Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It all don't seem so bad when ice is ringing in your whiskey glass.

Funny story time.

1) I was marking exams in a Starbucks the other day and eavesdropping on conversations as I marked. Beside me were a couple who seemed like they were on a first date. They were older, maybe forty-ish. Anyway, the dude totally talked about his cats the whole time. As a cat-person, I found the stories cute (his cat eats elastics just like Rilo), but the quantity of stories was astounding. At one point, the conversation seemed to drift from cats to other topics, and I thought, oh good this date can be saved, and I went back to paying attention to my marking, but shortly thereafter it was back to more cat stories. The woman didn't seem to mind, I don't think, so perhaps they will live happily ever after with the cats.

2) Last night I was chatting with a pal on the phone, and in reference to something I said "I usually just drag Becca T with me." She replied "that's random" in a strangely uncomfortable tone. I asked why she said that. "You just said that you drank back a glass of whiskey..." was her response. I killed myself laughing. Did she think I was at home alone, on a school night, chugging back glasses of whiskey? If I hadn't corrected her, I think there would have been an intervention scheduled for me shortly. However, upon further reflection, there are a lot of good songs about drinking whiskey, so maybe I should take it up to become more rock 'n roll. ;)

3) Before an exam, one of my students came up to me and says out of the blue "Miss, Chuck Norris broke the Periodic Table of the Elements. He only needs one element: the element of surprise." I laughed so hard; I think the kid was surprised at how funny I found it.

4) Here's another amusing school anecdote from a couple weeks ago. I was walking to the subway with a fellow teacher, and a kid joins us and chatted away. He says to me "Miss, you know what I heard about you? I heard that you're into grindcore metal." Not sure how that secret got out, but yeah, you know me. Huge metal fan. Actually, I do know how it got out. A kid in one of my classes was playing music he likes for me on his iPod, and I didn't say anything bad about it. I guess I'd better be sure to insult kids' tastes in music from now on so it doesn't get around that I like that stuff.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Everybody tells me this is crazy; yes, I know it.

I should be marking. But, updating the neglected blog with random crap is a better option right now.

1) I came across the new Neko Case single "People Got A Lotta Nerve" this weekend. It's all sorts of awesome. You can download it here:

I also like the cover art for the single.

I also like that there are two Neko tour dates in April. Can't decide on whether I want to see her on a Friday night or a Saturday night. Decisions, decisions. (Edit: after consultation with my probable-Neko buddy, I went with the Saturday night option.)

2) I got front row tickets to see The Joel Plaskett Emergency at Massey Hall in May. I'm very psyched about that. Also, they are releasing a triple (!) album in March.

3) Right now two of my new year's resolutions are going well. One involves me doing a little bit of scheming, and the second one is reading 52 books in 2009. I'm on book #5. Book #4 was amazing; I read it in less than 24 hours.

That book was "The Bookseller of Kabul" by Asne Seierstad (as you can no doubt see from my side-bar). It's about a family that a journalist lives with in post-Taliban Afghanistan. One of the passages that really stood out to me was a description of a math problem from a Taliban-era textbook:
"Litte Omar has a Kalashnikov with three magazines. There are twenty bullets in each magazine. He uses two thirds of the bullets and kills sixty infidels. How many infidels does he kill with each bullet?"

Not only was I obviously appalled by the context and content of the problem, but I never thought that you could kill more than one person with a single bullet. (Of course I did the math; I got 1.5 infidels/bullet as my answer.)

One thing I love about reading is that you can go on so many different journeys with every book that you read. I had read Khaled Hosseini's "One Thousand Splendid Suns" late last year, and it also takes place in Afghanistan. In books about Afghanistan, I am always struck by the lack of control (before, during, and after the Taliban) that women have over their own lives. Just the thought of a fifteen year-old girl being forced to become the second-wife of a fifty-year old man makes me incredibly thankful that I was lucky enough to be born in 20th-century North America.

The book I'm currently reading (The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant)takes place in 15th century Florence. The teenaged main character is married off to a forty-five year old man who is having an affair with her older brother. Again, I'm so thankful for the setting of my life.

4) This post was actually started hours ago, and then I was interrupted by visitors, and had to entertain said people and serve them hot beverages. So, no marking got done tonight and I'm prolly gonna get in trouble by the kids for it tomorrow but oh well, they're not the bosses of me. ;)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

How those furious affections followed you.

I have been so lazy during this spontaneous long weekend. A lot of this weekend seemed to be me engaged in a nap-off with Rilo. Even though I napped a lot, she won. She's a fierce competitor.

Of course, some things did happen while I was awake.

Becca T and I saw the Benjamin Button movie. We both enjoyed it.

