14 December 2010

Teen Dream by Beach House

I hate end-of-year rankings, particularly with music. I've said it before and I'll say it more. But I am dedicating this post to my favorite album of 2010. I'm not ranking anything except this one album, which is my #1. I also don't want to say it's the "best" album of 2010 because I hate that concept. And before the year is up I'll post my favorite songs of the year -- in no order, except for one song, which is my favorite of the year (but that's for later).

So if any of you know me at all, you know that my favorite album of 2010 was hands-down, without a doubt, no contest: Teen Dream by Beach House.

Before Teen Dream, Beach House meant, to me: mellow, sleepy, thick. I really liked Devotion and Beach House but they didn't particularly speak to me. I've never been one for more lo-fi sounds and with Animal Collective and Radiohead making music at the same time as Beach House and Devotion, I just wasn't into more sleepy sounds.
It was around this time last year that I heard about the new Beach House album leaking. I really try to stay away from leaks, especially of bands I really like. To me, possibly sacrificing quality and the intended finished product for sake of getting music sooner isn't worth it (the exception to this was the grand Christmas 2008 leak of Merriweather Post Pavilion because who am I to ignore a Christmas miracle?). My friends don't feel the same way about album leaks and I was slowly being repeatedly told how good Teen Dream was. I listened to "Norway," which was on Beach House's website. I was completely blown away. And I grabbed the leak immediately. I also bought the album the week it came out, which, as I suspected, was on a completely different level. Aside from the accompanying DVD of music videos, which added a whole other layer of interpretation, the quality of the actual album was so much better than the leak. I didn't even think the quality of the leak (a vinyl rip) was bad until I heard how it was intended to be heard.

Teen Dream
, though only 10 tracks, is too big and vast in its perfection and my love for it to do it justice just talking about the album in a general way. So this is something I never do; that is, break the album down by song.
  • "Zebra"
Unlike "Saltwater" and "Wedding Bell," the opening tracks on Beach House and Devotion, respectively, "Zebra" opens Teen Dream with a single, crystal-clear sound: that of Alex Scally's guitar. After his guitar, the sounds delicately layer on one another rather than exploding all at once. Victoria Legrand's voice, Scally's back-up vocals, Daniel Franz's percussion are simple, clear sounds that just move along, meet up with each other, and continue along together. The second verse comes with more pronounced support of Scally's back-up vocals and Legrand sings with a slightly (very slightly) heightened sense of urgency. "Zebra" is all about building. Beach House is gently leading you into 49 minutes of bliss and they're doing it carefully. Incidentally, for a really long time I thought the chorus went "black and white whores." You might be thinking "But the song is called 'Zebra,' why would you ever think 'whores' before 'horse?'" I don't have an answer for you and it probably says more about me than not. The realization that it was "horse" and not "whores" came hand-in-hand with the realization that Victoria Legrand does the main vocals, not Alex Scally. Her voice is so raw and androgynous and that, mixed with me listening to music mostly sung by males without super deep voices (Panda Bear, Thom Yorke, etc), caused me to totally betray my feminist views and automatically assume it was Scally taking the lead and Legrand lending support.
By the time the chorus is finished, Franz's percussion comes boldly sweeping in. At this point it sounds less like the vocals are being supported by guitar and percussion and more like the three are coming at you at once. But all of the elements are still very simple and clear, making it just sound stronger, not chaotic. The sound gets stronger and stronger through the second chorus until there's a beautiful moment where the drums drop out and it's just Scally's guitar and Legrand's voice and very subtle percussion. But as Legrand sings the last vocals of the song, "among us," Franz's drumming again builds up from the background to carry the song with Scally's guitar and Legrand's keyboard until the end.
  • "Silver Soul"
Disclaimer: "Silver Soul" is my favorite song on Teen Dream. There are lots of reasons for it: the lyrics, the strength of Legrand's voice, how fucking sweet Scally's guitar is . . . but most of all it's how it all comes together to make this amazing, beautiful, sparkly gem. "Silver Soul" really is like crystal filled with fresh snow, but, you know, in song form.
This true for a lot of songs, especially Beach House songs, but listening to "Silver Soul" on headphones is totally otherworldly. I can do it over and over again (and have, and will). Which, coincidentally, is not something I've done since I was a teenager.
Legrand's lyrics have such great imagery without being too concrete. Not that I have anything against super straightforward lyrics . . . that's one of the main things I love about Panda Bear's songs. But Legrand's lyrics let you follow along with her, but she's barely holding your hand the entire time, your fingers are barely touching, so you're having your own entire experience:
The bodies lying in the sand,
They're moving in the dark
It is so quick to get us in,
Feel it moving through our skin

It's a sickness,
Infinite quickness, yea
Also, I don't know anything about guitars. So I can't say for sure what it is about Scally's guitar in "Silver Soul" that gets me. It just rips. It's totally sexy and powerful without overpowering any other elements of the song. There are times when I listen to "Silver Soul" that I just completely focus on the guitar sounds. It makes the song move faster than it does normally and totally underlines the steaming sexuality of "Silver Soul." And I'm not kidding when I say steaming sexuality. When you really listen to it, to the breathy vocals, to the full-on powerful guitar, to the delicate keys, to the light but insistent drums pounding, to the vocals with words like "the silver soul is running through," "it gathers heat without you," and the ever-present "it is happening again," . . . I think to say the song is about sex doesn't give it enough credit. It's about sexuality, sensuality, movement, heat.
In a lot of ways, Teen Dream itself is arguably a very sexual album. But its sexuality is not overt (no lyrical mention of sex or sexuality or any other slang version) while at the same time is, when it's present, is all-consuming. "Silver Soul" is the first really powerful suggestion of this sexuality, which will be really heightened by the time "10 Mile Stereo" comes along.
But sexuality aside, "Silver Soul" is such a great example of how far Beach House has come as a band: in terms of instrumentation and production, it's much more advanced than songs on Beach House and Devotion.

  • "Norway"
When you're coming down from "Silver Soul" you might notice that the music doesn't stop. The gentle lead-in of "Zebra" is far away now, you just heard Victoria Legrand wail "It is happening again" over and over in your ear along with somewhat inaudible back-up vocals from Alex Scally and you're left spent with only the buzz of Legrand's keyboard. Before you can tell if "Silver Soul" has ended yet, Legrand is back in your ears again with "Norway," being sexy, breathing in and out. And Scally's back, too, with some back-up sexy breathing and a liquidy guitar. Franz's drumming is more tribal sounding here, a constant backbone, even when Legrand switches seamlessly from feminine breathiness back to the commanding androgyny of her vocals. As she sings something that sounds almost fairytale-like:
We were sleeping 'til
You came along,
With your tiny heart

You led us in the wooden
To share in all the wealth

Scally's guitar whines behind her and by the time Legrand repeats "Norway," it seems oddly fitting: there's nothing in "Norway" that directly cites the country but, as an American who has never been to Norway (or out of the country at all, except to England), it matches perfectly this vision of Norway as a snowy, otherworldly place, possibly inhabited by gnomes or something.
But "Norway" is sensual, too . . . you can just hear how Scally's and Legrand's fingers are dancing over the strings and keys of their instruments. And you can also hear the song's heartbeat in Franz's drums. When Legrand sings "Where you thinking that you're gonna run to now, with the beating of a tiny heart," it's as if she's giving Franz a little shout out as well as an urge to keep going because she knows we are not going anymore, not in the song, not in the album.
Legrand's ultra-feminine breathing that backs up the chorus is a perfect display of her power as a vocalist. You can have her womanly sounds (which nearly sounds like moaning), but she's not a little woman there to breathe in your ear. Legrand is no doubt a talented organist but her most powerful, and most personal, tool is her voice, especially when she yells out "Norway" amidst some drum bashing and guitar strumming and still takes the lead of all the sounds.

