Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

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landscape // a 1.2013 mix

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landscape // a 1.2013 mix  {download}

It’s nearly March, I know. This is in no way a “1.2013” mix to anyone except me. But these are my January songs. Some older, actually — it’s been too too long since I’ve shared music with friends and Internet strangers. The Raveonette’s “Young and Cold” has been in constant rotation in my iTunes since October, when it first found its way on a mix I  never gave to you. I was just wondering what happened to them last fall, and then there they were, with songs much lovelier than the ones I remember from 2004. Speaking of that musical era: I originally had some new Benjamin Gibbard and Sufjan Stevens on this mix, but it sounded too out of place, the aesthetic juxtaposition too jarring. I’ve been listening to a lot of drone-y doo-wop these days (see: Pure Bathing Culture, Angel Olsen, Trance Farmers). The Rolling Stones cover of “Under the Boardwalk” I only recently discovered fits right in.

Other than that — well, I’ve been moving around a lot, again, lately; which means (as usual) half these songs are more or less meditations on Home. And half are just new and interesting or fun. I like Run DMT because a reviewer described them as a bath salt-snorting version of the Velvet Underground; there’s a Velvet Underground cover because my love for Lou Reed & Nico endures (thanks, Jordan). I like Parquet Courts because I think they sing about being stoned in Ridgewood, Queens (and I think we’re neighbors?). I like Hotter Than a Crotch because the lady sings hot and the drummer is a friend of my roommate’s and looks like an extra in Jesus Christ Superstar. They introduced me to Cave Cricket, in the kind of basement show space that Silent Barn used to be last time I lived here, when it was in Ridgewood (which seemed impossibly far then), but now Silent Barn is down the street and fancy and legal and at the moment dry. I read an article in the New York Times the other day, from 2010, about art & media collectives in and around this neighborhood; I looked up the ones mentioned, afterwards, and they’d all disbanded or fallen apart somehow. I don’t believe the Cobras ever finished our Goddamn Western. Time goes marching. /end digress.

I like the Liminanas because the few times I regretfully decided to drive into Manhattan (oh, a car! how it changes Brooklyn), their’s was the only CD I had and it proved eminently listenable on repeat. I missed Wooden Wand at the Midpoint music fest in Cincinnati a few months ago because my friend and I decided to walk, drinking wine, over the highway and down to the city, instead of rushing (but we caught Lower Dens and Dirty Projectors; and later that weekend I finally saw Woods, swoon). A girl just moved in upstairs from Cincinnati by way of California and, most recently, Big Sur. She worked at the Henry Miller Library there. Times goes marching but not always onward. Sometimes you can’t tell which direction it’s going.

happy new year.

songs:  

“Mountain Song” // Dynasty Electric
“The Heart Needs a Home (To Break In) // Tomboyfriend
“Ivory Coast” // Pure Bathing Culture
“San Francisco” // Foxygen
“The Waiting” // Angel Olsen
“Purple Hay” // Trance Farmers
“Young and Cold” // Raveonettes
“Bad Lady Goes to Jail” // The Liminanas
“Stoned and Starving” // Parquet Courts
“Use Your Hands” // Cave Cricket
“We the Common (For Valerie Bolden)” // Thao & The Get Down Stay Down
“Butcher Song” // Hotter Than a Crotch
“Bardo States Dream Walker Version” // Run DMT
“Year of the Glad” // Marnie Stern
“Supermoon (The Sounding Line)” // Wooden Wand
“Under the Boardwalk” // The Rolling Stones
“I’ll Be Your Mirror” // Meklit Hadero
“Closer” // Tegan and Sara
“Applesauce” // Animal Collective
“Minnewaska” // Widowspeak
“How Do You Ruin Me?” // Black Prairie
“Stay In The Game” // Adam Ant

Written by Elizabeth

February 20, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Posted in Culture, Music

Tagged with , , ,

Favorite Song Of 2012

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Some of you might pish-posh at the idea of anything ‘best of the year before’ that comes after the stroke of midnight on 1/1. Too bad. I’m as big a fan of letting the past go as the next gal, but I think the rules clearly dictate that you can dwell on auld lang syne for the entire month of January (resolution making or sharing for the upcoming year, meanwhile, is allowed through February). Which brings us to: My favorite song of 2012.

This was originally going to be five favorite songs of 2012, but narrowing down to five + ordering within the five seemed difficult. But choosing my top number one absolute hands down favorite? No problem: “Alexander McQueen,” by Canadian band Tomboyfriend.

[Listen/download here]

It’s from the band’s King of the Animals EP, which is all around awesome –though brief; just five songs. Do also give “Margaux” a listen; it’s like Counting Crows at their best and least hack-y (which may seem like a strange comparison but I spent a good part of the mid-90s and early 2000s praying for Adam Duritz to marry me, so it’s meant as a compliment).

“Alexander McQueen” is, in fact, about designer Alexander McQueen, who killed himself in 2010. It’s heartbreaking. It’s gorgeous. And, like most Tomboyfriend songs, it’s epic in a way that doesn’t feel (to me, at least) overwrought.

QM_Tomboyfriend

Maybe it’s hard not to make epic-sounding music when you’ve got 10 people in your band — the group definitely conjures a New Pornographers/Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes dynamic — but it’s also thanks to songwriter and lead singer Ryan Kamstra, who has been described as a queerer, more glam Meatloaf. It’s become something of a mission of mine to introduce Tomboyfriend to as many people as I can (like with Casiotone for the Painfully Alone in a previous life), because you will love them. And I like sharing things that people will love. And I like sharing things that deserve more love.

So just in case you missed it above: Alexander McQueen mp3.

I’ll leave you with this description of the band from The Little Red Umbrella:

Tomboyfriend’s music is a glammy echo of the best of the ’70s, of the New York Dolls, the Velvet Underground, the B-52’s, and pretty much everything that ever happened in the heroin-addled artsy heyday of Max’s Kansas City and CBGB & OMFUG. Their lyrics are dense and poetic and playful, littered with the half-digested remains of a pop culture diet, the kind of literary collage of references and re-appropriation that will take a listener years to unpack, but brings titans like Nick Cave and Dan Bejar immediately to mind.

