Thursday, July 24, 2008

What happens when you have too much time on your hands

These are apropos of nothing. I was just bored during the 17 flights I had to take to make my way from South Carolina to Oregon, and got to thinking. (I know, shhh.)

These are not meant to be definitive or anything, it's just what I like. And by "I like", I mean what I like right now. It's impossible to commit to hard-and-fast favorites, but one of the criteria I used when thinking up these Top 3's was that the items had to have been on the forefront of my mind for at least the past 5 years (or so).

Top 3 80's Songs

1. It's My Life - Talk Talk. Not to be confused by Talk Talk, by the band Talk Talk, off of their album Talk Talk. I love the singer's voice and his phrasing.
2. Desperate, But Not Serious - Adam Ant. His voice is dark, the horns are bright, and the lyrics make no sense. Welcome to the 80's!
3. Call Me - Blondie. I have a girlcrush on Debbie Harry. The lyrics in this song are simple, straightforward, and unapologetic.

Honorable Mention: Sweet Child o' Mine - Guns 'n Roses. Lovers of guns, roses, and apostrophes. I like this one mainly because of Slash - his guitar playing shines in this song and makes me want to go to a concert, tease my hair, sit on some dude's shoulders, and scream "I love you Slash!!! Wooooooo!!!" Then I'd take a swig of Miller High Life and pass out.

Top 3 90's Songs

1. Better Man - Pearl Jam. This is a song, see, that could have come off sounding very sensitive-ponytailed-man, but instead grabs you and makes you think of every woman you've ever known who has lived this song.
2. Blow up the Outside World - Soundgarden. I actually don't know how to explain why I like this one. All I know is it makes me close my eyes and rock out.
3. Paranoid Android - Radiohead. That intro gets me every time. There are so many contrasts in melody and feeling, and Thom Yorke's reedy voice adds to the tension in the song.

Honorable Mention: Grace - Jeff Buckley. I'm a big Jeff Buckley fan, and this is the first song of his I remember hearing. Another song that I like mainly because of its contrasts; a melody that's full of longing, and a voice that sounds almost anxious.

Top 3 Songs That I Hate With a Burning, Itching Passion

1. I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That) - Meat Loaf. I won't even get into the old and tired jokes about the title. Also, I won't speculate on what it is he won't do, because I'm pretty sure I've narrowed it down and I probably wouldn't do it either. But aside from the lame title, Mr. Loaf has to be the most annoying singer I can think of. The stupid title, the stupid voice, and the stupid instrumentation make this one stupid song.
2. We Built This City - Jefferson Airplane. I can't explain this one. A fairly average mid-80's song, but from the moment my 5th-grader self heard it, I knew that I would hate it for the rest of my life. And look here, I was right.
3. (Everything I Do) I Do it For You. Oh my God, Bryan. Actually, I hate everything you do, but this one...this one just trumps it all. And to think that you do it for me, in your treacly, trite way, just makes me feel icky inside. This is just wrong, Bryan. Go find a girl who will appreciate the fact that you rhyme "love" with "love" and forget that I even exist.

Honorable Mention: I Will Always Love You - Whitney Houston. Aaaaaaand IIIIIIayayayIIIIIIIII wiiiiill aaaalwaaaaaays looooove youuuuuuuuu woahhhhhhhh! My work here is done.

Top 3 Covers That I Like Better Than the Originals

1. Take Me to the River - Talking Heads (originally by Al Green). There's something slightly wrong about this song. He's singing to a 16 year old. I don't care how early people hooked up back in olden days, that just ain't right. And when David Byrne sings it, and the Talking Heads play the music, all that wrongness comes out in all the right ways.
2. Rusty Cage - Johnny Cash (originally by Soundgarden). Soundgarden made this song badass enough, but when Johnny says he's gonna break his rusty cage, you believe it. That man will do it, no question. I also love how he brought out a country twang in an alternative rock song.
3. Got to Get You Into My Life - Earth, Wind, and Fire (originally by The Beatles). I might get in trouble for this one, because omg teh beatles are teh awesome!!1!! And they are, but whereas the original song was good, this one brings out the basic melody and makes it groove. The one downside is that this song is from the worst movie ever made in the history of the universe, as well as whatever was around before the universe: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Honorable Mention: None. I got nothin' for this one. Suggestions welcome.

Top 3 Sitcom Theme Songs

1. Good Times: I always wanted to get up and dance to this song when I heard it. And I will be forever in debt to Dave Chapelle, who finally cleared up the mystery of what it is they sing after "scratchin' and surviving". (It's "hanging in a chow line.") I always pictured James and Thelma as the singers.
2. Diff'rent Strokes: "It don't matter what you got/Not a lot/So what?" So true. So, so true. And you Puerto Ricans out there, don't tell me that about a second after the name of the show comes on, you don't expect the voiceover dude to come out and say "Blanco y negro".
3. All in the Family: Maybe it was the song coupled with the images that went along with it during the intro, but I always feel a little verklempt when I hear it.

Honorable Mentions (because I can't do just one): Barney Miller, The Rockford Files, Sanford and Son

Friday, July 11, 2008

Puerto Rican on board

There's something kind of cool about spotting a PR bumpersticker on a car. The further away you are from PR, the more my neck cranes to look at the car. Why am I looking? What does it matter who is inside? I don't know, but I look anyway.

