Friday, November 30, 2012

A Gimp Year in Review

A lot of really good things happened in 2012--Meryl won her third Oscar, I got to see Kelly twice in concert, Barack won the re-election, Kevin visited San Francisco for the first time since I moved here, my novel-in-progress has been consistently moving forward, I made new friends, I got to reunite with Serban and meet his lovely girlfriend, Manuela...

But, to no surprise, 2012 will always be the Year of the Achilles (unless the Mayans steal my thunder and the world really does end in 13 days). Exactly a year ago today, I performed a tumbling pass I shouldn't have, and when I came down on the "trampoline," I heard a pop that led me to believe I broke the trampoline itself.

11/30/11: More or less what I did, except I landed where the arrow shows.
Not so.

It's only a matter of time before my memory of all the events that followed dull into a general "it took a long fucking time" mentality, and since I have an obsessive personality, this is a timeline I want recorded. It was first suggested I do so to map my progress, but I found myself recording things that weren't directly related to the recovery but still affected by it, like the graduation ceremony from my graduate program on December 16, 2011, that I couldn't attend, the way skin fell off my foot even a week after my cast was removed. But even my long-winded posts can't support such a detailed picture of what this year has been like, so I'll stick with the basics.

In order to preserve this year in all its gimpy glory, I've come up with a photo timeline. In a year where progress has felt so incredibly slow, it provides some kind of comfort to see that I've actually come pretty far.

12/2/11: Put in super-cool shorts in case I needed to be put in a cast. Instead, I was told I needed surgery.
12/6/11: Surgery day. L: torn tendon, R: repaired tendon. (Pictures here--warning, they are graphic.)

12/13/11: My very first cast!
12/22/11: Cast sawed off, all 23 staples removed, cleared to go to New York for Christmas.
12/27/11: I wouldn't have traveled to New York--in a wheelchair--for anyone else. At least it got us to the top of the Empire State Building in a record 10 minutes!

1/11/12: Cast removed by new SF doctors. Foot insanely swollen. Foot flexed and put in walking boot. Lots o' pain.
2/2/12: My second-favorite handicap perk, after skipping airport security lines. The day was made all that more fun by having Nikki accompany me to the wretched SF DMV.
2/20/12: What my leg looked like when they told me to start putting weight on my foot while in the walking boot. It took me a week longer to even start. Signs of fucked-up ankle becoming quite evident.
2/23/12: First physical therapy appointment. Going twice a week.

3/20/12: No more walking boot, back to using one crutch like a cane. Doesn't stop me from drunk brunch and meeting famous drag queens, but does stop random passersby from inquiring as to how I hurt myself (i.e., they think I'm perma-disabled).
3/25/12: Boot clearly taken off too soon. After waiting on foot for Latrice Royale for hours, I came home to see this. Back in the boot I go.
4/12/12: Physical therapist hypothesizes that I fractured my ankle at the time of injury, given persistent problems with my distal tibia joint. Also: I take my first shower without a shower chair or cast in four months and 12 days. 

5/20/12: Bay to Breakers 2012, and my very last day on crutches.

6/25/12: Post-Pride swelling puts me in a special ankle brace.
7/10/12: I learned how to tape my foot in order to pull my ankle joint into the right place for easier mobility.
7/31/12: Return of the Boot. An MRI reveals bone bruising in my ankle and a small, lateral tear in my tendon. Back in the boot for three weeks.

8/15/12: Walking. On my own. No wheelchair, crutches, boot, brace, tape, heel lifts...freedom.

10/1/12: New physical therapist, new strengthening exercises--muscle getting stronger.
11/22/12: First time driving since the accident. 

11/30/12: One-year anniversary! From the back things look good, but not quite there on the front. Not sure what anatomical failure is the source of this, but I'll get there.
When I decided to go through with the surgery, I was told it would be a year before I was back to 100%. Unforeseen ankle problems and real life has prolonged things, but for the most part my daily life is back to normal--minus the eight exercises I have to do daily or every other day. 

There have been a lot of lessons learned about this--some of which I touch on in an article I just wrote for Snap magazine, a beautiful photography magazine, and it's an article I'm really proud of--but the clearest one has been the depth and patience and encouragement of my personal support system. The doctors and physical therapists have been, mercifully, great, but my family, friends, and boyfriend were oh-so wonderful throughout this entire process, helping with my physical and mental recovery from this rather unexpected event.

