Xena, Weasels, and an IOU


1) A post about the final week of my trip to Paraguay.

2) A review of Stovall Weems’ Awakening so Blogging for Books will still like me.

3) A review of Leonard Sweet’s I Am A Follower so BookSneeze will still like me.

But seeing as how all three of those are a bit slow in showing up here, in the meantime I leave you instead with my own Juanita and the truth behind the Xena series finale (link contains series spoilers):


25 Predictably Illustrated Cliches

© Thomas Kinkade

The questions below are from a page of “25 beautifully illustrated thought-provoking questions.”

“Beautiful” may be a bit of an over-statement here. “Cliche” might be a more apt description in this age of everyone and their great aunt having access to Google Image Search and free photo editing programs.

As for “thought provoking questions”– there wasn’t a single one that hasn’t been sent to me via forwarded email with glittering kitty cat attachments. Truly: If there are any accompanying thoughts, they’ve long since been provoked.

All the same– some of ’em are worth answering out loud. So I’ve done just that. (For most of ’em. The rest I’m just including to satisfy your “which questions didn’t Ruth think were worth answering” curiosity.)

Please Note: By reading this far you have committed yourself to answering a minimum of 4 (four) of these “thought-provoking questions” in the comments section below.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

1. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?

2. If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?
I hope I never actually get this opportunity because I don’t trust myself to make the right choice when narrowing down which message to go with. How ’bout… This isn’t all there is. Be patient with your kids. Everything merits forgiveness, but try harder not to need it, Ass.

3. Is it possible to lie without saying a word?

4. If not now, then when?
Point taken. *commences establishing a new budget and writing emails*

5. What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?
Sing along, instead of just mouthing the words. Dance even when all the girls are “hottt,” instead of just tapping my foot.

6. Are you holding onto something that you need to let go of?
Ohhhh yeah. Lots of things. And I’ll let them go. But not yet, because holding onto nothing at all seems even more unsettling.

7. Have you done anything lately worth remembering?

8. Who do you love? What are you doing about it?
My family. Not leaving.

9. When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just do what you know is right?
As soon as you know you won’t be hurting those you love: GO.

10. Do you think crying is a sign of weakness or strength?
Depends on the context. Could be a sign of weakness, strength, manipulation, passive aggression, courage, relief…

11. Would you break the law to save a loved one?
Assuming we’re not talking speeding or being double parked: No. I wouldn’t. And maybe that response needs some justification, some clarification. Then again– a little more specificity in the question might help, too.

12. When you’re her age, what will matter to you the most? (The accompanying picture features a smiling, very elderly woman.)
The relationships I had with God and my family, and if I did enough to show them how much I loved them.

13. Do you ask enough questions? Or do you settle for what you know?
I’m more of a settler than I’d like to be. I just picked up a book from the library called “Curiosity.” I think it dealt with this very topic, but the book settled to the bottom of my To-Read pile and I wasn’t curious enough to see what I was missing. How fitting… I blame the predictability of my current situation. :P

14. Do you celebrate the things you do have?

15. When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?
Yes. Definitely. By far.

16. When was the last time you tried something new?
April, when I participated in The Great Milwaukee Race. Been a lot of “same old- same old” since then.

17. Which activities make you lose track of time?
Playing Bejeweled Blitz and solitaire, reading George R. R. Martin and missions blogs, watching ferret videos on YouTube…

18. If you could do it all over again, would you change anything?
Yes. Different college, different major, moved sooner, moved again sooner, read more, slept less, bought a digital camera sooner (and used it more), clocked more air miles, slacked off less on my Spanish…

19. What is the difference between living and existing?

20. If you had a friend who spoke to you in the same way that you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow that person to be your friend?
Oh man. I’d ditch her in a heartbeat and then talk smack about her to whoever’d listen.

21. If you had to teach something, what would you teach?
Writing. (See question 5)

22. Time or money?
Time. Time time time.

23. Are you aware that someone has it worse than you do?

24. What makes you smile?
Joking around with my family, movie nights with Aaron, watching my white ferret, Wesley, follow me around the apartment while simultaneously trying to nap.

25. What would you regret not fully doing, being, or having in your life?
Doing: Getting off my butt re: my current dreams and ambitions.
Being: More ambitious. (Not Lady MacB. ambitious. Just, y’know, regular ambitious.)
Having: A stronger relationship with God. As with most things I tend to hit this lazy streak…


Your turn. Go go go!

My Haphazard, Poorly Researched “Best Albums of 2009”

I was recently asked about my favorite record of 2009. (Thanks, Anonymous Asker.) 2009 was pretty slow for me music-wise. Kind of in a weird head space these past few… years?… so I haven’t really been out seeking too many new tunes to which to groove.  My bad. That said I’m going to be honest with you: I had to Google “albums released in 2009” to even begin to make comparisons for my reply. To be more honest still? I haven’t even heard all the round, spinny things that made the list below.


*meh* Who cares?

In order of release date, the following are albums that came out last year that I’ve either heard and know are great, or that I assume are great because the people who made ’em rock pretty hard. And shame on us all if we don’t go out and at least give them a quick listen.

