Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Garden Isle wrapup...

Merry Christmas! I hope your holiday was wonderful. We're enjoying the island winter, full of wind and rain, mosquitoes, and pre-Sugar Bowl jitters. The island is going bananas with anticipation...can we beat Georgia???

A wrap-up of our vacation is past due. Our trip to Kauai was AMAZING!!! The summary includes a drive to the north shore, a day of relaxation, a day of hiking in the highest swamp in the world, and a day of driving through the mud to the most secluded, beautiful beach I have seen.

Without further ado...

GO! to Kauai. This plane was actually going to Maui, but we couldn't resist the rainbow advertisement for this Mesa-airlines based carrier. If you don't follow Hawaii airline wars, this is the "enemy"; Hawaiian and Aloha airlines have even relegated go! to a different terminal that lacks any sort of perks (including a proper entrance to your plane; you have to walk on the tarmac!)

Day 1: Northshore. Nenes and heiaus and caves, oh my! Here is a whole family of Nene geese, the native Hawaiian bird. We also saw endangered I'iwi , breeding humpback whales, and DEER!! along our travels.

There was plenty to do Princeville side, but we were headed for the southside, to our little villa in Poipu.

Sunset in Poipu, at Baby Beach. This was the closest beach to our house.

Day 2: The next day we rented hybrid bicycles and rode them to the end of the road. K took kindly to the sandstone cliffs (that small white speck on top is me!) and incredible waves that day. And, once again, another incredible sunset... It was a perfect day.

Day 3: Hiking the Alakai Swamp. This swamp is at the end of the road leading up Waimea Canyon:
It made us reminisce about its cousin, the Grand Canyon, in Arizona. Very similar colors, but obviously not as long.

Kauai is full of wonderful hikes. We decided to retrace the old route the Hawaiians used to take to the north shore when the weather prevented ocean-based travel. Six miles each way, our guidebook told us that we would mostly be walking along a boardwalk through the Alakai swamp (the highest swamp in the world!). We slogged through a mile of mud before we got to said boardwalk, but after that, the hike was quite pleasurable.

Here's a view towards the end, when we were at about 4,000ft in high bogs. There is nothing quite like this on earth (except apparently, in Alaska, according to at least one source).

And, happily, the view from the end of the trail. Overlooking the bay at Princeville. Boy was it cold (probably 55d, but our blood is thin and it was windy, I swear!...)

Day 4: Last day...we decided we HAD to go to the western shore, Polihale Beach. On the map it looked like a three mile dirt road. The book warned that it should not be attempted in the event of rain. It hadn't rained for two days or so, so we decided to try it. Three miles of deep mud in a the low-clearance compact rental car later (I was sooo nervous), we reached the beautiful beach. We were one of 5 couples on the 17miles of undisturbed heaven. The pali cliffs are in the background. They are the reason you cannot drive around Kauai.

The perfect trip almost ending, we enjoyed some shave ice at the end of the Waimea pier, went snorkeling, and caught our airplane home.

I now believe that when you visit Hawaii, you should go here, to Kauai. It is a paradise. With no high rises, fewer people, and beautiful wildlife, vistas, and beaches, it seems superior to the other islands, but especially Oahu. But it is not for everyone. We heard several people say they preferred the hustle and bustle and warmer weather in Oahu. Now that we are back, it is clear that this place is still paradise too. It will always be the functional island where work has to be done for us, but there are moments of utter wonder when we get to sit back and say, "Wow, we live here." I felt it in Tucson too. Will the next place on the map offer up such moments? I sure hope so...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

This is K talking.

Here are my top twenty-five albums of 2007. As usual, my fear of the unknown means at least a three month lag between when something comes out and when I actually listen to it. So logically, I should wait until March to compile this list. Like the Oscars. But Christmas is really the only time when I don't feel guilty spending time compiling something this frivolous.

So here goes:

25. Sound of Silver - LCD Soundsystem - Pitchfork Review

This album has taken awhile to grow on me. But it has some really stellar tracks.

24. Open Field - Taken by Trees - Pitchfork Review.

This semester, I was ecstatic to see a flier for Camera Obscura on campus. I hadn't heard them but I knew they were Scottish and had been compared to Belle and Sebastian. I downloaded their album in anticipation of the show. I wrote an email to all my friends here getting them fired up for the show. Then I found out that Camera Obscura shares their name with a local hardcore outfit who sucks. And so it goes here in paradise. The good news is that the Camera Obscura album (Let's Get Out of this Country) is absolutely awesome, and would not have been notched by me if not for this happy accident. Their album came out last year

What does this have to do with Taken by Trees? I think they sound similar. And the lead singers look almost exactly the same.

23. We Walked in Song - Innocence Mission - Pitchfork Review.

When I was just honing my crying skills in college, I bought a tape at Wal-Mart by the Sundays called Static and Silence. Boy - I did love that album. Some people may think that liking bands like this (Sixpence None the Richer, Cardigans, St. Etienne, etc.) speaks ill of my manliness. I think that is fair.

