everybody, put your best suit or dress on

While not technically the new year yet, I couldn’t resist the Death Cab reference. This time of year always brings out the nostalgia in me — as I’m sure it does in just about everyone else, too — and what better time to get sappy and reflective than at the end of this year and on the cusp of the next? I’m pretty sure it’s what the holiday was designed for. (Nevermind the whole changing of the calendar thing.)

Aside from a few mishaps along the way, 2011 was a pretty kickass year, at least in my personal life. My parents celebrated their 30th anniversary in May. My brother got married in June and shortly after found out he and his wife are expecting their first child (baby Claire is due in March, and Aunt Katie can’t wait). My adorable nephew, Dante, turned 1 in November, and after spending some time with him around Christmas I can already tell he’s a brilliant child, if his ability to figure out a toy basketball and hoop after one attempt is any indication. (Scholarship, anyone?)

And of course, the best thing happened in August. After months of planning and planning-related headaches, I married my fantastic, goofy best friend, and four months in, we’re as happy as ever. I don’t want to gush too much (my Facebook friends are more than familiar with my ability to wax poetic about my happiness, sometimes to the detriment of others — apologies for that), but suffice it to say, the day itself was wonderful, and so far, the life we’re building together is pretty great. I’m looking forward to many more years of this fabulous existence with my husband by my side.

I hope to write a more exhaustive end-of-year pop culture recap in the coming days/weeks (I’m currently working on a retrospective music mix, which is taking much longer than anticipated, mostly because I keep coming across new tunes to add to the pile), but for now, let me end this one with a few of the things I enjoyed in 2011:

This commercial • Spontaneous trips to Boston & NYC to visit much-missed friends • Seeing “Starry Night” in person • Bossypants • My first iPod • Dancing to Lady Gaga with my father- and mother-in-law at my brother’s wedding • 50/50 • Randomly discovering new music • Repeatedly singing the chorus of LCD Soundsytem’s “Drunk Girls” with my husband apropos of nothing • Leslie and Ben’s coupling and Ron Swanson’s wisdom & ‘stache on Parks and Recreation • The first half of Mindy Kaling’s book, which I started yesterday and absolutely love already • WEQX • Sam Roberts Band • “Internet Killed the Video Star” • Continuing my obsession with Chris Jones and Esquire, especially this piece • Honeymooning in Maine and everything that went along with it, especially the copious amounts of seafood and Dark & Stormies • Mike and Tom Eat Snacks • The Muppets and its fantastic soundtrack • Buying way too much music on Amazon • Inadvertently becoming a USC fan (sorry, Dad), to the delight of my husband and his college friends • Giant teacups filled with Strongbow • My teal skirt from H&M • Big metal chickens • To-die-for dessert at New World Bistro • The soups/sandwiches/smells at Placid Baker in Troy • The “New Girl” theme song • A signed copy of Simon Pegg’s book with a personalized wedding message (thanks, Jaime!) • Hilarious and heartfelt presents/cards/speeches from our wedding, and our sunglasses favors • Having a husband and becoming a wife •

…and Mondoro champagne, which Nick and I drank on one of our first dates, at our wedding, and many times in between, and what we’ll toast with tonight to ring in the new year.

Cheers to 2011; bring on 2012.


hey, hey, it’s a working day

Since I missed the boat on blogging about Lonely Avenue when it was released last year, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to finally, belatedly discuss it in this space thanks to a fortuitous Twitter posting from Mr. Folds this morning.

Ben just released the video for “A Working Day,” the album’s opening track and my favorite in the collection. (Close second: “Saskia Hamilton.”) Perhaps it’s because I, too, have had several guys (and gals) on the ‘Net (and on the phone — two just today) tell me I suck, thanks to my day job writing mostly about small towns and their accompanying small town bickering. Perhaps it’s because like the song’s protagonist, I also think that “everything I write is shit,” including this very blog post. Either way, I love this song if for no other reason than it’s an excellent tune to crank in the car. Rolling in my Nissan, listening to Ben Folds wax philosophic about his own inadequacies, I am nothing but the epitome of cool.

Anyway, the point is, this song makes me happy. And — as if it could happen any other way — its accompanying video makes me equally, if not even more so, ecstatic.

The energy and unadulterated joy behind this clip is contagious. I watched it twice before work this morning, and both viewings left me with a big, goofy grin on my face. I’ve been to a bunch of Ben Folds’s shows over the years and have gladly taken part in his a capella arrangements for songs like “Army” and “Not the Same.” But seeing it done for the first time with a new song — and wishing to God I could have been there to do it, too — is like witnessing Ben’s process for the first time. It’s at once cool and confounding — how on earth did he get it to sound so seamless? How long did he craft the arrangement by himself before trying it out on his audience/guinea pigs? It always works in the end, but the obvious preparation he put into this video in particular warrants new appreciation for his musical genius.

When I first heard Ben was collaborating with Nick Hornby, one of my favorite authors, for this album, I was thrilled. It didn’t immediately occur to me that I would get the chance to hear these songs live if I went to see Ben solo — they lived so perfectly together as one entity on Lonely Avenue that I couldn’t picture them out on their own in the wild concert halls across the continent. Now, I’m ready and willing to jump right in, playing living instrument to Ben’s madcap conductor.

