Christmas music

I thought, as my gift to you, to share with you some of my favorite versions of Christmas songs.

Happy holidays to you and yours <3


The Art of the Mix

"The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don't wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules." ~ High Fidelity

If you've ever received or made a great mix, you know the truth of Rob's words. It is an art form, and it's one that is often overlooked.

In order to be truly great, a mix must (in my opinion, obviously) meet the following standards:
  • The songs need to fit together cohesively, although not necessarily by genre of music. There should be some sort of overarching theme. When I'm creating one, I like to start with a color or a quote or a situation/mood.
  • The music should take you through some sort of emotional arc, similar to a good story: exposition, rising action (with smaller rises and falls within it), climax, falling action, resolution. (This arc is, incidentally, something that I think is missing from a lot of commercial albums.) There needs to be some sort of build, and no random, jarring transitions between songs (ironic transitions, however, can be fun and display a sense of subtlety). The order the songs are put in, then, is incredibly important--and this is the biggest difference, I think, between a playlist and a mix.
  • Ideal mixes should expand the musical tastes of the listeners, but not attempt to teach or school them into something different than they like (condescension sucks). New or rare songs by artists one loves and a smattering of people one hasn't heard of before are best. Mixes that are entirely songs one knows are not as fun.
  • Rarely, if ever, should the same artist be repeated on a mix (unless it is entirely a mix of one artist, which is different and much harder to do effectively). It smacks of . . . well, almost laziness.
  • Mixes given as gifts should always be accompanied by a tracklist with the full song title and artist. Bonus points are given for cover art.
If you are lucky enough to find someone who is good at mixes, make sure you stay close friends. They are invaluable and should be treated as such.


The "If You Had A Million Dollars" Christmas Wish List

Because a bit of fantasy window-shopping never hurt anyone, right?

Alexander McQueen Skull Clutch and Aubergine Pump - would finish off my New Year's ensemble perfectly (nevermind that I don't need a clutch when the party's at my own house)

La Perla bodysuit - It's the buttons down the back that really do it, I think.

Mini PS1 - This bag, the big version, is one of those "iconic" ones (which is a turn-off). But this one is tiny and the leather is perfect and the design is unpretenious.

Nikon D90 - I'd be fine with the D60, too. But I want a real camera. ;_;

Diptyque Jasmin - One can never go wrong with absurdly expensive candles.

Elsa Peretti for Tiffany's starfish - because you can afford to drop 2k on a pendant the size of your fingernail.

New tango shoes - one really can't get by with only a single pair. And while we're at it, some lessons would be fantastic too--preferably located in Buenos Aires.


Ode to Diana

Diana is
golden skin and hair
and green eyes with a slice of gold in one
a grin with one corner of her mouth turned up
and capoeira when she’s too drunk
to drive or remember--

She is the sum of a blond mother
with perfect English grammar
and a heavy, charming accent, still beautiful
and voluptuous;
and a balding father, small, intense,
a full moustache and a habitual silence
deep enough to communicate worlds.

Diana dances,
a kinetic expression of non-stop hips and knees and feet
tapping complicated salsa rhythms;
a high hitch of leg and low,
sensual bachata dips;
her head down, lips parted,
slow tango steps and legs like taut pins,
tapping, sliding, in tiered lace.

Diana is kisses of greeting on cheeks,
hand flutterings when agitated,
raspberry beer for sexy evenings
and the insistence that her happy
birthday be sung in five languages
before the candles are blown.

A Tale of Two Dances

I went out dancing the other evening.

This is not rare for me, anymore; what was rare was the shift from one kind of dancing, at one type of place, to another.

We went to El Parador first; by day, it is a Mexican restaurant, but on weekend evenings it turns, partly, into a club. There is a permanent wood dance floor, and something about the dusk in corners and the abundance of tropical plants makes it feel like some sort of secret, cave-like hideway. A very large hideaway. There are a few lights, but they mostly only light the dance floor.

