Sunday, January 04, 2009

A New Year and a Look Back

The start of 2009 officially marks the end of my first full year in Chicago. Continuing with a little something I began last year on Facebook (which was interesting to read again and see what has changed!), I present you with 2008 through the eyes of Alissa:

Favorite Albums

Ok, I’m not going to lie to you. All of my top albums this year are by bands that I have already loved for ages. This means two things: 1) I am becoming less adventurous the older I get. 2) I am lucky, because the musicians that I respect and adore continue to create beautiful, progressive, and poignant collections of tunes.

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Cardinology

Last year and throughout the first half of this year, Easy Tiger was in pretty constant rotation on my iPod. I worried that I would be disappointed by his next endeavor. I had nothing to worry about. While still slightly below Easy Tiger on my love meter, Cardinology flows beautifully and is easy to listen to all the way through. Perfect as background music while writing, as zone-out music at work, and as I learned today, a shower sing-along jam.

The Charlatans – You Cross My Path

If you ask me to choose my favorite band, I will tell you every single time, without fail, that it is The Charlatans. They have been around since 1989. I have been in love with them since 1995. With the exception of two songs, their last album was bordering on atrocious. I had no hopes for this one. They were giving it away for FREE online, for fuck’s sake. How good could it be? The answer: BRILLIANT. This was a return to former glory if I’ve ever seen one. I cried the first time I heard it. No joke. Actual, salty, warm tears. I was filled with the joy I felt when I was 16 and I heard a song that changed what I thought about music. Don’t get me wrong, this is not necessarily groundbreaking or innovative. It was just the most pleasant surprise I’ve had in a long time, musically.

Oasis – Dig Out Your Soul

Though not as good as their last album, Don’t Believe the Truth, it’s good enough for a band I thought wouldn’t make it past 1996 with all of the in-fighting, personality-clashing and general big-headedness. I’m happy to say they have survived and they continue to make songs that I enjoy listening to. I also got to see them play live with Ryan Adams & The Cardinals this year, so I have a special place in my heart for this album.

The Killers – Day & Age

Jon believes that Spaceman is their best song yet. I don’t know if I’m willing to go that far, but it’s nice. I’m glad to see them returning somewhat to the cocky, dancey form that made them the huge success they were after their debut album. As part of my Christmas present, I also get to see them in concert on January 20th. I’ve never seen them before, and I’ve heard mixed things about their performance level, but I’m sure it will be a good time no matter what.

Super Furry Animals – Hey Venus!

I could have sworn this was released in 2007, but Amazon claims it was January 2008. Who am I to argue? This means I can include it in my list, so I’ll take it. As with all SFA albums, there are some real gems on this one. Run Away, The Gift That Keeps Giving, Into the Night, etc. are just perfect and so different from anything else out there. SFA are not for everyone, but they are most DEFINITELY for me.

Death Cab For Cutie – Narrow Stairs

I’m starting to see a theme emerge here. I got to see all of these bands in concert in 2008 or will do in 2009 except for The Charlatans. Hmm…curious. Something about hearing an album played live may just make it that much dearer to me. Narrow Stairs is also not as good as its predecessor, in my opinion, but it has a couple of gorgeous songs. Grapevine Fires is one of those that I could put on repeat and never tire of.

Biggest Disappointment

Breaking my leg. It happened in early April. I didn’t have insurance until June. I walked on it for two months with no cast and no diagnosis, and had to wear a big huge walking cast on it until late July after I finally did see a doctor. I got it off a few days before my birthday. It was a giant hassle and I tried not to let it get me down, but it did. I felt defeated. I felt helpless in certain circumstances (like going up or down a large flight of stairs at the train station, with people behind me urging me to hurry or trying to clean our apartment after we moved out, unable to bend my knee to pick something up). It’s not the worst thing that’s happened to anyone, and it could have been worse, but it did make things more difficult. I stayed inside more than I would have otherwise, maybe because I felt bad for myself or because my hip hurt from lugging around the big thing on my leg. Jon was patient with me and helpful and I thank him for that. I know I will be a lot more careful in the future and I will always appreciate being able to walk just a little bit more than I ever did before.