I listened to a lot of Weakerthans. Properly too. Full albums in their intended order and not shuffled. I realized that "Reconstruction Site" is one of my favourite albums ever to listen to all the way through.

I'm working away through book #3 for the year so I'm right on track regarding that resolution.

I discovered that Rilo is petrified of iPhones. My friend Mathew was over to drop off some leftover risotto that he made (don't I have the best friends ever?), and as we were chatting, his phone was buzzing which spooked her. Then he slid it over near her and she was airbourne. It was really funny.

I got a bunch of housework done. There was one load of laundry that I was too lazy to put away, and I caught Rilo napping in it this afternoon. How nice would it be to nap in a clean basket of laundry?

Anyway, this lazy spontaneous long weekend should give me enough energy to get through the last regular week of the semester. After that it's exams, and then a new semester with new classes. Another fresh start. :)

Friday, January 16, 2009

We could be bouncing off the top of this cloud.

My school is closed today because of a large power outage in that part of the city.

Best. News. Ever.

(Well, maybe not ever, but you know.)

Once I calm down from being so hyper and excited, I think I'm going back to bed. Then, I'll figure out what to do with my spontaneous long weekend. Oh, and shucks, all of my work for the weekend is stuck in the building. So, no work for me for three days. :D

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A little bird came right up to me.

It's the little things in life that make me happiest. I forgot that last year, and kept searching for some big thing, I'm not sure what exactly, to make me happy and I lost myself a little bit.

However, I'm back to remember how all the little tiny things in life end up adding up to happiness. Things like:

- new band recommendations from a friend;
- bubble baths;
- good workouts at the gym;
- somehow spontaneously discovering that I, who used to have the motto "any pot is no-stick if you no-cook in it", like to cook
- taking time to read books;
- random conversations with Becca T;
- keeping New Year's resolutions;
- being silly;
- successful scheming (the good kind of scheming);
- conversations about 30 Rock;
- planning trips;
- the possibility of spending my birthday evening with Will Ferrell as GWB (ticket confirmation pending);
- maybe winning an online Scrabble game;

Also, I'm on track with a book a week resolution for 2009. I should be finished my second book tonight. Notice that I have added a list of what I've read on my sidebar. Book #3 was just lent to me by a coworker and I look forward to starting it.

Listening to: The Tallest Man on Earth

Saturday, January 10, 2009

You know I dreamed about you, for twenty-nine years before I saw you.

Hello readers of Christielli's blog, my name is Wes. I just wanted to say a quick thank you to Christielli for letting me post my entry on her blog. I couldn't stand the idea of not being able to post my top ten albums for 2008 because if there are two things that I love, they are music and making lists. My blog and I were together for three years before we had to end it in early 2008 because of time restraints. I hope to be back in some form another in the near future. Anyways, thanks again Christielli. Enjoy.

10. We Are Scientists - Brain Thrust Mastery.
Let's start off the list with a band who I loved the debut album from. With Love And Squalor was a great album from 2005 that I listened to excessively after discovering it in a small CD store in Edmonton when I was in town for Matthew Good acoustic show. I could not wait for them to release a new album, so when Brain Thrust Mastery finally came out, all was right with the world. As you could probably guess, this album is a disappointment being that its number ten on my list. Its got some great songs, but as an album, it in no way compares to their previous effort. The hooky little guitar parts and lyrics are just not there. If you are interested in them, I suggest checking out their previous effort, its much better than the current state of their music.

9. Sam Roberts - Love At The End Of The World.
Continuing on with the disappointment train, we have Sam Roberts latest album. Chemical City was my top album of 2006, so I had very high expectations for his latest album. There are some great songs on this album, but overall, it lacks the punch that Chemical City had. It kind of feels like Sam Roberts has run out of ideas, as most of the album's content doesn't grab me like his previous work does. The subject matter just feels unoriginal and uncreative. The songs themselves are well constructed, Sam Roberts is king of the pre-chorus and tags, but the information injected into these sections are boring and dated. If it wasn't for the tear-jerking "Words & Fire", this album wouldn't have even made my list and I would be talking about Axl's cornrows and bloated ego.

8. Foxboro Hot Tubs - Stop Drop And Roll!!!
Ok, I'm a big Green Day fan ever since I was very young, but that's not why this album made the list. Its a different sound than we are use to hearing from Green Day, but its a sound that I love and is so under-utilized. Sounding like they are straight out of the 1950's, greasy hair and all, its an upbeat tempo that is extremely infectious. It may be just a filler album to tied us over to the new Green Day album comes out, but I think it was very underestimated.

