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Goodbye WordPress.com… March 5, 2011

Posted by ashiah in Uncategorized.
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…hello, WordPress.org! I decided to make use of a domain I’ve been sitting on for years (forgot I was paying for it), so for now the new blog will be located at ExtraSugarExtraSalt.com. I decided not to import old posts from this blog as they are pretty old (about two years old now), so I’m just going to leave this blog and all its old posts here and start from scratch at the new blog. So long, Choke!

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Best of 2010 January 6, 2011

Posted by ashiah in Music.
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About a year or so ago, when music retailer DotShop decided to shut down, they posted a condescending note on their site about how piracy killed their business and that we were all going to burn in hell. Now that was two years ago. The year 2010 was the first year where I didn’t buy a single CD. Of course, most of my peers had stopped years ago. But there were a lot of factors for why I stopped this year (well, just one). The major factor for my decrease in buying/listening to music was my commute to and from work. I use to spend that time listening to music, now I spend that time catching up on books. So although I got caught up on books in 2010, I fell a little behind on music.

So, the following “best of” list is probably a not-so accurate reflection of 2010 highlights from the experimental/electronic music sphere. In fact, as I’m typing this I’m listening to EmeraldsDoes It Look Like I’m Here, and it is so good that it’s making me angry. If I discovered the album a couple of weeks ago it would proudly be sitting amongst the selection below. But no, I’m listening to it in 2011, and now everything is ruined. Horribly, horribly ruined!

As usual, for the two of you who care, you can download clips of all the music featured here. And now that we have that out of the way, let’s begin:

Best Albums of 2010

10. Marnie Stern – Marnie Stern
This album didn’t appeal to me as quickly as her last album did, but gradually as the album grew on me I realized that this album is probably her sanest one yet. With In Advance of the Broken Arm being all over the place, and This Is It… being more restrained, Marnie Stern straddles the two perfectly.
9. Wildbirds & Peacedrums – Rivers
I just discovered this duo this year and had no idea what to expect, but I figured they couldn’t be bad if they were on Leaf. Rivers combines two EPs they released earlier in the year, Iris and Retina. The album starts with Retina, which is full of icy, operatic concerto type stuff, and then morphs into Iris, which is more harmonious, upbeat and strangely church-like. A bit of a delightful surprise really.
8. Cocorosie – Grey Oceans
Ugly ass cover aside, this is probably Cocorosie’s best album. I have never been the biggest fan of theirs, but Grey Oceans shows growth and maturity.
7. Onra – Long Distance
I always felt bad that I never got around to giving proper props to 2008’s Chinoiseries. Loved that album, but never got around to writing about it. Even 2009’s 1.0.8 was pretty good, but was overshadowed by better albums. Now I finally have an Onra album I can properly tout. Where Chinoiseries heavily sampled old Vietnamese records collected at flea shops, Long Distance captures old school ’80s and ’90s R&B. The true winner here is “Sitting Back,” which I think is one of the best dance tracks of 2010.
6. Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me
Sometimes longer isn’t always better, and Joanna’s double CD album might have kept some at bay due to its length. And, OK, maybe I didn’t listen to CD 2 that often either, but Joanna’s voice is at her best here, and “Have One On Me” is one of her best songs.
5. Amiina – Puzzle
Amiina has always been that other Icelandic band, the one that’s not Sigur Ros or Mum. But Puzzle showcases how the quartet definitely deserves more recognition. Here they pretty much pick up where Mum left off (before the twins left), and it’s slightly more accessible than their last album.
4. Hauschka – Foreign Landscapes
This was my first time discovering Hauschka, who is actually composer Volker Bertelmann. Here he creates good ol’ classical avant garde electronic/classical music woven with piano solos and dounced with some overdramatic cello action. The result is what one would predictably expect — a hauntingly beautiful record.
3. Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal
The track “Returnal” pretty much makes this album, and it’s my absolute favorite track of 2010. The rest of the album is a spacey walk through undiscovered landscapes.
2. Caribou – Swim
After seeing Caribou live over the summer, Swim has been ruined for me. Swim sounds so much better live, so I guess I’ve been spoiled. But nevertheless, it’s still a solid album and a great reflection of 2010.
1. World’s End Girlfriend – Seven Idiots
Seven Idiots was an album more admired than loved, at least by the people who heard it. Here, WEG stepped outside his comfort zone as he blended both his World’s End Boyfriend and World’s End Girlfriend (and possibly Wonderland Falling Yesterday) counter parts together into this bizarro world. Sometimes he hits the right points and other times it sounds like he’s over-aiming. But what’s amazing about everything he has created is that you get a sense that something truly exceptional is being created before you, something that, even if it’s not understandable, deserves props just for having gone there. You get a sense that this kinetic world is just the start of something really remarkable.
Honorable Mentions
Afriampo – We Are Uchu No Ko
Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma
Kemialliset Ystävät – Ullakkopalo
Max Richter – Infra
Sleigh Bells – Treats
Glasser – Ring

Best Tracks of 2010

The best tracks list highlights songs from albums NOT featured on the best album list.

