is one of those that takes a while to get into - at first i didn't think it was that good, but then realized it's just not that easy to listen to. there aren't any catchy songs, no hooks, nothing like Rasputina's first two albums. The instrumentation has evolved as well, from more traditional cello parts to distorted electronic arrangements that recall Nine Inch Nails or Marilyn Manson. This album is not for everyone, but it is excellent, a strange and funny mix of everything in Melora Creager's head.

2. Alison Krauss and Union Station, Live
Wow. What can I say? I only got this double cd a couple weeks ago, and here it is at #2. Because it is that good, and every time I hear Alison Krauss' voice my toes curl. I had never heard Alison Krauss and Union Station outside of "A Man of Constant Sorrow" (by the way? Dan Tyminski, great voice too), so I was completely unprepared for just how good this band sounds together. Man, they just have their shit together completely. I haven't heard any of their studio albums yet, but everyone is telling me that they sound better on this album than anywhere else. I'm trying to pick out highlights, but every song is good, so you should just listen to the whole thing straight through.

3. Beth Orton, Daybreaker
Of any music I've heard lately, I wish Beth Orton's could be a painting. She just has a way of putting sounds together, sounds that don't really go together, and not only make them work, but sound gorgeous and spare. Nothing superfluous or extra, just excellent songs knit together with Orton's voice, vulnerable but knowing. There's an ongoing feeling a movement throughout the album, starting with the beautiful but ominous "Paris Train". The title track is also very beautiful but has that same feeling of uneasiness, like something is about to break apart.

4. Be Good Tanyas, Blue Horse
No one has heard of these ladies, I wouldn't have either, except i heard them mentioned briefly on "All Things Considered" and heard them play on "A Prairie Home Companion". I wouldn't call them straight Bluegrass, but there's a definite influence there, as well as Folk and Country. The playing is superb, and Frazey Ford's voice is odd (she always seems like she's singing with a couple of marbles in her mouth) but fits perfectly with the music. The strongest cuts on this album are renditions of traditional songs, including "Lakes of Pontchartrain" and "Rain and Snow".

5. Eminem, The Eminem Show
Everything that can be said about Eminem has been said, so I won't bore you. All politics and controversy aside, this is a damn good album from a very talented artist. The words are tight and his use of beats and sampling has only gotten better. Much of the content of this album is based around the quickly tiring theme of "Everyone hates me", so it'll be interesting to see what issues he decides to tackle next.

6. Tori Amos, Scarlet's Walk
I've thought a lot about this album. I'm not exactly sure what's wrong with it, but there's a couple small things that's keeping it from being an excellent album. I would say that it's too long, but at the same time I don't know what I'd get rid of (besides "Wampum Prayer"). mostly i think it's just too much good stuff in one place. Some of these songs could've been b-sides or been shelved entirely. But of course this would sacrifice whatever concept Tori's trying to get across. Personally, I wish she would drop the heady concepts behind each album and focus more on, you know, the music.

7. Bonnie Raitt, Silver Lining
Some are calling this the best album of her career, and although I don't know Bonnie Raitt's body of work very well, i have to say that i don't know how it can get better than this. It's just groovy to listen to, and at times she really rocks. You can tell she loves (and is very good at) the kind of music she's making. The title track is actually a cover of the David Gray song, and amazingly enough, she actually outdoes his version.

8. Herbie Hancock, Future 2 Future
This is a strange album, a bizarre mix of dance, funk, electronica and spoken word. It's hard to put a finger on Hancock's style these days, but the results are interesting nonetheless. The first half of the album is excellent, but seems to peter out a bit near the end.

9. Norah Jones, Come Away with Me
Norah Jones has been played and hyped just about enough for the backlash to start. This album is just so in the middle, no wonder it's sold millions of copies. It borrows from so many styles, from Hank Williams to jazz standards to a couple self-penned tracks (to satisfy the singer-songwriter fanatics). Such a motley crew of songs shouldn't work but does, with Jones' vulnerable, slightly raspy voice being the glue that holds it all together. It isn't an album that's going to conquer the world, but it sure is sweet to listen to.

10. Alanis Morissette, Under Rug Swept
It's easy to write Alanis off as a joke, a one-liner about angry women, but that would be simplifying one of the most generous, honest, self-aware (perhaps a bit too self-aware) musicians today. I saw her on the double bill with Tori Amos in 1999 and was not impressed. Then I saw her in June of 2002 at Jones Beach and was completely, unexpectedly blown away. She carried the show, and carried it well (though I still don't believe she's playing that guitar). Every track on this album is strong, miles beyond her first two albums. The lyrics are still very much Alanis, at times a little too self-centered, but the music is far more interesting than it's ever been before.

9 January 2003
like, totally uncool

I've been toiling with the Weekend Workshop syllabus for this spring. This time around I'm teaching it alone (since Delaney has student teaching this semester, and I'm quite she'll have had enough by the end of the day), which is good in terms of control and money, but bad in terms that I have to do it all myself.

