Diet Coke Kills

I have decided to quit Diet Coke because I don't want to die. Aspartame just makes me feel so disgusting; I don't know why I keep drinking it. Does anyone have any suggestions for stevia-sweetened drinks? I don't do juice unless I juice it myself or its Arden's Garden. I'm equally freaked out by high fructose corn syrup as I am of aspartame.

To celebrate, my Don't Kill Your Body With Poison mix:

Le Tigre: Don't Drink Poison
X-Ray Spex: Junk Food Junkie
Planet Smashers: Never Gonna Drink [Diet Coke] Again (Sure, the song's about alcohol but that doesn't really apply to me and Diet Coke turns your insides to fromaldehyde.)
The Door-Keys: Dietary Pills

Also, if you haven't seen Kinky Boots go do so immediately. My boyfriend knows an inordinate amount of stuff about the construction of fine men's dress shoes, so he bought it and we watched it last night. Basic plot synopsis: old English Northhampton generations-old shoe business is going bankrupt and decides to manufacture women's shoes for men who like to dress like women. There are these great scenes with all kinds of men [performing femme or not] walking around in thigh-high vinyl boots. Amazing.


I watch a lot of movies when I am swamped with work. Procrastination is a great skill of mine, and I do it like a pro.

Here's a rundown of the next few movies I'll probably see between now and next semester:

-Paste gave Richard Linklater's upcoming Fast Food Nation a pretty good review. I'm kind of looking forward to it, even though its a fictional adaptation of the book. Fast Food Nation will star a couple of folks from Little Miss Sunshine, including Greg Kinnear. Submit something to the Threadless contest here. Threadless is really awesome.

-Stranger Than Fiction is apparently "Kaufman-esque." I suppose the premise of the movie sounds like it. I have trouble divorcing Charlie Kaufman from his ever-so-appropriate counterpart, Spike Jonze. We'll see how this faux-Kaufman ends up, unless director Mike Forester (Monsters Ball and Finding Neverland) proves to be a not-so-faux Jonze. Anyone can write whimsey, but not everyone can execute it.

-The Fountain has had mixed reviews, but I want to see it anyway. Not sure how I feel about Aronofsky making what appears to be a scifi film, but it can't be that bad, right? Here's my favorite part from the Paste Magazine review:
“Everyone said no to this fillm at least once, including the studio that made it,” he says. “Every actor, every actress, everyone turned me down. But it’s like my producer said. When everyone tells you no, you must be doing something right.”

-Mathew Barney's Cremaster Cycle . Truthfully, Cremaster (and Barney) sort of frighten me but its been at the top of my list of movies to see by next year for a long time. Aimee Mullins is in Cremaster 3, which is awesome because she gets to wear all of these different leg prosthetics and it looks totally authentic.

Reviews when I'm done.


This, ladies and gentlemen, is how to make an album

This is by no means exhaustive, and most of these albums probably won't make the cut. But off the top of my head (or rather, from the little sheets of paper I've been scribbling album names on for the past few days):

The only criteria so far, mind you, is that I don't hate any of the songs on the album. Right now, the list probably reflects my favorite albums more than anything else. There are a few newer albums I'm still debating about whether or not to include.

Less Than Jake: Hello Rockview. One of my favorite albums of all time.
The Magnetic Fields: Holiday; Get Lost. Much more authentic than the later albums, if not more inventive. If TMF have a "sound," this is it.
Against Me!: Reinventing Axl Rose. One of the best contemporary political albums ever. Hard to live up to.
Bouncing Souls: The Gold Record. Maybe Anchors Aweigh. They're so different that it will be hard to compare them.
The Distillers: Coral Fang. Except Deathsex, I hate that song. Otherwise really good.
The Good Life: Album of the Year. A really solid album, conceptually, and well-produced.
Kimya Dawson: Remember that I Love you; Hidden Vagenda. Probably the latter, although the former is amazing, as well. Bonus points for title creativity.
The Chinkees: Peace through Music. Well-presented and executed.
Mike Park: For the Love of Music. Also a really good political album.
Nina Nastasia: On Leaving. I have to have it on the list because I listen to it so much.
Ratatat: ST. See above.
Nirvana: In Utero. If you do not understand, you never will.
Regina Spektor: Begin to Hope and Soviet Kitsch. One or the other. I've come a long way with both. More later.
Streetlight Manifesto: Everything Went Numb. Solid, fast, clear, and almost elegant.
Strike Anywhere: Change is a Sound. Who knew screaming could sound so good?
This Bike is a Pipe Bomb: Dance Party with.... Danciest album ever. Is that a word? It is now. I have this album on beautiful green marbled vinyl.
Tracy Chapman: ST. Social commentary, and that great acapella song about domestic violence. Man.
Band of Horses: Everything all the time. Haunting.
Weakerthans: left and leaving. I haven't listened to it in awhile but it is overwhelmingly good.
Young Marble Giants: Collasal Youth. One of the best albums of the 80's. Influenced too many of my favorite bands not to be on this list.

