Monday, December 22, 2008

I-Spy for movie-mind

Every so often, I experience a weird moment when I'm watching a movie in a theater.

I restrain myself from falling fully into a film.

The typical movie-goer enters a cinema, grabs a seat and waits for the feature presentation. The movie starts and viewer willingly relinquishes sight, feeling and hearing to the story plastered across the silver screen.

I mean that is the whole point of going to a movie: being exposed to an environment, event, experience that is unique, hard-to-come-by through a certain lens, perspective; that's the draw of them. That's why sometimes I'll pay $10 to go to Regal or Bethesda Row.

But, have you ever noticed how weird Hollywood is? American filmmakers and producers make nearly 1,000 movies a year, all different, but there's only a handful of people to play the roles.

We see the same person (Tom Cruise) play a honorary Samurai in one movie, a German WWII officer in another, a pilot in another and a sports agent in another. Different eras, wildly different stories and different people with different characters. And for whatever reason our brains don't even register that we're seeing the same face. I mean, we might recognize that it's Tom Cruise, but it doesn't affect our absorption of the story.

I think when actors are type-casted (i.e. Michael Cera as the awkwardly cute boy-next-door), it makes sense. But, it's interesting; type-casting seems to be looked down upon. Same role over and over again. No challenge. But, it seems like it's a natural thing; it makes sense.

It's also weird to tell yourself that the people you are seeing are acting. They aren't really the person. I mean, it's to be obvious to know that these celebrities are not in fact the characters they play, but sometimes during a movie, it's weird to conciously know that these people are just reciting lines.

But, I guess it is more than that. It's not just reciting lines, especially when you are watching really good actors and actresses. It's those people who really trick your mind to believe you're seeing the real deal, in the actual time and place, that are the award-winners. And even then, I still think a lot of amazing actors and actresses are overlooked or compromised by star-studded politics.

Friday, December 19, 2008

2008's soundtrack podcast

I made a podcast highlighting my favorite tracks off of my soundtrack to 2008.

Download it here, to play on your iTunes or other media player.

Soundtrack to 2008

Pitchfork has taken their holiday hiatus, so they haven't been posting as often. They've instead been sharing lists ranking their favorite albums and tracks of 2008.

There's not many surprises to faithful Pitchfork readers: Crystal Castles, Vivian Girls, and No Age, among others, fall within the top 20.

I just posted the "eight greats," or things that really made 2008 fantastic, last entry. That kind of gives you a taste of my life through out the last 12 months, but, like I wrote here, music is the true memory capture-r.

So, here's the 8 albums of 2008. Some of these did not come out in 2008, so don't be misled to think this represents what the music industry did this year. These are the singles, the beats, the melodies, that I couldn't get enough of (and still can't).

These are the songs that made me smile when I walked to class on cold Syracuse days, the songs that I fell asleep to warm under my down comforter, the songs I'd wish would play at a house party so I could dance out to the fullest with friends. These are the songs I lived my life to in 2008.

Ray LaMontagne, Trouble
LaMontagne's homespun soulful voice soothes the spirit. I've grown to love every song on the album, and it didn't take much time. He released A Gossip in the Grain this year, but Trouble still ranks as my favorite album by him. Trouble is all about love, but not all sappy, predictable manifestiations of it; he gives it to you real, the good and the bad, natural, familar love that all listeners can relate, and attest, to.
[favorite track: Jolene] [close second: Shelter]

Kings of Leon, Only By the Night
Kings released Only By the Night in 2008, and at first, I didn't like it. I thought it was too much of the same, not too different from their old stuff. I was wrong; I admit it. Only By the Night really showcases Jared Followill on bass, playing intergral parts in the development of Use Somebody and 17. Listeners can really tell that Kings have played together a long time, just by how well-composed and, may I dare say, juicy their tracks are. Their debut released in 2003 and they've been rocking ever since, even in this, their fourth album.
[favorite track: Use Somebody] [close second: Manhattan]

Lykke Li, Youth Novels
She's got moves. She's got the cutest voice ever. She's got the formula to the perfect indie pop song down pat. Just listen to this album; it has 14 perfectly executed examples. I've made a fool of myself walking down the streets of Syracuse, unable to keep myself from walking with a hip shake here or lip sync there; it's truely addicting/contagious/Swedish.
[favorite track: Dance Dance Dance] [close second: Let it fall]

