Sunday, November 18, 2012

Seeing Through New Eyes

A couple of weeks ago, while in Gettysburg, I managed to break my beloved 50/1.8f AD lens. I was most displeased with my idiocy, because I absolutely loved it. Having done a little bit of internet research, I was unsure whether or not to purchase another 1.8, or to upgrade a little and purchase a 50/1.4f lens. I have started using the camera at work quite a lot, and I've noted some issues with exposure because I'm shooting in low light a lot. So I persuaded myself to purchase the 1.4 to get that extra 2/3 of an f-stop, and luckily for me, there was a refurbished lens in stock. I took it out on Friday for work, and then yesterday for fun. The results are... delightful. I am in love with the lens - sharp and beautiful, basically. The farmers' market was where I did my test run outdoors, and I'm very happy indeed.The indoors photos it takes are utterly gorgeous, too.  I will miss the old lens, but a good choice, methinks.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

So This Is the Aftermath

Hurricane (except not-so-much) Sandy hit land last night and, other than a few anxious flights of fancy, we were absolutely fine.  So, really, the overwhelming feeling is relief.  Bits of the neighbourhood were hit hard - trees ripping out the pavement, smashed into a house; four-by-fours with smashed windscreens under a large trunk - but, fortunately, we are on high ground and power remains.  But friends remain without electricity or water; one friend's colleague is bereaved, with his nephew's house hit by a tree while the family slept.  I can't imagine how dreadfully unlucky that is, how painful.  Another friend of mine lost her brother - not through a storm-induced injury, but I imagine arranging the funeral and other details must be a nightmare in the post-Sandy city.  So, really, relief seems appropriate.  Hunkering down to spend time with family at this point is really not in any way a hardship.

Monday, October 29, 2012


A few weeks ago, a colleague and I navigated to the live stream that the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, broadcasts each day that it has oral argument. The argument in question was certainly one that appealed to our prurient interests.  The question presented to the court:  Whether private lap dances in a strip club are artistic performances, such that they are exempt from sales tax.

It was genuinely a fascinating debate.  Seriously, more so than just for the giggling at hearing the Justices debate the finer points of whether or not lap dances are art, or choreographed, or whatever. I do think it ties into an interesting deeper question about what you think the women who work there do. It is easy to be dismissive of this work, and the performances, but it does take skill, training, and flair.

Last week the Court of Appeals handed down its decision.  The court was split 4-3, but the majority found that the private dances were not exempt from the sales tax. That is, they were not artistic performances, with choreographic elements. 

A few points of interest:
  1. I have to say, from a lawyering point of view, the evidence presented seemed to open the door for the Court of Appeals to find against the night club.  They had an expert's report that went into detail regarding the choreographed, expert moves of the women in the nightclub.  But that report made no mention of what happened in the private rooms, and the Court latched onto that. Although I don't think the outcome would have been different, I think the majority would have found itself in a much harder position to hold against the strip club if it had presented evidence of the dance and performances that took place in the private rooms. As it was, the Court was given a slowish ball straight up the middle, and took advantage of that (baseball metaphor for you all). 
  2. The dissent has a piece of reasoning toward the end that I find persuasive; basically, that it was distaste for the appeal of the performances, rather than the skill and its content, that led to the club having to pay tax.  I think this section is particularly nicely written (albeit I don't buy the disapproval, necessarily):
    Like the majority and the Tribunal, I find this particular form of dance unedifying -- indeed, I am stuffy enough to find it distasteful. Perhaps for similar reasons, I do not read Hustler magazine; I would rather read the New Yorker. I would be appalled, however, if the State were to exact from Hustler a tax that the New Yorker did not have to pay, on the ground that what appears in Hustler is insufficiently "cultural and artistic." That sort of discrimination on the basis of
    content would surely be unconstitutional. It is not clear to me why the discrimination that the majority approves in this case stands on any firmer constitutional footing.
  3. Whether or not you agree with the outcome, one thing that I found genuinely distasteful about this whole shebang was that the male attorneys and those male justices on the court repeatedly referred to the women who work in the club as "girls."  Occasionally, if one were lucky, one would hear "dancer."  But, otherwise, it was "girls." I might even have taken a "lady" reference, but did not have to make that decision.  Just girls. 

Making It Real

This weekend we wandered (and by wandered, I mean took a long old drive) down to Pennsylvania.  We were hoping to catch the leaves changing, but knew that there was a chance that even heading south, we might miss them.  So we thought that to keep the folks and us entertained, we would go somewhere with alternatives, namely Amish country, and Gettysburg.  And those alternatives really were something else. 

I'm not going to go into it at length, yet - still processing - but Gettysburg was amazing.  We watched the Ken Burns Civil War documentary, but a lot of it jumbled together.  Nonetheless, Gettysburg stood out, and seeing the fields - with the seemingly haphazard memorials in fact accurately placed for each platoon, for a Confederate General's fall, for the line that the Army of Northern Virginia pierced but did not fully breach - brought home the scale and reality of it in a way that I had not previously been able to process. 

Nonetheless, the whole time, I had a nagging feeling in the back of my head that wanted to know what one of my favourite writers had said about Gettysburg.  I was sure he had visited; now I needed to know how he had processed it, his reactions.  And I think, as per usual, what he had to say is more interesting and useful, in many ways, than my own jumbled thoughts right now.  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

How I Learned to Eat Fruit

Or:  Pour Sugar All over That Stuff.

I am not a big fruit eater.  Well, correction: When I am in a country where I can get certain fruits freshly grown and plucked, I will eat papaya, mango, pineapple, guava, figs, guanabana, 'til my every pore oozes with the scent of those fragrant, warm climes fruits.  I adore them.  But here on the Eastern Seaboard, the lack of freshness makes those fruits taste dull, metallic.  Not that I won't eat them at all, but they're usually slightly disappointing, unless you get extremely lucky.

And, other than watermelon during the ripe season,* I'm not a big fruit eater.  Blackberries just remind me of our bramble bushes in my back garden at home, where somehow my mother has the knack of growing pounds of the buggers each year.  Rambling through the thorns, picking up oozing, giant brambles and stuffing our faces with them, covering ourselves and our clothes in them - that's how blackberries should be eaten, not slightly cold and sour.  Raspberries I love, but somehow rarely pick up in the shops.

I'm trying to eat more and, to try something different, a while back I made a strawberry and rhubarb compote, based on an internet recipe I found, to have with waffles for breakfast.  (Can't imagine what put me in the mood).  I did; and it was great.  So I've been experimenting a little with my methods, and have come up with what I think is a pretty lovely way to eat breakfast.

