Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lisa Hannigan's I Don't Know.


This song is light and happy and sweet and good and so kind of reminds me of hearing Feist's I Hear It All for the first time two years ago. I saw Feist live once in Boston and she and part of the audience tried to turn it into this real hip rock and roll show, like stand up on your feet and rock out! And I didn't get it at all because I was like Feist, you know your best songs are light and happy and sweet, not rock and roll, come on now. Anyway, I had actually heard Lisa Hannigan before through my many listenings to Damien Rice's O four years ago, on which she sings a lot of beautiful backup, although backup isn't even an appropriate word for many of the songs. Hm, okay, so she co-sang with Rice on most of the CD. There's probably a better way to phrase that. But back when I listened to that oh-so-dramatic but oh-so-pretty CD all the time I didn't even know her name. Which is a shame, but now I do, because she has her own album, Sea Sew out, and I downloaded this song from it about a week ago. And the reason why I really like it today is that for whatever reason I woke up with it in my head on repeat, and I also woke up having gotten a good night's sleep which recently hasn't been happening for me all the time, and so while most early mornings when I am getting ready for work I am cranky/exhausted/half alive, today I felt overall comfy and content and good. So thank you Lisa Hannigan, and all other soft voiced folk-alternative-y singer songwriters; I wish your warm voices would stay inside my head and wake me up every day.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

National Geographic.


Three years ago, Kathy gave me a subscription to National Geographic as a gift - probably inspired by my hobby of randomly studying maps for fun - and it was one of the smartest gifts anyone has ever given to me because ever since then I have read every issue cover to cover each month. I plan on continuing to do so until I die, because I am that big of a nerd, and also I want to have an even bigger yellow collection on my bookshelf than this one I have now. I can't think of a more peaceful day off of work than one spent with a mug of tea and my couch and a new National Geographic. In the backroom of the library-run used bookstore where I volunteer there is a huge bookshelf entirely of National Geographics, dating back to at least the 20s or 30s, and I often like to go back there and just stare at it for awhile and feel really happy. This makes me sound a little weird, I know, but, I am a little weird.

I think National Geographic fits me so well because it is a magazine which combines all of my favorite things: Photography, environmentalism, and travel. I have discovered over the years that the type of person who avidly enjoys one of these things will usually like the other: the environmental greenie types usually also enjoy fancy cameras; those who enjoy fancy cameras usually would also really love to travel the world, etc., and all of us would probably enjoy National Geographic. The pictures in the magazine are pretty consistently some of the most amazing pictures I have ever seen; a large majority of their stories have a conservationist theme; and my favorite articles are usually about those places in the world I will probably never be able to visit but like thinking I will, or sometimes, they are places I had never even heard about before. Reading National Geographic encompasses the best qualities of reading in general: through it you can feel like a better, wider person without ever leaving the house.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Paul Rudd.

Soooooo....IhaveabiggirlycrushonPaulRudd! Phew. There. I said it. I can't help it. I realized the other day that I find him more hilarious than Seth Rogan, or Jason Segel, or Jonah Hill...well, okay, Jonah Hill is pretty hilarious. I don't know, there's something about him and the way he pulls off that dry, not-too-obnoxious humor. (Although I admit I even loved him in his very-obnoxious-humor role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall - "You sound like you're from London!") Oh, and he's also super attractive. Listen, I never said this blog was going to be particularly mature. Recently Kathy & I watched Role Models and I really, really liked it. Like a lot. Perhaps this is because I had pretty low expectations of it, and I've learned that things I have low expectations for usually end up being awesome. I am also already in love with I Love You, Man and I haven't even seen it yet. (If you have seen it, and think that it stinks, and comment on this entry telling me it stinks, I will be very sad. Or, maybe then my expectations of it will lower, so that when I do see it, it'll end up being awesome!) In conclusion, Paul Rudd = funny. And hot.

(Ps. Sorry, Kathy.)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Marley & Me.

