Thursday, December 31, 2009

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne! For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne. We'll take a cup o' kindness yet, for auld lang syne." ~robert burns

Happy New Year to all my friends/readers.

Monday, December 28, 2009

"Words are falling from your lips like Christmas to my hips. So dangerous, the strangest feeling of being. I want willow trees and melodies, and flowers, counting hours till he's breathing, leaving the rest behind." ~leona naess

I've made this a yearly tradition, so here we go. I'm not sure why, but it was difficult to come up with my 10 favorite albums of 2009. Did I listen to less new music? Was 2009 just not a great year for new music? I'm not sure. But I managed to come up with 10 solid albums that I enjoyed. It was impossible to put them in order, but I tried. It may seem like a weird list, but I guess I have eclectic taste in music.

Claire's Top 10 Albums of 2009

1. U2 - No Line on the Horizon

2. Doves - Kingdom of Rust

3. Dashboard Confessional - Alter the Ending

4. Julian Casablancas - Phrazes for the Young

5. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

6. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

7. Wolfmother - Cosmic Egg

8. The XX - XX

9. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

10. Arctic Monkeys - Humbug

And here's last year's list, just because it's fun to revisit. I think last year's is a much better group of albums.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"We’ll stay inside 'til somebody finds us, do whatever the TV tells us, stay inside our rosy-minded fuzz for days. We’ll stay inside 'til somebody finds us, do whatever the TV tells us, stay inside our rosy-minded fuzz. So worry not, all things are well. We’ll be alright, we have our looks and perfume." ~the national

Since the year is almost over, I think it's time to think back on some of the highlights of my 2009. The year has had it's ups and downs, and it's not over yet, but here are some of the ups:

1. Visiting friends
In April, two friends from Europe (whom I had never met before) came and stayed with me for a week, and I loved every minute I spent with them. A friend from Texas was also here, along with a few other girls from various places. Basically it was a great big FF meeting. We saw Guys and Dolls on Broadway together, got some great stage door stories, and just had a lot of fun. This year I met eleven different FF friends who came to New York. Eleven! That's a lot. And it was so cool to meet them all in person, because I've gotten to know some of them well and feel close to them. Here are some of us (thanks to Denise for photoshopping the holiday spirit into the photo!) (and if any of you in the photo object to it being posted here, let me know):

2. My teacher friends
In the past two years I've became really close with two teachers at my school who are my age. Roseann and I obviously see each other at school every day and then we end up talking on the phone a few nights a week. I just got off the phone with her after having a 2-hour conversation. And that's normal. We talk about school and guys and just about everything. She knows exactly what I'm going through at school, and I need someone to talk to who understands. Lauren is my other close school friend; she's my literary buddy. We lend each other books and talk about Margaret Atwood and Michael Chabon and other favorite writers of ours. We see movies together because we have similar tastes. And she's another person who understands. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have these two girls at school with me. All I know is that I would not be happy at all. I'm so thankful they're in my life. There are also other teachers at school with whom I'm close and on whom I depend. It's funny, but I'm good friends with a few of the older male teachers (there are no young male teachers). They've become mentors to me. So although I have big problems at my school, I have people who support me and who understand and who sympathize with me. And I'm very grateful for them. It's been wonderful getting to know them.

3. Concerts
Wow, what a year for concerts. It was simply amazing how many fabulous bands I got to see. Highlights (I'm limiting myself to five, although there are more):
1. The 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concerts - Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin, Jeff Beck, Metallica, U2, Mick Jagger, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Smokey Robinson, John Legend, B.B. King, Sting, Billy Joel, Sam Moore, John Fogerty, Darlene Love, the Black Eyed Peas, Annie Lennox, Lenny Kravitz, Buddy Guy, Lou Reed, Ray Davies. Yeah. All in two nights. I know. Unbelievable, right? And I got to meet Bono after night 2.
2. Saturday Night Rebel Rockers Traveling Circus & Medicine Show - Counting Crows, Augustana, and Michael Franti & Spearhead. 20 people onstage together in what was the highlight of my summer. Seriously an amazing night.
3. U2 - Giants Stadium. GA. What else is there to say, really?
4. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band - I saw the last three shows at Giants Stadium. Three shows in one week, and I got to see him play straight through two of his best albums ("Born to Run" and "Born in the U.S.A."). I went once with Nic, once with Bill, and once by myself. Every night was different and special in its own way. Truly a magical week.
5. Snow Patrol - the Beacon Theatre. I met my friends Bill and Amy that night and had a great time with them. Snow Patrol played all my favorite songs of theirs.

