Thursday, December 23, 2010

Jam Sesh

As I sit amongst pillows and strewn clothing, snuggly in a sweater dress, thinking of all the books I want to read in the little time I have, my crackling heater seems to tell me that it is time for a Jam Sesh.

Although the holidaze have arrived, the majority of this session will not in fact be devoted to Christmas (/Chanukah/Kwanzaa) carols. Instead, I would like to celebrate the music of one of my favorites - The Decemberists. At first I was hesitant to choose them due to their out-of-date status. But in light of their upcoming new album, I think they deserve some additional recognition; and where better than the JAM Bar?
And I must say, straight off, that if you have not pleasured your ears and souls with the tunes of the Decemberists, do it as soon as possible. There are among the few artists whose every single song I like (that sentence was strangely put, but say in a British accent, and it will seem smarter).
On the eighteenth of January in the new year, The King is Dead will be released. Lead singer/songwriter and brilliant beautiful man Colin Meloy has really done it this time. The sound of the album is more on the light folksy side, seeming to have come out of left field after the dark electric guitar in their last release, a rock opera called The Hazards of Love. But as with each of their albums, I know it will be a gem in itself. I anxiously await its release (but I may have to snag an early slightly-not-so-legal copy off my friend out of pure impatience).
Have a listen (and a tease) of their newest shtuff:

I did not paint this gorgy portrait of Colin, but I do plan on whipping up a sketch of him in the future. When I do, the Bar will surely be the first to see it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

To lighten the mood...

I feel bad for being in such an angry mood as of late so here are some jokes to put a smile on everyone's faces:

Joke 1:

Q: Why did the monkey fall out of the tree?

A: Because it was dead.

Joke 2:

Q: Why did the second monkey fall out of the tree?

A: Because it was stapled to the first monkey.

You're welcome.

More of Carol's Rantings

Whilst reading an article about exercise in Vogue on a five hour car trip this weekend, the second sentence caught my attention:

"Here we all are, trying to shape a body worthy of this season's long and lean dresses, maybe even a midsection viable in knit, while not letting vanity interfere too egregiously with our regularly scheduled responsibilities as lovers, mothers, workers, and friends."

There's a reason I don't typically read fashion magazines anymore: while Vogue portrays powerful, successful women in the fashion industry and elsewhere, its articles only give importance to the average woman in terms of her relationships with other people. We are lovers, mothers, workers, and friends, but never autonomous human beings with unique desires, individuals who love themselves for the way they are regardless of other people, or agents who accomplish things independently. Apparently, our biggest goals and joys in life are to serve the men, children, and friends in our lives. I'm not arguing purely against relationships here (I believe that relationships give life meaning and importance), but would you ever find this statement in a magazine for men? I think not. Why is women's value constantly depicted solely in terms of other people? Can't we ever be good enough on our own?

At the Steele family Thanksgiving this weekend, I encountered more of this offensive attitude towards women. I was having a conversation with a friend who came over for pumpkin pie and we were talking about school. Good ol' Grandpa Steele comes over and says, "Oh, probably talking about boys, are we?" And I responded, "No, neither of us need a man to complete us. We're perfectly fine without them and they are not the only subject of our conversations." So Grandpa Steele responded, "That sounds like a women's liberation movement kind of statement," with that sarcastic and judgmental tone typical of many men from his generation when discussing those dirty words, "feminism" and "women's liberation."

First of all, what the hell did his statement even mean? Seemingly sexist as he is, my grandfather has always told me that I can achieve anything I put my mind to, that I will go far in life because of my hard work, and that I can have any job I want if I try hard enough, regardless of my gender. So why is the idea of my being an autonomous, independent woman who is not dependent on men so revolutionary to him? Isn't my statement representative of essentially the same things he's been telling me my entire life? I guess it's okay to be successful as long as you still acknowledge men's prominent role in determining your happiness and recognizing that, contrary to what you may believe, you're still dependent on them underneath it all.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jam Sesh

It seems I have been promoted to create a weekly music post. I am honored to say the least, as my fellow bloggers have a much more extensive musical knowledge than do I. But, I promise not to fail you, my friendly readers! I expect you to expect only the most unexpectedly wonderful songs to appear weekly (as expected) on the JAM Bar. So prepare yourself.

Now, the first Jam Sesh must be a good one. This is quite intimidating, and I can foresee myself going slightly overboard in an attempt to impress you. I will try to keep things under control.