  • "Walk in the Park"
I think Beach House did a really wise thing with placing "Walk in the Park" here. Teen Dream isn't exhausting; it still has that mellow feel Beach House is known for. But after "Silver Soul" and "Norway," Beach House has taken you up up up up and with "Walk in the Park" they're going to keep you up, but gently.
"Walk in the Park" is also another really great showcase of Scally's guitar. It's deep in the beginning, bass-y even. Paired with Legrand's deep opening vocals, it's a classic build-up to the chorus, which sees Legrand's voice going higher and Scally's guitar getting higher, too, and more complicated. Her voice and his guitar have always been the hand-in-hand driving force of Beach House and here you see just how well they support each other.
"Walk in the Park" really shows Beach House as a pop band. I don't mean "pop" as a negative here, as it so often tends to be with more "indie" bands. The way Scally's guitar and Legrand's voice descend back after the first chorus and ascend when the chorus comes again is so classic sounding. It has distinct parts, which can easily be a bad or boring thing, but of course, this is Beach House, so it's not anything but awesome and beautiful.
I think one of the things that makes "Walk in the Park" so good (besides everything else I already said) are the last repeating lines:
More . . .
You want more . . .
You tell me,
More only time can run me
Which repeat over and over until the end. But really it's just the words that repeat: Legrand does not sing it the exact same way each time and Scally's guitar, again, changes along with her voice. The feeling in her voice changes too: calm, absolute, insisting, almost angry, powerful. Describing the end this way makes it sound completely schizophrenic. But again, this is Beach House. The changes in the way she sings each repeat are super subtle and it's really one of the nuggets of brilliance you find after multiple and close listenings. And the end of the song is fitting, for the beginning: a classic fadeout. Not only is this another pop song signal, but hearing Legrand's voice fade out slowly reminds you of the gentleness of the band you're listening to.

  • "Used to Be"
Every time the song changes on Teen Dream, you hear the care that Beach House put into the record. The songs aren't just on the record for a reason, they're there on the record for a reason. There's a few seconds of silence at the very end of "Walk in the Park" that clears away for the clean, crisp, light, champagneish opening of "Used to Be." I almost don't want to call the sound a thump, even though that's what it is, because it's so gentle. "Walk in the Park" let you go easily and "Used to Be" isn't about to just throw you into the deep end. And leave it to Victoria Legrand to somehow sing the opening lines both softly and powerfully:
You are coming home,
Are you still alone,
Are you not the same as you used to be
Each syllable she sings is enhanced by a key she's pressing, which makes her words sound even more like crystal or glass. And when more sounds are added (percussion, back-up vocals), they are done so softly. It's a "Zebra"-like layering of delicate sounds, which Beach House has done so well in the past with Beach House and Devotion. And as the first chorus ends comes the build-up that Beach House is also so good at: Daniel Franz's drums come up again, from the darkness somewhere in the background, Legrand's voice gets stronger, the overall sound of the song gets fuller.
I want to devote some space to the vocals after the second chorus, the repetition of "Coming home any day now." I'm not about to compare my own singing voice to that of Legrand's but I can say this: it physically hurts me to sing this part. I'm a 22 year old girl who sang soprano in choir and I can't come close. And yes, she has a naturally beautiful voice (unlike me) and years of training (unlike me) but it just totally blows my mind that her voice can do this. It is so high and feminine she sounds like a fairy singing. This is also another factor in my initial belief that Alex Scally was the main singer: I thought Scally sang the main vocals and then Legrand came in for parts like this one. Because surely someone can't sing so high and so low so equally beautifully. But it's in a section like this how apparent it is that this isn't someone: Victoria Legrand isn't some singer, Beach House isn't some band. If she was and they were, moments like this wouldn't exist. And I can also say, from my own first-hand account, that moments like these are replicated so beautifully and flawlessly live that it's hard to not feel compelled to bow down at Scally and Legrand's feet.

  • "Lover of Mine"
"Lover of Mine" marks the beginning of the second half of Teen Dream. When you look at the last five songs in a really vague way, you can sense the ultra-slow build that will peak with "10 Mile Stereo," dip with "Real Love" and then level out with "Take Care" on the same plane that "Zebra" started with.
A lot of sounds open "Lover of Mine" and they continue to add onto each other until Legrand's vocals come in and the other sounds step back slightly. The beginning of the lyrics add to the cohesiveness of Teen Dream:
You hear my cry
Lover of mine

No tear in the eye or
Fear in my mind

The forest is thick
And we don't recognize
We parted our lips and
We reached from inside

You've got this imagery, this sexuality, this woodland-ness that the vocals of the past five songs have touched on.
I also think Legrand's voice does something cool with these lyrics:
In a wide open field
We know we can feel
Awake and unreal
When she sings these lines, "field," "feel," and "unreal" sound almost identical, making the lines sort of meld together. The following, repeated line, "Off to nowhere," is more distinct, but is supported by back-up vocals from Scally. I wouldn't expect Beach House to have a song called "Lover of Mine" without sounds and feelings joining together and whirling around. Even when the sound is from a single source (like Legrand's voice) . . . because, after all, no one says a lover has to be someone else besides yourself (though, the lines "Need more people to be satisfied" might suggest that this lone-love is not optimal).
The name Teen Dream is abstract (unlike other similarly-titled albums that were released this year . . . don't even get me started on that) but at the same time so concrete, especially for those of us who were a teen not too long ago (four years for me). But Legrand and Scally aren't old . . . 10 years ago they were both teenagers, too. Ten years is a really good amount of time to provide perspective without clouding memories. To me, "Lover of Mine" might be the best illustration of the idea of a teen dream:
The only thing you've got
You know you're
Better off without it
If you're a lonely teenager and all you've got is this dream of a lover you don't have but cry out for . . . when you look back at it, those terrible, soul-engulfing crushes, they might be embarrassing if for no other reason than their pointlessness. You might even be inclined to realize you're better off without it. Analyzing lyrics, especially ones like this, is sort of silly and don't do the songs justice, in my opinion. But I just can't help, after so many listens, to think about this kind of stuff.

  • "Better Times"
I really love how "Better Times" starts out. Simple keys, light percussion, Victoria Legrand's voice getting extra deep. And the first verses are a great buildup: the end of the second verse, which is "Thought I wasn't looking anymore," is a great way to start telling a story. Not to mention it's paired with some increased Daniel Franz percussion and the addition of ultra-smooth, bass-y sounding guitar from Alex Scally.
These lyrics:

I don't want to know
I don't want to know
We don't need the sign
To know of
Better times
to me are a nice, subtle continuation of the thoughts behind "Lover of Mine," as the lover in "Better Times" is real, part of the story. Not a teenage obsession, but a relationship that comes out of more maturity. Which I think is a sure mark of better times, in general.
There's a really nice part when Legrand repeats this verse:
Running around cause you beat yourself up
And you made a crack
And the one that you love is gone
How much longer can you play with fire
Before you turn into a liar
and the music sort of pauses (but not completely) a little to let Legrand's voice be undoubtedly front-and-center. And, like any other repeated lines in any other Beach House song, there's nothing identical or over-processed sounding. The second time she sings the lines sounds even fuller and more mature than the first time. Plus she says "fire" like fiyah and "liar" like lie, which, with a voice like her's, sounds awesome.
AND THEN we come to one of my favorite little moments on all of Teen Dream. After "lie," Legrand breathes "huh" and "oh" and then there's a pause. She stops singing but the music doesn't stop completely; it's the same sound here that opens "Better Times" and it's alone for just a couple of seconds before all of the other sounds we've heard in the song AND THEN SOME come back at you along with Legrand belting a long, raw, "I" to begin "I've been around before." It's a really small moment and hard to describe in words, but it's beautiful, goosebump-inducing stuff. My car used to have extra sensitive windshield wipers; the slightest bump in the road could send them off on full-blast. I can't tell you how many times, when Legrand's voice and the rest of the music came bursting out that I would involuntarily bang the palm of my hand against my steering wheel in time with the music and set off my windshield wipers, and startle myself every time.
And one last thing: I defy to find someone that sings the word "smoke" more awesomely and sexily than Victoria Legrand in the last verse of "Better Times."