22. New Moon - Elliot Smith - Pitchfork Review.

Because Elliot Smith stabbed his heart several years ago, he is no longer making videos. My apologies.

21. † - Justice - Pitchfork Review.

My #1 album of 2006 was French. So is my #21 album of 2007. Pretty rad video this.

20. Love - The Beatles - Pitchfork Review

So George Martin got senile enough that his kid was able to take advantage of him in a moment of weakness. The result is a delicately remixed album of Beatles tunes that serves as the soundtrack for the Cirque du Soleil show, Love. Sounds pretty awful, huh? It isn't. It sounds phenomenal. Of course - I am a Beatles dork from waayyy back.

19. The Budos Band II - The Budos Band - Pitchfork Review

This video is awesome. Great instrumental album of latiny jazzy grooves. A little like last year's Quantic.

18. Walls - Apparat - Pitchfork Review

This year I discovered that IDM stands for "Intelligent Dance Music." Isn't that obnoxious? Here is a song of this description being used as a soundtrack to someone's travel film.

17. Kala - M.I.A. - Pitchfork Review

I just started listening but I love it so far. This song is my favorite.

16. The Reminder - Feist - Pitchfork Review

I think I am safe in assuming everyone has heard this artist by now. "1-2-3-4 . . "

15. Octopus - Band of Bees - Pitchfork Review.

Totally unique sound. Well - I guess not that unique because Pitchfork says they are "like the Beta Band without all the artsy detours and experimental tendencies." I guess you could be worse things. This band is just called The Bees in the U.S. (there is another Band of Bees). Cool video.

14. Armchair Apocrypha - Andrew Bird - Pitchfork Review

This year, I listened to a lot of new albums from bands that had made good things in the past. I really couldn't get into most of them. Clap Your Hands Say "Eh." But this new album is really stellar and probably the best I have heard from the A-bird. Please watch this video if you like him. I get a little emotional each time I see it.

13. Cozy Endings - Artanker Convoy - Pitchfork Review.

Completely off-the-wall and fun. Take a listen.

12. Wizard of Ahhs EP - The Black Kids - Pitchfork Review

When their full length comes out, be ready. It will be the hottest thing ever. Every song is really a gem but this is the one that is paying the bills. And yes - they do sound like the Cure.

11. Emotionalism - Avett Brothers - Pitchfork Review

I am sure that Caroline would want me to tell you that this is her #1 for the year. Of course - she may be exaggerating to make a larger point. I am not bringing any decent alt country music into the relationship leaving her to her three year-old Gourds albums, Ryan Adams, and even new Robert Earl Keen songs (gross). Instead, I make her listen to Animal Collective and Grand Buffet. It is a wonder she is still around.

This video is mostly for her.

10. The Stage Names - Okkervil River - Pitchfork Review

OK. Now we are getting into the good stuff. I came to love Okkervil River when they made comically slow sad music ala the Silverjews. Now they make kicking sad music and I like them even more. Especially great is the appropriation of the Beach Boy's "Sloop John B" for their final dirge. Good stuff.

9. Graduation - Kanye West - Pitchfork Review

Another great album by Kanye. But nothing compared to what will come in the wake of his mother's tragic and profoundly significant death. Lil' Wayne sounds shitty on "Barry Bonds" and "Drunk and Hot Girls" is pretty weak also but Kanye takes chances and has better batting average than the aforementioned slugger. Included is the fantastic alternative video for "Can't Tell Me Nothing."

8. In Rainbows - Radiohead - Pitchfork Review

I would have never imagined a new Radiohead album would rank outside the top five. This video is silly.

7. No Shouts, No Calls - Electrelane - Pitchfork Review

Now this album was a revelation. I have to say Stereolab because that is what everyone says. But it is just those breathy vocals. The songs themselves strike me as far more exciting than anything Stereolab did. Great driving music.

6. Night Falls in Kortadella - Jens Lekman - Pitchfork Review

Did you know that Jens Lekman was just about to quit the game. He had been touring for years and nothing was happening. Then someone at Pitchfork got their hands on Oh You're So Silent Jens, a mishmash of b-sides and cast-offs, and he was on his way. Now he has put out the #6 album of 2007. Check out this wonderful video of his covering Arthur Russell.

5. Andorra - Caribou - Pitchfork Review

Top five time. Caribou is awesome. Not as awesome as Grizzly Bear, but pretty dang awesome nonetheless.

4. From Here We Go Sublime - The Field - Pitchfork Review.

Simply stunning soundscapes. Goes great with drugs of all sorts.

3. Boxer - The National - Pitchfork Review

The first National album, Alligator, was a dud in our house. It just doesn't jump out at you. In our setup, albums get played off our 20G ipods. Everyone gets their shot at the big show but, if they fail to impress within a month or two, most albums get shuttled off to the external hard drive never to be heard from again. In rare instances, albums are brought back for another try.