I read this enormously popular book by Mr. John Grogan last year, and by the end of it, I was pretty much in love with that darn dog. Which might be a pretty un-special or unique point of view, being as like I said, it was an enormously popular book, but I loved Marley, nonetheless. In my experience, as often as enormously popular things are bashed, they are enormously popular for a reason. When I heard they were making a movie of it I was slightly skeptical, being that 1) I feel like movies made out of memoirs are kind of odd in general. I mean there are many, many movies which are "based on true stories," but it's just different and weird somehow. Especially when the memoir is recent and the real people whose lives this is based on are very much still alive and kicking. 2) Owen Wilson and Jennifer Anniston? I have nothing against either of them as actors, but they were just so very very far from what I pictured John Grogan and his wife Jenny to be like at all.

Well, yesterday Kathy & I watched it, and we LOVED IT. I found myself completely loving both Owen Wilson and Jennifer Anniston. Like a lot. I also loved Alan Arkin, and McSteamy, and of course Marley, and overall I just felt it was well done. I was worried it would become some really cheesy family comedy, cheapening the closeness I had come to feel for the characters while reading the book. And maybe it was just a cheesy family comedy, but really, a lot of the times cheesy family comedies, when done well, are pretty much my favorite thing. Also, let me tell ya. It made Kathy and I WEEP like little babies. I mean, the tears were streaming down my face for the last half hour. Holy crap. We were such pathetic wrecks that it was funny, which of course is why I'm telling you all about it.

Here is the reason why Marley & Me is good: It's about the dog, yeah, and anyone who loves dogs will really like it. But mainly, it's just about an American family who has good times and bad times, funny ones and sad ones, who overall have a really good life, and who really, really love each other - all people and animals included. This doesn't seem like a terribly exciting plot. It's not, really. But you know, it's a good one. And you can see pieces of yourself in them, and it gives you hope that in the end you'll have lots of funny times and sad times and lots and lots of love, too. And of course it's about realizing that the "world's worst dog" will, in the end, be the world's best dog, because he was yours.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tom Petty.

Tom Petty is awesome. Only his is the kind of awesomeness where I forget about it often, and I don't think I even own any of his CDs, but then every now and then, I'll hear a song somewhere, and I will think, "Man! Tom Petty is awesome." This is a sad phenomenon in one aspect because it doesn't give enough credit to the man, being as, like I said, it's an awesomeness I forget a lot, but it's a great phenomenon because of the joyous surprise value in remembering it each time.

One time during one of these "Man! Tom Petty is awesome." surprise moments, I went on a mad iTunes downloading spree, and although favorite Tom Petty tunes are pretty well known by all, here's a list of what I spent 99 cents each on: Into the Great Wide Open, American Girl, I Won't Back Down, Don't Do Me Like That, Free Fallin', and Mary Jane's Last Dance. I have mentioned this before, somewhere, but I want to state again that I believe that

Oh my my
Oh hell yes
Honey put on that party dress


are the best lyrics of all time. Not for being particularly deep or meaningful, but just for being awesome.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Boneless Buffalo Chicken.

Buffalo chicken is without a doubt the biggest barrier between me and vegetarianism. In general I don't eat meat much. I think I could probably even give up pepperoni pizza. Maybe. But any time I see a buffalo chicken entry on a restaurant's menu, the same thing happens - I debate between other food options on the menu, and then the waiter comes over and I order the buffalo chicken. I would go so far as to say that boneless buffalo chicken - other than ice cream, good pasta, and potato soup - is my favorite food. One would think it'd be easier just to say "buffalo wings," but the thing is I don't like buffalo wings because I can't eat any meat with bones. Yeah. I know. Call me a wussy, I've accepted it. The more I try to man up about it and eat something with bones in it the more thoroughly disgusted I feel. But if there is some highly processed, boneless buffalo chicken up in here, I am ALL. IN.

