In Honor of Maurice Sendak

Coldplay + MCA Tribute = Brilliant

Favorite Cities to Visit — A Top Ten List

My friend Jason Dietz, over at NonModern, recently posted a list of his top ten cities to visit. I loved the list. Jason is much more traveled than I am, I’ve only been to two of his top ten cities, but I thought I would “comment” on his post by posting my own list of the top ten cities I’ve visited. Like Jason, I won’t include any city that I have lived in, currently or previously. Unlike Jason though, I don’t stop at the “city” designation, and will include both smaller towns & larger metropolises — I couldn’t resist.

10. Paris, France
The nice thing about visiting a city several times is that you develop favorite spots. For me, it’s the Le Merais. It has that quaint, almost a village within a city, kind of feeling. The architecture is brilliant. Sure, there’s the Eiffel Tower & the Arc de Triomphe…but the beauty of a city like Paris is in the smaller neighborhoods.

9. San Francisco, CA
Julie and I went to San Francisco over 10 years ago. And it’s on our short list to revisit soon…with the kids this time. San Francisco was also on our list of cities that we considered moving to when we were planning to move back to the States. But it’s bloody expensive. Clam chowder and seals on a wooden float on a sunny afternoon make for a perfect date. And you can get to the wine country pretty quickly.

8. London, England
I’ve been to London too many times to count, but central London never gets old. From the shopping (Regent St. & Covent Garden), to the sites (Westminster, Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park), to the museums (National Portrait Gallery), it doesn’t get much more touristy than central London.

7. Turin, Italy
My stay here was brief, about a day and a half, but I really enjoyed Turin. It’s surrounded by the Alps, and was the home of the 2006 Winter Olympics. I spent time on the Via Roma, which opens up into the Piazza San Carlo and the Palazzo Madama. Pretty architecture and some of the best tiramisu I’ve ever had.

6. Boston, MA
I toured Fenway Park and walked behind the Green Monster where the old scoreboard is. For someone that grew up a Red Sox fan it just doesn’t get any better than that. Hang out around Harvard. You’ll feel smarter, and the campus is beautiful.

5. Bath, England
Roman. Marble. Granite. Quaint. Shopping. Eating. It’s small size means you can walk central Bath in a day (easy). Almost every visitor we had while living in Wales we took to Bath for a day. When I’m asked about places to visit if taking a trip to the UK Bath is at the top of my list.

4. Budapest, Hungary
I spent 4 days in Budapest in April, 2011. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve been told that Budapest carries the nickname “Paris of the East”. I wouldn’t doubt that. To walk along the Danube in the evening in central Budapest is simply breathtaking.

3. Florence, Italy
Julie and I went on holiday to Florence a few years ago. We spent time looking at the original statue of David and the original Birth of Venus (Botticelli). Both were stunning. The streets were tiny, the fashion was stereotypically Italian, and the Ponte Vecchio (the old bridge) was a favorite of mine.

2. Barcelona, Spain
Barri Gotic (the Gothic Quarter) & tapas. Enough said.

1. New York, NY
Jay-Z does it better than I ever could. So go listen to Empire State of Mind. If you don’t want to visit New York after that then I don’t know what to tell you. It’s loud. It’s busy. You won’t see fashion like New York fashion any where else on the planet. I’ve been three for four times and I’ve never run out of new things to see and do. And if you have kids, take them the second time you go. It will give you an entirely new perspective on the city. In the evening, when the sun is down, and the lights are up, take the subway over to Brooklyn. Get off on the first stop. Eat ice cream under the Brooklyn Bridge and then walk back to Manhattan on the bridge…a memory in the making.

This Week on the Interwebs

Just a quick list of things I found interesting this week on the interwebs…

  • George Mason University Green Machine plays Rage
  • Flash Hockey Fans
  • Brands & a 5 year old
  • Launch Center for the iPhone
  • Simpli Oats via Cool Hunting
  • Clear for the iPhone
  • Taking photos with your iPhone

Top Five Albums–2011

Despite what a friend said last year about 2010 being a bad year for music, I thought it was a good year. Maybe that’s because Mumford & Sons Sigh No More and Arcade Fire’s Suburbs are 2 of my favorite albums. In fact, I would argue that 2011 was no better than 2010, and in some respects, a little worse. I don’t think there was a stand out album this year. There were definitely some good ones, but nothing grabbed me quite like last years albums did.  There were several good albums that didn’t make my top five…my Honorable Mentions if you will. They include in no particular order: The Black Keys – El Camino, Sigur Rós – Inní, The Decemberists – The King is Dead, Radiohead – The King of Limbs, and The Poison Tree – The Poison Tree. One album, in particular, was good, but didn’t quite live up to expectations, Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto. And there was one album, that for the life of me I can’t quite figure out why it’s included in most everyone’s top 10 list – PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake. I thought it was a contrived, over sold, preachy, screeching mess. My top five this year leans toward the somber and sad, with one exception. My list is varied and very different from last years list. But like last year, I’m including an album that might incite a little ridicule by my friends. Oh well, I liked it.

