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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

from a greeting card

Came across this list in one of those cool funky stores that has great greeting cards and jewelry.

1. the path is not straight.
2. mistakes need not be fatal.
3. people are more important than achievements or possessions.
4. be gentle with your parents.
5. never stop doing what you care most about.
6. learn to use a semicolon.
7. you will find love.

— Marion Wink

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Please update your bookmarks!

Well, I'm messing with this blog and have changed the URL. The new blog is now located at You will be automatically redirected in 30 seconds, or you may click here.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

the restlessness

I've been feeling extraordinarily restless with my life this year. There have been plenty of colorful adventures and interesting twists (many of which would make juicy journal entries in this space if I was still into "confessional blogging") — yet I am still feeling frustrated, cooped up, short-tempered.

Life is good, life is sunny, life is generally in alignment with my values. Yet I feel hungry for some kind of great journey. A change of scenery. New sights. Something to clear the eye, clear the mind.

I've spent several weeks trying to talk myself out of it. "You shouldn't be burned out. People would kill to have the life you have! Your good friends, your satisfying work, your peaceful oasis of an apartment..." Funny how that never seems to work, isn't it?

What does one do when one reaches this point of burnout? Sell everything and move to Brazil? Take up a villa in the Mediterranean, and hide out until the money expires? Add a sprinkle of red pepper to the pasta sauce?

I came across this quote last night in a lovely book I checked out from the library. The book is called A Woman's Path — it's a collection of "spiritual writing" about women's journeys across the world. This really spoke to me:

"My desire to slip away from the stories and the choices we make to secure our identity in everyday life has borne fruit again and again. To go on a pilgrimage, I discovered, you do not need to know what you are looking for, only that you are looking for something, and need urgently to find it. It is the urgency that does the work, a readiness to receive that finds the answers." — Janine Pommy Vega

Those words resonate with me so deeply at this point that my eyes fill with tears just reading them. I'm telling the universe that I am ready. I hope it is listening.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Elizabeth Gilbert on women who are not mothers

"...the number of women throughout history who never become mothers is so high... that I now suspect that a certain degree of female childlessness is an evolutionary adaptation of the human race. Maybe it's not only perfectly legitimate for certain women to never reproduce, but also necessary. It's as though, as a species, we need an abundance of responsible, compassionate, childless women on hand to support the wider community in various ways. Childbearing and child rearing consume so much energy that the women who do become mothers can quickly become swallowed up by that daunting task — if not outright killed by it. Thus, maybe we need extra females, women on the sidelines with undepleted energies, who are ready to leap into the mix and keep the tribe supported. Childless women have always been particularly essential to human society because they often take on themselves the task of nurturing those who are not their official biological responsibility — and no other group does this to such a large degree. Childless women have always run orphanages and schools and hospitals. They are midwives and nuns and providers of charity. They heal the sick and teach the arts and often they become indispensable on the battlefield of life. Literally, in some cases. (Florence Nightingale comes to mind.)"

(Just one paragraph from Elizabeth Gilbert's latest book, Committed, which I love. I guess I'm revealing my leftist commie pinko roots by loving this thoroughly modern treatise on marriage. This paragraph in particular makes me nod ferociously in agreement.)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My top songs of 2009

Sure, I'm a little late to the game, but here are some of the songs that I really loved in 2009.

(7) "Scuby" - Little Wings. I came across this mild, mellow tune while listening to a terrific episode of All Songs Considered with Will Oldham as guest DJ. I loved the gentle, whispery, lo-fi harmonies of this song, the meandering piano in the background, the hushed living room vibe. It was a perfect song to discover at the quiet beginning of last year.

(6) "Fiery Crash" - Andrew Bird. I know, I'm pulling a song from Andrew Bird's 2007 Armchair Apocrypha album, when I should be paying homage to his 2009 Noble Beast album. Somehow Armchair Apocrypha slid past me when it was first released. But this was the year I rediscovered it. It is a very, very good album, and "Fiery Crash" is my favorite track. I love the spacey layers of strings, the driving tempo, and all the typical oddball Bird flourishes — jaunty whistles and cryptic lyrics about a passenger's last thoughts as their airplane goes down in flames.

(5) "Ahuvati" - Kaki King. This is probably the song on this list that none of my readers will have heard of. I encountered this gorgeous instrumental number in a podcast, and I liked it so much I had to find out what it was. This song became a quiet soundtrack to some of the more meditative moments of 2009. King is originally from Atlanta, and she is only 30 years old. I think she has years of good work ahead of her. If you like "Ahuvati," you may also enjoy "First Brain" off King's album ...Until We Felt Red. This is beautiful, richly atmospheric music.

(4) "Down Low" - Teddy Thompson. Teddy Thompson is a fella who seems to have everything going for him. Son of folk music gods Richard and Linda Thompson, Teddy is young, talented, pedigreed and beautiful. He also collaborates frequently with my beloved Rufus Wainwright, which means I adore him by proxy. From 2007's Up Front and Down Low album, this song evokes last call in a dusty roadhouse. The album is a solid collection of covers and country standards. I seem to be able to listen to this album on repeat without ever tiring of it. Even when Teddy is singing about heartbreak, he's doing it so beautifully that your faith in humanity is quietly restored.

(3) "Two Tongues" - The Swell Season. This was a big year for The Swell Season — their Strict Joy album was released to great fanfare in October, triggering a string of sold-out performance dates across the country. "Two Tongues" really stood out for me on the album. Having been through a brief romance this year with someone I really enjoyed but did not trust, I was glad to encounter a song that reflected beautifully on that landscape.

