I'm back from Italy!


Sorry for the radio silence. I was pretty all-consumed by preparation and research for the trip, that blogging just fell to the wayside. But I missed it, and now I've got loads of pics to share! I was gone for two weeks, and while it was hard to be away from my pets, it was incredible to be in such a beautiful country.

#158: Alive! by Kiss


Alive! by Kiss (1975)

Favorite Tracks: "Strutter" and "Hotter Than Hell" and "Firehouse" and "C'mon and Love Me" and "Parasite" and "She" and "Watchin' You" and "100,000 Years" and "Black Diamond" and "Rock Bottom" and "Rock and Roll All Nite" and "Let Me Go, Rock 'n' Roll"

Thoughts: Okay, let me start by saying that the album cover image is stellar, and I love it. I loved the cover on the other Kiss album we heard way back 2011: Destroyer. I think these are the only two Kiss albums on the list, so this is my last chance to get 'hooked' on this band. I mean, of course I like Kiss because they're a 70s rock band, but I'm still sort of waiting to love them like I now love Meat Loaf: wholly.

The album opened with "Deuce" but I found the second track "Strutter" more exciting. The next song I liked was "Hotter Than Hell"--made me want to sing and dance along, and "C'mon and Love Me" would be an epic number to karaoke. I wanted to listen to "She" more than once--Ace Frehley's guitar and Peter Criss' drums demanded my attention again and again. And the drum solo in "100,000 Years" took to an even more amazing level: totally insane. The best drum solo I can remember ever hearing.

But it wasn't until I heard "Cold Gin" that I decided I needed to own this album.

Is This Better Than Every Picture Tells A Story?: This is one of the best produced live albums I've heard on the list, and was a blast to listen to, but I probably won't want to hear it in my day-to-day life as much as I would EPTAS.

A Day for Love & Equality


Today the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can marry in all 50 United States. I am so excited to be not only alive, but relatively young, when this moment in history FINALLY arrived!

A bit over a decade ago this was an issue that I viewed through narrow, bigoted, and ignorant eyes. In the years since then through education, experience, and learning from people around me I found myself becoming an ally and supporter of the LGBTIQA movement and rights for everyone regardless of sexual orientation. This is such an exciting day and there's so, so, so much to celebrate. For me, this 4th of July will be especially patriotic, as our country has given our LGBTIQA brothers and sisters (and non-gender binary individuals) "equal dignity in the eyes of the law."

I'm so pleased and tickled and excited for all the LGBTIQA people in my life that have fought and dreamed for this day.

I kept trying to think of a song I wanted to post to celebrate, but none felt celebratory enough to be the ONLY song. So I made a playlist.

June 26, 2015: Historic Day of Love and Equality Playlist!

  1. "Brand New Day (Everybody Rejoice)" from The Wiz
  2. "All You Need Is Love" by The Beatles
  3. "Lovely Day" by Bill Withers
  4. "God Rests in Reason" by Jason Mraz 
  5. "I'll Cover You" from RENT
  6. "Something Inside So Strong" by Labi Siffre
  7. "She Keeps Me Warm" by Mary Lambert
  8. "Land of Hope and Dreams" by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
  9. "Power of Two" by The Indigo Girls
  10. "Chapel of Love" by Elton John 

(Photo cropped by me, taken by 2 Brides.)

Currents, June 2015


(Some months coming up with stuff for my currents is close to pulling teeth--nothing's new. But this month I'm super pumped about lots of things--so buckle up!)

Drink: I've bought some coconut milk, and I tried drinking it the other night. It wasn't...terrible. It won't replace regular milk for me just yet, but the next step is to at least try it on cereal.  

Food: I have found a local place that makes awesome fried rice! Someday I'm sure I'll try some of their other dishes but for now, pass the sriracha.

Celebrity Crush: Right now it's a three-way tie between Charlize Theron, Tom Hardy, and Justin Baldoni. Though I had a dream that Tom Hardy and I were superheroes last night, so he might be winning.