Strawberry & Ginger & [AN Other Fruit] Breakfast Compote

First, I chop up one of the big boxes of strawberries you get here in the US.  I think they're about 1lb.  Cut off the stalks, chop up the fruit, and put into a frying pan/skillet over a low-medium heat.  If I have other fruit I want to throw in, I do those then, too.  Recently I've been using a couple of peaches.  Skins on (fibre!), but chopped up.  Then I add a bit of icing sugar.  In British terms, it's about 3.5oz, or around 100g.  In U.S. terms, it's not icing but confectioner's (or powdered) sugar, and it's about 3/4 cup.  Then I grate in a small knob of raw ginger - about 1 inch, cubed.  Then I bring it to the boil, which sounds weird, but the juices all bubble up.  You let it boil for a little while - maybe one-two minutes - stirring all the while, and then you reduce the heat so it's simmering.  That's the point at which I add balsamic vinegar.  Yes, it seems a bit restauranty, but the acid cuts through the sugariness of the strawberries, while the vinegar provides an unusual sweetness.  I also add black pepper, too, so that there is some heat with the pepper and the ginger.  Then some fresh mint from our back garden.  I shred in about 6 small leaves.  Then I just let it simmer down for about 30-45 minutes.  Weirdly, if you simmer it too low, you don't get as many of the juices; I think it's because the temperature isn't high enough to fully break down the fruit.  You have to be careful for the fruit sugars burning, but I like the mixture a little sticky and caramelized.

Then I whack on top of low-fat/whole grain waffles, and serve with either greek yogurt or sour cream; maybe with some chopped almonds or pumpkin seeds on top.  Either way: bonza.

* Admittedly, most of which I consume in the form of Murricanes.  

Friday, October 05, 2012

Unexplained Pause: The Sequel

After the first pause came the second.  It's hard to explain why this has happened.  It might be to do with my change in schedule with the new job, but it's not clear to me.  I've certainly worked more hours and yet blogged more in the past.

The new semester has started apace, with many projects going ahead and a flurry of activity and new people and names to learn.  Of course, the biggest change thus far is that TOH is actually living in the same state - it's bliss.  Of course, we can't make it that easy - he is working in another state, and like a demon right now, with so many things on.  So it's a transition period, in some ways, but it's still rather special to go to bed and wake up together. It's also nice to do domestic things - rearranging furniture and the garden; cook a lot... but we've probably not managed as much of the goals as we'd wanted.  We've certainly made little progress with Friday Night Lights (I know, I know, but, based on practice, we must revel in being so far behind with tv shows), and our aim to explore a new local place a week has not worked so well thus far.  We'll manage it, I'm sure.  The three-day weekend should help us have some time to do something local. I hope.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Six Songs of Me

The Guardian has been doing a rather jolly series of posts titled "Six Songs of Me." So, being an obsessive music listmaker, I had to do it, too.

What was the first song you ever bought?
Adam Ant - Goody Two Shoes
Well, it's not like I personally actually bought it, I don't think, but my parents bought it for me.  So that counts?  Maybe?  In actual fact, I can't remember the first thing I bought with my own money.  I really can't.  So I'm going for this.  I played it all the time, on 7", in my mum's front room.  I absolutely loved it.

What song always gets you dancing?
Slum Village - Forth & Back / Bel Biv Devoe - Poison

This answer is another contingent answer - you see, there are numerous songs that will get me out to the dance floor.  Numerous.  But if by "dancing" you mean literally unable to stand still, then Forth & Back is the one.  It is insanely danceable.  The only downside - there is just nowhere that this gets played out, which is a travesty.  For a guaranteed dance floor jaunt, out of songs that are likely to be played, then Poison wins, although similar results come from This Is How We Do It and No Diggity.  Because, well, obviously.

What song takes you back to your childhood?

Wishing Well by Terence Trent D'arby. My mum LOVED him, and anything by him reminds me of trips in our blue cavalier and the tape deck. Many, many tapes.

What is your perfect love song?
Ain't No Sunshine - Bill Withers
It's short and to the point - I don't like my life when the person I love is not around.  It's beautifully undemonstrative, showy, or ostentatious; his delivery is perfect and does not detract from the simplicity of the song and its message.  However, a far more emotive singer, Jeff Buckley, would have my next two.  Lover, You Should Have Come over rarely fails to make me sob at least a little at the yearning, mourning, and melancholy within as he lists what he would give up to have her back; Everybody Here Wants You has a sparse arrangement which works wonderful with the beautiful richness of his voice. 

What song would you want at your funeral?
LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends
Because it makes me happy beyond all measure, it's about getting old and spending time with people you love but it not always going the way it should. And I've listened and danced and jumped and cried to it more times than I can count.

Time for the encore. One last song that makes you, you.
Orbital - Chime.   
This is my happy place song.  No matter where I am, what I'm doing, what mood I'm in, this is what lifts me up.  Every single time.  It works everywhere and anywhere.  We were zooming along the road in Kefalonia on our last night, sad to be leaving the beautiful place and our wonderful holiday, and yet, this song did not feel out of place. It never does.  


There is a great bit in High Fidelity - I'm talking about the movie, but presuming it's in the book, but have never read any Nick Hornby (overwhelmingly put off by his Goonerness which is, weirdly enough, relevant to this post) - where Jack Black's character points out that what is important in a person is not what they're like, but what they like.  This is a prejudice I share - hence refusing to read Nick Hornby, it seems.  If his judgment about a football team is so wrong, how could I trust him on other things?

This little bit was brought to mind by the flight back to NYC after a couple of weeks in Europe (more on that later, possibly).  The gentleman in front of TOH was alternating between doing work, and watching movies.  The work appeared to be some sort of presentation on encouraging adults to learn and participate in education (their own, I think).  The problem was, I could not take that work truly seriously, because I'd seen him voluntarily watch and laugh at American Reunion, the latest installment in the American Pie series, and pretty bad, according to a wide variety of pretty reliable sources.  Then, however, he chose to watch Battleship, and all his credibility leached out - why on earth would you voluntarily watch that?

On the other hand, I should be a tad generous, because I am a subscriber to the belief that the usual rules about what one should watch moviewise are shifted while in the air.  For example, although I would never usually watch anything with her in while on the ground, Sandra Bullock movies are not only fair game but welcome while aboard.  So, really, I can't talk.  But given that I watched a Danish thriller (total schlock, but whatever, subtitles, and it's not Battleship) and a gritty, surprisingly good slice of an ex-con's life in Wild Bill, I could at least feel morally superior on that one flight. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Reclaimed - If Only for a Short While

The 2012 Olympics are over, and I am bereft.  I managed to be home for the final full day of competition, and screamed with joy as Samantha Murray got a silver in the Modern Pentathlon, and marvelled at the poise and beauty of Anthony Joshua, as well as his unbelievable size, in winning the Super Heavyweight.  I even watched some of the handball final, and tried to spot a friend of mine at the basketball (failed!).  I was amused and confused and entranced by the closing ceremony.

It's hard to put into words what it has felt like over the past few weeks to watch it all unfold at home and not be part of it.  I'd planned to be here the whole time, and then I got that pesky thing called a job, and had to change those plans.  It was... upsetting, despite having an amazing summer and learning a lot. 