  • "10 Mile Stereo"
The single, constant percussion thump that begins the first four seconds of "10 Mile Stereo" lets you know what song this is going to be: BUMPIN'. But, more eloquently, this heartbeat-like drumming sets you up for what's going to be the glittery climax of Teen Dream. Though by climax, I don't mean "highest point" and I certainly don't mean it to imply that the remaining two songs that follow are an afterthought or not as good. I mean it in a much more primal, sexual way.
The beginning lyrics contain two challenges:
They say we will go far
But they don't know how far
We'll go
followed later by

They say we can throw far
But they don't know how far
We throw
I think it would be really easy to equate "they" with "critics" and "we" with "Beach House," which I think is an oversimplification but might not be entirely off the mark. By the end of the second challenge Legrand poses to her listeners there's still over four minutes left in the song. To me, more than anything, it's the sense of a challenge that comes with these words that are most powerful and rather than imagining it as Legrand saying "Beach House will be around for a long time," I think it has much more of an immediate effect of "check this shit out." Especially since the sounds build more and more with each line that she sings. Like I've said before, Beach House is not about in-your-face music. They're not going to push you into anything. They're building you up slowly, like the good lovers that they are.
The first time Legrand sings the chorus, it's not quite as grand and expansive as you might expect. She sings it rather softly, for a chorus, and clearly. But by now you should know that just because Legrand sings something one way now, doesn't mean it's going to be same next time she sings it. And the more complex-sounding guitar and keys that follow afterward further suggest to the buildup, as does the line "In the heat of a night, We would cry, You are not mine."
The second chorus comes with the music bumping faster behind Legrand, who draws the words out a little more this time, which really allows her voice to fill the sound. And here a line from the first chorus, "Tear a moment from the days, That carry us on," is changed to "Bright pyramids at night, That carry us on." I just want to say here how beautiful and amazing it is to hear Legrand belt (and she does belt) that line live on the Teen Dream tour with their stage set-up. Though the stage changed throughout the tour there were ever-present pyramidal shapes that stood bright against the usually-dark, usually-nighttime stage.
It's the second and third chorus that the whole climactic feeling is really present, as both choruses are back-to-back. Legrand does not hold back at all when she's singing the third chorus, and neither does Scally or Franz, Scally's guitar sliding back and forth along Legrand's voice and Franz punctuating her words with cymbal crashes. And when she ends the chorus (and the song) with the new lines "Love's like a pantheon, It carries on forever," I can't help but think not of an architectural dome but of the pulsating orgasm that Legrand's voice is emulating here, which not only does not sound like it will end, but you don't want it to end.
But of course, Beach House is not going to just cut you off. Her voice fades out slowly, the instruments scale back, and the song ends in a glittery afterglow. Oh, and also, the album's not even done!

  • "Real Love"
Before Teen Dream, when I thought of a song called "Real Love," I thought of The Beatles. The Beatles' "Real Love" is not exactly super upbeat (no "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" or "Twist and Shout") but it is undoubtedly optimistic, not dark, and, above all else, a classic-sounding pop song.
But the opening sounds of Beach House's "Real Love" are a different story. And for good reason: after what you've just experienced with "10 Mile Stereo" an upbeat love song wouldn't feel right. You know right away that you'll still be coming down with "Real Love" with the deep, dark, opening piano and the faint sounds of what sounds like clacking crystal in the back. There's some very light percussion in the background, but the beginning is very much just Victoria Legrand and her keyboard. Her voice is, I think, the most soulful it's ever been here and still without being overbearing. And when she sings, "There's someone in that room, That frightens you when they go boom," she does it with such care that she sounds nearly heartbreakingly nurturing, even when she goes on to repeat that frightening "boom."
And you know, the real beauty in Victoria Legrand's voice is her ability to juxtapose such different sounds seamlessly, and to do so both on record and live. When she sings the line, "The color you say is black," it's almost indescribable how she enunciates "black." But it is big and it is powerful and it totally emphasizes the darkness of "Real Love." But she immediately follows it with such a gentle, almost cracking, "Is the one you might lack." Her voice is not scary or diva-ish or even entirely sad (though there are touches of that here) but it's instead just lying in bed with you, trying to discuss your relationship in that emotional, post-sex time (this song does follow "10 Mile Stereo," remember).
There's also a moment (which happens twice, actually) in "Real Love" that is another one of my favorites on Teen Dream because it highlights my love for the English language. I would argue that my confusing "horse" with "whores" in "Zebra" is another instance of this, but that was unintentional, so it sort of doesn't count. What I'm talking about it Legrand repeating "I met you." First she says "I metchu." Then she says, very clearly, "I met you." I can't quite place what it is I love about this. It sounds like something that comes out of a serious talk: she says it once conversationally, blending the words together. But then the repeats it, more distinctly, more profoundly, more seriously. That, followed with a few painful "oh"s, some more sound coming in from both Scally and Franz, and the lines that follow:
There's something wrong with our hearts
When they beat pure they stand apart
brings out the sadness in Legrand's voice, the likes of which haven't really been shown until now, and I'm including in that Beach House and Devotion. This continues with the lines:
Real love
It finds you somewhere
With your back to it
This is certainly not the "Real Love" of The Beatles, who sang:
No need to be alone
It's real love, it's real,
Yes it's real love, it's real
Are you getting really sad?? Hold on! After the second pair of "I met you" and "oh," the tone of the song shifts. The piano gets lighter and higher and some lighter percussion comes in. Legrand ends the song with the lines
You know, you know,
We belong
By the stream,
To the dawn
repeated a couple of times. Though not identical and not necessarily related, the lines "We belong by the stream to the dawn," ties back, at least in feeling if not in a little bit of the imagery, to the lines "With our legs on the edge, And our feet on the horizon," in "10 Mile Stereo." "Real Love" is not a breakup song. It might be a "serious talk" song or a "relationship evaluation" song, but it's not over. And neither is Teen Dream . . .

  • "Take Care"
It would be unlike Beach House and Teen Dream as a whole to end the album on anything less than hopeful. And so, "Take Care" comes waltzing in as Teen Dream's closing track. Are you feeling a little anxious or a little down after "Real Love?" Don't worry, Victoria Legrand (and her keyboard and Alex Scally and Daniel Franz) is here to reassure you:
Stand beside it,
We can hide the way
It makes us glow,
It's no good unless it grows,
Feel this burning
Love of mine
In fact, I would argue that "Take Care" is all about reassurance. Not necessarily in a super concrete way, though it does have Legrand repeating "I'll take care of you," and it's hard to feel troubled with that being sung into your ears.
There is a sense of longing here as, as always, Beach House is not about to force you into anything: "I'll take care of you, If you ask me to." Beach House is here for you, you know. And I'm sure to say Beach House here rather than just Victoria Legrand because while "Real Love" was very much centered on her voice and her keyboard, "Take Care" has that familiar full-band feel that is not so much supporting Legrand's voice but, as they've done before, strolling along side her.
If I had to use one word to describe "Take Care" it would be: nice. Especially as the song winds down and Legrand adds the further reassurance:
I'll take care of you
Take care of you
Take care of you
That's true
And it is true. "Take Care" is the longest song on Teen Dream because Beach House has just shared this beautiful experience with you and they're not just going to turn you loose. They're going to let you go gently. With each repeat of Legrand's voice and Scally's guitar and Franz's drums reminding you that they'll take care of you, Beach House, which has been holding your hand with varying degrees of pressure for the past forty or so minutes, is giving you a soft pat on the hand. "Take Care" is like lovers saying goodbye after spending a night together: it's over, but it's not the end.

If you immediately begin Teen Dream again after listening to it, it's beautiful how "Take Care" works into "Zebra." It's almost like a mathematical formula: "Love's like a pantheon, it carries on" = Teen Dream = love = "like a pantheon, it carries on forever."

I'm no expert on music but I've listened to a whole lot of it and Teen Dream is one of my favorite albums ever. It is so beautiful and perfect it simply just stands on its own: Beach House's fourth album can't top Teen Dream and can't be a let down from Teen Dream; it's too complete for that.

If you haven't bought (or, my god, even listened to) Teen Dream yet, I urge urge urge urge urge you to do so.

Thank you music, thank you Sub Pop, thank you Beach House, thank you Teen Dream.

10 December 2010

The Future Is A Scary Time

Reading old journals of mine makes me feel like I can tell the future. I've always kept journals, and pretty meticulous ones. When I read back on them and read about something and say now what's going to happen, like seeing a cute boy and wonder if he's going to talk to me ("he won't") or wondering if I'll ever get out of New Orleans ("you will") or thinking of a future that includes all of the friends I had at the time ("it won't").
But another interesting aspect of these old journals, which range from around 1st grade (1994-1995) to present, is the cultural stuff. Music and movies I loved and hated, the evolution of technology. Some of the journals, especially the really old ones, contain illustrations that I'm pretty sure only I can understand. Think of Charlie Kelly's dream journal from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and you'll get a feeling for what I'm talking about here.

