You make my dreams come true Hannibal Buress, you really do. I can’t wait to dive right in!
Mashable reports that Hannibal Buress will now be a part of Spotify’s In Residence series, with a new show on that actually aired its first episode…today!
You make my dreams come true Hannibal Buress, you really do. I can’t wait to dive right in!
Mashable reports that Hannibal Buress will now be a part of Spotify’s In Residence series, with a new show on that actually aired its first episode…today!
I will always be grateful to two goofy British boys for introducing me to the wonders of Spotify while I was living in France some 5 years ago. A few years earlier, I was hooked on a similar French equivalent, Deezer (once available in the US, hasn’t been for quite some time). I don’t need to toot streaming’s horn, it’s so ubiquitous. It was funny to take a look back at my year in Spotify…there’s a clear winner here.
Kicked Off the Year With: Kasabian, “Re-Wired”
I’m very much a new year, new me sort of person.
Top Artists: Stromae, Oasis and Sylvan Esso
#1, duh. If you haven’t listened to Stromae yet, get on it. #2 – The at-times soaring arena rock of Oasis is pretty uplifting. #3 – Sylvan Esso’s smooth stylings are bright yet moody, and still undeniably fun. They have such a unique voice and personality as a band.
Top Albums: Racine Carrée (Stromae), Cheese (Stromae), What’s the Story (Morning Glory)
I listened to these three mostly during the summertime. Sizzling Chicago seemed to be the perfect backdrop.
Top Tracks: All Stromae, All the Time
All top 5 tracks belong to my favorite Belgian. Do you sense a theme? When I fall for an artist, I fall HARD.
Top Genre: Indietronica
I’ve long been searching for a word that describes this, and Spotify had it all along. Ever since my first listen to the first Postal Service record, I’ve been head over heels with this genre filled with heart-felt lyrics and plenty of bleeps and bloops.
Outlier Track: Con Bro Chill “We Came to Party”
Con Bro Chill is from Portland and they are ridiculous. Most, if not all songs are about throwing a party. They’re silly. They are also amazing. Date a boy from Portland for a while, you find out magical Portland things. He might be long gone, but Con and Neon Army are in my heart forever more.
What are you listening to lately? Leave it in the comments :)
So. I’ve had an immense amount to think about lately. And what it brings me back to is…what is my bread and butter, my toast and tea? What are the basics?
2016, let’s make this a year about reading great things, writing more, and going for it when it comes to passionate pursuits. I sound like a self-help book, and heaven knows I need one. But when I think about what I want, and what I need: other than family, friends, all of that, finding a way to incorporate more of what I love and making it more a part of what I do feels like a theme lately.
On that note. Some good books and some good music I’ve been into lately.
Just wrapped up What You’re Really Meant to Do by Robert Steven Kaplan. It came as a recommendation from an amazing business mentor. It’s a lot about solving common ills in the working world in an attempt to unlock one’s potential. It was helpful, it gave sound advice, it was written for real people.
I also read Attention. Deficit. Disorder. by Brad Listi. I’m a gargantuan fan of his podcast, so naturally, I wrote him an email thanking him for the book. I listen to his podcast now, and like he wrote, it feels like this book was written in another lifetime. Listen to OTHERPPL. It will make you want to write forever and ever.
The pseudo self-help train continues! This time, a bit more literary of a bent than What You’re Really Meant to Do. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat Pray Love fame) is a wonderful meditation on a lot of topics near and dear to my heart right now. She writes with so much life! I’m interested to see how it unfolds.
Now for some music. New Mystery Jets is out! And it’s good. Also, if you’re a sucker for Britpop (and more) like myself, check out The Selector. It’s a weekly radio show sponsored by the British Council that highlights the top indie tracks of the week.
That’s all for me. What are you reading/listening to/what’s good in your neck of the woods?
This was the first year of nearly 29 years that I kept track of every book I read. Google doc spreadsheet style. I’ve been an avid reader for as long as I can remember, but this year I was inspired to keep more meticulous tabs on my habit due to two major influences.