That's all for now. I may add more, but right now I need to get ready for bed. I need to remember this list tomorrow because I'm sure it will be a long day and I will lose my patience. But I am lucky and I have had some great experiences this year and I hope that next year will bring more.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

"The snow's falling down, it's colder day by day. I miss you. I can hear people singing, it must be Christmastime. I can hear people singing, it must be Christmastime." ~the pretenders

Picspam post because it's after 1am, I'm tired, and I have to be up for church tomorrow.

Saturday afternoon, before the storm hit, with Kim and Betsy in front of the tree at Rock Center:
I went to my friend Lauren's choir concert in Brooklyn at night. There were a few of us who went, and we all went to get dinner after the concert (Lauren took us to her favorite restaurant). Someone thought it was a brilliant idea to walk the 22 blocks to the restaurant. In the middle of a blizzard.
Lauren's snow-covered feet:
Waiting for the subway home. Val said you could see the snow on my eyebrows so I took a picture, but I still can't really see it. Maybe if you click on it for the larger version? John (in the background) looks much snowier:
Central Park when I finally got off the subway at my stop:
Central Park again. Finally found a good setting on my camera. I love this one. It's my new desktop:

Friday, December 18, 2009

"And this ain’t no place for the weary kind. And this ain’t no place to lose your mind. And this ain’t no place to fall behind. Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try." ~ryan bingham & t bone burnett

I know I already posted once today (scroll down to read), but I wanted to add this. I loved Crazy Heart, because of Jeff Bridges (just like I expected). His performance is amazing; he completely becomes the character. I really hope he wins the Oscar this year (although I won't get my hopes up). Colin Farrell also gives a surprisingly wonderful performance. And both men have great voices. Oh, and I love T Bone Burnett. I have for awhile, and his music in this movie further cements that love. Here's the stand-out song from the film performed by Ryan Bingham (who co-wrote the song with T Bone). It's performed beautifully by Colin Farrell in the film.

And the trailer for the film:
"Tired and wired we ruin too easy, sleep in our clothes and wait for winter to leave." ~the national

Random Thoughts on Kids/Teaching
*Kids are crazy. Especially mine. You honestly would not believe some of them. Sometimes there are stories about teachers doing crazy things and people can't believe it, but normal people cannot imagine what being in a classroom surrounded by hormonal, needy, angry, self-conscious thirteen-year-olds is like. Seriously. You cannot judge, because you do not know. I read an article last week about a teacher who cut off a girl's braid. My teacher friend read the same article and mentioned it to me. She said, "You know the first thing I thought? I bet the kid had it coming." And I was so relieved, because that had been my first thought as well.

*I had a conversation with a boy today. He kept going on about how I don't like him, and I finally snapped. I said, "You constantly throw paper balls at other people. You play marbles during my class. You regularly curse at me and at the other kids. You start fights. You tell me what an awful teacher I am nearly every day. You are always incredibly rude and disrespectful to me. You don't listen to me, even when I try to be nice and when I try to have serious conversations with you. You take absolutely no responsibility for your actions, you just blame everything on your anger management problem or on other people. So why exactly should I like you?" I just can't get through to some of them, and it's incredibly frustrating. I try to be nice and it does absolutely nothing. Luckily I have some great kids whom I love. One boy sent me an email today telling me I'm a good teacher. Those things make me happy.