As the song says,

I’m a genius, really, I’m excellent
Better than them, I kick their asses

The next time Ben needs someone to participate in a viral video, he knows who to call.

dirty little secrets

In February, my alma mater, the University at Albany, hosted a PostSecret art exhibit and presentation with the project’s founder, Frank Warren. Excited to hear about the event’s local arrival, I pitched the story to my editor, who agreed to let me write a couple articles, about both the exhibit and the presentation with Frank. I covered the exhibit’s opening, and obtained two press tickets to let me and my friend Maddy see Frank speak in front of several hundred UA students a few weeks later.

But before that, I was able to interview Frank in a more intimate setting, as he agreed to let me and a reporter for the Albany Student Press ask him a few questions ahead of time and in front of his documentary crew. Talk about pressure. I was a ball of nerves and anxiety, hoping I would ask unique enough questions that wouldn’t have him internally rolling his eyes and thinking “THIS again?!” — all while looking and sounding good for the camera. Did I mention we did the interview in a recital hall under stage lighting? I was literally hot under the collar/skirt/tights.

It took a while to get everything set up, Frank’s mic, the camera angle, and then the perfect position on stage for the three of us. My ASP counterpart and I were shuffled around more times than I can count, first asked to sit one way, then another, then switch places, then move our chairs so close together our thighs were touching. It was enough to make one dizzy with diva-dom. Are they getting my good side? I wondered as I nonchalantly flipped my hair for the thousandth time.

After about 20 minutes of maneuvering — and lots of looks of anxiety from our photographer, Jim, who I had brought along with me promising it would be a quick assignment and who had another job to shoot immediately afterward — we were ready to fire away. Our conversation with Frank was awesome. He was so warm and genuine and funny and, well, frank, and that day will go down as one of my favorite experiences as a journalist. It’s hard to accurately articulate what having a conversation like that with someone so influential and important to so many people really means. Suffice it to say, I was giddy for the rest of the day.

Of course, I could only include one or two quotes from my interview with Frank in my article, since I was also covering the PostSecret live event that evening and that was the crux of the story (a story that ended up being much shorter than the one I wanted to write — such is life at a small daily newspaper). But our chat was too great not to share. Inspired by my coworker Cecelia, who posted a transcript of a memorable, too-long-for-print interview over at her own blog, I’d like to post some extended excerpts from my Q&A with Frank.

Continue reading

i’m not together, but i’m getting there

Two weeks ago I crashed my car. For anyone who’s been in an accident before, I’m sure you can relate to the shock, the embarrassment, the fear, the confusion, the disillusionment. At age 25, it was my first accident, and I felt all those things in equal measure.

That “brightest of bright reds” vehicle I mentioned in my last post? Well, she’s gone now, resigned to the great scrap heap in the sky. (Though the guy at the garage where I received the diagnosis did agree to pop the Chevy logo off the hood and give it to me as a souvenir of my shame and my survival — which, yes, I should clarify, I am absolutely fine. A bruised arm and a very bruised ego, but otherwise alright.)

Anyway, the point of this story is to say that totaling my car, and coming pretty close to totaling my life, got me thinking about how quickly things can happen. One moment, I’m pulling out of the parking lot at my job because I had a stomach ache and just wanted to finish my work from home. The next, I get hit head-on by a Jeep. Such is life. Moments like that come and go, thousands of times a day, and we can’t do anything to slow them down or stop them in any way. They happen. It sucks. We try to move on.

As I spent the last week and a half icing my surface wounds and searching for a new mode of transportation, all while feeling stressed out of my mind, I couldn’t help but think about the moment, or moments, that led up to me abandoning this blog, and all the moments since that I wished I had kept it up so I could tell you about all the amazing — and not so amazing — new songs I heard, albums I purchased, movies I saw, stories I read, books I ogled, TV shows that had me hooked from episode one. I’ve missed having an outlet to express my joys and frustrations, as banal and commonplace as they may be. At least they were mine, and at least a handful of people cared. I missed that. I still do.

Which brings me to today. A lot has changed since I last wrote. I’ve been working full-time in my (mostly) chosen field for over a year, experiencing all the highs and lows that come with it, and realizing that this industry is so much more fragile than any of us could have imagined. I moved back to a city I had abandoned years ago with the hope of never returning, feeling every emotion one can expect to feel when presented with something so familiar, and yet so foreign, wanting desperately to feel home and feeling almost anything but. Most importantly, last summer by a waterfall on perhaps the hottest day of the year, I tearfully and gleefully promised to spend the rest of my life with the greatest person I know, and on August 26 we’ll make that pledge official.

It’s been a pretty busy 18 months to say the least, but there’s been something missing throughout all of it. As I subtitled this blog, way back when, I want something else to get me through this life. And as I also said when I started, without me truly realizing it until now, that something is writing — at least, writing about what I want, off the clock and off the radar, and all the frivolity that comes with it. (Though if this story is any indication, there is very fine line between “frivolous” and “news.”)

