From Me to You!

I would like to send you something for the holidays — yes you! You there with the face!

See, after several months (maybe even a year?) of feeling stagnant and without much new music to listen to, I have lately had a whole mess of good music fall into my lap.  Through a combination of copying things from friends, buying new albums, and just being given really great recommendations, I have been feeling lucky to have a whole bunch of new music that I’m just mad about.  And do you know what that means? It means a mix is in order!

Can I just reminisce briefly about the timeless art of mix-making? You don’t mind if I get all nostalgic here?

In high school, I used to love staying up all night in my room, shoe boxes of cassette tapes arrayed around me in a careful mess (I knew where everything was, but to the casual observer it would have seemed like chaos), making mix tapes in my old dual-cassette player/recorder.  It was so cool, that boom-box, all clear plastic and visible colored wires and components within.  Back then you could make a 120-minute mix if you bought the right kind of tape, and each side of the cassette provided its own blank canvas, essentially allowing for two hour-long mixes if you were so inclined. A mellow mix and an angry mix! A romantic mix and a sexy mix! A dancing mix and a napping mix! All on one tape!  Indeed, making mix tapes used to be an art form.

Not so with the iTunes playlist, I’m afraid. There’s no careful consideration of length (the length is limitless!) or pacing (just hit the shuffle randomizer!). There is no careful labeling of the cassette itself or ingenious collaging of the enclosed jacket.  Where, I ask you, is the human touch?

This is why I still occasionally like to create an almost-old-school mix.  I can’t make them on cassette any more, but through the technological magic of CD burning (I am so 1998 with that high tech shit and I know you are jealous, bitches) I can make a mix designed to be played in a specific order, self-contained, and embodied in a physical object. That’s as close as I can get.

I am currently in the process of making a mix featuring all of my recent favorite songs.  No duds here, just the tracks I keep repeating over and over again at the gym, in the car, or while wallowing under a blanket and throwing shoes at the wall. THE GOOD SHIT. Trust me. I ain’t gonna give you no schwag!

WOULD YOU LIKE A COPY OF THIS MIX?

If you would like a copy of what is sure to be the awesomest mix ever, all nicely wrapped up just for you and mailed to your doorstep (or post office box), please let me know!  I will of course need your mailing address, and I realize it might seem sketchy to give your mailing address to some anonymous internet blogging lady who might not even be a lady after all. I promise I will only use it for the purpose of mailing you this CD. (Unless of course I get caught up in some international intrigue and an insurgent operative ties me to a chair and threatens me with bodily harm unless I NAME NAMES, DAMMIT, in which case I can offer you no guarantees.) Anyway, if you would like me to send you a copy of this mix, please don’t post your address here!  That would be foolish!  Instead, email your mailing address to me at zemblangrammar[at]gmail[dot]com  — even if you know me in real life, please make sure I have your current address!

I will send the mixes probably in the first week of December, complete with a secular, generic “Winter Season” greeting card and all S.W.A.K. just for you. Yes, you there. So let me know, people!

On Love, Food, and Business Opportunities

I just had to become facebook friends with my ex-boyfriend. Not just any ex-boyfriend, mind you, but The Ex-Boyfriend. The one I talked about marriage and kids and houses with. The one who, even though I broke up with him at the end of it all, let me down more than any other ex-boyfriend has. The one whose very name causes shouting and cursing and and a general banging of fists on the table. You know, THAT ONE. And now he’s all, oh, la la la, you look just the same, but when did you get a dog? ARGH.

Like I said in that old, old post about love that I linked to yesterday in lieu of actually posting anything, I have dated a whole collection of wrong dudes, and this guy was the fucking Mayor of Wrongtown. Obviously, it was something in my own personality that caused me to wind up with so many screw-ups — the thing that makes me like the whole disaffected artist/musician/writer type also makes me like the whole lying/trouble-making/lost-boy/fuckwit type. Some of them may have been bona fide losers, but really, the problem here was all me. So when I run into my former Mr. Wrongs these days, I try not to be bitter about the way things ended, you know? It wasn’t their fault. I can’t really be mad at a guy for being exactly who he is (and not being the slightly more right version of himself who only existed for a moment in my hopeful imagination).

As always, Jenny Lewis knows exactly what I am saying.

As always, Jenny Lewis knows exactly what I am saying.

