Stopping for the radio shows

March 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

Recently, I have been obsessed with National Public Radio. There are moments that I cry, gasp, or laugh out loud while driving and hope no one caught a glimpse of me. At times I wish the red light was a little bit longer so that I can listen to an end of a story. For example, last weekend I was driving and listening to A Prairie Home Companion. I was on my way to the grocery store when I was captured by Sara Watkins and Sam Duncan’s music number The Price.  I drove past the underground parking, around the block, and parked my car on the “no parking/stopping side,” and put on my emergency lights. I sat awhile listening to Garrison Keillor talk about Dolly Parton in Nashville, Emmylou Harris sharing a sad, sad song – Darling Kate, and The Civil Wars performing Poison & Wine. Below are some of my favorite programs.

Ira Glass, humorist host of  This American Life, captures stories around a weekly theme. Click on the picture below to hear one of my favorites.

My morning drive to work usually consists of news from All Things Considered.

A friend introduced me to Storycorps a few months ago. Interviews are archived from people around the country. What I love most about Storycorps is their pairing of animated shorts with their stories in a beautiful and raw way.

Listen to some airwaves this week. I think it’s perfectly okay to cry or throw your head back from laughing so hard – even if its alone in the car driving to the grocery store.


A Fine Mess of Grammar

March 28, 2011 § 4 Comments

Being the grammarian nerd I am, I get a little excited over things like the 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style that came out last fall (hey, it was 7 years since the last one), or last week’s news that the AP Stylebook decided (finally!) to remove the hyphen from the word email, following last year’s move to make website one word, lowercased.

I love the monthly Q&As which CMOS hosts and the cheekiness of their responses, as in:

Q. My library shelves are full. I need to make some difficult decisions to make space for new arrivals. Is there any reason to keep my CMOS 14th and 15th editions?

A. What a question. If you had more children, would you give away your firstborn? Find a board and build another shelf.

and on taking hyphen concerns a little too far:

Q. If you have to call someone “Jeff-bear,” is the hyphen appropriate, or would “Jeffbear” suffice? The new Manual doesn’t say.

A. I’m sorry, but when we got to the term “Jeff-bear,” the Hyphenation Committee couldn’t agree and things started get nasty, so we left it out. I’m afraid you’re on your own.

But my favorite reference book is still the classic Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. In the first place, reading Strunk and White is not like reading your high school English textbook. E.B. White, a student of Strunk, writes:

“When [Strunk] delivered his oration on brevity to the class, he leaned forward over his desk, grasped his coat lapels in his hands, and, in a husky, conspiratorial voice, said, “Rule Seventeen. Omit needless words! Omit needless words! Omit needless words!”

"Well, Susan, this is a fine mess you are in." - Strunk and White

And there you have all you need to know about editing. White explains that in reviving Strunk’s original grammar book, he has not tried to “soften [Strunk’s] commands, or modify his pronouncements, or remove the special objects of his scorn,” but instead “preserved the flavor of his discontent while slightly enlarging the scope of the discussion.” Because, really, what is a grammarian without scorn and discontentment?

In the second place, the book has since been illustrated by Maira Kalman – American author, illustrator, designer, artist, and probably a bunch of other roles in which she’s equally as talented. She stumbled across the book at a yard sale and felt the sentences were so vivid, they needed painting.

A Few Matters of Form

In 2007, she presented on this project and others on TED talks, where she is delightful and funny. I love the question she asks on creating (at 14 1/2 min in), “How much truth do we tell; how do we know when we’re ourselves?”

And as she painted her illustrations for the book, she envisioned there being a ballet or opera to go along with it as well. So she commissioned composer Nico Muhly to create nine songs based on Strunk and White’s grammar rules. You can listen to a few on NPR, including one featuring their famous rule, “Be Obscure Clearly.” I love it when multiple forms of art work together. And when it’s done clearly.

"Be obscure clearly! Be wild of tongue in a way we can understand!" - Strunk & White

Feelin’ like a rebel

March 25, 2011 § 1 Comment

No, I didn’t throw a rock at a church window. A typical bedtime for me on a worknight is usually 10 pm at the latest (due to my teacher schedule). However, this past Thursday I won a pair of tickets to see In Tall Buildings, James Vincent McMorrow, and The Rural Alberta Advantage. To win a contest is exciting enough, but to win concert tickets to a great show is even better. As someone who works in the schools, I felt like a rebel hanging out late on a school night. All photos courtesy of Ed Oliver.