Andrew Bird

1. Andrew Bird: Noble Beast (Released 01/09)

Andrew Bird got a nod on my Top 25 Most Influential Albums list, but not a slot of his own, which is really a shame and actually kind of surprising to me as the album of his I know best, Weather Systems, really is amazing and beautiful and lofty and plinky and all those other lovely things an Andrew Bird album should be. And what’s more influential than that lot? Regardless: I submit for your approval my peace offering of putting his latest endeavor on my list without even having heard it.

I’ve been checking out tracks from it on YouTube just to make sure I’m not just feeding you a line here, and so far every song I’ve heard really delivers. If you like one of them you’ll like all of them. And if you like all of them you’ll like his other albums as well. Go buy them and enjoy them. Or just leave them out on your coffee table to impress that smart girl who keeps turning you down for coffee. (Caramel Macchiato, 1%, no whip.)

(Click here to listen to “Masterswarm,” and here to listen to “Anonanimal.”)


Matt and Kim

2. Matt and Kim: Grand (Released 01/09)

I just know I’ve liked what I’ve heard from these guys, and there’s a more than fair chance if you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll dig ’em too. All I could tell you about these two, where they got their start, and what they’re currently up to is whatever you and I both would find if we Googled them, and what’s the point of just repeating what you’d read for yourself? At the very least let me do the leg work for you and direct you to an interview Red Fence conducted with the duo in March of ’09 shortly after this album debuted.

(Click here to listen to “Lessons Learned” and here to listen to “Don’t Slow Down,” your new favorite freeway-with-no-traffic driving song.)


Clem Snide

3. Clem Snide: Hungry Bird (Released 02/09)

After a few years apart doing their own thing, the boys are back and making more music, drinking more stage beers, and cracking more jokes with throngs of 32 year olds in cardigans. They were promoting the release of this album with a tour throughout the US and Elsewhere this past Spring and Summer and yours truly was totally guest-listed for their gig in Madison, WI. Blog? Video? The works right here.

It’s a different sound from their earlier stuff. I wouldn’t put it on the same level as The Ghost of Fashion or Your Favorite Music which are y’alt-rock masterpieces, but it’s so much like it’s another band with the same lead singer that I almost don’t think it’s fair to try matching it against their earlier records. So much time has passed. If it were the same they’d be dead artistically. I think the freshness is what made me like it so much.

And what’s this I hear about another album coming out shortly? Or– is it already out? Someone sent me a link which I promptly lost. Bail me out, people. I need to know what’s the haps.

(Click here to listen to “Me No,” and here to listen to “Hum.”)


The Mountain Goats

4. The Mountain Goats: The Life of the World To Come (Released 10/09)

I don’t think I’d even heard of the Mountain Goats until they were referenced in a Vlog Brothers video in some capacity. All I remember about that experience was three minutes of frantic Googling and OMG-ing as I conducted lyric searches to track down who I was hearing because I was so fanatically enthralled. What song was it? I can’t even remember.

I foresee ownership of Mountain Goats albums in my future, probably starting with their latest offering. In the meantime: What’s the deal, Red Fence? Where’s your Mountain Goats interview? Tick tock tick tock!

(Click here to listen to “Ezekiel 7 (And the Permanent Efficacy of Grace),” and here to listen to “I John 4:16.”)



5. Shakira: She Wolf (Released 11/09)

You haven’t really appreciated the video for the title track of this album until you’ve watched it with straight men or lesbians who lose all ability to speak coherently as soon as those boots go on. And the thing about Shakira is she is almost inhuman in how absolutely beautiful she is, but even in this distractingly provocative video there are moments where she’s laughing and you know the camera guy was just lucky enough to have caught her having a legitimately grand old time. I like that.

For a while I was stuck in Shakira- limbo; I enjoyed Laundry Service and Oral Fixation, but for my money neither held a candle to ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones? The technical finesse definitely increased, and the number of beeping, clinking, electronic bits and bites certainly soared. I think I just missed her natural impressiveness. She Wolf is great  in that it bridges the gap between the English version of Laundry Service and Ladrones for me.

(Click here to listen to (and marvel at the choreography of) “Did It Again,” and here to listen to the slightly Nelly Furtado-esque “Give It Up To Me.”)

Lady Gaga

6. Lady Gaga: The Fame Monster (Released 11/09)

My introduction to Lady Gaga was a video of a group of comedians commenting on (read: mocking) her video for “Just Dance.” Not in a mean-spirited way; just for laughs. And the people dissecting her video, pointing out the weirdness, questioning the absurdity– they weren’t wrong. But what they were talking about also wasn’t the point.

I’m not going to attempt to justify Lady Gaga here. I’ve found people either love her or hate her and few seem willing to switch sides. Lord knows this post isn’t going to change any minds! So why bother defending somebody who doesn’t need it and hasn’t asked for it? I will say, though, that I think she’s fantastic. I think she’s refreshing and brilliant and fun, and that she provides a much needed respite from the likes of Britney Spears, the Pussycat Dolls, and all their ilk. Google her. Google a thousand reviews by better writers than I praising her merits and downplaying her faults. And, love her or hate her, appreciate the fact that thousands of reviews actually exist, which says something in and of itself.