It's hard to figure out how to plan when you don't even know the skill level and experience of your students. It could be like last semester, where none of them had an art background, or I might end up with a bunch of kids bound straight for art school. Or even some adults, which I'm almost praying for (I'm hoping they would add some maturity, which was seriously lacking last time around).

So, what to do. I'm trying to write the syllabus with the average high school student in mind, to strike the right tone. I realize that I can't even remember what I was like in high school (a scant four years ago), and even if I could, I'm not sure if I ever qualified as your "typical" teenager. I also realize what I percieve as a charmingly eccentric aspect of my personality may, in fact, be very uncool. My god. I am so glad I'm not getting my teaching certification. I'm sure the children of this country are glad, too. I just can't imagine sitting down and writing lesson plans for the rest of my life. I take some comfort in the fact that I've made the right decision in at least one area of my life.

7 January 2003
i'll be dreaming my dreams with you

For some reason, I've been listening to No Need to Argue by The Cranberries on endless repeat for the last few days. I have no idea why, really. It's such a small, sad little album. Once upon a time, a long long time ago, I had a 90 minute tape with No Need to Argue on one side and Under the Pink on the other. I played it until the tape broke.

11 January 2003
honk if you heart Klingons

I saw the new Star Trek movie last night. It SUCKED.

Let's laugh at Worf pretending to tough! Captain Picard tells Data to shut up, and everyone laughs! Counselor Troi gets mentally invaded by an alien force! Dr. Crusher flirts with Captain Picard! Unimportant fourth away team member is killed! And not to mention the sex scene between Riker and Troi that made me want to run from the theater....

I think it's time to put this franchise to rest. Don't you agree?


Send love and warm fuzzies to the Eagles today! May they grind the Falcons into the dirt (but honorably).

18 January 2003

It's crazy, bitterly, insanely cold. Tonight I came home from work and tried to open the garage to shelter my poor old Boris from the cold. But I couldn't get the garage door open, for some reason. I only hope he will start tomorrow.

I never got to tell about my IKEA odyssey this week. It started last Saturday night, when I read in the newspaper that the Plymouth Meeting store would be selling off all their display models at 50% off, starting Sunday morning. Seeing as I had no plans for Sunday, I decided that would be my day.

I woke up, voluntarily, at 7:30 (which, if you know me, is really an impressive feat), and drove in the freezing cold, arriving a little before 9, figuring I would be the only one there.

Oh no. There was already a line around the building. I joined it, and waited in the freezing cold for nearly two hours. I chatted with the people in line near me, gave them cinnamon mints, and tried to keep warm. The line continued the build behind me, and the news crews showed up to cover the story. Ah, the things we do for home furnishings.

The chaos inside the building was something I can't even describe. Imagine Black Friday at 6 am, only twenty times worse. The place was mobbed, people grabbing everything in sight. I could barely move. I witnessed several near-breakouts of violence, and some loud, ugly arguments. By the time I got in, most of the good stuff was gone. But I did get some good deals: a couple of really nice rush mats (which went well with my Tiki-hut inspired bedroom), some little mirrors and a multitude of candles (out of nowhere I have turned into a candle junkie. Don't ask me how it happened).

All in all, was it worth it? I didn't walk out of there with a full dining set like some people, but it was fun, in a sick spectacle sort of way. At least I can say I was there. It's not often that an old IKEA closes (and a new one opens...).

Phase two of my IKEA story was going to the new store in Conshohocken on Wednesday. I dragged my poor friend Karl with me with time (the excitement was too great for me to go it alone). I could hardly contain myself. IKEA is truly an adult's Disneyland. I plopped down on one of the couches in the display rooms and watched IKEA television while Karl stood tolerantly by. We observed all the strange little things in the rooms: the dental floss on the sinks, photos pinned to little bulletin boards, the fake messages on the chalkboards, the books on the shelves (which were all the Swedish, much to my amusement).

Ah, IKEA. What exactly did I do before IKEA? How did my life have meaning? How did I survive without the FORBY stool, the DROPPEN lamp, the MALMA mirror? Truly I am blessed.

31 January 2003
i came here with a load

I still have the headache from a crying jag that happened on Wednesday night. That should give you a good idea just how my week has been.

Eoin let me borrow his Amanda Marshall cd today. "I wore out about three copies of that. When I was off the coast of New Zealand, me and my friends would play that nonstop."

I listened to it later that day, imagining the music echoing off the prow of a little boat.

Today in a crit Nick mentioned something about growing up in Nebraska. He said there was nothing vertical there. It was funny, just then I wished to be in a place with lots of space, all around me. I wanted to turn around, and just look and look and look and look and see nothing. It's like when you're in a quiet room, and your ears just fill up with the silence.

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