Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year in review: Albums

1. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
No one can write like her. No one can sing like her. Unlike her last album - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood - this album took a while to grow on me. But once it grew on me, I was hooked. Her voice is amazing, yes, but it was the lyrics that hooked me: "Your rails have always outrun mine." "And I raked the springtime across your sheets." "I love your long shadows and your gun powder eyes." "My hotel room won't remember me." They helped me write many a story this year.

See tracks: This Tornado Loves You, Vengeance is Sleeping

2. Drake - So Far Gone mixtape
I remember when Drake's Degrassi character Jimmy Brooks rapped for the first time on the show. I loved his voice then, and I loved it as soon as I heard this mixtape. I've seen a lot of people make fun of his overly earnest, overly cocky rhymes, but I love them. I usually could do without autotune, but even that doesn't bother me here. Most of the raps are slow, smooth and sexy. I never tired of listening.

See tracks: Houstatlantavegas, Lust for Life

3. Telegraph Canyon - Tide and the Current
I saw this band (my cousin's) so many times in concert this year, and every time I felt more proud than the last. Chris Johnson is a great songwriter. Each song is so complexly layered (Yep, it's an Arcade Fire-sized band). It's not folk. It's not alt-country. It's something much more lush and experimental than that. Whatever the label, I think it is a great album.

See tracks: Safe on the Outside, Into the Woods

4. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - self-titled
This album reminds me of Quentin's apartment. In the summer, we would make fancy lunches and play this record while making crafts. It's so fuzzy and so fun, and, for me, will remind me of 2009 more than any other record. Q and some other co-workers and I saw them play a free, 10 a.m. show at the end of summer, and the songs held up pretty well live. Plus, everyone in the band is drop-dead gorgeous.

See tracks: This Love is Fucking Right!, Come Saturday

5. MEN - Limited Edition Demo
MEN played, by far, my favorite live show of the year. I've loved JD Samson for years, and in the absence of any new Le Tigre, this does very nicely. It's an EP, so the chance that all songs would be good is greater, but I imagine they will do just as well with a full-length, too.

See tracks: Off Our Backs, Make it Reverse

6. Tegan and Sara - Sainthood
This album also took a while to grow on me. Every Tegan and Sara album sounds like an album -- cohesive, thematic. This one is harder, more grown up but still focused on love (both lost and looking). It's not as immediately as catchy as their previous albums, but I think that may be on purpose.

See tracks: The Ocean, The Cure

7. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
Perfect for Portland's rainy winter. This album, like all Andrew Bird albums, is pretty, simple and lush at the same time. There are a few good standout tracks, but this works better as an album.

See tracks: Nomenclature, Tenuousness

8. The xx - self-titled
Plenty of blogs have written about this band. I like it because it's slow and sexy. The songs are all clear and catchy.

See tracks: Stars, Basic Space

9. Gossip - Music for Men
Not every song on this album is good, but the ones that are are great. It's a great dance album -- even better live.

See tracks: Heavy Cross, Men in Love

10. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion
I love several songs on this album, but some are too weird for my tastes.

See tracks: Summertime Clothes, My Girls

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Where's the blight?

A story I had in today's paper. One thing I really want to do in journalism is find people who others might dismiss (the crazy lady who protests at every city council meeting, for instance) and humanize them, find out why they believe the way they do, how they come to be. This profile, I think, does that:

HILLSBORO -- Not too long ago, Sharon Cornish sat in the public testimony hot seat, telling the Hillsboro City Council, yet again, why she doesn't approve of its downtown urban renewal plan. As Cornish railed against the council, a group of boy scouts giggled in the back.

Cornish is Hillsboro's resident gadfly. She comes to every meeting, armed with maps and print-outs of relevant laws, to protest.

And why shouldn't people laugh? Cornish can seem a little odd. She speaks in arresting lilts and frequently accuses councilors of being socialists. She keeps her long blond hair pulled into a pony tail off the side of her head, and she punctuates her public testimonies with a creaky take-off on the old burger ads: "Where's the blight?"

But listen closely. Cornish is asking a serious question. Who decides when an area is so run-down, so in need of renewal that government has to step in and use public money to entice private development? Who decides blight?

