Month: December 2005

Top Ten Songs Of 2005

This is the one time of the year when I wish that I listened to whatever the radio mainstream is. Not because I find anything particularly attractive about the mainstream, but rather because I miss the way radio sounded during the holidays when I was a kid. As a Top 40 radio listener, I kept the radio on approximately 23 hours a day during Christmas break. The stations would play all the best music of the year, generally culminating in countdowns of the top 50, 75, or 100 songs of the year as New Year’s Eve got closer. Prince, Michael Jackson, Van Halen, The Police, Robert Plant, Hall & Oates. They all got played, for better or for worse, together. But I don’t listen to mainstream, pop music, so making my own year-end lists will have to do.
2005 was an outstanding year in music, in my most humble opinion. Where MP3 blogs and the iTunes Music Store changed the way people listened to and obtained music the past two years, 2005 was the year that podcasting became a prime source for discovering new music. Despite the fears of the idiots who run the recording industry, the Internet and its tools have made it much easier for music fans to discover new music, which ultimately means more money for bands and labels, even if there are a few illegally obtained tracks along the way.
Here is my top ten list, with a couple special wrinkles. You’ll understand the wrinkles as you work your way through the list, should you choose to accept that assignment.

10 – “My Doorbell” – The White Stripes. A bold offering from rock’s most dangerous band. Like nothing I’ve ever heard from the red, black, and white ones. Bouncy. Buoyant. Light-hearted. Fun, even. As I’ve said many times, I didn’t love everything on the Stripes’ latest album, but I loved the fact they took some tremendous chances. Bonus: “Spit It Out” – Brendan Benson. 70s AM rock, garage punk, and power pop combined into one marvelous, easy-to-digest package. I tremble with excitement to hear what Jack White and Benson have in store for us on their 2006 collaboration.
9 – “Jacksonville” – Sufjan Stevens. Another bold artist, Sufjan’s Illinois disk was loaded with smart, majestic, up-lifting tracks of shocking depth and meaning. It was tough to pick which one was my favorite, but “Jacksonville” fills that role nicely. Bonus: “Emily Kane” – Art Brut. Where Sufjan is dense and complex, Art Brut is raw and basic. But no less interesting or entertaining.
8 – “Sweet Troubled Soul” – Stellastarr*. They may not be critical darlings, but I dug their chili this year. “Forest Fire” – Athlete. A wonderful B-side that I played almost as much as any A-side this year.
7 – “Black and White Town” – Doves. A little “Motown by way of Joe Jackson” track that highlighted Doves’ most excellent disk Some Cities. Bonus: “Love Steals Us From Loneliness” – Idlewild. Another UK band that emerged right around 2000 and is still doing fine work.
6 – “Kissing Families” – Silversun Pickups. Full of staggering changes in tone, tempo, and feelings, a song that proves the alternative rock world is the best place to find emotionally raw music. Bonus: “California” – Low. Clearly we need more all-Mormon trios from Minnesota. This song sounds like a sunny, warm spring day.
5 – “Give It Up” – 8MM. The sexiest song of the year. Almost too sexy. Bonus Tracks: “Slayer” – Giant Drag. Second sexiest track of the year. “Rebellion” – The Arcade Fire. Technically a 2004 song, it was released as a single this year, earning it mention here. The best track off last year’s landmark disk Funeral.
4 – “16 Military Wives” – The Decembrists. The most enjoyable and entertaining anti-war song of all-time. The Decembrists lead a group of highly literate, indie bands that became the darlings of the blogosphere. Bonus tracks: “Gideon” – My Morning Jacket, “This Year” – The Mountain Goats, “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
3 – “7/4 (Shoreline)” – Broken Social Scene. A late-year discovery that I found completely astounding. Bonus: “The Bleeding Heart Show” – The New Pornographers. Two super-bands from Canada that put out two of the best songs of the year. How the hell does that happen? Come on, America! Get your act together!
2 – “I Turn My Camera On” – Spoon. The best song off of the amazing Gimme Fiction disk. Full of classic Prince-esque, bravado-laden falsetto. Fun and funky and fierce. Bonus tracks: “Spanish Teeth” – Robbers on High Street. They sound so much like Spoon that they were initially dismissed as horrible rip-off artists. Turns out they make some damn good music of their own. “Crazy All the Time” – 33Hz. More 1978 Prince repackaged for the modern ear.
1 – “Going Missing” – Maximo Park. My most listened to song of the year. When those guitars chime in before the chorus, you’re taken back to a summer when you lost a love of your own. Also, from a band that is known for offering up a healthy bit of cheek with their tunes, this was a lovely counter of seriousness. Bonus: “Test Transmission” – Kasabian. Maximo, Kasabian, and the Kaiser Chiefs are leading the way for a new British Invasion.