I have one pretty long entry from around third grade, complete with illustrations, of this magical box I really wanted. This magical box:
- glowed
- played music
- was a little TV
- had computer games
- went with me everywhere
What I envisioned was essentially a small cube with light glowing out of it that pretty much did whatever I wanted. I alluded to this magic box's impossibility in my journal, but I was so into the idea of having a little music player and TV and computer game thing that I totally bought into it anyway. Along with flying cars and jetpacks and all of that.
Fast forward less than 15 years and I have an iPhone. Which is everything I imagined my magical box to be, except more and better. I didn't really realize this until somewhat recently after re-reading an old journal and laughing at my naivety for thinking some sort of little magic box thing could exist. Until I realized that it does and I own one.
Like most things, since I followed along with technology, the magic box/iPhone didn't hit me because it was a natural progression. I didn't even notice that this crazy magical thing I thought up was real.
Which totally freaks me out in terms of the future. What will be here in 15 or 50 years. It shouldn't freak me out because my magical box dream came true and iPhones are great and awesome. But it makes me wonder what seemingly crazy or outlandish thing I could think of right now that would be embarrassingly far-fetched will be a real fucking thing not too far into the future.
It's like watching an old movie almost. Like Casablanca. Watching it now, it's a World War II movie (and romance and all that, but let's stick with this theme). And now, we (basically) know everything about World War II: what happened, towns that were destroyed, people who died, how it ended.
But Casablanca came out in late 1942, early 1943. When it premiered in New York in 1942, anyone could say "Pearl Harbor happened less than a year ago." Less than a year ago! Casablanca was a movie about World War II during World War II. The people in it, the people who made it, the people who watched it, didn't know what was going to happen. It wasn't a historical movie or a World War II movie. It was a movie.
It's just things like that that make the future and history and time very tangible to me. Tangible and overwhelming.

27 September 2010


I am madly in love with all of my friends. I'm completely serious.
Tonight is my last night visiting Savannah. I've been here almost three weeks. I had a job interview in Atlanta and then kept on going to Savannah to see Ben and Allie. I got to Savannah on a Wednesday and when the next Wednesday rolled around I figured, might as well stay for the next weekend. My days were filled perfectly: naps, good food, good smokes, awful movies and TV, and most importantly, time with my two best friends. Although I did get food poisoning during my second weekend here . . . from licking brownie batter off a spoon. But even that wasn't so bad because Ben took care of me; after I boarded myself up in the bathroom and lost all color in my face and was covered in sweat, I laid in Ben's bed while he put frozen peas on my head and fed me a bagel and Diet Coke and played a history podcast for me.
I knew that the next weekend a ton of friends were coming to Savannah, but I wasn't planning on staying. They were all coming to a wedding I wasn't invited to and I was a little nervous about it seeming weird for me to be in town but not for the wedding like everyone else. Plus Chase and Lesley were going to stay with Ben and Allie and I didn't want to burden them with putting up three people. But then Robert, whom I hadn't seen in over a year, convinced me to stay. And by convinced me to stay I mean he offered me a place in his hotel room and the thought of seeing him and other friends that I also hadn't seen in over a year sealed the deal pretty quick.
I'm not going to go into details about every little thing we all did because that's boring to those who weren't there. And I can't even describe properly how I felt . . . to see everyone back together again after what seemed like forever and at the same time as if no time had passed. Especially Friday night when everyone was in town by then and the looming knowledge that in 48 hours everyone would be gone again hadn't settled in yet. I can't remember the last time I was so happy. Or had so much fun or was bursting with so much love for so many people. I gave and received so many hugs and kisses and dances and winks and smiles.
Meeting new people and living in new places and doing new things are all great. But it just really can't beat being in the arms of the boys and girls I love desperately. I used to be jealous of people who met their husbands/wives in college since, after a certain point, it was clear I wasn't going to meet a husband in college. But instead of one soul mate, I found a whole group of them.
I love them all. I love that they all love me and they all love one another. And even though the short length of the reunion was sort of devastating, that sadness could never beat the happiness of being together, of everything being the way it's supposed to be.
Pictures of the Special Friend Times
Song of the Weekend

15 September 2010

This "man"

Everyone knows Hitler. I would argue that he's one of the most iconic figures, in terms of looks. Particularly because of the fucking 'stache.
But you know what's crazy? Really looking at a picture of him. I mean really looking. Forget for a second who he is, what he did. And just look.
What's striking is how harmless he looks. He just sort of looks like a dick. But if you take away the stupid mustache he's not super masculine. He's not feminine or anything, but he's a little only the jowl-y side. Especially when he was older. But he doesn't look like a mass murderer.
But then of course, he does look like a mass murderer because he's probably what comes to mind when someone says "mass murderer." But when I look at his face it is so terrifying to me how this man, who was just a man, was behind the Holocaust.

25 August 2010


I've had these songs on repeat all summer. Download it as a mix.

1. Small Black -Despicable Dogs
2. Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights
3. Washed Out - New Theory
4. Best Coast - Sun Was High (So Was I)
5. Surfer Blood - Swim
6. Wavves - Post Acid
7. MGMT - Flash Delirium
8. Panda Bear - Tomboy
9. Dum Dum Girls - Jail La La
10. Kid Cudi, Best Coast, Rostam Batmanglij - All Summer
11. Kate Bush - Hounds of Love
12. Panda Bear - Slow Motion
13. Best Coast - Boyfriend
14. Washed Out and Caroline Polachek - You and I

Blogspot is pretty terrible for photos. So instead, here's a Flickr set of some choice pictures from this summer. Mostly from New York.

14 July 2010

For Ellen.

Ellen Hinson died two years ago. Typing that sentence, reading that sentence, saying that sentence is completely unreal to me. And I know that it will remain unreal no matter what the number is.
Her death hasn't made me obsess over the concept of death or life or time or religion. When I think about Ellen, I don't think about death, I think about Ellen.
Ellen and I were best friends in middle school. People who knew either Ellen or myself post-middle school might not understand what our relationship was like. And of course, I'm not saying I'm any more important than friends she had before middle school or after. It's just that if you went to Franklin with us it was likely you didn't have a good understanding of what our relationship was like.
But that's also because no one understood our relationship except Ellen and me. There's a line in Stand By Me that goes "I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?" And the answer is no, for better or for worse. Ellen and I were friends the only way 12-13-14 year old girls can be friends. We were fascinated by each other, obsessed with each other. When we met, on the first day of seventh grade, we had both gone to the same school with the same people up to that point. Ellen was still at the same school, Lusher, but I was new. But it was different for Ellen, too; seventh grade at Lusher always saw a substantial amount of new faces. I sat down at her table on the first day of school because there weren't any other seats left. I was terrified and barely talked. But I couldn't get over this one girl, who talked and laughed with everyone, whether she had known them her whole life or five minutes.
Ellen took me in immediately, but our friendship didn't grow out of necessity. On my end, up to that point I had almost exclusively gone to school with the same people from the time I was 5. My elementary school friends were all I had and I didn't know any better. That's not to say they weren't good friends (some of them were, some of them weren't) but I didn't really get much of a chance to make and choose friends.
If Ellen and I were different people we could have easily not be friends. We would have been friendly, sure, because even though Lusher seemed like a metropolis compared to the small town of my elementary school, it was small. But we didn't have to be friends. Our friendship came to be out of our love for each other.
Does that sound over-dramatic? Maybe it is, but everything is when you're a 12 year old girl. We talked for hours. We told each other secrets that neither of us had heard before. We wanted to be sisters just so we could be together all the time. Even our arguments, which were very few, usually had more to do with outside forces than each other and were resolved quickly.
Ellen shaped who I am today. She was so funny, I had never met anyone like her. Our senses of humor morphed together until we were virtually able to read each other's thoughts. Literally, the right sideways glance at her closet door had us laughing so hard we couldn't breathe. Even today I know why we found it funny but I could never explain it to anyone else, because no one else is me or Ellen.
I think it's standard when someone dies too young, especially in an accident, to have issues with the unfairness of it. I was always older than Ellen by almost exactly nine months, but I keep getting older and older than her. She will always be 19, and now I'm 22. It doesn't make sense to me. I'm not supposed to be that much older than her.
By now I've graduated college. I have a BFA. Ellen never graduated college. She should have a degree right now, too. Maybe she'd be in grad school. Either way she would be moving forward.
When I think of what she did and what she was capable of, I feel ashamed. And I hate that because I know Ellen would hate that. She was so smart and was only getting smarter. It's not that I have all of her smarts and I'm just wasting my life away, not doing anything with them; she'd always be an engineer and I'd always be a writer, no matter what happened two years ago. So I shouldn't feel bad. But when I think of all she had done and had the potential to do and when I think of my art school career and these little scribbles I make, I just feel ashamed.
But Ellen would be so mad to hear that. If I had the opportunity to tell her that, she wouldn't even let me finish. She read everything I wrote and begged for more, which says a lot considering she was reading the work of a pubescent girl. She told everyone that I was the best writer and she was proud because I was her friend. So instead of interpreting my feelings into something along the lines of "why her and not me," which she wouldn't ever want, I just interpret them this way:
When Ellen died a big hole was made. Not just a hole in the now, but a hole in the future. The stuff she was going to do can't be done anymore. And nothing can change that. But since I'm still alive I owe it to her to do everything I can in my power to help fill up the hole. I'll never do it. No one will. I'll never come close. But what I do with my life isn't just about me anymore. Ellen and I made promises to each other that we swore we would keep. There was one promise we made to each other the summer of 2001, wrapped up in blankets because of the air conditioning and relishing the artificial cold. When we made this promise and we thought of the future it was vague: it was hard to even imagine graduating high school, much less going to college and having careers and long lives. But we made the promise all the same and I have every reason to believe that even if Ellen died when she was 99 instead of 19 she would have kept it.
Now I'm the only one in the world who knows about the promise we made that night. And I'm the only one who needs to know. Because if our places were switched I know Ellen would feel the same way. And when I close my eyes I can see her sitting in front of me, our pinkies wrapped around each other in making what was as good as a contract in blood.
So Ellen, now and forever: this, all of this, is for you.