Biggest Achievement

This is hard. Compared to graduating last year and moving to Chicago, this year has been a bit lame, achievement-wise. I have the same job I had last year (though I got hired officially, instead of remaining a temp). I want to skip this question, but avoiding the hard things in life never builds character, does it? If I’m 100% honest, I’d say my biggest achievement has been coming out of my shell a little bit more. It may not seem like a big difference to the casual observer, or even to Jon, who sees me every single day, but it’s more of an internal thing that can’t be measured. I just know that I feel slightly more confident when I’m about to enter an unfamiliar social situation. I’m still a work in progress, though. This year will be even better. Oh, and I’ve conquered my fear of dentists and doctors! We’re BFF now. Not really, but they don’t scare the crap out of me anymore.

Favorite Discovery

I’m going to go with Twitter. I certainly visit it more than most other sites. It’s become such an excellent way to communicate with people I know and miss, meet new people, and keep tabs on people I find interesting. I found out it was snowing the other day not by watching The Weather Channel, checking weather.com or even looking out my window, but by reading someone’s latest tweet. Yep, Twitter has the goods, I think.

Best Time-Waster

Television has been a giant downfall for me this year. Since the writers’ strike ended, there has been too much to watch. The DVR doesn’t help. It just means that when there isn’t something good on, there’s a whole long list of stuff I can watch. Podcasts still help me through my workday. I listen regularly to about 20 different ‘casts. Maybe more. Writing has also taken up a large chunk of my time lately. Between my occasional contributions to Gapers Block (which need to be more frequent, honestly...I smell a New Years Resolution!), this blog, and a few other things I have done, I’ve been a typing fool. I still don’t consider myself a great writer, but I’m working on exercising the muscles so one day I may just be.

Things I’ve Learned

I apparently grind my teeth when I sleep. A LOT. Like to the point where I fractured my front two (yes, 2008 was the year of stress fractures for me). I not only dislike the cold, but I officially hate it. Having a full gym downstairs, that I can use for free almost anytime I want is not necessarily enough to motivate me to go regularly. I can’t go longer than a week without coffee and not be grumpy. The sole purpose of Christmas decorations is to keep people from winter-induced depression by distracting them with shiny objects. I take way too many pictures for someone with an 80GB laptop and no external hard drive. I want a Mac more than I’ve ever wanted a new electronic-type toy before. I have too many clothes for any number of closets, but I only wear about 20% of them (mostly due to fit). Living in a city with this many concert venues is financially dangerous. I absolutely cannot sit still anymore. Even though I’m a cat person through and through, I’m not totally opposed to having a dog…one day. Girly-sized concert t-shirts, Threadless t-shirts, and all other brands like Threadless, do NOT agree with my body type (or any female with hips, really).

Shows I Look Forward to Watching Every Week and Miss the Most When They’re Gone:

Dexter, The Soup, Survivor was really good this past season, Psych, Chuck, Top Chef, House, 30 Rock, Pushing Daisies, Flipping Out

TV shows I’m a Little Embarrassed to Admit I Watched and Enjoyed:

Anything related to Rock of Love and I Love Money, Bad Girls Club, Rehab: Party at the Hard Rock Hotel, Baby Borrowers, ANTM, A Double Shot at Love (oh the HO-rror)

Best Book

I actually did read quite a few things this year, so hooray for being in a book club! The new Irvine Welsh novel, Crime, was quite good and different from anything he’s done before. Sin in the Second City also really made me think, and helped me learn a little bit more about the seedy side of this city I now call home. Gangsters and brothels and crooked cops, oh my!

Favorite Film

As I did last year, I’m going to break this into categories because it’s hard to pick just one and because I can.

Overall: The Dark Knight

This is the only movie I saw twice in theaters, so how could it not win? Also, holy crap did it have me on the edge of my seat and nervous for 2+ hours.

