The Definites, The Maybes & the What-Ifs

Today's dose of weirdly earnest reflection brought to you by the city of San Francisco

Today’s dose of weirdly earnest reflection brought to you by the city of San Francisco

Up until the age of 21 there was a plan. My parents reassured me I could veer, swerve, wiggle or jump ship at any time, but I felt confident in the plan. Go to school, find a passion, do well, make friends, form a next plan. All part & parcel of the plan. It was definite, and solid.

The last couple of weeks I’ve felt on edge, with a hint of nausea lurking behind everything I do. The familiar flutter in my stomach, the elevated heart rate, the deep breaths that trip in my throat & fight their way down. Anxiety has come back to town.

As of right now, there’s no plan.

 

In my head I’ve got my contingency plans:

How to Book a Flight When Everything Falls to Shit

How to Live in a Small Cabin in the Woods of Maine

How to Pack Everything in One Suitcase and Move to a Foreign Land Where No One Knows My Name

 

 

For the past two months I have been dismantling & reconstructing the things that were comfortable and solid in my life. The people and routines changed entirely, from the cup my toothbrush sits in to the arms I run to when anxiety roosts.

I take it for granted that there’s some larger vague outline—move around, explore the world, find a job and life that mean something, succeed—but I’m terrified that that’s not the plan at all. The Boy I Love didn’t think our futures fit together, so what does it mean if I was wrong all along about what that future was? What if it’s supposed to be stay put, settle down, grow old in San Francisco? What if, as it so likely will be, the next thing is something I haven’t even dreamed up yet, and to kill time I’m playing roulette? My plans suddenly look so much more like maybes.

 

So now I’m afloat in a lonely city with no plan.

 

The current definites? Keep up at work. Keep forcing myself to the gym. Keep my room clean. Keep writing, keep cooking, keep drawing. Keep on with the things that keep the anxiety from stalking through my guts, and keep close to the people who understand what that means. Keep myself sane.

Because sooner or later, my definites will turn to maybes, and my plans will turn to what ifs. And then what’s the plan?

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Touchdown in SF: Pretty Lights & Yoga Plans

I’m back in San Francisco and back to actually doing things other than hanging out with my parents, which means I have more to share than just online shopping and Beyonce. I’ve spent a lot of time looking up things to do in San Francisco so I can make the most of it, and have spent even more time looking at apartments and sublets on Craigslist. Even thinking about moving is exhausting, I can’t imagine what the actual move will entail (notice I said “will” and not “would”–more determined than ever to finally start a life).

This weekend I went to a Pretty Lights concert that the boyf bought me a ticket to for my birthday. I had been wanting to go see him for a looong time now, and it was great show. Well worth the wait.

I hadn’t been to a concert all summer and this definitely got me itching to go to more shows. The biggest problem is that I often seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time in terms of tours for artists I like. I also don’t know the different venues in SF, so I have to rely on other sources to find concerts (last.fm, tourfilter, local publications).

I have, however, found other things I’m itching to do in SF. Top of my list is a visit to Yoga to the People since my brand new yoga mat just arrived (happy birthday to me). I love that it’s pay what you can, and while I’ll probably pay the recommended $10, it’s nice to know that jobless as I am I can still go to yoga even when I don’t have $10 to spend. Plus it’s not a bad walk from Patrick’s so I can get a nice walk in on the way.

More on my “SF To Do List” to come…

Busy Life and Simple Meals

I’ve been shirking my blog duties. They may be self-defined, made up duties, but I’ve been shirking them nonetheless. The reason for the shirkage is that I’ve been feeling weirdly busy the last week or so. I leave tomorrow for San Francisco for an undetermined amount of time, so I’ve been packing, running errands, and doing all those things that never seem important until suddenly you’re leaving town. I’ve also been doing some job-related activity, hanging out with my cats (they’re gonna miss me!) and getting in some last minute cooking and baking.