In Tall Buildings is the name for Erik Hall's new music project.

James Vincent McMorrow is a beautiful songwriter from Ireland.

The Rural Alberta Advantage's drummer was so fun to watch.

Sigur Ros does rebellion right with Hoppipolla.

This weekend ding dong ditch your neighbor four blocks down the street or do something risky, but not too harmful. Sometimes moving away from your regular to do’s to allow an element of surprise is worth it.

Music for a Rainy Day

March 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Four days straight of rain and the occasional thunderstorm means I’m listening almost exclusively to Iron and Wine, specifically The Creek Drank the Cradle, my go-to album when the skies are grey. If you were given the analogy problem of William Fitzsimmons : Pakou as ____ : Abi, the answer would have to be Samuel Beam. They both have great beards, for one thing. As for Sufjan, we gush equally.

On this gloomy and overcast evening, I’m expanding my rain repertoire. Enjoy the soft, the sad, the soothing on my playlist here…and a few more to boot:

Mouthwings by Mountain Men (Don’t be fooled by the name – they’re three harmonizing women.)

By the Cathedral by Keren Ann

Wide by The Cloud Hymn

Learning stitch by stitch

March 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s official – I’m enrolled in class! I am a student again. For 6 weeks, every Monday evening for a few hours I get to use this…

My Singer Promise

and these…

Andres Rueda

to sew. Ruffles and Stuff does a great job at introducing the basics of sewing. The idea that I have to sew straight, pick the right fabric, read a pattern accurately, and then combine all the pieces seems a little daunting. Nevertheless, the idea of using my own hands to create and make things is really exciting. Join in on my excitement by singing and dancing along to the music videos below.

OoO so blissfully joyful to be with them in the sun. I dream of being a tambourine girl.

Don’t you just want to dance along with him?

Joyful today.

To Blow Up or Hook Up

March 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

With the movie Battle: Los Angeles coming out this weekend, Patricia Beauchamp tests her theory that we love in New York and die in L.A., at least in Hollywood terms. Some of the greatest romance films are based in New York City (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Annie Hall, West Side Story) while films of destruction, alien invasion, and cheap flings tend to take place in Los Angeles (The Terminator, Die Hard, Transformers).

Battle: Los Angeles

Alyssa Rosenberg, another Atlantic writer, adds that after 9/11, we’re not ready to see New York fall, due to aliens or otherwise. It’s sensitivity that pushes the battle to the west coast.

I would go one step further and say that in movie romances, if not always true to reality, we demand the usual happy ever after: the one soulmate who’s committed, faithful, and lasting. And what better way to convey the feelings of permanence and commitment than a city steeped in history, culture, and old architecture?

There may be a flood of new people every day, changes in industry and fashion, but there is always Coney Island, the Empire State Building, Central Park, the Statue of Liberty, and the memories made in each place. We imagine the happy ever after post-credits to include settling down, a few kids, Thanksgiving dinner. And what other city has been called home to thousands of immigrants passing through, to so many cultures carving out a space to be?

An Affair to Remember

An Affair to Remember

It’s not that L.A. doesn’t have a long history, but its history is that of the migrant laborer, the rugged adventurer, of wanderlust. Survival has always been questionable, hard work and dangerous work at that. Fighting aliens fits. Grappling with a relationship – while perhaps more realistic – is just not the way we want our characters to live and love.

Hip Facial Hair

March 15, 2011 § 1 Comment

The only time I wish, which is not a lot, to be a man is so that I grow a mean beard. I use to cringe at the thought of beards, but over the years I have found them to be quite endearing. Yes, endearing.

William Fitzsimmons was the bearded man that began my adoration. He is a wonderful songwriter. He develops these beautiful images that are created by finger picking, which he weaves within breathy melodies. Stream his new record on Paste. Bird of Winter Prey is one of my favorites.

William Fitzsimmon's new album cover.

The Mast Brothers are known for their handcrafted chocolate bars. They are involved in the process of selecting cacao beans to hand wrapping the bars with old book pages. Their desire to create a unique taste for each bar motivates them to be so involved in each process of making chocolate. It is like “old Mark Twain stories of adventure and childlike curiosity. A sort of independence and freedom, that fierceness independence, almost Emersonian spirit” experience in your mouth.

I can see how one can be persuaded to have a beard considering all  these reasons, but most importantly it should be full of love.

Beard Full of Love

*Post update – In lieu of March Madness, I thought this chart was pretty funny and perfect for this post.

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