"Whom to marry, and when it will happen--these two questions define every woman's existence, regardless of where she was raised or what religion she does or doesn't practice. She may grow up to love women instead of men, or to decide she simply doesn't believe in marriage. No matter. These dual contingencies govern her until they're answered, even if the answers are nobody and never."
"[The] assumption is that the single woman has always been stigmatized as a lonely old spinster with too many cats, for example. Certainly she was reviled in the 1950s, in the way all minorities are stigmatized, to ratify the choices of the majority. But that was just one of the spinster's iterations in her constantly evolving reputation. Perceptions of her have fluctuated so wildly across the decades that she's never merely a living, breathing being, but is also a lightning rod for attitudes toward women in general. She's selfless: Lady Liberty, Florence Nightingale, Mother Theresa. She's charmingly eccentric: Mary Poppins, Holly Golightly, Auntie Mame. She's powerful: Rosie the Riveter, Wonder Woman, Joan of Arc."
Project: I got a FitBit from work, so I'm trying to increase my daily activity. Though when I forget to wear it I 'cheat' and take elevators and escalators with mischievous glee.

TV Show: My latest marathon-watches have been Veep, Jane the Virgin, and Aquarius (meh--I was hoping for something tighter, not much happens in the episodes). Also I watched Sense8 in two days and while not perfect, so much of it is super wonderful, including the soundtrack: definitely recommend.

Movie: Four words: Mad. Max. Fury. Road. I've only seen it 4 times, but I hope to see it more before it goes out of theaters. I wanted to write some stunning essay on why it was so great (and maybe someday I will try) but for now it's in list form:
  1. Minimal CGI. Watch this youtube video showing the well-planned stunts that give the movie it's realistic feel. 
  2. George Miller asked his wife, Margaret Sixel, to edit the film. "It's like a massive Rubik's Cube, this movie," admits Miller, who gave the daunting task of editing 480 hours of footage -- that would run for three weeks if played uninterrupted from a 135 multiple-camera shoot -- to his wife. A product of Australia's Film School, Margaret Sixel initially turned her husband down, asking, "why do you want me to do an action film?" George's eyes dance as he repeats his reply triumphantly. "Because if a guy did it, it would look like every other action movie." (x) Here's a video on how the Director of Photography used 'center framing' to keep the "visual information vital in one spot."
  3. The movie's true hero, Imperator Furiosa, isn't your average 'badass' female warrior. 
    1. She's disabled.
    2. She doesn't wear a horribly impractical outfit for the sake of sexual appeal (i.e. she doesn't wear heeled boots or clothes that accentuate her chest or ass.)
    3. "She doesn’t have a dad who taught her boxing or five brothers who taught her how to fix cars. She wasn’t a tomboy growing up, who preferred to play with the boys. She isn’t avenging the murder of her husband/brother/father nor hunting down a rapist. She comes from a community of women. She was raised by women. She works her way up through enemy ranks until she’s in a position to rescue women. Furiosa is here for women, she is here with women, and she is here because of women. Her rage, her ruthlessness, her courage – these are all things she learned from women, and from being a woman." (x) "All the women in the film maintain their inherent woman-ness. They're tender and loving and still fierce. They get to be all those things. It's this powerful question: how do women survive in a patriarchal, violent culture?" (x)
    4. She has no romantic aspect to her plot line.
  4. "Just as important is Hardy's choice to play Max as a subtle, quietly feminist hero. Max never objectifies the women he's with, or views them as props for his own agenda. He helps when he's asked to help, and when he finally speaks for any length of time, it's not to take charge of a group that's floundering without his help—it's to make a suggestion, stand back, and then let the group decide." (x)
  5. "It tells a story about sexual violence and survivor-ship without relying on rape scenes to impress upon the audience how *serious* things were. Instead of watching the abuse on screen, we hear about it through the interactions between the wives. They tell us what happened, and in that way they take control of their own narrative. Rather than being voyeurs witnessing the wives’ trauma played out onscreen, we were an audience listening to their story...and that makes a world of difference." (x
  6. It's an action movie--full of explosions and cars and weapons--but at one point in the film, the only people onscreen are 12 women--and they aren't talking about a man/men. I honestly think women have more lines in the film than men. "It shouldn't be groundbreaking for this many women to have roles in an action movie in 2015, but it is. But Fury Road as with most of its themes, is less concerned with preaching a philosophy of feminism to you than with letting the ideals of feminism speak for themselves. In this narrative, women aren't expendable, negligent plot devices; they're characters with just as much agency over the plot as any of the men." (x
  7. Which brings us to the fact that director George Miller heard Vagina Monologues author and feminist activist Eve Ensler on Australian radio and asked her to fly out to Namibia where they were filming to talk to the actors playing the wives. "He wanted me to give them a perspective on violence against women around the world, particularly in war zones...What would it mean to have been a sex slave held for a long time in captivity? What would it feel like to carry a baby of someone who had raped you? What would it mean to feel attached to your perpetrator despite the abuse because it had gone on for so long? How after you are raped, your body becomes a place that you dissociate from, a landscape of terror. I wanted to give them context. We spoke about the Comfort Women, who were kept as slaves by the Japanese, and about rape and violence in places I have spent a lot of time like Bosnia to Congo to Afghanistan to Haiti." (x)
Obsession: I'm walking a weird line with preparing for my trip to Italy. The last time I traveled internationally I was overwhelmed by the number of cultural and historical sights and locations I wanted to visit, so it ended up making me feel frazzled, inadequate, and disappointed in myself whenever I made the 'wrong' decision of choosing one experience over on another in my limited time there. 