One: productivity/creativity guru Austin Kleon. In a blog post I stumbled upon some point last year, he read about 75 books. I’m closing in at what will likely be 30-31 for the year, not including literary journals, long reads articles, etc. 30ish publishing house-published books. Not quite 75, but still a number I am comfortable with.
The second major influence really spurred my quest to continue on this path. I read a 500-page, 10-year compendium of Nick Hornby’s monthly column in The Believer Magazine. Said column covered deceptively simple ground: what he read each month. From when I finished in the beginning of March onward, I took his loose criteria as my guide. Don’t read anything you don’t like. If you don’t like it, don’t feel bad about putting it down.
I also love the philosophy of the Believer review system: only positive criticism. With that caveat shining brightly as my readerly North Star, I swam through the next few months eagerly swinging from one book to the next. Adding another title to the list was a therapeutic and motivating act, tiny and simple as it was.
So, a rundown of books by month, followed by a short reaction/description is the way I’m going to go about this. With the exception of The Best American Non-Required Reading series. I read 7 of the anthologies this year (the 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009 editions, all edited by Dave Eggers). There’s so much to say about these books. These books solidified that I want to be a writer. They introduced me to new authors, a smattering of fabulous new ideas and theories, journals and publications containing some of the world’s best writing…the list goes on and on. This series opened up a new world for me, and I can’t wait to fall deeper into the rabbit hole.
I’m not the trendiest or most current reader, and that’s OK. That’s why it’s my year in books! One year I will be on top of it. #Goals.
The Best American Non-Required Reading 2006 + 2005 (See above)
The Best American Non-Required Reading 2002 (See above)
Windows on the World: 50 Writers, 50 Views Matteo Pericoli
A charming book detailing a host of famous writer’s view outside their desk window. A lovely meditation on how environment influences work (or in some cases, does not).
Ten Years in the Tub Nick Hornby
This. book. I am endeared to this book forever. I am endeared to Hornby forever. His reading philosophy, his down-to-earth quality, his connection with 826, his general affable style…I could go on and on.
I wish to read with the same skill, warmth and heart as he demonstrated with this fabulous collection of missives collected over the past 10 years. This book also inspired me to pick up the damn pace and read more books that I would fall in love with.
The Best American Non-Required Reading 2003 (See above)
High Fidelity Nick Hornby
Short, sweet and one of my favorites of the year. Hornby’s protagonist is a shaggy, mildly anti-social dude who can seem difficult to root for at times, but the story is just so engrossing and endearing. The movie is set in Wicker Park (aka my favorite neighborhood in Chicago). but it was great fun taking in the London setting of the book.
Hornby’s voice is the winner. I think, more than anything, I want this highly likeable, slightly curmudgeonly person to be my friend. This also challenged my inner music dork. I’m far beyond it’s league.
The Best American Non-Required Reading 2004
The Invisible Circus Jennifer Egan
Not my favorite book of the year. Admittedly, I favor non-fiction over fiction, but I think my expectations were set too high on account of my gushing adoration for her deserving critical and commercial hit, A Visit from the Goon Squad.
In my little writer mind, I tried to focus less on why I wasn’t enthralled by the story, but to notice the techniques carried over from an earlier effort in comparison to Goon Squad. Any I can remember at the moment? Probably not. In the end, I just wasn’t that into it.
Little Failure Gary Shteyngart
Oh my hearts and stars, did I eat this book up with a spoon. I was first introduced to Mr. Shteyngart by an essay included in a Best Non-Required Reading volume. He wrote a profile of the musician M.I.A. for Rolling Stone, punctuated by his unforgettable style.
I felt like I knew his story before reading. At one point in time, I dated a Russian emigrant to the US who experienced a very similar transition from the USSR to the suburbs of a major metropolitan city. Shteyngart’s ability to turn the tragic or the uncomfortable into something laugh-out-loud funny is miraculous. I sympathize deeply with his Jewish guilt and I’m in awe of his wit and intelligence.
The Best American Non-Required Reading 2007
Without You, There is No Us Suki Kim
I started off my non-fiction heavy summer with a riveting, disheartening dispatch from a writer embedded in an all-boys school in North Korea.
I came to the book a relatively blank slate, and the sad realities of the lack of freedoms available to the citizens of North Korea felt shocking and sad. Kim relayed her story with a great deal of empathy. You could feel her hurt, but her ultimate powerlessness to initiate any real change.