Feeling busy in September is particularly weird this year since this is the time of year when I would be busy with school. Except I’m not going back to school, a fact which I was reminded of when I pulled out my planner and noticed that sometime earlier this year I wrote “Not First Day of School” on September 5th. Oh the wit of a younger less-burdened me.

Because I’ve been feeling slightly busy (but let’s not confuse my activity level with that of someone who, say, has a job), I’ve been making some low-key, easy meals. And you better believe I have a whole stockpile of super easy recipes for when I’m feeling less than inspired. In case you should need some back-to-school inspiration in the easy meal department, these are some of my go to options:

  • Crepes: What’s so great about crepes is you can literally put anything in them, and if you make the batter ahead of time they take all of 5 minutes to make. I use a variation of Alton Brown’s recipe (all milk, throw in some cayenne or curry for savory crepes). This weekend I had crepes with chicken, roasted peppers, spinach and goat cheese one day, and used the leftovers for a lunch of ham and gouda crepes. The options for what you put in them are literally endless, and making crepes a great option for using whatever you have on hand.
  • Stir fry: The other go “use whatever’s in the fridge” option is stir fry. I grew up eating chicken & broccoli stir fry pretty much every week or every other week for at least 10 years. It is to this day one of my favorite meals, and even though it’s incredible easy to make (soy sauce, honey, ginger & garlic) I’m still convinced my mom makes it way better than I ever could. Point is this is such an easy dish to make, and great for using the veggies/meat you have on hand. All you need on the side is a little rice.
  • Pizza: Trader Joe’s pizza dough is a dollar, so naturally it became a staple in our house in college. The best part about making your own pizza is it winds up being super cheap, and the leftovers taste just as good cold as they do warm. Plus, again, you can put on any toppings you happen to have (you sense the trend in my cooking, right?). If you don’t know when you’ll use the dough, just buy some, freeze it, and then take it out the morning of the day think you’ll make it.
  • Kitchen-sink pasta salad: For a long time I’d always have pasta on hand so when I was busy and didn’t know what to make it’d be elbows with butter and cheese. Obviously that got old very quickly, so a better way to use that pasta is to make a “pasta salad.” I put it in quotations because I’m not sure what I made ever resembled traditional pasta salad. But all you need is pasta (tortellini works really well for this) and you can throw in frozen veggies (peas, corn), cooked chicken or ham, celery, peppers, nuts, etc. Then just put a little dressing or olive oil on top and it’s good to go. If you’re more of a purist and want a recipe this tortellini salad became one of my favorites this summer.
  • Brunch: Brunch food (eggs, french toast, bacon) has been scientifically proven to be the best easy dinner ever. Just ask the boyf, who is pretty much only able to cook eggs. Obviously this doesn’t always fall into the category of healthy (I like my bacon with a side of bacon). It does, however, fall into the category of lip smacking heavenly goodness.

So just because you’re too busy to catch up on your favorite TV shows (Revenge, September 30th, it’s on), doesn’t mean you should have to eat frozen food. And if you do eat frozen food it should definitely be from Trader Joe’s ’cause man does Joe make a mean channa masala.

In the spirit of not-back-to-school September changes, I took time this weekend to organize the planner that’s been sitting in a box all summer. Nothing makes me quite as happy as a planner, some to-do lists and a set of nice pens. I also dyed my hair from the blonder color I’d been rocking for the past year in favor of a darker shade. Riveting, I know. Now it’s time to tackle some of those slightly bigger life changes. Ya know, job, apartment. Those little things.

She Runs The World: Beyonce and Feminism

Recently I had a long-delayed bus ride and a longer-delayed train ride during which I had to keep myself amused, so naturally I listened to a lot of Beyonce. Now normally when I have a long Beyonce jam-sesh I’m in the car and I’m belting out the lyrics in my worst Beyonce voice. You better believe I do a mean rendition of “I Was Here,” although my “Halo” could use some work. As I was sitting on the bus, and at Penn station, and on the train, I started thinking about Beyonce as a cultural producer rather than as the person who I most want to be in this world. And I started thinking about what it means to listen to Beyonce as a woman and, beyond that, a feminist. After all, Beyonce sings primarily about being a woman in a heterosexual relationship, with the occasional power ballad or club anthem thrown in. However she is also widely acknowledged as a badass diva extraordinaire, and one not to be trifled with. So as I sat listening to her belting that she’d rather die young than live her life without me (yes, I believe it was directed towards me specifically), I couldn’t help but think about what Beyonce means to women. Is she a feminist?

