Saturday, December 31, 2005

Currently Reading
The Kite Runner
By Khaled Hosseini
see related
Another year... One that definitely sticks out. For me, it's basically a year in two parts - Pre-CRA and after. Meeting new people and being able to finally express without regard to prior perceptions of who I was. Embracing and being embraced for what I believe now and being given the respect and esteem of colleagues around me (and by that, I don't *just* mean my kids!). It does wonders to one's confidence! Its never been more apparant than the last week or two, going back to an older life while on vacation from CRA.

A year ago I posted this same tune by, then, an unknown, although definitely known in the indie world, band, Death Cab For Cutie. Here it is, again. Click to download:

The New Year

So this is the new year.
And i don't feel any different.
The clanking of crystal
Explosions off in the distance (in the distance).

So this is the new year
And I have no resolutions
For selfl assigned penance
For problems with easy solutions

So everybody put your best suit or dress on
Let's make believe that we are wealthy for just this once
Lighting firecrackers off on the front lawn
As thirty dialogues bleed into one

I wish the world was flat like the old days
Then i could travel just by folding a map
No more airplanes, or speedtrains, or freeways
There'd be no distance that can hold us back.

There'd be no distance that could hold us back

So this is the new year

Was looking back at last year's year-end-blog and decided to post up my favorite shows of this year as well, with a few highlights:

U2 - April 9, 2005 - HP Pavilion, San Jose. U2, Vertigo Tour, that's about enough said.
Better Than Ezra - May 6, 2005 - Club ZOE, San Jose. Fun at a concert in a club within the confines of San Jose? It happened.
Glen Phillips - June 25, 2005 - Great American Music Hall, San Francisco. Sit-down venue, Glen solo, lots of stories, perfect acoustics.
Nickel Creek - July 28?, 2005 - Little Fox Theater, Redwood City. Probably last time ever seeing them in a 300 or less venue. Memorable for too many reasons, most of all that I got in to this private concert without a ticket and doing what a true fan would do... Show up anyways!
Coldplay - August 19, 2005 - Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View. Had seen the band a few times before, never overwhelmed, but this time they broke through.
Arcade Fire - October ?, 2005 - Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View. Part of the download festival, these are my now second favorite live band behind Nickel Creek. Damn Canadians, their infectious music has sucked me in!
Nickel Creek - December 10, 2005 - Warfield Theater, San Francisco. Yep, them again. Brought some Creekster virgins who ate the show up. Oops, not the best of phrases to have written. Great show though. Never forget cover of Britney's Toxic.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Currently Listening
By The Decemberists
see related
Two Asian-American films I'd recommend that just realized are now on DVD!:

The Beautiful Country - A film that exposes three unfortunate outcomes of the Vietnam War; the plight of Amerasians (half Vietnamese/half white) represented by the main character, the illegal smuggling of Asians seeking refuge to America, and the war damages to the American soldiers of the war, physical and mental. Beautifully shot and produced/directed by Norweigan directors. Nick Nolte, Tim Roth, Bai Ling star for those interested.

Saving Face - What do you do when your 48 year old mother (played gracefully by Joan Chen), widowed, is pregnant, with father unknown, while you, yourself, are gay and have yet to reveal that fact to your mother and rest of the family, and oh by the way, you are raised in the strictest of Chinese traditionalist households, with a grandfather who believes in nothing but honor? A great film that really shines on its character development and dialogue.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

I do this every year - Spend too much time thinking what albums qualify to make it to in my list of favorites for the year, but when it comes down to actually penning down reasons why, I quickly scribble down in one sitting everything, typically leaving out numerous details that I regret later on, leaving me to quietly re-edit what I had originally written, hoping that readers hadn't checked out my list just quite yet. Well, I'm doing it again, aren't I. Here, then, is a list of my favorite ten albums of the year, with the stipulation that they had to have been released this year. Of course, that leaves a lot leftover, so that gets a list in itself.