And the video for “Almost/Always,” from the band’s 2010 album Don’t Go To School:

Written by Elizabeth

January 13, 2013 at 10:33 am

On Boobs, And Showing Them Or Not

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Via Conor F., a sad story about Canadian teen Amanda Todd, who was persuaded by an Internet suitor to flash her breasts during a video chat, then blackmailed by said suitor and subsequently bullied by peers when the photo was leaked. She killed herself last week:

Conor rightfully rails against the prevailing takeaway that teenage bullying + lack of web literacy are the major issues here.

As a parent I’ll warn my kids about the permanence of the Web, its perils and how to avoid them. I’ll particularly want any child of mine to understand the potential consequences of naked images of their bodies winding up online. It’s prudent to teach kids how to navigate prevailing social norms, whatever they may be. But don’t stories like this one demand something more from us than cautioning? When a child is bullied to the point of suicide partly because a photo of her breasts was circulated to her friends and family, shouldn’t we ask ourselves why the Anglosphere retains social norms wherein being seen topless is regarded as horrifying and shameful?

And he goes on to give a few more examples of our inanity regarding women’s breasts (Janet Jackson’s nip slip, the recently leaked topless photos of Princess Kate) and to stress how silly and detrimental these attitudes and reactions are. On all of that: I concur. But I’d just like to add a few sentences about why I think the western world stigmatizes naked female breasts so much. After all, men have breasts too. After all, they’re just lumps of fatty tissue, grafted on to the human female form to serve a very utilitarian purpose.

In some places, this seems to be recognized. I’m no expert on cross-cultural attitudes toward exposed female breasts, but it seems that in certain societies, most people recognize female breasts for what they are: A body part designed to allow mothers to nurse their young. Sans any codified cultural significance, they might as well be an ear or an asshole or thumb. They’re just a part of the average anatomy, evolved to do a particular thing.

The trouble started when — unlike the ear or asshole or thumb — this particular part of the female anatomy was deigned to be erotic. I don’t know how or when this happened, and I’m not inclined to look it up right now, because that’s not the point. Maybe erotic is the wrong word, even, because by virtue of being so closely connected to notions of motherhood (and motherhood so closely connected to sex), breasts are kind of inherently erotic, in the broader sense of the word. Sexualized, then? Or sexually desirable? Word quibbling aside, you of course know what I mean. At some point, and for some reason, female breasts — and the bigger the better — were deemed to be Hott. And when breasts started being Hott, and stopped being just a part of the body that spewed milk for offspring, we women lost our claim to them. Men desired female breasts, and thus female breasts became For Men.

When female breasts in general became For Men, it logically followed that any particular set of female breasts became for a man — a boyfriend, a husband, a future husband — and hence the taboo against showing them to just anyone. If breasts were something For Men, then of course the ‘owner’ of a particular set of female breasts would want to jealously guard them for himself. And any woman who exposed her breasts wouldn’t just be acting out of her own agency but acting in violation of her man and, therefore, clearly a wanton whore. If breasts were something men desired, then — by the logic of Puritanism or controlling female sexuality or what have you — they were something women needed to keep pure by keeping hidden.

Once the cultural taboo against ladies showing their breasts was established, the reasons they shouldn’t do so multiplied. Now well-meaning people could argue that women shouldn’t expose their breasts because of the cultural norm against doing so. Cultural taboos are self-perpetuating in this way. But while of course not all men think this way, and of course even those that do might not do so consciously, the taboo against naked female breasts persists today because men still think women’s breasts belong to or exist for them. No serious de-stigmatization of topless ladies will happen here until this changes.

The odds of it changing I find highly unlikely.

Not having any particular desire to receive attention (good or bad) from strangers, I generally adhere to social norms when it comes to breast exposure. But I take two exceptions:

1) As someone whose breasts are not pendulous*, I don’t need a bra for support, and thus very often go without, especially in the summer. Why? Because it’s hot outside, and bras make you hotter; or sometimes just because I forget to put one on. This means that the outline of my nipples are often visible. I can’t tell you how many times people have pointed this out to me and, upon learning that I am in fact aware of this fact, expressed surprise/dismay/concern that I’m not more concerned about people who may be offended by the sight of the outline of my nipples. It’s absurd. Why should I be physically uncomfortable just to keep up the illusion that I don’t have a body part we all have? If people are offended or put off by the revelation that I have nipples, it rather seems more their problem than mine, no?

2) I don’t understand why I should worry that someone may briefly see my boobs while changing clothes. Most of the time, I keep the blinds on my bedroom windows open. Most of the time, the amount of time it takes me to change shirts and/or bras is pretty brief (although the time frame is not so much the issue here). It seems silly to me to have to open and close my bedroom blinds every time I’m going to change tops, on the off chance that some passerby may be looking up at my second-story window and – heaven forbid – see my breasts. My boyfriend — who considers himself a feminist, bless his heart — takes exception to my open window policy, and will often go and close the blinds himself if he’s in the room. Which is mildly irritating but fine, I guess, if he’s so inclined to stop whatever he’s doing and go do that. And yet so perfectly illustrative of my above point …

Anyway, I bring both these things up not because I think I’m some sort of rebel for not giving a shit in said instances, but because I think the prevailing expectation that I should give a shit further illustrates our ridiculous assumptions about boobs, that’s all.

* For Grace M., with whom I have an ongoing quest to use the word “pendulous.”

Written by Elizabeth

October 16, 2012 at 2:28 pm

truth in feminism.

with 9 comments

I only first read this morning about this battle re: Hugo Schwyzer & feminism. It’s the kind of thing that stirs me out of blogging apathy—though it helps that all I want to do this week is drink red wine, make vegan desserts and read & write about feminism, anyway; happy February!because it strikes at the root of what bothers me about web feminism à la mode. I’ll ramble on about that in a moment. But in short, I think the anti-Schwyzer sentiment is both ridiculous and sadly typical of the feminist blogosphere.

I don’t know a ton about Hugo. I’m dimly aware of having read him on various lady-feminist blogs. For a while I regularly read The Good Men Project, a site focused on exploring what it means to be a good man now, absent cultural scripts and yada yada yada. I liked the Good Men Project. It published good sex writing (male and female). Sometimes Amanda Marcotte (whom I also like) wrote there. It was heavy with personal-experience driven writing by Schwyzer and others on sex, marriage, masculinity, relationships, fatherhood, feminism.