10. Aaron Martin – Water Tongue
This sleepy track is the standout on Worried About The Fire.

9. Afriampo – Sunwave Dance
Clocking in around 12 minutes, this epic track is Afriampo at their best. It’s also somewhat bittersweet considering the band is now broken up, so it’s pretty much their rock-out swansong.

8. Bjork – To Lee, With Love
This new track was included in a short film dedicated to late fashion designer Alexander McQueen. The track is clearly a leftover from Volta, but why it was left off the album is beyond me. It’s one of the strongest Bjork tracks from the Volta era by far.

7. Bonobo – The Keeper (featuring Andreya Triana)
This laid-back sultry track (thanks to Andreya’s vocals) was the highlight of the OK but otherwise forgettable Black Sands.

6. Flying Lotus – Computer Face // pure Being
I wasn’t a big fan of Los Angles, but Cosmogramma was a delightful surprise, and this particular track was the highlight.

5. M.I.A – Illygirl
Although I admired /\/\Y/\ more than I actually liked it, this track which, although isn’t all that special, was my jam all summer.

4. Santanicpornocultshop – [r.I.P] Tide
Known for their bizarre, experimental sound, Arkhaiomelisidonophunikheratos actually showed the band making an attempt toward unconventional pop. This track has the lead singer (don’t know her name) whispering the lyrics to Missy Elliot‘s “Get Ur Freak On” over a whimsical string chorus.

3. Talk Normal – In a Strangeland
Standout from the underwhelming ALBUM TITLE. (Note: I can’t find the name of the album. Sorry, I’m tired.)

2. Under Byen – Konstant
Alt er tabt was pretty good, but this quaint track is the highlight and best captures the band.

1. Matthew Dear – Slowdance
I’m actually still in the middle of Black City. The album still hasn’t sunk in enough for me, but “Slowdance” is a gorgeous track that kind of reminds of David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes.”

Nation Novel Writing Month 2010 RECAP December 10, 2010

Posted by ashiah in Books.
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I feel like I’m still recovering from this year’s NanoWriMo. Unlike past years, I actually finished early this year and completed my 50,000 words two days before deadline. But I wasn’t ecstatic; I didn’t even feel congratulatory. I was just happy it was over. For the first time I actually felt like it was kind of a waste of time this year. Maybe I’m just being hard on myself. Maybe six months from now I’ll look back and see I didn’t write pure crap, but we’ll see.

Title

Untitled

The Synopsis

Oh, boy. OK, so this year I had this great idea to help me write outside my comfort zone. I usually write about lonely 20-something losers who are thrust into bizarre situations, but this year I wanted to do something different. So I set up a challenge for myself: the plan was to randomly pick a photo on Google images and write a novel based on that one photo. Well, on midnight November 1, the photo I randomly selected was of an old woman. So I cheated and picked another picture, which was a picture of a middle-aged woman and child. I decided that I would write a story using these two photos as inspiration.

OK, so the story is about an old, retired nurse who lives with her divorced, unemployed daughter. Helen (the protagonist) is loved and respected in her community through her work at church, and, on the down low, is known as the go-to source for a quick and confidential illegal home abortion. But things spin out of control when one of Helen’s patients dies from a botched abortion, which pisses off a bunch of entitled hicks or something. There’s a subplot of Karen (Helen’s daughter) dealing with being forced to work at Starbucks and her unsuccessful luck in post-divorce dating (I just can’t help writing about losers). Her plot doesn’t really go anywhere, though. The entire novel just sucks, to be honest. I’m not used to writing these domestic drama type stories, but it was good practice I guess.

Excerpt

WARNING! The following excerpt is unedited and is full of typos, grammar mistakes and possibly other things that will make an English teacher cry.

