Favorite Songs of 2010

Dean Pelton as Lady Gaga

Here’s a list of my top nineteen songs for this year, in alphabetical order by artist.  These are not necessarily from 2010; I just happened to have heard them in the last twelve months.

“The Unknown,” by Athlete on Black Swan
“Gonna Get Over You,” by Sara Bareilles on Kaleidoscope Heart
“All in All,” by Broken Social Scene on Forgiveness Rock Records
“Haven’t Met You Yet,” by Michael Bublé on Crazy Love
“Belong,” by Cary Brothers on Under Control
“Radar Detector,” by Darwin Deez on Darwin Deez
“Walking in My Sleep,” by Fair on Disappearing World
“Living in Colour,” by Frightened Rabbit on The Winter of Mixed Drinks
“Bad Romance,” by Lady Gaga on The Fame Monster
“Baby I’m a Fool,” by Melody Gardot on My One and Only Thrill
“Change of Time,” by Josh Ritter on So Runs the World Away
“London,” by The Rumble Strips on Welcome to the Walk Alone
“Castaways, by Shearwater on The Golden Archipelago
“Cinderella,” by Langhorne Slim on Be Set Free
“Breakfast in Bed,” by Train on Save Me, San Francisco
“Lost,” by KT Tunstall on Tiger Suit
“Will Power,” by Turin Brakes on Outbursts
“Pretty Melody,” by Butch Walker on I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart
“Falling,” by Wiretree on Luck

What was my very favorite?  That honor would go to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”  The way the song progresses might bear a striking resemblance to her previous megahit “Poker Face,” but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s as perfect as a pop song can be.

Haiku and Review: Black Swan

Balleri-Nina
Breaking, broken, soul en pointe
Oh, to be Swan Queen.

I can’t imagine this movie being everyone’s cup of tea.  In fact, I can see many people averting their eyes from the screen.  There are moments here, as there were moments in Darren Aronofsky’s previous films like Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler, where human flesh is mutilated to cringing levels — skin ripping like Scotch tape, a cheek turned into a canvas for a bout of self-stabbing.  At times, Black Swan is a full-blown horror movie, but the horror is somehow worse because the monster is within the mind of poor Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman).

It really is a horror movie, with most of its trappings — character backs away and into the arms of something/someone unpleasant, a chase in pitch-black darkness, discordant injections of noise to pump up the fear.  And yet Black Swan is more than that.  It’s a pointed, grueling character study, and boy, does Portman ever come up big in the acting department.  There’s not a single second when she isn’t Nina, and from the get-go, you can feel her confusion, her pain, her relentless drive to become someone she knows she’s incapable of being (and yet has to, somehow).   There are many shots of her smiling through misery, and each one is more heartbreaking than the one before.

It’s a movie about the pursuit of perfection, of sacrificing your very soul to achieve your dream.  But like I said, it’s also really, really scary.

I’m glad I saw Black Swan, but I’m also glad I won’t ever see it again.

High Point Regional High School and the End of the 2010 Tour

Photo by Terry-Ann Zander; Woo was given Korean cookbooks created by High Point Regional students. Each cookbook contained recipes prepared by students in honor of his visit. From left, Megan Van Glahn, Sung J. Woo, Brittany Anello and Derek Vanalthuis.

Photo by Terry-Ann Zander; Woo was given Korean cookbooks created by High Point Regional students. Each cookbook contained recipes prepared by students in honor of his visit. From left, Megan Van Glahn, Sung J. Woo, Brittany Anello and Derek Vanalthuis.

On December 9, I visited High Point Regional High School at Sussex, NJ. There were about a hundred students in the auditorium, and after I gave a reading and answered questions from the audience, we headed over to the cafeteria. And you know what was there? Korean food!

In addition to reading my book, their teacher (Ms. Reedy — thank you, Laraine!) suggested that they delve a bit deeper into Korean culture, so they found recipes on the Internet and cooked up a storm.  Check out the gallery below to see some photos I took with my phone of their impressive spread, plus closeups of the cookbooks they made for me.  I especially appreciated these, as I’m an excellent eater of Korean food but unfortunately a nonexistent cook.

Also, the local newspaper ran a story about my visit.  And with this event, I’m done for 2010.  The totals: 17 locations, 1868 miles driven.

Photos from the Page Turner Festival

On November 7, I participated in the Page Turner Festival in DUMBO, reading with the poet Luis Francia and the stand-up comic Hari Kondabolu (middle initial K.).  It was a wonderful event in every way except for one — Richard Price never showed up.  A shame, as I had a number of books and DVDs for him to sign!  In any case, check out the photos below.