An instructor in history and gender studies at Pasadena City College, Schwyzer is explicitly feminist. He writes in the language of contemporary feminism (i.e. “I haven’t been always been able to see how my writing reflects my privilege as a cisgender white male…“) and blogged at Jezebel, FeministeHealthy Is The New Skinny, the Good Men Project and elsewhere about gender issues, body image, rape prevention, why men like to cum on women’s faces and the “myth of male weakness.” He recently withdrew from The Good Men Project after founder Tom Matlack published a piece arguing men and women were fundamentally different, writing that it was no longer “ethically possible to remain silent” while the Good Men Project “took an increasingly anti-feminist stance.”

Schwyzer also wrote often about his past, as an alcoholic and druggie in the 90s (born in 1967, Schwyzer hugs the line between Gen X and boomer). He wrote about failed marriages, mental breakdowns, his Christian faith and having “consensual relationships with adult female students” in his early years teaching. It was that last part which provoked the ire of Feministe commenters and other feminist bloggers. Then someone pointed out a year-old post of Hugo’s in which he wrote about attempting to kill himself and his then-girlfriend by turning on the gas in their apartment. He was an alcoholic and addict. This preceded a stay in a mental hospital. But people called Schwyzer a sexual predator who should be excluded from the discourse on feminism (sample comment: Why is a confessed attempted murderer allowed to comment about feminism?). They made it about the role of men in feminism, a role which the feminist blogosphere is still all kinds of conflicted about.

This tendency of many feminist bloggers to be so self-consciously non-offensive gets tedious, though this just makes them boring. It’s the tendency of large segments of the feminist web to cluster and ostracize dissenters from feminism’s PC master narrative that makes them damaging, to the quote/unquote feminist project, anyway. A feminism that doesn’t allow for paradoxes and contradictions in the ideals versus lived experiences of its’ proponents is not terribly useful. And any modern conception of feminism needs not just to include men in the conversation but see men as integral to feminist issues. The movement’s history of sisterhood served it’s purpose, but for Gen Y women and men accustomed to the idea of gender equity, doesn’t we’re-all-in-this-together make more sense?

How to be an adult in an age of anomie is a question central to men, women, feminists and fundamentalists in America. And it’s a big project. I don’t know how many Gen X/Y articles I’ve read about marriage ages, fertility, dating, relationships, careers, unemployment, sex, technology, health that conclude we are all screwed. We’re all going to live into our 90s and our parents and grandparents are going into retirement broke and getting fat and getting dementia and it not only looks sad but how are you going to take care of them? How is anybody going to take care of them? That’s all we hear about is old age programs bankrupting the world. And home health care is one of the fastest growing U.S. industries, but it’s largest companies don’t even want to pay their (mostly female) employees the minimum wage. And a lot of people in the entertainment industry still think violence against women is pretty swell. Birth control is still something people are legitimately against. Women writers still can’t write about sex like Henry Miller. And for some reason people persist in publishing articles about who should pay the check on first dates. Plus, you know: The rest of the world.

I mean, I say, the more men the merrier! Let’s all talk about birth control and blow jobs and the difference between domestic violence and rape fantasies. Gender issues, marriage equality and the contradictions inherent in trying to be good men and good women in a culture with completely schizophrenic ideas about femininity and masculinity. These are problems for all us.

And there should be room in feminism for all of us to talk about them. For Schwyzer to be honest about his path to where he is now without facing this kind of hysterical backlash. For all of us “imperfect feminists” to be honest about where we fail to live up to ideals (and where ideals fail to live up to their usefulness in our lives). Freddie deBoer (who, um, full disclosure: is my boyfriend) has written about how feminism is general but relationships are specific. So are individual paths to feminist beliefs. You can comfortably call yourself a feminist even if you subscribe to less than total egalitarianism in your own relationship or sex life. You can be a feminist even if you were once so fucked up that you tried to kill yourself and your partner. You can have an imperfectly feminist past and be a feminist now. The underlying assumption between people should be respect, non-violence and equity, but people can negotiate different degrees of these amongst themselves. Besides which: The outside world, again. Sometimes it influences us. Sometimes we learn from it. Sometimes we are always getting better.

see, I like baking too. I know sites like Feministe and Feministing serve an important purpose in feminism’s mission. I never considered myself a feminist until I started reading them (along with Pandagon, Shakesville, Ilika Damen, others) back when I was 22. This year over Christmas break I ended up in a late-night bar crawl conversation with a 22-year-old female cousin who is dying to have babies and stay home with them. Until she recently began reading feminist blogs (the only one I remember her mentioning is The Feminist Breeder), she told me, she thought feminists wanted to take things like that from her. Now she’s all OMG I’m a feminist, duh. I’m a feminist and I like babies and crafts and women being treated like human beings. Awesome.

So that’s what these types of intro/activist feminist blogs do: They introduce young women and men to the idea that feminism doesn’t suck. That there are still lots of gender issues to consider and problems to solve. That feminism is relevant.

But as a feminist writer, Schwyzer has always been more essayist than activist. Both of his recent controversial posts were confession—not celebration—of past wrongs. This is what good memoirists and essayists do: They tell the truth about themselves, even when it makes them look bad. It’s in admitting to inconsistencies in their own ideals v. behavior that they have the best chance of finding something universal. Think “Mad Men.” Think Didion. It’s the space between the zeitgeist and convention that’s the most interesting.

For the feminist blogosphere to so consistently stifle voices from that space … I mean, it impedes on feminist discourse, sure. But it also tells writers that it’s not okay to be both honest and feminist. That part of being a publicly-feminist writer means a certain amount of activism, a certain amount of party-line PR. It’s a lot like how conservatism encourages its journalists and bloggers and TV reporters to be partisans first. It’s bad for the truth.

Written by Elizabeth

February 16, 2012 at 10:32 am

People Who Are Turning 30 In 2012

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1. Me

2. Kate Middleton

3. Kirsten Dunst

4. Most of my friends

5. Seth Rogan

6. Elizabeth Moss

7. The Situation 

8. A guy who looks like this

9. 1/2 of the young cast of Now and Then [apparently the girl who played the chubby one died of a drug overdose in 2007.]