Basically I believe it was a case of too-high expectations: of myself, of the trip. So much so that I haven't really wanted to travel out of the States since. But of course when a chance to go to Italy with your family comes up, you take it (well, depending on your family). So there's part of me that really wants to dig deep into Italian history and culture--finding all kinds of places and experiences to explore when we get there. And the other part of me wants to just show up, armed only with the knowledge that I currently have, and just let the whole thing happen to me, instead of me trying to create this idealized version of the trip only to have a different experience altogether; which I undoubtedly will. 

Thankfulness: After ONE TIME I cut one of Stevie's nails too short (it didn't even bleed!) she began refusing to sit still to let me cut them, no matter what I tried. So I was so relieved to find a nail file/grinder online that she doesn't love, but she tolerates. It sounds like a freaking dental drill, but I imagine dental work wasn't part of her time as a puppy, so I guess it makes sense she doesn't associate that sound with terror.

Time-Stealer: Putting on sunscreen. Is it autumn yet? (I know, I know, I'm a vampire.)

Indulgence: I usually don't budget for concerts/shows, but I saw Tim Minchin last week with my friend Spiro and God, I love him. He's like the Australian lovechild of Gene Wilder and Elton John.

Fashion: Women's summer clothes have hardly any pockets, and the ones that do are so tiny. I'm looking for some kind of lightweight vest I can wear that has giant pockets. (I miss my giant sweaters and jeans.)

Music: I have stumbled into head-over-heels love with Brandon Flower's album The Desired Effect. I have it on constant rotation at the moment, trying to pin down why I like it so, so, so much. I think it's like if Bruce Springsteen had fully explored his synth-pop/new side in the 80s. Like, The Desired Effect reminds me constantly of Tunnel of Love, but less angry and more fun.  I couldn't pick one song so I posted three. Deal with it. First up is "Lonely Town." (My favorite part is the bridge from 1:36 - 2:11)

Next up is "Still Want You" and I DEFY you to not dance to this, even just a head-bob.

And finally, "Can't Deny My Love," which sends me into aural-euphoria every time I hear it. And the video stars Evan Rachel Wood and Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs!

Wishlist: any and all tropical bird Tiffany-style lamps. And this necklace.

Reminder: "I think it's important to realize you can miss something, but not want it back." (x)

#159: Electric Warrior by T. Rex


Electric Warrior by T. Rex (1971)

Favorite Tracks: "Mambo Sun" and "Cosmic Dancer" and "Jeepster" and "Get It On" and "Planet Queen" and "Girl" and "The Motivator" and "Life's A Gas"

Thoughts: Glam-rock? Yes, please. I only know two songs off this album, but I bought it on vinyl for the express purpose of hearing it for this series. I came late (very late) to the T. Rex party. I first heard "Cosmic Dancer" when I watched Billy Elliot for the first time a few years ago. It was the perfect opener and I've been in love with it ever since. I've listened to it most when people I've loved have passed away.