I got this album from my sister for Christmas and there are so many tracks on it just begging to become the world’s next “OMG this is mah supah fave” song. Thanks my Rose. I love it.

(Click here to listen to “Bad Romance,” and here to listen to “Paparazi.”)

What albums from 2009 make your list?

Questions to Make You Rethink Your Blah Blah Blah

These questions have no right or wrong answers. Because sometimes asking the right questions is the answer.”

*dun dun duhhhh*

Okay, so hokiness aside? Some of the questions from the above linked page really are worth thinking about. Or blabbing on about in one’s blog. And some are so cliche one would be doing one’s readers a favor to remove them from said list o’ blabbing. There were 50 to begin with. Now there are 11.You’re welcome. They’re all a bit Facebook meme-y, but I don’t generally get this personal here on WordPress so I figured I’d go for it. Change of pace. Keeps you on your toes. Spices things up.


My siblings and me in... '96?

My siblings and me, '96(?)

1. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?

I falter for a split second whenever I’m asked my age. My instinct is to say 29. I’m actually 27. When I was 26 my instinct was to say 28. Eventually I say 27. But I feel 23. I think I’d go with 23. 23 was a good year. A fun year. An easy, beautiful, freeing year full of love and friends and living. I’d do it again. Not many years I’d say that about, but 23? 23 I’d do again.

6. If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?

Something where I could help people. Something where I could set things up, get things running, bring people and information and resources together to improve living conditions, go new places, write about my experiences, hold people when they’re lonely, share joy with people when they’re happy. What’s that job called? Are they hiring? Would they want me? I could get better. I could be better.

7. Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?

*pffffft* No. I believe in helping people, so in a very roundabout way I’m glad I’m getting their insurance claims processed, but wow is it a stretch to say I “believe in” processing medical claims. I believe in learning new skills, trying new things, meeting new people, acclimating myself to new environments, so in those respects I suppose I’d find fulfillment in just about anything I was doing provided I was actively doing it. But I think that’s what’s got me so unsettled these days- the fact that I don’t feel like I’m actively doing anything.

10. Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?

I’m more concerned with doing things right, and because I can never do everything right I end up taking failure very personally because it means I’m not achieving what I’m after; namely: doing things right. Every shortcoming is magnified by 1000 as I watch my best attempts crumble in my foundation of inevitable mediocrity. I know I should concern myself with “doing the right things,” but I feel like I’m more likely to be judged by peers and strangers alike for the former than the latter that I let the “right things” slide far too often.

Mom and her babies, '90

Mom and her babies, '90

17. What one thing have you not done that you really want to do?  What’s holding you back?

Travel. I’m waiting until I don’t have to do it alone.

19. If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why?

If I had to move to another state, I’d probably pick Washington, maybe South Carolina. Both are geographically quite beautiful, and the feel is a lot different from that of the Milwaukee area. If I had to move to another country… That’s a little harder. What’s Argentina like? I think I could do that. As for “why”: I don’t rightly know why. Just to try something new I suppose.

23. Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend?

Ha! No. I’m petty, judgmental, self-centered, forgetful, passive aggressive, whiny, insecure, lazy, bossy, jealous, undependable, cloying, predictable, immature, stubborn. I could go on, but that list kinda stung. :S I have some good traits working for me too, but if I’m totally honest: I don’t think I’d have the patience to look past those particular negative traits in order to enjoy the positive ones if I was contemplating a friendship with someone just like me.

I’m grateful for my friends but am not at all surprised the number of people I’d call “close” is such an awfully low one, and getting lower every year. I’m kind of a jerk in a lot of ways and I think the fact I have so few close friends is a testament to that fact. Doesn’t that usually seem to be the way? The things we suffer from the most socially, emotionally, and in relationships are a result of things we’ve brought on ourselves? The truly frustrating part is I think I’m actually less abrasive than I used to be, but the damage appears to have already been done. I’m trying to do better from here on out, but I’m aggravatingly human so it’s an uphill battle most days. Sorry guys.

30. What is your happiest childhood memory?  What makes it so special?

Stepping off the plane at ASU. I was so excited to land that in my haste I tripped on the gangway in front of two armed guards. They chuckled. I didn’t care, I just kept running. Couldn’t wait to get outside, touch the ground. I was on an adventure with my family whom I loved and it couldn’t get rolling soon enough.

Becca and Me, '06

Becca and Me, '06

37. If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job?

I’d give my two weeks’ notice at 8:35 tomorrow morning after I got CRM running, checked my Outlook, and refilled my Nalgene bottle. Gotta do it the right way, y’know. Gotta keep your hiring promises if you can, million dollars or no.

39. Do you feel like you’ve lived this day a hundred times before?

Yes. 160 times before, to be exact.

50. Decisions are being made right now.  The question is:  Are you making them for yourself, or are you letting others make them for you?