But now I'm getting better, and I suppose it's time to stop being so self-indulgent and reflective. 


Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Mode of distraction: Olympics obsession.
Distracting me from: Everything for the last week.

I don't have time to justify my blog absence given how long this post turned out to be, but suffice it to say I’ve had lots to distract me from this, my favorite mode of distraction. Right now, I have a bone to pick with the country at large (actually, I have several, and the femur of those bones is the gay marriage debate, most recently highlighted by the fucks behind Chic-fil-A, but that’s not the bone I’m highlighting in this book-length post, so bear with me, because I need to get it off my chest anyway).

The relevant portion of the 2012 London Olympics for me—gymnastics—has come and gone with the appropriate share of tears, triumphs, surprises, heartache, and really fabulous athleticism. Some of the best gymnastics I’ve ever seen has been on display in the last week, between Kohei Uchimura occasionally finding his stride from last year’s Worlds and demonstrating that he really does belong on the list of all-time greats, to the USA women putting up the single best team performance in Olympic competition history, to the Russians proving that in spite of the trick-favoring Code of Points floor exercise can still have captivating choreography, there was a lot to celebrate.

But perhaps the most readily available example of how quickly you can go from hero to villain lies with USA gymnast McKayla Maroney. In the span of a week, she had an entire country (and here begins the hyperbolic nature of this post, and it won’t stop) celebrating her vault and spreading around pictures of the judges whose mouths were literally agape at the sheer magnitude of her vault, one that has not ever been matched by a woman, ever. And in that same week, she became the face of poor sportsmanship, gymnastics’ mean girl, a living example of karmic retribution, a piece of shit that barely deserved the silver she got (sounds hyperbolic, but then you haven't seen Twitter...).

So what happened?

It’s what always happens with gymnastics. It’s the number-one, most-popular sport every four years, and in the other three it’s about #17. No one (hyperbole!) knew who she was before she showed everyone what perfect looked like in 2012 in the team finals. But everyone got on board pretty quickly and caught up with her story: she was here to compete vault, and she was far and away the best in the world. That’s really all you knew, and all you needed to know—and wasn't enough to overcome a smirk at the wrong time.

But that doesn’t really cover it. She’s been performing the Amanar (lawl that the general public now knows what that is because of her) vault better than anyone else in the world since 2010, as a junior, when she was 14 years old (a mere year after she learned the vault in the first place). She has been predicted to win the Olympics on vault since then, and has earned every piece of that hype. In all her competitions on vault, she hasn’t been outscored nor outperformed (and in gymnastics, sometimes those are different). In her first major international meet, the 2011 World Championships, she astounded the gymnastics world at large with her vault (no hyperbole), won the event final handedly (in fact, could have fallen there and still won), and was poised to only get better the next year.

Cue untimely injuries. A bad back plagued her in the early part of the year, then after the first day of Nationals—the qualifying event to the Olympic Trials—she had a bizarre fall on floor in which she hit the back of her head so hard she broke her nose (wut) and suffered a concussion, unable to continue the competition. After being examined and told she couldn’t compete, she returned to the arena to cheer on the rest of the athletes and await her fate to see if she could be petitioned to the Olympic Trials. She was. She was cleared to train exactly one week before the biggest competition of her life, she hit when it counted, and made the five-person squad.

Cut to London, where she dismounts the beam in training and “splits” a bone in her toe. She doesn’t train for most of the week leading up to the actual Olympics, has to withdraw from performing her beautiful floor routine, and is now here solely because she is the best vaulter in the world. Her Olympic experience is reduced to five vaults.

One of them was the best vault of her life, the other was her worst—the only time she had fallen in a vault competition in two years. Right before she fell, NBC spent actual minutes dissecting the perfection and superiority of her vault—even compared to the men’s Olympic all around champion, the aforementioned future legend Uchimura. Not only was she the most sure-thing gold medal in gymnastics, men or women, I can’t think of another instance in which a single athlete was so otherworldly superior on one event to anyone else (and if this blog posts demonstrates anything, it’s my embarrassingly deep and knowledgeable love for the sport)—not Nadia, not Nastia, not anyone (no hyperbole).