Destiny’s Child Roots

I’ll try not to linger too long on the Destiny’s Child days, because I think it’s hard to judge Beyonce on what she did 11+ years ago when she was still young enough to sing a song called Bootylicious. However it’s fairly undeniable that Destiny’s Child did something pretty important when they were around. Though they were not the first to do so (they continue a legacy somewhere between the Supremes and TLC), they were a group of strong, unapologetic women who were talented and confident enough to keep the limelight on them. No doubt when the group released Survivor the world was aware they were not girls to be trifled with.

Other songs of theirs, however, seemed decidedly simpering and hollow. Cater 2 U might be one of my least favorite songs ever, and not because I hate on love songs or the idea of giving selflessly in a relationship (I’m not a heartless freak). I just think that the group that took such pride in female independence and forcing men to own their actions could do better than, “Let me run your bathwater” and “I’ll keep my figure right, I’ll keep my hair fixed, keep rocking the hottest outfits.” Come on, Kelly drips herself against a car and sings “I know whatever I’m not fulfilling another woman is willing.” If my man ever told me to step it up because another woman would run his bathwater and keep her hair fixed he’d find himself free to pursue that other woman far far away from me.

Fast forward to 2011 and the album 4. The album may not have been as widely praised or critically successful as her previous releases, but it was undeniable that Beyonce now knew she was a badass woman that any man would be lucky to have, bathwater or not. In some songs she seemed to trumpet her love of her husband, but there was always a hint or more of undeniable female swag. On “Countdown” in between the touting of her love and the praise she heaps on her man, she sings, “Don’t ever let me go, say it real loud if you’re fly, If you leave me you’re out of your mind.” It’s clear she knows that she brings as much to the table as her man, and in my mind that’s a far cry from Cater 2 U.

Sasha Fierce & Ego

With the release of her third solo album, Beyonce introduced the world to her alter-ego, Sasha Fierce. Accompanied by a duo of backing dancers, she strutted and swagged her way to the top of the charts. For those of us who read gossip magazines, there was a disconnect between her “Single Ladies” anthem and the fact that she was a recently married woman, but none of us were willing to deny that she was indeed fierce.

In my mind, one of the undeniably “fierce” songs on the album was “Ego.” At first I was hesitant. A woman singing about her man’s big ego and how sexy it is? Seemed like the kind of song that could serve as kindling for a big ass ego fire. But the more I listened the more I grew to love the song, not for any grand musical genius, but because it touched on that same “Countdown” vibe: my husband is awesome, I’m awesome, and we just work. Who can argue with that? I think that if I had been in the spotlight since I was 17 I’d be curled up in a ball somewhere right now, but instead Beyonce sounds more sure than ever on “Ego” that she’s a catch (And let’s face it, she is. I’d date her). With sex appeal just a touch of attitude she sings, “I talk like this cause I can back it up. I got a big ego, such a huge ego. But he love my big ego.” On someone else it might sound arrogant (like, for example, the Kanye verse on the remix), but she pulls it off by reminding us that “he” loves her big ego, oh and don’t forget she’s got the goods to back it up.

You may not worship at the temple of Beyonce the way I do, but I think there’s something to be said for that kind of message being out there. Too often female empowerment in popular culture takes the form of man-bashing or pure sexuality. Beyonce, instead, tells girls that they can love who they are, that they can know how incredible they are, and that the man worth writing love songs about will appreciate that strength and knowledge. How’s that for a sexy message?