Ben E. King - Stand By Me

The Beatles - In My Life

10 July 2010

Songs About Literature

Y'all, I love books. That should be pretty obvious. I love music, too, because I'm a human. So naturally when books and music come together, I lovelove it.
I love when songs are about books. Or short stories or plays or poems. You get the idea. There are a million more than these, I'm sure. These are just the obvious ones/ones I like.

Radiohead - Exit Music (For A Film) - My favorite songs that are about literature are the ones told from the perspective of one of the characters. This one is particularly good because it's not in your face about Romeo and Juliet. But it is . . . Thom Yorke wrote is specifically to play at the end credits of Romeo + Juliet (hence the song title). But what I really love about this song is that it could be sung from the perspective of either Romeo or Juliet. I think we assume Romeo because Thom Yorke is a man, but there isn't anything in the lyrics that define sex. Both Romeo and Juliet had shitty parents, so it can be about either of them.

Peter Gabriel - Family Snapshot - This is based on An Assassin's Diary by Arthur Bremmer. It's sort of easy to write a song about a love story. Peter Gabriel wrote a song about someone who wanted to assassinate a a racist politician.

Taylor Swift - Love Story - This is a stretch. I admit it. BUT I LOVE TAYLOR SWIFT. Don't try to understand it. Just go with it. About Romeo and Juliet, this is written from the perspective of Juliet . . . that is, if Romeo had "talked to [her] dad" before their marriage and they grew old and happy together. I also like the addition of The Scarlet Letter ("You were Romeo, I was a scarlet letter"), which in the context of the song doesn't really make sense. BUT I DON'T CARE, I LOVE IT ANYWAY.

Aimee Mann - Ghost World - Pretty sweet song about a pretty sweet graphic novel. I'm not sure how many songs there are about graphic novels. I'm not talking about comic book series, though, and I am ESPECIALLY not talking about any of the terrible terrible terrible songs written about Superman.

Fear Before the March of Flames - The Lisbon Girls, Oh The Lisbon Girls
- I probably shouldn't count this because I hate this band and I hate this song. But I love the lyrics! And it's about The Virgin Suicides, my favorite novel. If only this song were in the hands of an artist that isn't absolutely awful.

Steve Forbert - Romeo's Tune - Another fairly upbeat Romeo and Juliet-based song. It doesn't explicitly change the story to happy ending like "Love Story," but you'd never know Romeo and Juliet was a tragedy based on this song.

David Bowie - 1984
- An appropriately dark song for 1984. The lyrics don't really explicitly describe specific events or characters in the book, but it does give a decent view of a dystopia/shitty world. "They'll split your pretty cranium and fill it full of air." Sort of wish there was a lyric like "They'll strap a caged rat to your face."

Fleetwood Mac - Rhiannon - This isn't quite based on Mary Leader's Triad, but it's not originally based on the Welsh goddess Rhiannon, either. Stevie Nicks wrote the song after she read Triad but really only used the name Rhiannon from the book, not much else. BUT the song is amazing, so who cares.

R.E.M. - Falls to Climb - The real benefit of having a singer like Michael Stipe sing about a short story like "The Lottery" is that he totally stays true to the nature of the story. If a scary or intimidating sounding guy sang the song it would really betray the subtlety of the story. And Michael Stipe has such a nice voice that really lends itself to the naivety of the main character. Also "The Lottery" is one of my favorite short stories, so there.

Bright Eyes - Tereza and Tomas - This doesn't have specific elements to the song that scream I'M ABOUT THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING, but would that even be possible? If you aren't familiar with novel, the song would really just seem like a love song, presumably about two people named Tereza and Tomas. And really, you could argue that The Unbearable Lightness of Being is just a love story about Tereza and Tomas, too.

Simon & Garfunkel - Richard Cory - My high school English teacher in my senior year didn't believe me when, while reading the poem for class, I told her that there was a Simon & Garfunkel song based on it. "Who would write a song about a poem about suicide?" Well, I don't know, Paul Simon I guess. It's a great poem and a great song, which is not told from the perspective of Richard Cory (or even the second person, like the poem). My English teacher had never read Lord of the Flies, though, so she was really in no position to talk.

Panda Bear - Bonfire of the Vanities
- So the only lyrics to this song are "Don't you think that I cannot be sorry/It's always such a stupid thing that I can't deal with," which are obviously too vague to really pinpoint it as being about Bonfire of the Vanities. Especially since it could actually be about that other bonfire of the vanities. Noah Lennox's lyrics are usually pretty literal, so I would guess that they're at least inspired by one (or both?) of the two.

Kate Bush - Wuthering Heights - AS IF I would ever forget to include this. This is one of my favorite songs of all time. What I like the most about it is that it sounds like a love song . . . a character begging for her lover to come home. Except in Wuthering Heights, Catherine is dead and her ghost calls to Heathcliff from the window. So in the song when she says "come home" and "let me grab your soul away," it's a little creepier when you put it in the context of the novel. Also the first lyric is "Out on the wiley, windy moors." PERFECT.


02 July 2010


Here's a video of Bobby Hatfield of The Righteous Brothers emerging from darkness to break/melt your heart.

This has got to be one of my favorite songs ever. Granted, if I had to make a "favorite songs ever" list, it would be huge and impossible to rank, but still.

But what I really want is for Beach House to cover this song. It sounds weird at first, but think about it: Victoria Legrand doing those vocals, with all the lows and highs. And Alex Scally's guitar making it all sexy. So from now on I'm just going to send them telepathic messages regarding covering "Unchained Melody" and just hope.


The Righteous Brothers - Unchained Melody

23 June 2010

On "Best of the Year" stuff

Even on a personal level it's usually sort of difficult for me, at the end of the year, to figure out what I liked the best out of that year. Again, this is especially true for music, for whatever reason. Last year was easy, thanks to Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion. And 2010 will also be easy, thanks to Beach House's Teen Dream.
It's June, we've still got half a year to go. And, maybe more importantly, a new PANDA BEAR album to be released (Tomboy, in September). And it's true that I can't even really think too long about Tomboy because I get too excited. And it's true that I may end up thinking it's a better album than Teen Dream. But it would be really really tough for it to push Teen Dream out of my Album of 2010 spot.
Why? Because Teen Dream (like Merriweather Post Pavilion in 2009) was released in January. It leaked even earlier (also like MPP). I have listened to Teen Dream over and over and over and OVER again since it leaked and since it was released officially. I have listened to individual tracks over and over and over and OVER again. I have sung the songs in my car and in the shower, I have hummed them while I walk, I have had my own dreams with Teen Dream providing the soundtrack. This is still true almost exactly 6 months after it was released and I don't imagine it being untrue 6 months from now.
For me, Teen Dream will be The Album of 2010 because it's been here with me the whole time. Even if Tomboy leaks right now, it'll still only be in 2010 for half the year. So it would almost have to be twice as good as Teen Dream to make it my Album of 2010, which I can't even quantify because of my aforementioned inability to do so.
So there you go, done and done. Teen Dream all the way for me.