Helen crossed her arms bitterly and continued reading her book. Oh Jerry, she thought. She had known him since he was a boy. Unlike the other young people in the neighborhood, Jerry never left. He got a job, got married and literally moved into the house down the street from where he grew up. He had two daughters, the oldest was 15. Her name was Michelle, a beautiful girl who, unfortunately, was growing up too fast. Helen would often see the girl coming home late at night and coming home early in the morning on a school night. The young girl had been sent away before in the past, but she always came back and never seemed to be redeemed or ready to change her ways. She wasn’t a bad kid by any means. She was smart, made good grades whenever she’s actually in school and overall seemed to have a good head on her shoulders. The problem was that she fell in love. A boy she met at church had completely changed her life. She was infatuated with him and would do anything to be around him, including skipping school and fighting adamantly with her worried parents. Her parents would tell her that she had no idea what love it or what it was like to truly be in love. They told her that she was just a dumb kid doesn’t stupid things that dumb kids always do and then later grow up to regret. But Michelle always persisted. Her love was real, she was not stupid or naïve, nor was she going through some kind of rebellious stage. She loved him more than she should love anyone. How did she know? She just knew, Michell told Helen one day.

“I have never been certain of anything ever in my life,” she spoke to her as if she was already 90 years old. “But I’m certain about this. If I can be certain about anything in my life, I can be certain about him.”

Helen has had her fair share of stubborn youth who swear the world to her about their lives, about their experiences and about how if they do things their way it would turn out much different from when their older counterparts did it. But they always came back, sometimes several years later, holding their caps in their hands as they confess about their horrible youthful ways. These people would usually do this at church on Sunday morning. They would approach the pulpit, head hanging low but spirits high. They had left the church in their young ways, have strayed from the great one and realized they couldn’t go on with their lives without God in their lives again. The church would all echo an “amen, amen” as the former child testified about their wicked ways and how they are now reformed in the name of the most high. The former children would fall on their knees, their palms lifted to the tiled ceiling. “Forgive me, Lord,” they would cry. “If only we had listened.”

The congregation would rejoice but in a manner that suggested a sly bit of passive aggressiveness. They predicted this all along and was now proven right. They felt content with this fact, but would never admit it.

But Helen never felt this way about Michelle. She was different. She could never imagine Michelle being one of those former children who crawled back to their humble upbringings on hands and knees. Michelle knew what she wanted, but her stance wasn’t out of stubbornness. It was a sense of quiet wisdom and knowledge that Helen perceived from Michelle after their first meeting. Helen couldn’t explain why she exactly inferred this theory about Michelle; it was just something she felt, something she felt quite strongly about. Something she knew had to be true because she always trusted her instinct.

Michelle was a smart girl even though on the surface it might not appear so, especially now with her father having to ask Helen again to do her little favor for them. But there was probably much more to the story than she knew.

Satoshi Kon (1963-2010) August 25, 2010

Posted by ashiah in Film.
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You know you’re having a crappy day when one of your favorite directors die on your birthday. Not to make this all about me or anything, but I was so upset to hear that anime director Satoshi Kon (Perfect Blue, Paprika) had passed on August 23. He was only 47.

Perfect Blue

For those unfamiliar with his work, Kon was a mastermind at creating gorgeous, mind-bending animated films that always explored the area of reality, subconsciousness and the blurry lines between the two. Probably the biggest critique against his films are that they’re confusing; the viewer is never 100 percent sure if what’s happening on screen is actually happening. But that sense of mystery, that feeling of being thrown around and being tossed around like a puzzle, is exactly what makes his films so fresh and exciting.

Millennium Actress

Any time I’ve been in a discussion over modern day anime and its faltering place in entertainment (because admit it, most anime sucks), I always make sure to drop Satoshi Kon’s name. He was one of the most important names in anime and was one of the few critically acclaimed directors making anime-for-people-who-don’t-like-anime (alongside the most obvious name dropper — Hayao Miyazaki).

Paranoia Agent

And that’s why it’s incredibly unfortunate to have lost Satoshi Kon. I used to be a serious anime nerd throughout middle school and up into high school, but I grew out of it as I got older. Satoshi Kon was truly the last anime director I truly respected, and after Paprika (check out my review of Paprika here) it truly makes me ponder the future of anime and makes me sad that we’ll never get to see what new directions he would go in. R.I.P.

Best of 2009 December 23, 2009

Posted by ashiah in Music.
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Although I spent most of this year playing catch-up, one thing I’ve noticed within the past couple of weeks as I read all the “Best of the year” features that get published around this time is that 2009 lacked a tremendous amount of consistency. Basically just a bunch of stuff came and went this year, some brilliant and some horrible, and neither made any kind of lasting impression. No new genres were formed, no interesting trends or directions — just a bunch of stuff that came and went. PopMatters explained it best by rambling about all the new electronic artists that emerged this year and then concluded by concluding nothing at all. And Boomkat’s best of 2009 list is so random and baffling, it truly contests what a weird year 2009 was for music (at least for weird, underground experimental music anyway because I know some of you will argue that 2009 was a great year for mainstream pop music).