Demanding Respect

Beyond just knowing that she is worth something, Beyonce tends to demand respect in her music. ‘Irreplaceable’ is a prime example of that, although certainly not the only one. Any girl I know who has been cheated on or wronged gets immense satisfaction out of singing along to “I could have another you by tomorrow, so don’t you ever for a second get to thinking you’re irreplaceable.” What’s interesting about her confidence is that not unlike J. Lo in “Love Don’t Cost a Thing,” much of Beyonce’s confidence and self-assurance comes from her monetary power. She, like many other women of power, derives much of that power from her money and her sexuality; it’s easier to demand respect and kick a man to the curb when you have the resources, and when you know the power of your own sexuality. However, the same could be said for many men who derive power from money or good looks, so it’s hardly easy to fault her for falling into that trap.

In addition to “Irreplaceable” songs like “If I Were A Boy”, “Best Thing I Never Had”, and “Single Ladies” are all brimming with Beyonce’s swagtastic demands for respect. “If I Were A Boy”, despite all its shortcomings and the strange way in which she switches between the things she could get away with and the things she knows a man should do, tells the men of the world exactly what it looks like to respect a woman: “I’d listen to her ’cause I know how it hurts when you lose the one you wanted ’cause he’s taking you for granted.”

On “Best Thing I Never Had” she lets her betrayer know “I’m gonna always be the best thing you never had. I bet it sucks to be you right now.” She knows she’s the best, and doesn’t stick around to hear anything else. And seriously, you cheated on Beyonce, it probably does suck to be you right now. Even her slightly scary growl on “Ring the Alarm” warns that you best not be the man who wrongs Beyonce, because she’s not putting up with anything less than the utmost respect and love.

And then there’s “Single Ladies.” Oh, “Single Ladies”, how you call to me. I know that a lot of the discussions of feminism and Beyonce have arisen around “Girls” but for me this was the song where I first thought “Wow, she really is not messing around with the whole I am woman hear me roar thing.” Sure, it’s a club song. Sure, it’s got a silly and fabulous music video. Sure, a million scorned women have probably sung along badly to this song. But when it comes right down to it, it’s the ultimate in demanding respect.

Before you interrupt, I know that “putting a ring on it” is not everyone’s goal, and doesn’t mean respect, and maybe there’s something to be said about Beyonce playing into gender and relationship expectations (Hey B, you could buy him a ring). But there’s also something intensely satisfying about hearing her tell her man, “You can’t be mad at me, ’cause if you like it then you should’ve put a ring on it. Don’t be mad when you see that he want it.” Not ready to deliver Beyonce to infinity and beyond? “If you don’t, you’ll be alone, and like a ghost I’ll be gone.” That’s a woman who knows what she wants and, better yet, what she deserves. Respect, and a shiny ring.

Love Ballads

So this may be where people are thinking, “But hey isn’t this the same woman who sings ‘Halo’ and ‘1+1’? Those are so not chick-anthems.” Okay, so maybe not. But I don’t think to be a feminist you have to sing chick anthems and only sing better off alone songs (although “Me, Myself and I” is a fabulous better on my own song). What Beyonce does is sing the (heterosexual) female experience, from staggering heartbreak and soaring love, to moments of introspection and relationship musings. Sometimes you feel like you’ve found someone perfect and they’re your “saving grace,” as Beyonce belts on Halo. Empowering women doesn’t mean pretending you’ve always done everything on your own, forsaking relationships and man-bashing. It does mean being honest, and if nothing else many of her love songs are the epitome of stark honesty. Admitting you need someone doesn’t make you un-feminist, and it certainly doesn’t make you less of a badass. In fact, on 4‘s “I Miss You” Beyonce sings “It hurts my pride to tell you how I feel, but I still need to. Why is that?” What it says to me, in tandem with her other music, is that she is willing to sing about real relationships good and bad, doubts and confidence.

Girls

I’ve saved the most-discussed for last, and “Run the World (Girls)” was nothing if not a point of discussion. Was it feminist? Did it promote the idea of a female-driven world that doesn’t exist? Globally, what is her responsibility? Is it problematic that her video made use of African dancers without explicitly acknowledging their role in the choreography?