7. Hey Rosetta! - Into Your Lungs.
Ok, this one is all Christielli's fault. She told me about it and she takes full responsibility for any of your feelings toward this choice. Its a pretty good album sonically, it hits all the right notes. Its the kind of album that gets me excited about the Canadian music scene. Its not all Avril's and Theory Of A Nickel Fault's, there are some great bands out there that do not get near the recognition they deserve. Its really such a shame that these smaller bands get looked over in favour of the "watered-down" bands that appeal to the dumb masses. Believe me, I could write a book on the state of the music industry, so I will end it here by simply stating that we need more music like Hey Rosetta!

6. Fleet Foxes - Self-titled.
Harmonies, oh sweet harmonies. That's what Fleet Foxes are chalk full of. Folky music born out of the north western United States, its America's answer to the Great Lake Swimmers. Its the kind of album you want to listen to on a cold winter's afternoon by the fire. Soothing in its sound, and un-intrusive in its nature. You can't help but sit back and relax, and enjoy the music.

5. Bloc Party - Intimacy.
After the pitiful Weekend In The City, Bloc Party are back to their Silent Alarm selves, or at least closer to it. Intimacy is a mix of what we expect from Bloc Party, raging, infectious beats layered with simple, but catchy lyrics. Intimacy is a refreshing sound that has been lacking from the pop world as of late. As good as they are when they are loud, when the music drops out, you can't help but feel all tingly inside. Like big, fat snowflakes drifting to the ground, you can't help but be drawn into their world, their sound. It's an enchanting world filled with all the colours of the rainbow and big fluffy snowflakes that fall so slowly, you are convinced they are suspended in time and never completing their journey to the Earth. Then the beat kicks in and are quickly pulled back into reality, forever changed by your experience.

4. The National - Boxer.
Alright you got me, this album came out in 2007, but I didn't purchase it until 2008, and it is way too awesome to leave off my list over such a small technicality. With a very distinctive lead voice and soft textures, The National soars and dives through the musical spectrum. It is epic in its vision, humble in its delivery. It is raw in its production, but polished in its composition. Its simplicity draws you in, but its complexity keeps you intrigued. At times it feels like Modest Mouse meets Death Cab, and other times it defies a column or a box. But in the end, its just brilliant.

3. The Jolts - Haute Voltage. Local Vancouver band who I have first hand knowledge of their studio antics manged to come out with a great album this year. I am a long time punk fan who is seriously disillusioned by the state of punk these days. The good punk albums are far and in between. Actually one of my favorite all time bands, a band from Australia called The Living End, released a new album this year, but unfortunately they did not secure a North American release this time and I was unable to obtain an import copy before the end of the year, otherwise, this album would have definitely been in my top ten, and probably in my top five. But back to The Jolts, its great to hear a punk band that believes in punk and not this "mall-punk" that everyone else is into these days. I don't care what you say, Avril and Sum 41 are not punk just because they put on a tie and a studded wristband. You won't find punk playing on the radio or on stage at your nearest hockey arena or in your local store. The only place where you are going to see it is at some dive bar in the "bad" part of town, because that's where true punk chooses to live, behind the bright lights and shadows of those who are in it for the money and fame.

2. Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer.
I've got a super soft spot for Wolf Parade after I saw them rock the daylights out of a cafe in Saskatoon. Their first album, Apologies To The Queen Mary, was an underground success and they finally backed it up this year with one of the best albums I heard all year. Their unmistakable charm shines through this album as they found a way to top their previous work. I think Wolf Parade is a lot like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, in that you either love or hate them, you either get it or you don't, there is no in between. At Mount Zoomer is definitely more accessible than Apologies To The Queen Mary, but at the same time they still find ways to push the envelope and force the listener into new territory.

1. Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs.
There is never any question whether or not a Death Cab album is going to be near the top of my list. Transatlanticism and Plans are two albums that made the top of my lists in their respective years, and it seems that Narrow Stairs is no exception. After the super polished Plans, Death Cab definitely took a step back and traveled along a different path when making Narrow Stairs. The rawness of the album shines through the perfectly structured songs and shows a side of Death Cab that has been hidden for some time and from the majority of their new fans. With a four minute and thirty-three second intro to their first single, it is very evident that they are taking the less commercial route. But as the albums spins on, other stand-outs are heard and you begin to wonder "how does something so simple sound so new?" Its truly a talent that Death Cab have mastered, making the very simple sound very unique. One of the major highlights of 2008, other than seeing Radiohead, was finally seeing Death Cab in concert. It was an awesome show that backed up all of their albums and just left me wanting to see them over and over again. Here's hoping that the next album and tour are as good as the past.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

I'll always love you though New York, New York, New York

I am so frickin' excited!