Back in the days when I was really missing The Ex-Boyfriend, do you know what I was missing most? I was missing the way we always used to plan dinner and then shop for groceries together and then cook together. You pick the wine; I’ll go find the meat. You hold the colander; I’ll hold the pot. Et cetera. When we weren’t together anymore, wandering through the grocery store by myself had become just a sad reminder that I was alone. I mean, sure, I missed a lot of the romantic stuff, and I sadly slept all confined to the right side of the bed for almost a year, but when it comes down to it, it was the mundane domestic side of life that made me feel most acutely that empty space the break-up had left behind.

It’s not just that one guy, either — whenever I start working on a new crush, my daydreams are far more likely to involve cooking, home repair, or even laundry than they are to involve, you know, nudity or whatever. There’s something wonderful and nice about cooking together that I always miss when I’m not in a relationship. Cooking is a fundamental part of life — not just because you need food to live and all, but because feeding others is a culturally inscribed way of showing affection. Hosts feed their guests, parents feed their children, and on and on. When a guy gets all up in my kitchen and starts slicing and dicing and sautéeing, it’s not only romantic but also deeply comforting. I was with this one dude for a while in Zembla — a real rugged, Midwestern type who was always going fishing and whatnot — who cooked the most elaborate (yet still wholesome and sustaining in an All-American sort of way) dinners. I remember watching him chopping and peeling and dredging things in bread crumbs and simultaneously working all four gas burners and still having time to keep my wine glass full and thinking to myself, ahhhh, this is the ticket.

Right now, though, I’m still cooking for one over here, as are many of my friends. While a lot of my circle has settled down, gotten married, and had kids, there’s still a bunch of us singletons. Even though we’re at the age where, socially, people expect us to have partnered off by now, we haven’t. We still have to struggle in from our cars with the eighty-seven grocery bags full of food that will go bad before we have the chance to eat it, because there is only one person to feed and we have bought too much (or is that just me?). When we get home and start making dinner only to realize we have forgotten one crucial ingredient, there is no one to send to the store on an emergency run but ourselves, so we go without most times.

When we are cleaning the house, there is no one on whom to dump the unpleasant duties, like carrying the trash out to the dumpster on the other side of the apartment complex or changing the hard-to-reach light bulbs or cleaning out the goddamned motherfrakking catbox. We can’t shirk our duties because otherwise they don’t get done. This is why when I finally dusted the blades on my ceiling fan after living here for over a year — a year in which I NEVER TURNED THE CEILING FAN OFF BECAUSE IF I HAD THEN THE DUST ON THE BLADES WOULD HAVE BEEN CLEARLY VISIBLE — the tuffets of dirt that rained down on me were large enough that I could have carefully molded them into a life-sized replica of that same fan.

No one else can remind us to pay the power bill or make a deposit at the bank before it closes while we are stuck at work. No one else can take the dog to the vet or the car to the mechanic. We’re alone in this, and most of the time that is fine, because we are strong people. We are rugged and self-sufficient and independent and we usually need our space. But damn, sometimes life would be so much easier if there were someone else to lean on, someone else to carry the heavy things or reach the things we can’t reach alone. I wouldn’t have had to buy a foot stool just to change my damned light bulbs or clean that neglected fan, for example, if I had a (tall) partner in all of this.

The problem with that whole “partner” issue is, of course, that if I want to have a partner in life I am going to have to stop looking at the aforementioned lying/trouble-making/lost-boy/fuckwit type as a viable dating option. No one who “just doesn’t know what they want” or “where they’re going in life” is going to be a candiate for dating/dinner making/lightbulb changing. The lost boys, as the saying goes, don’t do windows. And, with that in mind, I am forced to arrive at the conclusion that I must either start dating a more reliable type of guy — no artists/musicians/writers allowed, so maybe, um, accountants/bankers/programmers/scientists? — or I am going to have to hire myself a butler.

Maybe, since there are quite a few of us young, professional singletons out here, an enterprising young man should think about starting a company of cute butlers for hire. Applicants must have own transportation, sautée pan, and mop. No artists need apply.

(A Bit of Nonsense and) A Request for Your Requests!

Well good evening.  I am happily done with another agonizing Monday and am now comfortably ensconced on the couch with the dog, listening to the music of the late (sniff), great Miriam Makeba.  RIP, lady.  You went out singing.

In other news, I had to buy my poor, suffering dog a new harness today because I discovered that his old one was giving him big, raw blisters on his chest when we went for walks! The poor little dude! His chest looks like I have been torturing him with cigarette butts or something equally horrid.  Anyway, I bought him one of these, which was ridiculously priced but looks quite cushy and has nothing but soft, padded stuff under the chest area. I also bought a matching collar, because why the hell not.

"New collar. Pfffbbbt, I say."

