Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fragmentary Pop

Alas, I never had a chance to finish my 2009: A Pop Culture Year in Review -- and it doesn't look like I'll be getting to it anytime soon. I had all these grandiose visions of books, movies, TV shows making their way on here, but I've decided to publish this partial post I wrote up around the end of December. Enjoy.
I love this kind of stuff. Making lists. Capturing a year through art, pop culture. Finding meaning in our lives through stepping stones—visual, musical, you name it – that bring us back to certain experiences and life lessons. As time goes on, I’m always fascinated by how my connections to certain songs, movies, TV shows, etc. change based on where I am – and who I am – and even whom I’m with at given moments; in other words, how I feel may change radically as my personality changes and thus what I’m drawn to in art. (Forrest Gump? Used to love you back in ’94. Now I find you to be more cloying and forced in your emotions, except for the scenes with Jenny and Major Dan, which still ring true and raw and sad and hopeful).

But isn’t there also something special, say, about a film we go back to and find we still love, and maybe even more so? With a more matured perspective we can appreciate something about it we hadn’t before; this new angle actually deepens our relationship with the artist’s vision. (Case in point: Poltergeist. Always thought you were a scary mother-fucker, but re-watching you – many times now – as a grownup I’m impressed by your layered commentary on suburbia, family values, facing our fears, American consumerism. And I see you more as a drama than a horror film; I care about that darned Freeling family and really want them to pull through together!)

So here’s my “Best of 2009” list. I’d love to hear from you – got your own list waiting in the wings? Bring it on!


White Birds – Sarah Fimm

This six-song EP, clocking in somewhere around 27 minutes, packs quite a punch of melody and melancholy. I can just picture Sarah Fimm sculpting each song to perfection, making sure that the layered vocals and instruments were tuned to a frequency of loss and healing. Standout track: “Tamara Song” (but really, all six songs are 100% thumbs up material). I cry A LOT when listening to this song, but in a cathartic way. Perfect for taking a walk through a park under the sun, driving in your car with the window down, or playing for a grieving friend. I’ve emailed a bit with Sarah Fimm, and while I’ll keep our exchanges about this song private, I will say that she writes from a place of working her way through the death of a loved one.

Runner-up: Two Suns – Bat for Lashes. This takes second place by default; White Birds entered my life on a very special day and thus takes the cake. Who doesn’t love that frontwoman Natasha Khan records wind through trees and layers them through some songs, or that they play live on a stage filled with angel dolls, stuffed crows, a howling-wolf-against-the-moon backdrop, Jesus Christ statuette, and glitters and stars and strobe lights? Standout track: “Daniel” (and you get bonus points if you youtube the “Daniel” video). Perfect for Halloween, waiting for flights in airports and people watching, walks through graveyards, sitting on a beach and looking at ocean waves and thinking about dolphins and sharks, and/or trying to save your true love from black dressed specters who want to hitchhike their way to stealing and warping your loyalty (again, watch that video!).

Honorable Mentions (*in no particular order): Abnormally Attracted to Sin – Tori Amos, New Moon soundtrack, Ellipse – Imogen Heap, Bomb in a Birdcage – A Fine Frenzy, 500 Days of Summer soundtrack, Other Lives (self-titled debut album)


Where the Wild Things Are – Directed by Spike Jonze

Sometimes a movie comes along that taps us into our childhood like a bolt of lighting while at the same time tethering us to our adulthood, where we look back and see the elusive, indefinable bridge connecting the phases of our lives. Where the Wild Things Are is one such movie. A big part of this is because I relate so intrinsically with the protagonist Max; I feel like the opening and closing scenes with his family and neighborhood kids could’ve been yanked right from my own life. Those scenes between Max and his mom, played perfectly by Catherine Keener? Heartbreaking. Poignant. As for the time spent with the Wild Things, I can’t say that my fantasy worlds (or are they fantasy?) held such creatures: mine were more along the lines of unicorns and mermaids, harpies and dragons. Still, I was drawn into the sad, lesson-filled woods where Max (emotionally) grew up as he deepened his relationships with those giant furry folks. And what’s even more beautiful about Jonze’s vision is that he didn’t create some cookie-cutter, sanitized version to appeal to the masses. He took a chance, went deep and adult, and stayed true to author Maurice Sendak’s haunted, nostalgic, mystical children’s book (that isn’t just for children). I left the movie theatre on opening weekend and had to find a quiet spot in the parking lot so I could cry and let out everything this film stirred up in me.

Monday, February 15, 2010

quote of the day

"We are all in the gutter...but some of us are looking at the stars."

--Oscar Wilde

Friday, February 05, 2010

Exhibits A & B

Hey everybody. I know I haven’t written in a while – Life has been quite the whirlwind. But I started thinking to myself, “These ‘quotes of the day’ just aren’t cutting it anymore. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get down to business.” Part of my absence has been that the last couple months of 2009 were intense in that kind of way that feels more…appropriate for a diary than a blog. I contemplated (and contemplate still) jotting down my thoughts & experiences from then, but the verdict’s still out. Instead, I’m going the figurative science project or court trial route, and will provide you all with exhibits of what 2010 has held in store thus far.