In other news:

Lou Reed has narrated a Tai Chi video.

And The Shins announce a few tour dates. Notice the words "arena" and "civic auditorium." Seriously, though, check out their website. It's kind of cool looking. And I like libraries very much.


and the story goes like this:

Stephin Merritt is a huge ABBA fan and often mentions how perfect he thinks all of their albums were produced, composed, etc etc etc etc. While I'm not a huge ABBA fan, I can see his point. He said the same about Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose a few years ago, and while it isn't stylistically my cup of tea, it is a great album nonetheless.

I haven't been terribly pleased or blown away by anything I've heard in the past few months, so I've taken on a personal project to restore my faith in music. I am compiling a list of the most perfect albums of all time. My hypothesis is that near-perfect albums exist in most genres and time periods.

I'm still working out the criteria I will use, because I don't want them just to be my favorites. Granted, I cannot be an entirely neutral arbiter and my musical palette might have a taste for things that are a bit off kilter, but I think this is an important project and I want to finish it by the end of the year. Other parameters I have yet to set:
-Dates/eras/decades: My musical knowledge goes back through the late 70's at the earliest. It is mostly concentrated in the years 1989-2006. I would like to see how album quality relates to changes in media over time [i.e. is mediocrity a symptom of myspace, the internet, blogs, itunes, the quick distribution of stolen music? how does it relate to changes in the relative independence of record labels over time? what about clear channel?]
-Genres: I don't have any particular predispositions against certain genres and my collection is pretty international, but there are probably a few things that make me cringe. I'm not promising any yodeling or Korean pop.
-List size: I don't want to limit myself but having a long list of "perfect" albums seems to defeat the purpose of the project

It ultimately won't be as scientific as I've made it out to be. In fact, I know nothing about statistics and all of my field research has been strictly qualitative. I'm not concerned with bias, either. While I'll make the ultimate decision, I am open to suggestions for albums that should go on the list. Leave a comment with the album and your justification for why it belongs there, and I'll make sure to give it a listen.


You've got a new friend

I had quite a splendid day, despite my political inclinations against this holiday. I justify celebrating thanksgiving in the following ways:
1. Freshman year, determined not to celebrate the genocide of indigenous people, I called literally every soup kitchen and other related relief organization in my city and they were all FULL and would not accept new volunteers. Then I found Food Not Bombs and the rest is history.
2. My thanksgivings are always strictly anti-turkey death (and other related animal deaths).
3. Thanksgiving has cultural significance outside of its history, and while it can't be divorced from that history, its meaning can and has changed over time. For me, thanksgiving has always been about my parents' willingness to accept a new culture and its kinship traditions, despite their strict adherance to their other customs and beliefs.

The day was really awesome. We had a couple of our other vegetarian friends over, ate a ton of food, played Cranium and Balderdash for about 3 hours each, and then watched I heart huckabees. Maria and I totally dominated Cranium and then we were head to head at Balderdash for awhile. It was actually a lot more fun than usual because we were playing with grad students who knew a lot of languages. We also ate sooooooo much food. We basically ate from 2 p.m. til 1:30 a.m.

I was going to post a bunch of music we listened to today when we were cooking but I'm really tired, so it will have to wait.

Happy Un-Turkey Day!


Forget the few

A couple of new songs that caught my attention this week.

Phantom Limb is from the new Shins album, Wincing the Night Away, forthcoming on Sub Pop. The song is decent, I guess. It didn't blow me away or anything. Could have been better. Doesn't give me high hopes for the new album. I guess with great fame comes great mediocrity.