One night this week for a basketball game we ordered probably a ridiculous amount of boneless buffalo chicken strips from Wing Stop (they were okay) and after eating way too many I couldn't sleep well that night. So I laid awake for a long time and thought about my favorite buffalo chicken experiences. I came up with:

1) Boneless buffalo wings & fries, Pizzanini *, **
2) Buffalo chicken sandwich, Bennigan's
3) Buffalo chicken wrap, Viga
4) Buffalo chicken salad, Pizzeria Uno

After coming up with this list, I became sort of depressed, because:
1) Pizzanini and Viga only exist in Boston. To be specific, Pizzanini only exists in Brighton & Marlborough, and Viga only exists in the Financial District, as far as I know. It is one of those amazing deli/eateries which only exist in big city financial centers, which seems unfair. Like, not only do the people in suits have all the money, but they have all the best lunch, too!
2) Bennigan's went out of business. At least the one around the corner from Emerson in City Place, and no other store matters.
3) Pizzeria Uno is a huge restaurant chain but for some reason doesn't exist on the West Coast, or at least not the Northwest. I know. I was shocked by this discovery, too.

So this means that right now I am awash, without any primo buffalo chicken availability. I do enjoy places like Wing Stop and Buffalo Wild Wings but they're not as memorable. I am always really pumped about going to Buffalo Wild Wings but then once we get there I feel overwhelmed by all the different choices of sauces and when I finally decide on one and order I immediately feel regret and doubt over all the other choices I could have gotten. So if there is someone out there in the Portland world who has any advice for some good boneless buffalo that'll leave my lips burning, please, do let me know.

* Pizzanini's boneless buffalo wings should always reign #1 on my list, because I definitely consumed more of those than any other, but they are complicated. When they were good, they were REALLY GOOD, and it seemed like in the beginning they always were. The chicken fingers and the fries - the BEST steak fries - were all together, fries on the bottom so that the buffalo sauce from the chicken dripped down and saturated a good amount of them too. And then their blue cheese was and always will be the best blue cheese I have ever had. We got into the habit of asking for extra blue cheese, even though we had to pay extra, and we're cheap, but it was that good. Kathy often licked the little plastic containers dry. But then, increasingly, you'd get highly questionable chicken - like, REALLY questionable - and sometimes there'd be hardly any buffalo thrown on at all. So the question of whether the chicken would be highly questionable or not became too big of a liability after awhile, and in our last year in Boston, most of the time when we ordered from Pizzanini, it was, sadly, just pizza.
** Pizzanini deserves its very own entry and will get it some time soon.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

March Madness.

March is overall a no-good, in-between month, constantly tittering between winter and spring. Back in the Northeast, March still clung pretty tightly on the winter side, but here in Oregon, we start having pleasantly blue sky sunny days back in February. Yet we also have a large amount of cloudy, rainy, very unpleasant days, as well as really cold nights. I currently have shoots of different flowers I planted last year popping out of the ground around our apartment - daffodils out front, hyacinths and tulips in the back - and from the moment I saw them I couldn't help myself from thinking "Hurrah! Spring!" and then the next morning we'll wake up with frost, sometimes a sprinkling of snow. We're sick of the cold, yet still too far away from really getting excited about any awesome summer plans. So what is there to fill in this anxious void? College basketball, of course.

Although I played some pretty mean field hockey back in my middle-and-high-school days, I used to be a pretty big Not a Sports Fan person. My real personality rested much more in my marching band, bad-poetry-writing geekdom. I then went to a college which, although they did have some sports team, prided itself on them being a joke, fairly or unfairly to the sports teams. Like, it was actually a selling point to a lot of students - "Man, thank God I don't have to deal with cheerleaders and jocks and can just concentrate on my short stories and films." A lot of students didn't know what our school mascot was, and the school bookstore sold shirts which said, "Emerson Football - Still Undefeated!" Being that we obviously didn't have a football team. And to give Emerson credit, those shirts were actually pretty funny.

But then I met Kathy, a lifelong college basketball fan from Chapel Hill, where being a college basketball fan is probably required from birth. The first season I watched with her, I spent more time watching her reactions, and becoming slightly worried/anxious whenever she would stand up/hit things/leave the room during bad times. But even by the end of that season - 2005, when UNC won the national championship - I was starting to get swept into it. (How could you not, when your team won the national championship?) This sentiment expanded a little more each season, until by this point, I am full blown in love with college basketball. My love affair has even branched out into me loving sports in general, even ones I used to profess to hate (baseball, football). The more I watch sports, the more good I see in them. They give a sense of local pride in a country where 'local' becomes less and less unique as every region becomes more homogenized to the next one. Living in Boston with the Red Sox taught me this. I didn't know two hoots about baseball when I moved there, but there was nothing like going out on our balcony when I lived downtown and hearing the whole city yelling after a Yankees defeat. I see Red Sox hats and shirts all the time now all the way out here, and every time I do, my heart swells a little for Boston. I used to think that people chitchatting with each other about sports or the weather was really lame and typical, but now I think, at least it gives people something to talk about at all.