Urban renewal districts are by nature controversial. Cities cap property taxes on an identified blighted area for, say, 20 years. Any new tax dollars above the cap during the two decades is reinvested into the district.

The result? The "blighted" areas become newer, shinier, more lucrative. But not everyone wants change.

Other people come to argue against urban renewal in Hillsboro, but they're quieter, given to softly beseeching on the rare occasions they even show up.

Then there's Cornish, always there, unapologetically angry and outspoken.

Let the boy scouts giggle. She hated urban renewal long before she knew what it was.

Read the rest on Oregonlive

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Roy. (2)

For years, my grandma and mom have been describing Roy like this: "She had real short hair, a crew cut, and she wore Dickies, boots and birth control glasses. She was short and kinda chunky."

I've made my own mental pictures of what this person could look like, but when I visited Ann last week, she brought out pictures she had found for me of Roy. She was nice enough to let me take them home with me to scan. I promised to send them back through certified mail.

Roy Hudgens

Roy Hudgens




Monday, December 28, 2009


Roy grew up thinking his real parents had left him in a shoebox somewhere because he was too tiny to raise. He grew up playing softball, keeping dogs and playing the guitar.

He grew up in Delhi, La., population just under a thousand, across the street from my grandma.

He was a young teenager when his parents died. When his body started to change, there was no one left to explain. Roy’s parents had a secret.

My grandma has always told me people don’t like going to their grave with secrets. Which maybe explains why, on her deathbed, Jewell Ellis, Roy’s mother, told Roy to go across the street and get my great-grandmother. The gates of Heaven looked near. But first, she had a secret to tell.

“Rita Mae,” Mrs. Ellis told my grandma. “Roy is as much a woman as you or I.”

Rita Mae Huffman kept that secret for a long time, maybe until her own deathbed, but several years ago, my own grandma told me the story. I’ve been fascinated ever since. Last week, my mom and I loaded up and drove to Delhi with a video camera to start piecing together the story.

Aaron and I are planning to go back sometime this spring to work on a documentary. This was a first step.


Before we started reporting, everyone told us we had to go meet Police Chief Rufus Carter to make sure it was okay. My mother talked to him for a long while about growing up in Delhi and how her uncle Herman had been the police chief then.



Ann M. was Roy's best friend. She calls Roy "she." Ann bought Roy her first package of Maxi Pads and taught Roy how to open a bank account. Later, when Roy was in her 70s, Ann helped Roy write letters to all the neighboring states to try to find a birth certificate. Neither Ann nor Roy knew the real story, that Roy's parents had stolen her from an abusive family and raised her as a boy to keep from being found out.


My mom and I had been trying to find Roy's old next-door neighbors, but they were out of town. We found, instead, one of the neighbors' brother, who lived next to an old lady named Mary. When she heard what we were doing, she disappeared into her house then came right out with this, lyrics to a song Roy had written.


The brother, Keith, wound up taking us to the cemetery where Roy is buried. Roy's headstone shows a date of birth that can't possibly be verified. Also, the last name shown is spelled differently than how Roy spelled it on the song lyrics.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Year in review: Songs (1.10)

Finally! The top 10! I honestly never would have thought an Animal Collective song would be my most favorite, but it is undoubtedly, for me, the song of the year. It was the song of the recession. The song of loving, simply. I listened to it while driving, while cooking, while writing. I listened to it in the shower and on the train.

The others in the top ten are equally as played. I'll write more about Neko Case, Telegraph Canyon, Drake, MEN and PobPaH in my best albums write-up. So I'll just write, now, about the others.

Honestly, I love most Mariah Carey singles, and this was no exception. Woman is a genius. And this Jay-z song? Best beat of the year. My love of this song really has less to do with the master rapper than the beat makers.

The switch from long distance love to the alliterative love long distance made all the difference. That phrase is so pretty to me. And I love the Heard it Through the Grapevine sample. I spent a good bit of time in my living room dancing to this song.

Finally, the Akron/Family song is one I loved early and often. It made it on to many mixes of mine this year. I can't really even pin down why, but I like it a lot.