But trailing my giant suitcase from Leicester Square to Charing Cross yesterday, I felt something strange - happiness at seeing people with Union Flags draped over them.  Usually, if someone wears one of those, it brings up all sorts of repulsive associations: the BNP, the National Front, and visions of racist chants and vile behaviour.  So to have the display of the flag have a positive meaning was an extraordinary thing.  To have patriotism be genuinely that - a patriotic fervour in our nation - that of Mo Farah, Jessica Ennis, Greg Rutherford, Anthony Joshua, Louis Smith, Tom Daley, Chris Hoy, Nicola Adams, Bradley Wiggings, Kathy Grainger, Clare Balding - and not a synonym for for racism;; for Britishness meaning something other than just whiteness; this was a wonderful thing.  A weight lifted from our national consciousness.  It was truly liberating.  It'll be interesting to see how long it lasts...

Additionally, from a spectator's point of view, it was a glorious relief from the monotony of certain sporting events.  To really, genuinely, not give a flying monkey about the start of the footie season, or the PGA Championships (although nice work, of course, Mr. McIlroy), was a startlingly welcome experience.  I don't want football back, almost; at most, I want to enjoy the rest of the cricket season (although the England team is doing its best to ruin that, it seems).  I want something other than football, basketball, American Football, with their massive emphasis on money making to the detriment of all else, including health of their athletes.  Here were thousands of athletes who make little to no money from their sport, and do it just for the chance of competing to win; here were thousands of volunteers, making the Olympics work simply for the joy of doing that service.  It makes the "major" sports seem rather vulgar in comparison.

Having said that, no doubt I'll be back to screaming and yelling at Spurs in a couple of weeks, and for interceptions a few weeks later when the NFL starts up.  But, for now, not caring about it seems rather grand.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Lights Out

Last year, LCD Soundsystem's final ever gig, at Madison Square Gardens, marked the end of an era for me and TOH.  LCD's music, as I have detailed at length (and ad nauseum) on this blog, has accompanied us throughout our time in NYC.  Even after the MSG show, it continued:  the photo below was taken while we, with some of our closest friends, all extremely inebriated on Graark and Stormies and love and laughter, jumped and sang out our hearts to Home

But, as the year progressed, I found myself listening to LCD infrequently (down at # 11 for the past twelve months!  Unthinkable!); it seemed that the wedding and the gig had loaded the music with too much emotional meaning, as overwrought and pathetic as that sentiment appears to me when I actually write it down and re-read this.  So although I automatically purchased tickets to watch Shut up and Play the Hits, the Oscilloscope documentary about that gig, I approached the movie theatre with trepidation last night. 

I thought I would feel melancholic and unhappy that I would never see them play live again.  Instead, I sat and watched in a state of wonder, with a big fat grin on my face for 95% of the film.  I reveled in the memories of just how absolutely bloody brilliant the concert was.  In particular, the part with All My Friends was absolutely spectacular, capturing perfectly the excitement and joy and exuberance that song always brought to a concert.  I shed a tear with James Murphy when he did in the warehouse with all his gear; and I cried during Someone Great, as I often did at the gigs, and during their last ever live song as a band, New York I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down.  But instead of sadness, the film reignited and reinvigorated my love for LCD Soundsystem.  So expect my profile to reflect that in the upcoming days.*

* Provided, of course, that I can somehow stop listening to Frank Ocean's Channel Orange, which is absolutely amazing and I have been playing non-stop for the last few days.  

Monday, July 16, 2012


I am, in case you were wondering, continuing to fight against the vicious insects that want to suck my blood dry.  I am still continuing to get bitten repeatedly.  The one difference is that I have learned to use anti-histamines in an attempt to prevent the ridiculous scratching, itching and misery that comes with the bites.

This ongoing battle is unfortunate because, thanks to the new job and my changed hours, I'm often home by around 6.30, when the little blighters are most active and out for blood.  Despite citronella candles and DEET, I'm still vulnerable; there's always some patch of flesh that the buggers find and exploit.  But it's oh so worth it to smell the lemon verbena and sniff the roses that are, despite our fears when we transplanted them, flourishing; and, above all, to see the fireflies flit around the gardens.  Fireflies don't exist at home, and they continue to be a source of wonder and delight to me, eight years after I arrived.  A true source of wonder (and a public reminder here to go and see the bioluminescence exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

On Reading

I've been reading a lot more recently, thanks to my much longer commute and much shorter working hours.

Some of those books aren't about dragons.  Some.  Read about my capitulation to the rather fabulous mind of Zadie Smith here

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sweet Thing

My auntie Thea was a skinny thing; I have memories of straight hair and thin arms and legs, emerging often from baggy jumpers.  So it always tickled me that the thing that has always reminded me of her is chocolate.  And not just any chocolate, but Fry's Peppermint Cream. I'd never even really noticed its existence until Thea said it was one of her favourites.  I cannot remember how old I was when we discussed it, even.  But the next time I saw it in a shop, I purchased it, and delighted in it  - a thick bar equivalent of After Eights, this is a crisp, dark chocolate bar filled with stiff, minty fondant; I adore it.  Since, although I don't see it often, and certainly not in the states, when it's there I buy it. And, without fail, it makes me think of her.

She loved liquorice allsorts, too.  A real sweet tooth, Thea.

I can hear her voice so clearly.  Strong brummy accent, with laughter in it.  I'll never be able to hear Van Morrison without thinking of her. 

Last time I saw her - which was too long ago - she had dyed her normally brown hair blonde, and she joked about it being frivolous and a bit of fun; she looked great.  She would often slip out to smoke one of her ever present rollies; she danced away with us as we celebrated at my cousin's wedding.  It was my birthday, too; a rare treat to celebrate with so many members of my family.

Yesterday, flying back from her funeral, I searched WH Smith's in Heathrow terminal 3 for Fry's Peppermint Cream; they didn't have any. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Good Life (Sort Of)

It's Memorial Day Weekend here in the US of A, and we've spent it jollying around on a boat, eating and drinking a lot, and indulging in the sunshine that has finally emerged after a few weeks of rain.  This is after several weeks of visitors and overindulgence generally.  It's not been particularly taxing except on our bodies, which are feeling a tad flabby and underexercised, and our psyches, which are feeling tired and flabby and slow.  So, despite several events that we're already committed to in the upcoming weeks, a month of austerity - financial, physical and emotional - sounds good, if only to provide a contrast to the previous month in which I've been a little out of control.  

So my aim is, for each week:
  • Exercise: two boxing classes; one yoga class; and one football match (or equivalents).
  • Food & drink: No processed white carbs (i.e. bread, pasta) during the week; no beer during the week; one glass of wine per day maximum.
  • Reading: each day I am to read all of one way on the subway (as opposed to procrastinating and listening to podcasts).
  • Movies: one a week.
EEEEEEK.  I'm sure I can do it.  Surely.  

Friday, May 04, 2012

I want to offer my love and respect to the end

Today, it was announced that MCA of The Beastie Boys passed away, at the age of 47.  It's one of those strange times that, thanks to what we call Social Media (twitter, facebook and, I'd argue, google reader), that I know so quickly, and that I can share in the mourning and reminiscences with people I know well, acquaintances, and strangers I've never met.  It's a remarkable thing; despite discussion about the loneliness and isolating qualities of the web and Social Media, I feel part of a community.  People I never knew even liked The Beastie Boys are sharing their sorrow with me, and that feels soothing.