Honorable Mention (In No Particular Order):
“JackInABox” – Turin Brakes
“6 String Belief” – Son Volt
“Hoppipolla” – Sigur Ros
“Paul Simon” – The Russian Futurists
“Princeton Junction” – The Natural History
“Winter in the Hamptons” – Josh Rouse
“I’m Your Villain” – Franz Ferdinand
“It Grew On You” – Foreign Born
“Old Shit/New Shit” – Eels
“Blood” – The Editors
“Stormy Weather” – Echo & The Bunnymen
“Soon Enough” – The Constantines
“I Can’t Stand to Stand Beside You” – Brakes
“Like Eating Glass” – Bloc Party
“Let’s Get High” – Benjamin Diamond
“Sixty Lives” – Aberdeen City
“Verve” – The 101
Coming next week, my top 20 most played tracks of the year.

B-Town

I took a trip down to Bloomington today to get my bearings in advance of the spring semester. Two of my sisters-in-law who attended IU went down with me to help me find the places I needed to find. Parking is truly a hassle at IU, and I may just skip the whole parking pass thing and attempt to find spots in residential neighborhoods near campus. That could be a pain, but the nearest parking lot to the building my classes are in is almost two miles away. Ree-dick-you-lus. I guess I’ll be leaving a little earlier than I planned each Monday and Wednesday.
I went to the bookstore: of course my books weren’t in yet. I went to the J-school building and wandered around, finding my two classrooms and the graduate program office. I peeked into the computer labs and saw row and row of icy-new iMacs. Found a copy of the last student newspaper of the fall semester to bring home and review.
We had some fine Greek food for lunch, wandered about a few shops near campus, and then headed home. I’m looking at about an hour and 15 minute commute each way, so looks like I’ll be keeping up with my podcasts and NPR shows this spring.
Coming Thursday: my review of the year’s finest music.

My Daughter Is Evil

Last night (Tuesday night) was the worst night we’ve had with M. in a long, long time. So Wednesday was a bit of a struggle, with S. working and me trying to stay awake all day. To make matters worse, M. is going through a phase of not taking any naps all day, thus no down time for daddy. Sometime around 4:00, with her distracted by toys, a sippy cup, and one of her shows, I laid back and closed my eyes in an attempt to take a quick nap. Each time my eyes closed for more than 30 seconds, M. would scream at me at the top of her lungs. When my eyes opened, she would laugh her ass off. Evil. I tried the same thing again around 7:00. This time, she would run over, stand next to my ear, and laugh. When I didn’t stir, she would reach up and tickle me while laughing louder. Is that justification to go wake her up tonight just for the hell of it? How old do kids have to be for them to be old enough for you to get even with them?

First Snow

Between 7-8″ in our driveway. Hours of shoveling fun. Remind me why I didn’t buy a snowblower when I still had a job.

M. Will Have A…

A little sister. We had our sonogram today and confirmed what we both thought: we’re having another girl. Everything looked great: heart and other organs, brain development, bone structure. S. is only at 16 weeks, so there’s obviously a long, long time for us to continue to hope and pray all goes well, but we’re excited to see all has developed as scheduled so far. She was showing about two days later than expected, so realistically mid-late May is still the targeted date for Girl Fetus #2 to make her appearance. More later, after I finish my paper.

Final Draft Indifference – More Sonogram Info

As an undergrad, I was lucky if my papers went through a draft and a half before I turned them in. Now, I spend hours editing, rearranging, and basically picking apart everything I write for school. I had finished, more or less, my paper by 11:00-ish today. At 2:00 I was still running through it, searching for the occasional awkward phrase or word. When I finally decided I was done, I wanted to read through it one more time, from start to finish, to make sure I hadn’t overlooked anything. For this final read, I could barely keep my eyes on the page. If I wasn’t going to pick anymore, I had no interest in it, apparently. Weird.

