Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best of 2008

The year is over. Time for some Best of Lists. Leave some comments in the replies if you think I should check out something I may have missed this year. Unless numbered, everything is in alphabetical order. 

Top 15 Albums
Bloc Party – Intimacy 
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago 
The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound 
Gentleman Auction House – Alphabet Graveyard 
Girl Talk – Feed the Animals  
Jack's Mannequin - The Glass Passenger  
Los Campesinos - Hold on Now, Youngster... 
Lydia – Illuminate 
The Matches - A Band in Hope   
MGMT – Oracular Spectacular 
Phantom Planet – Raise The Dead
Radiohead – In Rainbows 
Right Away, Great Captain - The Eventually Home
Tokyo Police Club – Elephant Shell 
Valencia - We All Need a Reason to Believe

Honorable Mentions

Anathallo – Canopy Glow
Beck - Modern Guilt 
Colour Revolt - Plunder, Beg and Curse 
Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs 
Good Old War - Only Way to Be Alone 
The Hold Steady – Stay Positive 
Islands – Arm’s Way 
Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground – S/T 
Los Campesinos - We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed 
Mates of State – Re-arrange Us 
Ray LaMontagne - Gossip in the Grain 
Thrice - Alchemy Index (3 & 4) 
Titus Andronicus – The Airing of Grievances 
TV on the Radio - Dear Science
Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend

Top EPs:

Manchester Orchestra - Let My Pride Be What's Left Behind 
Stars – Sad Robots 
Straylight Run - Un Dos Mas 
Thursday / Envy – Split 
You, Me, and Everyone We Know - So Young, So Insane   

Favorite Mixtapes: 
Diplo and Santogold - Top Ranking: A Diplo Dub 
Wale – The Mixtape About Nothing

I still have a list of about 100 albums to listen to that came out this year, so I imagine this list will change in a couple of months.

Top Movies

  1. Dark Knight
  2. Slumdog Millionaire
  3. Milk
  4. Tropic Thunder
  5. Cloverfield
  6. Iron man
  7. Forgetting Sarah Marshall

I’m usually behind on movies because I wait to Netflix most films. What should I add to my Netflix queue?

Top Tours:

1.  Say Anything, Manchester Orchestra, Biffy Clyro, Weatherbox @ Avalon 3/13 
2. Jesse Lacey (of Brand New), Kevin Devine, Brian Bonz @ Roxy 7/21 
3. RX Bandits, Kay Kay and the Weathered Underground, & Portugal. The Man @ Troubadour 9/16 
4. KROQ Almost Acoustic Xmas Night 2 @ Gibson 12/14 
5. Jack’s Mannequin, Eric Hutchinson @ Troubadour 11/4 
6. The Who, Flaming Lips, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Incubus, Tenacious D @ UCLA 7/12 
7. Person L, Anthony Green, Good Old War @ Troubadour 8/20 
8. Nico Vega @ the Hammer 7/3 
9. Titus Andronicus & No Age (Free) @ Troubadour 12/2 
10. Colour Revolt, Night Marchers @ the Echo 9/3 
11.  Jenny Lewis (of Rilo Kiley) @ the Echo 9/12

Thing I Miss Most about Orange County:

1. Bagels and Brew in Mission Viejo and Lake Forest

2. Free Parking Everywhere

Most Anticipated Releases of 2009:

  1. Manchester Orchestra (Spring)
  2. Brand New
  3. Weatherbox (3/3)
  4. Say Anything
  5. Moneen
  6. Radiohead
  7. Arcade Fire
  8. Two Tongues (Say Anything & Saves the Day - Spring)
  9. Set Your Goals
  10. Kevin Devine
  11. Fun (The Format, Steel Train - February)
  12. Blikk Fang (MGMT & Of Montreal)
  13. Cursive 
  14. Jimmy Eat World
  15. Bright Eyes
  16. Saves the Day
  17. Against Me!
  18. The Dear Hunter
  19. I Am the Avalanche
  20. The Decemberists (3/24)
  21. Animal Collective (1/20)
  22. Ace Enders
  23. New Found Glory (3/10)
  24. Antony and the Johnsons (1/20)
  25. Morrissey (2/17)
  26. Battles
  27. Architecture in Helsinki
  28. Silversun Pickups
  29. Thursday (2/17)
  30. Tegan and Sara
  31. Four Year Strong (June)
  32. Biffy Clyro
  33. Mute Math (March)
  34. Fireworks (3/24)
  35. Lilly Allen (2/10)
  36. Portugal. The Man (June)

Motion City Soundtrack? The Matches? Radiohead? 