Why? Because, I am going to be bringing in my 29th bday at the Waldorf Astoria in NYC!

Anyway, I am very excited for the trip. This year we are flying instead of driving (thank you random seat sale), and, due to some random 24-hr Expedia sale, our accommodations are upgrading. Our hotel last year was really really nice, but not as famous. In fact, I remember walking by the Waldorf last year and thinking how insane it would be to stay there. Who knew?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Little bird, don't know your name, you've been hanging 'round my yard.

Argh. I've been befallen by first-day-back insomnia. I was all over going to bed at a decent time so that I can get to work at a decent time this year, but I'm wondering if that will happen. Good thing none of my resolutions involve less caffeine, so I should survive.

Highlights of my weekend were making a tasty and healthy veggie chili, going to see the movie "Slumdog Millionaire" (excellent), and spending the afternoon marking with a pal at a coffee shop. It makes the job much less unpleasant.

After any length of time off I get very confused about very basic things about going back to work. At what time do I need to wake up? What do I wear to work? At what time do I leave the house? How am I able to keep a room of teenagers engaged for 75 minutes? Hopefully I'll figure all those out tomorrow morning...

I would like to see how many books I read this year. It'd be cool if I could read 52. I think I'm going to keep a brief record of what I read on my blog this year. Not long reviews or anything, just a list with a word or two. In fact, I may restructure my blog to contain less rambling, and more short little posts about what albums I discover, what books I read, and what concerts I go to. Of course, there will still be rambling in between those things because, well, I like to ramble.

I love the Freewill Astrology section in Now Magazine. As I've said before, I don't believe in astrology, but I'm not opposed to read it if it has good news for me. In this week's horoscope, there are three quotes for 2009 that are supposed to guide me (and other Aquarians, I suppose). I really like them, so I'll post them.

1) “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What one can be, one must be.” (psychologist Abraham Maslow... ha-ha... any good educator knows this dude and his hierarchy.)

2) “Dance in the body you have.” (choreographer Anges DeMille)

3) “When Reb Zusye went to heaven, God didn’t ask him why, in his life on earth, Zusye wasn’t Moses, but why he wasn’t even Zusye.” (historian Gerald Sorin)

I like all three of these quotes, and I'm going to keep them in mind as I stumble through, no, scratch that... I'm going to keep them in mind as I *dance* through 2009.

Listening to: Proof of Love by Old Man Luedecke (just got this album today... it might need a spot on last post's list 'cuz it's banjo-tastic!)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

You're the Great One, I'm Marty McSorley.

Happy 2009! I love this year so far. This is going to be a year of being a better, happier me and so far it’s rocking. I’ve eaten healthy today, exercised, cleaned, had friends over for waffles, napped with Rilo, chatted with my mom on the phone, had a bubble bath, and now I’m going to curl up in bed with a good book.

Here is my list of my 10 favourite albums of 2008. I wanted to post this ASAP, because I have had a request for a guest blogger to post his list here too. Hopefully it’ll happen because it will be my first incidence of guest-blogging.

10) Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue

I could not leave this album off of my list because Jenny Lewis has been a huge presence in my 2008 musical universe. I really got into Rilo Kiley this year; I listened to them A LOT, went to a show, and even named my cat after them. This album is a great listen, and I love the stripped-down rootsy sound of Jenny’s solo stuff. Her voice is so perfect and beautiful.
Fave song: Acid Tongue (great to listen to when you’re just feeling tired of it all)

9) Serena Ryder – Is It O.K.

Serena has an amazingly rich soulful voice, and her songs, mainly about heartbreak, are extremely emotional. I am pretty sure that I saw her years ago at some festival, but she really impressed me when I saw her open for Sarah Harmer in Charlottetown. Anyone who exhibits a commanding stage presence with just their voice and a guitar gets huge points in my book. I picked up an EP after that show, and this full-length album expands on the strength of those songs.
Fave song: Little Bit of Red (I love the visceral anger in this song.)

