Thursday, March 29

Favorite Bands: A List

I'm a big fan the movie (and book!) High Fidelity even though I think Rob, Barry, and Dick are total musical snobs who would make fun of my taste in music without a doubt. I love that they do a bunch of wacky top five lists throughout like, "Top 5 musical crimes perpetrated by Stevie Wonder in the 80s and 90s, go." Here is the scene where Rob (as played by John Cusack) gives his top 5 side one, track one songs for fun evidence of their musical snobbery.

I'm not nearly as creative or as good at breaking things down as they are (or as snobby, yikes!), but in honor of favorite bands weeks at TFC, I thought I'd do a list my own way.

A top three is too easy because it's remained the same since freshman year of high school. There are some newer bands in the top five, but it does not fully represent my whole life if we are talking ALL-TIME favorites. Top ten might have worked, but I like the number 13 better, so I'm going to give you my top 13 favorite bands, followed my favorite album by them (though this would not necessarily be my top 13 albums in order because, for example, my number two favorite band made my all-time favorite album and my favorite album by my number one band would rank number two on my list, and I'm sure in some circles this would cause great controversy) and then I will provide a YouTube video of my favorite song by that band. (Again not in order. Oh my god, I'm not even sure I could pick an all-time favorite song.) Okay, here goes...

13. Against Me!; favorite album: Searching for a Former Clarity; favorite song: "TSR"

12. Sleater-Kinney; favorite album: Call The Doctor; favorite song: "Dig Me Out"

11. Alice In Chains; favorite album: Dirt; favorite song: "We Die Young"

10. Screaming Trees/Mark Lanegan solo work (I know it is kind of cheating, but I can't really separate them out); favorite Screaming Tree's album: Sweet Oblivion; favorite Mark Lanegan album: Bubblegum; favorite Screaming Tree's song: "Dying Days"

favorite Mark Lanegan song: "Down in the Dark" (which features Kurt Cobain on guitar)

9. The Gits; favorite album: Frenching The Bully; favorite song: "Another Shot of Whiskey"

8. Rancid; favorite album: ...And Out Come the Wolves; favorite song: "Radio"

7. The Cure; favorite album: Seventeen Seconds; favorite song: "Disintegration"

6. The Distillers; favorite album: Coral Fang, favorite song: "I Am A Revenant"

5. Civet; favorite album, Hell Hath No Fury, favorite song: "Son of a Bitch"

4. The Gaslight Anthem; favorite album The '59 Sound; favorite song, "Boomboxes and Dictionaries"

3. Social Distortion; favorite album: Social Distortion; favorite song: "Don't Take Me For Granted" (after all, it inspired my book, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE)

2. Hole; favorite album (of all time, thank you very much): Live Through This, favorite song: "Plump"

1. Nirvana; favorite album: In Utero; favorite song: "On a Plain"

What about you? Give me a top five, top ten, top whatever of your favorite bands, songs, or albums?

Tuesday, March 27

Driving Tuneage

I have three young sons and coach boys' basketball, so lately I've been getting bombarded with LMFAO while driving them around. Which is, in my humble opinion, some pretty fun, get-me-up-and-wigglin' stuff, but it's better when experienced in smaller doses. I think this might be one reason that when I have the luxury of selecting the drive-time music, I've been gravitating over to the Coffee House satellite radio station, which features singer-songwriter acoustic rock music. Adele, Norah Jones, and Dave Matthews are examples of artists.

Although I love that music, if I need a quick pick-me-up (especially while driving long distances, which I'm getting ready to do for spring break), I like to listen to the BPM (Beats Per Minute) satellite radio station, which features dance/club music and remixes and artists such as: Kaskade, Deadmau5, and David Guetta.

What kind of music or radio stations do you like to listen to while in the car?

Monday, March 26

Music...Sort Of


Singing-competition shows.

Let's take an informal poll here. Your favorite is:





In terms of your favorite, why is it your favorite?

Oh, and here's a good question: If there's a show you started watching or used to watch regularly but then stopped, why did you stop?

And one last question: If there's something that makes you particularly crazy about one of the shows you still watch, what is that crazy-making something?

OK...that's it for now! Sorry about the brevity but I am going to see THE HUNGER GAMES today! Do you think there will be singing in it? If you saw it, were you satisfied?

Be well. Don't forget to write.

Tuesday, March 6

What I'm Reading: Lots!

I have a book on my nightstand, one in my daily bag, one in my "every once in a while" bag, and one in the living room by the couch. Is that crazy? Yes, it takes me longer to finish each one, but it's the way I roll these days--from one location to the next, from one story to another.