10. Lil Wayne

Written by Elizabeth

January 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Culture, Gen Y

Tagged with , , ,

Catalogued: Books Read >> 2011

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• in no particular order •

Helen deWitt: Lightening Rods
Tyler Cowen: The Great Stagnation & Create Your Own Economy
Evelyn Waugh: Vile Bodies & Decline and Fall
Marya Hornbacher: Madness
Nick Zimmer, Zachary Lipez and Stacy Wakefield: Please Take Me Off the Guest List
F.A. Hayek: Constitution of Liberty (well, mostly…)
Bill Clegg: Portrait Of An Addict As A Young Man
Diana Athill: Instead of a Letter
Sharon Solwitz: Bloody Mary
Kay Redfield Jameson: An Unquiet Mind
Siri Hustvedt: The Summer Without Men
Rainer Maria Rilke: Letters to a Young Poet
Peter Kramer: Listening to Prozac
John Tierney & Roy Baumeister: Willpower
Douglas Kendrick: Sex, Murder and the Meaning of Life
Ratey & Hallowell: Delivered From Distraction
Edna St. Vincent Millay: Collected Poems
Porter Shreve: The Obituary Writer
Amy Sohn: Prospect Park West
Aleister Crowley: Diary of a Drug Fiend
Flash Fiction Forward: 80 Very Short Stories
Anne Lamont: Bird by Bird
Anton Chekhov: My Life
Arin Greenwood: Tropical Depression
Portia de Rossi: Unbearable Lightness
The New York Stories of Elizabeth Hardwick
Sam MacDonald: The Urban Hermit
Kathleen Gerson: The Unfinished Revolution: How a New Generation is Reshaping Family, Work, and Gender in America  

Written by Elizabeth

January 8, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Posted in Culture, Lit

Tagged with , , ,

The Price Of Fast Food

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I’ve got some thoughts up at Blisstree on Mark Bittman’s Sunday New York Times piece“Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?“:

 … articles like Bittman’s always rub me the wrong way, and I’ve been trying to pinpoint why. His gratuitous mention of “Brooklyn hipsters and Berkley locavores” bugs me—I know it’s an attempt to distance himself and his arguments from these people, but I think it only serves to reinforce the connection. More bothersome to me is his equation of fast-food consumption mainly with low-income folks. In my experience, eating crap is one thing that crosses class, geographic and educational-attainment lines. Middle-class suburban families live on fast-food. PhD students eat fast food. Young professionals eat fast food. And, yes, even New York hipsters eat it, too. Fast food is not a low-income problem, it is an American problem.

And, ultimately, I don’t think folks like Bittman go far enough in condemning it. Oh, sure, they’re fast to lay the blame on fast food companies and marketers. But progressives like Bittman don’t want to be accused of being elitist (or get lumped in with the mockable Brookyn hipsters and Berkley locavores), so they’re careful to couch any arguments about personal choice in sociological ephemera and resist saying anything too radical. Conservatives, meanwhile, are too reactionary, and too in bed with the idea that criticizing fast food is somehow an affront to business and a slide into ‘nanny statism’ to apply the same sort of harsh tactics to our table choices as they do to our bedroom behavior.

And yet, honestly, maybe what the fast food debate needs is some good, old-fashioned stigma and shaming, a la smoking over the past 50 years. We can talk all we want about so-called food deserts, ‘evil’ fast food marketing, the addictive properties of fatty food, etc., but none of these are really doing anything to stop individual consumption of fast food. We need to make eating fast food ‘bad’ in the same way we’ve ostracized tobacco users. People should feel bad about eating fast food regularly. People should know that in doing so, they are inviting myriad health problems on themselves. We coddle the fast food industry, and its devotees, because it’s so politically/socially volatile not to—and I think this is the root of the problem.

And here are Phoebe Maltz-Bevy’s thoughts, which at first blush I guess seem kind of antithetical to mine, but really aren’t, I don’t think:

Speaking of the Bittman article, yes, yes, socioeconomic factors, YPIS, another article telling the poor that they can totally live off lentils, etc. The class-warfare counterarguments write themselves, and are only partly fair. Fair, insofar as lentils get old quick, but plenty of people could cook but don’t. I mean, all of this Think of the People Who Can’t Afford a Saucepan is a bit much, because obviously people who can afford a saucepan and then some are also not cooking. (But to the commenter who points out that gender enters into this, why yes it does.)

But even if you’re not especially lacking in time, money, and (ahem!) grocery access, even if you like to cook, cooking remains a chore. Until food writers wrap their heads around the idea that cooking also means grocery shopping, that grocery shopping takes time, that even ostensibly cheap-to-prepare meals often meaning you buy $8 worth of some massive amount of an ingredient you only end up using twice, that planning meals for the week is either a major task of its own or you end up wasting a great deal of food (leftovers being tough if what’s left are perishable ingredients and not a prepared meal), that all of this food needs to be not only prepared but cleaned up from, that hands and surfaces need raw eggs and meat washed off them, in short, until they realized that no meal takes ‘only 30 minutes’ except possibly the meals they think take only 5, how is anyone ever going to be convinced?

Written by Elizabeth

September 27, 2011 at 8:42 am

Cooking With Squash Blossoms

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Squash blossoms—the bright, dainty flowers that stem from winter or summer squash—have been making dramatic appearances on more and more restaurant menus, recipe pages and alongside other farmer’s market produce. These edible flowers, which taste like milder versions of the squash or zucchini they come from, can be eaten raw but are more often found battered, fried up with goat cheese or tucked into soups and omelets.

Look for squash blossoms at your local farmer’s market—most grocery stores don’t stock squash blossoms because of their short shelf life. “Be warned,” writes Kate Heyhoe of Kate’s Global Kitchen. “Squash blossoms live about as long as mayflies—at worst a few hours, at best a few days, and only in ideal conditions. Cook them the day you pick them, or the day you pick them up.”

Vegetarian Times cautions that you should avoid getting blooms too wet—water can cause wilting and spotting when ti comes in direct contact with the petals. Use a spray bottle to spritz picked blossoms clean instead of washing in the sink.