I think half the appeal is Marc Bolan's eerie, intimate vocals, and even on the faster & louder songs on this album he maintains the same personal quality. He's not screaming his lyrics at me, but keeping his voice close and controlled.

"Monolith" reminded me of Rocky Horror Picture Show with its backing choir, and of course "Get It On" is a classic. "Planet Queen" had me rocking out and singing along before it was over. The horns on "Girl" give it a sweet sincerity, and both it and "The Motivator" bridge the gap between 60s and 70s rock well.

Is This Better Than Every Picture Tells A Story?: As good, I would say! I think this is the only T. Rex album on the list, which is a pity. I'll have to dig deeper into their discography on my own.

Confessions of An Animal-Loving Milk Addict


In the past year I've seen and heard numerous people express their disgust with 'adult milk drinkers.' And I get it. Kids drinking milk seems okay, with its protein and vitamins. But adults who drink milk can seem a little...off. (See: The McPoyles in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.) Why not drink water, soda, wine, or coffee like a normal grown-up?

In my household growing up there were only two beverages in the fridge: orange juice and skim milk. If you didn't want to drink water, these were the only other options. I used to lie about being allergic to oranges, I disliked them so much. So really, my choice was between milk and water. Suffice to say, I drank a shit-ton of milk. With pretty much every meal. Anything richer than skim was gross to me, and had its own 'flavor' that didn't complement food the way skim does. So as I grew into an adult, I added my own beverages to the fridge, but they would come and go--skim milk was the one constant.

I don't enjoy eating desserts without a large glass of milk, particularly anything chocolate. Even now when I'm at my parents' house and we're about to sit down to a meal I'll ask, "Anyone else want a glass of milk?" It's just a comforting, familiar, soothing beverage for me, whereas most of my friends only keep milk in their houses for kids, adding to their coffee, or for cooking purposes; not to mention the ones allergic to dairy altogether. But I will leave the house at 2am if I run out of milk. Not having milk to drink is like having my water shut off. I'm pretty much addicted to it. (As you can imagine, my nails can practically cut glass and I'll probably never suffer from osteoporosis.) 

Even though I visited a few dairy farms as a child, I never wondered where my milk came from, or how it was processed. I imagined a bunch of happy dairy cows grazing in fields, each hand-milked by a farmer. Mostly I didn't think about it at all. I didn't want to, I guess. Like most children, I loved animals. I loved our pets of course, but I also adored marine mammals and horses and all-manner of animals-not-generally-eaten (in the United States, at least). 

And then I grew up and got pets of my own. Pets I've named, fed, bathed, preventatively medicated, picked up after, groomed, slept next to, and loved. It comes naturally to me to be protective of them and invested in their welfare. The idea of anyone mistreating them fills me with rage. So I sign petitions trying to protect wildlife from poaching and puppy mills from operating and I give money to organizations that care for homeless pets. But I think that--on purpose--I've tried to ignore the welfare of the animals I eat, or whose products I eat. I like meat, I LOVE dairy, I don't want to think too hard about where it comes from. Besides, this is America! I'm sure there are laws the protect them all. Thanks, Upton Sinclair!

But then something happened. I saw Gene Baur on The Daily Show. And what PETA had long-tried to force into my purview with gruesome images and super-sexist advertising, Gene Baur hit home with just talking about farm sanctuaries. 

"They're not different from cats and dogs in their desire to be friends with us."
Well shit, I thought. So I decided to examine the tip of the iceberg, and that alone made me ready to make serious changes in the way I eat. Things I didn't know:
1) The terms 'cage-free' and 'organic' have zero accountability or bearing in animal welfare. This felt like a total cheat.  
2) Like all mammals, cows have to calve in order to produce milk. I'm not sure why I didn't realize this... I assumed that, like chickens and eggs, it was just something dairy cows produced on their own. But because that's not the case, dairy cows are basically kept perpetually pregnant in order to keep up their dairy production. Oh, but it gets worse. 
3) Most calves are separated from their mothers within hours of birth, because they create too strong a bond if it's delayed, which causes health risks to the calves. And the male calves of dairy cows are usually sent off to slaughter for veal. 
There's more, but let's move on. What are my excuses for not eating ethically treated animal products and meat? Money and convenience. The first is obviously more of an issue than the latter. Eating organic is expensive, eating ethically is practically obscene if you live on any kind of tight budget.