For example, one article discussed the idea that her sexual dance moves negated her girl power message:

Does the ultimate message of female empowerment resonate with audiences, or are they too distracted by Beyoncé’s obvious pandering to the male gaze to take it seriously, or even notice it at all? After all, men joke all the time about how hard it is to think when all their blood has rushed south. And it’s hard to project a powerful persona when one is so subservient to the ideals patriarchy has set out for women: perfect hair, a perfect face and a “bootylicious” figure.

The article seemed to argue that Beyonce was pandering to a male ideal of beauty and only subverting norms when it served her. There may be some truth to that. But it ignores the idea that Beyonce may be one of those woman who is trying to own her sexuality. Aha, but is “owning your sexuality” just a post-feminist ploy to make you feel like you’re making a choice? I hope not, because I like to think I am a woman who genuinely owns my sexuality, from the clothing choices I make right down to my uterus. You can tell me heels and a “bootylicious” figure aren’t feminist and I can tell you to shove it.

Additionally, people were highly critical of the idea that girls don’t run the world, finding it problematic to suggest that they do without highlighting the problems faced by women around the world.

People were quick to discuss the song, in part, I think, because by the time Beyonce released the song people had come to recognize her as a powerful woman in a position to influence hoards of girls. There is an expectation around Beyonce in her post-Bootylicious days that she will be something of a role model to girls. Because there is no such expectation around Britney Spears or Katy Perry, both are free to say whatever they want about girls. But when Beyonce says that girls run the world, people listen and question whether that’s true, or whether it’s aspirational.

I’m not dumb, and I don’t actually think Beyonce is either. We both know that neither girls nor women run the world. But does that mean we shouldn’t aspire to? There are a hell of a lot more women helping run the world today than there were 30 years ago, and more then than 30 years before that. Should we only sing songs called “Run the World (Boys)” just because the majority of the politicians and bankers that we see are men? Not a song I’m trying to listen to, call me crazy.

So is she a feminist?

In the end, I don’t have any grand conclusions about Beyonce. She sings about relationships from a female standpoint, and she does it well. She continually expresses the fact that she knows her worth, and continues to demand mutual respect in relationships. I think, in the context of her subject matter, that’s not too shabby. True, she still plays into the male gaze and uses her money and sexuality as forms of power. But there are also messages of confidence and female strength throughout her music, and even her videos tend to be more varied and less blatantly sexualized that one might expect. And furthermore, she is an important female voice (a black female voice at that) and perhaps it’s better if we listen to her as an important but flawed female figure we can learn something.

I’m not willing to say for Beyonce whether or not she’s a feminist, and she herself has declined to call herself feminist. But I’d be more than happy to go on a road trip with my future daughters and listen to nothing but Beyonce. In fact, I intend to. And they’ll be getting an earful about feminism and pop culture, you’re welcome.

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My September Five

So it’s happened. September is upon us, and with it the onslaught of Fall-themed magazines and sales at stores. I happen to love September since it still feels like summer, but you start to get a hint of fall. Plus the fact that it’s my birthday month doesn’t hurt.

In honor of September, I shopped a ton while I was in Philly this weekend (is that a thing? can you shop “in honor of” a month?). It was so great to see friends again, since I’m a little bit going crazy at home, and obviously the perfect thing to do when seeing friends is to shop for things you don’t need. To be fair, I did buy a lot of things that I could wear to my hypothetical future job that doesn’t exist yet. And some items that are a little more difficult to justify (oh hay, apron from Anthropologie).

All that shopping got me to thinking about the things I want most this September, so I’ve put together my September Five, the five things I’m particularly lusting after right now.