Is it possible to come up with an honest answer to this that isn’t painful and perhaps a bit too humbling for public consumption? I’m just going to mull this one over. You do the same. Promise you will? Promise?

My Top 25 Most Influential Albums

A friend recently tagged me in his response to a Facebook meme I had no choice but to follow: The “25 Albums” meme. I do recognize that nostalgia greatly influences what I’ve chosen, but bear with me. Because really: It’s not that I think The Postal Service is better than the Rolling Stones. It’s that I heard the Postal Service instead of the Stones when I was ready to be influenced.

And there are a lot of great albums which did influence me which I could’ve added to the list but didn’t because they didn’t come to mind before I hit the limit of the meme. So rest assured that I realize albums like The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” are just flat out better than, say, Letters to Cleo’s “Aurora Gory Alice” (which I don’t list but do mention). These albums are just apparently less likely to get stuck on repeat in my head as I process internet memes. Wha’cha gonna do?

Per my friend’s post, here’s how the list works:

“Think of 25 albums that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life or the way you looked at it. They sucked you in and took you over for days, weeks, months, years. These are the albums that you can use to identify time, places, people, emotions. These are the albums that no matter what they were thought of, they musically shaped your world. They stood up, they lasted, they mattered. They still matter, in some way (even if only in memory). Doesn’t have to be THE 25. Just THE 25 RIGHT NOW, as memory and listening demand.”


My Top 25 Most Influential Albums

1. Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill

alanismorissettejaggedlittlepillAfter growing up listening to Amy Grant and a lot of Oldies, “Jagged Little Pill” was the first secular CD I ever purchased. (The first secular *album* I ever purchased was Ace of Base’s “The Sign,” which I bought on cassette tape from a Meijer’s grocery store on a trip home from Michigan with my grandmother when I was in 6th grade.) I have always and probably will always love this CD. From “All I Really Want’s” growling drive for peace to “Mary Jane’s” haunting plea for survival, this is a lyrical masterpiece of the then burgeoning Grrl Power artistic movement* of chick folk melting into chick alt-rock. I still thrill at the sound of every last rant, whine, cry, and wheeze of comeuppance. (*Yes. I know. I meant the *1990s* version.)

I also wish I had known better at 14 than to pay $18 for it at Sam Goody.

2. The Beatles – Abbey Road / The Beatles (The White Album)

beatles-abbey-roadI’m torn on these two as I like them both pretty much equally and they stand shoulder to shoulder as far as their influence on me.

On the one hand there’s Abbey Road’s contributions of “Come Together,” “Because,” “Mean Mr. Mustard,” “Polythene Pam,” and “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.” You simply cannot deny the power of an album that introduces you to both a man who keeps a ten bob note up his nose, and a woman with a habit of entering homes through unconventional means via the protection of costly flatware. Abby Road could’ve been a one-sider featuring only “Come Together” and still been a rock classic, you know?

beatles-the-white-albumBut where would we be without “Happiness Is A Warm Gun,” “Blackbird,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” the achingly hippie-sexy “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?,” and “Sexy Sadie” from the White Album? She’s well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand indeed. Kudos to the most/least successful firearm marketing campaign ever conceived.

I’m “not a girl who misses much,” including the necessity of including the existence of the song “Honey Pie” on a Top 25 Albums list. And Rolling Stone Magazine’s 2003 “Top 500 Albums of All Time” list pegs the White Album at #10 and Abbey Road at #14, so I guess errbody keeps these two kinda close.

3. The Beatles – Revolver

beatles-revolver“Even though you know what you know/ I know that I’m ready to leave/ ‘Cause you’re making me feel like I’ve never been born.”

Something about listening to this album just always made me feel cool. Made me feel connected to music. Made me feel like I had tapped into that thing, whatever it was, that made the ever present “then” so much better than “now.” Especially after I received it on vinyl for Christmas in 8th grade and could lay back on my bedroom floor and rock out to every last pop and crackle the beautiful black disc afforded. This album? This is my number one album. Ever. Of all time. Love me, love my Revolver.

4. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

beatles-sgt-peppers“For the benefit of Mr. Kite/ There will be a show tonight on trampoline./ The Hendersons will all be there/Late of Pablo-Fanques Fair, what a scene!”

Welcome to *drum roll please* Rolling Stone’s #1 Album of All Time. You’ve got LSD, men in shiny nautical uniforms, helpful friends, good mornings, and holes being fixed right and left. When you play this album you just– you’ve really just got to admit it’s getting better- a little better all the time- and that drugs plus mustaches make for some seriously great tunes.

5. Ben Folds – Rockin’ the Suburbs

ben-folds-rockin-the-suburbsI first started listening to Ben Folds in college when my then boyfriend introduced me to the work of Ben Folds Five. “Rockin’…” came out the fall of my sophomore year (on 9/11, no less) and was an instant fave. I was so proud of myself for finally getting the claps right on “Annie Waits,” and for finally not crying during “The Luckiest,” possibly one of the most beautiful modern love songs I’ve ever heard. (Click here for lyrics) And you haven’t experienced the ache of a life forgotten- in song form- until you’ve heard “Fred Jones, Pt. 2.” Brilliant album. Fun and funny, touching, memorable, goofy, and genius.