But she fell at the wrong time, in front of the world and everyone competing with her who were just hoping for to medal beneath Maroney's (and, likely, excited just to watch her vault at all, because gymnasts at that level appreciate great gymnastics). She got second place, with a fall, by 0.112. As she walked off the podium after her fall, her coach said (according to reports), “There goes your gold medal.”

How much time would it take you to come to terms with that? A millisecond? You better hope so, because that’s the time American (and worldwide) viewing audiences gave 16-year-old McKayla Maroney to gather herself and behave in one of the only two acceptable ways for female gymnasts: bubbly and happy (e.g., Gabby Douglas) or fragile and heartbroken (e.g., Jordyn Wieber). McKayla's more stone-faced nature (whether she does great or poorly, and even the term "stone-faced" is a bit of an hyperbole) doesn't play as well to the background of the Olympics trombones and trumpets.

But there she is, in a whirlwind of humiliation and disappointment and sadness (and probably physical pain), and she gets lost. Sandra Izbasa, the Romanian victor and ever the class act, wins and holds her mouth in shock and empathy as she hugs Maroney, who minutes previous could be seen almost crying. After the hug, her look goes vacant, and she gives bronze-medalist Maria Paseka of Russia the literal cold shoulder.

And then NBC is done. They’ve found their new angle on McKayla Maroney. No more Phillip Phillips “Home” music montage for her! She just shat on her silver medal and every vaulter in that final, and probably every Olympic athlete (hyperbole!).

Meanwhile, accounts of people who were actually in the arena (and McKayla herself), say she went on to give proper hugs and congratulations to the medalists, posed for pictures with her silver with a smile. She also then went on to the media room and answered exhaustive questions about her performance, staying for the maximum time (it is common that others in extreme disappointment answer minimum questions, if any, and leave to grieve). She says only that she is disappointed in her performance, not her medal. She doesn’t blame the toe or the equipment or the judges—she blames poor timing on a vault she always trains and competes well. Oh, and in case you’re interested, she cried.

But no one gets to see that. They see another millisecond: the moment on the medal stand in which she undoubtedly smirks again—in disbelief, anger, embarrassment, whatever. And that is what we call media gasoline (also enough fuel for this tumblr, which, in spite of myself, is fucking hysterical—Maroney herself retweeted it).

So, now what? Now, in addition to feeling the (unnecessary and unwarranted, and entirely speculated by me) shame of “letting down” USA and USAG by doing something she has never done before, she is feeling the wrath of a country brought together by the media’s need for a villain. She has sent three tweets and a Facebook message desperately explaining that Izbasa and Paseka are friends of hers, that she is proud of their performances, and that she hugged them; and that she was so lost in her disappointment she didn’t know what to do. She ends with “Please forgive me!”

What does she need to be forgiven for, exactly? Reacting? Not crying? Not smiling? Not landing the vault? Not winning gold? Not loving her silver right away (“Silver is actually pretty sick!” she’d go on to tweet later that night)?Not behaving at her absolute best self after the most disappointing moment of her gymnastics career?

In some ways, it’s not the general population’s fault. They’re fed only a fraction of the story, and then—in typical groupthink fashion—run with it as they’re told, single-minded, judgmental, and disinterested in anything straying from the narrative of McKayla “Regina George” Maroney. Not even the Internet can break up that kind of momentum.

And I find all that almost as heartbreaking as her sitting down the vault in the first place (but not quite, because I generally care little for the collective thoughts of people, and she deserves to be Olympic champion for no other reason than she is the best vaulter in the world), because it's surely the last thing she needs.

McKayla leaves London with one Olympic gold medal, one Olympic silver medal, all the reason to be proud of herself in the world, and a chip on her shoulder in the shape of North America. I hope for her sake she can retain her patented toughness, realize that this overreaction is bigger than her (and has increasingly less to do with her actual reaction), grow from the situation appropriately (because, let’s be honest, there are athletes out there who have handled the same adversity better, and that level of sportsmanship is a beautiful thing to watch, and those athletes should be commended—but they’re not the ones getting the attention, after all), and—selfishly—I hope she continues with gymnastics. She could add a half twist to the Amanar and have a vault all her own. She could show the world (or the 137 people who would watch the 2013 World Championships, anyway) what she’s capable of on vault and floor (and, hey, maybe the all around—if she does that new vault and hits her floor, all she’d have to do is clean up the other events a bit and she’d be a real threat) once again. Or just show me, because I think she’s pretty magical to watch, and at 16, she could have a lot of great moments ahead of her.