1.) A great watch

Right: Marc by Marc Jacobs Amy Watch; Left: Nixon’s Kensington Leather Watch

This is one of those things you can try to justify by calling it a “back-to-school” purchase, because everyone needs a several hundred dollar watch to kick off the school year. Alas, I’m no longer in the land of back-to-school purchases, so I’m just pining after watches because, well, they’re pretty and they like me (they told me so). The Marc by Marc Jacobs watch is nice because it’s got some heft but isn’t so big that it would overwhelm my arm, but I really like the leather on the Nixon watch.

2.) Silence & Noise Boyfriend Blazer

Silence & Noise Boyfriend Blazer in Grey

For the non-working of us who don’t understand the concept of a blazer as a component of a suit, blazers are perfect for throwing over summer dresses to make them a little more “early fall.” I like the slightly textured feel to this one, and the gray is a nice change since I tend towards black blazers.

3.) Anthropologie Graphic Begonia Shirt Dress

Anthropologie Graphic Begonia Shirt Dress

Come fall I love finding dresses that work with and without tights to make the summer-fall transition with. I love the colorful, playful print on this one, and shirt dresses are great since they work well spring through fall, depending on what you pair them with.

4.) J Brand Brocade Skinny Jeans

J Brand Brocade Skinny Jeans

I was torn on this trend at first, but the more I see the brocade jeans the more I like them. In general, I’m loving the brocades and patterns that are in this fall, as well as the abundance of burgundy, white and gold.

5.) Yoga Mat

PROlite Yoga Mat

I’ve been looking out for a good yoga mat and for some reason this month has got me itching for one. This mat is a little on the expensive side at $72, but I need good cushioning for my old lady knees, and this one is less heavy than other joint cushioning mats.

Alas, I probably need a job before I can dig into my 5, but that’s neither here nor there. Any other lust-worthy September items?

Running Playlist: Rap and Hip-Hop

My iPod is the sole reason I’m able to run

The last few days I’ve been listening pretty much exclusively to my running playlists and Beyonce (more on that to come). But one of my favorite playlists is my Rap & Hip-Hop running playlist. There are definitely days I want to indulge in guilty pleasures or an eclectic mix of music, but more often than not this is the playlist that keeps me the most pumped up. I’ve found that a lot of people who put together hip-hop playlists for running focus on the obvious radio rap (Kanye, T.I.). There’s nothing wrong with that (although there might be something wrong with the amount of Black Eyed Peas that shows up on those playlists), but I tend to favor a bit more variety. Besides, Kanye makes appearances on my other playlists, so I like to dial him down here. I’ve also left off any songs that I previously posted on other playlists.

I know rap and hip-hop isn’t everyone’s thing. To that I say, you’re just not listening to the right songs and artists, because I really believe there is something for everyone. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you listen exclusively to country and obscure modern operas. If that’s the case, probably just stop reading now.

I’ll throw my usual disclaimer on this playlist by noting that not all of these songs are the *best* that rap & hip-hop have to offer. They will, however, get your ass running. It is a longer playlist, so feel free to pick and choose the songs that work best for you.