In response, I've been doing what I always do - trying to compile a list of my favourite Beastie tunes.  I can't do it just yet - too much.  But I've compiled some of the best things on the interwebs about MCA, and they're brilliant.  Note:  If you don't know, Nathanial Hornblower was Adam Yauch's alter ego director - responsible for So What'cha Want and Intergalactic, two of their greatest videos.

 I'll probably add more as they get published.  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Post-Coachella Listmaking

Over the course of the weekend at Coachella, we saw over 20 shows, whether catching a few minutes here and there (and a few minutes was enough for Justice, who were unremittingly rubbish, and also for Noel Gallagher, as we heard the utterly lovely Half the World Away, but not much of the other stuff in which I have no interest although, alas, we did hear Don't Look Back in Anger, which I truly loathe). 
  1. DJ Shadow (just unbelievable: the tunes were amazing, he played Six Days and Organ Donor - albeit the version on Pre-Emptive Strike, rather than Endtroducing... - and he mixed in Passin' Me By by The Pharcyde.  Also, the visuals were stunning - he was in a spinning ball, for the love of Ray J).
  2. Pulp (highlights:  Underwear, I Spy, Common People - although, as Dr. TOH says, even he could be the frontman for a song like that, it's so perfect)
  3. Metronomy (actually, probably up there as my favourite of the weekend - everything was utterly perfect, so dancey and fun for a 2pm slot in the blazing sun, with probably the best crowd we were in all festival.  Hard to pick a favourite, but Radio Ladio was ace, as was The Bay and The Look)
  4. Santigold (so much fun, she told the crowd off for taking photos rather than enjoying themselves, so I would have loved her even if she hadn't done Hold The Line or been generally great.  Also for Enrique, the dancer, who loved it more than anyone else.
  5. The Weeknd (for the last three tunes, basically, which were phenomenal, and also High for This, although the volume was problematic)
  6. Tuneyards (I can't face the capitalization but she was ace)
  7. The Rapture (would have been higher if we'd caught more of the gig, but what we saw was fantastic, particularly as we caught House of Jealous Lovers, How Deep Is Your Love?, and Get Myself Into It)
  8. Radiohead (utterly beautiful, but I was tired and it wasn't convincing any non-converts - but Exit Music (for a Film) was gorgeous, Karma Police was great, as was 15 Steps, although I was sad to miss out on Lucky, which the first Coachella weekend got, but at least they mixed up the sets)
  9. SBTRKT (mucho bopping, Pharoahs was great, although shame no Jessie Ware or Living Like I Do, given that Sampha was there - what a waste)
  10. (Joint) Flying Lotus (noodly and great) and Girl Talk (highly silly but everyone was dancing away, it was ace).

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mulling It Over

We just got back from several days in California, including a jaunt to Coachella, the music festival in the middle of the desert.  We danced in the sun with the surrounding mountains framing the revelry.  I've got many mind grapes to develop regarding the performances and, possibly more significantly in my mind, the festival-goers and how we view and listen to concerts.  But mostly, for the next couple of days in my mind I'll be reliving the fun and bemoaning the temperature drop from the trip back east.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Monthly Challenge: Still Foolish

I have completed two weeks of the 100 Push Ups challenge I set myself on April 1.

Everything hurts today. But that's probably a combo of quite a lot of walking round Storm King on Saturday - a lovely art sculpture park up the western bank of the Hudson, near West Point and opposite Beacon on the eastern bank - two football matches yesterday (in which I - shamefully - lost my temper quite badly, having been much calmer of late, picked up nasty scrapes my elbow and shoulder from being knocked over and more than a few bruises from being kicked), and then did my push ups for Week 2, Day 3 after a corona and many, many fried pickles. Unsurprisingly, doing over 50 push ups (eek!) was hard with all that batter and creamy dressing - so good - in my belly. And then I went boxing this morning.

So I'm more than a little achy and tired. And for various reasons I'm not going to be able to go for the rest of the week, so somehow decided going tomorrow as well would be the best way to get my two lessons in this week. Foolish indeed.

Monday, April 02, 2012


This morning I had a meeting at Planned Parenthood. Just the administrative offices, not a health centre. So I went there not really thinking about security measures, but the offices have to be thorough about who comes in and out of the building. The door is not open to the public, but you have to be buzzed in; you then have to be booked in, give photo ID, and be accompanied by a PP employee - you don't get to just wander up on your own. The ugliness that forces these measures stands in strange contrast to the mission statements on the walls that discuss the importance of women's lives, autonomy, and strength. I probably wouldn't have blogged about it, but then I saw this piece of news on Jezebel -about a (fortunately) rubbish attempt at bombing a clinic in Wisconsin - and the links between the measures and the need for them became much clearer. And it reminded me how brave providers are when all they should have to worry about is their patients.

And made me more determined about the Bowlathon that raises money for women who cannot afford to pay for their abortions. We've entered a team and anything anyone can give would be great. So that's that.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Monthly Challenge: April's Fool

Although I have this year's big resolutions - of which I'm only really maintaining the something green every day and the not drinking two nights a week (mostly thanks to having to get out of the house by 6.45am for boxing) - I've decided to try out a monthly challenge to see if I can form some healthy habits just by trying something for a month. So after the success of No Drinking in February, in March I resolved to remove my make up and actually wash my face properly every night. And other than one night, I managed that. Although it's not in great shape, I do think my skin has benefitted somewhat from this regime change. Hopefully I will, for the most part, keep it up.

April's challenge is a little different. I'm going to complete at least four weeks of the One Hundred Push Ups challenge - if nothing else, watching Michelle Obama kick Ellen's arse at push ups made me realise why her arms are so amazing. I've started this challenge numerous times, never really getting beyond the first four or so sessions. But now it's a monthly challenge, hopefully I'll fare a little better. I'm also trying to rope in other people so I have some accountability, as well as posting it here. So I've just taken the initial test and first serious workout will be tomorrow. Eek!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Today is the annual Back up Your Birth Control Day, where those that can try to raise awareness of the availability - or not - of emergency contraception. This year's theme is specifically EC = BC, and there's a rather fab tumblr of iconic images rebranded with the EC = BC equation.

This is important because - as a lot of feminists have been warning for bloody ages - there really is a groundswell of people trying to brainwash us all that emergency contraception is abortion - and, indeed, that the pill is an abortifacient. It's not. When you have fairly serious political journalists such as John Dickerson giving that viewpoint respect, as he did recently on a Slate political gabfest podcast, it shows how much they've been able to use that branding.*

Anyway, today is Back Up Your Birth Control Day. I've taken emergency contraception twice in my life, both times back in the UK and, possibly both in the 20th century. Nonetheless, due to health concerns, my GP has had me come off hormonal contraception. While we are incredibly careful, accidents with condoms do happen, as with all birth control. So I'm backing up my birth control today by sharing EC coupons, purchasing my own EC, and blogging here (and pointing you to other blogs here).

