Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I was posed an interesting question a few days ago by my dear friend Kacie Jackson.  "If you could only listen to three songs for the rest of your life," she asked me, "what would they be?"

I was stumped.  Mystified.  I love making lists, even difficult ones, but if I could only listen to three songs for eternity, what would I choose?

Two of them were easy.  "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby" by Counting Crows and "Kathleen" by Josh Ritter are both no-brainers for me.  I've thought a lot about #3, but I just don't know what would make the cut!  I love the song "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," so that's a definite possibility.  I keep thinking of other ones, though.  Sufjan Stevens' rendition of "Come, Thou Fount" is tempting to include as well.

I asked a group of people about this the other day and got some interesting responses.  So I would like to pose this question to you, my faithful readers.  If you could only listen to three songs for the rest of your life, what would they be?  I am anxiously awaiting your responses.  You will not be judged.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Oscar nominations came out this morning!  Unfortunately, I do not think I will be able to accomplish my aforementioned resolution of watching all five Best Picture flicks (ha! i just said flicks - i should write for a magazine).  Here's the lineup of the big categories:

Best Picture: 
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 
The Reader 
Slumdog Millionaire

Best Actor: 
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Best Actress: 
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Best Supporting Actor: 
Josh Brolin, Milk
Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road.

Best Supporting Actress: 
Amy Adams, Doubt
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler 

It looks like I will once again be an uninformed Oscar viewer.  Milk, The Reader, The Wrestler, Revolutionary Road, and Slumdog Millionaire are not playing in Alabama.  Benjamin Button is, but I already paid nine dollars once to see it and I had to leave after 45 minutes... (long story. it was not a fun night.)  and while it was good, I don't really feel like paying another 9 bucks to finish it.  Frost/Nixon is actually opening in Mobile tomorrow, so I think I will go see it this weekend - anyone want to come along?  I would also really like to see Changeling and Rachel Getting Married, but I think both of them are in that awkward between-theatres-and-DVD stage.  I have never heard of The Visitor or Frozen River.  And Vicky Cristina Barcelona is out on DVD, I'm pretty sure, and I love Woody Allen, so that one will probably be a renter soon.  

On a related note: in perusing theatre listings, I always seem to have a certain frustration.  For example, here is a sampling of movies playing here currently:  
Hotel for Dogs
Paul Blart: Mall Cop
My Bloody Valentine (3D)
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans

Now, I am not trying to demean these films.  For all I know, they are fantastic.  I'm sure people like them.  However, I just always wonder who decides that people in Alabama have no interest in seeing the movies that were selected by actors, directors, and critics everywhere as the absolute best offerings of the year - instead, they would rather see three-dimensional horror films or a movie about a dog hotel.  I realize that a lot of people don't view movies as a life-enriching experience, but why not?  If I want to sit in front of a screen and space out (which sometimes I do), I have 107 channels to choose from at home.  If I'm going to spend nine dollars to sit in a theatre and see something, I'd like to be able to experience one of the films I've read reviews about, movies that have made people think, movies that have changed people's lives.  

A plea to the movie-deciding-people of Alabama:  why not branch out and show something with a little more cultural and intellectual significance?  You might be surprised.  

EDIT: All of the aforementioned movies (with the exception of Milk) are now playing in Huntsville and/or Birmingham.  I stand corrected, movie-choosers.  You're doing a little better than I thought.  Just a little further.

EDIT AGAIN: Whoa.  Whoa.  I stand even further corrected.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but perhaps I should come to terms with the fact that Google is not the unerrant source of all information.  Check out these listings for tomorrow, in Mobile, on Fandango:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I have an obsessive personality: a story told in photographs

1. hair products (these are just the ones that i use.  not counting shampoo and conditioner.) 

2. kashi products

3. gray sweaters.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King..."

"...and recognize that there are ties between us
all men and women, living on the earth
ties of hope and love, sister and brotherhood
that we are bound together in our desire to see the world become 
a place in which our children can grow free and strong
we are bound together by the task that stands before us
and the road that lies ahead
we are bound and we are bound

there is a feeling like the clenching of a fist
there is a hunger in the center of the chest
there is a passage through the darkness and the mist
and though the body sleeps the heart will never rest.
shed a little light, oh Lord
so that we can see..."
- the one and only James Taylor.