But anyway, despite the lack of consistency in good music this year, there were the usual golden nuggets. Below I listed my top 10 faves, as well as a few honorable mentions. (I’m throwing this together on the fly, so don’t expect this to be tidy or anything…):


10. Soap & Skin – Lovetune for Vacuum
By far one of my favorite new artists of the year. Soap & Skin is 19-year-old Anja Plasch who makes teenage-dom sound downright scary. Her music is incredibly dark and haunting, plus she has a homepage that creeps me out. Her debut here is a stunning, eclectic mix of piano ballads, glitchy electronics and gothic lullabies. She’s definitely one to watch.
https://www.opendrive.com/files/5919366_ezCZr/03.%20Soap&Skin%20-%20Thanatos.mp3″


9. Fever Ray – Fever Ray
I remember reading an interview with Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer of the The Knife a few years back. Both were hinting at an impending break up, and both were hinting at going separate directions. Although Silent Shout didn’t sound like an album rife with conflict, Fever Ray proved that there was untouched territory The Knife was incapable of reaching together. Fever Ray is darkly moody, yet somewhat playful from afar, and the concoction somehow works.
https://www.opendrive.com/files/5919370_4mytG/08%20I’m%20Not%20Done.mp3″


8. Tyondai Braxton – Central Market
I’ve never been the biggest Battles fan and was unfamiliar with Braxton’s solo work until this little dooby brushed across my radar. After seeing him perform at Warp20 and hearing Bjork rave about Central Market, I became a little eager to hear it for myself. It was nothing what I imagined it to be. Teaming up with an orchestra, Braxton somehow managed to create these sweeping, cathartic showmanship pieces that echoed classic video games and Peter and the Wolf at the same time. I’m a little surprised at the lack of response it received. I mean, Boomkat creams over Cold Cave and completely overlooks this? I just don’t get it.
https://www.opendrive.com/files/5919368_tUEfS/2%20-%20Uffe’s%20Workshop.mp3″


7. World’s End Girlfriend – Air Doll
I think by now we all have a certain level of expectation for WEG, and he never lets us down. This soundtrack for the Japanese film Air Doll incorporates everything we love about WEG, although it doesn’t exactly shatter any new ground or open any new doors. In fact, a few of the songs on here already appeared on earlier WEG releases; either that or his music is starting to blend together. The fact of the matter is this: Whenever World’s End Girlfriend releases an album, he’s in my top 10 automatically, OK? That’s just the way it is.
https://www.opendrive.com/files/5919369_QvQ3S/02%20-%20?????.mp3″


6. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport
The last Fuck Buttons album was able to straddle noise music in a way to constrain it enough for mass appeal. Although songs like “Sweet Love for Planet Earth” were near perfect, I just couldn’t make it through the whole album. Fuck Buttons’s sophomore effort is able to step over the flaws of their first album and create an album of nothing but fizzy pieces that grow and explode in interesting ways. It’s no longer noise music anymore, but it’s a step toward perfect controlled chaos.
https://www.opendrive.com/files/5919367_C2qC1/05%20Phantom%20Limb.mp3″


5. Shogun Kunitoki – Tasankokaiku
Fonal does it again. I don’t think it’s possible for this label to release something I don’t like. But anyway, this Finnish rock ensemble has an interesting approach to music. For one, it wasn’t until recently that I learned Shogun Kunitoki is a band and not just one guy, because they definitely sound like a one-man effort. They kind of remind me of WEG if he was inspired by early M83. The band knows how to create long, drawn-out dizzying songs that never end but just keep getting better and better.
https://www.opendrive.com/files/5919445_fEwX3/shogun%20kunitoki%20-%20vinonaamakasio%20-%2005%20-%20holvikirkko.mp3″


4. Micachu and the Shapes – Jewellery
A great debut from a band that shows a lot of promise. Lead singer Mica Levi snarls over a mess of sounds as she hammers away on a ukulele . The band definitely isn’t short on ideas and they throw every last one of them on here. It’s a delightful, chaotic quirky mess.

https://www.opendrive.com/files/5919446_ahUGF/05-micachu-curly_teeth.mp3″


3. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
Ahh, yes. The Animal Collective album that everyone can like. Everyone has pretty strong opinions about the New York band who often straddle brilliance and obnoxiousness to a point that no middle man can fully appreciate them. Luckily, they somehow were able to create an album that had every ounce of their personality but was constructed in a more accessible way. I mean, how can anyone not like “My Girls”?

Surely you’ve heard “My Girls” by now. I’m saving my bandwidth.