*(NB: While some of Dickerson's own criticisms of British journalism are valid, this is a prime example of what I find utterly infuriating about the often used "neutral" U.S. journalistic approach - all viewpoints are valid and deserve time. No, they don't - this is not true, scientifically, and it needs to be pointed out that they're wrong. Just because it's a sincerely held belief doesn't mean that it's not wrong. But that's a whole other post).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


This morning I actually had to listen to an NPR reporter asking why this might bother the black community.

But we're in a post-race society where people don't see colour, right?

I can't put into words how awful this is. So I'm not going to. But truly: Humanity is not my favourite thing right now.

Monday, March 19, 2012


About a week or so ago I was most disgruntled about the change to daylight savings and it being dark when I arose for boxing lessons. Oh, what a difference a few days makes; yet again, I am overexcited about the joys of spring. The weekend was absolutely glorious, allowing me to boat around Central Park, eat a lot of Grom hazelnut gelato, visit the beautiful magnolias at the BBG, and do several hours' hard graft in the back garden. It needed it, I have to say. This year I plan to spend a lot more time just gently idling and pottering in the garden. I think it's good for me, as I tend to be an all or nothing type, and gardens require consistent but, often, low-level attention. I say this every year, of course, but I'm determined to make this year different. Yesterday saw much raking and turning of the soil (I'm so sad people don't really use the term "hoeing"). This week I need to turn some more, fertilise, and then this weekend we need to mulch/re-do the paths with wood chips and then do some serious seeding / planting.

Friday, March 16, 2012


I've associated New York City with Keith Haring since my first visit here. He's someone I wouldn't have known about without KTB, and so when I came here for the first time, I made sure we went to Pop Shop, the store on Lafayette that sold all things Haring - t-shirts, mugs, skateboards, dominoes; you name it, it was there with a Haring design. We bought an unbelievably cool flanneled hoodie dressing gown with Haring's Little Angel on it for our friends' 8 month old (meaning that child is now 10 - holy hell). I bought a cool t-shirt that I still own, albeit tattered and faded.

Today I went to the Members' Preview of Keith Haring 1978-1982, a really cool retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum. It was fabulous. His works were enormous and vibrant; they surprised me in their visceral and often overtly sexual nature. His work was playful and joyous and exuberant. I hadn't realised how much he used video, whether bopping away to a messed up version of the Flying Lizards' Money (That's What I Want) as his Tribute to Gloria Vanderbilt, or painting away to a Devo record. That movement is echoed within his paintings, where everything is in motion: his figures grow and stretch and dance and kick and wave. His use of street art is exciting and part of his overall sense that art should be for the people, not something bourgeois or only for the educated middle classes. One of my favourite things in the whole exhibition was a wall reproducing adverts for his performances and art works and installations - fliers with his photo, scrawled times and dates. You got the sense of excitement, but also how easy it would have been to ignore his work. I see signs stuck everywhere in the city but would never have thought that there could have been a Keith Haring behind it.

The exhibition also emphasized how bloody cool New York City was in the late seventies and early eighties and just why those who were here then have a sense of superiority at having been here; why they feel it's not as edgy or cool. Because it's not. Not anymore.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Queensberry Rules

My latest fitness fad, after my flirtation with Bikram last year, is boxing. With a friend I'm taking beginners' boxing classes. These lessons emphasise everything I love in exercise: a lot of sweating; competition; a real sense of personal progression; and, significantly, stressing the skill, speed, and strength of your body - this is not exercise solely for the sake of getting skinny. Although I thought I'd like it, it really is beyond anything I'd imagined. I feel much more mentally calm - despite being physically shattered - after our classes. While you're working on your technique that's all you can think of, how to get your body to do what it needs to do, how to improve. While you're holding for someone else, you're watching what that person does, how she or he does things better than you, and how to hold better so your wrists don't ache all day. It's utterly absorbing and consuming.

And it's all due to the power of Groupon. Yes, I finally used a Groupon and have used up nine of my ten classes, and am definitely going to be buying more.

Friday, March 02, 2012

The Morning After the Night Before

So, I drank last night. The first drink was at one of my favourite bars in Brooklyn, and it was a strong one: the Aviation, a combination of gin, maraschino liqueur and creme de violette. I did have a couple more drinks over the space of the evening - a michelada at Caracas, a purveyor of gorgeous arepas, and then something called a Honey Bear. They were nice indeed, although the michelada was the drink I enjoyed the most, I think. I have to learn how to make a good one.

This morning I did not too clever, I have to say. I paced myself last night - three drinks in four hours. Lots of water, lots of food. But this morning I felt rancid. Stomach churning, head hurting a little. But it wasn't those things that bothered me the most; instead, it was the fuzziness, impreciseness, forgetfulness. I am not good in the mornings at the best of times, but this morning I had to go back to the house twice: once to change my coat (mine was covered in goodness knows what stain - from arepas sauce, I think), and then again to pick up my work pass. I really feel as if I've been clearer-headed in the past month. Having not had any for a while, it was fascinating to fully experience the effect of alcohol in much greater depth and detail than one does if one drinks a lot.

It's only an initial foray back into drinking, so I should not make grand pronouncements. But I think a potential lesson is that quantity for the sake of it is not worthwhile. Certainly not on a school night. But, also, no need to overreact, eh?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

One Giant Leap Back for Womankind

Today is February 29. It is a significant day for three reasons.

First, selfishly enough, it is important because it marks the last day of my month of abstinence. I'll reflect on that after my weekend which will involve drinking, I think, but I feel this month really has been different from previous years' efforts. Second, it's the birthday of various people whose birthdays only come every four years. Yay to you, Joss Ackland!

Third, more significantly, it's the traditional flip of tradition, given that someone years ago decided that today would be the day that women ask men to marry them. It's led to an astonishingly depressing set of conversations on FB about how only men should ask women and lots of expressions of horror at the thought of a woman asking a man. It's hard to start expressing my unhappiness at the tone and positions behind it. Needless to say, I disagree, but I also dislike the whole you-have-to-wait-for-someone because obviously you as a woman are desperate to get married. Ugh. Also: gay proposals. Men get asked; women do the asking. It's not sex-specific and it won't kill you or your relationship.

I keep thinking that my views are fairly common, that it's normal to decide together because you're both so in love and you're planning together to share your lives and all the legal obligations and benefits that come from that. Instead it's about him deciding, but enough people have written about that, and it's not just bad from that perspective. Recently I've been talking to people whose friends have planned increasingly ridiculously elaborate proposals. So now there's a shedload of pressure on him to come up with something special, something to tell the kids, something to post on bloody facebook. It's like weddings - the pressure to create something special, to basically be the star in your own movie or fairytale, seems ludicrous, expensive, and overwhelming. I wonder what it is that's making us feel we all need that, that the normal/everyday can't be special. Weddings are fun - I love them, absolutely - but there's so much pressure on them and given that divorce rates are so high, why not just concentrate on how wonderful is to hang out with the person you love, and to choose to spend the rest of your life with them - whether or not you legalise it?