(2) "Augustine" - Vienna Teng. Vienna Teng has a computer science degree from Stanford University. She is the only musician I am aware of who worked as a software engineer for Cisco before leaping into a full-time music career. That is impressive. This song, from her album Inland Territory, thoroughly captivated me this year. I love its ringing open piano octaves and the big kick drums, and the lyrics, which hint at lost illusions and the pain that can accompany fresh starts.

(1) "Be Thankful For What You've Got" - William Devaughn. Released some 35 years ago, this is a beautiful, mellow, charming R&B song that has recently become a ghetto anthem.

Though you may not drive a great big Cadillac
Gangsta whitewalls, TV antennas in the back
You may not have a car at all
But remember brothers and sisters
You can still stand tall
Just be thankful for what you got.

In July, my brother's fiancée Ana gave me a magnificent mix CD that featured a glorious 7-minute version of this song. Over the July 4th holiday, I had the CD on constant play. The simple lyrics and Curtis Mayfield-esque groove of this song made it the most delightful discovery of 2009.

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Here are some honorable mentions. (Maybe next year I'll work up the nerve to include the high-test pop/R&B/rap songs in the numbered list.)

"Bad Romance" - Lady Gaga. I have to mention this song here. Everyone is probably sick of hearing about Lady Gaga, but after really listening to this song, I started to appreciate the hype. There's something genuinely affecting about this song (not to mention the crazily brilliant video). Sure, it can be seen as song about domination and sadomasochism. In another sense, there's something haunting about the lyrics — is it profoundly authentic to tell a fresh new lover that I want "your love," "your ugly," "your disease"...? Isn't that what you end up getting, anyway?

"Daniel" - Bat for Lashes. The chord structure is lifted straight from Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon," but what a catchy number.

"Forever" - Chris Brown. Yes, I was one of hundreds of ignorant individuals who first discovered the song through the infamous wedding march video. So infectious!

"Renegade" - Kings of Convenience. It's not the first time that Kings of Convenience has been mentioned in this year-end list. This song had me at the first line, "I'm letting go / to see if you hang on to me...." The rest of the album, Declaration of Dependence, is all hushed harmonies and beautifully transparent guitar. If you've been desperately searching for Norway's answer to Simon & Garfunkel, search no more.

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You know what's next - I hope you'll leave a comment telling me about the music you loved in 2009.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Slow cooker chicken tortilla soup

This week I was hit with the most diabolical of all wintertime cravings: one for spicy, soothing chicken tortilla soup.

It came out of nowhere, and in the words of Spoon, it hit me like a tom.

Here is where I must confess one of the great things about being an able-bodied grown-up. When the craving for chicken tortilla soup hits you, you can go out and just get yourself some chicken tortilla soup.

Better yet, you can make your own.

I did a quick recipe search and found this recipe for slow-cooker version. God bless Allrecipes.

It's extraordinarily simple, and highly delicious. If you don't want to cook your own chicken, you can pick up cooked chicken from the deli. The most you'll be responsible for, besides opening a few cans, is chopping up an onion and a few cloves of garlic.

This soup doesn't photograph all that spectacularly, as I found out moments ago, but what it lacks in photogenic pizazz it makes up for in flavor. (I'm slurping it down even now. I should know.)


  • 1 pound shredded, cooked chicken
  • 1 (15 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
  • 1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 7 corn tortillas
  • vegetable oil


  1. Place chicken, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, onion, green chiles, and garlic into a slow cooker. Pour in water and chicken broth, and season with cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Stir in corn and cilantro. Cover, and cook on Low setting for 6 to 8 hours or on High setting for 3 to 4 hours.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  3. Lightly brush both sides of tortillas with oil. Cut tortillas into strips, then spread on a baking sheet.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes. To serve, discard bay leaf from soup. Sprinkle tortilla strips over soup.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

from Blood Horses

This is an excerpt from Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter's Son by John Jeremiah Sullivan, a beautiful book I've been reading this spring and summer. (I read slowly, and tend to juggle multiple books at a time... )

The book is part memoir, part reportage, part history. It is a meditation on horse racing, beauty, and Sullivan's complicated relationship with his father. I read this bit last night and it shattered me. It's set on the evening of Sullivan's father's wake. I don't know if it will work as an excerpt, but I just had to post it here.

I think this writer gets the relationship between sadness and beauty better than just about anyone writing today. (Which is to say, you've been warned.)

Very late that night — It must have been early the next morning—my brother and I were in the hotel room that my grandmother had rented for those of our friends who had traveled to come [to my father's funeral]. There were clothed and sleeping bodies draped like refugees across the beds and floor. It was quiet. The two of us sat up Indian-style, facing each other with watery eyes, passing a bottle of Bourbon back and forth and whispering. We were going on about the Beach Boys, for some reason, and one of the last things I remember my brother saying before I fell back against the bed, was that in his opinion the greatest single moment in all of popular music was the complete bar of vocal silence near the beginning of "Good Vibrations," after Carl Wilson sings "I" but before he sings, "I love the colorful clothes she wears." My brother was weaving as he counted out the four empty beats on the carpet. "It's like..." he said, "it's like the whole universe is in that silence."

Then we were silent, drinking. Before it went black, my mind was already driving through the dark, with headlight vision, leaving the parking lot, taking a left onto Richmond Road, following Richmond as it turned one-way and become, without any signage to mark the change, Main Street, which I knew was deserted, the stoplights flashing yellow, then across the bridge, to where the cemeteries were, left into Calvary, curving along the paths back to a corner where two hedges met, where my father's body was already under the ground. Is it cold there, even in summer?

My brother shook his head. He said, "I can't believe Dad's dead."