1. Animal Collective - My girls
2. Neko Case - The pharoahs
3. Telegraph Canyon - Reels and wires
4. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Young adult friction
5. Mariah Carey - Obsessed
6. MEN - Credit card babies
7. Drake - Say what's real
8. Gossip - Love long distance
9. Jay-z - On to the next one
10. Akron/Family - River

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What I did this fall

Before the top 10 songs, an interlude: Here's a montage of what I did this fall.

Fall 2009 from Casey Parks on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Year in review: Songs (11.20)

For No. 11, I put both Black Eyed Peas songs, though I know they're different. I couldn't really choose one and both really sound like summer to me. I wrestled a while, too, with which Neko Case song to put at No. 12. Honestly, I could have put any song (except for one, which will be in the top 10) from that album there. In the end, I looked at which song I had played most. This tied with This Tornado Loves You. This set also includes a song by MEN, which was my favorite concert of the year, as well as by Drake, who was my favorite rapper of the year. Girls may have been one of the most overblogged bands of this year, but this song was totally the end of summer jam. So fun. This set also includes a song by Nurses, a Portland band that produced many great songs this year (See also: Technicolor and Caterpillar Playground, as well as others).

11. Black Eyed Peas - I gotta feeling / Boom boom pow
12. Neko Case - Don't forget me
13. Telegraph Canyon - Shake your fists
14. Glass Ghost - Like a diamond
15. Nurses - Lita
16. The xx - VCR
17. The Raveonettes - Last dance
18. MEN - Off our backs
19. Girls - Lust for life
20. Drake f/ Lykke Li - Little bit

Monday, December 21, 2009

Year in review: Songs (21.30)

The next set of 10 includes a few old favorites (Gossip, Tegan and Sara, Yeah Yeahs, Jay-z) along with a band I've never liked (Animal Collective) until this year. Actually, I did like that song "Did You See the Words" several years ago. Anyway, I'm sure Q will think I'm crazy, but I really liked three or so of their songs this year, including this one. The Tegan and Sara album took a while to grow on me, but this song was one I instantly liked. The Jay-z album is one I liked instantly but liked less as time went on. Still, I wrote many a story this year while listening to this song. Finally, "Sabali" was in rotation on some Internet circles last year, but the proper album didn't come out until this year, so here you have it.

21. Animal Collective - Summertime clothes
22. Jay-z - What we talkin' 'bout
23. Gossip - Four-letter word
24. Rihanna - Hatin' on the club
25. Starfucker - Medicine
26. Tegan and Sara - Someday
27. The Thermals - Now we can see
28. Amadou and Mariam - Sabali
29. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Runaway
30. Andrew Bird - Nomenclature

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Year in review: Songs (31.40)

Continuing on, this batch includes one of my favorite bands of the year (Pyramiddd, nee Starfucker, whose 2008 CD is in my most listened to this year) as well as the irresistible dancy coos of The Dream. I only know a handful other songs by Best Coast and Sleigh Bells, and though those are good, too, these were my favorites. As for Julie Doiron, I really debated between this song and "When the breaks get wet," but ultimately I listened to this one more often. All hail, 2009, the year of fuzzy pop. Finally, I don't like much else by Freelance Whales, but this song, the album's opener, really stuck with me from the very time Ryan played it (over and over again) on a late summer trip to the beach. "I limbs have been asleep; we need to get the blood back in them."

31. Starfucker - Boy toy
32. Best Coast - When I'm with you
33. Sleigh Bells - Ring, ring
34. Sonic Youth - Antenna
35. Freelance Whales - Generator (first floor)
36. The Dream - Rockin' that shit
37. An Horse - Camp Out
38. Animal Collective - Brother sport
39. Julie Doiron - Consolation Prize
40. Passion Pit - Sleepyhead

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Year in review: Songs (41.50)

I'm no professional music listener, but I do buy an awful lot over the year. Over the next few days, I'll share with you (temporarily free!) my 50 free songs and my 10 (or so) favorite albums of the year. Heavy thanks to Stereogum, which often provided me with free mp3s. Here are the first songs

50. Metric - Help I'm alive
49. Heartless Bastards - Sway
48. The Avett Brothers - January wedding
47. Diamond Rings - All yr songs
46. Andrew Bird - Anonanimal
45. Blind Pilot - The story I heard
44. Rattail - Go Green
43. Grizzly Bear - Two weeks
42. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Contender
41. Thao with the Get Down Stay Down - Know better, learn faster

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Year in review: spent


Jupiter hotel, July

I have a pretty silly December tradition of looking back on my favorite purchases of the year. It sounds super capitalist, but I love things, and my lists usually get down to the life I led. This year isn't much different.

so, the list:

1. Kona Dew Deluxe bicycle -- So fast! So light! This made biking so much more fun. I was already commuting daily to work before I bought it, but made it all so much more enjoyable. Thanks to it, I now have leg muscles, and I'm sure to die later (right?)