Monday, January 19, 2009

please, remember me
in the window of the tallest tower
call, then pass us by 
but much too high 
to see the empty road at happy hour 
gleam and resonate just like the gates around the holy kingdom 
with words like 'Lost and Found' and 'Don't Look Down'
and 'Someone Save Temptation'  

please, remember me 
as in the dream 
we had as rug-burned babies 
among the fallen trees and fast asleep
aside the lions and the ladies 
that called you what you like, and even might 
give a gift for your behavior 
a fleeting chance to see 
a trapeze swinger 
high as any savior 


please, remember me
and all my uphill clawing, my dear 
but if I make the pearly gates 
do my best to make a drawing 
of God and Lucifer, a boy and girl 
an angel kissin' on a sinner 
a monkey and a man, a marching band 
all around the frightened trapeze swingers

iron & wine / the trapeze swinger  

Thursday, January 15, 2009

When I get my Elle magazine in the mail each month, the cover is different on the subscription edition than it is on the magazines I see in the store.  The covers in the store always feature the subject dressed in a brightly-colored dress with a big smile on her face and is covered in about a hundred headlines. The subscription cover is usually the exact opposite - dark colors, the subject is never smiling, and there's usually a single minimal headline.  I will admit that the photography is excellent and the covers are very well designed.  However, I received the February issue yesterday, it's strange how similar its cover is to the January issue.  I mean, there's something wrong when you almost can't tell the difference between Beyonce and Kate Hudson.  

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

jesus and scientology...

I was reading my Bible last night (resolution #6! I'm awesome!*) and I started thinking about religions.  The chapter I was reading was in Matthew, and it was talking about when Jesus began his ministry by recruiting all the fishermen he could find.  It made me think a lot about two completely unrelated things.

1. I realize that Jesus did not speak in prosaic English, but the language in the Bible is really funny if you think about it.  If someone came up to me and said "Come.  Follow me.  I will make you fishers of men."  I would think they were reciting a monologue from something.  It is probably a lot more likely that Jesus saw a fisherman, waved at them, and said something like this.  "Hey, what's up?  Want to sit down and chat?"  and then he struck up a conversation and got to know the guy.  And when the guy got to know him a little bit, he was probably thinking hey, this Jesus guy is pretty cool.  I wouldn't mind spending more time with him.  He seems like he's really got his act together.  And then Jesus said something like, "I know you have a really successful fishing career, but how would you like to come with me?  I've got a new job for you that is so much more rewarding than what you're doing.  Instead of catching fish, you'll be saving people's lives.  Are you in?"   And the fisherman couldn't say no, he was so amazed by what was happening.  I am no Bible scholar and I don't know Greek, but my guess is that's more like how things went down.

2.  Religion is a really weird thing when you think about it.  Take Christianity, for example.  The concept of an intelligent being that created the universe -- okay, that makes sense, I can see anyone believing that.  But the rest of it, the creator of the world turning his son into some perfect hybrid God-human thing two thousand years ago and sending him to be born from a virgin and letting him grow up to be a carpenter slash miracle worker slash preacher who eventually gets killed, but not really, because three days later he suspiciously is alive again, and then he gets beamed up to heaven on a cloud - this stuff is not for the faint of heart.  And maybe when you're a child, you believe it because it's what you're told in Sunday School.  But once you get old enough to really think for yourself, you either discount it all or you really, really believe it.  There has to be some pretty powerful faith behind it.  I mean, you have to believe hard enough to stake your life on it.  Which is hard to do.

Here's where I get confused.  I don't mean to pick on any particular celebrities or anything, but let's think about another religion, for example (oh, I don't know) Scientology.  The principles of this one are pretty weird as well.  Founded by this guy named L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s, it is formed around the belief that all human souls used to exist in extraterrestrial beings, but now that they are humans on earth, their goal is to pay thousands of dollars to the church in order that they can advance through the different levels of enlightenment in the hopes of one day reaching the level of "the Bridge of Total Freedom."  One of the methods of working toward this freedom is through counseling sessions known as "auditing," where the person is hooked up to electrodes for the purpose of measuring body electrical content and locating areas of concern.  It's all very complicated, and I'll let you read the Wikipedia article for yourself if you so desire.  Back to my point.  I am not objectively saying that the principles of Scientology are any more or less weird than those of Christianity.  I'll let you decide that for yourself.  