8) Leona Naess – Thirteens

I’ll admit that I found out about this album on one of my fave celeb gossip blogs, Pink Is The New Blog. Becca T and I loved Leona’s song Charm Attack back in our university days, and I was curious to find out how her new stuff sounded. This album is absolutely charming, and many of the songs apply to my life this year. Also, each week you can download an unreleased track from the album from this site, and so far all of the tracks are just as good as those on this album.
Fave song: Ghosts in the Attic

7) Hayden - In Field & Town
I personally believe that Hayden gets better with every album. Like my dear Hawksley, his musicianship is consummate. I love the quiet, understated quality of most of his work. This album is one of my favourites to listen to on the subway on my way to work. Twinkling pianos, xylophones, and strumming guitars make the start of any day better. And Hayden’s poignant, and often heart-breaking lyrics, make me feel better about whatever silliness is stressing me out.
Fave song: Lonely Security Guard

6) REM – Accelerate
Admittedly, this album has a very special place in my heart because I first saw most of it performed when I saw REM at SXSW. And, then I got to hear the songs again when REM pulled off a great show here in Toronto in June. However, the album is a super-fun listen with punchy, short, politically-motivated songs which were a perfect accompaniment to the early months of 2008 when everyone was crossing their fingers that the Dems in the US would be able to end the reign of the past 8 years.
Fave song: Living Well is the Best Revenge

5) Stars – Sad Robots EP
Yes, this is only an EP, but Stars can do more in a mere six tracks then most bands can do in twice that. This EP is a great little follow-up to last year’s album, and it has the Amy/Torq duets that never fail to touch me and make my ears happy. I love listening to to “A Thread Cut with A Carving Knife” and singing along with the line “we raised a glass and shouted fuck the war!” because impassioned swearing is always fun.
Fave song: 14 Forever

4) Hey Rosetta! – Into Your Lungs
Hey Rosetta! are my favourite new band discovery of 2008. They came onto my radar when they joined Hawksley on stage for a song during a March show. Hawksley produced this album, and it’s one of my faves to blast in my apartment while I attempt to sing along. The lead singer has a fabulous voice, and high energy instrumentation augments the lyrics and melody.
Fave song: Red Heart

3) Hawksley Workman – Between the Beautifuls

My beloved Hawksley put out two albums this year, first the more eclectic “Between the Beautifuls”, and secondly the rockier “Los Manilcious”. There is a bit of overlap between the two albums, but the former is my favourite by far. Hawksley is by far one of the most talented musicians in my catalogue; he writes, produces, and can play pretty much every instrument. His style ranges from straight-forward rock, beautiful ballads, twangy country, and even soulful gospel.
Fave songs: Piano Blink (los manilicious mix), but lately I’ve really been into the sweeping Pomegranate Daffodil

2) Jack’s Mannequin – The Glass Passenger

I love this band, even though they are probably the only band that I love that my students listen to as well. Of course, I’m sure they can’t appreciate them on as many levels as I do (I must credit Prof. Frink with that line). This is definitely my most-listened-to album of the year, and that’s because it has all of the aspects of music that I love: heart-felt lyrics, stories, kick-ass musicianship (Andrew McMahon is piano god #3 in my universe, the first two being Ben and Tori), and fits any of my moods. I’d been dying for a new Jack’s album ever since I discovered them, and they didn’t disappoint me. The song “The Resolution” was my anthem of 2008, and the rest of the album lives up to its standard. I know that I’ll be listening to this album for years.
Fave songs: The Resolution, of course, and the epic Caves.

1) Kathleen Edwards – Asking for Flowers

When I was on the train home for the holidays, I sat beside a girl who was in my grade 12 English class. We didn’t know each other then, but have recognized each other a couple of times on the train and catch up. We chatted about music, and I mentioned how much I love Kathleen’s music, because it reminds me of the trashy aspect of Stratford. As a result of this conversation, I listened to this album a lot over the holidays, and determined that it is my top album of the year. The music is gorgeous, and Kathleen’s unique voice is amazing as she tells stories in her songs. In “Alicia Ross”, she sings from the point of view of a girl who was murdered in Toronto a few years ago. In “Asking for Flowers” she tells the story of an unappreciated woman who works the night shift. “Oil Man’s War” is about a couple leaving the US and heading north to Canada to escape the Iraq War. And of course, there is the cleverly fun “I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory”, she compares hockey player Marty McSorley to The Great One, and even a non-hockey person like me gets it.
Fave song: The Cheapest Key (I just checked out the video for the first song right now and it's pretty fun and ummm, applicable to me even though I do NOT drink bourbon in class... but I am known to wear my Chucks to school.)

Honourable Mentions:

Two Hours Traffic – Little Jabs: I believe this album came out in 2007, but I discovered it in 2008 and it was definitely the soundtrack of my summer.
Soundtracks for the movies “American Teen” and “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist”: Both of these soundtracks are like really awesome mixes that a way cool friend made for you.
Matthew Good – Live from Massey Hall: This two-disk set is a great retrospective of one of my favourite artist’s career, and is extra special to me because I was at that show.

Also, in random musical excitement for 2009, Neko Case is coming out with a new album on March 3rd (her album "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood" was my fave album of 2006) and I already have two concerts lined up: Ben Folds and The Weakerthans!