Aw yiss, Polar Vortex

If you live in America, you already know what’s going on. In some parts of Minnesota today it’s colder than Mars. And you know what, that makes me proud. I try not to complain about living in this great state, because it’s great, and today is no exception. I’m not going to lie and say the weather isn’t a big deal. It’s a big effin’ deal. Not everybody gets to have a nice warm house with a warm dinner (we made a kick ass mid-winter’s feast this evening), or a car to drive to work, least of all a garage to store said car in, but to me winter is still quite beautiful. Minnesota is incredible diverse in its climate, which is bizarre, because we’re Minnesota. We’re hardly a blip on most of the world’s radar. We have harsh winters and, lately, brutal summers, but we don’t have freakish insect life, or natural disasters (apart from the occasional tornado). We got mountains and lakes and trees and cabins, and excellent cities with exciting culture. Minnesota is the best.CRW_9037CRW_9040I went out this afternoon after work and took a few photos around my yard. It’s really not so bad for the first 30 seconds you’re outside. Unfortunately after five minutes I was walking in my house gasping and had to run my hands under lukewarm water. Minnesota!CRW_9049CRW_9052

2013: A Banner Year (an instagram retrospective)

2013 will go down as one of my all-time favorite years (along with 2005 and 2011), for so, so many reasons.

WINTER

It started with a brutal and snowy winter which carried on well into the spring. Minnesotans love complaining about winter.

WORK

In February I got a job at a goddamn Minnesota institution, and eventually got my first shot at Art Directing.

IHEARTUKjpg

Also in February, an Anglophile dance party at Brit’s Pub, “I Heart UK.”

ALANBIRTHDAY

In March we celebrated Alan’s birthday (which also falls on St. Patrick’s Day).

TRANSMISSION

Transmission, my weekly dance night of choice, and my standing poster gig for 4 years strong, celebrated 12 years in the First Avenue mainroom in March where I sold t-shirts.

MORRISSEY

Morrissey canceled his concert but he released an autobiography.

MADMEN

In April we rang in the new season of Mad Men with an annual party at Jax Cafe.

MYBIRTHDAY

On May 7th at 12AM I was ready to turn 25….

ENGAGEMENT

… And ready to start a new adventure with Alan…

LONDON

… Which also included going to LONDON for the first time, seeing the house from Spaced, Abbey Road, and my all-time fav comedian, Stewart Lee…

MANCHESTER1

MANCHESTER2

… And celebrating Morrissey’s birthday in Manchester.

ART

We did art galleries and poster shows.

SUMMER

And then Summery things, with lake houses, state fairs, grilling, giant birthdays.

JULY4

And the annual 4th of July Kickball Game, in true MURICA style.

HOBBIES

I got some new hobbies.

POOLTABLE

And we got a pool table, essentially making our very own basement dive bar.

BEER

I drank a lot of good beer…

BLOODIES

… And a lot of bloodies…

COFFEE

… And a lot of coffee.

SHOWS

Saw a ton of amazing shows….

CHICAGO

… Including in Chicago, for Riot Fest!

FALL

Had a kick-ass fall, with beautiful falling leaves and being “that house” on Halloween.

CHRISTMAS

Closed out the year strong with a Christmas blitz of movies, good food, family time, and cozy festive houses.

ARYA

And Arya was there for all of it.

I hope your year was as good as mine was. Thank YOU for making it spectacular. Here’s to even more adventures in 2014!

Favorite albums of 2013, part 2

Picking up from last time, it’s time to name the remaining fav. albums of 2013. Writing about music is tough. I want to convey my enthusiasm for the music without sounding so up-my-own-ass. Gonna try to be a little more candid this time around. Let’s do it!
daftpunk-1367945965

2013 was a real groovy year. That’s really the best way I can describe Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. It brought a new kind of nostalgia into popular music. I don’t know what other people to listen to, but I generally gravitate towards music that tries to sound like the 80′s, but this album forced me to recognize another era, another style of music. It’s still got the ostentatious, playful, electro side of Daft Punk, while introducing da funk. You know? It just grooves from start to back.  When ‘Get Lucky’ hit the airwaves, it was the type of song you would listen to, and still be tapping your foot 5 minutes after it ended. The whole album felt like one long Summer Night, which is almost always a great thing.