2. Canon 5D - Like my bicycle, merely an upgrade. But it, too, made all the difference.

3. Half of one night's stay at the Jupiter Hotel -- In July, Oregon temperatures sailed above 105 then stayed that way all week. Most of Portland doesn't have air conditioning. I live on the top floor with few windows, and it was so hot I sat in my room and cried. I hadn't slept in days (despite putting my clothes, wet, into the freezer) when I called Ryan and asked if he wanted to go in on a hotel night with me. We jumped on the bed, drank white wine, told stories and slept -- all night long -- in the blasting air condition.

4. Ticket to Texas, August - I spent the end of summer with my two best guys, drinking too much and spilling all our secrets.

5. Ticket to Hawaii, February - Seriously, paradise.

6. Bike face mask - Last week, it was 12 degrees here. This kept me from dying.

7. Rafts We spent most of the summer on the river, riding out the weekends on two $20 rafts I bought.

8. Ticket to Chicago, April - Sadie, Lizz and I hadn't been reunited in so long. There was funny tension, but at times, it was absolutely perfect.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Year in review: things I tried to learn

My intention often outsized by actual ability this year, like wanting to make pretty black and white photos. When I first set my mind on it, I didn't have a model, so I tried taking photos of myself. It didn't really go how I wanted. Oh, well. I'll keep trying.

an outtake:


Saturday, December 12, 2009

This is not a date.

A few months ago, Ryan and I saw this guy speak at BackFence PDX, a local storytelling event. We both thought he was so funny, so afterward, I asked him if I could make a video of him for the paper. So that's what I did. Sunday night, he's doing a one-man show called "This is not a date" at the Someday Lounge here in Portland.

Nathaniel Boggess - This is Not a Date from Casey Parks on Vimeo.

Friday, December 11, 2009


A postcard I made for Lizz:


PS: Quentin, I got a straight-edge and finally learned how to cut!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Monday, December 7, 2009


Baby Nico posed for a photo on one of his last nights in Portland. Nico and his mom and dad have moved back to Jackson, Miss. Neola, you're lucky to have 'em.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Albums. (00.09)

I meant to post this a while back, whenever I listed the songs that were most important to me in the decade. Got sidetracked. So it is. But, not even a moment too late, here is a list of my favorite (not most important, just favorite) albums of the last decade. With links to lala for your listening treasure.

1. Arcade Fire - Funeral (2004)
2. Jay-z - The Black Album (2003)
3. Interpol - Turn on the Bright Lights (2002)
4. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
5. Ryan Adams - Heartbreaker (2000)
6. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006)
7. The Strokes - Is This It? (2001)
8. Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning (2005)
9. The Postal Service - Give Up (2003)
10. The Walkmen - You & Me (2008)
11. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Show Your Bones (2006)
12. Sleater-Kinney - One Beat (2002)
13. Neko Case - Blacklisted (2002)
14. Kanye West - The College Dropout (2004)
15. The National - Alligator (2005)
16. Yo La Tengo - And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out
17. Tegan and Sarah - So Jealous (2004)
18. The Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury (2006)
19. The Walkmen - Bows & Arrows (2004)
20. The Decemberists - Crane Wife (2004)
21. Modest Mouse - The Moon and Antarctica (2000)
22. Rufus Wainwright - Poses (2002)
23. Green Day - American Idiot (2004)
24. Stars - Set Yourself on Fire (2005)
25. Spoon - Kill The Moonlight (2002)
26. The Dixie Chicks - Taking the Long Way (2006)
27. Tegan and Sara - The Con (2007)
28. Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006)
29. Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah (2005)
30. Sleater-Kinney - The Woods (2005)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009