What got me really thinking last night, though, was what I said earlier: in order to call yourself a follower of Christianity or any religion, you have to have a really good reason to believe it.  You have to be willing to stake your life on it.  It becomes part of everything you are.  I know tons of Christians, including myself, who are like this.  It's a two thousand year old tradition.  What I have trouble understanding is how people feel the same way about Scientology.  Maybe I am just shortsighted.  I can understand why people would discount religion in general; after all, on first glance it does look rather silly, and as a very rational person myself I can see why someone would choose not to believe in gods or religion.  

However, I have a lot of trouble understanding how people can dedicate their lives to the study of a "religion" that was dreamed up no more than fifty years ago and requires massive financial donations in order for you to move to higher spiritual levels.  The cynic in me wants to say that they are just doing it to be trendy; I'm sure its massive celebrity following doesn't hurt the church's numbers.  Maybe that's true for a few, but I want to give people more credit than that.  After all, a small percentage of the world might be members of the Scientology church, but a much larger percentage of the world actively ridicules them and their beliefs.  (If you are picking a church to be "cool," Christianity is much more accepted in mainstream circles today.  In fact, there are plenty of trendy, flashy mega-churches that probably don't require much spiritual commitment at all.)  So what is it that draws people to this religion?  Is it the hope of becoming someday enlightened?  Is it the actual, legitimate belief that your soul once belonged to a space alien?  Are people just that desperate to believe something that they choose this?  

I don't know any Scientologists, so I will probably never fully understand this.  I'm just immensely curious.  

*1 out of 21.  Not bad!

Monday, January 12, 2009

birthday resolutions

I have never been successful at making New Year's resolutions.  So this year, instead, I am trying something different: birthday resolutions.  Since I am 21 today, I thought it would be appropriate to come up with 21 goals for this year.  Now, obviously I will probably not reach all of these goals, but the more I set for myself, the bigger the chance will be that i'll achieve one or two of them, right?  :)

1. Stick to my budget.  I have never budgeted my money before this year.  I started using one on January 1st, and so far I'm doing really well as far as keeping track of my spending.  Let's hope this can continue.  I just hate to think of all the stupid places my loan money was going before - this at least makes me think "do I really want to have to type this in" about something before I spend money on it.  

2. Keep on top of my studying.  Okay, so - I've already failed at this so far this semester.  For example, right now I am writing in my blog instead of paying attention in class.  But, to be fair, I can't understand this guy.  And as soon as I finish these next 19 resolutions, I'm going back to studying.  Right.

3. Listen to more music (but don't necessarily spend money on it).  For example, I have begun listening to the NPR podcast "All Songs Considered."  It's really great.  They interview bands and play a bunch of awesome music.  For free.  Also, NPR has a feature called "Exclusive First Listen" on their site where you can stream albums before they are released - for example, right now you can listen to the latest offerings by Bruce Springsteen, Animal Collective, M. Ward, and Andrew Bird.   Yes, please.

4. Get better at Scrabble.  If you would like to help me achieve this goal, sign up for the Lexulous application on Facebook and challenge me to a game.  

5. Not play Scrabble quite as often during class.

6. Read my Bible every day.  I am really bad at this.  But I want to make a huge effort to read at least a chapter every day.   (I started this morning!)

7. Watch the 5 Best Picture nominees when the Oscar nominations come out (and before the actual awards ceremony so I can act like a movie snob for one night in my life).   *NOTE: I don't think this will be possible because Alabama's movie theatres do not, as a general rule, play films of substance.  Nevertheless, I will try.

8.  Not waste as much time on the Internet.  If I have free time after studying, I'd rather spend it reading a book or watching a quality film.  

9.  Keep in touch with old friends.  At least once a week, my goal will be to call someone I haven't talked to in awhile.  

10. Eat more fruit.  It is way tastier than dessert.  Who needs ice cream and chocolate when you can have an apple?  (I'm trying to convince myself here.)