“New collar. Pfffbbbt, I say.”

Because he has thinning hair on his whole undercarriage, I have to be careful of his skin there.  If we were still living in a place where it snows or the grass frosts in the morning, he’d have to wear a sweater to keep his naked chest and belly (which hover only inches above the ground — inches, I tell you) from freezing when he goes outside.  It’s lucky for him, I guess, that we live in this muggy-ass, swampy-ass place.

Speaking of the miserable weather here, you’ll all be happy to know that it was in the mid 60s today — cold enough for knee-high boots to be worn.  It remains, however, in the upper 70s in my apartment.  Effing apartment. (This, incidentally, is why I have to disrobe as soon as I get home and why there is a trail of shoes and sweaters from the front door all the way back to the bedroom even now.)

Also, look, let me just say that I know the quality of posts here during this 30-posts-in-30-days NaBloPoMo thing is abysmal at best.  There’s no thematic coherence and I have digressed to complaining about the weather and my dog’s quirky behavior/hair loss. You must be thoroughly impressed with me as a writer, no?  How about tomorrow I tell you what I had for lunch or describe in detail how I do a home pedicure?  Or how about not.

How about I request your help!  Do you have any Zemblan questions or Grammar questions or Alfina questions you’d like answered? Is there anything you’d like to hear my opinion on?  I freaking LOVE giving my opinion, as you may know.  Ask me and I will reveal all!  Seriously, please.

Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue

I am generally so out of the loop as far as album releases and tours — I never see anyone play or buy any record in a timely manner because I just never hear about things.  In the case of Jenny Lewis’s latest solo album, Acid Tongue, I basically didn’t even know it was in the works.  Let it be said, though, that as soon as I figured it out I purchased it with a quickness.

It’s gone in a different direction than Rilo Kiley’s last album, Under the Blacklight.  While that one was very polished and conceptual, this one is a little more ragged (due to being mostly “recorded live”).  Some of the songs, like the first track (Black Sand) are thinner in terms of instrumentation and production.  On that one, Jenny sings with an airy sort of falsetto.  The overall sound that results is not the polished pop or stylish folk/country I usually expect from her.  In fact, I found (find?) that track a little off-putting.  I generally prefer her sound when it’s richer and more complexly layered.

Other tracks, however, wormed their way into my emotional life after only a few bars. Soon enough, I found myself slumped on the couch in the dark, sniffling my way through the second half of the album and wondering if it was the musical greatness or just my impending Special Ladies’ Time that had me in such a mood.

That night I listened to the album a couple of times, and the next morning I woke up thinking that all I really wanted to do was stay in bed all day and listen to it over and over again — particularly the title track. That song gives me the goosebumps, I tell you.  It’s the kind of music that makes me want to sing really loudly (in a room all alone, because no one should hear me singing that loudly), taking swigs from a bottle of whiskey and occasionally throwing a shoe against the wall. And that’s just the way I like it.

Here are two favorite tracks, the first for the goosebumps and the second for the surprise backing vocals (can you name that singer?):

Acid Tongue

Carpetbaggers

P.S. I’ve just listened to these two tracks again to check that they uploaded properly, and I had to come back to say more forcefully: the title track, “Acid Tongue,” is fucking brilliant. Excuse me while I go put it on repeat and find some shoes to throw.

Juliana Hatfield – How to Walk Away

Ever since I recently downloaded all the Juliana Hatfield albums that were missing from my collection, I’ve been alternating between listening to this one and her first solo album, Hey Babe (tracks from that one are posted here). J-Hat and I go way back. We’re, like, total BFFs, which is why I can get away with calling her “J-Hat,” whereas you probably cannot. Seriously, you shouldn’t call her that.

[Unrelated-but-Possibly-Amusing Tangent: Speaking of celebrity BFFs, did you know that Tina Fey and I are, like, tight now? We spent a summer traveling around Germany in a tiny plastic toy car. We had a pretty effing great time, too, except when Tina occasionally got exasperated with me. No, wait, that was just a dream I had the other morning. Good dream. But let’s move on.]

How to Walk Away is one of her best albums.  It’s her signature sound (gritty, girly, guitarry, and completely addictive) but it’s also perhaps a more mature version of that sound.  Most of the songs are about either love gone wrong, solitude, or both. Here are a few of my favorites so far (the last one is the best – I dare you to listen to it and then not walk around humming it for days, nay, WEEKS):

This Lonely Love (featuring Richard Butler)

Now I’m Gone

Remember November

If you’re a Hatfield fan, you should definitely check out her blog, An Arm and a Leg.