2. Clark – Totems Flare
I’m calling it: Clark is the 00’s Aphex Twin. Of course, I’m not the first person to say that. There’s no other electronic artist that I get truly excited about, and Totems Flare is a plethora of everything that I like about electronic music. In a time when most electronic music lack cohesiveness, Clark seems to be where I imagine it should be, and yet, it’s another album that I thought was widely ignored, which is unfortunate. Awesome album.
https://www.opendrive.com/files/5919447_g8DNj/10.%20Suns%20Of%20Temper.mp3″


1. Ben Frost – By the Throat
Well this wasn’t a surprise, wasn’t it? Since Ben Frost’s debut album Theory of Machines was my favorite album of 2007, I was wary if he could match the greatness of that album. But one thing Ben Frost proved with this album is that he can say so much with so little. Most of the tracks sound like they go nowhere at all, while others explode into this orgy of violent noise. Although a lot of that kinetic energy has been dialed down a notch or two since Theory of Machines, that haunting and brooding energy he’s known for is still here. There wasn’t much debating with this choice. Easily the best album of the year by far.
https://www.opendrive.com/files/5919448_uUjnl/10-ben_frost_-_through_the_roof_of_your_mouth-zzzz.mp3″

Honorable Mentions
Bat for Lashes – Two Suns
Biblio – Ambivalence Avenue
Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
St. Vincent – Actor
Animal Hospital – Memory
The Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
Cortney Tidwell – Boys
Cloaks – Versus Grain

Most disappointing albums of the year
Mum – Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know
I was fine with their new direction in Go Smear The Poison Ivy, but this was too much. They’re no longer the same band anymore.

Rainbow Arabia – Kabukimono
I raved about them last year, but the duo who showed their inner tribal weirdo side on their EP decided to show their inner island/cutesy side for this album. It wasn’t completely terrible, but it was missing that element of excitement.

Little Boots – Hands
I raved about this artist last year, too. Unfortunately, I didn’t predict her inevitable future as a watered down Europop star. And if you think that was bad, “Stuck On Repeat” was revised and given a slightly slower, less awesome edit. Bleh!

Best songs of 2009
(Usually the “best songs” list is a way to highlight great songs that didn’t always appear on great albums. The rule here is that I don’t include any artists mentioned on the best albums list. Oh, and don’t pay too much attention to the ranking. This was pretty much just thrown together.)

10. Lusine – Two Dots
Lusine is one of the last few respectable IDM artists still around, and I liked their last album, although I can’t remember what it was called. Their newest album started off with this little gem right here. I don’t know why the rest of the album didn’t quite gel for me.
https://www.opendrive.com/files/5919449_ZYhIk/02.%20Lusine%20-%20Two%20Dots.mp3″

9. Hanne Hukkelberg – Blood from a Stone
I stumbled across Hanne Hukkelberg after getting her mixed up with electronic artist Hannu. But her album Blood From A Stone was surprisingly good, and it had this little number on it, which simply melted my heart the first time I heard it. It has this ’80s nostalgic vibe to it that’s so disgustingly sweet.
https://www.opendrive.com/files/5919504_0IJhj/02%20-%20blood%20from%20a%20stone.mp3″

8. Nynke Laverman – De Untdekker
Laverman is another artist I discovered this year. Her album had some hits and misses, but none of them stood out as much as this sharp album opener.
https://www.opendrive.com/files/5919505_3YNtS/01-nynke_laverman-de_untdekker.mp3″

7. Major Lazer – When You Hear The Bassline
This collaboration record made by Diplo and Switch had plenty of party tracks, but this one stood out on pure energy alone. When that bassline kicks in…well, let’s just say the title is appropriate.
https://www.opendrive.com/files/5919506_urds3/02%20-%20when%20you%20hear%20the%20bassline%20feat.%20ms.%20thing.mp3″

6. St. Vincent – Just The Same But Brand New
I liked Actor a lot more than her debut, and was pleased with most of the songs on that album, but this beautiful lullaby-esque track rarely left my iPod.
https://www.opendrive.com/files/5919507_LQJre/10-st._vincent-just_the_same_but_brand_new.mp3″

5. Telepathe – Chrome’s On It
I don’t know why I was so obsessed with this song. It’s a little amateurish, and the song doesn’t live up to its first minute, and yet I consistently jammed to this song all year. I guess the flaws give it a little something extra I guess?
https://www.opendrive.com/files/5919508_VK7Qg/Telepathe%20-%2002%20-%20Chrome’s%20On%20It.mp3″