I also just want to say thank you to all of my wonderful friends. I have so many amazing memories of 2008 and it's because of all of you. Hope everyone has a wonderful and safe time rining in the New Year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Milk & Prop. 8

Today I went to see the movie Milk with my mother. Sean Penn gave a truly wonderful performance, and I was quite impressed with my fellow Bruin James Franco's performance as well. The movie really moved me (OK, I will admit it publicly here that I was in tears twice during the movie) and it led to a great discussion with my mother afterwards.

She goes to Saddleback Church (the one with pastor Rick Warren who has the left and the gay community all up in arms about being selected by Obama to give the invocation at the inauguration) and has had a difficult time reconciling what I consider her natural inclination to be an accepting person with what she hears at Church. Since she started a few years ago going to church functions several times a week, she's become much more conservative in her views. I try to avoid discussing politics and religion with her for the most part because I think her Christianity is a very important part of her life and her friends there provide a great support system for her.

When my mother came to visit me at school a few weeks ago, she wanted to discuss the election. To my surprise, she voted for Obama. She was upset with how the Republicans handled the bailout vote, and went to the public library and re-registered as a Democrat. When we got to talking about the propositions, she voted mostly the same as I did, with Prop. 8 as the notable exception. I shouldn't have been surprised that she voted for Prop. 8 since Rick Warren was very vocal about his opposition to the measure and has compared gay marriage to pedophilia, bestiality, and polygamy. Still, I was a little disappointed.

At first, my mother said that she voted for Prop. 8 because of the involvement of the courts. After I pressed her on that a little, she said it was a freedom of speech issue (some nonsensical argument Warren was pushing). After engaging in some detailed debate about these issues, I was surprised to see that I made a breakthrough with her. And it was simple. She said that she wasn't against homosexuality and wouldn't mind if I was gay. I immediately said in response, "So, you're OK with me being gay, as along as I didn't want to get married?" When she realized that this wasn't about some lofty discussion about technicalities but about real people, about sons and daughters, she started to rethink it.

When the lights came on at the end of the film, she turned to me and said that she wishes she could change her vote on Prop. 8. She saw a movie that showed these sons and daughters facing terrible discrimination because of who they were; sons and daughters who had to fight to keep their jobs, had to fight for their lives because of the same prejudices and fears that lead to the passage of Prop. 8. The movie even took a couple of shots at Orange County for being so homophobic in the '70s (not much has changed).

I highly recommend Milk for everyone. After the movie, I needed some lighter fare to lift my moods. The theatre here in Holden, MA is unique. It's got over a dozen screens like most places in Orange County, but it's got some decent food options inside. I grabbed some tasty chicken fingers and grabbed a big comfy chair there and thumbed through the New York Times and Wall Street Journal before heading into see Quantum of Solace. It was quite enjoyable, but average. I was happy, however, to hear that my mother also loved Slumdog Millionaire. So do yourself a favor and add Milk and Slumdog Millionaire to your must-see list because they are two of the best movies I've seen this year.

Round-up of Critics' Lists of this Year's Best Movies

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Day in Boston

After only a few hours of sleep, I dragged myself out of bed to take the commuter train into Boston with my mother. The train was almost completely empty (and super slow because of snow-related malfunctions), but this man set next to me and my mother and this woman my mother was talking to. I can only assume he didn't take one of the other empty seats because he was in the mood for company. I soon put down my magazine and took off my headphones to find out that he was a professor of political science and engineering at MIT. Really interesting guy and pretty awesome credentials. He gave me some advice on grad school (he did get his Ph.D in Poli Sci from Harvard) and was just really fun to talk to. Needless to say, this was a pretty good start to my day.

After I got into the city, I jumped on the T (Boston's subway) and headed over to Faneuil Hall to grab some of the best clam chowder I've ever had. The bread bowl at the Boston Chowda Co. filled me up and satisfied my craving for a taste of New England. After this unorthodox breakfast, I jumped back on the T to Harvard Square. After lots of walking around Cambridge, I headed over to the Kennedy School of Government for a nice tour individual tour of the campus by a current MPP (Masters of Public Policy) student. It's a beautiful area and of course the program sounds absolutely amazing. The tough question: Is it worth the $65k a year for tuition & expenses?

After the tour, I grabbed a sandwich and a cup of coffee at Crema Cafe in Cambridge. I had a tasty chicken sandwich with spinach and artichoke.

