Bernard Herrmann: “Scene d’Amour”

I thought for awhile about posting a song for Valentines Day, but couldn't quite make up my mind about the right tone to strike: dark cynicism (e.g. The Magnetic Fields' "I Don't Believe You") or romanticism (e.g…uh, countless other songs).  I ended up deciding that it was a good opportunity to finally post a selection from one of my all time favorite film scores: Bernard Herrmann's music for Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. I think it covers both angles.

Without going into too much detail about the piece's role in the movie (to do so would give too much of the story's twist away), I'll just say that I've always loved this composition for its lush emotiveness and the way it conveys an intense romanticism while still hinting at the story's essential darkness and mystery.  It's truly drama in musical form–a struggle between hope and despair that finally results in a rapturous climax around 2:52–and I've always remembered it in a way I've remembered few other film scores.

Scene d'Amour
Bernard Herrmann

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Sufjan Stevens: “To Be Alone with You”

I have to admit, I've always been a bit standoffish toward Sufjan Stevens.  I love the song "Chicago" as much as everyone else, but the enormous crossover success of his Come on Feel the Illinoize album, combined with his cute "one album per state" gimmick has often made the indie snob in me just a bit suspicious.  It wasn't until today, when my favorite fellow music obsessive Ali summoned me across the street to the Red Vic for an afternoon screening of Danielson: A Family Movie (in which Stevens, a longtime friend of the Danielson family, makes many appearances) that I really made up my mind about Stevens' work.  And the song that finally converted me was a live performance of the gorgeous ballad "To Be Alone with You," from Stevens' lesser known Seven Swans album.

Far from the heavily orchestrated extravaganzas of the Illinoize album, "To Be Alone with You" is a raw, guitar-and-vocal-only production, but its dark, secretive evocation of longing and sacrifice couldn't be more poignant.  It's truly a testament to what a lone voice with an acoustic guitar can make you feel.

To Be Alone with You
Sufjan Stevens

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Felt: “New Day Dawning”

I'm still very much in a New Years frame of mind, with all of its attendant thoughts of new beginnings, so while everyone works on their resolutions, I thought I'd post some appropriate music: "New Day Dawning" by the obscure, British, 1980's-era indie band Felt.  The first time I heard the typically low-key, minimalist first half of this composition, I was completely unprepared for its sharply constrasting end: a soaring, almost "jammy" coda that comes in like a sudden ray of light.  Every time I hear it, I can't help but play "air drums" along with it, and feel inspired.

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That Was the Year that Was: 2006

As I've reflected on 2006, my inclination has been to focus only on the aspects of my life that didn't meet my expectations and call it a bad year.  Now that I've pored over my Flickr photos to compile an end-of-the-year retrospective, though, I've had to remind myself that by most peoples' standards, I'm actually a damn lucky guy.  I have an exciting life, and 2006 was, even by my standards, a year of many adventures and much personal growth.  Here, for the sake of posterity, is a fairly exhaustive (and exhausting) chronicle:

In January, I got to attend the National Association of Music Manufacturers show on Apple's dime, which was a fun departure from the technology-oriented conferences and trade shows I usually attend.  How many tech-industry events, after all, feature countless guitars shaped like things other than guitars, megalomaniacal drum kits, giant analogue synths covered in patch cables, Bootsy Collins and Buckethead sightings, and more metalheads than you can shake a stick at?

I had a great time, met a lot of great people, and got to see a lot of Internet-only friends for the first time at South by Southwest Interactive in March.  I scored a press photo pass, and therefore was able to do some of my best shooting ever at South by Southwest Music (I even got to watch a Flaming Lips performance from the stage–truly a high point for any serious music fan).  Austin continues to restore my soul on a yearly basis, and I will always think of it fondly as my home away from home.

In June, I threw the biggest party of my life for Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference.  This year I had corporate sponsorship, so I was able to rent out a top notch venue (111 Minna) and provide entertainment in the form of a VJ set by Chris Moulios (creator of a highly-regarded music application called ACID, and now an Apple Pro Apps engineer) and a live musical performance by San Francisco's Broker/Dealer.  Food (and a little taste of non-touristy San Francisco for the out-of-towners) was provided by the Tamale Lady. For a time, the party was even one of the top events listed on (above Burning Man!) and I would estimate that somewhere around 250 people attended.