Key track:

2012PalmaViolets180Press171212

Palma Violets was originally described to me as “English Punk.” And yeah, that’s pretty much true. I think it sounds like a very classic form of “English Punk”, like early Clash (and dudes, early Clash is the best Clash). Apart from the classic, bratty punk-rock attitude, it’s sort of dressed up and proper too. And it’s sweet. The employment of, I dunno, is it an organ? A theremin? It gives the album a wholly warm and fuzzy feeling. To me it’s just honest and nice. I saw these guys back in April in my favorite venue, and it was my first time jumping on stage at a show! Do I remember much of it? Nooooope, but any band that brings out that kind of confidence is doing something right. 

Key Track:

Franz-Right-Thoughts-Right-Words-Right-Actions

I’ve been anywhere from a moderate-to-serious Franz fan since 2005, making it pretty much the only band I still like, still listen to regularly, still get stoked about, since High School (with a maybe exception of Coldplay but that’s another blog post, probably). I’m not sure why they’re not way bigger, because their albums are just always solid. Could be their obscure influences like Josef K and Orange Juice, and that I guess they’re just a little weird? Who knows. I will admit that this album didn’t click the first time I listened to it, but the more I did, the more it just made me happy. It’s just a happy, poppy, summery record that has exactly what I’ve always loved about them. They’ve found a good niche for themselves and I like that they can make good music and have star appeal and I can still see them in a medium-sized venue and be close to them and jump around and dance dance dance.  

Key Track:

Cults-Static-608x608

 

A few times I’ve had to describe Cults to friends, and I usually go with “60′s girl group meets goth.” because it fits. Sometimes it’s a little spooky and dark, but with Madeline Follin’s high-pitched bubblegum princess voice, it just gives this interesting balance. Static picks up right where their debut left off. It’s addictive pop music all the way through. Cults would be at home at a 50′s high school dance with “Always Forever” or at the end of Sgt. Pepper with “I Can Hardly Make You Mine.” Just, keep making this music please.

Key Track:

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I’ll be honest with this one, I’m pretty sure I’ve listened to this whole thing, but I can’t quite remember it. I nearly wrote CHVRCHES off early this year. Radio singles “Recover” and “The Mother We Share” were just way too much for me. I found them annoying and repetitive. BUT, in the spirit of fairness I gave them a listen anyway, because you know, that’s what I did this year. I was hooked right in the middle of “Tether” which almost seemed to have creep up from behind me. I sat at my desk at work slightly slack-jawed, and I was a believer. “Tether” and “Lies” back-to-back could just be the whole album and I’d love it. So that’s why it’s on the list. 

Key Track(s):

 

Favorite Song of 2013:

I could take or leave Monomania from Deerhunter (I seem to recall not getting into it), but I could literally listen to this song forever. It’s catchy, it’s hook-y, it’s energetic, and it has hands-down the best guitar interlude EVAH. From the first time I heard it, maybe April? I was hooked. Bam. Favorite song.

Thanks for bearing with me as I went super-indulgent like I’m the NME or Pitchfork or whatever. 

 

 

 

 

HEY LADIES: You can be a Feminist and still have the White Wedding

lizprincess

I’ve been seeing this article, titled “Let’s Ban Weddings and, While We’re at it, Baby Showers Too” floating around the web the last few days, and normally I’m all for “think pieces” (whatever those are?) seeking to subvert the norm and question gender laws and societal traditions, but a lot of things stood about in this particular case, which I could just not let lie. I think Valerie Alexander and I probably would see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues, but something about her writing here really strikes me as totally patronizing.

My second year of law school at Berkeley, when I was broke beyond compare, I was in three weddings — one in Indiana, one in Chicago and one in Hawaii. Yes, Hawaii. I have completely lost touch with two of those brides, and am merely Facebook friends with the third, and for the record, none of them are still married. In fact, of the seven weddings in which I’ve stood up beside the bride, only two of the marriages have lasted.

Alright. I’ve been to, let’s say 20 weddings in my lifetime, and of those 20, three of them have ended in divorce, but it wasn’t because they weren’t prepared for the trials of marriage. In two cases, quite the opposite. Those women whose marriages were harmonious for a good portion, but near the end, they fought tooth-and-nail for them to work, despite their partners’ transgressions and emotional abuse. Some might say this is an act of weakness but it’s actually an incredible act of strength. I would actually say, in their cases, divorce was a pretty really good thing. They both had big weddings that cost a lot of money. I even designed the invitations for one of them. Is that the cause of their failure? No. Is it even a factor? Doubtful.