Let’s begin:

Exhibit A: MOVING

I spent all of January looking for new digs. For the longest time I’ve wanted to have a place for just little ol’ me – I’ve held these fantasies of where to put this piece of furniture or that one, how I’ll sit in some bay window and gaze at the sunrise while sipping my coffee – but with my budget realized I’d probably have to sell all my furniture to pay rent and that bay window would instead be that tiny kind you find in basements – or prisons. So I began that mysterious, exciting, and sometimes baffling experience calling “shared housing.” Yes, I put feelers out to friends and also went on Craigslist looking for an ideal living situation. Gosh, did I want to have one room/housemate or two or more? Which neighborhood was down-to-earth, artsy, reasonably priced, and more or less free of gang warfare? What if children were in the picture? What about cats, or dogs, or…chickens? (I’m quite fond of all of them.) I’m lucky in that I have mostly positive things to say about meeting with the people I did. It’s pretty strange, though: you are on an interview, after all. In fact, you’re interviewing each other. Feeling their vibe. Wondering if they’re a complete slob or too much of a neat freak. Making sure they’re not an axe murderer. All that fun stuff. In a couple of the places, I just walked in and felt, hmm, sadness or edginess. It’s like this veil of crackling negative personality hovered through the rooms. I politely waited until it wouldn’t seem rude before I excused myself. My most entertaining experience was when one couple showed me their room for rent in their home; the room was still rented from somebody else not there at the moment; and the room was a disaster – bed sheets tossed all over, dirty underwear on the floor. I mean, I don’t need it to look perfect, but before I come over double check for no skid marks, please!

Ironically and fittingly, I am now going to be living at one of the places I looked at in the beginning. It just seemed almost too easy: are we really this great of a fit? Do we really have such similar aesthetics? Am I dreaming here? Let’s just say that Lisa likes pictures of bug-eyed children, and owls, and has electric candelabra coming out of her walls. I’m in heaven.

{Side note to both “She with the Cat Named Stevie Nicks” and “She Who Rides a Dark Horse”. It was such a pleasure meeting you; you’re great! And Kelly – I’m thankful Julie brought us together as friends. Fig is a gem, and he really, really looks like Fizzgig from The Dark Crystal – but gentler, and with far less sharp teeth.}

Exhibit B: DATING

I’ve been single for way too long and have almost forgotten what a date feels like. After B and I broke up, I made the mistake of getting out there too soon. I suppose it was good for me to test the waters, but after I broke G’s heart – and realized I wasn’t over B yet – I needed to take a step back and figure some things out about men, what I wanted from future relationships, and what I could work on in myself after taking a long, hard look in the mirror. And then I pondered. And then I cocooned some more. And then I pondered yet again. And finally: wait, has it really been this long since I’ve gone out on a date? I almost felt scared to get out there again – and that’s when I knew it was now or never, baby.

I’m not embarrassed to admit I’m taking the online dating approach. What’s there to be embarrassed about? We sometimes meet people in bars, or through friends & coworkers, or at the bus stop, and sometimes we can drink our morning coffee (bay window or no bay window) and peek online to see who might be out there. It’s all about balance. Being a bar fly or shutting ourselves off in our rooms with just our computers are too extremes we should avoid. So yep, I’ve done it before and I’ve done it again; I’m out there meeting people with log-in names like “BearMaster69”, “SecretAnget13”, and “Luv_U_Back4ever”. (*I made those all up – but feel free to steal them.*) There are the usual, stereotypical creeps who send you near-naked pictures of themselves with messages like, “Ur hot. Want to meat up?” [sic] And then there are the insecure fellas. My heart goes out to them; don’t we all have our insecure sides, that part that wonders about soulmates and if we’re going to make a connection with another guy, whether that’s in cyberspace or a coffee shop? But it’s pretty funny – I got this one message along the lines of, “You sound really great in your profile. Too great. Are you actually this nice or will you disappointment me like all the other guys in my life have?” Hmm. Would you respond to him? No, me neither.

Had a wonderful date with J a couple weeks ago. But as it turns out, J and I are just too darned alike for there to be much mystery/tension/intrigue. We started out writing each other these long, eloquent emails peppered with anecdotes about our Midwestern roots, writing, the Universal Spirit, and streetlights that happen to burn out as soon as we walk or bike or drive under them. The connections just kept coming: we both lived in Madison for a while, both got our MFAs in Creative Writing, both are Volunteer Coordinators for non-profits here in Portland. Thing is, we met and….no spark. Immediately I felt like J and I had met in a past life, had been comrades in arms against some enemy. I feel a deep sense of trust with him, something that is both intuitive and spiritual, something that started long before our current incarnations. So because of our date – and our talks afterwards – we knew we were on the same page and that we’d found a fellow friends-only tribesman, if you will. Hey, I’ll take it! J, thanks for the great time. Loved our talk over beers. I do, indeed, “remember” you. And welcome back to Portland.

As for future dates, soulmate possibilities, potential friendships, and maybe a mind-blowing goodnight kiss (or two), I’m open to any of it. Have a date with L tomorrow, which I’m looking forward to. The world of dating is strange and beautiful and sometimes sad and often frustrating. In theory, I’d like to be able to go out with a few different guys, get to know them over time, and just stay relaxed through the whole process – while also being open to swept-off-my-feet potential if I click with somebody right off the bat. I think connection can happen like that – in a split second – or it can grow organically over time. We shall see what happens. As long as I’m honest with myself and others, I think I’m on the right track.

There are future exhibits to display. For now, A & B must suffice. Thanks for stopping by my science project. Blue ribbons, everyone.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

quote of the day

"Life is made up, not of great sacrifices or duties, but of little things, in which smiles, and kindnesses, and small obligations, given habitually, are what win and preserve the heart and secure comfort."

--Sir Humphrey Davy (1778-1829)