Sports, the way I see it, are the same as movies, or books, or concerts - they give you a space to step away from your own life and your own stress for two halfs, or four quarters, or nine innings, and that is something that everyone needs. And so although I at least partly enjoy most all sports now, there is really nothing like college basketball. College anything is always the best, when it isn't about ridiculously paying contracts and lifestyles and all the other cynicism people have about it, but just about really loving a game. Basketball gives an opportunity for success to rich white kids (see: Duke) as much as it does to poor kids from the innercity (see: Hoop Dreams, my favorite documentary of all time). It is America's soccer: all you need is a ball, and a basket.

March Madness is pretty much a perfect thing to me. There is not a more triumphant feeling than when watching an underdog win an upset. I think anyone who hates sports has not really watched an exciting game to the finish and then seen the look of pure, absolute joy on the winners' faces, and also the look of pure, absolute heartache on the losers'. It doesn't matter who you are to be moved by that. Sports, really, are probably the one public sphere where it is acceptable to show raw, unabashed human emotion.

& I know this post was long, and probably too philosophical for a post on March Madness, so I'll just end with this:

Duke sucks.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Everclear's Santa Monica.

We can live beside the ocean
Leave the fire behind
Swim out past the breakers
Watch the world die.


If you know me you know that reminiscing about 90s music is kind of a Thing of mine, but I really, really like this song. Mainly because every time I hear it I feel like I am getting in a car, leaving some troubled unhappiness behind me, and driving to California just because I "want to see some palm trees" or "I just want to find some place to be alone," which seems to capture a very real essence of teenager-dom, and if there is anything a pop song should be about, it should be capturing the essence of teenager-dom. The palm tree reference especially invokes a dreaming-of-the-West-Coast-while-living-on-the-East-Coast-with-very-long-winters kind of teenager-dom, which is an angst that I particularly like hearing/writing/reading about. This is a notion obviously similar to the Mama and the Papas' California Dreamin' which I also love very, very dearly but California Dream' is far too realistic because the protagonist at the end of the song "knows I'm going to stay." But with Santa Monica, you feel like you are already halfway there, and one day really will live beside the ocean, and watch the world die, which sounds violent and pretty vague but satisfying in a really-sad-but-sounds-happy pop song kind of way.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Lily.


Lily came into our lives what seems like a long time ago now, back from the Animal Rescue League of Boston. She was the first pet Kathy & I got together and she has been with us through lots of great (and not great) things, including following us across the country. She is cute, fat (really fat), loves having her stomach rubbed and laying in the sun. She still likes us a lot even though we adopted a kitten that attacks her regularly and a dog that invades her space. She has also befriended many of our friends, such as Zoe, Meredith, Sam (& Lele...kind of), Keegan & Phil (man, she really liked them), Allie, Jen & Tiffany, etc...and all of this means a lot.