So, like my betrothed said in his own kinda-sorta-maybe-comeback post, this isn’t necessarily a promise of more things to come, at least not as frequently as you or I would like. (Though there are several ideas that I’ve had brewing for a while now, and plan on posting in the near future.) But it is a promise that I still have something to say, however infrequent or lacking in eloquence those things may be.

Speaking of lacking eloquence, I’m not quite sure how to wrap things up here. How do you close out your own semi-sheepish reintroduction to blogging? In the words of Alkaline Trio, “You know, all my favorite singers have stolen all of my best lines.” So in the spirit of that:

I’m a horrible dancer, I ain’t gonna lie, but I’ll be damned if that means that I ain’t gonna try.

Here’s to trying again. Let’s see what happens.

there is nothing like someone new

I’m moving to Albany next Friday.

I keep saying it, but it still seems unreal. The last few weeks have been teeming with Major Life Changes: I got a new job (in journalism! Finally! Huzzah!), I bought my first car (the brightest of bright reds), and I’m moving back to a city that I love and miss to move in with someone I love and miss. (I’m also pretty sure the laptop — or at least its hard drive — is lost and gone forever. Sigh.)

Frightened Rabbit‘s “Nothing Like You” has been another breath of fresh air,  soothing me amid the stress of all these changes and captivating me for the better part of last week, swirling still about my head six days after it first caught my ear.

This latest single from their forthcoming album, The Winter of Mixed Drinks, is nothing short of miraculous, joyously buoyant and ever so catchy. I dare you to watch this delightfully DIY video (far superior to its glossy counterpart) without cracking a smile:

As one YouTube user put it, “I can’t understand how this band aren’t a total chart destroying, globe-shagging phenomenon.” Indeed, these Scots have been pumping out great, slightly-under-the-radar albums since 2006, particularly 2008’s fierce, lovely The Midnight Organ Fight. But shout-outs in the pages of Esquire and repeated plays on shows like Chuck prove that the world is starting to take notice.

The greatest thing about “Nothing Like You” is that it’s essentially a scathing rebuke of an ex disguised in a shimmering pop package, topped off with a ribbon of jangling tambourines. The video depicts various band members and company bopping about to this chorus:

She was not the cure for cancer / And all my questions still asked for answers / But there is nothing like someone new/ And this girl she was nothing like you

All my Major Life Changes are exciting and terrifying, and as much as I try to assign them meaning, they will probably not end up as grandiosely Life-Changing as I assume them to be.

But there is nothing like something new — job, car, roommate, song, or otherwise — and I can thank Frightened Rabbit for that realization.

are you aware the shape i’m in?

Two weeks ago I made the unpleasant discovery that I suffer from migraines. Yesterday, I was crippled by the worst one yet.

Pushing away my dinner plate and fumbling up the stairs to my room, I sought respite in my warm bed and a cool washcloth over my eyes. Not wanting to fall asleep at seven o’clock, I tried to think of CDs I could put on that would keep me awake without feeding the beast raging through my skull.


I missed the boat on these guys when they released I and Love and You back in September, but upon hearing the title track earlier this year, I was instantly hooked.

These tunes fit in snugly with my favorite folkies, Josh Ritter and Ryan Adams, and are exactly the kind of music I love for rainy days, heartfelt singalongs with my steering wheel, and yes, soothing migraines. (And maybe wedding fever.)

Hours later, my migraine had long subsided, but this album was still pleasantly buzzing between my ears. I and Love and the Avetts.

deaf, dumb, and blindsided

Well, the honor of receiving a Best Picture nomination is now officially meaningless.

Thank God for Oscar nominations to break me out of my blogging hibernation. The Academy Awards are my favorite television event of the year, an obsession dating back to 1997/1998 and the domination of Titanic at both the box office and the Oscars. (Gimme a break, I was twelve. And oh my, was Leo DiCaprio dreamy.)

As luck would have it, my baser instincts eventually blossomed into a general love of all things movie-related (and okay, maybe glamourous, too), and this appreciation for cinema honed my burgeoning critical eye. As I got older, I started buying in to Oscar Hype, eagerly gobbling up Entertainment Weekly‘s predictions and handicapping every awards season, weighing their opinions against my own.

My years-long devotion to these awards is why today’s nominations are so shocking — or rather, one nomination in particular. With the Best Picture field open to ten films this year in lieu of the traditional five, there were bound to be some surprises. But while the Academy is known for an odd choice here and there (and being a wee bit out of touch), The Blind Side‘s selection as one of the year’s best is truly baffling.

Full disclosure: I haven’t seen the film. But that’s because it looked awful. And critics I respect thought it was pure, unrefined, dumbed-down sap. So yes, I find it difficult to believe that The Blind Side deserves this nomination. And while I know it doesn’t have a chance in hell of winning (as Roger Ebert observed, there are only five real nominees), shouldn’t someone over at the Academy — along with its 6,000-plus members — be embarrassed? I know I am.

Although maybe I’m just upset because (500) Days of Summer was completely snubbed. Hard to tell.

(And as always, Videogum puts it all into perspective.)