Back to this morning’s sonogram. Little Girlfriend #2 weighed in at a hefty five ounces, estimated. Careful readers may recall that M. weighed 12 ounces on the day of her second sonogram (on St. Patrick’s Day!). Never fear, M. was 20 weeks along when we found out she was a girl. LG2 is only 16 weeks, so she’s still got some catching up to do. We had a high-resolution ultrasound this time. Freaky. For the first part of the scan, the images weren’t much different than last time, just slightly clearer. Then they kicked on the 3D effects and things got strange. Suddenly we could virtually see her face: eyes fused shut, ears looking like misshapen blobs. Skinny arms and legs with a prominent spine. It’s almost too much of a look inside your wife’s stomach. Yet cool at the same time. As I said earlier, all appeared to be developing on schedule. Measurements were right where they needed to be. Functioning organs that were visible in the scan seemed to be, well, functioning.

We took M. along with us but she seemed uninterested in watching the images on the screen. I kept telling her to look at the baby, which normally gets her attention, but she was too busy trying to get out of my arms and into S.’s. She had a minor meltdown, which I’m sure the tech and doctor loved. But what can you do?

Pregnancy is a series of steps. Once conception has taken place, things are out of our control. We can just wait and hope for the best. I think all parents consider the worst at some point, often just before check-ups like this. Hopefully, we’re reassured by what we learn in these visits. Sometimes, though, I wonder if we know too much. What if we found something today that wasn’t quite right yet we could do nothing about? Is it better or worse to know? We’ve been lucky enough to have no found any surprises (so far) with either of our kids. But you can’t really relax. There’s always another milestone in the distance. 20 weeks. 24 weeks. 28 weeks. 30 weeks. 32 weeks. 36 weeks. Every segment of the pregnancy is full of hope and excitement but always balanced with fears about things you can’t control. At times I think it was easier to be a dad back when we were supposed to be uninvolved in the process after making their DNA contribution! I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything, though.

Tree

We put our tree up Saturday, a very good looking Fraser Fur. The best part was M’s reaction. She had been staring out the window at the lit tree in our neighbors’ yard for a week saying, “Tree! Tree!” so I knew she’d be excited about a tree of her own. Before we put the lights on, we laid them on the floor, plugged them in, and checked for burnt out bulbs. She shrieked and ran up and down the line, clapping for them. After I had checked the entire length, I pulled the plug so we could start winding them around the tree. She got a confused look on her face and started frantically touching her finger tips together, the sign for more. We put three strands of lights on the tree, and each time she asked for more lights. Very cute. We tried to put any breakable ornaments too high for her to reach. She has gone after the low-hanging ones several times already, but since it’s been so cold (13 as I type this) we spent most of our waking hours this weekend in the basement. I’m sure we’ll really have to watch her once the presents start appearing underneath.

 

We Are Now Those Parents

We went to the mall today to do some Christmas shopping. We were hanging out in Pottery Barn Kids, letting M. enjoy the rocking horse and terrier and then turned her loose on the table where they had a roll of paper and crayons. She’s just started scribbling and isn’t always sure what to do. Sometimes she goes nuts, other times she looks at you like you’re nuts when you give her the tools to doodle. S. took off for the restroom so it was just M. and I sitting at the table. Then two other kids came over and sat down to color. Their mothers appeared just as M. started coughing and sneezing. As I tried to get my hand over her mouth, I noticed she had a snotty upper lip. I could feel the glares from the other moms. As soon as S. showed up, I told her we needed to get out of there. Yep, we were the parents with the snotty kid at the play area.

In our defense, it’s not like we’re the parents who let their five year old run around without wiping her nose and letting her cough on others. M. is only 16 months old and I doubt she’s able to understand the concept of not sharing your germs with others. Quite unlike a kid who was in the waiting room on our last trip to the pediatrician. He was probably four or so, and wandering around in the confused haze of a kid who’s sick. His mom was trying to get his younger sibling to take a bottle and probably thought this one was just playing with toys. Instead, he walked right over to M., looked at her, and coughed in her face three phlegmy times. I was so shocked I couldn’t get her out of the way. The kid’s poor mom was having such a hard time with her infant that she didn’t notice what he was doing until he had coughed on two other kids. It was like he was a little biological terrorist, making sure his germs were spread all over Hamilton county. Still, he was four, he should know to cover his mouth. And damn those mothers who gave me dirty looks today. Just because M. has a big head and is clearly the smartest kid in the room at all times doesn’t mean that she’s mastered social skills their kids probably have no concept of. Happy holidays!