Originally published on Blisstree.com.

Written by Elizabeth

September 8, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Posted in Culture, Food

Tagged with , ,

Catalogued: Letters to a Young Poet

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A quote plucked from my current reading material.

Perhaps the sexes are more closely related than one would think. Perhaps the great renewal of the world will consist of this, that man and woman, freed of all confused feelings and desires, shall no longer seek each other as opposites, but simply as members of a family and neighbors, and will unite as human beings, in order to simply, earnestly, patiently, and jointly bear the heavy responsibility of sexuality that has been entrusted to them. —Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, the 4th letter

Written by Elizabeth

May 26, 2011 at 8:08 am

In My Backpack: GOOD Magazine’s ‘Cities’ Issue

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A quote plucked from my current reading material.

Los Angeles // Value Inn

When talking about cities like Cleveland or Pittsburgh, city planners and architects refer to the dead or under-used areas as “broken teeth.” Well, Los Angeles might as well be a washed-up prizefighter, because there are a lot of gaping holes between those pearly whites.”

—Tim Halbur, “The Future is Bright in Los Angeles,” GOOD magazine, Spring 2011

Written by Elizabeth

May 4, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Posted in City-Dwelling, Culture

Tagged with , ,

Catalogued: Tropical Depression

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Plucked from my current reading material:

After showering and yanking every skirt and shirt out of the closet, trying them on and then throwing them on the floor, I finally put on this ridiculous pink taffeta skirt with another ridiculous orange sweater and make my costume all the more clown-like with some white fishnet tights and these blue boots I got in Spain last year. I know I look absurd. I can’t help it. It’s either absurd or it’s like a lawyer and I can’t bear to look like a lawyer, so old and serious.”

— quote from Arin Greenwood’s recently-released first novel, Tropical Depression (whose narrator and I seem like we would get on just fine … )

Written by Elizabeth

May 3, 2011 at 11:50 am

Posted in Culture, Lit

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Catalogued: ‘Poets & Writers’ Profile of Siri Hustvedt

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A quote plucked from my current reading material.


Author Paul Auster on first meeting his wife, author Siri Hustvedt:

It was pretty sudden, I have to say … For the first few seconds, all I could see was her beauty, the radiance of her beauty, and quickly jumped to the conclusion that she was a model. Could a six-foot-tall blonde who looked like that not be a model? But, lo and behold, it turned out that she was a graduate student, and once we began to talk, I understood how ferociously intelligent she was. We went on talking after the reading, then at an after party, and after the party broke up we went out to a bar and continued talking for several more hours. I found her so brilliant, so wise, so alert, I was utterly smitten. My whole life changed in those hours, both our lives changed, and we’ve been together ever since.”

as quoted in the May/June 2011 issue of Poets & Writers

Auster and Hustvedt have been married 28 years. Her latest book, The Summer Without Men, is partly about (what else?) neuroscience.

Written by Elizabeth

May 2, 2011 at 12:30 pm

Donald Trump is to 2012 as …

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Mike Huckabee was to 2008. Yes/no?

I mean, I’ve been wrong about these sorts of things before (ahem)(though people backed me up on that one at the time). But I’m pretty confident this analogy works.

Ballrooms for everybody!

Written by Elizabeth

April 20, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Posted in Culture, Misc.

Tagged with , ,

Curio: Back to Paying Attention to Things on the Internet Edition

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A few things.
And a few sentences about each.
[And because I’ve been out of the loop for a few minutes, we can pardon my lack of timeliness, can’t we?]

1. Just got around to reading this awesome faux-profile by Ann Friedman about Washington’s “DC Lady Mafia”—a parody and a rebuttal, of sorts, to this unintentionally hilarious New York Times piece about DC’s young male journo scene. Hell yeah.

In only a few years, these young women and others like them have become part of the journalistic establishment in Washington — but you wouldn’t know it from reading The New York Times. Once they lived in modest studio apartments and stayed out late, talking about grammar, feminist theory, and ready-to-wear collections while their male counterparts appeared on cable television. Now the members of this “DC lady mafia,” as they began calling themselves because no newspaper style section deigned to give them a nickname, have become destination reading for — and respected by — the city’s power elite. Indeed, arguably they are themselves approaching power-elite status. [emphasis mine]

While we’re on the topic, I’m also kind of sick of this whole ‘brave new world’ of digital journalism narrative. Ezra Klein may have been delighted at discovering the act of reporting after he’d already been finding success as a blogger —

“I came here, and I had no professional affiliation,” Mr. Klein, 26, said over lunch at Potenza, a decidedly grown-up restaurant in downtown Washington. “I just had a blog that was mine, but I came out here and was trained as a magazine writer, and that was just a much more formalized way of journalism. You made calls. People answered calls. You took down what was said in a respectable account, and that began to influence my blogging. It became a lot less of an ‘Ezra affair.’

— but a lot of bloggers and web journalists I know (myself included) still started off at daily newspapers or student newspapers or some sort of outlet that required reportage first, opinion second (if at all). As Conor has eloquently laid out before, one of the problems with movement journalism is that it encourages blogging and opinion and analysis from young journos before they even learn how to tell a proper story. But that’s a rant for another day, or another blogger.

Anyhow, we may be the last generation of journalists to come-of-age if not primarily in print than at least not exclusively web. Although another problem I have with this narrative is that it’s generally only concerned with young journalists following the DC-baby-pundit/Gawker-media-mouthpiece model. These are the writers that are most visible, the ones that have made Names for themselves, so it makes sense. But I’ve got a friend who went from beat reporting at the Boston Globe to beat reporting for AP to a newspaper fellowship in Abu Dhabi. Another who started at the same Columbus, Ohio business paper I did and now helps run an online business magazine. These kinds of writers go under the radar as far as the general media story about young journalists is concerned. Exhibit A:

[…] Douglas Brinkley, the Rice University professor and historian who is working on a biography of Walter Cronkite, expressed nostalgia for an earlier, more in-the-trenches generation of correspondents who didn’t rely on Twitter posts and linking to generate content. “I’m not making a judgment,” Professor Brinkley said [Ed. note: Really? Than what the heck do you call that statement?] .