Two words: Ben Sollee. Whatta guy! Lately I've been on a Ben Sollee kick, so I think I will begin with him.
He's a Kentuckian cellist with a voice so pure and genuine, fingers nimble, and a face that will make your legs go jelloid (well, maybe that's just me). His album Learning to Bend is magnificent, and his collaborative album with Daniel Martin Moore (a lanky, well-dressed, Ray-Ban-wearing young lad) is also worth a listen. I was lucky enough to see Ben and Daniel this summer at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island. And I was more than happy to find his performance to be better in person than in recording. Perhaps the combination of the perfect warm and breezy weather, good friends, and being surrounded by hippies contributed to the bursting love I fell into while listening to the songs. Regardless, I do feel a need to share his tunes.
Ben's unique tenor vocals accompanied by the gorgeous deep cello creates a perfect musical marriage. His music allows me to have an experience; there is a feeling of freeing lightness and heavy drowsiness all at once.

Please enjoy:

I also feel the need to mention a wildly soulful woman who has been frequently gracing my iTunes this past week: Ella. And if I even have to say Fitzgerald, you should be ashamed of yourself. --No, no, that is only a joke, for I love with all my heart each any every reader no matter whose music you listen to.-- But Ella truly is a wonder, and I tend to forget how soothing and uplifting her voice can be. I have a great love for composer and songwriter Cole Porter, and I enjoy nothing more than listening to Ella sing from the his Songbook while lip-syncing along alone in my room. I recommend "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye," and (although it's not Cole Porter) "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" to fill that empty space in your heart that can belong only to Ella.

Smiles and Jams,

Friday, November 26, 2010

Me, My Brother and Charles Darwin

NPR has been doing a special all week on siblings. One discussion that I found particularly interesting was about how siblings are so similar genetically yet they often have such different personalities. The theories behind this claim were really intriguing and I found that one of them almost perfectly described my relationship with my older brother.

Siblings are always competing for the love and attention of their parents. This competition leads to major differences in personality traits, just as Sulloway, a Darwin theorist, suggests.
"And when organisms compete, there tends to be a phenomenon that Darwin long ago identified in the Origins of Species called the principle of divergence. The role of divergence is basically to minimize competition so it's not direct. And that leads to specialization in different niches."

My older brother was, and still is, a really good student. His grades were always better than mine, and I knew I could never keep up with him academically. So, I didn't try to keep up him. I focused on the social aspects of school. Consequently, I became much more extroverted than my brother. Our experiences, particularly in high school, were very different. While he may have been home working on a school project that I'm sure he'd get an A on, I was out with friends not thinking about that AP History paper due on Monday.
I don't want it to sound like I was failing every class while my brother had no friends. That's not true, and this obviously isn't the most extreme example, but the differences were there.

Looking at us now, it is interesting to see how we've grown since we've gone away to college, and the competition for our parents' attention has more or less dissipated. My brother, while still maintaining a solid GPA, is a social butterfly. He has tons of friends and a very active social life. I have found that I have become more introverted as I enjoy time to myself and have a much smaller group of friends than I did in high school. I think it is interesting to observe such a switch in personalities when this competition is no longer present.

So, did this early competition shape us into false identities or have our differing experiences led to growth in opposite directions? We'll have to consult the Professor, our staff psychologist, on this one.

From the Ironing Board

I'm a little late for Happy Hour today, but I finally finished that Ecology lab report, so let's celebrate!
I was jamming to some early 80s new wave earlier so I'll keep that theme going.

The B-52 (I realized it's named after the bomber not the awesome band, but it's delicious nonetheless.)

1/2 oz Coffee liqueur 
1/2 oz Irish cream liqueur 
1/2 oz Orange liqueur

Pour the coffee liqueur into a shot glass. Float the Irish cream liqueur on top. Float the orange liqueur on top of the second layer. I've heard of people lighting to top layer on fire, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Carol's musings on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Whilst spending some quality family time watching the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, I am noticing a few things that I've never noticed before. I would also like to note that the Steele family parade-watching consists of four of the five people present frantically checking email, sending texts, or, in Carol's case, angrily blogging away about this stupid parade. No one in the room is actually interacting with another human being. This is apparently what our familial interactions have been reduced to.

Aunt Steele also just referred to "shuffle" on an iPod as "scramble." Just an amusing side note.

Anywho, after a semester of women's studies, the parade has tragically been reduced to a shell of its former glory; a depressing example of American consumerism, stereotypical gender roles, and white skin playing a dominant role in all the major acts.