What constitutes being placed into this prestigious (not really) list? Albums that challenge me. The common theme to most of the music on this list consists of the fact that they were not immediately pleasing to the ear. As a result, most of them stretched my ear, so to speak, and required an effort from my part to realize what it was they were trying to point out. Here is last year's list, just for comparison:

U2 - How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
The Finn Brothers - Everyone is Here
The Shore - Self-titled
Scissor Sisters - Self-titled
HEM - Eveningland
Keane - Hopes & Fears
Norah Jones - Feels like Home
Vienna Teng - Warm Strangers
Mindy Smith - One Moment More
Beastie Boys - To the 5 Boroughs

Here we go, and there is a sample track download for you to take a listen to: (oh and there is no particular order, I couldn't possibly be able to justifiably rate albums on a list)

M.I.A. - Arular (Amazon - click to download)

What does she sound like? So difficult to point out. She definitely defined what I stated above. I scoffed and laughed the first time hearing this album, but her mix of world, rap, hip-hop, and dance is infectious as her politically charged lyrics is powerful.

Glen Phillips - Winter Pays For Summer (Duck and Cover)

Glen’s first (and sadly, last) album for Lost Highway Records mixes his always rich and honest lyrics with the best of the type of melodies reminiscent of his old band, Toad. His "welcome-to-reality" take on love 'True', politics 'gather', and just life in general 'duck and cover' and 'don’t need anything' are truly appreciated.

Nickel Creek - Why Should the Fire Die? (Helena)

In a sense, this is the Creekster's first true album that offers a sense of who and where they are musically. The contrasting sounds from the waltsy 'Jealous of the Moon' to the bluegrass infused 'stumptown' to the rocking 'Helena', and the three-part harmonies of 'why should the fire die', all constitute towards the idea that they just cannot be pigeon-holed into a genre. Lyrically, they've antied up and have closed the gap to their musical virtuosity.

The New Pornographers - Twin Cinemas (Jackie, Dressed in Cobras)

This has to be my musical find of the year! Originally I'd been a huge fan of Neko Case, who's only one in this "supergroup" full of musicians from Canada. How to explain them? It's difficult to find any other single group that creates a similar sound, but their unbelievably catchy power-pop sound is one that many bands should look to when defining what constitutes a great pop song. Check it out. You'll love it.

Coldplay - X&Y (Proof *not on the album, but the speed of sound single; great song)

Another album that took awhile to digest, but each listen brought clarity and revealed a much more sonically adventurous band opposed to the last two albums. Definitely worth the hype. Check out the hidden track, "'til kingdom come", originally written for Johnny Cash, but done beautifully by the band.

Sigur Ros - Takk (Gong)

Each song on this record is an adventure! This time singing in Icelandic, opposed to their Hopelandic(sp?) made up language, the band has created a much more richly melodic (and uplifiting!) album that pulls the tear strings from within you. Beautiful, powerful, doesn't need interpretation. Universal.

Ryan Adams - 2005's albums (cold roses / Jacksonville nights / 29)
How do you keep love alive? / The Hardest Part / Night Birds

Somebody take this man on a vacation! Three albums (one of which is a 2-cd set) in nine-ish months, totally unheard of! Each album is distinct from each other, with Jacksonville providing the clearest resemblance to a genre (country-folk). Standout tracks from each album: cold roses – Easy Plateau/How do you keep love alive?; Jacksonville nights - The Hardest Part; 29 - Nightbirds.

Aimee Mann - The Forgotten Arm (Going Through The Motions)

I really applaud Aimee's attempt at a concept album here - She tells the written story of a boxer in narrative format and breaks it up into chapters/songs, set to typically amazing Aimee driven songs. Within her digipak packaging, it becomes an experience for the participant through music, illustration, and written form. Did I mention the songs were great, too? Check out "Going through the motions".

Kanye West - Late Registration (Diamonds From Sierra Leone)

Yes, yes, we all know he’ll be famous for that line attacking Bush. But his music is just as good and deserving of the recognition. Though geared towards hip-hop, it has the ability to transcend genres and I'll tip my cap at Jon Brion for co-producing this incredibly appealing album that I hope will give Brion the credit he deserves for his bountiful amount of work.