Bah humbug. I probably just need a drink.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Freedom of Association

TOH and I ventured south to Philadelphia, City of Brotherly Love, this weekend. It was my first trip to the city. Sad to say, we didn't see much of it, despite my aims to:
  1. Recreate the beginning of Trading Places
  2. Find Paddy's Pub
  3. Play me some b-ball on the courts of West Philadelphia

Alas, it was not to be. The weather was cold and windy and rather unpleasant, and instead we cooped up indoors making pizzas and hanging out with our friends' cool kid. But we did manage to go to the Italian Market, which pleased me greatly (despite it basically being all shut down apart from one stall with a bin on fire and, fortunately, the cheese shop where we purchased mozzarella for the homemade pizzas).

We also went to the Art Museum. Assessment: mixed. There is decidedly too much English art on exhibition (Gainsborough, ugh), but there was a glorious Stubbs of a Hound coursing a Deer - rarely does an artist capture the sinew and weight and movement of an animal like he does - and a Turner I'd seen, I think, in the Turner Monet Whistler exhibition from a few years ago at Tate Britain, of the Houses of Parliament burning down. There was also a lovely Goya portrait of a toreador that I'd not seen before, with its typical glowing, expressive brown eyes and soft background and squiggly clothing details.

There were also lots of bits of churches ripped out and placed in the museum, something which I find a bit strange (see The Cloisters here in New York for a prime exhibit). The labels at the museum feature a lot of the passive voice - when the panels were removed, when the triptych was removed - which, felt a little unnerving as a British person rather familiar with the methods of stocking The British Museum (not that I don't love it there but you know... Residual ickiness with how we got the things doesn't stop wonder at the things or the loveliness of the building. Or something like that). There were glorious tiles and a Hindu shrine recreated, which were beautiful and calming. The art museum itself is gloriously situated, with that amazing panorama of the Philadelphia skyline (which I couldn't look at without hearing the theme tune to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia - that association is fixed for me, I'm afraid) and the sweeping run toward the main city made so famous by Rocky. Of course, TOH recreated the run up the steps, but it was horrendously windy so sadly it was not quite the triumphant moment it should have been (i.e. the two of us doing it together in full photoed montage).

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Promises Made, Promises Broken*

Yesterday, February 15, I did indeed break my something green every day resolution. It just completely slipped my mind. Because I had soup for lunch instead of a salad, I went home fully intending to eat a veggie burger and spinach, but, for some reason, the need for comfort food and self-indulgence took over. So instead I ate leftover paella (cooked from scratch by a rather lovely friend) with leftover aioli and gorgeous red cabbage braised in stock (another friend**). Oops. I really did just forget. It was only today that I remembered that I hadn't eaten anything green at all. Gah. So it's double duty today - salad for lunch, spinach for supper. Still, usually the problem with nothing green is that I eat nothing healthy at all. Whereas yesterday I had vegetable soup for lunch and a LOT of cabbage. So that's something.

In other news, I'm over halfway through the month of living abstemiously. This is the first year that I'm attempting no days off whatsoever. Of course, this is inconveniently the first leap year that's happened while I do the abstinence thing, so it's extra torturous. Except, of course, it's not that bad at all. I had to nix the idea of wine tasting in RI this weekend, but otherwise it's not really affecting my life too much. It's boring, but that's ok. Early nights and lots of reading works for me and, in particular, my bank balance

* This is the title of a Tiffany song. No, really. No judgment, kids - it was 1987 and we all loved her. I remember my Dad being HIGHLY unimpressed when I bought the album (tape cassette, obviously) in Our Price in Lewisham Shopping Centre. I am unwilling, even now, to concede he was right about how rubbish it was, despite clear evidence to the contrary.

** Saturday was the best dinner party ever, in that we had friends over and they provided all the food and drinks. All we had to do was a dip and provide the space, plus the washing up. I like dinner parties like that.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Far from (the) Heaven(s)

On Sunday I flew back after a jaunt to the UK. Jaunt is appropriate, as it really was an extraordinary use of money and natural resources, that I don't want to examine too closely, but was a glorious luxury to visit home for a weekend, be part of a spectacular birthday surprise for my stepmother, as well as spending some much needed time with my mum. It was grand.

The flight back was pretty stellar as far as flying goes - I'm afraid I've become rather jaded about the joys of flying. While at a wedding recently I was talking with some mums who had come away for what was the first time without their young kids, and they had been extremely excited about the prospect of eight hours on their own, to just watch tv, movies, read and, frankly, just be on their own, as them, without being a parent. Sometimes I understand that freedom to be away, but it's not been like that of late. There's always some work I could/should be doing; or sleep to be had; or a terrible selection of in-flight entertainment.

Sunday was great, however: I read The Knife of Never Letting Go in one fell swoop, devouring it and genuinely gasping at the end, wanting to scream in frustration that I didn't have the next book with me to plough through. I then watched Super 8 (The Goonies, basically, but that's not an insult, and I was genuinely dazzled by Elle Fanning, I thought she was great) and Drive (underwhelmed, but I do think a plane is not the best place to watch something that clearly was meant to be optimally seen and heard in a cinema). Nonetheless, it's a rare flight where there are two movies I want to see that I've not promised to watch with TOH, so that in and of itself was a joy.

The best part, however, was that midway through Drive, something caught my eye out of the window. We probably were coming just over Canada, somewhere, and settlements along the seaboard suddenly appeared through the clouds. I love seeing those at the best of times, but the busy, orange lights starkly contrasted with the vast blackness of the sky, which was illuminated by a gloriously bright moon and Winter Triangle. The Winter Triangle consists of Betelgeuse, the big red star in Orion's shoulder, Sirius (the Dogstar, part of Canis Major, and the brightest star as seen from Earth), and Procyon, in Canis Minor. Orion really is something special to me - the first constellation I learned to recognise, and a symbol of long, winter nights with clear skies and visible puffs of breath in the cold. It particular reminds me of one New Year's Eve (I think) that we spent on my uncle's barge in the middle of nowhere, with miles and miles of sky above us, clear and beautiful. Terrifying in its vastness and emptiness, but beautiful and comforting, too. There is a Summer Triangle, but it just doesn't have quite the same magic, for some reason. Being 30,000ft up made the Winter Triangle seem much closer, as if we were sharing the same space, equally separated and distant from the Earth's surface. It was disorienting but glorious, and all too fleeting. The clouds covered the settlements and we moved on, touching down all too soon.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Testing, Testing

I've probably remarked on it before, but the main tests of abstinence are not the big nights out; it's relatively easy to avoid going out for drinks if you're not drinking (surprise!). What are difficult are those nights after a long, cold, wet day when you could really do with a glass of red wine; or, like today, when I wandered around a cold, snowy London, and saw people huddled in gorgeous old pubs, and I experienced a serious yen for a whiskey mac, with its spice and warmth.*