4. Soap & Skin – DDMMYYYY
OK, so I’m breaking the rules a little bit here. Although I included Soap & Skin in the best album list (and included a clip of her song “Thantos”), I wanted to include this track here because it really stood out on the album (I didn’t include it above because I didn’t think it represented the overall personality of the album). “DDMMYYYY” is a frantic, glitchy mess that easily stands out amongst the gothic piano ballads that surrounds it.
https://www.opendrive.com/files/5919545_hw3pu/12.%20Soap&Skin%20-%20DDMMYYYY.mp3″

3. The Dirty Projectors – Stillness in the Move
Yes. It’s good.
Sorry, saving bandwidth.

2. Kap Bambino – Red Sign
This French duo is absolutely insane, and this track from their EP is just plain awesome. I also like that they’re stepping away that Miss Kittin and the Hacker-esque sound they had going on a year or two back. Can’t wait for them to release an album already.
https://www.opendrive.com/files/5919546_CHngl/Kap%20Bambino%20-%2001%20-%20Red%20Sign.mp3″

1. Florence and the Machine – Drumming Song
Bleh. Despite all the hype, Lungs was a mess that I couldn’t connect with. “Drumming Song,” however, is near perfect. It starts off strong and continues to one-up itself as it continues to climb up a seemingly unclimbable mountain.
https://www.opendrive.com/files/5919547_UlQnq/Florence%20+%20The%20Machine%20-%2007%20-%20Drumming%20Song.mp3″

Quick Nano update December 22, 2009

Posted by ashiah in Books.
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Since I never got around to completing Week 3 or Week 4 of my Nano update, just wanted to say real quick that I won. Woohoo! Definitely wasn’t easy though. But oh well, that’s in the past now. Now all I have to do is pretend that novel never existed…

National Novel Writing Month: Week 2 November 19, 2009

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Thank goodness for the four-day weekend I’m getting next week because I fell extremely behind last week. As of now, I’m only sitting at 17,000 words.

Last Saturday I hit the library early and wrote all day. I was cruisin’, let me tell you. The story actually started to get good. So after a successful day of writing on Saturday, I went back to the library on Sunday to pick up where I left off. Unfortunately, whatever magic writer energy I had on Saturday didn’t generate on Sunday. So the story, once again, slid into a tragic mess. But there’s still hope. I refuse to give up!

One interesting occurrence that happened last week was that I realized I absolutely loathed one of my characters. The character Jillian, who is the main character’s best friend, became so obnoxious I decided to take a literary dump on her. Case in point:

She quit her job and dyed her hair pitch black, which drooped in front of her face, covering her eyes. She stalked passed Café Express and glared at all the faceless people inside. She pressed her forehead against the window and slowly started scratching her nails against the glass, much to the displeasure of the latte-drinking, Macbook owners who looked at her over their laptop screens with fear and annoyance.

“OK, miss, move along,” said the screechy voice Café Express worker. He came out with a broom and proceeded to jab her with it. Jillian hissed and stalked away.

You see, Jillian used to be perfectly sane and normal, but now she’s just a plot device prop. If I later have to start killing off characters, this bitch will be first.

This week’s worst sentence:
It not only was a little out of character, it was completely out of character for her.

Overall score for the week:
D-

National Novel Writing Month 2009: Week 1 November 12, 2009

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nano_08_winner_smallSo the annual month-long writing exercise began on November 1. My procrastination this year is so bad it’s not even funny. While last year was an often frustrating yet interesting writing experience, this year is just pure pain. Horrible, horrible pain. Just looking at my novel sends me into fists of rage. I hate it ever so much.

Not to say last year’s Nano novel was any better. 2008’s Millie and I was a bizarre comedy/surrealist novel that had literally, like, five plots. But what was most rewarding about the whole experience was that I taught myself there was no such thing as writer’s block. “Writer’s block” is just an excuse for lazy, procrastinating writers who don’t know how to sit still for an hour and just WRITE without thinking. I was able to accomplish this during last year’s Nano. Although the novel was far from publishable, it did have tiny morsels of brilliance in it that made me smile when I went back and reread it months later.

But this year? For some reason I’m not doing it right. I keep telling myself to stop thinking, to stop worrying about plot holes, and to stop worrying about making everything neat. But my brain won’t listen to me. So now I have an incredibly neat novel that is incredibly boring. Meet Untitled Nano Novel 2009:

Plot (Is subject to change): Lisa is an uptight, humorless recent grad who has a bunch of degrees under her belt but no job. Desperate, she starts applying for crappy jobs at big coffee chains until she meets a strange man who tells her she has a personality malfunction. He tells her she’s too normal and boring and that he runs a business that will help change her, which will better her life somehow. She and her best friend Jillian make appointments with the stranger.