Besides, if she makes it to the Olympics in 2016 and does well, she can be NBC’s hero again. They live for that shit. 

Oh, and she has this and the rest of you don’t:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Carly, Crutches, Cabs & Crowds: Christmas in New York

Mode of distraction: Exploring my first Fleetwood Mac album, Rumours (yeah yeah, I'm suuuuper late).
Distracting me from: Lower leg discomfort. 

New York, New York. A city that always manages to precede its reputation. Since my sister was cast in Peter Pan (!) as Tootles/Jane/Wendy understudy (!!), there was talk that we would visit her in New York for Christmas. Mission accomplished, albeit with a few twists and turns, mostly involving my recently repaired Achilles tendon (a big ol' post on this to come). Needless to say, it was a great time--cold as hell (...hmm) and rough on my leg, but entirely worth it to see Carly on stage as Wendy (!!!).

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Since everyone prefers looking at pictures to actual reading, allow me to do a bit of both. Announcing my top five New York memories, via pictures:

1. Carly goes on for the lead role of Wendy

When we got the text that Carly would go on as Wendy the night before the show we were scheduled to see, it was as if we had to repay the universe for the opportunity to see her in a lead in New York City's Madison Square Garden by moving heaven and earth and wheelchair to get there. The entirety of the Met was leaving with us, it was pouring rain, $30 umbrellas flipped inside out, and a solid dozen-plus cabs pulled up to the curb only to screech away at the sight of my wet wheelchair. Cunts (I mean, there is no other word). But, when we sat down in our newly acquired (thank you, Duncan!) seats not a minute before the lights when down and the curtains went up, seeing Carly knock her role out of the park made it all worth it.

2. A New York City Lunch

Our New York meals were starting to look like an embarrassment: two bland dinners outside the MSG theater, breakfast at a diner that would rival anything in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and overpriced museum food that brought flashbacks airplane meals (back when they used to feed you). Enough was enough. Mom, Alex and I took a break from some serious shopping to crutch into Beacon, a delightful and delicious delicatessen that gave us the pseudo-high society vibes we were looking for and then some.

3. Christmas Day

Not your traditional Christmas, to be sure--what with the added guests, Carly-only presents, limited space, and painkiller buzz (for me, anyway)--but a warm and welcomed one nonetheless. And we were together.

4. The Royal Handicap Treatment 

American Airlines. The Empire State Building. The World Trade Center Memorial. All these institutions get extraordinarily high marks for their treatment of the disabled, specifically me. American Airlines wheeled me to the front of every line you could find, and the flight attendants made sure I was comfortable at all times (business class on the way there felt especially special). At the Empire State Building, the line winded into the cold outdoors, and the wait promised to be a healthy 90 minutes. Oh wait, you're in a wheelchair? Come right this way. Through secret passageways we went, all the way to the top* in less than fifteen minutes, all without so much as a second glance. My family has done a lot of favors for me over the past several weeks--it felt nice to do something (more or less) for them in return. And on our last day, we visited the World Trade Center memorial. I crutched there, now knowing how anti-wheelchairs cab drivers were, and immediately regretted it as I weaved through the construction area just to get to the line. And what happened when I got there? "Would you like a wheelchair, sir?" Oh god, yes. Yes.

*The 86th floor with the outdoor viewing. The new viewing area on the 102nd floor is not handicap friendly.

5. 21st-Century Pen Pals Meet

Pen pals are sort of a forgotten relationship in the social networking age, but it's the best descriptor I have for a newly met friend. A mutual love for music and obsession with chart statistics led to cautious forum messages, eventual Facebooking, and, finally, near-daily g-chat sessions. We met up our last night in the city, and it was great! Got to drink at a New York gay bar, meet some new people (two of whom live in San Francisco), and feel--for a moment--like I wasn't a cripple. Also got to hear a Kelly Clarkson album track at the bar! Catch up, SF.