But the biggest test in all four days was likely to be the biggest test of all this whole month: getting on a plane last night. TOH and I are now, for our sins and for a horrible carbon footprint, experienced overnight flyers, and one has to have a set routine to maximise sleep. One has to take it seriously and treat it like a military operation. The steps are simple:
  • Make sure carry on luggage contains a sleep mask, a neck pillow, noise-reducing headphones and a pre-arranged sleep inducing playlist.
  • Arrive at airport fairly early, early enough for a big, carbo-loaded dinner, such as burger and fries. Nothing light or energising - something heavy and greasy that will send me to sleep fairly promptly. Add a giant glass of red wine.
  • Once on plane put on that eye mask and use the neck pillow and just fall asleep. Seriously, I'm normally asleep by the end of take off.
  • Don't panic when waking up shortly thereafter. I usually wake up about 45-60 minutes into the flight. Don't be tempted by the food/movies available, as this is often the time the entertainment system kicks in. Make self comfy, get the blanket out, put on playlist/noise reducing headphones, go back to sleep.
And that's it. No big secrets, just try to fall asleep and don't get sidetracked by waiting for food or movies. This method doesn't guarantee a huge amount of sleep, but I usually get about 5 hours on a 6.5 hour flight, which is more than most people.

Except, of course, last night I didn't have any wine. I'm afraid I cheated somewhat, in that I took cold medicine that I specifically chose for its ability to cause drowsiness. And it worked. And, bonus, my sinuses feel not too bad today. But I really was worried that I would have to crack last night. Luckily, it worked and I got about 4.5 hours. Not perfect, but probably more than most people in economy.

God, this post is dull. I blame the tiredness and not drinking. Off to catch some more sleep.

* Whiskey and ginger wine, for those who don't know - an absolutely glorious winter warmer that was apparently, strangely enough, invented in the Raj - at least, it was if you believe wiki.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Month of Living Abstemiously: The 2012 Edition

No drinking in February tends to come at a most opportune moment. Today it feels most welcome, having spent a weekend overindulging at friends' nuptials in the Caribbean. That was terribly indulgent, and Sunday my body utterly rebelled at the thought of more booze for supper; this, of course, came in response to drinking rum most of the early evening while on a catamaran. Ahem. So I'm very much looking forward to it, along with trying to keep up with some healthier living i.e. exercise. I've not done much of that at all.

I've also failed utterly at two of my four resolutions - walking home and a movie. But:
  • Tonight I am going to see a friend for dinner and I'm going to walk the three miles between work and the restaurant to meet her, so that's a start.
  • I watched two movies on the plane to and from the nuptials - Moneyball, which made me really want to read the book (and delight in the badarsedness that is Brad Pitt), and Crazy Stupid Love, which I liked a lot more than I was expecting - although given that that was about zero, it's not saying much. Julianne Moore is just lovely, but it really would have been nice to have seen the movie flesh out why she wanted a divorce, but that wouldn't have fit with the narrative. Instead we got a lot of Steve Carrell (who I'm still on the fence about) and Ryan Gosling, who is nothing but a pleasure to watch, for many reasons.
And as tomorrow starts February off to a no-drinking bang, it's all go for seriously maintaining the other resolutions. I have had something green every single day, and it's been pretty easy, although I've had to go out of my way a couple of times to make it happen. It's been good for me so far, I think.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Reading the Detectives

I am a big fan of the detective fiction genre. I could always tell when I was stressed as a youth, because I'd wander to the library and head back with armfuls of Agatha Christie and various other detective writers. I love a great many and, recently, in Claire De Witt and the City of the Dead have read one of my favourite new voices in years; I am genuinely excited about the prospect of future books in this series. I'm also about to read another new voice (well, new to me) in Jussi Adler-Olsen. Am hopeful this is not yet another male detective with a drinking problem, a cool record collection and problems with his spouse/ladies yet absolutely irresistible to the ladies. Not that I didn't love the early Rebus/Wallander, but there is something a little tiring about those, which is why Claire De Witt struck me as a nice alternative (although **SPOILER ALERT** there are substance abuse issues. sigh). I also very much enjoyed the Tana French novels for their effed up but at least different narrators.

Anyway, I digress. The spur for this post is the death of my all time favourite detective fiction writer, Reginald Hill. His books I have loved more than any others. They span an extraordinary number of books, subjects, ingenious plots - animal rights activism, flooded villages, Passchendaele, rugby clubs, amateur dramatics, South American guerrillas.

They also feature functional human beings. One of the best things about the Dalziel & Pascoe books is the marriage between Ellie and Peter; the reader follows them falling in love and growing into a marriage that has its issues but, basically works. It has the normal stresses and strains (in a way that portraits of idealized "happy marriages" often don't work - yes, Ian McEwan, I'm looking at you, and am not the only one, apparently - because they're portrayed as "perfect" rather than happy - a different thing).

The relationship between Dalziel and Pascoe is funny, affectionate, tense; everything a yin and yang, two-member team should be. Pascoe underestimates Dalziel's ability to read people, situations, his intelligence; Dalziel underestimates Pascoe's grit and determination. It works beautifully. I'm tempted to re-read them - I had them all in one place, in sequential order, before we moved to the US. Maybe it's now time to regather them and start again. Once I've got rid of the mountain of library books and Christmas books that are piled around the house.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Apropos of Nothing

Top Ten Blur Songs That Were Not Singles:
  1. This Is a Low
  2. He Thought of Cars
  3. Death of a Party
  4. Miss America
  5. Sing
  6. Badhead
  7. Trimm Trabb
  8. Blue Jeans
  9. You're So Great
  10. Bank Holiday

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What I Liked in 2011: Musically

Albums of the Year (bearing this in mind - apparently I am a dude who really likes Jodeci)

  1. House of Balloons - The Weeknd. I have just KILLED this album on my ipod. I absolutely fricking love it. The follow ups are also pretty stellar, particularly Echoes of Silence, but this was spectacular. Depressing, nasty, dark, anguished - it somehow expresses how you feel when somewhat ashamed of your behaviour, when you want to lock yourself in, hungover, and speak to no one. That I listen to this a lot at work is clearly a coincidence. Ahem.
  2. Space Is Only Noise - Nicolas Jaar. Again, something I listened to a lot. I'm frankly annoyed that the person who made this album is a mere child (21!), but I think its shifts of mood wash over you beautifully and, having seen him perform some of this stuff live in December, it really is much heavier than it appears on the first few listens.
  3. Stone Rollin’ - Raphael Saadiq. This was the perfect rock & roll/soul/funk album. Unbelievable. Could have been made 40-50 years ago, frankly, but feels completely present.
  4. Let England Shake - PJ Harvey. I was umming and ahing about putting this on - is it really that good? And then I listened to it again. A lot. And, frankly, it is. I listened to a great guardianmusic review of the year that pointed out not just the incredible discussion of war, but how rooted it is in the land of England. It's about the cliffs, the soil, as well as the fight to protect that.
  5. The English Riviera - Metronomy. I was really unsure about this at first, but I should have realised that this was a good sign. The initial problem for me that I struggled to get over was how different and, as I thought then, inferior it was to the previous Metronomy album, Nights Out. Now, I maintain that that album is one of my favourite albums of the last ten years, but my love for it crept up on me. Similar persistence with The English Riviera has paid off. I love the new vocalist; I love the quaint, sometimes gentle, melodic Englishness that lures you in, but the bite and darkness are there all the time. It's clever, cool and stylish, yet with none of the coldness or aloofness that those adjectives can convey. But then, I love Blur, who have been accused of all those things, repeatedly (too clever! not enough soul!). So gauge your judgment based on that.
  6. Civilian - Wye Oak. This was a (for shame!) NPR-based discovery. All Songs Considered did a mid-year review, and I picked up some of their recommendations. This was my favourite, by miles. I love her voice over the guitars, the almost hazy, reverberating quality of it all.
Note: I would probably have included one of, if not both, the Andy Stott albums (We Stay Together and Passed Me By) if I'd had them before Christmas. Am absolutely loving them right now.