Running Playlist:
Rap & Hip-Hop

  • D-Block – Mighty, Mighty D-Block : There’s nothing like a good chant set to some militaristic drumming to get you feeling ready to run. Again, this is near the beginning because it’s the type of song I like to listen to while I jog over to the track.
  • 50 Cent – In Da Club : Because no playlist is complete without a song that could be played on repeat at a frat party. Or maybe that’s just me.
  • Beastie Boys – Intergalactic : I’m not the biggest Beastie Boys fan (I can appreciate Paul’s Boutique without loving everything about it), but I do love running to this song, and it’s a good way to mix up the style of a playlist.
  • Outkast – B.O.B. : Outkast has several songs that could have made this list, but B.O.B. has a higher BPM and a go-go-go feel to it that makes it perfect for picking up the pace.
  • Dr. Dre – Forgot About Dre (Feat. Eminem) : There’s a lot of Dre that’s good to run too, but this is another one of those shoulder wiggling songs that makes me look really stupid while I’m running and ensures that I’m having a great time. Plus I always like a little “I’m way better than you” when I’m running.
  • Brand Nubian – Concerto in X Minor : From the first “We got a really big show” to the last “I’m outta here” you can’t not love this song. Or you can and you’re just the worst. This is one of those songs I love listening to every single time, and the lyrics are just spot on. The funky jazzy vibe is just an added bonus.
  • Big Boi – Daddy Fat Sax : This whole album was pretty much my jam for an entire summer (Tangerine & Shutterbug got a lot of play time), but Daddy Fat Sax in particular has that sassy beat that’s great to run to. It’s shorter as well, and helps to keep song length varied and interesting.
  • Gang Star – Check the Technique : I love California Soul (particularly the Marlena Shaw version), so Premier sampling it had me on board from the start. Plus maybe you’ll remember to have good running technique? Okay that’s a stretch, I know, it’s just a really good song.
  • The Roots – Here I Come : You will be pumped up by this song. The Roots will set your feet on fire and get you moving. If they don’t, you and I need to have a very serious talk.
  • Killer Mike & Big Boi – ADIDAS : So maybe they’re not dreaming about sports, but tell me that beat doesn’t make you want to smile while you run. Awkward smile-dance-running is my specialty.
  • Young Jeezy – Crazy World : Okay let’s just agree that Young Jeezy has a silly sounding voice. But then again so do a lot of people (I’m looking at you Bjork), and none of them have made anything this fun to run to.
  • Ludacris – Move Bitch : In the 7th grade when I still thought I was a badass (I got over that quickly), I was feuding with another equally badass 7th grader, and this song kind of became my anthem, as songs so often do in 7th grade. In the intervening years I’ve become considerably more self-aware, but I haven’t abandoned this as an awesome pump up and get mad song.
  • Jay-Z – Moment of Clarity : At this point if you’re trying to be in the zone it doesn’t get much better than this. Some of his more popular songs might be a little more MTV generation approved (Izzo, something from the abominable Blueprint 3), but in my opinion Moment of Clarity is one of the best running or workout songs ever. (Also worth considering: Lucifer)
  • Ghostface Killah – Apollo Kids (Feat. Raekwon) : For a while I had a bunch of Raekwon on my running playlist, but he was recently ousted because honestly a lot of the songs just weren’t that fun for me to run to. As a way of killing two birds with one stone I added this into my rotation, because it’s got two people I love and also includes the line “Ayo this rap is like ziti.” Say what, Ghostface?
  • Freeway – Freeway’s Beard : It’s a song about His. Own. Beard. Can you get any better than that? “Plenty beards Em could’ve jumped up in and vanished / but he picked mine, best beard on the planet.”
  • T.I. – Respect This Hustle : There’s a reason T.I. makes it onto a lot of running playlists: it just works. But I like a good spelling lesson, therefore I give you the song that demands respect while giving a school-worthy lesson on hustling.
  • Andre Nickatina – Ayo for Yayo : While I don’t condone getting drugged up before a run, I do condone listening to this song on repeat. And mouthing along while you run, ensuring that everyone at the track/gym/running route will stare at you.
  • Dilated Peoples – This Way : If you hadn’t noticed by now I love the Save the Best For Last mentality when it comes to running playlists. This is a bit of a staple on some running playlists, and for good reason. Motivational? Catchy? Unexpected use of a piano? Yes, yes, and yes.

More suggestions:

  • Wu Tang Clan – Protect Ya Neck
  • Talib Kweli – Ms. Hill
  • The Roots – Adrenaline!
  • CunninLynguists – 616 Rewind
  • Kid Cudi – cudderisback
  • The Knux – Bang Bang
  • Bun B – Damn I’m Cold
  • Jean Grae – Fall Back
  • Lil’ Wayne – Got Money
  • Rick Ross – Push It
  • The Roots – The Seed (2.0)

Good Cool Down/Stretching Songs (or warm up):

  • Lil’ Wayne – Let The Beat Build
  • The Roots – The Fire : In the interest of diversity I tried to keep each artist to a minimum, but I don’t really think you can ever have too much Questo. I leave you with, “You don’t say good luck, you say don’t give up, it’s the fire inside ya.” Preach.