In July, I decided I needed some time to be alone, so over 4th of July weekend I took a solo road trip to the Southern California desert.  It ended up being one of the best experiences I've ever had.  I stayed at the beautiful Hollywood getaway Two Bunch Palms in Desert Hot Springs (I've since seen it mentioned in both the film The Player and the TV show Six Feet Under), where I spent the wee hours of every evening soaking in a lush hot springs pool, staring contemplatively at the stars through a ring of palms trees.  During the day I roamed around Palm Springs and the Salton Sea, free to explore to my heart's content and take as much time as I wanted photographing flooded out trailer parks and beaches made of fish bones.  I remember one night when I drove through the desert, windows open, listening to El Perro Del Mar's "God Knows," as one of the last times I was truly, completely happy.

While I was in Southern California, I also took advantage of my friend Michael McCracken's sofa and spent the 4th of July with him and his friends in Pacific Beach.  It turns out Mission Bay is a great place to watch fireworks.

Immediately after getting home from my road trip, I (with the help of my friend Kristin) threw my yearly barbecue on my rooftop in the Upper Haight.  This year the movie Capote inspired me to dub the event "The Black & White BBQ" (in homage to Capote's famous Black & White Ball), and to my surprise, people took the name seriously enough to show up in some pretty impressive monochrome outfits!  I'm also quite proud of the food we provided: instead of serving conventional hamburgers, we made tiny sliders and provided a variety of sauces and toppings so people could sample a number of different tastes (aioli, wasabi mayo, curry ketchup, jalapeno ketchup, etc.).  It was truly a triumph of high concept barbecuing.

In September, my friend Sarah Hatter organized a road trip to Bodie, CA, a well preserved Ghost Town in the Eastern Sierras that is instantly recognizable as the location for many of Anton Corbijn's Joshua Tree-era U2 photos.  She assembled a motley crew of friends (me, Mai Le, Nick Douglas, and George Oates–a group I came to refer to as "The Fellowship of the Bodie") and made reservations for us to stay at the rustic Virginia Creek Settlement in Bridgeport, CA.  We took lots of photos, drank cheap beer in cowboy bars, and bonded while sitting around the campfire telling stories.

Also in September, my close friend Courtney and I celebrated our common birthday (the 27th) with an epic week of shared festivities that included a gift exchange at our favorite hangout Bourbon & Branch, a very well-attended picnic on Rodeo Beach in Marin County, and, best of all, a wonderfully memorable 9 course meal at Manresa, a Michelin three star restaurant in the small South Bay town of Los Gatos.

The holidays began this year with what has become a hallowed tradition of mine: the feuerzangenbowle.  In early December I invited some of my closest friends over for dinner and a gift exchange, followed by a pot of spiced wine, over which a sugar cone was placed, doused with rum, and, with great drama (we played New Order's "Elegia" for mood music), set aflame.  The idea is that as the sugar cone burns, chunks of it carmelize and drop into the wine, sweetening it.  I enjoy this yearly ritual because it's such a mellow, warm, and undeniably unique way to spend time with my friends and get everyone in the holiday spirit (something I find to be a little more challenging in snowless San Francisco).

Christmas was a bit strange for me this year.  Because of the blizzard in Denver, I wasn't actually able to make it home in time for Christmas Eve, and instead ended up unexpectedly spending my first ever Christmas in San Francisco.  The blizzard ended up being a blessing in disguise, however, because I got to spend the evening cooking a fantastic meal out of the Bouchon Cookbook (brined roasted chicken, haricots vert, beet and mache salad with walnut vinaigrette), drinking delicious dessert wine, and playing Uno and Boggle with my good friends Mai Le and Chris Wetherell.  As much as I missed my family, it felt like a special thing to spend a holiday with friends.

This brings me to good place to end the post, because, despite all the disappointments and setbacks it visited upon me, I now believe 2006 should go down in the record books as a good year because of the wonderful friendships it brought me.  For the first time since I moved to California, I know that I'm developing real friendships–friendships based not on forced camaraderie and hedonism, but rather on shared values and sensibilities, common interests, and a genuine rapport.  To all of the dear friends I became closer to in 2006: thank you, and I hope I can be as good to you in 2007 as you have been to me 2006.