Excerpt: (Nothing particularly special about this excerpt, but it does have the least amount of typos and grammar mistakes.)

“What?” a voice shouted out from behind the door.

“It’s me. Lisa.”

There was a brief pause before the door swiftly swung open. A little yappy dog ran out and started to run around Lisa’s feet.

“Damn it, Skittles, get back in here,” said a voice. Seconds later a frizzy blond hair girl emerged wearing a leopard print bathrobe. Her makeup was still smeared on from the night before. She leaned against the door frame and kicked the dog aside with her hosed foot. “Hey,” she said with her smoker’s voice. “What’s going on with you, Tighty?”

“Tighty” was the nickname she had for Lisa, which was supposed to be short for “uptight.” This nickname infuriated Lisa, but mostly because she found it neither funny nor clever.

“Things are fine,” Lisa hesitated. “Hey, I’m going to a party tonight. I was wondering if you had anything that I could borrow?”

The blonde neighbor shifted feet. “Well, what are you looking for?”

“Well…” Lisa eyed her neighbor’s gaudy leopard bathrobe and started to regret asking for help. What if her neighbor hands her something really sleazy, she thought. “I guess I just need a nice top and a skirt.”

The neighbor stared off into the distance for a second, silently going through her mental inventory of trashy clothes before inviting Lisa in.

Lisa carefully stepped into the apartment and closed the door as quietly as possible. This wasn’t her first time being inside her neighbor’s apartment, and the place always looked a mess. But this particular time it looked as if her neighbor had company over. Plates and empty cups and wine bottles covered the kitchen counter. As they walked through the living room, Lisa saw a man sleeping face down on the couch. Yolanda always seemed to have strange men over all the time. Ever the judgmental type, Lisa peered at the sleeping man and shuddered.

Worst sentence (so far): Keep in mind, one of the rules of Nano is that you do NOT self-edit. This is like torture for any writer. Without edits, you end up with gems like these:

She was feeling momentarily relieved but also a sense of worry.

A SENSE OF WORRY?? *beats self with a thesaurus*

Overall score for the week: F-

Hopefully things will go better this week. Of course I’m already 10,000 words behind. Not to mention it’s now the middle of Week 2, and I have yet to write anything.

Miho Hatori’s “New Optimism” at Market Hotel, plus other stuff October 11, 2009

Posted by ashiah in Music.
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miho1Excuse the lateness of this post. You would think a review of Cibo Matto’s Miho Hatori’s new side project she performed at Market Hotel about a month ago would excite me enough to post all about it the day after it happened, but…eh, things happen. Plus, I’ve been busy with moving recently, and I have limited access to internet since the move (and I’m currently typing this at a crowded cafe). But anyway, enough excuses. On Sept 16 I went down to see Miho Hatori perform a new side project called New Optimism. Because it was her debut it was kind of a big deal, but most of the crowd of younger 20-something college students seemed more excited for Javelin. Hmmm, indeed.

miho2But then again, Cibo Matto’s last album was released in 1999 when a lot of these kids were probably still in middle school or elementary school. So I guess they were bit unaware of Miho’s underground legendary status. I mean, Miho performing new material for the first time is kind of a big deal, and yet there I was in this drab venue. But regardless, by the time she took the stage, it was truly an amazing thing to see. The trademark Cibo Matto sing-song-y rap is still there, but this time over chaotic, harsh tones that neither Miho nor Cibo Matto member Yuka Honda were ever known for — not in even in their solo gigs. On stage was just her, a dude with a guitar and a laptop that sat on the floor. Behind her she had a couple of tribal dancers that stomped around. It’s been awhile since the show, so the exact details of the show aren’t as fresh anymore. But the whole thing made me excited for whatever new releases are imminent. It’s a complete departure from Miho’s solo album “Ecdysis” And it’s about time to see some raw, tribal energy from her. As she was packing up her stuff, I was too shy to ask if she was releasing an album soon. Le sigh. I guess we shall see.

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OK, and on to other stuff. I just about died when I was this over at Bolachas today:
weg_airdoll
Everyone who knows me knows I’m huge fan of World’s End Girlfriend, and so any new release from him is always met with extreme jubilation. So you can imagine my reaction when I heard that he composed the soundtrack for the Japanese film Air Doll. Haven’t heard it yet but I will soon. Other releases I’m excited about:

Ben Frost – By the Throat
His last album “Theory of Machines” was my favorite album of 2007. The Milk Factory liked it. *crosses fingers*

Hudson Mohawke – Butter
I think this is his first full-length album. I know he’s released a lot of EPs, singles and stuff. I actually saw him play a free show during Warp20 here in New York. Good stuff.