Although I'll probably vomit everywhere out of happiness the day Tomboy is released.

Beach House - Silver Soul

11 June 2010

Graduation happened and it was like this

Much has happened in the last few weeks. I guess I'll start with "graduating college."
The week leading up to graduation I sort of thought I was going to die. As relatives trickled in, I was taken out to eat for almost every meal everyday. Which is AWESOME, DUH but was also a little overwhelming and I sort of feared for my well-being (though not enough to turn down free meals).
During this week, I had finals. Is this normal? SCAD's last day of classes is on a Thursday and then SCAD graduation is on Saturday. Not much downtime.
The day before graduation was "graduation rehearsal." Except it was more of "everyone sit down while we explain shit you already know, including how to put on a cap and gown." They never covered how you get to the stage, in what order, who gives you your diploma, etc etc, which I didn't realize until right before I had to go on stage. Also bought my cap and gown the day before graduation (whatever). "That'll be a hundred dollars," said the Herff Jones woman. "O.K.," I said, dying inside a little bit. "Cash only. Don't you have cash?" Yeah, that's true, you're right, Herff Jones woman. Let me whip out five of the many twenty dollar bills I carry around with me all the time. Had to go to the ATM. Annoying. But really, $100 for a fucking cap and gown? That is a lot of money for some pieces of [ugly] [hot as hell] shit.
We had to be at the Savannah Civic Center at 7:15am. Because of having to bathe myself and also picking up Victoria, I had to wake up at 5. That means an hour into commencement, I was ready to die.
Commencement was at 9 and Isabella Rossellini was our speaker. Do you guys know how gorgeous she is? She is way gorgeous. And her speech ripped. I was at commencement last year when Glenn Close spoke . . . but in my opinion, Isabella Rossellini was better. I usually roll my eyes at actresses talking about being insecure about how they look, even though I know everyone gets insecure no matter how hot you are. But then when Isabella Rossellini said, "When your mother is in Casablanca, you never feel beautiful enough," I had to hand it to her on that one.
Graduation was broken into two ceremonies and mine was at 1. Not enough time between commencement and graduation to take a nap, as I so desperately wanted to. Instead Ben and I went to Wendy's.
Do you guys get sick when you're really tired? I hadn't slept well the past two nights, plus had been up since 5. When I get really tired like that, I start to feel way sick to my stomach. And sitting in the last row at graduation, I was teetering on feeling like I was going to throw up and feeling like I might pass out. Seems like graduation took longer this year. Sort of sad, since the reason it seemed that way is because I'm friends with more people who graduated a year ahead of me.
One of the last people to see us before we walked on stage was Wyc, who was our academic adviser for the whole time the major has been around, save this last quarter. Wyc is awesome and super nice and super positive and seeing him nod to each of us with a "Hey y'all" or "Aw, congratulations, girl" was a nice boost of chill. When the girl before me walked onstage, I stepped forward and the woman at the stage stopped me and said, "Wait." But then she never said anything else. I waited for her to say "Now," or something of that nature, or to push me forward, but she never did. So I got really nervous and just said, "Uh, O.K., I'm going now," and just sort of walked forward.
I had been warned about pronunciation problems at graduation, so I went to my graduation auditor twice (in addition to the original meeting) about how to pronounce my middle name. My middle name is Carea, but it's pronounced Carrie or Carry or Carey etc etc. But everyone thinks it's Korea. And without fail, despite my efforts, I was announced on stage as "Elizabeth Korea Dixon." Whatever.
I also realized I took more pictures at last year's graduation (a couple dozen) than I did at my own (zero). Was more concerned about getting it done, I guess.

22 May 2010

recent polaroids

Polaroid got fucked up, turned into a picture of burnt cheese
With a baby Diet Coke and fake tattoo on 4/20
Using face masks in Asheville before seeing Beach
Ben took this really awful Polaroid of me, but instead of getting rid of it forever I turned it into a BLINGEEEEEE
Dash took this Polaroid in my car at night without the flash . . . THANKS DASH

Have you guys ever had Wild Irish Rose? It's $2 and tastes like whiskey mixed with cheap wine. DELICIOUSThis is how 22-23 year olds play dress up

08 May 2010

Revisiting Movies I Shouldn't Have Seen

When I was in fourth grade one of my teachers asked my class, "What is the one thing you wish you could do but can't because you're not old enough?" Looking back, I'm surprised no one said anything jackassy; everyone had pretty legit answers: stay up late, drive a car, get married. I triumphantly answered, "See R-rated movies," to an explosion of laughter. A few kids thought that was just a stupid answer while others bragged that their parents already let them watch R-rated movies (doubtful, in retrospect). But it honestly was my answer.
I was never rebellious in the way that if my mom said "Don't touch that," I felt compelled to touch it. I listened. Where I was rebellious was if my mom said "Don't watch that," or "Don't listen to that." If I was told not to watch a movie/TV show or listen to something, I immediately needed to know why. And since my mom couldn't ever be that specific (for instance, she couldn't say that she was more concerned about Minnie Driver miming a blowjob with a beer than the language in Good Will Hunting), it just made me want to know more.
This is where my different methods of viewing specific material came in. If I wasn't allowed to listen to something, that was a lot easier to do in secret, via the radio or my older sister's music collection or other means. Watching forbidden things were more of a challenge. The easiest method was, if my sister was in on it, to watch things when my parents weren't home. This worked particularly well for Kids in the Hall. Another method was sitting really close to the TV so I could have the volume on as low as possible, with either Nickelodeon or The Disney Channel programed on the TV remote's channel return button in case of close-by parents. Those two tactics didn't work very well for movies, however. My go-to method for seeing forbidden movies was wait until someone in my family rented it. After I was expelled from the living room so they could watch it, I snuck back in using a series of crawls and hiding places until I reached my spot behind the couch. Our couch also had recliners, so there some big spaces left open, big enough for my child self to get a clear view of the TV.
It would make sense if I continually did this only to find that the show or movie in question was in fact tame enough for me to handle. But that was almost never the case. Except for Kids in the Hall, pretty much everything I watched that I wasn't supposed to traumatized me in some way. Such as:
Jerry Maguire - There's a sex scene in Jerry Maguire that's really not long at all but completely fucked up my vision of what sex was. I always imagined sex had something to do with a bed, lots of sheets, and a guy on top of a girl, kissing her. I wasn't sure on the details. But in Jerry Maguire, the sex scene in question takes place not on a bed, but (I'm going on memory here) against a bookcase. And there's sitting involved, not laying. And the lights are on, and the girl sits on the boy's lap. I didn't know what this was and for many years changed my views on lap sitting.
Jaws - I didn't sneak watching Jaws. I watched it with my family when I was relatively young, if I remember correctly it had a lot to do with whining and bitching about how I was never allowed to watch anything. For 95% of the movie I was fine . . . a little freaked out, but Jaws really doesn't show much for most of the movie. But in that final shark showdown, when Robert Shaw is getting chomped from the bottom up while spewing blood from his mouth, I sat up from the couch, turned around to face my parents, and burst into tears. I couldn't handle it anymore. For the next few days my mom and sister had to continually convince me that no one actually died on the set of Jaws and that there are crazy magic capsules that actors can chew to make fake blood come out (I didn't believe them). I didn't see Jaws again until college.
Murder of Innocence - I went into more detail about this in a previous post. I don't really remember the actual viewing of this, only my nightmares about it afterward. But I would bet money I hid behind the couch while my mom watched it, because I was stupid.
Scream - I saw Scream for the first time last night since I was about 10. I originally saw Scream as a child with my friend, who brought it over after her older sister rented it, when I was home alone. I wanted to see it so bad to see what all the fuss was about. Needless to say, by the time Drew Barrymore is hanging from a tree with her intestines hanging out (no more than 10 minutes into the movie) I was sobbing. And for SOME REASON I still watched the rest. This led to my inability to answer the phone when home alone (which may or may not have manifested into my current inability to answer my phone when I don't know the number). It also made me think that boys might actually all be evil killers who don't just want to pressure you into having sex with them, but want to pressure you into having sex with them so they can murder you afterward.
A Clockwork Orange - I don't remember how I saw this one, either. But I was in either sixth or seventh grade and watched it alone, without sneaking it. I'm pretty sure it was a Jaws-like situation: after much begging and whining about how I'm way too mature to be denied any movie, I think my mom just might have just let me watch it. I don't think I talked about it for a long time afterward because I didn't want to admit that it was possibly the scariest thing I had ever seen and couldn't stop obsessing over it. Upon multiple viewings + aging past 12, I now see it as much more funny than it is scary, but at the time if someone told me it was supposed to be funny I would probably assume they were a crazed rapist. It also permanently changed the way I felt about the song "Singin' the Rain," which my dad would sing to me when I was really little while he washed my hair.
The Silence of the Lambs - Back when my family were patrons of Video Plus, a local video store before Blockbuster came to town, the shelves were arranged in such a way that to get to the new releases, you had to walk through horror. On the end of one of the rows was The Silence of the Lambs. I'll never forget the first time I saw the VHS cover. It was by far the most terrifying image I had ever seen. After that, I always walked in a long circle to bypass the horror shelves to get to the new releases. If I caught a glimpse of the cover, my day was fucked. When I was in middle school, I finally felt ready to watch the movie. Surprisingly, what fucked me up more than anything was when Buffalo Bill opens his robe to reveal his tucked penis. I did not know a penis could do anything but just be there, so at the time I thought this was revealing that he was actually a woman. When I asked my mom about it, she gingerly explained about penis tucking, the thought of which made me think of male genitalia as absolutely freakish and terrifying. I maintained this feeling until I saw a real one for the first time in high school, which pretty much caused me to a complete 180 on my personal views on penises.
Those are just a few. Interestingly enough, some of the most traumatizing movies I saw weren't forbidden at all, such as Sleeping Beauty and Ernest Scared Stupid. And when I eventually saw Good Will Hunting when I was about 13, the language didn't faze me and I didn't understand what Minnie Driver was doing, so I just sort of forgot about it.
This curiosity bled into books, which I was never forbidden to read. That's why I first read Lolita when I was 14 and am eternally grateful for it. So I'm glad I was fueled by my intense curiosity now, though at the time it was a major source of sleeplessness and stomach aches.

