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Week 34: Pop in context

I listen to a lot of music, and I listen to a lot of different music.

There are a few reasons for this. First, I just like a lot of stuff — pop, country, rap, indie rock, folk, hip-hop, oldies. A lot of people say they listen to a little of everything; I really do. Second, I like to be in-the-know. I like to know what’s new and keep up with what’s popular, and I really like being the one to introduce my friends to new music. Third, I like to see the big picture. I love music history, and you have to listen to a broad range to really appreciate how one artist or genre leads to and shapes another.

It follows, then, that I am a big fan of Alanis Morissette. Obviously, her music is fantastic and awesome. Twenty years later, it still holds up, it’s still great songwriting and it still resonates with women my age. In my opinion, Jagged Little Pill ranks among the best albums of the past few decades.

More than that, though, Alanis was a pioneer. I will argue that she is one of the most important female pop artists ever. She was a solo female singer who wrote her own music. She was one of the first to offer honest, raw songwriting. She pretty much invented the angry breakup song. Sure, Whitney and Mariah sang about love, but they were either happy or sad. Alanis Morissette was furious, and she told it like it was. I could sit here for a while naming all the female pop stars who owe Alanis for the road she paved for them.

I was making this case to a friend this weekend. Then Taylor Swift went and did this, pretty much echoing what I said. For all the things I do not like about Taylor, I’m glad to know we are in 100 percent agreement on this one.

In today’s digital age, there is so much music. It is at our fingertips all the time, and there are new songs being released every day. There is just more than there was at any time before. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to the music of the past.

It actually really bothers me when I learn someone doesn’t know any music from before his or her lifetime or only listens to new hits. Besides just plain missing out (the music of the ’70s and ’80s is freaking great!), that person is then lacking the context for the songs of today, unaware of influences, samples and homages.

We could be talking the Beatles, we could be talking Marvin Gaye or we could be talking Alanis Morissette, but listening to the music of past decades gives you a better sense of the music now, where it came from and how it evolved and to whom it owes credit. Not to mention, it’s just fantastic stuff.

Ok, going to go rock out to my girl now.

Endnotes:

Currently reading: Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

Currently watching: Seinfeld, season 9

Song of the week: “Monsters” by Timeflies & Katie Sky

Plans for the week: Just got back from a Palm Springs girls’ weekend, so I’m keeping it pretty chill. Fantasy football drafts and a Cubs-Dodgers game are my only major plans.

Week 30: Yoga etiquette 101

I am what you might call a yogi. I have been practicing yoga regularly for about five years now, and it has made big differences in my life — physically, mentally, breathing-ally. I’m still not very good (and probably never will be) at the zen, calm-your-mind part of yoga, but I benefit from the attempt.

One of the things I love about yoga is that your practice is only about you. It’s not a competition, it doesn’t matter what someone else is doing, it isn’t about what you can or can’t do on a particular day. It’s you and your mat — that’s it. Basically, yoga fits with my general life philosophy of “You do you, I’ll do me, and as long as no one is hurting anyone, we should all get along fine.”

That being said, a yoga class is a bunch of sweaty strangers sharing a space — a hot, crowded, sometimes smelly space. There are a few unwritten rules to help us coexist as comfortably as possible in this space, and the past week or so, I have witnessed too many violations of these rules, so I decided I’d do all the yogis a favor and spell them out. Consider this Amy’s Yoga Etiquette 101.

1. We do yoga on a grid: X number of mats one way, Y number of mats the other. The studio room is only so big, so we need to maximize the space. This means you can’t throw your mat down randomly between the rows or willy-nilly amongst the columns. Follow the straight lines. Even if the room isn’t full 10 minutes before class, assume more people will come and it will fill up. Set up accordingly.

2. Get your own equipment. I might have two blocks, but that is not because I thought you’d forget to grab one, need one halfway through class and steal mine. it’s because I thought I might want two blocks — for me. Go get your own. And if you get them really sweaty and gross, clean them before putting them back at the end of class.

3. Do not, under any circumstances, step on someone else’s mat. Before, during, after class, you walk around others’ mats — never on them. I know my gross feet and sweaty body are on my mat every day, but even so, I do not want your gross feet and sweaty body on my mat ever. It’s just one of those things. Does it make sense? Maybe not. But that’s how it is.

4. Do not talk. This should be obvious. People are trying to focus, relax, meditate, be alone … not hear your conversation. Do us all a favor and save the chitchat for the coffee shop after class.

5. Kindly restrain yourself from moaning. Audible breathing and even heavy breathing are encouraged — that’s part of yoga. The occasional sigh or release is also OK, but too much extraneous noise, and it just starts to sound like you’re doing something other than yoga. Nobody needs to hear that.

6. This one might be just me, but do you really have to take your shirt off? I understand you might be overly comfortable in your sports bra or really proud of your pecs and abs, but if it’s not that hot, is that necessary? I’m thinking no. You can keep yourself clothed and spare the rest of us occasional sights of cleavage and butt crack. When it is legitimately hotter than 85 degrees, though, I give you the OK.

7. Finally, and most importantly, do not leave during savasana. This is the cardinal sin of yoga. Savasana is the final few minutes of class, and it’s the primary relaxation and meditation time. Getting up, packing up your things, rolling up your mat, walking across the room, opening and closing the door … Do you see how you’re causing a disturbance and interrupting zen time? Rude. If your life is so much more important than mine that you can’t spare those last few minutes, get up and leave before we get to that point. You’re probably too busy for that last stretch, anyway.