The band there is decent; they play salsa and merengue, and when they go on break the DJ plays cumbia and bachata as well. I danced and talked and hung out with people from all over the world: Sweden, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Russia, Mexico, India . . . and there's something I love very much about that, of people who may not even speak the same language, but who can communicate through movement and enjoy themselves.

Halfway through the evening, my friend decided she wanted to go to the Maverick. Her friend picked her up, and I followed about an hour later.

The Maverick is a country bar on the eastern side of town. It's more brightly lit, with bars that line a full two sides of the large room, the decor being mostly red and wood-toned. I was given a rather fake-tasting margarita and dragged onto the floor to dance with a tall boy with a wide-eyed grin and a repertoire of two dance steps. He seemed very certain that if he smiled at me enough, I just might decide to go home with him.

The music being played was, without exception, country: a three chord progression of twang and lyrics that sound so similar they could be interchanged with anything from the last twenty years and one would hardly notice. There was something almost comforting about that observation, about the repetition of the two step and the simplicity of jeans and boots and button down shirts.

I realized suddenly, too, that there was not a single person in the room that wasn't Caucasian and very clearly American. I was the most exotic of everyone, in my pale skin and near-black hair and character shoes. I imagined the hostile stares a Mexican or Puerto Rican might have gotten had they chosen to enter, recalled the near-fight I witnessed when the boy I was dancing with thought it was funny to slap his male friend on the ass as he passed (and the paranoia in his voice when people seriously questioned his sexuality afterward).

I wonder about people who self-select into a homogeneous group, who distrust anything outside the boundaries of that group. I relish feeling international, of talking to people with experiences vastly different than my own. This sort of open-mindedness is the very foundation of my classroom teaching.

And yet, part of me still enjoyed the Mavrick, liked the simplicity, the homogeny--despite the ignorance and prejudice that I knew lurk in the corners of that wood-lined room.


there will be a real post soon, but in the meantime . . .

Some things I've loved recently and wanted to share (as always, click the image for the source):

Elise's lovely post on Phillipe Petit, who walked a tightrope across the Twin Towers.

Correspondingly, Let the Great World Spin, a novel that revolves around the day that Petit walked between the Towers, and looks into the lives of several (fictional) people around the city on that day. It won the National Book Award, and I loved it (though Colin, in his infinite grumpiness, claimed he could see the "puppet strings" and put it down halfway through the second chapter).

The photographer Vivian Maier, whose work someone found at an antique auction, and posts her photos on the blog as he goes through the staggering amount of photographs and negatives. I loved this one, love that she's a fantastic artist and that no one would have known except for his discovery.

Book carving. Thought this one was rather poetic.

Forgotten bookmarks--a blog by someone who works in a rare & used bookstore, and posts the things he finds in the books. Somehow I loved this one especially--people were having anniversary parties in 1880, too.

I've been reading Melissa's blog on and off for about a year, now. She makes lovely cards and printed things, and this is the second time that I've received a gift from her, just for reading her blog. I received in the mail yesterday several--perhaps 50?--printed gift tags in different colors and patterns, absolutely free. My presents will be so much prettier this year because of her, and it warms my heart that people are willing to just give of their craft and their love that way.

And, finally, my new favorite song, which I found because of Steve's fantastic "Year in Music" post.

It's good to take pleasure in small things when the world (mine, at least) is so full of insanity, stress, and work.



take that, naysayers OR a NaNoWriMo success story

My Pre-IB sophomores have spent the last month writing novels as a part of National Novel Writing Month. The adult challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. As students, they were asked to set a goal of at least 18,000 words. As a reference, that's about 60 pages of text in double-spaced, 12 pt font.

I am incredibly proud of the following statistics. Of my 31 students,

  • 18 met or exceeded their word count goal.
  • 22 took a risk and set a goal that was over the minimum, even though they knew that this could affect their grade negatively.
  • 23 wrote more than 18,000 words.
  • The class average percent of the word count completed was 85%.

This is a huge, mind-boggling success. It is an incredibly tangible expression of my personal belief that my students--despite being heavily minority, taught by failing schools, and mostly on free and reduced lunch--are capable of anything, if only one asks it of them and believes that they can succeed.