17 April 2010


Before yesterday, the last time I had to go off by myself just to sob uncontrollably after watching a movie was after seeing Atonement. I had to go straight from the screen to the movie theater bathroom, wait in line with as much of a poker face as I could manage, and then lock myself in a stall and just let the sobbing rip for a good few minutes.
But yesterday I watched Dancer in the Dark. I had never seen it but I hadn't avoided it. I didn't even really know what it was about, all I had really heard about it was that it was a musical and Thom Yorke was on the soundtrack. Then a few weeks ago I saw Antichrist, which was amazing and blew me away immediately moved Dancer in the Dark up on my Netflix queue. I wanted to see more of Lars von Trier and I love Bjork, so it made sense.
I had heard that it was depressing. A few times I heard the phrase "soul crushing" used to describe it. But for the first hour or so I felt like everyone must be a wimp. It was bleak, sure: really cute, sweet, innocent Bjork works her ass off to keep her and her 12 year old kid barely above the poverty line in the early 60s. But Catherine Deneuve played her French, motherly BFF and it didn't seem that bad. I still thought this after the ominous money tin is shown, as there's no way a movie is going to show a woman stashing all of her life's savings into a tin if something's not going to happen to it. And I still thought this after we learn that Bjork is going blind and the money isn't going back to Czechoslovakia to her father but rather to pay for an operation to cure that same blindness-causing trait in her son so that he'll never go blind, too. And EVEN STILL I thought this once David Morse started getting creepy and I figured he would probably rape her something.
Well, he doesn't rape her, in the literal sense. In fact, Dancer in the Dark is probably the most depressing movie I have ever seen about injustices done to an innocent woman that don't involve her getting raped. I still had hope that maybe it wouldn't be that depressing after she gets the money back and before she is arrested. I thought maybe she'd get away with it, or something.
BUT FUCK THAT. She doesn't come close to getting away with it. Snippets of her actions and conversations from before everything went to shit come back to haunt her big time during her trial (like talking about the importance of sharing later causing her supervisor to testify against her that she was a crazy Communist). What's almost worse is that I can totally understand where everyone is coming from. If your husband is robbed and murdered by someone whom you considered a close friend, whom your husband accused of trying to seduce him, and who's poor as fuck, it's easy to see why remembering certain conversations the way the wife does would lead her to believe that Bjork is cold and calculating.
BUT SHE'S NOT, OF COURSE. She is ADORABLE and completely innocent. The only time I really disliked her at all was her refusal to tell the truth in court because of a promise she made to the dead man that ruined her entire goddamn life. It reminded me of The Reader in that way (Kate Winslet, I know it sucks that you can't read, but don't let that get in the way of you being wrong accused of operating a hardcorely evil Nazi march thing). But still.
So Bjork is sentenced to hang, which to me is like sentencing your grandma to hang. Then there's this terrible, punch-you-in-the-face glimmer of hope that her sentence can be changed, that she won't be hanged at all! Which is quickly taken away once Bjork realizes the money she saved for her son's operation would be used to pay the lawyer and because SHE LOVES HER SON SO GODDAMN MUCH and SHE FEELS GUILTY FOR HAVING HIM DESPITE THIS BLIND THING she refuses the attorney and basically re-sentences herself to death so her son can have this operation, that isn't even life-saving.
This is when it's really all about Bjork that gets you. It's a really fucking depressing situation, no doubt about that. But to see cute, sweet, innocent Bjork sobbing from the loneliness of being in solitary confinement, sobbing herself to sleep the night before she's to be hanged, unable to stand up to walk to the gallows, sobbing and screaming about how scared she is to die, screaming her son's name . . . holy fucking christ. It's almost embarrassing, that's how intimate von Trier gets us with Bjork in her last moments. And then when she's happy after Catherine Deneuve tells her minutes before she's going to die that her son had the operation and he'll never go blind, it's just like . . . holy fuck, Bjork, you are so pure and innocent and you're about to die for no goddamned reason. And then the evil prison guards hang her without warning in the middle of her song.
Another part that got me about this was thinking of the son, of his fate after the movie. Can you imagine living your life knowing what your completely innocent and selfless mother did, just because she felt guilty for giving you life because she didn't want you to go blind? The guilt you would have. Christ. Christ christ christ.

Really good movie, though!

16 April 2010


I just made this. It's a recipe for peanut butter balls. They're pretty awesome.
- They taste good
- They take something ridic like 5 minutes to make. This is very important to me for breakfast since I am both sleepy and starving.
- They used just enough condensed milk to finish up the can I opened a couple of days ago to make horchata
- They used the last bit of my peanut butter that's close to expiring

In other words you should probably make these.

13 April 2010

I have decided . . .