All in all, I fully enjoyed my New York experience!

...but I live in the superior city. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Best of 2011: Music

Mode of distraction: Last-minute online Christmas shopping.
Distracting me from: Injury frustration. 

It's the end of the year, and that means I join every blog in the blogosphere with my second annual year-end countdown. However, what makes my countdown different (I've decided) is that I'm not merely counting down music and movies that were released in 2011, but ones I experienced in 2011. It opens up the list to paint a more accurate picture of what my year was like. And since this is my blog, that's all that matters. No scoffing at how belated I am with certain albums and movies!

First up: MUSIC.


01. Stronger, Kelly Clarkson - Biased? Maybe a little bit. But it was going to take something special even for Kelly to top Adele's masterful 21, and she delivered. The album is easy enough to shrug off as more or less more of the same, but it only takes a few listens to see that Kelly's focus in this album is herself, not the men (er, man) who did her wrong. She subtly lashes out at label executives and the media, but never without pulling back to herself and pushing herself to the next step, which, for her, is her 30s--real adulthood. With a voice that only continues to become more full and evocative, she soars to new heights here...I just people start to catch on.
02. 21, Adele - There are only a handful of music year-end lists in which Adele's name isn't in the mix, and there's a good reason for that: the simple perfection that is this album. Each melody and lyric demonstrates remarkable, but always effortless, craftsmanship. These aren't songs that were toiled over, forced into creation. The songs flowed, and her voice followed--neither one completely flawlessly, but with complete authenticity.
03. Bon Iver, Bon Iver - Only very recently discovered this and am still sorting my way through it, but the melancholy sound and gripping harmonies give me chills. The lyrics feel original, personal, and poetic, and it's my favorite musical discovery of the year. 
04. Born This Way, Lady Gaga - Now this is a record that sounds toiled over. It's overwrought and overworked, but there's such a strong sense of creation, of effort, of exploration, and even some fun, that its impressiveness lies in its audacity. It's no surprise Gaga hasn't found the same pop radio magic with this darker, twisted album, taking religious and disco influences in near equal amounts. It's energetic and frenzied, occasionally distracting, but never boring.
05. 4, Beyonce - A grower of an album if I ever found one. I only ever gave "Run the World" a chance because of her stellar Billboard performance, but other than the euphoric (and perfect) "Love On Top," I was uninterested. But track by track, the R&B album grew on me, as did Beyonce's voice, which had never been a favorite of mine, but sounds smooth and strong here.
06. Ceremonials, Florence + The Machine - Like Born This Way, this album comes close to suffering from simply too much. Everything--vocals, instrumentals, song construction, lyrics--are pushed to the band's maximum, and begins to weight the album down. Fortunately, the finished product is strong and interesting and different and creative, and, therefore, mostly successful, even if after five complete listens, I still can't pick out a single track beyond "Shake It Out," the lead single. This is one that takes a while to marinate.
07. Only By The Night, Kings of Leon - Yep, it's a few years old, but not to me. I was aware of (how could you not be?) and enjoyed "Use Somebody," but never compelled enough to listen further. And then I heard "Closer" somewhere, and I bought the album without previewing another track. There's something haunting about that track, and while it's still the highlight of the album for me, the album maintains that gritty, dark, intriguing quality throughout.
08. Femme Fatale, Britney Spears - Not everything has to be chalk-full of meaning; sometimes music can just be fun to listen to (and dance to and drink to and sing to), and that's what Britney's seventh studio album it is. It all too often sounds phoned in and fixed up by producers, but that doesn't detract from the sexy power of "Hold It Against Me," "Inside Out," "Criminal," and a handful of other jams sprinkled across this up-tempo album.
09. Mylo Xyloto, Coldplay - I've never been a huge Coldplay fan, so it seems ridiculous that one of their more critically panned albums worked its way into my iTunes. Maybe it really means I need to explore more from them, but there is a strong (perhaps even too strong) cohesion to the record, with ear-pleasing synthy tracks and airy vocals, highlighted by a surprisingly successful duet with Rihanna in "Princess of China."  
10. It's Not Me, It's You, Lily Allen - Another belated there a better album title than this? It perfectly sums up Lily Allens' dry, cynical, middle finger pop attitude, and while this album isn't as slick as her delightfully prickly debut, she's still operating to her strengths: mean-spirited, giggly barbs over sunny pop beats and catchy melodies.