I don’t know why this playlist is so much longer than my other ones (and this is after I left some songs off), but it’s certainly fun to run to. Even if you’re just looking for a good rap/hip-hop playlist that’s on the upbeat side I recommend taking a listen. I know this list skews towards less music from the last few years, and I don’t think has anything from the last year, so is there anything more recent I’m missing? Other suggestions for good rap and hip-hop to run to?

(Image Source: http://fitbottomedgirls.com/2012/03/our-top-10-podcasts-to-move-and-groove-to/5/)

Books & Movies & Questions (Oh My)

The Idea

As the summer comes to a close I tried to think of the best way to round up the things I’ve been reading and watching. I could make a list, but that already partly exists on Goodreads. Instead I pose to you the questions that were raised for me as I read and watched, since lingering questions are perhaps my favorite takeaways from those experiences. I appreciate anything that keeps me thinking after it’s over, even if I didn’t love the book/movie, or sour on it as I mull it over (see: The Marriage Plot).

In the spirit of keeping things brief and distilled down, I tried to stick to one or two questions, whether serious or silly, that occurred to me during or after. For movies and TV shows, I only included films I saw in theater or shows I watched regularly, the exception being Hitchcock which I included just because I’ve watched a good amount. I’m certain I’ve left off a good few movies, but if they didn’t keep my thinking well then I blame them.

The Questions

  • How much is one’s own memory terrifyingly apathetic to and ignorant of our role in other peoples’ lives? (A Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes)
  • Is it easier if the past never catches up to you? And how awesome is Italy? (Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter)
  • Is there a singular best Hitchcock movie? (Vertigo, Rear Window, Rebecca )
  • Chapter 2 of Cannery Row is one of my favorite two pages of any book. Not a question. And while I’m on the topic of not-questions, nothing has ever made me love California more than the description of Cannery Row as “a poem, a sink, a grating noise, a quality of life, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.” (Cannery Row)
  • Why are boys so unable to wait to watch TV shows with their girlfriends? (Breaking Bad) (This may or may not be a question raised by my personal experiences rather than the show)
  • How did Georgia Bird give birth to an 11 lb 12 oz baby and then still go on to have even more children? (Bird: The Making of an American Sports Legend by Lee Daniel Levine)
  • Are Hemingway’s women just fantasy-laden projections at best, or complications at worst? Is it bad that I don’t really care, and linger on every misogynistic anti-Semitic word anyway? (The Sun Also Rises, In Our Time)
  • What does it mean to be a little beast in a big, big universe? And if you’re on a boat that takes you exactly where you need to go, is it the right place to be? (Beasts of the Southern Wild)
  • Can exes be friends? (Celeste and Jesse Forever) (My opinion: yes, but I’m naive and want to see the sliver of good in every boy I’ve ever slept with)
  • Aren’t we all a little bit defined by our obsessive and singular pursuits? Does it stand in the way of “thoughtless being”? (The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach)
  • Will sports books and movies always fail the Bechdel Test? (I’M A FEMI-NERD, GET OVER IT) (The Art of Fielding)
  • Is an ethereal male gaze an inherently flawed way of telling a female story? (The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides)
  • To what extent does Eugenides write a realistic mental illness, and to what extent does he glamorize and fetishize it? (The Marriage Plot, The Virgin Suicides)
  • Is dating really just a big con? And how fun must it be to write this type of book? (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn)
  • Will anyone be able to get over the obvious flaws in The Newsroom and see it as the “set of stereotypical yet entertaining characters embroiled in love plots” that it is? (The Newsroom)
  • Why doesn’t Julia Louis-Dreyfus do more? (Veep)
  • What is a First Love? And how come Wes Anderson movies make me laugh so much harder than anyone else in the theater? (Moonrise Kingdom)
  • DID BILL COMPTON JUST COME BACK AS A GOD? (True Blood)

Any make-you-think movies and books I’m totally missing?