That’s all. Other than these things, you’re pretty much free to do what you want and practice how you please. Happy yoga-ing. Namaste.

Endnotes:

Currently reading: Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Currently watching: Seinfeld, season 6

Song of the week: The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face”

Plans for the weekend: Hiking in Malibu on Thursday, happy hour with friends, beach on Friday and cheering at Special Olympics events this weekend.

Week 8: The quarter-century mark

One week from today, I turn 25. I’m getting used to the idea, but a few weeks ago, I was kind of freaking out about this fact.

Let me stop you right there: No, I do not think 25 is “old.” No, I was not panicking about being in my mid-20s. Yes, I know I am very young. Yes, I realize pretty much all my friends are grappling with 27 or older.

I balk only because 25 got here so quickly. I was ready for my 22nd birthday, but since then, my birthdays have all caught me by surprise. I legitimately feel like I just turned 23, and that birthday snuck up on me. Then 24 caught me off-guard and I was seriously confused. I’m how old? Now, 25 is knocking on the door. What? Cue cartoon head-spinning.

Another year, another age. I’ll deal. But this one is a big one, right? It’s 25. It’s a milestone. It’s halfway to 30. It’s renting a car!

So I ask myself: What do I need to do this year? How do I make this one count? What do I need to do so 25 lives up to its billing?

The answer is nothing. Let’s be real: 24 was my big mid-20s year. That was the year I transitioned from my first job to my second. That was the year I moved 3,000 miles from coast to coast. That was the year I paid off my car loan. That was the year I set up shop in a big city. That was the year with a big relationship change. In short, that was the year I went from phase one to phase two of post-college life.

Twenty-four set everything up, and now 25 is just riding the wave and continuing the life I’ve started for myself in Los Angeles.

Across the board, though, 25 is a gut-check year, I think. It’s the age by which you’re supposed to be finished acting like a college kid. It’s the age by which you should have gotten your shit together and figured some things out. It’s the age by which you need to have a steady job and pay your own bills. It’s the age at which you have to start paying student loans. It’s the age by which you definitely shouldn’t be living with your parents. It’s the age by which you hope you know what you want. Basically, you are supposed to be an adult by 25.

Well, I’ve kind of been an adult since I was about 12, so I’m not too worried.

I am in a good place, I am happy with where I am, and I had my big year last year. I guess I don’t have a milestone to fret over. It already happened. The actual birthday should be a piece of cake.

Until we get to 30. That milestone gut check involves a house and husband and children.

Good thing I have five years to get there.

Endnotes

Currently reading: American Sniper by Chris Kyle

Currently watching: The Newsroom

Song of the week: Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do”

Plans for the week: Lots of working, then heading to Santa Barbara on Saturday for a day of girl time, sunshine and wine tasting.

Week 6: Viva Las … nah

So I went to Vegas for the first time ever this weekend. The occasion was my high school best friend’s bachelorette party. I went into it with two expectations: that we would have a blast and that I might not ever want to go back.

I was 100 percent correct.

First, the good stuff. We had an amazing weekend. We danced our butts off at Britney Spears (we were so into it that they moved us up), on stage at a piano bar and at two clubs.I have blisters on top of blisters from dancing so hard. We ate delicious food. We walked up and down the strip. We partied with some of the coolest moms you’ll ever meet. We had gorgeous weather. We lounged by the pool. We barely got any sleep. Everyone was awesome and got along great and bonded. We now have shared jokes and are even more excited about the wedding.

The bad stuff, though. Vegas is dirty. And crowded. And smelly. And gaudy. You have to take outdoor escalators to bridges over the streets, it’s so congested. People are constantly trying to sell you things — or grab your butt. And oh my god, everyone smoking. My night Friday actually ended with an asthma attack, thanks to my lungs and throat finally surrendering to the accumulation of smoke throughout the night. The appeal of the strip is lost on me. I don’t think it’s pretty; I think it’s tacky. The Eiffel tower is all right, but the attempt at the New York skyline is lame. That statue of liberty? Puh-lease. Plus, if you’re me, when you’ve seen one casino, you’ve seen them all.

One of my first thoughts upon arriving in Vegas was “This place has everything I hate about New York — and none of the things I love.” That impression was just confirmed throughout the weekend.

Maybe it’s just me. Clearly, lots of people love Vegas. People who think the strip is beautiful and the casinos amazing. People who smoke or love gambling or would rather be in a dark room than out in the sunshine. But that’s just not me. Don’t get me wrong: I like clubbing and partying just as much as the next girl. But I also love nature and space and fresh air and beaches and palm trees that are actually real. I can think of quite a few cities where I could enjoy my beautiful day and still then have a fun night out on the town.

But hey, now I’ve done it. Vegas is something I had to do at least once while I was in my 20s, and now I have. And boy, did we do it up: Show, restaurants, bars, clubs, pool, strip … I think it’s safe to say we checked all the boxes. I had a blast, and I came home in one piece.

What’s more, the bachelorette loved every minute of the weekend, and that’s what mattered most of all.

Endnotes

Currently reading: What Alice Forgot

Currently watching: White Collar, season 4; new episodes of How To Get Away With Murder

Song of the week: Nick Jonas’ “Chains”

Plans for the week: Valentine’s Day girls’ night, complete with rom-coms and heart-shaped pizzas, on Saturday. And probably going to the beach.