Surprised-the-hell-outta-me-good: Iron Man

I didn’t even want to see this. I thought it was just another superhero movie when Jon dragged me to it. Boy was I wrong. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that Robert Downey Jr. is witty, charming, hunky, and has an impeccable sense of comedic timing.

Animated: Wall-E

If you know me, you may know that I’m not a huge fan of animated films or television, but I have to admit, this was really good. Touching, heartwarming, nicely paced and beautifully made.

Funny: Role Models

This is the film I remember laughing the hardest at, anyway. Considering the lack of promotion for it, I was shocked at how good it was. I guess it didn’t hurt that I got to see an advance screening with Paul Rudd actually there, doing a Q&A. He is kind of dreamy and all. Pineapple Express and Forgetting Sarah Marshall (Veronica Mars as a complete bitch! What?) were great too, but in a more predictable way, if that makes any sense.

Least Favorite Film

Burn After Reading depressed the shit out of me. Maybe that was the point, but why do I want to pay to feel sad for two hours? It just seemed like a lot of bad stuff happening to people who had no control over anything in their lives. Maybe it was a bit too real for my tastes.

Also in the mildly disappointing category:

The X-Files – very little remains of the show that I loved for so many years. Too preachy and not enough weirdness or aliens. Indiana Jones – A little too campy and too many aliens? The Happening – What can I say about M. Night? He finally gives me an R-rated experience and blows his load in the Red Band trailer. I’d already seen all of the good parts before I bought my ticket. And whatup with Marky Mark in the main role? M. Nizzle, you KNOW homeboy can’t act. *sigh* Cloverfield – I did like this one, but I had built it up so much in my head, that nothing could have lived up to my expectations. It was much better than the other three films, though. There weren’t really any outstanding sci-fi flicks this year, which is incredibly sad.

Biggest Surprise

Where do I even start with this? The presidential election, any number of unbelievable things I’ve gotten to do this year, having the opportunity to interview Irvine Welsh (the 16-year-old Alissa would have DIED knowing that this would happen), the Miami Dolphins winning their division after being beyond awful last year (less surprising was their loss in the first round of the playoffs today –ughhh!), the Florida Gators in the National Championship again, I could go on forever…

Best Decision

Moving into our new apartment, despite the always-scary rent increase. This move has changed my view of Chicago, literally and figuratively. Cutting 40 minutes each way off of my daily work commute has also given me more time to play around with my computer and write, write, write.

Worst Decision

Running to the train in my work shoes, leading to the aforementioned fractured leg. That ate up a good portion of my year and prevented me from doing quite a few things that I could have otherwise done (though not everything, luckily). Lesson learned!

Favorite Place Visited

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to travel all that much this year, so it’s between Florida and Iowa. Probably no surprise here, but I choose Florida. While in Orlando for Jon’s brother’s wedding, we took a day out and went to Animal Kingdom. It was such a perfect day from start to finish. If I took this question a different route, I might say Grant Park (because of Lollapalooza and the huge Election Night shindig with Obama) or the Metro (because of all the fantastic shows/events I’ve seen there and the wonderful people I’ve met), but I’ll just stick to the more literal answer.

Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2009

Springtime in Chicago, new possibilities, President Barack Obama, exploring the world around me, travel, new computer (please???), more concerts, new friends, seeing old friends more often, getting better at keeping in touch with people, spending more time with my wonderful boyfriend, documenting more momentous events in my life, being healthy, being happy, being outgoing and fearless, taking better care of my apartment (cleaning, yuck!), National Champion Florida Gators, saving some money, enjoying the good and forgetting the bad, learning everything I can, and as always, becoming a better person.

Happy New Year everyone!

1 comment:

Camera Crazy said...

I totally noticed the "new" you while you were here. It had to be scary to be around all sorts of folks at the wedding you didn't know--and even some of us you do. You are such a wonderful writer Alissa.