I think I might hate music criticism. I don't know what it is about music more than movies or books or art or whatever, but it's definitely something.
I love all kinds of different music. Some for specific reasons but mostly because I like it. I know in discourse you have to defend why you like something, but I don't know. This makes me feel like a simpleton. Can't we just like what we like and dislike what we don't like? If there's music I don't like, I don't listen to it. I usually don't freak out if someone else is listening to it.
Recently a girl in the computer lab I was monitoring was playing music out loud (ie no headphones). This is against the rules but since I've never exercised my authority as lab monitor before PLUS we were the only two people in the lab, I was hesitant to say anything. First it was "Don't Stop Believin'" which is awesome. Then it was "Genie In A Bottle," which made me wince a little but then came that stupid Owl City Postal Service-rip off song. That prompted me to tell her to turn it off. That's the only thing that really comes to mind where I've hated on someone's music. And in that instance I can put some of the blame on the computer lab rules.
Maybe it's because music is so accessible. Movies and books take a certain amount of time commitment, so I can sort of see why people look to reviews. I don't know enough about art or art criticism to really have an opinion on it, honestly. But music I feel like you can just listen to. Interested? Listen! Don't like it? Stop! Like it? Don't stop!
Maybe it's easier for me because I've never really worried about music critics on a personal level. When I was in 7th grade my way-cool TWO DISC CD player held Radiohead's Kid A and NSync's No Strings Attached. I loved them both in different ways for different reasons but never really thought about it or thought that it might be weird or anything. I still have that same sort of thing going on now when my iTunes lists Animal Collective, Taylor Swift, Beach House, Jay-Z, and Vampire Weekend among my most played artists.
The last time I attempted to defend one of these artists against a HATER was when I was talking about people hating on Vampire Weekend. Dude in my class chimed in that he hated Vampire Weekend. I asked him how much of their music he listened to and he said "I heard 'A-Punk' on the radio once," "A-Punk" being a song off their first album and they have since released a second. That's fine. Hate Vampire Weekend, don't listen to them, don't care, WHATEVER. I don't care. It all just seems stupid.
I'm oversimplifying all of this and there's all kinds of shit that goes along with criticism that I am not even going to think about touching on because it's 3am. This is just something I think about a lot.

09 April 2010

Benjamina, Age 8

My best friend Ben Frisch has a fascination/obsession with child beauty pageants. It’s hard to say that to anyone who doesn’t know him without making him sound like the biggest creeper ever and/or a pedophile. But his love of child beauty pageants is strictly limited to its comedic value.

These pageant girls all have Facebook pages and Facebook fan pages made by their mothers. One of these girls, Taralyn Eschberger (who has appeared on TLC’s Toddlers and Tiaras) is holding a photo contest on her Facebook fan page. Ben decided to enter himself. He took a picture I took of him with his cat, Oedipuss, and glitzed it up. This is the result.

The original photo. Ben with Oedi on his head.

The glitzed version.

The final product on Taralynn's Facebook.

There are lots of reasons why I love Ben and this is just another addition to the list.

03 April 2010

What's up, baby? :(

This is Lewis Powell:

Also known as Lewis Payne. I personally think he's a total Hottie McHottersons. He died in 1865 when he was 21. How, you ask? He was hanged. Why, you ask? Because he was one of the conspirators involved in the Lincoln assassination.


In an interesting turn of events, Powell/Payne is a character in the new movie Robert Redford directed, The Conspirator (which was also filmed here in Savannah . . . everything comes full circle!?!) and the guy who plays him, Norman Reedus is (in my opinion) way less hot than the real historical figure. How often does that happen?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying Norman Reedus (that's him up there) is ugly. He's hot, too! I just think the real dude was hotter. Too bad he helped kill Abe.

01 April 2010

In anticipation of Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too?

Wikipedia's entry for Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married is so amazing. Not only does it clearly point out the stupidity/incoherence of the script, but some of the phrasing used . . . it's just perfect.

The four couples, who are also best friends, converge on a house in the mountains for a week-long retreat that has become their ritual of sorts to help work out their marital problems and ask the question “Why did I get married?”. Though the couples have committed to being physically present for the week, some of them have not been emotionally present in their respective marriages for quite some time. The week is not planned out in a well-programmed sequence, so the events unfold somewhat spontaneously, beginning with their “adventures” in getting up to the mountain retreat.

  • The first couple, Dianne (Sharon Leal) and Terry (Tyler Perry), drive up together and argue most of the way because Diane (a lawyer) refuses to leave her job at the office. She takes calls on her BlackBerry or makes calls instead of talking to Terry.
  • The second couple, Angela (Tasha Smith) and Marcus (Michael Jai White), take public transportation. Angela constantly argues with Marcus and with anyone who dares to interrupt them.
  • The third couple is Sheila (Jill Scott) and Mike (Richard T. Jones). Sheila is made to deplane (because of her weight and the requirement to purchase two seats) and drive the long distance in the snow; while her husband Mike continues on the flight with Sheila’s single friend, Trina (Denise Boutte).
  • The fourth couple Patricia (Janet Jackson) and Gavin (Malik Yoba) arrive by limo cab. Their journey is not documented. However, right before they leave to go to the retreat, Gavin shows up to pick up Patricia at a lecture she was giving (she is the author of a book called “Why Did I Get Married?”) and artlessly dodges a question about her own marriage.

Dianne falls asleep not long after arriving with her BlackBerry close at hand, and when her secretary calls while she is asleep, Terry tells the woman not to call them while they are on their vacation. When Patricia arrives, she goes up to wake Dianne while the men bond over the wine that Terry has poured for his wife.

The sound of arguing signals the arrival of Angela and Marcus.

When Mike arrives without Sheila, the other wives berate him and Trina, for having left Sheila to drive alone. Sheila’s husband shows clearly that he does not care for his wife at all. Her friends try to reach Sheila by phone but get her voice mail only. Sheila is persistent to get to the retreat because she wants to make her marriage work. Providence leads her to Sheriff Troy’s (Lamman Rucker) office. Due to weather the roads have been closed for the night and she has no choice but to spend the night. That same night, Mike tiptoes—not unseen by Angela— to Trina’s bedroom. Sheila arrives at the retreat house the following morning with Troy in tow. She introduces Troy to the others and tells them she has invited him to breakfast. Troy fast becomes a threat to Sheila’s husband Mike, not because of Sheila, but because of Trina, with whom he is having an affair. Breakfast is a noisy affair with the arguing couples and Angela insulting Trina, the only single woman on the retreat, whom she instantly disliked.

Throughout the few days spent on retreat, there are spontaneous revelations. The infidelity of two of the husbands leads to a discussion by the men of the 80-20 rule. This rule states that most men get 80% of what they need from a marriage yet they tend to go after the 20% that someone outside can provide for them because it appears to be more to them when it really isn’t.

The secrets that come out in their heated discussions lead the couples toward a path where they can either choose to reconcile or to separate and the latter is what happens to Sheila and Mike. Mike makes it clear he is not attracted to his wife any longer and when it is revealed he is being unfaithful, he simply tells her he wants a divorce. The vacation is cut short when all the secrets come to light, as the couples suddenly decide they cannot stay in the house any longer. Sheila checks into a local hotel to recover from the shock of her divorce and the realization that Mike has drained her bank account. She is in a depressed state when Troy goes to visit her. He takes her up to a mountain where she cries and mourns the loss of her love and the only life she knew.

The other couples head back home. Patricia and Gavin are barely speaking to each other - he called her stupid because she didn’t strap their son in and he died in an accident - but he eventually forces her to face the situation. Patricia breaks down emotionally in his arms, they reconcile. Angela and Marcus are still fighting, especially when Keisha (Marcus’ ex girlfriend and child’s mother, played by Kaira Whitehead) shows up at Angela’s salon and disrespects Angela. Marcus finally stands up to both his wife and his ex, and then frightens Angela into realizing she is wrecking their life with her constant arguing by not showing up for a couple of days. Dianne and Terry fight again right before they leave the mountains because he had a paternity test done on their daughter. They fight again on Terry’s birthday at their home because Dianne forgot about his birthday, and did not tell Terry about getting her tubes tied. Terry tells her he is moving out. Patricia meets up with Dianne and Angela, moping over their husbands and gives them the counseling they need to get back on track telling them to make a list of the good things and the bad things their husbands have done. The men drown their sorrows in the bottle.

In the mountains, Sheila is settling into a new life working for Troy in the general store his father owned and getting to know Troy and realizing her own self-worth. The two of them bond.

Angela cooks dinner for her husband when she is finished with her list, but he suspects she is trying to poison him. Eventually she explains, they make up and set conditions of the new order.

Dianne goes to see Terry and begs him to come back after crying over her list. He plays with her head a little to get back at her, but they eventually reconcile too and all the couples converge on the gala celebration for an award that Patricia has received for her work. Dianne, Patricia and Angela are shocked when Sheila introduces Troy as her husband. Ex-husband Mike, although he is still with Trina, is very jealous of Sheila’s newfound bliss and tries to weasel his way back into her good graces, but she tells him to go enjoy his “20”, referring to the 80-20 rule.

Also worth mentioning is the Production and Development section:

Perry decided to take out much of the church and message scenes because wanted the film to be “on a whole ‘nother spiritual level—there’s a whole ‘nother connection to it.” He said his writing has improved since the play.

That last line is a lie, Tyler Perry.