Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Summer Falls

Well, folks- summer is over.

Not because school started. (I don't keep track of those dates anymore.) Not because it's September. ("Autumn" usually starts in early October in Portland- or at least there are a few fairly warm days into October.) But because I had to close all of my windows to keep the heat in last night and because my windshield had condensation on it this morning and because it is a crisp 49 degrees outside right now!!

See, I'm not talking about the calendar summer which ends on Saturday.

Man, where do my summers go these days? I remember spending hours outside daily during the summer, being really tan and fit and doing lots of FUN stuff with friends all summer long. I guess those were the days when I was a slave to education, lucky to get 3 months "off," only to work my ass of at Subway or whatever crap job I had back then. (I have come a long way.) Now almost all my friends are married (some with kids) which, to most of them, means they stay home considerably more than they used to. (We single people look down on this homebody status like they sold out, by the way, while they "feel sorry" for us singles and try to set us up with the other dwindling single friends THEY have.) Instead of going "out on the town" or hiking or whatever, they sit in their backyard; maybe invite another couple or two over for a BBQ. Hey- they don't have to "get out there," they don't have to look good anymore or get exercise- they're married! (I don't hold this same belief by the way. I think you should always take care of yourself, and not just for your wife or husband- FOR YOURSELF.)

What did I do that was fun THIS summer? I had some fabulous visitors (Dave, Kristi, Grandma & Grandpa, Uncle Mike, a couple of Australians.) I played some drunk softball. (Jell-O shots are awesome.) I went to some amazing weddings. (Probably some of the most perfect and fun weddings I have ever been to.) I turned 30. (It was one of the BEST birthdays I have ever had thanks to some dear friends... even though I chickened out bungee jumping.)

Ok, so I can't complain. It is just that life changes and I always yearn for those more carefree days when I didn't have to worry about a bills and my mortgage, counting calories and carbs, what I want to DO with my life, the war or the economy. I could just call Grandma up and invite myself over for the night (my paternal grandmother always fluffed the sheets in the dryer RIGHT before I go to bed so they're warm when I get tucked in.... she still does it. I LOVE it.) When I would walk down the street to my best friend's house and we would wander downtown or create our own fun while our parents were at work. When I would find an unsuspecting hotel and act like I was a guest (which really just means I acted like I owned the place- an overly-confident attitude) and used the pool all day. Soccer practice, swimming lessons, endless vacations, going mountain biking on the trail across the street, floating the Madison River with a six-pack of beer, camping all the time... THAT is what summer used to be.

Now that I have a "real job", the seasons blend into each other and my only "free" days are limited to Saturday and Sunday and my two-week vacation or the occasional 3-day weekend. The daily grind is a monotonous, deadening routine that usually lacks any excitement. Like many, I dread Mondays and I am always planning my next vacation. Even the DAYS blend into each other.... the WORST is when I wake up and I think it's Friday, but it's really Thursday. Ugh. Time is one big season now, with a few subtle and random changes in temperature and precipitation.

I feel sometimes as if I need another "obstacle" to conquer, like high school or college. And then I remember how burnt out I STILL am from architecture school. (The thought of going back to school makes me want to curl up in bed. Forever.) Going to school was always inevitable... I don't see my endless possibilities as I did when I was younger, even though they are even greater now. Usually, I feel restrained by budget and practicality. Sometimes I feel stuck, like I have run out of creativity or motivation to make something happen for myself. Is it that my opportunities aren't put on a plate and served up anymore? Or is it that I just don't know how to discover them now? Am I weighted down by too many worries or responsibilities? Probably it is all those things... and more.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Music Review: M.I.A., Kala

Artist: M.I.A.
Album: Kala
Find it under: Electronica (iTunes $7.99!!!), Pop/Rock (Best Buy- $7.99!!!! I'm not kidding!)
Sounds like: nothing you've ever heard

This, my friends, is probably the best album I have ever owned. And YES, I DID purchase it unlike some folks who choose NOT to support their favorite artists by STEALing music. (Andrew!!)

That said, I am new to this "music reviewer" position (and I'm no musician myself) so forgive me if I don't make historical musical references and know what key a particular song is in.

Looking at the album cover, you'd think this album was a 1980s release. Looking at M.I.A. (aka Maya Arulpragasam), you'd think she was a mental patient let loose at the local second hand store. In 1983. In Africa.

She is a British-born Sri Lankan which may explain the ultra-diversity and lack of monotony throughout the album. This artist is the antithesis of Coldplay.... totally upbeat, every song is diiferent and original, she uses her voice to make cool sounds as well as to sing and rap. Just when you think the song may be losing its momentum, BOOM!- here comes another hot beat or hook or vocal from M.I.A.- totally amazing. It makes you want to dance (even if you're not a dancer), but you're not really sure how to move your body.... exactly.....

Although this may be found in the electronica section of your local music store, I'm not sure I totally agree with that genre. When I think of "electronica," I think of Prodigy, Paul Oakenfold, Radiohead or maybe Bjork- but not really M.I.A. since her music doesn't seem to be centered on the industrial/robotic/distorted sounds that machines produce for artists like Radiohead. The sounds from this album SOUND like actual instruments and human vocal chords. I don't believe this album can be classified as "Trance," "House," "Techno," "Breakbeat," "Jungle," "Hardcore" or "Downtempo." (Those are the subgenres for Electronica.... No joke. I looked it up.) Again, the extent of my "electronica" selections include only the aforementioned artists....which means I am defintitely not an expert.

The problem I see with "genres" is that people tend to dislike ENTIRE genres because they have heard limited music from it and they didn't like what they heard- even if it was 20 years ago that they heard it. Even I am guilty of this crime. I HATE country music. I absolutely DESPISE it. It gives me a headache and it makes me cranky. It is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Then, one day I heard and album while dining at a restaurant and I had to have it. After I fell in love with that album (much like I have with Kala) I bought the artist's previous albums.... I found out after my purchases that one of them was considered "Country." I would like to note here that the "Country" album from this artist is my least favorite, but I believe that most of the traits that I associate with country music are not present on that album, except for maybe two borderline-twangy songs. All I'm saying here is that I think you should give M.I.A. a listen even if you dislike "Electronica." Please?

"Electronic Music" from Wikipedia:
"Electronic music refers to music that emphasizes the use of electronic musical instruments or electronic music technology as a central aspect of the sound of the music....almost all recorded music today, and the majority of live music performances, depends on extensive use of electronics. Today, the term electronic music serves to differentiate music that uses electronics as its focal point or inspiration, from music that uses electronics mainly in service of creating an intended production that may have some electronic elements in the sound but does not focus upon them."

Fine. Electronica then. But if this is truly Electronica, I believe a new sub-genre has been born.

Try listening to her while running or working out. I swear she made me run faster!! The best $8 you'll ever spend.

PS- I love that I bought this album on my 30th birthday. You know how listening to certain albums take you back to a time a in your life? Maybe that summer after 9th grade? The time you were dating so-and-so? Or that trip to ____? Well this period in time (that will forever be associated with Kala) happens to be a really good one that I will have great memories of.... being 30 is fabulous!

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