Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Food Democracy Now

Not everybody takes the time to read something like The Omnivore's Dilemma, but if you know anything about the sad state of agriculture in this country and want to see it change, you might be interested in this: http://www.fooddemocracynow.org

This petition aims to get influential reformers positions as Under Secretaries in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The site explains it better than I can.

All I know is that the Obama administration has a unique opportunity here, and we should do what we can to encourage them to make some needed changes.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Albums I Liked in 2008

I wasn't as diligent this year in searching for new music. But this was a good year for folkies, so I had to do something. Here are some albums I liked this year:

The Overhyped, But Still Good
She & Him, Volume One - Zooey Deschanel, the cute hipster actress who is now pretty mainstream (Jim Carey's Yes Man, need I say more?) has a good voice. No really, she can sing (as we all witnessed in Elf). She didn't go the sad route of actress-turned-wannabe-pop star, and teamed up with M. Ward. They came up with retro-country inspired pop ditties that will not leave your head for months.

Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend - They owe quite a bit to Paul Simon, but these kids wrote some good songs and executed an excellent album. West African traditions and classical music blended into catchy summer pop music makes me suspect that they will be around for more than 15 minutes.

Delightful New Artists
Thao with the Get Down Stay Down, We Brave Bee Stings and All - Thao might also fall into the overhyped category, but she is the deserved heir to Jenny Lewis. Her unique voice and provoking songs got under my skin, and I have not stopped listening to her album. On top of that, she has an engaging stage presence and along with her back-up band, the Get Down Stay Down, put on one of the best shows I saw this year.

Laura Marling, Alas, I Cannot Swim - Okay, enough already, we know: It's amazing that she's only 18 (or maybe 19 now). British singer/songwriter Marling put together a stunning debut with the best title of the year. I don't care if it's technically not "indie" because she's on a major label. She's so good, it doesn't matter.

Just Plain Solid
Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Conor Oberst - Conor has left emo behind to embraced roots music and rock 'n roll. This has lead to a sound that, yes, we've heard before but is perhaps appropriate for our generation as never before. His maturity leads me to believe that he is the closest anyone will come to our generation's Dylan.

Mates of State, The Re-Arranger - The husband and wife duo left the San Francisco scene to "settle" in Connecticut, but then they've churned out two stellar albums in two years and still managed to go on tour with little kids in tow. Their latest captures the mood of a couple in their 30s and continues the unique sounds that made them so interesting in the first place. Settled? Not in the least.

Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes - This is probably my favorite album of the year. The layering of a 70s folk sound over a choir of voices and instruments has a beautiful, melancholy tinge. It's almost like an Appalachian fairy. (I'm not kidding, this band seems right out of a mythical American wood, with long beards and bell-bottoms.) It's amazing.

Local Fun
Balmorhea, Rivers Arms - If there is any one Austin band you should check out, it's Balmorhea. Subtle, soothing, all rapturously beautiful. Okay, that may be inflated praise. But they are currently my favorite local band for a reason: This is the best experimental classical music created by contemporary musicians I've heard in a long time. Possibly ever.

Honorable Mentions
Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue
Little Joy - Little Joy
The Decemberists - Always a Bridesmaid EP
Leatherbag - Love & Harm (Another local Austin band, although this one's more likely to get national attention.)
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago (This is a really good album. It should probably be on my list.)
MIA's song Paper Planes (For the record, it was released last year but had an omnipresence in movies, commercials and even mainstream radio.)

[Note: I wrote this a few days ago and meant to post it while it was still 2008. Also, most quality music sources (the ones I pay attention to, anyway) have bestowed the honor of best album of the year to either Fleet Foxes or Bon Iver. Except for Paste. They gave the title to She & Him.]

The Extremist Comes Home

I don't usually delve into my inner world on this blog. Sure, I offer my opinions freely, but I don't get ... emotional. I try to avoid anything too personal, anything likely to end up in my journal.

That said, I'm at home in Georgia. I find myself holding back from calling Austin "home" when talking to my parents, primarily because we all hold to a sentimental idea that this house will always be my home. I'm not ready to let it go, although I'm getting there.

When I come back here, I have culture shock. So many things seem strange - the limited recycling, the constant presence of ESPN, the lack of vegetables, driving at least 15 minutes to get anywhere. I realize how much I have changed my lifestyle and how different it is from my parents' and my brothers'.

My mom, bless her, tries. She has a little compost pile and saved colorful plastic bags for me so I could use them in my crochet projects. One brother asked me to make him a set of coasters out of plastic bags, and the other brother gave me an Obama notecard for Christmas. I've had some calm, intelligent arguments with my dad about politics and other issues (instead of emotional blow-outs that used to happen).

I should be okay with their efforts. I guess I'm grateful that they are trying to make little amends for me, but I know this - living comfortably and conveniently in the suburbs - is not the life I want. I wish it didn't bother me that these people I love have chosen lives I can't justify anymore.

Now if I can only ignore my dad watching Fox News.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hey! It's Not That Easy Being Green.

Christian Lander strikes again.

On another note, Slumdog Millionaire is an excellent movie. It's a little stuck between cinematic traditions, and it might be a little too westernized. But it's a great movie all the same. Worth your $9.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

GRE Christmas Story

My roommate Dave is an odd fellow (see this blog for proof). He's also a very good, supportive roommate and friend. The night before I took the GRE, he wrote me this story using GRE vocabulary words:

In primaeval times, a paladin was born in a manger. Yes, a pallid, insipid manger rather than a resplendent palace. Ironically, his name would soon become ubiquitous around the world. He will win the approbation of many but his life would remain equivocal as well. Pharisees would leave a piquant taste in his mouth, or would they? The louche bastards were full of obloquy. They would be captious of Jesus' choices, but his love remained impervious. He didn't care if you had no pulchritude or if you let out faint mewls in the night or of your noise protruded like a poor Jew. That's how capacious his love was for humanity. He'd gather and gleam his stupid disciples and ask them to be a bit aberrant for once. Be a burbler if you will. This no time to be lugubrious or doleful. There are vitrolic forces at work and our community must be propulsive in our untenable resolve for justice! May we be fervid enigmas for the world to see.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


First we thought the PC was a calculator. Then we found out how to turn numbers into letters with ASCII — and we thought it was a typewriter. Then we discovered graphics,and we thought it was a television. With the World Wide Web, we've realized it's a brochure.
— Douglas Adams

Friday, December 5, 2008