I then stopped by my favorite record store Newbury Comics and bought 7 CDs. Got some used CDs: 2 Straylight Run albums for $4 each, Silversun Pickups, Taking Back Sunday's Tell All Your Friends -their first and the only album by them that I still enjoy. Also got a couple of new CDs because they were $10 and included a live DVD: In Our Bedroom After the War by Stars and the Manchester Orchestra EP.

I did a little more exploring of Boston and took the commuter train back. Time to go back to researching public policy schools.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Economist Round-Up

On my flights from Orange County to Chicago to Providence, I was able to catch up on a few issues of the Economist that started to pile-up because of finals. Here are a few things that I thought others might find interesting:
Must-read: Where Have All Your Savings Gone?

Any American who has diligently put $100 a month into a domestic equity mutual fund for the past ten years will find his pot worth less than he put into it. The Asians’ parsimony made the Anglo-Saxons’ profligacy possible. Through their increasingly sophisticated financial systems, the Americans and British were able to borrow from the thrifty Asians to finance their spending spree. And, because their house prices were rising so fast, they had the collateral and the confidence to do so.

If savers treated financial assets as they do other goods, they would sell them when they are expensive and buy them when they are cheap. Actually, they do the opposite.
The average American scheme member contributes just 7.8% of salary to his pension scheme. His employer, on average, contributes only 4.4%. He has a pot worth only $68,000. A rule of thumb is that total contributions need to be around 20% of wages to match a traditional final-salary scheme. Inadequate savings, badly invested, are a problem for individuals and the economy. Cautious savers are putting their money in banks; banks are reluctant to lend; companies therefore find it hard both to borrow money and to raise equity capital. This timidity hurts companies and, in the long term, savers. Implausible as it may sound, right now equities and corporate bonds are a better long-term bet than cash.

Space Solar Power:

DNA Databases: "Of some 40 states that have their own databases, only California allows permanent storage of DNA profiles of those who are charged but then cleared"

Facebook Connect: "A new button is appearing on some websites. It says “Facebook Connect” and saves visitors from having to fill out yet another tedious registration form, upload another profile picture and memorise another username and password. Instead, visitors can now sign into other sites using their existing identity on Facebook."

I've been talking about this for over a year, but hopefully more studies will convince legislatures to alter their laws. Studies are showing that when people talk on the phone while driving, even hands-free, their driving is impaired. However, reaction times and driving ability are not impaired when talking to a passenger in the car, especially when the passenger can play a role by commenting on surrounding traffic.

Good article about the challenges facing Obama soon when it comes to the environment

One of the most chilling things I've read in awhile is from this article about preventing genocide: "The most upsetting sight was that of small skulls which, unlike the larger ones around them, were mostly incomplete. Babies’ jawbones tend to break off when clubbed."

Special Report on India:

"India has 60m chronically malnourished children. 40% of the world's total." It is also facing a huge demographic crisis. Every year, 14m Indians are being added to the labour market. Half of India's people are under 25 & 40% under 18. An underinvestment in education means most are unskilled and if India cannot find employment for them, then poverty will not be reduced and India will face instability.

Also, India's politics are a little insane to me. The current government was a coalition of about 13 parties. This still wasn't enough for a majority, so they recruited outside support from another 5 parties, including the "Left Front," a coalition of Communist parties. The Communists stopped everything, but they walked out of the government, but the polity is so fragmented that it is hard for them to get anything done.

Speaking of insane, police are having a hard time dealing with the anarcists leading the riots in Greece. The reason: "The anarchists have also exploited a constitutional loophole that bans police from university campuses. As a result, demonstrators can regroup behind barricades at the Athens Polytechnic and pick up fresh supplies of petrol bombs before heading back onto the streets."

Happy Hanukkah!

This is dedicated to all of my Jewish friends out there. I wish I could make it over to Aaron J.'s this year because I have some good memories lighting my own menorah there and I am always in the mood for some good latkes. However, this year I at least get to celebrate with my good friend Andrey in NY (26-28). Hopefully we'll find time to see the lighting of the World's Largest Hannakuh Menorah. It's 32 feet tall!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Random Stuff

  • I've been into photography lately. Here's a cool selection of photographs from throughout the year
  • Oh, Australia: "After rude behavior in state legislatures, the call goes out again to curtail drinking and even to initiate breathalyzer tests for members of parliament"
  • Cool Video the History of the Middle East in 90 Seconds
  • International Council on Security and Development: "The Taliban, which controlled 54% of Afghanistan in 2007, now controls about 72% of the country"
  • Ugh. "Prop. 8 supporter Rick Warren of Saddleback Church will give the inaugural invocation." I remember going there when the church first started. It didn't even have a building yet, it was only a big tent. On Easter one year they had the adults outside and let the kids in the big tent for a magician show. My Mother still goes there & tries to drag me when I'm in town.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

KROQ Almost Acoustic Xmas

I was lucky enough to have been invited to Night 2 of KROQ's Almost Acoutic Xmas. Thanks to Aaron I., I was even able to get into the VIP section, grab a free drink and some finger food, and watch Death Cab for Cutie be interviewed on air. It was a great show and well worth making me getting an extension for my last final that was supposed to be due Monday at 3 pm. It was at the Gibson Amphitheater and the sound was great. I think the last time I was at a venue of that size was during the summer when I saw The Who with Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, Incubus, Tenacious D, and the Flaming Lips. 