*Kids are incredibly honest. They have no filter; they just say whatever comes to mind. Here are some questions I've been asked recently:
"Do you live alone?"
"Don't you get lonely?"
"Don't you even have a pet or something?"
"Do you have a boyfriend?"
"Your forehead is shiny."
"Why don't you have kids?"
"Don't you want kids?"
"I liked your hair better last year when it was long. Why did you cut it?"

Okay, enough about kids. It's the weekend, which means I can think about something else for a very short while.

My Weekend
Tonight Nic and I are going to see Crazy Heart, with Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal. I can't wait, mostly because of the amazing things I've heard about Jeff Bridges' performance. I love him. I think he's fabulous. He's one of those older guys on whom I have a bit of a crush. He needs an Oscar already (he's been nominated four times). Maybe this year (fingers crossed).

Tomorrow Kim and Jeff are coming into the city so I can see her before Christmas and we can exchange gifts. We'll go out to lunch and maybe go see the tree in Rock Center, although it'll be snowing so I'm not sure how much we want to wander. Then tomorrow night I'm going to my friend's choir concert, and we're going out to dinner afterwards.

On Sunday I have church and then I'm going to my aunt and uncle's to decorate cookies. I've been loving the Advent services at my church. The music is always a highlight for me at this church; they have a great band. There are always a bunch of musicians onstage, including multiple guitarists, a drummer, a trumpet player, a saxophone player, a cellist, and singers. The Christmas hymns sound particularly amazing when they're backed by that fabulous band. Last week we sang "Joy to the World" like I've never heard it before; it was incredibly funky with a great sax solo in the middle, and the whole congregation was completely into it. It's wonderful to be moved by these songs and to be surrounded by others who feel the same way.

There's a Christmas tree business directly across the street from my apartment. I like looking at it whenever I leave my building. The lights are always on in the morning when I leave for school. Here's the view from my front step:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

"They don't even know what it is to be a fan. Y'know? To truly love some silly little piece of music, or some band, so much that it hurts." ~almost famous

The newest issue of Rolling Stone recently arrived in my mailbox. It is devoted to the best of the 00's: the best songs, the best albums, the best I decided to make my own list. Not of the best songs of the decade, but of my favorite songs of the decade. Because I think it's impossible to determine the best songs; music is completely subjective. Rolling Stone is allowed to say Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" is the best song of the decade, and I'm allowed to want to hurl when I hear that song.
This was not an easy list to make. There are songs that I wanted to include but couldn't because I limited myself to 50. I may edit it if I think of some songs that really should be on the list but somehow temporarily slipped my brain. And I may try and make a playlist for you to listen to if I have time (ha!). At any rate, here's what I have, listed alphabetically by artist:

Claire's 50 Favorite Songs of the 00's
The Airborne Toxic Event - Sometime Around Midnight
Alexi Murdoch - Orange Sky
The Arcade Fire - Rebellion (Lies)
The Arcade Fire - Wake Up
Band of Horses - The General Specific
Bell X1 - Eve, the Apple of My Eye
Bishop Allen - Things Are What You Make of Them
Bright Eyes - Lua
Coldplay - The Scientist
Conor Oberst - Cape Canaveral
Corinne Bailey Rae - Put Your Records On
Counting Crows - Cowboys
Counting Crows - Holiday in Spain
Counting Crows - Miami
Damien Rice - Gray Room
Dashboard Confessional - Vindicated
Death Cab for Cutie - A Lack of Color
The Felice Brothers - Frankie's Gun
The Felice Brothers - Wonderful Life
Frightened Rabbit - Good Arms vs. Bad Arms
Glasvegas - Geraldine
Gomez - Notice
The Hold Steady - Lord, I'm Discouraged
Imogen Heap - Hide and Seek
Jacob Golden - On a Saturday
Joseph Arthur - In the Sun
Kings of Leon - Use Somebody
LCD Soundsystem - All My Friends
Mat Kearney - All I Need
Matt Pond PA - New Hampshire
MGMT - Kids
Modest Mouse - Custom Concern
Modest Mouse - Float On
The National - Apartment Story
The National - The Geese of Beverly Road
The National - Slow Show
The Old 97s - The New Kid
The Postal Service - Be Still My Heart
R.E.M. - Supernatural Superserious
Ryan Adams - Answering Bell
Ryan Adams - Come Pick Me Up
Snow Patrol - Chocolate
Snow Patrol - The Finish Line
The Strokes - Is This It
The Swell Season - Falling Slowly
U2 - City of Blinding Lights
U2 - In a Little While
U2 - Kite
Vampire Weekend - M79
The Wave Pictures - Now You Are Pregnant