#5 Adele – 21
Like Brandon Flowers last year, this choice might catch a little ridicule. But let’s be honest, Adele’s voice is second to none. The vocals on this album are simply amazing. I thought I would tire of this album after a few listens, but I keep coming back to it. Sad at times, empowering at others, well rounded, solid. Best song – Take It All

 

#4 Death Cab for Cutie – Codes and Keys
Probably the most upbeat of my five albums (Stay Young, Go Dancing), and Death Cab for Cutie’s best album to date. Driving bass, a saloon piano, and maybe a little bit too much hi-hat. But you’ll be tapping your foot, and singing along. Best Song – Portable Television

 

#3 Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Wispy, airy, singing out in a wheat field kind of sound, but with amplification. The first three songs warm you up, almost like inside pitches in baseball, they get you ready – then Battery Kinzie is like a fastball right over the middle of the plate…a strong, sit up straight kind of song. Crisp guitars, tight vocals, a really nice album. Best song – Helplessness Blues

 

#2 Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Listen to the first song, Perth, and wait for the swell at the 2:35 mark – you’ll be hooked. The lead singer, Justin Vernon, sings a lot in falsetto and it works. The song titles are mainly geographical (Perth, Minnesota, Hinnom, Calgary, Lisbon), and the lyrics may not make the most sense. But the album works, and you’ll want to continue to listen. Best Song – Calgary

 

#1 Elbow – Build A Rocket Boys!
I am amazed at how this album has been left off list after list for top albums of the year. Maybe it’s because Elbow doesn’t get much play here in the States. I found Elbow, or maybe they found me, while living in the UK. Their previous album, The Seldom Seen Kid, was really good and was met with critical acclaim  – in the UK at least – but Build A Rocket Boys! is exponentially better in my opinion. It is melancholy and somber, yet inspiring and uplifting. With songs like Neat Little Rows it is anthemic, and it is reflective with The Night Will Always Win. The lyrics are tight, with each song telling a story. The music doesn’t get in the way, but is good enough to stand on it’s own. I simply love this album.

And let me say a few things about the album’s best song – Open Arms. There are very few songs that extend beyond themselves…that move you at your core…that touch your soul…that become part of the story of your life. Until Open Arms the only song that I would put in that special category was U2’s I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. This song, this year, was for me. It is me. It is both the man I am, and the man I hope to be. In a year that was undeniably difficult for me this song brought me to tears, and face to face with God. Lyrically it captures the story of the prodigal son, found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15:11-32. It tells the story of a community that welcomes back with open arms the man that once left them. This community, in celebration, reminds the man of the boy he used to be, and says “It’s okay, you’re home, and you’re accepted.” I’m posting the lyrics below for you to read through, but if you have $5.00 go buy the album on Amazon, or just spend 99¢ on the song.

You’re a law unto yourself
And we don’t suffer dreamers
But neither should you walk the earth alone

So with finger rolls and folding chairs
And a volley of streamers
We can be there for tweaks and repairs
Should you come back home

We got open arms for broken hearts
Like yours my boy, come home again

Tables are for pounding here
And when we’ve got you surrounded
The man you are will know the boy you were

And you’re not the man who fell to earth
You’re the man of La Mancha
And we’ve love enough to light the street
‘Cause everybody’s here

We got open arms for broken hearts
Like yours my boy, come home again
We got open arms for broken hearts
Like yours my boy, come home again

Everyone’s here
Everyone’s here
The moon is out looking for trouble
And everyone’s here

Everyone’s here
Everyone’s here
The moon wants a scrap or a cuddle
And everyone’s here

We got open arms for broken hearts
Like yours my boy, come home again
We got open arms for broken hearts
Like yours my boy, come home again

Everyone’s here
Everyone’s here
Everyone’s here
Come home again

The moon is out looking for trouble
The moon wants a scrap or a cuddle
The moon is face down in a puddle
And everyone’s here

As always, I’d love to hear your opinion, and your favorites this year.

(Links are Amazon Affiliate links)

A Good List

I’ll have my top 5 list up in a couple of days, but it won’t be nearly as thorough as Steve’s.

Finally

The search is over. The waiting has ended. And the celebration has begun.

Julie and I knew back in February of this year that our time in Cardiff, Wales was coming to an end and that we needed to move back to the US. In March of this year I came to Portland to decide if this was the city for us. It was, and we started planning towards the big move. I started searching for a job in earnest in May — and it has finally culminated in a new job as an Education Consultant with Ochin.

I start my new career on Monday, December 5th, and I couldn’t be more excited about it.

The Real Snow White

This is the real Snow White.via Devour.

Boo Electoral College. Yea Every Vote Counts!

via Devour.

The Black Keys – Lonely Boys

From the upcoming album, El Camino, by the Black Keys.