The line-up was as follows:
Vampire Weekend (Awesome way to start the show. This year's most buzzed about band)
Snow Patrol (Better than I expected)
Scott Weiland (Terrible. Most of the crowd cleared out to get drinks)
Franz Ferdinand (Fun live show)
Paramore (They turned me from a skeptic into a fan overnight)
Death Cab for Cutie (I'm glad that I've finally got to see them)
The Killers (Should of headlined because got the crowd going and high energy)
The Cure (Not the most engaging show, but great to see the legendary Robert Smith)

Aaron and I were trying to guess with a couple of people from KROQ management who the headliner would be because I guess this year they actually tried really hard to keep it a secret. Lots of names were thrown out (AC/DC, Axl Rose, Fall Out Boy, even Metallica), but we were all wrong. It was no other than Kanye West. I was pleasantly surprised because I'd probably never pay to go see Kanye live, but I've got a lot of respect for him and I greatly enjoyed his set. 

From the OC Register:

Surrounded by a four-piece band and eight Japanese taiko drummers, all dressed in riot gear, the hip-hop superstar set aside his rampant self-importance to earnestly dazzle with just four songs: the Daft Punk-infused "Stronger," and the lovesick regret that pours through "Homecoming," "Heartless" and "Love Lockdown," the latter two delivered much more vibrantly than on Kanye's one-dimensional breakup album, "808s & Heartbreak."

Other observations:
1. The guy right next to us asked his girlfriend to marry him during Snow Patrol. She said yes.
2. The douchebag guy in front of us (about 18 years old?) kept trying to stick his hands down the pants of the girl he was with. He also kept putting his arm around her, but mostly just kept hitting my leg with his arm.
3. Lots of high school kids being super annoying. Two guys kept trying to get these two girls they came with to make-out with each other. Instead they decided to freak with each other and be obnoxious. So many more stories I can tell about them...
4. The only people around us that weren't bothersome were the ones to our right, smoking weed throughout the whole night

What a great night.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

New Laptop

After 4.5 years, it's finally time to retire my Toshiba Satellite laptop. It's treated me well, but it sure is super slow now with no battery life. After lots of research and getting lucky with a sale directly from the manufacturer, I bought a Lenovo Thinkpad SL400. My friend Matt convinced me to max out the RAM and upgrade the processor, so hopefully this laptop will be good to me for the next few years. It's not the sexiest looking laptop, but it is supposed to be fast and reliable, especially for the price (Every review also mentions how awesome the Thinkpad keyboards are. Cool I guess?). 

I just can't wait until the mail room opens after the new year and I can start organizing and transferring over all my files and music. Finally I will have a laptop again I can take to class!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Prop 8 - The Musical

Starring my favorites: Neil Patrick Harris, Jack Black, Allison Janney & Sarah Chalke

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


The recession was officially announced today, but this is how I knew it was coming:

"You know times are tough when the rich start cutting costs on their mistresses. According to a new survey by Prince & Assoc., more than 80% of multimillionaires who had extra-marital lovers planned to cut back on their gifts and allowances. Still, only 12% of the multimillionaire cheaters said they plan to give up on their lovers altogether for financial reasons."

Richard Posner's summary of the problems facing current Conservatism:

'The financial crisis has hit economic libertarians in the solar plexus, because the crisis is largely a consequence of innate weaknesses in free markets and of excessive deregulation of banking and finance, rather than of government interference in the market. Believers in a strong foreign policy have been hurt by the protracted and seemingly purposeless war in Iraq (the main effects of which seem to have been discord between the United States and its allies, increased recruitment of Islamic terrorists, and the strengthening of Iran and of the Taliban in Afghanistan and of al Qaeda in Pakistan) and the Bush Administration’s lack of success in dealing with Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. And social conservatives have been hurt by the stridency of some of their most prominent advocates, who all too often give the appearance of being mean-spirited, out-of-touch, know-nothing deniers of science (e.g., evolution, climate change)."