- SONGS - 

01. "Set Fire to the Rain," Adele - No amount of Kelly favoritism was going to top this song this year (unless a certain leaked demo was officially released--then it would have been tight). This has everything I would want in a song. It gives me chills on my 168th listen. It builds to a climax so gratifying, so emotional, that I can't help but get sucked into that last chorus every single time. Adele takes us on a spiraling, vengeful journey that leaves me reeling by the end (and usually pressing repeat). It easily catapults itself to one of my all-time favorite songs.
02. "Dark Side," Kelly Clarkson - If this eventually becomes a single, it will be difficult to leave off my list next year, and there are many songs off Stronger biting at its heels--"Honestly," "You Can't Win," "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)," "Breaking Your Own Heart"--but ultimately this haunting, ethereal, almost Twilight Zone-ish sound wins out. Kelly morphs her voice to something almost otherworldly, blending dance-pop and soul in a way that I've never heard from her. The song has a yearning vulnerability to it, but the haunting part is that she's still guarded--the sound of a music box creaks open and she begs for someone to accept her dark side, but her voice fades away at the end of the song and the music box closes; she's not ready yet.
03. "Changing Colours," Great Lake Swimmers - New to me, and one of the most painfully honest relationship songs I've ever heard. Though it's certainly (and thankfully) too tragic to be applicable to my relationship, there's value to digesting, dealing with, and accepting feelings as they come, no matter what the outcome. This feels like it goes beyond just being a song, to me; it's like a work of art.
04. "Love On Top," Beyonce - ...well fuck that, let's have FUN. I'm in love, dammit, and it doesn't always have to be so dreary. This track is energy. It makes me smile, makes me dance, and makes me sing along to every ridiculous key change. Beyonce's never sounded better, and I will mourn the day I don't hear this and immediately start to jam (though that will probably mean I'm just dead).
05. "Princess of China," Coldplay feat. Rihanna - Usually, for me to really connect to a song, I need a strong vocal and/or lyrics. Simply being catchy will get me to like a song, but not really love it. What seems to matter least is the production--not that it doesn't matter, but it's not my priority. However, it's this track's production that gets me going. I'm not knowledgeable enough to say what instruments capture that buzzing, electronic quality, but the sound of this track is nothing short of epic. The distant, tinny vocals here only work to enhance the metallic feeling of the song, and it all comes together really well.
06. "Help Yourself," Sad Brad Smith - This is cheating even under my list parameters, because I technically heard this song when I saw the movie Up in the Air a few years ago, but I didn't buy it until this year, and it hasn't left my playlist. It's just such a...diddy of a song. I don't know, it makes me happy. The harmonies, the simple instrumentation, the I'll-stand-by-you-but-take-your-time lyrics, it's like the sonic version of having a best friend.
07. "4 AM," Melanie Fiona - A criminally underrated R&B songstress, this is one of the sexiest songs of the year, even though the protagonist isn't getting any because it's 4 a.m. and where the fuck is her man? But you could fry an egg on the track of this song it's so smouldering, and if this is a sign of things to come, Melanie's second album will be even better than her first.
08. "Holocene," Bon Iver - Like his album, I haven't completely cracked the code of this song, but the sound stops me in my tracks. The first time I heard it, I wanted to tear up and I didn't even know what he was singing about.
09. "Scarborough Fair," Simon & Garfunkel - Whoops, I'm several decades behind, etc. This song plays in a wonderfully constructed scene in The Graduate, and it had me pulling out Shazaam and cursing my iPhone 3GS for how slow it was acting, because I didn't want to miss the track. There's just such a relaxing quality to the falsetto singing here that I find truly mesmerizing.
10. "The Edge of Glory," Lady Gaga - The dark and sinister "Bloody Mary" and fun, inside-joke-esque "Bad Kids" were close calls to get this Gaga spot, but ultimately "The Edge of Glory" might just be the most successful song on Born This Way. It builds in all the right spots with a killer vocal and lyrics on the right side of the creative and accessible line. And who doesn't love a sax solo?