LLL will be on Jesse Sykes new LP, Like, Love, Lust & the Open Halls of the Soul, forthcoming on Barsuk this year. Also underwhelming. Perhaps too quiet. Oh, My Girl was simultaneously bold and feathery. It had a pronounced perspective and a voice. "LLL" is just, well, boring.

Let the record show

Mike Park has a BABY!!!!.

Congrats, Mike Park!


Protest Songs

In the wake of the UCLA tasering, I feel a bit like my people have been attacked and violated. Not just my Iranian-American people, but all of us with diasporic identities living on someone else's land, all of us who look different, feel different, and are constantly viewed with suspicion. When I feel vulnerable like this, I listen to a lot of political music to make me feel better/remind me that a new world is possible.

Here are a few of my favorites. Admittedly, they are mostly about war:
Abe Froman: Citizen's Arrest
Against Me!: The Politics of Starving
Against Me!: Those Anarchopunks are mysterious (really everything from this album)
Defiance, Ohio: Tanks! Tanks! Tanks!
Mike Park: No War

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing - Arundhati Roy


you are my sweetest downfall; i loved you first

I saw Regina Spektor tonight, after a long debacle involving the girl who was supposed to go bailing at the last minute and me having to call pretty much everyone I know in Atlanta to see if they wanted to accompany me. I kind of regretted buying tickets so far in advance until my roommate and I got to the show and it was sold out.

Only Son opened for Regina. Jack Dishel is this dude from NYC with big hair and a really weird sense of humor. His songs performed live were very Weakerthans and Grandaddy-esque, although the few on his Myspace don't really remind me of that at all. He sounded pretty good, despite not really having a band and playing a lot of pre-recorded music. He did, however, redeem himself by telling the audience that he was playing this recording because he had slaughtered his band members with a butcher knife. Yes, I realize this is incredibly creepy but it was funny when he acted it out.

"dude, what are you doing with that butcher knife?"
"uh...cleaning my feet? come here, i want to show you something. actually i'm just gonna kill you now."

I feel really old when I go to shows. Being on the upper end of the college-age spectrum makes freshman look young enough as it is, but it makes it ten times worse that there are always so many high school kids there with their parents. Now, I am going to be a cool mom who takes her kids to shows. But I am not going to wait up in the balcony and then grab my daughter and drag her out afterwards while screaming "YOU TOLD ME THERE WOULDN'T BE DRUGS AND BAD WORDS!"

Enough about that. On to Regina. She came out on stage wearing what appeared to be a long hoodie, hood up covering her hair. She sang a new song acapella, the only percussion being the sound of her finger on the mic. Her smile was kind of intoxicating even though you couldn't see her face and there was this incredible radiance in it, especially when she finally sat down in front of the keyboard, removed the hoodie, said "I dressed up for ya'll," and revealed that she was wearing some sort of glittery cocoon thing over a brown dress. It was hot. If you can't tell, I have a huge crush on Regina. What made it ten times worse was the way she smiled timidly as people yelled and cheered and said stupid things like "I want to have your babies" (a guy), "can I have your number?" (a girl), and "I LOVE YOU REGINA SPEKTOR!!!" (to which she shyly replied, "I love you too, hee hee").

She played everything from Begin to Hope but "20 Years of Snow" and "Lady." She also played a few old favorites from Soviet Kitsch, including "Poor Little Rich Boy," "Carbon Monoxide," and "Us." The encore ended up being about as long as the actual set, but it was all of my favorites so I wasn't complaining. She has this incredible grace and elegance about her, probably due to her classical training, but there is also this vigor and energy in all of her weird sounds and hiccups and the way she smiles when she knows she is doing something subversive. The whole experience was so intense, and she just looked so angelic on that stage. I almost cried a couple of times.

Afterwards, Caity and I went to R Thomas just down Peachtree. If you're ever in the ATL with a crazy bunch of vegetarians, vegans, and carnivores and feel like eating streetside under a giant tent amongst a bunch of exotic birds, you should definitely try it out. And if you do not meet any of those criteria but are up in the wee hours of the night, it is still really good. Not only is R Thomas open 24 hours a day, but they serve tea in those little Teavana Perfect Teamakers. Mmmmm.


when it rains this hard it feels like the sky is crying

I get really depressed when it rains like this. There are literally solid sheets of water falling from the sky. I live on the edge of a forest, though, and it's really beautiful to look outside and watch the rain as it pours down through the trees. On days like this, I drink tea, eat baked things like acorn squash or homemade gingerbread, and take extra long naps.