Only here is the thing about Lily: she insists on being fed in the middle of the night, or if not then, the very early morning. Even if we feed her a huge load of food right before bed, she will still start scratching around our heads at 4, 5, 6 am. What she scratches is whatever will make the most noise and be the most impossible for us to ignore. A lot of the times this is the window, sometimes the wall; if I am silly and leave a newspaper I was reading the night before on the ground next to the bed she will for sure tear it to shreds, in a very loud, repetitive way. We have tried to ignore her on our most sleepiest occasions, thinking that for goodness sakes' she'd have to get tired of the charade after awhile and go back to sleep. But she never does. Although I love her with all my heart during the day, in my sleepy middle of the night haze I find myself getting uncharacteristically pissed at her over these episodes. Such as last night, when she woke me up at 4:30am. Scratch, scratch, scratch. So I stumbled out of bed and walked in my cold feet to the kitchen and threw a good amount of food in her bowl and walked back to bed. This is fairly normal, and most of the time I can fall immediately back into unconsciousness. But not only did I have some trouble falling asleep this time, but almost exactly ONE HOUR later, at 5:30, I heard it again - that relentless scratch, scratch, scratch. At which point I yelled something like, "What the %&*# Lily, I fed you one %&*#ing hour ago, what the %&*#!" To which Kathy mumbled from her sleep "Mmm, mmm, yelling, mmm," and Lily said, "Meow!" and ran towards her food bowl. I followed her and irrationally dumped almost her whole day's worth of food in her bowl, saying "Here, have all your %&*#ing food!" and then returned to bed where I kind-of-not-really slept until I had to wake up at 6:30 to get ready for work, at which point I was pretty tired and really cranky. (And by which point Toby had eaten the rest of her food.)

On my way home from work, much later, when I was feeling still pretty tired but much, much less cranky, I started thinking about my temper tantrum and started to feel a little guilty about it. It's really annoying, but Kathy & I have tried to stop it but can't. The gal just needs to eat sometimes, and as her owner, I have to suck it up. Because in the long run, a few nights of not-the-greatest sleep are worth it for someone who will play with you when you're feeling silly and will cuddle with you when you're feeling sad. & Lily, of all our animals, knows when we're feeling sad the most. And so I'm sorry, Lily, because I like you. I like you a lot.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Yurts.

Kathy & I just returned from our second successful yurt camping trip to the coast, and I just have to say, thank God I read an article about yurts in the newspaper a year ago. I don't remember the article very specifically but I'm sure my reaction must have been at first, "What the heck is a yurt?" and then, after finishing the article, "Man, yurts sound awesome!" Well guess what, they ARE! They are essentially a combination of a cabin and a tent, and they are found in lots of Oregon State Parks, especially on the coast. Although even within the state, when you tell people you are going to be staying in one, you will get one of two replies: "Man, yurts are awesome!" (Yes they are!) or, "What the heck is a yurt?" (Most of the time it's this one.) We just found out on this trip that the name actually stands for Year-round Universal Recreational Tent, which, although this makes much more sense, I actually felt kind of disappointed by, to know that the name actually had a meaning and wasn't just a random silly name somebody weird made up, as I previously liked to believe. Regardless, the most important thing to know about yurts is this: they have heat! & electricity! And the second most important thing to know is that they are cheap! They generally cost $27-$30 a night (at least in Oregon) and aside from the heat & electricity, they have a futon bed, table, chairs, and big bunk bed inside, so all you need to bring is bedding.

I also just now learned through some Googling that they are modeled after the traditional structures used by nomadic tribes in Central Asia, their circular design being easy to collapse and transport. Who knew. In the modern United States, however, yurt camping is essentially camping for wussies, which works pretty swell for us. I picked up a pamphlet at the state park which likes to call it "Camping Lite," which is polite of them. And in this pamphlet, which includes information on cabins, teepees, deluxe yurts (!!) and other awesome things you can also rent on state campgrounds when you want to camp like a wussy, the paragraph on yurts begins:

"'Yurtin' for Certain!" is the motto of veteran yurt enthusiasts, and their numbers swell every year." Which obviously made me giggle, because of 1) the phrase 'Yurtin' for Certain!', 2) the idea that there are in fact 'veteran yurt enthusiasts', and then 3) the realization that by the end of our time in Oregon, I will probably be one, which I will then add to my Really Geeky Things About Jill Resume.

This trip we also, for the first time, made a fire in the fire pit outside, with some help from our friendly Camp Host who chopped some wood for kindling for us -
(The initial conversation went like this:
Me: "Can we buy some firewood from you?"
Camp Host: "Sure. You girls got an ax?"
Us: *blank stare*
Camp Host: "You got an ax?"
Us: "Uh, no.")
- and made s'mores, all of which made us feel pretty accomplished. I mean, I really could not remember the last time I made an actual s'more over an actual campfire. But now I can. It was last night.