Boxer is the album that brought back Alligator. It is a stunner. Please give it a try.

2. Person Pitch - Panda Bear - Pitchfork Review

Magic. This album will be a fork in pop music's evolutionary tree. I know Animal Collective is far more experimental and risky. But this album strikes me as the distilled essence of everything great about Animal Collective. Of course - by great, I mean listenable. And by listenable, I means listenable by people in their thirties.

1. Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? - Of Montreal - Pitchfork Review

This album came out last February and within a few weeks I was ready to crown it my number one. It is hard to overstate how much I love this album, this band, and in particular, Kevin Barnes, the lead singer. It is nice to see a man having a nice time. And having a bad time.

If you have the opportunity to see this band live, I recommend it. That means you, Dacks.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Off to the Garden Isle!

The semester ends today for me, wahoo! Teaching this semester has kept me pretty busy. I realize my 4 credit class isn't as difficult as what some people do, but I do have another (full-time) job too which makes me pretty darn overwhelmed sometimes. K and I both work almost every weekend and lots of nights too, so we are quite ready for a break.

And so we are headed off to Kauai this weekend for a little R&R. No dog. No computers. No time to be anywhere. And absolutely zero plans.

This will be the first time I go on vacation in the last few years that does not involve going to a wedding, playing frisbee, attending meetings, or cleaning houses. While it is only 4 days, 3 nights, I plan on enjoying every minute of it.

The best part? We got a new camera so we can actually take pictures again! And I have a feeling that this will be the best island yet. Secret tunnels? Grand Canyons? Rainiest place on earth? Or maybe we'll just stay at our cottage, snorkel, and bask in the sun. Isn't that what you are supposed to do when you visit Hawaii?

Monday, December 03, 2007

"We Believe!!!"


Never in a million billion years did I think Hawaii could do what they did.

And we were there to see it. Oh my gosh, it was amazing. What a perfect day. We spent the afternoon tailgating with the Zoology grad students, who awesomely prepared, among other things, a fried turkey (memories of Karl's fry parties made me happy). After partying, we had to walk a mile, downhill, to the stadium. This was no biggie, unless of course we lost, and then we would have to trudge back up the hill in the cold, December rain. (Incidentally, our island snow has now lasted 3 weeks. Welcome to the winter rainy season. Side note, the rain isn't really cold.)

We sat at the north end zone, in what we found out later were not our seats at all. Here we are, with Castle, before the game:

Our seats were pretty decent for costing $5. I am technically considered a "student" at UH, since they lack a category for postdocs. While this typically angers me immensely, I have learned to take advantage of the $5 tickets and suck it up. Kyle was my $32 guest, and it was really the best $44* I have spent in Hawaii (*$7 for beer).

The game began dismally. Washington scored on their first drive. We fumbled. Washington scored on their 2nd drive. Colt got sacked. Washington just looked too big and too fast. We were too slow and too nervous. 0-21 after the first quarter. Boy were we sad.

Not as sad as the couple sitting in front of us. They slept through the entire first quarter (slept is really not the right word, more liked passed out). More on them later.

We held the Huskies in the 2nd and even managed to score three. 21-28. Things were starting to look possible.

Third quarter, nothing but defense. Could we pull it off?

4th quarter, Jason Rivers, 40 yard touchdown. WAHOO! When we took the lead 35-28 in the 4th quarter, with 44 seconds left to go, I was worried. That was a lot of time. Cheers of "BCS, BCS, BCS" started to fill the stadium. The pom-pom girls were pretty sure of the win and showed off their new 12-0 tee shirts. Washington got the ball back to Hawaii's 3rd yard line. The pom-pom girls, realizing their impatience, took off their shirts and scowled. Everyone held their breath.

Everyone except the couple in front of us, now joined by the girl's sister, who insisted on badgering the man beside us. He had called them "haole bitches" earlier after they decided to smoke in the stadium. Throughout the game, words were exchanged, cops were called over; it was a nice side-story as long as nothing was going on. Now that our entire season came down to this play, and they were still not watching the field, I grew tired of their antics and pretended to call the cops. They finally shut up and left.

The next-to-the-last play of the game was UH intercepting a well thrown ball to a what appeared to be a wide-open Washington receiver in the endzone. The last play of the game, where Colt took a knee, was about 10 minutes later after fans were cleared from the field. It was incredible.

As you may have heard, Hawaii is going to the Sugar Bowl. This sort of sucks for fans, since it is a long way to travel, and it is a lot closer to Georgia. But I think we'll represent. Being a part of football in Hawaii has been something special. The whole entire state is behind this team. The team motto: "We believe".

Huck the Fuskies, and Damn a Dawg. The Warriors will show those leg humpers how to play football, ya heard! 13-0, 13-0!

Wouldn't that be a sweet? I can honestly say, it has been nice to be a part of something this special. Football, it may be, but damn, it sure does feel good.