I look at the girls in the picture described above (and I use the word “girls” deliberately), and I feel sorry for them that their engagements have already been so marred by the ubiquity of this photo, but I also can’t help but wonder if all of the varied responses might help each one stop and ask whether she’s ready to be a wife, or merely ready to be a bride. Because there is an enormous difference.

Yeah, thanks for that. I won’t deny that a lot of women probably put a lot of effort into planning a wedding, without thinking about when they wake up the next day and their married life has begun. But who are you, Ms. Alexander, to say that the women (and I use the word “women” deliberately) aren’t prepared for what lies ahead? Do you even know them?

Alright look, I’m getting married in the Spring when I’ll be freshly 26. I think that’s considered young-ish. Would Ms. Alexander call me a girl who’s not prepared for her future? Just by looking at me? Very likely. I can easily dispel any doubts though, quickly, if you like. My fiancée and I have been together for over 3 years, and have lived together for over 2. In my mind, we are a married couple without the contract. We do the grocery shopping together (and separately), fold laundry together (and separately), go out with friends together (and separately), make breakfast together, argue about money, and furniture, and everything else healthy couples do/argue about. We plan to raise a family together. We already own a house together. Wouldn’t some say that’s a lot like marriage? Granted, I’ve never been married before. So no, I’m not totally prepared for marriage because WHO IS?

Here’s what I like about feminism: I can do WHAT I want, HOW I want it. I can have the wedding I really want, without feeling like I’m betraying all the women who blazed trails before me. I can wear a white dress and be walked down the aisle by my dad. I don’t have to take my husband’s name. I don’t have to do a garter toss. I can have a party the way I want it, for me and my husband. Exactly the way WE want it.

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Imagine for a moment if weddings were prohibited, or better yet, if you could only have one after 10 years of marriage. How much money would be saved? More importantly, how many ill-advised unions would never happen in the first place? I swear, weddings are the leading cause of divorce. If some girl wasn’t fulfilling her childhood fantasy of being a princess, holding court in the perfect gown with the perfect hair and perfect flowers, on a day dedicated solely to celebrating her ability to land a man, how much more effort would she put into finding the right mate, since the reward for doing so would be a lifetime together, rather than a coronation?

I’d go one further and say marriage is the leading cause of divorce. It’s like saying life is the number one cause of death. Give me a fucking break, you really think that every woman who spends thousands of dollars on a big party is JUST indulging her own vanity? Of all the weddings I’ve attended, I never doubted for a second that the bride and groom didn’t absolutely love each other as best friends and life partners. But what do I know, I just live in a major U.S. CIty. Probably not indicative of any larger, progressive views of weddings…

I used to live in a very blue collar part of Oakland, California where there were more baby showers than graduation parties. One family who I was very close to had four daughters. The three oldest got pregnant before graduating from high school and dropped out, and the fourth was hell bent on getting her college education.

For the three oldest girls, there were big, splashy baby showers with thousands of dollars in gifts. For the fourth, she was sent off to Santa Monica College (a vortex of collegiate Darwinism) with little fanfare and virtually no help. Where was her College Shower, to give her a laptop, a bookbag, sheets and towels, gift cards and cash and whatever else she might have needed to strike out on her own? Where was the whole family coming together to lionize her achievement, and set an example for younger ones of how you’re revered when you further your education? No wonder she got pregnant and dropped out her freshman year. That was something at least she knew her family would celebrate.

That is unfortunate, and I feel sorry for that girl. It’s a shame, but I think if Ms. Alexander was trying to make any sort of valuable point, she should’ve started and stopped with these two paragraphs.

It makes me wonder what our world would look like if female accomplishments other than becoming a wife and mother were equally exalted. If we had First Job Showers, gifting briefcases and business suits, or Promotion Ceremonies, with hundreds of guests flying in to commemorate a woman’s move to the C-suites. How about teen entrepreneur shows, instead of six (six!) different television shows about teen moms, which makes some girls want to get pregnant, so they can get on TV?

Women SHOULD be celebrated and encouraged more for their personal achievements in work, school, etc… And I think we’ve come a long way with that already. I think if a young woman wants to celebrate a new job or a promotion, you know, she can choose to celebrate that. Arguably though, women accomplish things more often – in work and school – than they do, say, get married or have babies. So, having a party every time someone gets a job seems excessive. But we certainly do celebrate women in this way.