I have more to write about (my movie reviews of The Lovely Bones and Invictus, recent fun events) but absolutely no time in which to do so. My Master's thesis is due on Wednesday. I've been working on it for a year and it's a disaster at the moment. So maybe later this week?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

"If you should ask then maybe they'd tell you what I would say. True colors fly in blue and black, blue silken sky and burning flag. Colors crash, collide in blood shot eyes. If I could, you know I would, if I could, I would let it go. This desperation, dislocation, separation, condemnation, revelation, in temptation, isolation, desolation. Let it go, and so fade away. To let it go, oh yeah, and so fade away. To let it go, oh no, and so fade away. I'm wide awake. I'm wide awake. Wide awake. I'm not sleeping, oh no no." ~u2

Here is my favorite performance of my favorite song. It's U2 performing "Bad" at Live Aid. Oh, how I wish I had been there to see it. Unfortunately, I was less than a year old and my parents never took me to rock concerts as a child. I've seen U2 perform this song live, but not with these snippets. It doesn't get any better than this. Lou Reed's "Satellite of Love" and "Walk on the Wild Side" and The Rolling Stones' "Ruby Tuesday" and "Sympathy for the Devil" are all thrown in there. When you're going to cover songs, you've got to draw from the best, and Lou Reed and The Rolling Stones are definitely among the best (I'm still amazed I saw Lou Reed and Mick Jagger perform at the recent Hall of Fame concerts, along with U2 of course). One of the main reasons I love U2 and Counting Crows is their ability to make every performance of a song unique, largely by adding snippets of other songs. Counting Crows is brilliant at it, and U2 isn't bad, either. I could listen to this nonstop forever.

It's funny when you don't want to talk and then somehow in the middle of a conversation you just open up. If someone asks me specifically about how things are going and I'm in a bad mood, I'll usually just get frustrated at them. If I don't want to talk, an interrogation will just piss me off. So don't keep asking me questions. But I was talking to Alex tonight and he was talking and it made me want to talk, too. It's nice when that happens.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

"It's been a long December and there's reason to believe that maybe this year will be better than the last." ~counting crows

I uploaded a new video on youtube. Watch it, because it's such a beautiful, beautiful version of this song. It's Counting Crows' performance of "A Long December" from their Abbey Road Sessions. Adam is incredibly sick, which, to me, makes his voice sound particularly gorgeous in this song. And they add the "I am feathered" alts (from "A Murder of One"), which makes me so incredibly happy. Those lines inspired my feather tattoo. AD keeps stretching out the song as if he doesn't want it to end; I love it when he does that, because I never want it to end, either.

I have movie reviews, but I don't really have time to go into detail. So I'll be quick.