I looked up products in my area on certifiedhumane.org. There's only one dairy farm's milk available in my city that showed up on their list, and it's $5.99...a HALF gallon. Plus a $2.50 bottle deposit, which hurts excuse #2. To add insult to injury, two of the half gallons I bought tasted bad, even far from their pull date. Not a great start. I'm used to finding milk even as low as $2.50 a gallon (with a coupon).

So to offset the cost (and the inconvenience) I'm trying to start eating less meat and dairy, in addition to buying from farms with strict animal welfare policies. For now, I'm still eating meat when it's served to me by hosts, or when eating out (there are restaurants that are certified humane in their meat and animal product purchasing). One of the problems with me becoming a full vegan or even just vegetarian is that I don't really like grilled veggies (so I could go full-raw like some people, I guess) and frankly, I've tried non-dairy cheese, and I am willing to spend a bundle on humane cheese before I go down that route. I'm planning to try milk alternatives like coconut, almond, and soy milk, but I don't think any of those are ideal milks for drinking on their own. Whether or not I'll be able to fully wean myself from drinking milk, we'll see.

Basically, I'm going to try to do what I can in my own life. I make all the grocery decisions for my home, and all the decisions when I eat on my own. In addition to signing petitions and voting, I want to make changes as a consumer. I don't buy real fur, but giving up leather will be difficult. Maybe that will be a resolution for 2016... But even just starting small makes me feel lighter. This summer I hope to visit some of the farms I start buying from to check them out for myself, and meet the animals. Hopefully I can continue to love milk, and even more so for being from happy cows.

Currents, May 2015


Drink: I had my first Moscow Mule, and I think I prefer a Dark & Stormy.

Project: Okay, I broke through the this-isn't-going-anywhere wall on ancestry.com and it. is. addictive. It's so weird that I'm having a hell of a time tracking down photos for certain older relatives, when so many of us living now are photographed, tagged, and selfie'd on an almost daily (or hourly) basis. Our descendants will know more than they ever wanted to about us. :)

TV Shows: I want to post each season 3 Inside Amy Schumer skit on every media platform I participate in. Also I watched The Jinx long after everyone else did and all I wanted to do was talk about it for like 72 hours. And I'm enjoying Daredevil more than I thought I would!

Movie: Saw the second Avengers movie and it had its moments, but overall there were certain major-y plot things I didn't care for at all. I've also been watching documentaries on things like Eastern European dating sites (basically mail-order brides) and sex trafficking. Because, you know, I need more reasons to feel hopeless about humanity (and misogynist straight men in general).

Food: I'm in a serious, long-term relationship with Trader Joe's Chicken Tikka Masala. 

Celebrity Crush: Charlie Cox's everything.

Book: When I saw that All The Light We Cannot See won the Pulitzer prize, it actually made me less excited to read it, as the last winner I tried bored me to tears. But I was compelled from page one! Anthony Doerr managed to write a WWII historical fiction novel that actually made me interested to start learning more about WWII--something I haven't endeavored since high school.

Indulgence: It's May, which means my favorite cupcake is available: lime cake and tequila butter cream frosting (margarita!).

Fashion: On a search for the best convertible backpack/cross-body handbag for traveling. 

Thankfulness: This week my friend Jonathan took me to my SECOND opera (he also took me to my first) as a present for my birthday. It was Mozart's The Magic Flute!

Music: Do any of you who've been to Italy have good 'Italy' music? Like for background listening or for driving in the car? I'm already making a playlist for me and the fam. 

WishlistThis crazy-fabulous coat that I'm pretty sure I would not feel bold enough to wear outside my home. But man would it look killer in my closet.

Reminder: "Don't ever put your happiness in someone else's hands. They'll drop it. They'll drop it every time." - One for Sorrow, Christopher Barzak