11. Eat more vegetables.  

12. Learn to cook more interesting recipes.  I have a cookbook now so this should not be hard.  Right?

13. Not get viruses on my computer.  On a related note, learn how to fix whatever is wrong with my keyboard right now.

14.  Take more pictures.  I always forget to bring my camera places and I always regret it.  

15.  Publish a Scrapblog of all interesting events attended, using aforementioned photographs.

16.  Clean my apartment on a more regular basis.  This includes vacuuming, cleaning the shower, etc.  Who doesn't love a sparkly clean house?  It always puts me in a better mood.

17.  EXERCISE two to three times a week.  I am not paying for this gym membership for nothing!  Plus I can probably guarantee I will not be successful all the time at numbers 10 and 11 so maybe this will help keep me in shape.

18.  Read magazines as soon as I get them.  Okay, I love magazines, but it's turning into a problem.  Especially the U.S. News ones.  I subscribe because I want to be informed and I really do enjoy it once I start reading them but it's just hard to sit down and actually read it when I'd rather be watching TV or something. 

19.  Get some really awesome sunglasses.  Usually I buy sunglasses when I am desperate and I need them because I broke a pair or something, and I just get whatever five-dollar pair doesn't look awful on my face.  No more.  I want a really legit pair that I can put on just because I want to look awesome, not just because there's sun in my eyes or something dumb like that.    Example:  Yesterday in church there was a lady sitting next to me in a black business suit and sunglasses.  I am not kidding.  She was pretty fly.  (Except when she couldn't find the hymnal and she was too cool to look on with my large-print edition.  There are apparently slim pickings in the back row, just fyi.) 

20.  Read the books that are on my shelf and I have never read.  Examples: The Namesake.  Love in the Time of Cholera.  Mrs. Dalloway.  The Road.  Complete Works of Harold Pinter, Volume Two.  Also, reread some of the ones I read in high school that I don't remember, such as The Stranger. 

21.  Write something. I really love to write things; this past year I started both a play and a novel and I really like both of them a lot.  Finding the time is difficult, but it's so rewarding to have something on paper that I completely thought up.  Perhaps that is narcissistic, but I would really like to finish one of them, or at least make significant progress. 

Whew.  I'm exhausted just thinking about this list.  Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I saw the strangest movie last night.

It's called Death Becomes Her, and I thought it deserved a blog post, if nothing else.  I was bored and flipping through the free movies on my Comcast On Demand channel when I came upon this one.  I had heard of the title before, and the brief description informed me that it was a comedy starring Goldie Hawn, Meryl Streep, and Bruce Willis.   Why not?

A brief plot summary:  Meryl (a has-been Broadway actress) and Goldie (a writer) have been friends forever, but they are total you-know-whats and have always been incredibly jealous of each other.  When Meryl steals Goldie's fiance (Bruce) and marries him, it's the last straw.  Goldie, after gaining about a million pounds and admitting herself into a mental hospital, realizes the only remaining plan of action is to kill Meryl.  Fast forward seven years.  Goldie mysteriously looks amazing.  Meryl, a plastic surgery junkie, is directed to a strange woman's lair where she acquires a potion that ensures she will remain young (and alive) forever.  Meanwhile Goldie, who is having an affair with Bruce, is plotting to kill Meryl; her plan is thwarted, however, when Bruce gets fed up and pushes his wife down the stairs.  Oh, and did I mention Goldie has also taken the eternal-life potion?  

I won't give away what happens, because I don't want to spoil anything.  This movie is hilarious in a very dark way.  You'll be laughing out loud and the whole thinking "why on earth am I laughing?"  The special effects are pretty amazing too.  It isn't one that I'd watch over and over, but I highly recommend checking it out.    

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

warning: this is a pretty random post.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: this is very important.  
Yesterday, I bought a set of new makeup brushes.  I really like them a lot.  (Sonia Kashuk at Target, if anyone's interested.)  On the back of the box, it advised that you should wash the brushes with soap and water regularly.  Hmm, I thought to myself.  That's a good idea.  So when 
I got home, I got out my old makeup brush, a cheap Wal-Mart one that I have been using for several years.  I washed it out with soap and water and laid it to dry on a paper towel on my counter.  Fast forward to late last night, right before I was about to wash my face for bed.  I was curious if the brush was dry yet, so I picked it up.  And stared at the paper towel.  On the spot where the bristles had been, the paper towel was GREEN AND SPOTTED.  I was really confused at first... I have never once used that brush for anything green.  Then the shocking realization hit me.  There was mold growing inside that thing.   I picked up the wet brush to smell... and it was possibly the most putrid thing I have ever smelled.  Yes, friends.  There was green mold growing
 inside the makeup brush I use almost every day on my face.  I ran to the trash can and threw it away.  Yuck.  Anyways, the moral of the story:  Wash your makeup brushes.  I plan on washing my new ones regularly.  And just to be on the safe side, this morning I washed out that little round thing I use to put powder on.  Mold: it's out to get you.