This weekend I saw one of these on a car here in Portland:

I've seen similar ones around town a few times. A few months ago I saw one up by Fort Lewis , in Washington State. The most random place I've seen a PR bumper sticker was on a car in Wyoming. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the sticker and the license plate:

We have one one our car. I'd post a picture of it but I can't find one similar to it online, and taking a picture of the one on our car would be pointless as it is pretty worn. It is a Hurricane Wilma survivor, you see. Prior to the storm, it was in perfect shape. After the storm, the colors were stripped, and sometimes it looks like the part that says "PR" actually says "PA". It kind of looks like those European decals that have the initials of a particular country, but on either side there is a tiny PR flag. Except now there are only one and a half tiny flags. I feel a little embarassed about that; surely I should be taking better care of my national-pride bumper stickers, but I keep forgetting to get a new one when I'm down there. I can order one online, but I keep forgetting to do that too.

That sticker has allowed us to meet, as much as one can meet someone speeding down a highway, a couple of interesting characters. One of them was in Florida, pre-Wilma. We were speeding down the highway headed towards Miami - speeding because if we didn't keep up with the rest of the horde driving 90 mph, we'd surely die - and Dave tried to change lanes. Unfortunately, a car in the lane he wanted to get into was sitting in his blindspot and he didn't see it. Fortunately, he noticed just in time and came back to his lane. A few seconds later, a maniac in a giganto SUV pulls up next to our passeneger side and starts yelling at us in Spanish. He was not the guy in Dave's blindspot, but he witnessed the incident and decided that Dave was a menace. As this gentleman hung halfway out his window and swung his fist at us, not looking at the road, rolling along at 90mph, yelling barbaridades at us and accusing us of being reckless, we wondered why he was yelling in Spanish and not English.

Dave: How does he know anyone in this car speaks Spanish?
Me: Must be that he saw the PR sticker.
Dave: That thing's coming down!!

I stalled, and eventually the shock of the incident wore off. Passive-aggressive victory on my part, and so PR Sticker stayed to survive a hurricane. A couple of years later, back in Portland, Dave came home one day and said "I think I met a Puerto Rican today." Again, he had been driving down a highway, and a car pulls up alongside him. This time, though, it was a friendly woman who looked like Celia Cruz (according to Dave, I wasn't there to verify this). She smiled at him broadly and gave him a thumbs-up. He was confused at first, but decided that, once again, it must have been the PR sticker, working its magic.

But the best one, and, again, not seen by me because I wasn't there, was Dave's sighting of a car whose owner had typed up BORICUA in Word, printed it on a plain sheet of paper, and taped it to his back windshield. I imagine that's the equivalent of a temporary license plate. Until your real PR sticker arrives in the mail, sent by a relative or some website, you have to put up your paper document somewhere on your car.

I'm not sure which sticker will replace our battleworn veteran, who has brought us such joy and such fear for our lives, but I'm thinking...

...will not be it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Stealing ideas for a post

My friend at Zoo, Askew posted a list of popular books created by the National Endowment for the Arts; they estimate most adults have read 6 of the 100 books. Without having gone through it beforehand, I'm posting the list and bolding the ones I've read. Then, if I really have read six or less, I'll lie be honest about my results and resolve to get to readin'.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Okay, so more than 6. Some of these I have copies of, waiting in the wings, like Vanity Fair. I was happy to see, though, that my period of teenage nerdery led to my having read a good number of the ones listed. I was bowled away by the storytelling in Notre Dame of Paris, especially when Hugo weaves the priest's character so finely so as to show you that although he may be the bad guy, he's also human, and people's bad motives usually come from somewhere. And I found Jude the Obscure so emotionally heavy that when I finished the book, I involuntarily heaved a heavy sigh.

Others I read in school, and actually read them rather than buying Cliffs Notes. Among those are Of Mice and Men and The Grapes of Wrath. Hamlet, I admit, was another one I read because I "had to", but I was lucky to have an English teacher who took care to make Shakespeare seem not-so-inaccessible, and I found myself falling into his rhythm with her help. One Hundred Years of Solitude is another book I read in high school, and I remember my Spanish teacher telling us to not freak out about the cast of thousands, and to not try to keep strict tabs on who was related to whom; the important thing was to just read and enjoy the story. I did that, and after that I wasn't scared to read large books that spanned generations -- which served me well for reading the historical fiction series of books by Edward Rutherfurd, one of my current favorites.

I was almost done reading Lolita while riding on the Long Island Railroad one day, and then accidentally left it behind when I left. I was only a few pages away from the end so I went to Barnes and Noble and finished it there. More than once I went to Barnes and Noble to use their art books for research. I wasn't the only one who treated is as a library, either, and I never saw anyone get hassled for it. Not that the NYU library wasn't great, but B&N was closer, and sometimes laziness wins.

My mom made me read Little Women when I was about 9 or 10. For some reason I wasn't interested, and for some reason she totally forced me to read it. I ended up loving it, and asking my mom if I could plant a flower garden, because the girls in the book each had one. My aunt Wandy gave me The Little Prince; she gave me several books throughout my childhood, all in beautiful hadcover editions, and I remember always loving each one of them (one I remember in particular was Stories for Free Children. It was one of the first times that I read something as a child that actually made me think). I read The Little Prince and Stories several times, even though I'm not a re-reader by nature.

Losing myself in a good story is one of the greatest pleasures in my life, and I have to smile at the thought that for almost every book I read, I have an associated memory. Where I was, or how I felt, or what happened to that book. I've been going through a reading lull lately, but Dave's been wanting me to read Doctor Faustus, so I think I'm going to pick it back up tonight and dive in.