I attended three ceremonies for my big sister: When she graduated high school, college, and got her Masters degree. She was an English teacher for many years until she met her husband and she’s now a full time mother to my wonderful little niece. Does the fact that she now chooses to stay at home negate all her past achievements? No.

Why can’t we all fucking stop analyzing how other women get married, or don’t get married, or have babies, or don’t have babies?

If you have kids, that’s great (and if not, that’s also great). But teach them. Teach them to do what’s best for them, and not necessarily what’s best in the eyes of whatever society they’re in. Instead of blaming weddings for failed marriages, enact real change yourself. Instead of saying “wouldn’t it be great if women were celebrated for this instead of that.” Then DO THAT. And quit writing bullshit articles on the Huffington Post.

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Favorite albums of 2013, part I

I may never be the kind of person to listen to 50, 60, 70 albums a year, spanning all kinds of genres. I may never even be able to compile a comprehensive “best of” list in my lifetime. I’m a bit too distracted, maybe a bit too narrow-focused for that. Nonetheless, this was a banner year for me, music-wise. I saw a bunch of shows, and listened to a shit-ton of albums. It was magical and exciting. I had the perfect circumstances to do this too. A steady job where I sat a computer for hours, enveloped in my own work. A Spotify premium membership that gave me access to thousands of albums, as soon as they came out, on my desktop and my phone. I consumed music this year like my life depended on it. So without further ado, here’s a few of my favorite albums this year, in no particular order:

wavves

My favorite album this year has to be Wavves’ Afraid of Heights. With a name like “Wavves,” I assumed it would be, y’know, some stoner rock-chillwave band. And, well, I was wrong. Instead what I got is a bratty, 90′s throwback that made me instantly nostalgic for a time period that I never really experienced. This album sent me off on an exploration of early 90′s post-grunge music, like Green Day and Weezer and The Lemonheads. So you know, I barely scratched the surface, BUT STILL. It’s a summer album, for warm days and car trips forever.

Key Track:

savages

This is the band right here. The post-punk genre has been modified and emulated over the years, but Savages takes it to the next level, by bringing it back to basics. Dark, moody, sparse. Cold beats and hard-edged guitars, and that throbbing bass that Peter Hook perfected over 30 years ago. Each one of these ladies brings something to the table. I saw them back in September and a friend pointed this out quite neatly: Frontwoman Jehnny Beth is “Ian Curtis with David Bowie cool.” Too true. Rock on, Savages.

Key Track:

20131013_lorde_pure_heroine_91

So much hype about Lorde this year, and after my first listen, I totally got it. For a young woman she’s quick to have found a powerful musical voice. Pure Heroine is lush and satisfying. You could just take a bite out of it. Lorde is a great antidote to Miley, and she’s definitely going places.

Key Track:

Arcade-Fire-Reflektor-608x608

I found Arcade Fire’s last effort – The Suburbs – to be slightly disappointing. Long, meandering, almost impossible to sit through in one listen. That’s not to say it wasn’t still a very good album. What AF has this year with Reflektor is a great album. Starting out strong with the funky, toe-tappy, mysterious, and yes, SEXY title track, it hardly falters the entire rest of the album. Blending Greek Myth, Haitian culture, retro synths and stunning boy-girl harmonies, along with LCD Soundsystem alum James Murphy’s producing, they have made something that some say is akin to Talking Heads, but they make all their own. Reflektor perfectly shows where they’ve been, while giving a strong sense of where they’re going, and I can’t get enough.

Key Track:

Overgrown_James-Blake

James Blake’s music is apparently classified as “post-dubstep.” I don’t really know what that means, but I know that I LOVED his sophomore effort Overgrown. It’s very efficient, coming in at just under 40 minutes, and it flows harmoniously from front to back. It’s got drone and ambience, which, together with Blake’s deep, soulful voice is both enveloping and chilly. A good combination.

Key Track:

Part II will come soon.

Then comes that big night, giving the tree the trim.

So, yes, *officially*, the Christmas season begins the day after Thanksgiving. I had the day off last Friday and went to town. I’m quite pleased with the decorations this year. They’re not terribly different from years past, but I dunno, it all feels totally cozy and Scandinavian and festive in the house. Much more than usual.CRW_8864CRW_8870CRW_8848CRW_8858CRW_8844CRW_8880

Of course, I seem to really get way into decorating the living room, and abandoning the rest of the house. So I need to figure something out. But what??