some other life updates:
1. I have been in a very "decorative" mood lately.  I got a new bookcase the other night as an early birthday present from Mom.  It is 6 feet tall and took me and three friends quite awhile to put together but I love it!  As a result of this purchase, I had to rearrange the furniture in my room.  I really like the way it looks now.  I moved the ugly un-matching small bookcase I used to have into my bathroom and although it's a bit cramped in there now, it's a nice shelf for towels and stuff.  Here are some pictures of the new and updated apartment 106 in all its glory:

There is only one problem.  My windows are bare.  They need curtains.  I want black and white curtains.  I am not really even that picky.  I just want some type of curtains that are black and white and have a pattern on them.  And they don't exist anywhere.  I've checked Lowe's, Bed Bath and Beyond, Wal-Mart, Target, Hobby Lobby, and a couple other places too.  I'm going to check out the mall this weekend and see if I can find any there.   

2.  I really like listening to Pandora Internet radio.  I hadn't listened to it much lately, but when I clicked on over there yesterday, I discovered possibly the coolest thing ever.  It's a "gadget" for your Windows Vista sidebar that plays your Pandora stations!  It's so cute!  It's just hanging out there, a tiny rectangle in the corner of my screen, and it does all the same things as that ENTIRE bulky webpage did!  You can even thumbs-up, thumbs-down, and skip songs just like you can on the normal site! CRAZY!

Here's baby Pandora, looking all hip and totally better than that old one that I would accidentally forget and close out of, inevitably while it was playing my favorite song.  I love you, little Pandora.  If I have children I hope they look like you.
EDIT: When I said I wanted my children to look like you, I meant the actual music-playing box of wonder, not the creepy cartoon alien on the cover of the Rogue Wave album that is currently playing.  I forgot that was even there.
(and yes, I purposely screen-captured it while it was playing a very obscure hip indie song. this is sure to give me some street cred. yessss.) 
you can download the pandora gadget here.

3.  I just finished an extremely good book: She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb. I know that probably everyone in the world has already read it, but I LOVED it. It's one of the saddest stories I have ever heard, and yet still uplifting at the same time.  I strongly recommend it, although not when you are busy because it's hard to put down. 

4.  Speaking of Pandora, mine has played the same song twice in the past fifteen minutes.  (One is a live version, so I guess it didn't know.)  But I am not complaining because a) I had never heard the live version before and b) the first time it came on, I was reminscing back to last May.  This song, "Me and Jiggs" by Josh Ritter, is the first song I ever really played on the guitar.  Well -- saying I played is kind of a stretch.  My friend Kara and I were both "kind of" learning to play and we each knew a few basic chords.  We were listening to this song a lot then, and it's just a really simple song and I looked it up and the chords were easy, so it was an obvious choice.  After a few frustrating tries apiece, we finally came to the realization that there was a much easier method to play: take turns. As in, she would strum the C chord, and while she was busy figuring out how to change fingering, I could chime in with the A minor or whatever.  After a few agonizing hours of practice, we had the song down pretty well using the alternating-chords method [(c) 2008, Allison Lott and Kara Graves, all rights reserved].  Bursting with pride at our newfound musical talent, we called our friend Hunter to come over and listen.  So he did.  And I think we sounded incredibly awful and the song was unrecognizable (not to mention he didn't know it in the first place, and we were so concentrated on the guitar that we could only mumble the words).  But he's a good sport, so he pretended we were good.  So, having proclaimed ourselves guitar geniuses, neither of us practiced again for at least a month.  (Disclaimer: I can actually play some songs by myself now.  It took a long time, and while it sounds slightly better than our dorm-room jam session, it's not nearly as entertaining.)

I think it is my bedtime.  I also think that probably no one read this far.
(P.S. in five days it is my twenty-first birthday!)