MGMT, Oracular Spectacular
I've loved MGMT since the minute Joe Ryder played Electric Feel for me. This album is fantastic; I can't even count how many times I've listened to it all the way through. It will make you want to dance, sing along, pick up an instrument, see them live. Their next album is due out sometime in 2009, with the help of the Chemical Brothers. The 14-minute Metanoia single released late this summer and, if it is any indication of what MGMT will give us in the future, I'm boosted to the fullest.
[favorite track: The Handshake] [close second: Weekend Wars]

Bonus video:

Broken Social Scene, Broken Social Scene
Broken Social Scene's 2005 self-titled release received most playtime by me this year than it ever had in the past. The pending Bonnaroo experience brought them back to the top of my iPod's "most listened to," and rightfully so. If you're not familiar with the best thing Canada has most-likely ever contributed to indie music, pick up this album. Everything is fantastic: the energy really makes some songs chug on like a speeding freight train, others showcase the pure beauty that can come out of well-designed, well-played music. You need this album.
[favorite track: Fire Eye'd Boy] [close second: Swimmers]

RaRaRiot, The Rhumb Line
My dearest RaRaRiot, how you've grown. From the small sets at Mezzanotte and FunkNWaffles, you're now superstars, playing national tours and even being featured on Nordstrom BP's playlist (it's super weird to hear it while working). I had only been accustomed to getting my RaRa fix live or with old recordings, but Rhumb Line offered me a whole new option with old classics and new additions. Great thing is, RaRa is still RaRa: indie pop with strings and catchy beats/melodies.
[favorite track: Too Too Too Fast] [close second: Oh, La]

Deichkind, Aufstand im Schlaraffenland
Jan showed me this band when I was in Germany, and it was like an epiphany. Could this be real? A really good German band? That's not to say Germans are bad musicians, but Americans really trump German's indie scene, no one can deny that. But, Deichkind was something new. They've deemed themselves "electro/hip hop" but all I know is that they make some mean dance songs.
[favorite track: Remmidemmi] [close second: Limit]

Bonus: Kopf oder Zahl (deichkind remix), Jennifer Rostock

Sigur Ros, Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
This Icelandic band's fifth album did not fail to impress by any means. I'd like to think this is the most pop, pedestrian album they've produced, but they've still maintained the pure beauty that is at the heart of their sound. It's all in Icelandic, but I think that makes it better; English would hurt it's value.
[favorite track: Við Spilum Endalaust] [close second: Gobbledigook]

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Click here to listen to the latest paigewithwords podcast.

eight greats of '08

I've almost forgotten it's Christmas time. Syracuse's early-afternoon dusk and snow made it much easier to believe it was December, but, since I've been home in Maryland, it's been warm and rainy like spring.

I've noticed that as I get older, my anticipation grows for my New Year's eve plans rather than the discovery of gifts from Santa under the tree.

2009 is exactly two weeks away, and I'm realizing that another whole year as gone by. But, my god, what a fantastic year 2008 was.

The Eight Greats of '08 (in no particular order)

People complain that Bonnaroo is getting "too mainstream" and it's not worth going to anymore. Sure, there was Kanye West (horrible, but more memorable of a set than any of his good ones) and Jack Johnson, but Rilo Kiley, Broken Social Scene, Sigur Ros, Sharon Jones, Avett Bros, Willie Nelson? All in one place? Not to mention, kickin' it with 10 of your closest guy friends on a 700-acre stretch of farmland in Tennesee with no rules, no judgments, no hostility; just music, love and great times. People have it right when they describe it as the modern day Woodstock. One of the best times of my life.

Twenty-one years of existance; beer me
August 15th marked my 21st birthday. College Park bars, backyard BBQ w/ pinata & games and a huge after party at Nate's with a dance party and booze. GREAT day and thanks to everyone for making it so special.

Fall semester
While we're on the subject of drinking, I wasn't misled to believe that life as a legal adult was 100x better than being underage. I was able to spend a lovely Friday in downtown Syracuse at Syracuse Beer Fest with Josh. Thursday Trivia Nights at the Inncomplete got me through the week; cheap good beers, great company, cool set-up. I even went on a little roadtrip with friends to Wagner's, a fingerlake vineyard/brewery. I discovered Al's Wine and Whiskey, which pretty much is the place to be, with party games, wine and, you guessed it, whiskey.