Further Joy John Brandon
Oh to be down and out in southern Florida. Brandon takes a trope that could be tired and makes it gripping. I found myself rooting for the low-lifes in the center of his stories, whether they got that way due to their own folly or by happenstance.
Children Playing Before A Statue of Hercules edited by David Sedaris
This was scrumptious. David Sedaris has been a favorite author of mine for a while now and I simply lapped up his choices for his favorite short stories of all time. This was a book I dog-eared all the way through with favorite quotes and superior sentences, but most notably, I remember this read for Lorrie Moore’s OUTSTANDING story, “The People Like that are the Only People Here”. Plus, proceeds from the book go to 826 National…can’t beat that!
Girl in the Dark Anna Lyndsey
Ms. Lyndsey chronicled her frightening condition under a pseudonym in this thoughtful book. She carefully guides the reader on a journey from thriving professional to completely home bound in a room that seals out all light due an extremely severe allergy. I felt so frustrated that there wasn’t a cure. This book broke my heart. I hope there are developments or that she is in another period of remission.
Lucky Alan and Other Stories Jonathan Lethem
I read this book at a time when life stuff was moving at a blurry clip, but I remember his jaw-dropping, utterly delicious use of language. So much so that I wrote him a letter, thanking him for allowing me to laugh out loud and be witness to his particular form of mastery. His characters are so peculiar. Each story was a morsel of wonder.
Meaty Samantha Irby
Samantha Irby is ridiculous. She’s funny. She’s especially funny when she’s telling the saddest of stories. Her book of essays is so relatable, and the ferocious energy she brings to her writing is just stunning. I saw Ms. Irby at her live lit show Guts & Glory, and she is a FORCE. She is so talented and her words blaze off the page. Her blog is amazing.
Seeing Voices Oliver Sacks
Ever since reading An Anthropologist on Mars for psychology class book report my senior year of high school, Mr. Sack’s large volume of work has captivated my attention. His research on deaf culture is no different. His ability to write about science in both a lyrical way and in a manner that the lay person can understand is outstanding. He is so dearly missed.
By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review a Edited by Pamela Paul
I flew through this collection, eager to discover the favorite books of celebrated authors and celebrities. A few books that everyone loved across the board were Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, The Patrick Melrose Novels by Edward St. Aubyn and Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. The best part? When I visited Unabridged Bookstore, most of the books brought up again and again by this collective of treasured writers were available on sale. Shop local, folks. It’s worth it.
Inside this Place, Not Of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons Edited Ayelet Waldman and Robin Levi
The Voice of Witness series of books is vital. Everyone, read these books. It will shed light into the darkest corners of society. That’s all I’ve got.
The Best American Non-Required Reading, 2009
I read this book for CHIRP Book Club and adored it. It’s part of the 33 1/3 series, which takes one album and dissects it’s cultural impact through personal essay. Wilson is a Canadian dude who breaks down the rise and popularity of the one and only Miss Celine Dion. Be warned: this book has significant snob factor. However, I would highly recommend it if you like learning about the history of Canadian music and kitsch and the background of what makes pop culture so gosh darn popular.
On The Move: A Life Oliver Sacks
I finished this book a few weeks before Dr. Sacks passed away. His typical style makes for a riveting tale of a life filled with triumphs and disappointments. His self-doubt, his early mistakes should give everyone a little hope to keep going and striving to find their place in the world.
The Best American Non-Required Reading, 2010
Game. Changer. If you love to write, READ THIS BOOK. It’s almost beyond words how much I love this.
Far From the Tree, Andrew Solomon
My labor of love. Clocking in around 900 pages with research notes, this mammoth work of the relationships between parents and children with vastly different identities is breathtaking. It is rigorously researched yet never crosses the line into using jargon. It is a work of continuous poignant observation. Endlessly fascinating. It took me a few months to read, but a few months of paying careful attention were worth it.
The Book of My Lives Aleksandar Hemon
Hemon is brilliant, and local by way of Sarajevo. This book of essays detailing his lives here and abroad bound with a kinetic energy and a likability that warmed my winter commute. This is also the only book I read that made me cry. Sob.