6. Ben Folds Five – Whatever and Ever Amen

ben-folds-five-whatever-and-ever-amenYou want songs about abortion? We got songs about abortion. You want songs about hippie chicks with monosyllabic names? We got songs about hippie chicks with monosyllabic names. You want songs about angry dwarves and solemn faces? We got those too. Hell- we got 200 solemn faces! Another classic album that reminds me of college. And concerts. And road trips. And sing alongs around the piano. And boyfriends. And break ups. And ex boyfriends. And being 19 again. And that I don’t ever have to be 19 again…

7. Cake – Fashion Nugget and 8. Prolonging the Magic

cake-fashion-nuggetIn a true and lasting testament to my having begun serving my time in a liberal arts college in the early 2000s, when Napster reigned supreme and Morpheus was around as a back up when the first shudders of the RIAA’s lameassness began to strike: I never owned either of these albums outright. Just had gobs of mp3s of their songs- album versions, remastered versions, “clean” radio versions- in tidy yellow folders on my computer under the master heading of “Guys.” (As opposed to my other master headings of “Gals,” “Soundtracks,” “Diverse,” “Spoken Word,” “Comedy”, “Burn for Friends,” and “Chill”…)

cake-prolonging-the-magicI eventually burned copies of both full albums onto CDs, but my favorite Cake discs were the ones that combined the best of both albums onto single discs, alongside filler tunes from They Might Be Giants.

I first started listening to Cake in high school, but it wasn’t until college that they really stuck in my craw. But, you know, in a good way. I’ve been told they’re not as much fun to listen to *quality-wise* in concert because of John McCrea’s sprechstimme-y approach to the songs. I long for an opportunity to verify this for myself. From the front row. With friends. :D

9. Clem Snide – The Ghost of Fashion

clem-snide-the-ghost-of-fashionI was first introduced to Clem Snide when lead singer Eef Barzelay and band member Pete “Can-Make-An-Instrument-Out-of-Anything-Then-Use-It-To-Create-Haunting-Melodies” Fitzpatrick opened for Ben Folds in Madison in 2001. I dug their sound from the get go, but it wasn’t until 2002 when I had my first (and last) crush on a hipster that I realized the gold I’d stumbled upon in hearing this group.

So… the blushing truth behind my greatest musical discovery? I met a guy who looked like a cross between Eef Barzelay and Bob Saget while attending a party hosted by an actor I barely knew at an apartment downtown. A party full of import beers, girls puking in crushed velvet elevators, and hipsters before there were hipsters. I felt So. Cool. And this guy? This cute guy who told people at the party he was from Haifa? Who drove a forklift and cried during the scene in The Royal Tenenbaums when Richie meets Margot at the bus station? This guy *loved* Clem Snide. So I gave them a different kind of listen.

That different kind of listen completely remolded my taste in music for the rest of my life, and shaped not only my social life in college, but shifted the guys I liked, the poetry I read, the essays I wrote, the dreams I had, to something more holdable, more beautiful, more… me. Thank you Andrew James John K. No matter where you’re from, or how many middle names you really have.

10. Clem Snide – Your Favorite Music

clem-snide-your-favorite-musicLoneliness finds her own way
Cause her skin is so soft
I’m cutting my teeth on her shoulders
And cracking my knuckles while holding her hand…

Loneliness finds her own way
For her I won’t be afraid
I’m holding on to her picture
Cause her good looks have faded from all those parades

11. The Cranberries – No Need to Argue

the-cranberries-no-need-to-argueDolores O’Riordan goes blonde for this one, but fret not: It’s even more kickass than “Everybody Else Is Doing It.” I rocked the eff out to this one in high school. If I had had my license my sophomore year of high school, “Zombie” would’ve been my driving song. Now I listen to it more for songs like “The Icicle Melts” and “Daffodil Lament.” I guess when the hardest decisions you’ve had to make thus far in life involve choosing electives over Study Halls it’s hard to identify with lyrics like “All night long, laid on my pillow./ These things are wrong./ I can’t sleep here./ I have decided to leave you forever.” But oh how I found ways to identify with them over the years…

12. Damien Rice – O

damien-rice-oThe first time I heard a song off this album I was at the home of an area actor/musician for the kind of party I had never before been invited to and haven’t been since. The kind of party that’s not a party. More of a gathering. A gathering of  folks. Folks who are all cooler and more talented than me at everything we have in common, and even more so at everything we don’t. We drank beer. We drank wine. We smoked cigarette after cigarette on the balcony. We ate chocolate syrup straight from the bottle, off each other’s skin, from unwashed spoons. And I listened. A lot.

There was this impromptu jam session at this particular party in which instruments magically appeared from nowhere as voices I’d only ever heard speak began harmonizing to songs I always wished I knew. One girl there in that circle in the darkened dining room… one girl there sang “Volcano.” Acapella? With a guitar? I can’t remember if there was music behind her voice or merely the hush of our collective awe, but I never forgot the song.