How about the American Indian float, with the female singer wearing an all-white ensemble complete with lots of fringe singing an inspiring song proclaiming that this land is everyone's. While not white in terms of skin tone, this singer is extremely white in the way she is dressed and made up, except for the fringe. Nothing says traditional Native American culture like fringe. Below her the Oneida dancers, dressed in traditional garb, dance traditional dances, light years away from ever achieving that elite position atop the float. We support Native Americans, so long as they act like white people.

The Rockett dancers get me every year; voiceless, perfectly made-up dancers with the same build and measurements, the same cheesy smile, and movements that are perfectly choreographed and coordinated. There's no individual identity, just that perfect ideal of beautiful women who keep their mouths shut and look pretty.

Other highlights: the pirate boat, directed towards children, with a Victoria's Secret billboard in the background, complete with a blond model in a push-up bra giving that seductive look that seemingly no man can resist. Another of my favorites was the "new princess" float, with about thirty little girls in matching pink princess dresses and a flirtatious female singer serenading the crowd at the top of the float. The description said that the "new princess" promotes girl empowerment through generosity, intelligence, and beauty. Everything a little girl should be!

Maybe I'm just cranky because I want turkey right now and am unwilling to wait another five hours for dinner, or maybe this parade is pissing me off because its sickening depiction of all the values that Americans apparently hold dearest makes it exceedingly clear how far this country still has to go.

Friday, November 19, 2010

From the Ironing Board

Welcome to "From the Ironing Board". This is my weekly segment (usually on Fridays, but it's a slow Thursday night and I'm really putting off my Ecology lab report), where I'll share my (limited) knowledge of mixology, the art and science of cocktail recipes.

What's with the title? Well, dorm life isn't easy. It often involves improvisation when the many amenities we've become so accustomed to are no longer available. But I'm not about to let the restrictions of my dorm room get between me and love for cocktail parties. I've discovered that Nalgene bottles make awesome shakers and, well, just about anything can be a shot glass, but more recently, I've learned that the height and width of my ironing board makes it the perfect wet bar. And so, "From the Ironing Board" was born and without further adieu, here's my first recipe:

Classic Cosmopolitan
1 1/2 oz vodka
3/4 oz triple sec
3/4 oz cranberry juice
1 oz fresh lime juice

Pour the vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice and lime juice into a cocktail shaker (or Nalgene!) half-filled with ice cubes. Shake well, strain into a cocktail glass, and serve.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Carol's first and only limerick

There once was an awful tornado
The only thing that survived was a potato
Said the people to each other,
"Let us keep it as our brother
Until we find a tomato."


I never expected to have a blog. But, here I am, and I'm quite excited. As opposed to my two cohorts, I do not have much of an agenda for my future writings. Whatever moves me - art, feminism, sociology, philosophy, films, social issues, music - at any given moment will be my focus. As wise ol' Billy Shakes put it so eloquently, my moods and inspirations change as swiftly as the "inconstant moon," and my writings may vary as such.
I hope the days of whoever is reading this blog are brightened by our passion and wit (because we do have a lot of both).

My feets are antsy for some dancin', so I must depart...
To JAM! Cheers.

What am I doing here?

Besides my love for fruit preserves and establishments that serve alcohol, I'm here for one main reason. I have shit to say. Any of you who know me are aware of my inability to express myself through spoken word. Because of this, I tend to keep my thoughts to myself. But I think a lot, maybe too much, and while my thoughts may not always be profoundly insightful, I want to throw them out there and hear what other people have to say. So that's why I'm here. Just to chat. Whether it be about about social justice or environmental concerns or...cheese.

I'm off to enjoy a much needed 45 minute shower because, let's be honest, a few hours out of the water makes me smell a bit, well, funky.

My Mission Statement

While the The Professor, the Squid, and I originally wanted to write our first blog post together, we ultimately decided that because all three of us hate group writing projects and assignments in general, we didn't particularly fancy having to write a post as a group either.

My reason for wanting to be a part of this blog is that I see a lot of things around me that I believe need to change. This change cannot occur without discourse, which to me is the point of this blog. Whether it's apathy, sexism, racism, ignorance, or hatred, I think that if people communicated more and used more respect, we would start to see the change we desperately need. That said, we welcome anything that our (very small group of) readers would like to say or talk about, as long as it's respectful.

A shoddily-put together ham and cheese sandwich awaits me at lunch, so I'll sign off here.