Surviving Justice: America’s Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated ed. Dave Eggers
However you feel about Making a Murderer, this book covers what happens to exonerated criminals. It is fascinating, devastating, clearly communicated, and infuriating. It demonstrates true failures of the system that were corrected too little, too late.
The Late Interiors Marjorie Sandor
What a delightful book. This is a memoir written by a professor at a grad school program I’ve been thinking about. It’s such a lovely testament to all of the little (and big) moments that sewn together make a life. The imagery of her garden and the mountains of the Pacific Northwest didn’t hurt my enjoyment either.
Fates and Furies Lauren Groff
This is Obama’s favorite book of the year, and it’s insanely easy to see why. Lauren Groff spins a yarn that seems so complex, and it’s overwhelmingly beautiful to discover just how well she understands the motives and actions of her characters. Nothing seems out of place. Lauren Groff just seems like a wonderful person to meet in real life. This was a few years ago, but on the Other PPL podcast (another blog post coming about this soon) she said, “The novel to me is the most powerful instrument we as humans have to sort of be able to peer into other people’s hearts”. I love that.
Birds of America Lorrie Moore
This was an exquisite book to close out the year. Ms. Moore is an English professor at UW Madison and I not-so-secretly would love to audit her class. In France, I took a class discussed the concept of creating a unique space in literature. As I made my way through, it astounded me how Moore has created the feeling of a space all her own. I could pick up a nameless story and know it was her work. How do you DO that? Thoughts to ponder for 2016 and beyond.
If you you made it all this way, you are either my parents or you are super awesome. Well, my parents are super awesome. ANYWAY. Thank you for your kind attention, and leave a comment with your favorite book of 2015 or a great rec for 2016, or just about anything at all!
Heartbroken. Another word doesn’t suffice. I can’t pretend to comprehend the depths of this tragedy. An attempt to elaborate on the devastation invading the city from my personal vantage point seems callous, unfair, overreaching. I just want to express my sincerest sadness, love and hope for a place woven into the fabric of my dreams for the better part of my life.
For the confidence, hope, solitude, beauty, inspiration and education this country and Paris have provided me; to my friends that will continue to go about their daily lives under the heavy weight of this failure of humanity, this is the only way – insufficient, meager, naive – I have to say, “I’m sorry. I love you.”
For now and forever, I’ve loved and will continue to love France. You know, let’s be real here: historically, not always a popular stance, for a host of reasons. France is a complicated place. There are policies and systems in effect over there that I find objectively wrong and blatantly offensive. Even so, and even more so in this moment, I pray with all of my heart for her ability to heal, soothe her citizens and somehow shepherd forward from this indescribably painful watershed moment.
I’ve spent about a cumulative year living in abroad France, and I have spent more than half my life studying the language and culture with a unwavering, rapt attention. My journals are filled with dreams of studying in France, living in France; how the country manifests as my north star symbol of what it means to be literate and cultured. There was never any other destination for me. Just the home of Moliere, Diderot, croissants, bread at every meal, cheese, the New Wave, the magical accent. It set my imagination on fire many years ago and the flame flickers always.
My infatuation of the idea of France hurtled toward unbounding obsession when I walked into my first French language class. From the childhood days of dance class, from my passing absorption of what I would come to know as classically French imagery in TV and films, I knew I’d wanted to tackle this language that sounded like a song to me. Later I would learn that the sing-songy rhythm I adopted was a bit more of an idealized affect than a representation of the real thing, but the illusion of pitch, tone, elocution and animation swirled together in a way that captured my attention.
French played to my strengths and bolstered my already palpable enthusiasm. I felt wildly, effortlessly enthralled by the never-ending lists of vocabulary to memorize, the new grammatical structures, the glimpses at a culture so similar and yet very different from my own. As an avid reader and writer, I looked at this language as a yet another portal into another world. Just as I paged through the pages of A Wrinkle in Time and marveled at the transformative narrative power of tesseracts, I looked to French as a fenetre ouverte peering onto new, verdant landscapes.