Ashley, I need the exact recipe for that fantastic orange juice, peach concoction, or better yet, I need you to come over and make them, and then we can play banana.

The epic roadtrip to Albany to see a FREE MGMT & Justice show. It had just started as a suggestion to Yofred that we should totally go to this SoCo sponsored show, but it snowballed into two packed cars of guys and myself to spend the day at in the middle of no-where, drinking heavily, playing beanbag, scoring free stuff and listening to Matt&Kim and Justice, among other bands. MGMT's drummer broke his foot so they were a no-show. But it was still fantastic! I was able to meet Jason, Nick, Drew and Andres, with whom I've been able to develop great friendships over the past few months. Plus, I got to talk to two dudes from Pitchfork! And I was included, hilariously, in a profile of Justice.

Black Keys in Columbus

Nick Fink came over to get some music. Nick Fink mentioned he was going to Ohio to see the Black Keys. Nick Fink offered a seat in his car to me. I went.

Nick, Jason, myself and Travis embarked on an incredible weekend in Columbus. We saw Black Keys in a fantastic small outdoor venue on a warm autumn evening, and they rockeddd it. The show still ranks #1 in my top 5 shows of all-time. We stayed with Jason's brother Max, whom goes to OSU and has a Columbus apartment,and met his friends, whom were awesome.

I was able to see my family from Ohio-- Papa and Uncle Bobby-- and I spent the day with them, shopping and talking politics (more like agreeing-to-disagreeing politics). Bobby always says, "There's a reason why they call conservatives the right wing."

The night after the Black Keys' show, Max's band played in this shitty basement bar and they were great. On the way home we drove through Clevelandto see where Jason grew up and meet his mom. We decided early on in the trip that we were going to also make this adventure a beer tour, so we stopped off at brews across New York, PA and Ohio on the way to and back from Columbus.

I came back to Syracuse a changed woman: knowing a lot more about beer, blown away by the Black Keys and with a tainted perception of candlesticks.

A two-week family vacation to Kassel, Germany to visit Mimi Ruth and Manfred turned into a 10-day trip to Cologne to visit Jan and Marvin, with the beginning and end few days spent at the intended destination. The german boys had visited America between my freshman and sophomore year of college, but I had not been to Germany since senior year of high school and I didn't think I was going to have the opportunity to go back. I had the BEST time, seeing Jan's family and Marvin's family, clubbing, shopping, relaxing, going to bars, just spending time with meinem Schatz!

Friends (NOT the show)
My friends make me so happy; From being partners-in-crime to dealing with my quirks (boardgames, pig noises, grey hair, dancing, paige-isms) and loving me anyways, I don't know what I'd do without them. Every single one of them are special to me, from my best friends to anyone who's outgoing enough to come to my house on a whim.

My Maryland friends make home fantastic, and never fail to make me crack up.

I lost all my syracuse girlfriends to London, Spain and Australia early in '08, but after patiently waiting, they all returned to me; and boy did we have fun this fall.

I know, if all else fails, I have you all to brighten my day, make me smile and remind me of what's great in life.

Ultimate Frisbee
Anytime when I make a list, it is so easy to think of the great things that happened in the most recent past, but I don't want to forget about spring semester. Ultimate frisbee filled many voids in my life: missing a team sport/soccer, missing close knit girlfriends. I learned the game with the help of all the girls on Fox Force Seven and I soon found myself in love with the game. Spring Break was fantastic, playing ultimate all day long in beautiful warm Georgian weather. Ultimate pushed me to do things I didn't think I'd ever do (laying out) and created great friendships on both the girls' and guys' team.

I could not wait to come home to Maryland for the warm weather to play pick-up games with Dan Harp and Co. early on in the summer on La Plata beach.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy in Becoming Jane.
McAvoy is irresistible.

Click here for the newest podcast!

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Click here to listen to my first paigewithwords podcast!

Clarification: mixtape coming soon!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Corruption Central

When news first broke of Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich's flagrant bribery and obvious power trip, my first reaction was bewilderment.