These are the four books that are currently haunting my favorite spots (three new ones and a classic!):

Does anyone else have this kind of crazy reading juggle? Which titles are currently in your piles?

Thursday, March 1

Falling In Love With Francesca Lia Block Again

I have a huge TBR pile. It's not even a pile, but a small bookshelf. And the books are really jammed in there. Totally overflowing. But I spent the last month ignoring it in favor of a couple of battered and dog-earred, extremely well-read and well-loved books from one of my three giant and terribly overstuffed bookcases that house the already-read books.

I do this occasionally. One winter when I was sick, I busted out the first series I loved: Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books. I was surprised how many parts I still had memorized, though I shouldn't have been because I must have read those books a hundred times as a kid. There was more time for reading back then. Entire summers with hours upon hours for books. It was okay to read the same thing over and over. I don't really do that as an adult because I have such a big TBR pile and so little time. I mean, I did it with the Harry Potter books when the last movie came out (and I used to do it when each book came because at the time I worked in an office where I was allowed to sit and read between answering the phone or making copies), but other than that (and being sick and craving the Little House books like a bowl of my mom's homemade soup) rereading is not a luxury I often allow myself. I wasn't planning on this particular month-long binge. It happened because of a new book.

At the end of January, I got this package and nearly wept with joy when I opened it to find this:

That would be the prequel to Francesca Lia Block A.K.A. My Fairy Godmother's Weetzie Bat series A.K.A. The Only YA Books That Spoke To Me When I Was A Teenager. The early 90s while an amazing time for gritty, raw, and real rock 'n' roll music were not a good time period for gritty, raw, and real YA literature like we have now. I was desperate (DESPERATE!) for books that spoke of the things that my friends and I were going through (drug addiction, eating disorders, bullying, not fitting in, unhealthy relationships, self-injury, surviving rape), but not finding them. Francesca Lia Block's books were the rare exception. On the surface, her stories may seem more glittery and gritty because of her incredibly vivid depiction of her characters and especially her setting, Los Angeles, but she paints gorgeous pictures of very ugly, very real things and those unique characters of hers survive them. I could go on (and on and on and on), but what it boils down to is this: Francesca Lia Block's books were like the music of Nirvana and Hole for me. They saved me in my darkest hours. Gave voice to the things I was thinking and struggling with. And most importantly helped me find my voice. I wouldn't be a writer without Francesca Lia Block. Period.

I've kept up with her books, but as a teenager I read the Weetzie Bat books (collected as Dangerous Angels) and Francesca Lia Blocks early novels like every couple of months. I haven't done that in awhile, but once I devoured Pink Smog in a night in a half, I knew I had to (and if you want a fuller review, you'll find one that I wrote for Rookie Magazine here.) Reading Pink Smog was like seeing a bio-pic on some celebrity I've been obsessed with because I love Weetzie Bat as much as Weetzie loves Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. She's totally one of my heroines (as is her daughter Witch Baby), even though... you know... she's not real. But once I saw what shaped Weetzie into the girl with the bleached-blonde flat-top and amazing homemade wardrobe, I just had to spend quality time with her again.

So I re-read Dangerous Angels and then Necklace of Kisses (which is Weetzie at 40 having a midlife crisis), but I couldn't stop there. Even though I was done with the Weetzie series, there was a book that meant even more to me. In fact, if I were to name my all-time favorite book, this one would probably tied with Grapes of Wrath:

The Hanged Man. It's gorgeous and lush and ripe with symbolism as all of Francesca Lia Block's books are. It's beautiful structured. Chapters laid out like a tarot reading, each card perfectly chosen and representative of what happens in that part of the story. Laurel is so damaged, so fucked-up, so much like teenage me except she has different reasons. She's coming to terms with her father's death... and the things her father did while he was living.

As I did my rereading, I quickly realized that it wasn't just for pleasure. I'm taking my first stab at writing a book that has elements of magical realism. In the past, I've drawn on Francesca Lia Block to give me permission to write YA novels that deal with very real, difficult issues and push boundaries. Now I'm studying how she builds her worlds, how she uses symbolism, and especially how she draws these lush, full characters, settings, and stories in such a compact space. The Hanged Man is only 160 pages. I read it in two hours. My books are two hundred more pages than that and I often struggle to get them to that length. So I'm seriously examining how she does what she does.

Sigh. She still definitely remains my rock star and my heroine.

What about you? What books have you reread a lot? What do you take away from them?