LCD Soundsystem - Self Titled (Daft Punk is Playing at My House)

It's being complimented as this decade's "Substance" album by New Order, which is a tough billing to live up to, quite honestly, but nevertheless, these techno-infused tracks carry with them more substance (no pun intended) than that is typical. It’s got a sense of punk, rock, techno, funk, disco, etc. Most importantly, it's fun. And sometimes you just need some of that (albeit with some meat to it) after a long period of introspective music listening.


Short list of albums that didn't make the list but very well should have. Maybe they were released months before 2005 or just couldn't crack a top ten.

Sean Watkins - Blinders On
The Arcade Fire - Funeral (fall in love with their live shows!)
Ray LaMontagne - Trouble (Possibly this century's Van Morrison?)
Madeleine Peyroux - Careless Love (could I possibly love her more than Norah?)
Blue Merle - Burning in the Sun (Vocals a la Coldplay, but with a jam bite to them. They've now got fiddler extraordinaire, Luke Bulla in the band!!!)
Wilco - Kicking Television (live double-album, this side of the globe's Radiohead, sonically)
Beck - Guero
Death Cab for Cutie - Plans
Wicker Park Soundtrack (Ahhh, not sure about the movie, but could just be a better soundtrack than Garden State!)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Currently Reading
The Kite Runner
By Khaled Hosseini
see related

Wow, it's been awhile - BUT. For good reason, finally! I've now officially been out of class for about a week, but unofficially, I've been "out of it" mentally since the last post. What's been going on? With pictures, this time, of course!

*The Fray @ Slim's - I love KFOG. Another free private concert netted me a show two feet away from this very energetic band that doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel, but sure does a good job playing with it. They've got a Coldplay/Keane/Switchfoot/Ben Folds kind of thing going for them, with very persuasive melodies. Emerging artist? Probably. Don't be surprised to see them on your local radio station soon (for better or worse). They did a first for me at a concert as well, offering up chips/salsa and a fruit basket to those up front. Tell me if you've ever been offered an orange at a concert by the band performing :-) Too bad I didn't take a picture of it...

*Vienna Teng @ Montgomery Theater - Seen her a few times, but this was quite a tightly orchestrated yet remarkable show in that she had a full band for once (drums/upright bass/violin/piano) and performed many new songs, showing a heavy leanancy/tilt towards jazz. Very nice.

Its been such a marvelous few days without the hassle of work, teaching, studying, sitting in class (well, i'm still working actually) - what do you do with yourself when you've been transformed like this! it's dumbfounding not getting 5,000 emails a day and 20,000 phone calls. yet, with all this freed up time, you (well, could just be me) still don't take the time to make lunch for work, when you were able to do it with minimal time when life was hectic. Well, something to chew on, I guess.

Our CRA cohort had one last get-together before we all left back to our homes and families for the next few weeks - Here's some pictures.

Obviously tired, yet happy.

A beautiful house with amazing food and drink

Had a fair share of those last week ;-)

Lots of hugging these last few days.

Can you tell they're happy?

Other randomness

My quick webpage created at the Tech Museum (it's just a photo of me looking funny)

One word reviews: Narnia - enchanting; Syriana - Convoluted; King Kong - entertaining

Next up: This year's ten albums of the year, plus honorable mentions.

Go to San Jose State? I'm looking for my replacement, someone who can communicate extremely well with faculty/staff/administration folk. Drop a line if you're interested. Or your resume. (to those reading my Xanga mirror of this blog)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

For all the Nickel Creek folks -

There's nothing I really need to say more about their live prowess. I'll just jot down, however, a few notes on *new* stuff I heard from last night's show at the Warfield in San Francisco:

*Jealous of the Moon introduced as a waltz, and it works! I never thought of it that way before... And Chris commenting on waltzing with strangers or just somebody beautiful next to you was hilarious!

*Andrew Bird (the opener)'s drummer coming out to perform the climax for Helena - Wow, had to be the most dramatic part of the show! First time seeing Nickel Creek with drums for me

*Why abstain from your caffeine? Chris points out that out of the many things in life you'd like to accomplish each day, you're most likely to go through your day not accomplishing them. But your morning caffeiene? Why not! It's something totally controllable and dammit, why refrain yourself from at least getting one thing done. This was the introduction to Stumptown, their ode to the coffee in Portland (i think?)