Thank you, “O,” for getting me through the heartache of my last month in California. It meant the world to me.

13. Fiona Apple – Tidal

fiona-apple-tidalI wrote about her gig on the Jimmy Kimmel show after I watched her perform for his taping in the parking lot behind his studio. Basically the review says she’s spastic. Beautiful and fragile and strong, but broken and utterly, utterly spastic. I should really post that somewhere… (ETA: Finally found it, finally posted it.)

I dug, and continue to dig, “Tidal” the most out of all three of her albums because it has the greatest number of songs that “work” for me, though really I enjoy everything she’s done. (Her rendition of “Sally’s Song” from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is unbelievably sad and sultry.) This album is really all about “Never Is A Promise” as far as I’m concerned. “Never is a promise, and you can’t afford to lie…”

14. Jude – No One Is Really Beautiful (very closely tied with 430 N. Harper Ave.)

jude-no-one-is-really-beautiful1The same boyfriend who turned me on to Ben Folds also got me into Jude. I’ll never forget driving with him one Fall to see Jude play at the Cafe Montmarte in Madison (Michelle Branch was the opening act, can you believe it?) only to be turned away at the door because it was a 21+ show, a fact conveniently missing from all the show’s promo details. But never fear, comrades. Jude’s tour manager, and then Jude himself, came outside and got me into the gig after learning my bf ran a website of tabs and chords for Jude’s tunes.

Fast forward a day and the bf and I are driving to Ann Arbor, MI to see Jude perform again, this time getting in for free along with an invite to have a few beers with the band on the tour bus. We didn’t stay longer than maybe an hour, though, as we had the drive back to Milwaukee ahead of us that same night. It really was just one of the coolest music related experiences I think I’ve ever had.

Every song on “No One…” is great, but I think I like “The Asshole Song” most of all now. Ah but “You Mama You” is also pretty groovy… Hm. If you can find a copy to buy, rip, whatever: Do so. The songs are catchy enough that you’re bound to like at least a few, well penned enough that you’re bound to appreciate the lyrics that keep getting stuck in your head, and beautifully played enough that you won’t mind hearing yourself humming these songs incessantly after your first full-disc run through.

15. Mazzy Star – So Tonight That I Might See

mazzy-star-so-tonight-that-i-might-see1I’m a bit torn on including this one. Like– Mazzy Star? Really? I only get to list 25 albums and I choose to include “So Tonight That I Might See”?

I think I toss groups like Mazzy Star into the same mix as The Murmurs and Letters to Cleo and their ilk when I think back on “that era of influence.” Kinda like how I lump Citizen King and Soul Coughing together in my head, even though their sounds and approaches were fairly different. It’s like they’re on the same shelf in my mind; I just can’t list them all here. It’s not that they necessarily sound the same or make me feel the same way, it’s just that they– well they just go together, okay? You’ve got me all defensive over here. Geez…

16. Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

oasis-morning-gloryBetween “Wonderwall,” “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” and “Cast No Shadow,” this album was an easy pick for me to include on this list. Great modern rock. Great music in general. It takes me back in a way few other albums can, and I’m almost always in the mood for a listen (though I’ve been known to skip over the lagging instrumentals of “Champagne Supernova” to give “She’s Electric” another listen before changing the CD). Back in the day I thought Liam Gallagher was just the cutest stinkin’ thing ever, after John Lennon and Chris O’Donnell of course, and singing along to these songs made me feel cool enough to be at least nineteen, maybe twenty.

17. Phranc – Folksinger

phranc-folksingerPhranc could’ve released this with only “Female Mudwrestling” and “Amazons” and it would’ve been a worthwhile record. The rest of the tunes are just icing on the cake. The very, very gay cake. “Lifelover” is a nice touch musically, and a chorus of (presumably) lesbians singing along with a crooning Jewish bulldyke in a crew cut about how they “don’t like female mudwrestling” might serve up more estrogen than some listeners might prefer. *shrugs* To each their own I guess. Personally I dig the hell out of it, though I’m generally more of a Melissa Etheridge/k.d. lang kind of gal. lang’s cover of “Hallelujah”? Priceless. Utterly priceless.

Ooh shoot. Should I have made Alix Olson’s “Built Like That” my #17? There really aren’t enough lesbian artists on this list considering how many have been in constant rotation on my cd player/iTunes for the past 10 years…

18. Poe – Haunted

poe-hauntedBefore we begin: GO BUY MARK DANIELEWSKI’S “HOUSE OF LEAVES” RIGHT NOW. “House of Leaves,” much like “Haunted,” is not for the feint of heart nor the short of attention span. Sure you can find something neat in the mere concept of the novel or of the album, and perhaps even get a kick out of a line or two in them. But to really fall in love with either you’ve got to be willing to commit to, and then be torn apart by both.

This album is glorious on its own; in an indie way, in a creative way, in a creepy way, in a cohesive story way. It’s just not until you read Poe’s brother’s “House of Leaves” with this playing in the background, however, that you are forced to smack yourself in the forehead at how totally and purely and unadulteratedly awesome this album is not only in its artistic integrity but in its massive scope. That and the “Hey Pretty” video is dead sexy.