One of the reasons I love to write is that I love language. It’s also why I love to sing, why I took to performing on stage at a young age. That sort of creativity magnifies the very particular beauty of the shape of things, the texture of words on your tongue when you belt out a gaudy show tune, the shape of your vowels when carefully vocalizing an Italian aria, or you when recite a French poem for the first time, legs trembling and fumbling at the phonetics. Wanting to imitate and improve, constantly wanting to sound better and ameliorate the beauty of the words is what it’s all about.
There are few grades I remember as vividly as my first C in French. My error was common and rampant through the assessment. I learned the hard way what I should have learned in my English classes long ago: you can only conjugate one verb in relation to a single object or subject. I forever flailed in my math classes and never once did attempt at getting to the bottom of a mishap in a similar way. I approached my French language learning with an endearing (I like to think) preciousness that endures today. I looked to the daily teachings as a form of gospel and slurped it all up with a spoon. As I’ve moved through high school, college and in the working world, I’ve seen an earnestness emerge that often stands in place for perfection. I might not be most proficient or talented when it comes to my passion, but I am enthusiastic. Noticeably enthusiastic. I bruise like a peach when I feel like I can’t keep up, but I try my best to tread in the tide no matter what.
Mostly, falling in love with French was easy because I didn’t have a reason. It’s easy to dance along with the music inside your head. It’s easy to move with the rhythm of a language that still calms me when I feel chaotic, that led me to a country that provided me with some of the most beautiful moments of my life so far.
I made a vow to myself at 13 that I would become fluent in French. Staring down at the blue and white textbook, adorned with cute fleur de lys, it stirred up a certain determination in me that I’ve come to know well. It surfaced again when I knew I would study abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France. It smacked me upside the head when I knew immediately upon my return from 4 months in sun-soaked Provence that I would return. It charged me forward again when I moved to Grenoble, France.
This determination is a drug. It comes in spurts and charges my batteries, reminds me I have a say and I have a strong will. I lose that in the office. I fear my strong-willed nature at work. I’m a bit indignant by nature and that has hurt me more than propelled me forward in my foray into the corporate world. I love having a job. I love working with others. As in everything, there are drawbacks, and I am a firm believer that living to work scales back the fortitude of my character, for better or for worse.
As everyone I know remembers exactly where they were on September 11th, unfortunately must November 13th exist as a flashbulb memory doused in blood. It is painful for a member of any nation; for a human anywhere, to endure a pain that gripping, immediate. An existential pain that ripples through to the wide reaches of the global community, inspiring reactions of all kinds and of varying levels of taste.
140 character diatribes from scholars and the misinformed, thinkpieces full of wisdom; missives of hatred; tomes of solidarity. Everyone has a say. I don’t know what to say other than, there’s not really anything to say. I pray for my friends. I pray for France. I pray for humanitarianism. I pray that the lights continue to shine in the dark to lead the way and something will happen in my lifetime, or in a lifetime in the near future that corrodes this hate. I will pray. I am not religious, but I believe in hope. I believe in people. I believe in the good that exists.
I am a grandchild of Holocaust survivors. A large number of my father’s family resides in Israel, where terror attacks are not the exception but the rule. In visiting Israel, in making connections with Israelis my age, in learning more about my past and where I come from, the only tools I’ve found useful in trying to process these situations are empathy and education. I am careful to check my privilege. I may kvetch, I may whine (a lot), I may find frustrations. But recognizing the luck and love I’ve experienced in my life thus far…it’s overwhelming. It’s something I try to do every day, but often daily gripes get in the way. But how can I deepen my empathy? What is the path to a better education, a way to help others more than myself?
Empathy and education. Learn from others. Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone enters every day with a different struggle, no matter how large or small.
Within me, France ignites a joie de vivre that will leave me forever endeared to the soil, to the way of life it promotes. At the same time, I’ve seen first hand the grave injustices suffered by minorities in their deeply nationalistic environment. Just as I remember reading poetry with my classmates and feeling lost in a charged moment, a moment unlike I would experience on my home turf; I equally as easily recall a hushed conversation with my Chabad host organizer in Grenoble about the rampant discrimination as a Jew in France. There are so many shades of gray and I have such a small window of experience. But it’s those personal experiences that inform my empathy, and I will continue to show my support for France, show my support for Israel, pray for those in need. It’s the very least I can do.