“What I don’t like is that before, people would start in foreign bureaus all over the world before making their way to Washington. You would be pushing into your deep 20s and have a really deep global background. What you’ve seen is a devaluation of serious journalism in favor of reporters who are able to create a brand identity.”

Besides negating the identity of tons of 20-something reporters out there, this idea (which one hears from older journalists all the time) is quite insulting, as if we’d all rather sit in an office all day than actually get to see the people and places we write about. Give us an environment where more than the most well-funded media outlets can afford to send their reporters out in the field to report—I’m not even talking the bureau in Dubai, dude; how about something happening down the street?—and, you know, I bet a lot of us degenerate young turks would be more than happy. But there’s not time, or money, for that at most places, and so reporting takes place through emails and phone calls. I get tired of being told to live up to a model of journalism that hardly anyone is willing to support anymore.

Huh. That turned into more than ‘just a few sentences.’ Let’s keep the rest of this brief then, shall we?

2. Blisstree talks about “orthorexia.” Which was not a word I even knew existed, describing a concept I am very familiar with.

3. Megan Daum has an interesting take on folks’ ire towards Planned Parenthood:

Here’s my theory: When it comes to parenthood, the whole notion of planning can be so overwhelming that it feels better to leave it to fate.

Sure, we know that the respectable, socially responsible thing to do is to think hard about when and how many children to have and to take the necessary steps – abstinence or birth control – to avoid producing a child that cannot be properly cared for. But as any parent will tell you, there is no “perfect” time to have a baby. It’s always going to be a showstopper.

And I suspect that’s why a lot of people, pro-life and pro-choice alike, like to think of parenthood as something that was foisted upon them rather than actively pursued.

Thoughts?

Written by Elizabeth

April 19, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Thought Catalog

with 2 comments

The best thing I am reading lately, consistently, is Thought Catalog. It’s one of the few things I always check in google reader before marking all read. One of the few open tabs I go back and read after re-opening my laptop in the morning and making swift determinations on all the tabs left open from yesterday. It’s what I always wanted The Awl to be.

This brings me to the awareness that I’ve been really trying to identify things that separate Gen Y writers, parents and filmmakers from their Gen X counterparts. Those three groups, specifically, but also a little bit the generational differences Writ Large, too. I am 28. I am a cusper. I am, technically speaking, the leading edge of the Millennial generation (high school class of 2000, baby!). I keep having the same conversation, about marriage, and babies, and expectations, and dichotomies, etc., etc., with every f**king person I know, seriously. We’re at a stage where we’re poised to come into our own, I think. We’re at the point where we start mattering more. And we’re at the forefront of defining what it is that makes us not Gen X. Of maybe I’m just being narcissistic and grandiose. It’s possible.

Written by Elizabeth

March 22, 2011 at 1:14 pm

everything happens/watercolor sun: a March mix

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I think there was a time when everything sounded a little bit hard but whimsical, a little bit epic, and then everything sounded like the mountains, like bonfires around a farm.

Now everything sounds like a California or Hawaiian beach party thrown by Aleister Crowley, Belinda Carlyle & a mingled pack of 80s yachters & 2011 hipsters, all ghosts and surfers and gurus and weird sound effects and dangerous women. At least to me.

I thought all that Indie Appalachia music was inspired by Recession Times; I don’t know where this comes from. But I’ve been bumming about Venice Beach & Santa Monica the past week, so it suits me fine. Viva IndieSurfWaveFolkstericanaNoisePop! Or something like that.

Listen/download  >> everything happens/watercolor sun: a March Mix

Songs:

1. Bimini Bay – Tennis // 2. Alemany Gap – John Vanderslice // 3. Robopup – BEEP // 4. Yipmerdai – Der Dong Dang // 5. The Singer (Johnny Cash/Nick Cave cover) – Dirty Beaches // 6. Wild 1 – The Babies // 7. End of the World – Anika // 8. Let England Shake – P.J. Harvey // 9. Hot Sprawl – Man/Miracle // 10. Come Down Easy – Spacemen 3 // 11. Sunset Liner – Ducktails // 12. Forced Aloha – Fergus & Geronimo // 13. find love (clem snide cover) – the sarcastic dharma society // 14. Almost Always – Tomboyfriend // 15. Children of the Light – White Flight // 16. Hit the Road Jack – Cat // 17. I’m free – The Petticoats // 18. You are a Runner – Wolf Parade // 19. The Arc – Wooden Wand // 20. Everything Is Burning – Ivan & Alyosha // 21. When Pushed From a High Branch – Snowblink // 22. Breakin’ the Law – The Babies

Written by Elizabeth

March 11, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Facebook Poetry // Vol. 1

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I was scrolling through my Facebook “Most Recent” newsfeed last night, and saw three messages in a row that struck me as kind of funny when taken together. I copied each of these three status updates on a sticky, then scrolled down the rest of my feed, to the point at which I would have had to click “Older Posts,” copying a snippet of each status update or the comments/ephemera attached to it and adding to the note. The result—slightly stylized in use of  things like line breaks and italics—is kind of delightfully silly. May I present to you: a Facebook Poem.

most recent
march 6, 8:32 p.m.
howling forever
this is fucking incredible
this is bat country
I know the peace and quiet won’t last long

miss her a lot
absolutely exhausted

vicious circle:
early dinner at Romans,
what happened this winter …
reading the only thing you ever needed to hear
A good tv show
Ultimo asado con el club de montanismo
Vancouver, WA – If interested in purchasing a costume, or an appearance,
experiment today

Created a video response to the message—

What happened this winter

March 6, 2011
Is anyone else in a stew over social networking?
FILTHY
4 new photos //
Good Friend Electric //
Transmission:
the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, did it.
Doing taxes.
Bears and wolves have eaten all my food

Rain Graph
LLC
added A day job to his work
miss you buddio
7 hours ago
Nights in Ultraviolet
gardened, 2 loads of laundry, room cleaned and last week’s laundry away
strong traditional folk sensibilities
I love when my dreams feel like movies

IL and Matty’s B-day …
Love me some Lord Kitchener.
PERFORMANCE: ACRES OF CLAMS!
for every thirsty fiend in the commercial art world, including tangential unpaid bloggers
and grids –
District of Columbia,
Viva La Revolucion!
Please do not be shocked.
conclude that we need more rigorous assessment and choice
it’s been too long
Daughter of longest-living American
Watching Best of Christopher Walken on SNL
in FUCKING CLEVELAND!
It’s gonna be Party Time!