Stay tuned (or, you know, not) for the next installments on my favorite movies, books, TV shows, and personal events! (I'll give you a hint: rupturing my Achilles won't be on the list.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Once I Win the Lottery...A G-Chat with Karen

Mode of distraction: Fantasizing about what I'll do when I win the lottery.
Distracting me from: Blowing all my money on lottery tickets. 

G-chat. 5:35 - 5:38 p.m. Wednesday, November 16, 2011. 

me:  well, what's clearly * actually * going to happen is that i'll win the lottery and you will live in the mansion with me and alejo
and then no one has to work
our lives will be lunch break
 Karen:  that
is my new favorite quote.
"our lives will be lunch break."
i am so down with my "get obnoxiously rich" fantasy
 me:  hahahah
 Karen:  ...and then i'll have a maserati, and a dress made of diamonds...
 me:  we shall have a mini restaurant run out of our left wing kitchen
 me:  right wing kitchen will be for snacks and baked goods only
and we will call it fatty kitchen
 Karen:  yes and we'll have some other famous chef in there full time
i can't breathe
fatty kitchen and fancy kitchen
"meet me in fatty kitchen."
 me:  hahah YES YES
 Karen:  fatty kitchen has a neverending supply of sour patch kids and smart food
 me:  mmmmmmm the government needs to get it together and give me my $214 million
 Karen:  no
i want a library like in beauty and the beast, too
with rolling ladders
 me:  oh yes!
 Karen:  and huge windows.
 me:  that will be on the left, classy side of the mansion
 Karen:  we will recline in patches of sunlight on chaise lounges and ring gilt bells to summon our butlers, who will be bearing chilled mimosas
 me:  in crystal flutes that we will toss onto the floor when we're done
 Karen:  eeeeeeee! yes.
"you there. clean up this mess."
* lights cigarette with hundred dollar bill *
 me:  "too slow. fired. leave your tux at the dry cleaning station downstairs."
 Karen:  oh god i am like, reveling in the glory of this fantasy
 me: you must mean reality
Karen:  i. love. you. hahahahaha
all i'm doing now is going through architecture tumblrs
and picking out furniture for us
 me:  oh good
a head start

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Album Review: Kelly Clarkson's Stronger

Mode of distraction: Listening to Stronger on repeat. 
Distracting me from: Life.

Kelly Clarkson settles us into her fifth studio album, Stronger, by sassing and spitting the verses to mid-tempo grower "Mr. Know It All." Her delivery transitions from bratty and indignant to full and secure as she enters the chorus, substituting a rock-ish tinge for a more soulful, full tone.

That vocal transition can act as a microcosm for the entire album. Clarkson's pop/rock pseudo roots are integrated with her Aretha-obsessed American Idol roots to create a more soulful, more R&B-leaning sound. The album is also far more up-tempo (with welcomed bursts of 80s glory) than her previous albums, featuring only two true ballads on the standard edition of the album. It's a sonic progression that rivals the transition from Thankful to Breakaway, highlighted by a vocal strength that comes from her ever-improving instrument (the best in the mainstream pop landscape) and the producers letting that instrument actually shine and come to life.

And it does. In the midst of a largely cohesive production quality (remarkable considering the varied--and occasionally unproven in the top 40 landscape--producers attached to the record), Clarkson tells a variety of stories with her voice. She's settled and above it all in "Mr. Know It All" and the slow-jam "The War Is Over"; vulnerable and pleading in "Dark Side" and "Honestly" (the album's highlights are, unsurprisingly, amongst the darkest offerings); feisty and powerful in "What Doesn't Kill You," "Einstein," and "Don't Be A Girl About It" (ignore the dumb-ass "dumb + dumb = you" line  and potential sexist implications in the latter two, respectively, and give in to the excellent melodies and production); warm and open in "Standing In Front Of You"; yearning and tired in the beautiful standard edition closer "Breaking Your Own Heart"; and full of almost-30 cynicism and bite in "Let Me Down" and especially "You Can't Win," a lyrical highlight that Clarkson wrote herself.