Blagojevich was trying to sell the vacant senate seat that President-Elect Obama would be giving up in January. He also was threatening to withhold funding from Children's Memorial Hospital unless the editorial staff at the Chicago Tribune were fired, because he had gotten poor press in the past.

The amount of power and just plain balls this governor had blew my mind. [Also a mind blower: that this ameature sketch of him titled 'The Face of Disgrace" has one bid on eBay. Hurry while you can, you might be even able to get it over-nighted in time for the holidays.] [pps: Is it just me or does his eye-to-face ratio remind you of John Travolta?]

Subsequently, media outlets began to look back into the history of Illinois government for follow-up stories.

It turns out that you don't have to go back too far to find another corrupt governor; try Blagojevich's precessor, George Ryan.

Ryan currently resides in a prison, serving a 6-and-a-half uear sentence after dealing state contracts and leases to political insiders.

Looks like instead of avoiding abusing power, Blagojevich took cues from Ryan on how to do just that.

And it is not just confined to the governor's office. Illinois 1926 senator Frank L. Smith took took "the modern-day equivalent of $14.5 million in campaign contributions from the owner of a utility he regulated," according to an article on Quad Cities Online. Illinois' citizens elected Smith, but his fellow Senators in the U.S. Senate refused to let him take office, based on his sketchy track record.

With Illinois a suspect hotbed for political corruption, it is only logical to have reservations about Barack Obama.

Don't get me wrong. I voted for Obama; I think he's the kind of person we need in the Oval Office to start changing American government in the places it needs work. But I think it's only logical to recognize the political past of Illinois politicians and be critical as a result.

I'm not saying Obama is going to take bribes or demand change by the weight of money. I think he's been more transparent and moral honest than most past politicans with his stand to not accept lobbyist money as well as making sure his transitional team has not ties to lobbying agencies or groups.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Holiday happenings

The Post-Standard had a delightful post today about downtown Syracuse’s Christmas-pasts and invited readers to share their memories. It’s a bittersweet mix of nostalga and depressing reality of how far the city has fallen since those memorable times.

Sure, Syracuse could do a lot better economically, but I think the city still has something to offer people, especially SU students.

5 things to do in Syracuse during the Christmas season

1. Ice skating in Clinton Square
For $3 “admission” and $3 rentals, you can’t go wrong! The rink is actually quite large, covering the pond that is usually there any other time of the year. The square’s huge lighted Christmas tree and various light displays illuminate the landscape around the rink, as Christmas music hangs in the air. I had a great time; it wasn’t too crowded, the rentals were pretty good and the company was delightful.

2. Simmer down now
My mom always used to make a “simmer pot” during the winter, combining spices in a small pot on the stove and leaving it on simmer. Result: a house that smells just like Christmas. So drown out the smell of beer and laundry sheets with this seasonale scent!
5 to 6 cinnamon sticks, broken
1 tbsp. lemon peel
1 tbsp. orange peel
1/2 c. whole cloves
1 tbsp. nutmeg
1/4 c. whole allspice
1 tbsp. bay leaf pieces
2 slices dried apples, optional

Combine ingredients. Add water to simmer on stove top or in potpourri pot.
3. The Christmas Story at the Landmark

The Landmark Theatre on South Salina is having a holiday movie series. Today they showed Jim Carrey’s The Grinch but next Sunday they’re showing the classic The Christmas Story. What is Christmas without leg lamps, “you’ll shoot your eye out” references and boys getting their tongues stuck to freezing metal poles? Incomplete. Don’t watch it on TBS like you do every year; go to the Landmark instead with a group of friends. $3

4. Lights on the Lake
Buckle up and drive around a two-mile stretch of road near Onondaga Lake to bear witness to an assortment of light displays. I’m going with a car-full tomorrow night. $6 if you go on Monday or Tuesday with a Wegman’s card; $8 otherwise. Open 5 to 10 nightly until Jan. 4.

5. Hang some mistletoe
The tenants that lived in my apartment last year must have been really into the holiday season because their mistletoe still hangs from the ceiling in the doorway to our living room. People have been avoiding it all year, especially during beer pong (a few guys have had a few close calls). Hang up some of that poisonous plant in common places and demand compliance with the tradition: you have to kiss! Take pictures of goofy occurrences and share them with us!