*World class whistler Andrew Bird coming out to whistle during Sara's performance of Anthony! How awesome is that.

*Their cover of Britney Spear's Toxic - Wow... Who knew you could make a Britney Spears song sound so good. And Chris's Britney impersonation was classic!

*The Fox led into a cover of The Band's "The Weight", wow, great sing-a-long

*Cover of Radiohead's Nice Dreams with Sara singing on lead

*Cover of Hop High, My LuLu Girl

*Not just Mark clogging, but Chris as well!!! WOW, that was just a sight to be seen!

*Some Bach performed solo by Chris and his mando

*The Christmas songs during the encore was just so fun. Imagine listening to Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, with audience participation! The band sings, with the audience chiming in with end-of-the-line lyrics such as "LIKE A LIGHT BULB!", "GLEE!" Priceless

*In the House of Tom Bombadil with a jam of Randy Newman's "Short People"!! SOOO appropriate and sooo fun. (Tom Bombadil from Lord of the Rings Hobbit fame)

So much more, check out Liz's blog for more!! The three friends I brought summed it up the best - They're just full of energy and LOVE TO PLAY! Yep. Exactly.

Friday, December 09, 2005

It's finally over. Over forty-five pages later within the last five days, I've finally written enough applications of critical consciousness within education on paper. No more tears, finally. I need a vacation.

Where to start? 3 concerts in four days. Nickel Creek, The Fray & Augustana Private Concert (thank you for the free tickets KFOG!), and Vienna Teng.

Then hopefully back to blogging again :)

Fantastic new restaurant in downtown San Jose: Tandoori Oven. Their wraps are heavenly. Their Indian beer is very tasty. Taj Mahal. Buy it. Drink it.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Currently Watching
U2 - Vertigo 2005: Live From Chicago DVD
By U2
see related
Part of a larger email I sent out to my cohort-- I'm really interested in reading the WSJ article on the *new* Asian/white divide and whether or not that article speaks of the model minority myth as a possible rationale for why white parents feel this urge to pull their students out of public schools. Imagine that! Parents pulling kids out BECAUSE it's too competitive!
In other news, one more week until I can blog like I am used to, if there ever was such a thing. It's been the most stressful and life-consuming last few months I've ever experienced and it just got worse last week - Imagine this, our group created a wonderfully crafted presentation for our grad seminar (i introduced powerpoint with wireless technology-it was a beautiful thing) and not only were we shot down during remarks by our professor after the presentation because (though it was something we still hold being valid, wasn't exactly what was wanted-though that was never made clear), those remarks took about an hour with us literally standing in front and with all the students watching that were completely confused, they thought our presentation/project was authentic and the most applicable to our program. wow. like two hundred kicks to the stomach that didn't register until about thursday, two days after it happened. so for our paper portion of the project, we've had to re-construct the entire thing- frustration, frustration, frustration.


Thought that this article would add some meaning towards what we read a few weeks ago about 'white flight' - I found it flipping through this week's Metro newspaper. The article referred to a larger article they published in September about 'white flight' within San Jose. It's an interesting read, especially since it relates what we learned specifically to schools and communities here. If anyone has or subscribes to the Wall Street Journal, I'd like to take a look at the article that was referred to below. (the article referred to in the blurb below)

This week's blurb:

'White Flight': The Aftershocks

In September, Metro identified "white flight" as a growing trend in Santa Clara County schools, calling into question whether desegregation has been as successful here as people like to think. Apparently, the Wall Street Journal took notice; this month they filed their own story on the issue, focusing on Cupertino, where Asians make up two-thirds of the population at Monta Vista and Lynbrook High Schools. The WSJ focused on the new Asian/white divide in the affluent suburb. Though the city is half-white, the proportion of Caucasian kids at Lynbrook and Monta Vista has fallen to 25 percent and 31 percent, respectively. And it's not because of test scores, which are among the highest in the nation. The WSJ article revealed that white parents feel that more Asian students make the atmosphere too competitive and narrowly driven by academics. Some kids admit that white students are stereotyped as the "underachievers"—this on campuses where a B average will put you at the bottom third of the class.