19. Poe – Hello

poe-helloThough “Hello” was released the same year as Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill,” and via it’s singles can easily (although inaccurately, in my opinion) be lumped into the same “angry woman bitching about men” genre, it has a distinctly heavier “alternative rock” feel to it which I greatly admire. I didn’t really discover this album until 1997 when I was 15. I was madly in love with “Angry Johnny” and “Choking the Cherry,” (Emo much?), but it wasn’t until college that “That Day” hit me. And it wasn’t until a peacefully sad break up that “Fly Away” busted my shit. That “Fly Away,” man. That’s some real music right there. YouTube it. It’s devastating.

20. The Postal Service – Give Up

postal-service-give-upI hung out with a lot of writers, actors, communists, homosexuals, wiccans, stoners, homeschoolers and democrats in college. And boy do those guys know how to pick good up-and-coming bands. “Give Up” came out my junior year of college and was immediately the most burned album amongst my comrades and me. And when we heard TPS was playing at MSOE like a month later? Dude. We were so there. I wore rainbow belted blue pants from Ragstock to that show and danced my little heart out with moves I couldn’t dredge up now again if I tried. That’s where I first heard Andrew Bird, incidentally. He was one of two opening acts. Him and The Muldoons. I love me some Andrew Bird. I love me some Postal Service. I think I have an autographed copy of “Give Up” somewhere actually. I– I should really find that…

21. Sigur Rós – ( ) / Ágætis byrjun

sigur-rosI don’t know what I can really say about Sigur Rós except that to love them is to– is to love them? I guess…?

I first heard them in 2000, my freshman year of college. I was heavy into downloading music at the time and remember I was downloading some Boards of Canada or Mira Calix or something in that vein from somebody with a fast connection speed, so I checked out that user’s library and they had all these songs by this group whose name I couldn’t pronounce. I grabbed a few songs, had a listen, and was hooked. If I did drugs, this is what I’d do them to.

sigur-ros-agc3a6tis-byrjunIf you’ve got the time, have a listen to them on YouTube so you can take a peek at some of their videos as well. I promise they’ll give you a renewed interest in Iceland. And if you just want to ease into the sound? Nice and sweet and simple like? Want to rest? Want to just lay down all hushed like and drown in soft, soft sounds? Listen to “Staralfur” from “Ágætis byrjun” and sail on. It’s pretty mellow. It’s also only one aspect of their sound, which is quite diverse and… cold? Tight? Quiet? White? Chilly? Sad?

Be sure to check their website for tunes before putting down dough on their music, however. They keep a pretty sizable number of their tracks available for downloading for free on there. Album cuts, live stuff- all there. Have at it. (They are worth a good spend, though. For real.)

22. Soundgarden – Superunknown

soundgarden-superunknownAnd now for something completely different. This was and is my only real “hard” album that I enjoy cover to cover. I’m not much for harder rock tunes, and I know by many accounts even this wouldn’t count, but for an Erin McKeown fan: “Superunknown” is a bit of a stretch.

“Black Hole Sun” was, like, the coolest thing in the world in seventh grade. If you knew the lyrics you were hot shit. If you knew the video? Oh man. You were untouchable. Luckily there’s more to this album than the thing in it that pulls in 12 year olds. That’s when it meant the most to me- from age 12 to about age 15- but it still gets me going even today. “Kickstand” is great for when you’re putting on make-up to go someplace where you know you can’t sit on any of the chairs. “Spoonman” is great for when you’re drinking room temperature beer at clubs where everyone is convinced they’re cooler than you when you know precisely the opposite to be true. “Fell On Black Days” is great for whenever. Just– whenever.

23. Tegan and Sara – This Business of Art / Under Feet Like Ours

tegan-and-sara-this-business-of-artThere’s a lot of overlap in the track listings on these two CDS, the first albums from singers/ songwriters/ twins/ Canadians/ lesbians Tegan and Sara Quin, so I’m including both as #23.

I don’t remember when I first started listening to them. Some time in college, I suppose, since that seems to be the era in my musical history in which I am irredeemably stuck. At the time I was big into feminist artists, female folk singers, chick rockers. And if they were lesbians– all the better. But with these two– Twin lesbians? From Canada?! JACKPOT! I don’t know where this musical attraction came from, to tell you the truth. I like guys. I really do. But boy nobody can rock out vocally to a guitar quite like a woman with a motive and an alibi. Especially if the motive involves your girlfriend…

tegan-and-sara-under-feet-like-oursI don’t listen to them quite as much any more, though I do enjoy watching their videos on YouTube, something I couldn’t do back when they first entered my sphere. (No, James: that is not a euphemism.) I do still dig the sound, but I feel like the part of me that really got into that kind of throaty indie pop was left behind in college, pinned to the shelf above my desk alongside play tickets, lighting project assignments, and phone numbers given to me by boys I had no intention of calling but lacked the guts to turn away when they asked me to call them sometime.

“Fear is the colour you’ve all exposed./Now I gotta get up here/ And prove the importance of my clothes,/ Of my pose/ I suppose/ Again.”