Compilation of the Year:

I have been loving the DJ Kicks by Wolf & Lamb. Most enjoyable, a really great mix of things.

Podcast of the Year:

This is actually a false category, as I seem to have been pointed to several really great dance podcasts that are now a regular part of my listening routine - Little White Earbuds, Clubberia, and, most recently, Kev Beadle. All good!

Songs of the Year

  1. Mattie Safer - Is That Your Girl? I love this despite the crap rap in the middle. That's how awesome it is.
  2. Azealia Banks - 212. This is absolutely filthy. The video is absolutely fantastic. I want to dance like them at 0:35. All the time.
  3. Joe Goddard - Gabriel. Seriously disco. Joe Goddard is by such a mile the best Hot Chippian, and with this, he's had songs on my best of list two years in a row (thanks to the 2 Bears making it with Church last year).
  4. Eleanor Friedberger - My Mistakes. I've never been a big Fiery Furnaces fan, but I absolutely love love love this song, this video, and particularly the cheesy saxophone riff at the end, which brings back a nostalgic pang for Aztec Camera and what I think is one of the greatest songs of the 80s.
  5. Duran Duran - Girl Panic! They're back, baby! I love Duran Duran. Love his voice, love John Taylor's pout under ridiculous hair, love them.
  6. Lianne La Havas & Willy Mason - No Room for Doubt. I think part of my enchantment with this song is because I can't quite believe that such a soft, wistful song could come from someone who grew up in Thornton Heath, frankly. But it's just utterly delightful.
  7. Junior Boys - Banana Ripple. I adore the Junior Boys and although this album was not as great as the glorious So This Is Goodbye, this song was many minutes of just joy and exuberance. And far more disco-y than previous efforts, methinks.

Gigs of the Year

  1. LCD Soundsystem - last ever gig, Madison Square Gardens. How can a gig ever compete with this? (Hint: it can't.) Atmosphere, music, raw emotion, and the sheer delight at attending, having thought I wouldn't be able to make it. Bliss.
  2. Darkside - MHoW. I was utterly exhausted, had a six hour meeting that ended at 10.15pm, and somehow pulled myself together to go and see this - the world premiere of Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington. I was really late, and arrived at what seemed quite noodly atmospheric stuff that I was not into. Then TOH gave me a whisky & ginger and suddenly the base came in, and it was one of the best gigs I've been to. Made even better by the phenomenal encore with some tracks off Space Is Only Noise. I really can't bear how talented Nicolas Jaar is. It's annoying.
  3. Portishead - Hammerstein Ballroom. I wasn't going, then I was - a friend got me a ticket for my birthday. Beth Gibbons' voice is genuinely a wonder of the modern world. The visuals were stunning, the music sounded phenomenal (the acoustics were brilliant), and all of a sudden, a teenage ambition was finally fulfilled. Glorious.
  4. Friendly Fires - Bowery. Right down the front, dancing away with Ed McFarlane and his sexy dancing. I love that you can take someone who's never heard FF before, and they will have one of the best concerts of their life because FF are so good live.
  5. Soulwax - Webster Hall. We went in very very late, just to say we'd gone, thought we would be too tired to wait for Soulwax, and on they came just as we arrived. Brilliant dance party when we'd sort of given up on going to and enjoying the gig.
  6. Sleigh Bells/CSS - Bowery. Live, Sleigh Bells kick arse. It was a friend's 30th, we danced away, and what a double bill - CSS were a lot of fun, too. Made even better by TOH suddenly appearing, having been stuck in an airport not too long beforehand and not being expected to make it. It was brilliant.

Friday, January 06, 2012


What to expect from me in 2012: More of the same blathering, I expect, but with the following modest behavioural modifications:
  1. Something green every day. Yep, there are days when, dear reader, I fail to intake anything green whatsoever. And that's not because I'm eating a shedload of tomatoes on those days, either. My level of healthy eating is indicated by whether I'm eating the green stuff, so I'm aiming for something green every single day. Not at all meals, not necessarily salad, but something green.
  2. A Movie a Month. That should be easy enough. Ahem. But we almost never go to the movies and, even if it's old/repertory, I'd like to go more. I always feel so pathetic when it comes to Oscars time and I've not seen anything. We only just saw the Harry Potter final movie on the plane yesterday. Pathetic.
  3. NDOW+1: No Drinking on Wednesdays (plus one). Wednesdays are my downfall, it seems, and it's time for it to be over. And in an effort to reduce my intake and to appease my doctor, I'm going for one extra day without booze per week. I think it's because it's an automatic reward for me after a long day at work - I just want to have a drink, but I don't assess whether I really want it or not. So this is the way to change that, I hope.*
  4. The Long Walk Home. I'd like to walk home once a month. It's only 7.1 miles. Google maps reckons that will take me 2 hours, 24 minutes, but that's surely for people who walk quite a bit slower than me. Even if I only walk at 3.5mph, that's 2 hours, 2 minutes. Yes, it's a long time, but I love walking through New York. And if I do that in the snow - hella workout!
Those are the concrete resolutions. Otherwise it's the general wanting to read more books, trying to read more, take exercise, yada yada yada. This list by an amazing woman I met travelling is far more inspiring. Hmm. But it did make me want to do a retrospective of 2011. A little too late? Surely not.

* Note: I have broken this already. But a couple of dear friends got engaged. It was a glorious celebration and I only had two glasses of wine. Ahem. But I think NEXT week is the week to start.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Who I Listened to in 2011

Courtesy of

  1. Friendly Fires
  2. LCD Soundsystem
  3. Air
  4. Lewis Taylor
  5. Richard Hawley
  6. PJ Harvey
  7. DJ Shadow
  8. Nicolas Jaar
  9. DJ Jazzy Jeff & Mick Boogie
  10. Radiohead
  11. Metronomy
  12. A-Trak
  13. SBTRKT
  14. Thievery Corporation
  15. Blur
  16. The Weeknd
  17. Underworld
  18. Lykke Li
  19. Sea of Bees
  20. Massive Attack