Instead of seeming schizophrenic, the album feels very of-the-moment for Clarkson, a stark contrast to her previous album, All I Ever Wanted, a recipe book for what was on the charts as the album was being developed (not, sadly, when it came out--but such is the nature of radio baiting). There's a handful of hits to be found here, but the album doesn't feel designed for radio--it feels designed for Clarkson (whether she had a hand in writing the song or not). That might not make for the commercial success of Katy Perry's Teenage Dream or Clarkson's own Breakaway, but it does make for a great album. Even the most derivative track, "I Forgive You," reads at the very least as a cute and fitting sequel to her monster hit "Since U Been Gone."

It only takes a few listens of Stronger to realize she's ditched being hurt by and bitching about Mr. Wrong and is simply taking on all things wrong--label executives, friends, family, the media, and, yes, a foolish ex or two--in the name of new-found strength, empowerment, and experience. That expanded point of view is a welcome relief from our Breakup Queen, and reads genuine coming from someone who's fought against the pitfalls of the Idol machine since the beginning. She's older, wiser, and stronger--and now she has a new best album to boot. One that (finally) shows that growth in sound, experience, and vocal ability we've seen from Clarkson in person for years. 

Favorite Five:
  1. "Honestly"- A haunting, wailing track that begs for the truth at any cost with Clarkson's most evocative studio vocals to date.
  2. "Dark Side"- A creepy-yet-dance-y plea for a lover to accept all sides of her.
  3. "You Can't Win"- In throwing back every jab ever thrown at her, Clarkson makes an intensely personal song utterly universal. And a lot of fun.
  4. "What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)"- New gay anthem! *jams*
  5. "Breaking Your Own Heart" - A drained warning to someone she still believes in, but not for long. An emotional high point of the album.

Grade: A


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Wasteland

Mode of distraction: A.D.D. and apathy.
Distracting me from: All productivity.

So. I'm trying this again.

It's not my fault I've been so bad at posting. I've been too busy reading Karen's deliciously cute and crafty blog while simultaneously hiding from its superiority. Plus, I've been really lazy lately.

Post-MFA graduation has found me first celebrating my new-found freedom and free time, and then found me wallowing in it. Melting into it. Submerged from toe to nose. Etc.

Not that I've been a total slob. I work full time, I joined 24 Hour Fitness in the wake of losing my student gym membership (and I'm actually going), I'm still in a fully function and even more fully satisfying relationship, and I'm still reading (currently Franzen's The Corrections). But still. Something about the last month has felt like trudging, but trudging.

I think October is going to change that, mostly because I've decided it will. I'm at the brink of getting myself into a small, lovely workshop situation again, with a peer's manuscript crisp from the printer ready for a review, another peer's thesis to review, and my own novel to work on for said workshop.

October will be feature a welcomed integration of new to kick my ass out of Neutral, including (but not limited to):
  • Draft 2 of Muscle Memory - I have started on this, but not much. There is a big new scene I have in mind that will come pretty early, and while it won't shift the book's overall plot, I think it will set me on a more character-enriching path that should color the rest of the story. In theory. 
  • A new writing community - I've missed this being a part of my life, and I think being with like-minded creative folk will do me good. 
  • Oscar time - With the unveiling of the Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close trailer, Oscar season has officially begun. This gets my blood going. I've already seen The Help (great) and Contagion (pretty good), and there are a host of movies I'm ready to bus over to Kabuki for, dragging whoever is willing to join me. Time to start brainstorming Oscar party prizes...
  • Kelly Clarkson's new CD, Stronger - Can't. Even. Wait. It's been two and half years since her last studio album, which--to be honest--was more a collection of solid, of-the-moment pop tracks, leaving the album feeling a bit more like a collection of current sounds than a fully conceived album. With 75 demos and old songs leaking courtesy of thieves and fans even more intense than yours truly, I've heard about half the album in demo form's fabulous. I did the superfan pre-order thing which provides me with a deluxe CD and a bonus EP...all in all, 23 new Kelly Clarkson tracks to spin the shit out of come October 24 (or whenever it leaks). 
  • Even more reading - On the list: The Elegance of the Hedgehog, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, The Help, Dangerous Laughter, The Handmaid's Tale, and Bastard Out of Carolina...or whatever comes my way. 
  • Halloween - I still have no costume in mind, but I always kind of rock that part, so I'm sure something will come up. (I really am getting anxious about this though). 
And now I'm off to get started.