TO KILL A PETTY BOURGEOISIE – Marlone
I always liked their last album “The Patron,” even if it did fly a bit under the radar. I’m hearing good things about this new one.


Klimek – Movies is Magic

I’m trying to remember which list I had their album “Music To Fall Asleep” on; I think 2007’s list. Oh yeah! I didn’t make a list for ’08. I’m such a disgrace, but still…keep on plugging! But anyway….yeah, yeah…excited, blah blah.

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And more news! I just remembered that NaNoWriMo starts again next month. I’m definitely doing it again this year as I had a blast with it last year. Once again, it’ll probably effect my (non)blogging, but we shall see. Hopefully I can keep writing at least one blog a week. Damn my procrastinating ways!

Spotlight on…Joseph Gordon Levitt August 6, 2009

Posted by ashiah in Film.
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No music post! In fact, I’m just gonna stop mentioning it. Anyway, I saw 500 Days of Summer this weekend and freakin’ loved it. I won’t bore you with a review. In fact, here’s my review: Go see it.

Anyway, what I really want to write about is underrated actor Joseph Gordon Levitt who’s one of the few young actors today who’s consistently good at picking interesting roles. Levitt is absolutely charming in “500 Days…” as Tom, a greeting card writer who believes in love, destiny, long walks on the beach and other ooey gooey love stuff. So of course he falls in love with a girl who believes in the complete opposite, and shockingly their relationship does not turn out well.

Levitt, who’s best known for starring in the sitcom Third Rock from the Sun (and so is no stranger to impeccable comic timing), is delightful in light-hearted scenes but can easily switch it up for moodier moments. In fact, based on his past recent films it can be easy to forget he did mostly comedic roles when he was younger up until Mysterious Skin. In fact, “Mysterious Skin” was the first film where Levitt stepped up and became a bona fide actOR. Unfortunately it seems like the rest of the world is just now taking notice. Let’s look back at some of Levitt’s amazing roles — proof that he’s cementing himself as one of today’s best actors:


Mysterious Skin (2004)
This is Levitt’s first serious role after “3rd Rock from the Sun” (unless you count Manic, which I don’t since I still haven’t seen it yet). The film, about a gay teen hustler dealing with the affects of child abuse, was a jarring change from light-hearted teen comedies (10 Things I Hate About You) and sitcoms (Roseanne) he was known for. After seeing the film, I officially knew he was someone I needed to keep my eye on. Levitt has this way about acting that comes across as “dry.” His characters seem aloof, detached and bored even. But they always having something deeper inside them that’s causing them to close themselves up.


Brick (2005)
Even though “Mysterious Skin” caught my attention, Brick is what caught others, and by “others” I mean indie film nerds. But hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. In “Brick,” Levitt plays Brandon, a high schooler who has to uncover the mystery of his girlfriend’s death. The whole film was a modern spin on classic noir films, and Levitt’s portrayl of Brandon as a determined wannabe detective has just the right amount of dry charm and emotional flaws. He’s able to do an amazing balancing act between the two.


Havoc (2005)
Oh, boy. Now this was a piece of crap. But hey, every actors gets their tomato splat every now and then. The film, which is best known for Anne Hathaway‘s nude scenes, is about a bunch of naive white middle class high schoolers who try to be “black,” aka fly gangsta pimps. They then get a rude awakening when some real Latino gangs start injecting some real-world into their make believe one. I actually like to pretend this movie was never made. I’m sure Levitt does, too.


The Lookout (2007)
This overlooked gem is about a young guy suffering from memory loss. He’s persuaded to be the lookout at a bank robbery by a group of charming peers who use him and take advantage of his mental condition. Besides the somewhat major plot hole (how is someone with short term memory loss allowed to drive a car?) the film is an incredibly moving character study that showed Levitt stretching further from “dry” characters and showing a bit more vulnerability.


Stop-Loss (2008)
I actually wrote a review about this here. Levitt plays just a supporting character, but he does a good job at playing a young, reckless soldier serving in the Iraq war and dealing with post-partum depression. Not a stand out film, but an interesting film to watch on a boring Sunday afternoon if you’re in the mood to debate politics afterward.

After “Stop-Loss,” Levitt started taking more mainstream roles. I haven’t seen a lot of them (I don’t think most of them have been released yet), but maybe this means there’s about to be an explosion of Levitt-mania. Can you imagine that? Vanity Fair kicking Shia Lebeouf aside and declaring Levitt the new Tom Hanks? It definitely appears that way. But Levitt’s success and mainstream recognition has been long coming. Let’s just hope the attention comes from “500 Days” and not G.I. Joe.