Like two dead cats covered in mulch,
SAY YES.
Come one, come all to the mythical land of Western Washington
10AM-2PM
Matt Yglesias and the Edu-Nihilism Straw Man
12 hours ago
his manic tailspin is going to lead to something terrible
12 hours ago
He should go to jail.
Minor Threat
This should not be difficult for me.
i know,
I don’t remember the beginning at all
He’s awful …
This fat ugly sasquatch been walkin round the house coughin with her fish mouth open and not washin her hands
people like this—
Clark’s At Faneuil Hall,
and too many more that are going to make me very sad to remember.
20 hours ago
Writing with Patsy Cline by my side
Old Photos
If we want, we can walk down to the 3rd St. Promenade afterward
This country has lost site of what is important and sacred
collectively we, the people, will have taken a big step
®
What all has gone on in the past several months?
since my first visit to San Fran …
Found more issues when I tore things out.
Yesterday at 9:04 p.m.

May I urge you to to go forth & create & share your own Facebook poetry …

Written by Elizabeth

March 7, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Big in ’11

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Pantone announced recently that the Color of the Year for 2011 is “honeysuckle.” Last time I checked – which was at about age 9, the last time I lived in a house with a honeysuckle bush in the backyard — those suckers were yellow. But Pantone’s honeysuckle is a pinkish color. No, “pinkish” is wrong; it’s just pink. Plain old pink. I am not sure who decided to call it “honeysuckle.” And what the heck is a “color of the year” mean, anyway?

But that is the funny thing about late December and early January: Suddenly, everybody is trying to define the upcoming year, to shade the contours with their own particular whims and wishes, to be the first ones to CALL IT aha! 2010 is the year of the overall. Pie will be big in 2011. We’ll all be “exergaming” and “piloxing” to stay fit! And drinking macha tea while decorating our houses with bamboo! “Trendcasting,” the market researchers like to call it. And the media? Oh, boy, we eat it up.

I am smart enough to know it’s mostly a racket. But I also frivolous enough to enjoy it anyway. And since my friends are obviously way smarter and hipper and prescient than your average trendcaster (seriously, I don’t know why I hate this word so much, but I do), I thought I’d ask some folks I know what they think is going to be Big in 2011. Their predictions, in varying degrees of seriousness, recorded faithfully below:

“Well, one off the top of my head is that we’re going to see a lot of mediocre video/movies.  With cameras like the 7D making it really easy and cheap to get a ‘quality’ image there are going to be a lot of people making work that looks great (in a very uninteresting way) and gets a lot of praise, whether it actually deserves it or not  (see here: http://bit.ly/fyKSjE).” – Gina Telaroli, independent filmmaker // Brooklyn

“Obviously the trend in 2011 will be that everything will be on iPad. And when I say everything, I don’t just mean books and movies and magazines. I mean food, clothing, laundry, washer and dryer repair service.. Press a button for dinner. Download an app for starched shirts. If this sounds insane, or like a misunderstanding of what tablet technology can actually do, you obviously haven’t been to a digital strategy meeting in the last 6 months, where ‘make an iPad app’ has become to 2010 what ‘you need to Tweet a lot and get on Facebook’ was to 2008.” – Peter Suderman, associate editor, Reason magazine // Washington, D.C.

“Classic cocktails will jump the shark officially and we’ll see a Sazerac on the menu at T.G.I. Friday’s made with Jack Daniels and peppermint schnapps. The cool drinking kids will make their own bitters and learn how to cure their own olives for martinis. Mead is in a good place to make a comeback with all the renewed interest in hard liquor. We’ll see more fashion that makes women look ugly, more things like look like they came off an 80’s hobo. Like this schlumpy top or these shoes that look like they fell off an orphan in the 1800s. For crafts, first it was knitting, now canning, next is needlepoint and embroidery. And, I still stand by scones. The next bakery treat. Although, I really wish it was cannelles. I love those things.” – Cat Meyers, cannelle lover, orphan hater and cocktail enthusiast // Columbus, Ohio [Ed. note: What is a cannelle? Also, we should use the word ‘schlumpy’ more often]

“I’ve been pushing punch for a few years but I’m sticking with my prediction– punches will be the drink of the new year! Whiskey punches, particularly. Punches are easy, inexpensive, fun and absolutely delicious. Plus a big vintage glass bowl will class up any party. I also think unique bitters will be more become mainstream. Angostura and Peychaud bitters are already standard but I think more bars will start using flavors like grapefruit, celery and chocolate and more bartenders will start making their own bitters, since they are an easy and inexpensive way to add depth and flavor. Oh, and fennecs are the new black.” – Courtney Knapp, punch maven // Los Angeles

“Although Pantone claims this disgusting shade of pink is the new hotness for 2011, I think all eyes are going to be on peach. Peach and shades of a pale dirty dusty rose. Nude, even, too. Long Chloe Sevigny-like braids (think Big Love) are going to be the ticket, with possibly super deep side sweeps (i think i may have read the latter on refinery 29). Based on American Apparel’s shift towards preppy- I think we’re headed in that direction majorly as well. With hints of industrial-inspired “plain” garb.