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The Snows of Suburban Denver

I've been back in Denver visiting my family for the holidays since Christmas, and, as almost everyone knows by now, it's been more than a little snowy this week in the Mile High City.  The sheer volume of precipitation has, in fact, made getting around the city a major ordeal, and somewhat limited my inclination to leave my parents' house during my stay.  Still, uber-dedicated documentarian that I am, I spent several hours last night wandering around my parents neighborhood with my camera and a tripod in several feet of freshly fallen snow. I think I got a few good ones.

My little brother, whose tripod I shamelessly ripped off to take these shots, was there to document my National Geographic-like dedication.

After stumbling in from the cold, Bobby and I didn't feel like going to bed, so we stole away to the kitchen where we conducted fiendish midnight salsa experiments.  A number of outré ingredients were considered–including absinthe and Peychaud's Bitters (OK, my cocktail obsession has officially gone a bit too far)–but we finally settled on a Papalote-style recipe with added orange zest.  We call the results "Orange Peel Salsa."  I think the concept's sound, but I should have gone a lot lighter on the zest.  Success or not, though, the experience did really whet my appetite for more free form kitchen experimentation in the future.

Now, if only clear weather will hold up overnight, I should be heading home tomorrow…

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Jarvis is God

I won't beat around the bush with a friends only post here, I'll just come right out and say it: people have really been getting me down lately.  Whether it's the perennial asshole at a party, or the shady Internet entrepreneur who is currently exploiting my little brother's design talent.  Let's face it: these people are running the world.

Fortunately for me, I recently discovered the hidden track on Jarvis Cocker's wonderful new solo album.  Every time some asshole gets me down, I fire it up and feel a whole lot better.

Smash the system!

[Warning: Chorus lyrics may be offensive.]

Jarvis Cocker

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DJ Muggs: “Rain”

Well, it took long enough, but those of us in the Bay Area are now fully in the grip of the rainy season (what those of you in less Mediterranean climes refer to as “winter”).  For me, this usually means terrifying white knuckle commutes on 280, a general retreat indoors, and a sudden fondness for Northern English music of the late 80s and early 90s.  Courtney did a nice post about rainy day music, and, while I’m frankly too tired to come up with a more thorough list of my own, it did inspire me to post this song by DJ Muggs, who left behind the empty-headed stonerism of his popular rap group, Cypress Hill, to produce a moody, atmospheric solo album no one could have expected.  I love the dark atmosphere and dusty production on this track, and the children’s choir at the end.


Outsourcing Lunch

Somehow I think Google misunderstood my query for Indian restaurants who deliver to Silicon Valley.  Just to clarify, Google, I’m looking to have Indian food delivered–not actual Indians.  Thanks so much.


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Shack: “Cup of Tea”

Shack, a wonderful Liverpudlian folk rock band, is pretty obscure even in their native Britain as far as I can tell.  This is surprising to me, because Mick Head and his brother John have been producing album after album of wonderful, twee guitar pop (in various incarnations) since 1986.  It’s a wonder that, with the exception of some limited notoriety for their 1999 album H.M.S. Fable, the britpop guitar renaissance almost completely passed them by.

The song “Cup of Tea,” off this year’s album …the Corner of Miles and Gil, immediately grabbed me with the explosion of harmony during its chorus (I love soaring, Beach Boys-style vocal harmonies), and its funny lyrics about a man who suspects his lodger is spiking his tea with LSD (“my cup of chai doesn’t taste the same when she’s with me”).

Cup of Tea

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Late Night Code Vanity

Inspired by Chris Wetherell’s post about amusing himself using the ultra-nifty Google Code Search, I decided to do a quick vanity search of my own.  I was surprised to see myself relatively well represented with 8 distinct results, including my fairly popular NSString+Templating and NSAppleScript+HandlerCalls Objective-C categories and the Video Desktop code sample I wrote for Scott Knaster’s Hacking Mac OS X book.  A search for my “other” name (Laurence Andersen) reveals another 10 results, mostly from Cocoalicious.

Kind of vain I know, but it is nice to feel that I’ve contributed something to the world.

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