Having just awoken from one, I am still kind of in a daze, but here are a few songs to keep you company if you're cold and sad like I am:

Nirvana: Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle

I was talking to someone today about Seattle having the highest suicide rate in the country. I have a lot of connections to that city, to Frances Farmer, to Kurt Cobain, and to a number of other things that remind me a lot of this song. It was basically the anthem of my adolescence and I think about it whenever it rains.

Erin Tobey: Dry, Not Wet

Erin Tobey is Matty Popchart's sister. She and Matty used to be in Abe Froman, which is this Plan-It-X band that sounds nothing like this. Erin's S/T album is really awesome and beautiful. She is also really adorable. This song, though bleak, makes me really happy.

Regina Spektor: Apres Moi

I'm seeing Regina this Friday, and I'm really psyched. This song is so quintessentially Regina. It is so dark and rich. There is this coffee shop near my apartment that has this gingerbread latte and in the summer I spent a lot of idle afternoons there staring out of the window and reading and eating their gingerbread man cookies, which are really good because they have white raisens on them. mmmm. I'd listen to Apres Moi on repeat until the traffic died down enough to go into the city.

Bouncing Souls: Lean on Sheena

You know how I feel about this song. It's so sad and delicate, yet energetic and awesome. I play it really loudly in the mornings sometimes to wake myself up. I can't really tell, but it may or may not be about domestic violence, which also makes it sad. :(

Kimya Dawson: Loose Lips

Finally, a cheerful song. Kimya performs this song live quite a bit but didn't record it this year. If you haven't heard this album (or ever had a hug from Kimya Dawson), your life is probably very sad :(


I feel like going home

I've been thinking a lot about genre writing and the cultural consumption of pop culture writing. The cultural narrative created by the linking of fragments of thoughts (across blogs), combined with the nature of pop culture writing itself (as a consumptive genre, as a swift method of communication and the creation of cultural values etc. etc. etc.) make me wonder what my part is in the interpretation of the objects I consume. What does it mean to insert myself in between an mp3 file and a reader? What does it mean to pass judgement on something that will shift in and out of cultural consumption so easily?

My academic writing is rarely consumed. Most of it will never be published, make it into my thesis, or find readers beyond my professors. This is upsetting, because I spend so much more time formulating those ideas, reading, references, footnoting, using Endnote, and performing a variety of other tasks just to produce a 10, maybe 12 page paper that will eventually end up in a trashcan, covered in red ink, never to be thought about again. Why do I bother? Because I am addicted to knowledge, to ideas, and articulating ideas that are my own. I really wish I knew what to do with the rest of my life.

I am incredibly busy nowadays and haven't written in awhile, but after this weekend [and presumably after Thanksgiving break], I can finish a few things that have been in progress for awhile.

Here's a preview:

-My brother sent me Nina Nastasia's new album, On Leaving, awhile ago. I've been making time to listen to it instead of watching TV, baking, knitting, and other random things I usually do to pass the time/avoid working/break out of delirium. It feels very different than her other albums, and is much more reminiscent of some of my other old favorites, like Hope Sandoval and Jesse Sykes.

-The new Yo La Tengo album (I am not afraid of you and I will beat your ass) is a bit underwhelming, despite the title. I've tried to let it grow on me a bit.

-The new Joanna Newsom, Y's, which I've had bits of for a few months, is really awesome, but weird to listen to because all of other versions I had were live. It's incredibly sweet, as usual, especially given my huge crush on harps.

-A few book reviews. I've been reading Anne Carson, Amy Bloom, and Eli Clare.

A good friend of mine and I did a music swap a few weeks ago. My half was a sampler of my favorite plan-it-x albums, and a couple of other newer things I've been listening to. He gave me a range of stuff from a bunch of artists,, including the autumn leaf, bell orchestre, bit shifter, cornelius, deerhoof, manu chao, and spoon. More on that probably when winter break starts and I have time to let it all in.