Food wise, bacon will continue to be an ever-lasting fad and cupcakes are unfortunately here to stay. I think this lardcore movement will gain more momentum in brooklyn (or at least i hope so!!!) And i think duck is the new pork. Oh, and bone marrow is going to be HUGE!!!” – Brooke Green, Fame & Frippery // Brooklyn

“Taxidermy. Honestly, I see it everywhere, from art to fixtures and it’s becoming more and more mainstream. People are doing crocheted taxidermy, there are now two shops in San Francisco. This brings me to the my next movement: Victorianism is back. I’m not sure how it’s going to manifest, but the idea of death and beauty — I just see it making a comeback.” – Rachel Steinberg, blogger, PR Consultant and aspiring vegan taxidermist // San Francisco

As for me? Well, I’ve been pushing macarons (are the new cupcakes) and pantsuits (are the new overalls) for a while now. And I agree with most of the above folks’ predictions: punch and peach and bone marrow (ugh) and taxidermy (scones, however, WILL NEVER BE THE NEW DESERT, Ms. Meyers). Vertical farming is the new rooftop farming. “Blood” is the new “bells” is the new “wolf.” A friend who works at a perfumery tells me we’ll see more natural/botanical perfumes. A friend who works as a shoe merchandiser tells me we’re going to see lots of “nautical/preppy shoes” this spring, and wedge-heeled boots this fall. Curated, subscription-based email lists are the new blogs (so are ‘zines). The Hairpin (love, p.s.) is the new Jezebel. People will learn the word “Phytotherapy.” Westerns will continue their neo-renaissance. Borderline is the new bipolar. “Yipster” is the new “folkstr.” Amaranth will be the hot grain. And I promise I’m gonna stop this inanity right now.

Happy 2011, y’all.

P.S. Now it’s your turn …

Written by Elizabeth

January 10, 2011 at 8:23 pm

Millennial Lament

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AP piece on mangled 60s nostalgia:

If you’re the chain store Party City, you traffic in costumes that will immediately evoke the “fun” 1960s, not James Meredith desegregating Ole Miss. If you’re producing “The Wonder Years,” you gin up grainy home movies for your opening credits and overlay a snippet of Joe Cocker singing at Woodstock.

But as time goes by, these anecdotal stand-ins shift to the front row. Instead of just evoking a decade, they become how we think about it. Then we start misremembering the past. Worse, we don’t even know we’re doing it.

It’s an entirely banal/played-out topic, I realize, but the article is well-written and if you’re a dork about generational navel-gazing (like me), worth a read. It also got me thinking/banal navel-gazing) … What are we going to mythologize about the oughts?

Did the oughts have their own distinct culture? Or was the whole decade just a mash-up of the culture of other decades, with a little bit of September 11th and some iPhones thrown in? Did I just answer my own question—our Gen Y Happy Days will just feature kids in Kohl’s sweaters, asymetrical haircuts and jeggings texting and watching ‘hamster on a piano’ while the best of the feel-good slogans from Bush’s moment of post-9/11 unity-building & the Obama campaign cameo in?

The oughts were my St. Elmo’s Fire decade (the one in which all my road-to-adulthood meandering took place), you know? I’m pretty protective of them right now. Will I find myself explaining to my children, sheesh, trucker-hat hipsters were a distinctly mid-ought phenomenon, you can’t just throw one into the Colbert rally! And—gah!—why is that character twittering if this movie is set in 2004?

Or will I completely forget the subtleties of the era myself?

Here’s what the AP article predicted a 2000s party would look like:

Imagine a 2000s theme party in, say, 2035. Your guests will snack on Mario Batali frozen hors d’oeuvres, dance to “Single Ladies” and wear Snooki outfits. The guy in the corner might be dressed as Tony Soprano or Simon Cowell. Some people, gathered in the kitchen, will be playing the interactive retro drinking game called “Status Update.”

I am not even sure who Mario Batali is … This does not bode well for my decade.

Written by Elizabeth

November 29, 2010 at 1:50 pm

pencils down/manifest: a fall mix

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With all due respect to modesty, this is probably the best fall mix I have ever made.

It is helped, I suppose, by the sheer awesomeness of so much music that is out right now—including a few new songs by a few new friends new (and, yes, an oldie or two; and, yes, a few artists included twice because I don’t know why people say you can’t do that).

And holy return of the 2004/2007 bands, right? New Sufjan, Arcade Fire, Jenny Lewis, Nelly McKay … It’s like I’m living in a basement apartment in Columbus, Ohio / a studio in upper NW DC all over again …

Anyway: It’s exciting. I like fall shoe trends right now (lace-up boots!), fall outerwear trends (capes! like snuggies as evening wear!), and I like fall music. It all must mean something.

Or perhaps not. I have a tendency to read a lot more into fall (rebirth! potential!) than most, having never outgrown that whole back-to-school excitement (a feeling, I suppose, not shared by all, but I always loved school, and summer just gets to be too much after a while, doesn’t it?). Either way—enjoy:

PENCILS DOWN/MANIFEST: A FALL MIX

pencils down/manifest: a fall mix
[click that to listen to the whole thing all together]
[that note is for my sister, who can never figure out how to listen to anything I send her]

track-by-track:

1. Now that I’m older – Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz:

2. Ghost Confessions – Cinema Red and Blue – Cinema Red and Blue:

3. Coast to Coast (remastered) – Dirty Beaches – U.S. Girls // Dirty Beaches Split 7″:

4. Tyrant Destroyed – Twin Shadow – Forget:

5. God – The Beets – God EP:

6. Kiss With a Fist – Florence & the Machine – A lot of love, a lot of blood:

7. Crash Hat – The Bonfire Band – One Man Can’t Carry Half a Piano:

8. My Pet Snakes – Jenny and Johnny – I’m Having Fun Now:

9. Late Again – Nelly McKay – Dear New Orleans:

10. This Beautiful Idea – Badly Drawn Boy – It’s What I’m Thinking: Photographing Snowflakes:

11. Commandante – The Mountain Goats – Devil in the Shortwave EP:

12. I Didn’t See It Coming – Belle and Sebastian – Write About Love:

13: [excerpt from down there] – U.S. GirlsU.S. Girls // Dirty Beaches Split 7″:

14. Sprawl (mountains beyond mountains) – Arcade Fire – The Suburbs:

15. Girls in Love – Painted Face – Undreamt EP:

16. A Crime – Sharon von Etten – Epic:

17. I’m a Pilot – Fanfarlo – Reservoir:

18. Scandal at the Parkade – Owen Pallett – A Swedish Love Story:

19. Far Out Isn’t Far Enough – Cinema Red and Blue:

20. Everything is New – Antony and the Johnsons – Swanlights:

21. All Delighted People (classic rock version) – Sufjan Stevens – All Delighted People EP:

22. The Suburbs (continued) – Arcade Fire – The Suburbs:

Written by Elizabeth

October 29, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Posted in Culture, Music

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