What a month it’s been! The whole city lights up with wild and happy energy during the dog days of summer, and happy music is in order. I’ve been to a few shows (including a massive one in Grant Park, you know the one), so here are a few picks that I’ve been digging this month.
He was a sheer delight to behold at the ‘Palooza (ugh, whatever, that’s what I’m calling it. Feel about it as you will). Layered, lovely, catchy country melodies played at lightning speed. Country for those who often find themselves in the category of “liking everything but”.
Sylvan Esso, “Uncatena”
I fell head over heels for this duo after seeing them live. Amelia Meath is a small wonder on stage, dancing it out with silly glee. DJ Nicholas Sanborn is a magnetic presence with limbs seemingly constructed of silly putty. Great grooves, a blissfully cool presentation…there’s a lot to adore with these two. “Uncatena” is a track buried deep in their self-titled release, but it’s sweet unfurling of a would be long-distance love affair makes the heart twinge in precisely the right way.
Skylar Spence, “Can’t You See”
Saint Pepsi is no more. Well, sort of. My DJ crush forcibly switched monikers earlier this year (natch, corporate America) and re-emerged as the ever-suave Prom King, Skylar Spence. This cheeky ode to a little self-adoration is pure delight. Get on board. He’s a fun one.
Say what you will about these British rockers, this 1995 record is rollicking, smart, arena rock complete with perfect soaring choruses, riffs for days, and the classic single that justifies the bravado of the Gallagher brothers, “Wonderwall”. The re-mastered edition has 40 tracks. It’s a tall order, but a thoroughly gratifying one.
That’s what I’ve been loving lately. How about you? Lemme know (comment away).
All things yes.
It’s been a long time. Yeah, it really has. But, there are forever a million tunes to develop grade school-level intense crushes on, so let’s get to it.
I’ve been on a shameless EDM kick lately. It started with the Electric Beach Event at theWit downtown a few weeks ago, and I’ve been scouring the web for beat-heavy tracks to keep the momentum going. A few happy highlights are below.
I met LoveTaps and had a cool conversation with them at Electric Beach (more to come). Their sound is thoughtful, cool and fast enough to keep an EDM crowd on their toes.
On to the Frenchie stuff. I have a few mixes, old and new, from Yelle and Stromae below. Yelle is a badass French rapper I’m sure I’ve gushed over before. Her songs are wildly funny, aggressively catchy and unabashedly strange, in the very best way. Madeon’s mix of “Que Veux Tu” is sparkly, pretty dance music taken to the hilt. I adore it.
Stromae. Where to begin? This 30 year old Belgian singer/composer/rapper has taken my music-loving heart hostage. I first heard of him in France – his breakout hit, “Alors en Dance” was everywhere when I lived in Grenoble a few ears back. He’s a mega star in Europe and elsewhere, for very good reason. Listening to these re-imaginings of his already innovative tunes is beyond delightful. Get to it!
Chicago’s been brighter and sunnier this past week or so, a very welcome reprieve. Sunnier weather calls for a change in song selection, so here’s what I’ve been enjoying of late. Hope you’re enjoying winter! And as always, let me know what you’re listening to.
“Cheap Sunglasses” by RAC ft. Matthew Kona
I’m a huge fan of RAC remixes, especially Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zero’s “Home” and Phoenix’s “Armistice”. This bright, poppy tune is synth pop gem.
“Instant Crush” by Daft Punk ft. Julian Casablancas
I’m not entirely sold on Random Access Memories, I’ve fallen for this track very recently. The fuzzy, auto-tuned vocals mixed with a criminally catchy chorus makes for a perfect “yearning for spring” single.
“By the Throat” by CHVRCHES
Ah, CHVRCHES. This is serious pop with a winning hook (“All that’s golden is never real…”). It’s moody, perfect break-up music, lifted up by some Casio-esque synth piano magic.
Monday music made easy! I’m writing a review of this fella’s album for QuipMag.com, and he’s a great listen. He sounds like Sondre Lerche with a country twang, with twinges of Bon Iver wistfulness swirled in for good measure.