Trade Offs

Kansas football beats Nebraska for the first time in 36 years.
Kansas basketball starts 2-3 for the first time in 32 years.

Seems like a fair trade to me. I’m not going to go jumping off of any ledges just yet. The future is still bright, I maintain. It’s the present that is going to be rocky. Stealing from TV and movies:

“Patience, Grasshopper.”
“We’ll get there, Pop. We’ll get there.”

Life With A Toddler

It’s snowing. The iTunes playlists have been adjusted to pull in Christmas music. We’ve placed a holiday wreath and doormat at the front door. Our tree will probably be purchased over the weekend. The calendar reads December 1. ‘Tis officially the holiday season. And yes, to the people at Fox News, I am referring to it as the holidays.

For the second straight day M. was awake before 5:00 today. Not good times. She’s been fighting a cold for over a week, teething has totally cranked up to unprecedented levels (Three new teeth over the weekend, one is busting through today, and at least two more are close), and is learning to throw tantrums. A dangerous combination. Over the weekend, the poor girl could hardly sleep from all the sinus drainage and extra saliva from teething. She survived on a steady diet of Motrin and Pediacare to try to stem the pain and clear her airways. Poor girl looked like she had a faucet in her mouth some days so copious was the drool. I’m finally over my cold, but still struggling to get back on a regular sleep schedule. All that put together means I got about 3 1/2 hours of sleep last night. And I get to present in my publishing class tonight. Should be a real blast.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve finally given up the Baby Einstein videos, at least for the time being. In their place, however, the Disney channel has taken over. Each morning, we watch The Wiggles (two thumbs down from the parents; “Grown men shouldn’t act like that,” according to the Mrs.), Charlie & Lola (Two thumbs up), Higglytown Heros (one thumb up, one neutral), JoJo’s Circus (no real opinion yet, although I was disappointed it wasn’t about JoJo White), and Little Einstein. Not surprisingly, the Little Einsteins are a big hit. For the non-parents out there, the Little E’s are four cartoon kids who go on adventures to the tunes of classic composers in their jet called Rocket. In order to get Rocket off the ground, they have to pat their legs and say “Pat Pat Pat.” As soon as she sees the intro graphics to the show, M. starts patting her stomach and saying “Ba Ba Ba.” Very cute. Bonus points as I can usually sleep for the 30 minutes the Little E’s are occupying her interests.

Another feature on the Disney channel is Breakfast with Bear, which is split into four segments each morning that are spread through the other shows. Bear visits kids around the country and shares their experiences getting ready for the day. They get dressed, eat breakfast, play, and humorously to me, do the Morning Mamba. The Morning Mamba is just a dance to get the kids’ juices flowing. I think it sounds like something dirty and giggle each time I hear it. I’ve strictly forbidden M. from doing the Morning Mamba until she’s 25 and living on her own.

Tantrums are fun. You don’t have to be a parent to know that. There’s nothing quite like the total meltdown that comes with taking a sippy cup to refill it or something that isn’t a toy but was being used as one. Even better is when her mood violently swings back the other direction. Hand her a full sippy cup and she smiles, grabs it, and drinks, all while big tears are still running down her cheeks. Her worst area of throwing tantrums has to be wanting S. to hold her. It won’t be that long until the baby in the belly begins to dominate S. physically and she won’t be able to cart M. around in her arms all day. Those are going to be fun days when M. throws her body at S. to try to force her to lift her up, screaming the entire time.

M.’s got a couple strange habits these days as well. She is still throwing her burp cloth down at putting her head on it to let us know she’s tired, But now she also does that randomly, continuously, through the day. She’ll be playing in the basement, get quiet, we’ll look to see what she’s up to, and she’ll have her cloth on the floor under the bar, just laying there on it. She’ll see you, laugh, and get up and do it someplace else. Very weird since she does it all the time, not just when she’s tired. Also, I think she’s getting little woman’s disease. She insists on either sitting or standing on everything. She loves to stand on her typewriter, all her other toys, any shoes that are lying around, her diaper wipe box, etc. If she can get her feet on it, she’ll climb up. When she’s tired of standing, she’ll hop off, or more often tumble off, then back up and sit on the same object. It’s one thing to sit on a stair or chair. It’s another to sit on your Leap Frog school bus. Kid is weird sometimes.

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