24. Tori Amos – Boys for Pele

tori-amos-boys-for-peleThis is one of those albums that’s got so much on it that’s so diverse in sound, instrumentation, lyrical stylings, etc. from one track to the next that if I’m not in the mood for one song, I can almost guarantee I’ll be in the mood for another. It satisfies most of my thirsts, and I like that in a “Top 25 Albums” album.

You’ve got your easier-to-break-into songs like “Caught A Lite Sneeze” and “Father Lucifer,” your shorties like “Agent Orange,” “Mr. Zebra,” and the choral cut of “Way Down,” and the indie film waiting to be born out of “Little Amsterdam.” In fact… That’s not a bad idea. Who’s reading this who can make a movie happen? I’m ready to be buried with a butter bean bouquet.

In the meantime, YouTube videos from Tori’s “Fade to Red” dvd to watch videos for these tunes, featuring commentary from the artist on the songs and videos. Fascinating stuff.

25. Tori Amos – Little Earthquakes

tori-amos-little-earthquakesI *might* be mistaken on which album it was, but I *think* my high school boyfriend bought me this CD for my 17th birthday. Either this one or “From the Choirgirl Hotel.” But I *think* it was this one. I’m almost always in the mood for some Tori, and “Little Earthquakes” is the easiest one for me to jump right into. “Boys for Pele” I kind of have to ease myself into over time. Flip back and forth between tracks. Work myself up for it. But this one I pop in and I’m rightthere. “Happy Phantom”?  Incredible. “Crucify,” “Silent All These Years,” and “Precious Things”? Poetry. “Me and a Gun”? Haunting. This one was a favorite as early as the first time I heard “Crucify” on the radio, and remains high on my list of must-recommends.


There it is. My Top 25 Albums. Now go write yours and then tag me! I’m dying to read what makes your lists. ;D

ETA: As I read friends’ lists I’m seeing a lot of albums that definitely deserve a home on my own list. I’m including them as Runners Up, but they’re more influential than just the “honorable mention” feel the title of Runners Up gives them. Perhaps I should expand this to include my Top 30 or Top 50 Most Influential Albums? At any rate- here they are, once again in alphabetical order by artist/band, my “Other Albums I Thought Of Too Late To Include”:

1. Amy Grant – Heart In Motion

2. Indigo Girls – Shaming of the Sun

3. Nightmare Before Christmas Soundtrack

4. Paula Cole – This Fire

Meme: Lazy Blogger’s Post Generator

Courtesy of the Lazy Blogger’s Post Generator:

Holy Snapping Duck Do! I just had a terrible scare when I thought I have not updated this since people stopped clapping and Tinkerbell died… You would not believe the fairy dust I have to clean up. I’m a blogger so I will though!.

I am lost in a sea of pseudo-olde-english with my brahs, choosing my retirement village, just generally being a Darling to anyone unfortunate to cross my path, my day seems to involve the authorities from the second star on the right, straight on to reef break. I am putting money aside so I can run away. but this damned rock is heavy.

I swear on the bones of my ancestors won’t blog until the next time booze prices go up and I have to get sober for a while. Go with God, good friends. Until my paycheck dawneth..

“Sorry. Forgi– Cold.”

“Virtue is its own punishment”
Aneurin Bevan

BBC Art and Personality Quiz

Your results

Your favourite type of art is

Japanese ukiyo-e.

In the personality profile you had a high agreeableness score, which suggests you are keen to understand others’ feelings and put people at ease.

Find out more about your personality test results

People who are the same age and sex as you are most likely to prefer Impressionism. People who also score highly in your dominant personality trait are most likely to prefer


See the art in the experiment and find out more

Experiment results

Scientists are interested in whether there is a connection between your personality type and the kind of art you prefer. Other factors such as your age and sex might affect your art preference.

Over 100,000 people took this test, and we passed the data on to psychologists. Find out what they discovered.

Read about the experiment results

Does the art you enjoy match your personality?

We designed the experiment to look at whether people with different personality types like different forms of art. In previous studies researchers have found that:

  • People who prefer abstract art tend to be more conservative, dogmatic, and are often sensation seekers.
  • People who are open to new experiences are less likely to enjoy looking at realistic paintings. They seek something more atypical and challenging.
  • People with low emotional stability tend to prefer abstract and pop-art paintings.
  • People who score high in agreeableness like paintings and tend to dislike forms like pop-art.
  • People who like representational paintings may also be more conscientious than average.

It’s less clear how extraversion ties in with painting preference. Some researchers have found that extraverts like modern art more than introverts, but others have found exactly the opposite pattern.


A “poetry free-for-all” from

David Mascellani

I ate
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for yourself

They were off
and made me sick
expect to hear
from my lawyers


“I’m Just Saying”
by David Mamet

I’m just saying.
I ate the plums
the freezer.
For breakfast,
saving for, listen,
no, list– oh fuck
me…. I’m… I…
forgive me, for breakfast.
Sorry. Forgi– Cold.
Yeah, cold.
And delicious.