1. Brothers
Two things really made this film for me. #1 is the use of U2's music. Two characters bond over the U2 song "Bad," which is probably my favorite song of all time. Jake Gyllenhaal's character says something like, "I used to listen to this song all the time when I was 17 or 18" and Natalie Portman's character says she did, too. I got chills, because so did I. I remember lying in bed when I was in high school just playing it over and over and over before I went to bed. Every night. I was obsessed with it. So any movie that asserts it's brilliance is okay by me. The U2 song "Winter" plays over the closing credits, so of course I had to stay until the very end and listen to the whole thing. It's a great song. It's a Jim Sheridan film so I wasn't surprised by U2's presence, but I was happy.
The performances are the other brilliant aspect of this film. The three leads (Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Natalie Portman) give very solid performances. Tobey Maguire really, really surprised me (in a good way). He's a strong Oscar contender; he makes an unbelievable transformation. He scared me. And I'm in love with Jake Gyllenhaal. He's just so charming. Oh, and the girls! The two girls in this film, especially the older one, were so good!
"Bad" is the U2 song playing in second half of the trailer.

2. Up in the Air
You can't help but be charmed by George Clooney. He just has that certain something, that je ne sais quoi. I had a couple problems with the movie (the main one I won't write about here because it would give away part of the plot), but overall, I enjoyed it. I'm not so sure it deserves the best picture honor it just received from the National Board of Review (that honor goes to "Nine" in my mind right now). But it definitely has a great shot at the Oscar for best song. Sad Brad Smith's "Help Yourself" is beautiful. It's in the trailer and you can listen to it here.

3. When in Rome
This was an advance screening. Is it a good movie? No. It's predictable and conventional and mostly nothing special, except for it's leading lady. I love Kristen Bell. She needs to get offered some meatier roles! The movie did have its moments, though. There was one car scene that I loved. And it made me smile, so that's a good thing, right?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

"I am the one who loved you. I am the one who stayed. I am the one and you walked away. I am the one who waited. And now you act like you just don't give a damn. Like you never knew who I am." ~next to normal

The reprise of "I Am the One" is one of my absolute favorite songs. It's from Next to Normal, my favorite musical. Every time I hear that song I cry. Really. For some reason it just popped into my head, and I started crying. I cannot listen to it without tears welling up. It breaks my heart. And I love it. Why are we drawn to things that make us feel pain? I guess sometimes feeling anything is a good thing. But anyway, for me, this song has to be sung by Bobby Spencer and Aaron Tveit for it to really pack a punch. Speaking of Aaron Tveit, why is he wasting his time on Gossip Girl? I watch the show and I find it entertaining albeit sometimes annoying, but Aaron Tveit is way too good for it. Go see him in Next to Normal and you'll see what I mean. I don't think he should be missing performances of it to film Gossip Girl (although I know he doesn't miss very often, and luckily he's been on every time I've seen the musical).

We went on a field trip today to the Liberty Science Center. I always loved going there as a kid. I remember my Girl Scout troup went there and stayed overnight, and that sleepover was just so exciting to me. It was a fun field trip, although of course it was exhausting. It helped that I only brought half of my homeroom class (the other half had to stay at school because they can't behave). We saw an Imax movie in the giant dome, and even though I'm older now, that experience is still thrilling to me. My kids were overwhelmed by it. One of my boys (the recent arrival) cried because he was scared. Here are some of my kids:

My class is mostly made up of boys. On the trip I brought 9 boys and 3 girls. I have a total of 7 girls in my class (and 18 boys). I'm not sure why it's so unbalanced.

I just finished reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog (I had it on hold at the library for at least five months and finally received it last week). I loved it because it's so beautifully written. I kept stopping and writing down quotes that jumped out at me. Here are a few gems from the character of Paloma, a brilliant 12-year-old who seems to be reading my mind:
"Personally I think grammar is a way to attain beauty....Pity the poor in spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language."

"In the end, I wonder if the true movement of the world might not be a voice raised in song."

"Teenagers think they're adults when in fact they're imitating adults who never really made it into adulthood and who are running away from life. It's pathetic."
And the excerpt from which the title is derived:
"Madame Michel has the elegance of the hedgehog: on the outside, she's covered in quills, a real fortress, but my gut feeling is that on the inside, she has the same simple refinement as the hedgehog: a deceptively indolent little creature, fiercely solitary - and terribly elegant."
It's a beautiful book.