A Slice of Fried Gold

Favorite Albums of the Decade: 50-41

Wednesday, September 30, 2009
As part of my Slices of Fried Gold: The Decade Edition, I'll be taking you through my 50 favorite albums of this decade over the next five days. I do want to stress that this list is filled with my favorites (it becomes more evident than ever that I love pop music) - odds are you will have dissenting views on this. I encourage you to share your favorites within the comments as I love looking for new music.

Also, I know for a fact that there is no way I could have listened to even a quarter of the music that was released this decade. There are plenty of albums I missed out on, and plenty of others that did not make it simply because I liked other albums better.

I do also want to stress that while the span of time that I've liked the album did come into play a little bit, I did not play favorites to albums that I loved in say...2002. If I don't listen to it now, it does not have a place on this list.

Last cuts: Frand Ferdinand's self titled debut, Coldplay's A Rush of Blood to the Head, Belle & Sebastian's Dear Catastrophe Waitress, Pete Yorn's Musicforthemorningafter, Radiohead's In Rainbows, Andrew Bird's The Mysterious Production of Eggs, The Thermals' The Body, the Blood, the Machine.

50. Andrew WK - I Get Wet (2001)

Recommended track: I Get Wet

Why I love it: I Get Wet holds a special place in my heart, as it's an album I first started listening to around the time I went to college freshman year and it also represented the first concert I saw while living out of state (not to mention the single best concert I've ever been to in my life). Andrew WK didn't make anything resembling the best music ever on this album, but it did represent pure good and pure awesome distilled into music form. Listening to any track from this album is guaranteed to put me into a good mood, and from where I'm sitting that has to count for something.

49. The Go! Team - Thunder, Lightning, Strike (2004)

Recommended track: Get It Together

Why I love it: The Go! Team was a band I first started listening to right as I first started doing my radio show Moscow City Soundtrack at KUOI in Moscow, Idaho. In fact, it was one of the first albums I picked up from their library, as their lo-fi cheerleader rock anthems had a lot of buzz around the station and sounded like something that would entertain me to no end. Simply listening to the recorder jams on "Get It Together" (featured in last year's amazing game Little Big Planet) makes me grin ear to ear, but there is a lot of secretly good musicianship within this album. They're more than just a novelty act.

48. Stars - Set Yourself on Fire (2004)

Recommended track: Your Ex-Lover is Dead

Why I love it: This is another album that came my way because of KUOI, but definitely from a different direction than the Go! Team. This album was a very emotionally devastating album, filled with anguish, stellar vocals, and lush arrangements layered with synth and strings. Once upon a time, I shared that I thought this band would hit it big with The O.C. egging them on, but they never became as big as I thought they would (they did end up on The O.C. though). It's a shame too, because this was one of the truly surprising beauties of the decade from the music industry.

47. Badly Drawn Boy - About a Boy Soundtrack (2002)

Recommended track: I Love NYE

Why I love it: This album hearkens back to my first love, back when we went and saw About a Boy and both quickly fell in love with the movie and the soundtrack. The girlfriend is long gone, but the deep admiration for the film and the music within it are still there, as Badly Drawn Boy crafted one of the best made for film albums I've ever heard. In many ways, it captures all of the themes that the film targets (change, coming of age, love) as well as the film itself does, and that is saying something. Filled with beautiful interludes and charming ditties alike, this is one of the most unique and underrated albums of the decade.

46. Explosions in the Sky - All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone (2007)

Recommended track: Welcome, Ghosts

Why I love it: If Sigur Ros grew up in Texas and really focused on ambiance, this is the type of album they would release. As emotionally devastating as something the Icelandic troop would release, but created almost entirely with guitars and drums. The level of talent within this group is astounding, as they take you through emotional journeys strictly through cinematic arrangements of instruments and clever placements of peaks and valleys. Intensely beautiful and beautifully intense, all at the same time.

45. M.I.A. - Kala (2007)

Recommended track: Boyz

Why I love it: This is an album everyone got behind after M.I.A.'s superb single "Paper Planes" became a club jam, but really, this is not an album that is propped up by a single. Wall to wall, this album is filled with banging tracks loaded with a message, and I'd be lying if they weren't fun to dance and sing along to as well. Infectious and experimental and something I never thought I'd like strictly because I couldn't imagine anyone being audacious enough to create something like it.

44. of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007)

Recommended track: The Past is a Grotesque Animal

Why I love it: of Montreal is about as weird of a band as you can possibly find, and this album as a whole is a pretty good indicator of that. However, hidden underneath that oddness is an album loaded with intensely personal messages (evidently Kevin Barnes love life was quite rough around this time) wrapped in disco-funk-rock-electronic-synth goodness. This is an album really quite a bit unlike any other release on this list, but this album has progressively grown on me in the two plus years since its release. Now it's no longer odd, but charming, infectious, and completely stellar music.

43. Hot Hot Heat - Elevator (2005)

Recommended track: Elevator

Why I love it: Pop alert! Pop alert! A lot of people chastised Hot Hot Heat for making a far more straight forward rock album after the art rock mess that was their debut album Make Up the Breakdown, but I for one did not. I really believe that this album should have been the single biggest one of 2005, as every track is a radio single that is better than anything else out there. It is completely loaded with infectious pop songs that are guaranteed to get you singing at the top of your lungs and get your toes tapping, which once upon a time was a recipe for a hit. Evidently no longer, as this under appreciated gem is an afterthought these days.

42. The Stills - Without Feathers (2006)

Recommended track: Destroyer

Why I love it: The Stills debut Logic Will Break Your Heart was extremely well received, and for good reason. It was a damn good album that fit the niche of indie rock flavors that year. This album on the other hand was chastised and poorly received...yet I love it more. From the opening track "In the Beginning" to the killer trifecta of "Halo the Harpoons", "It Takes Time", and "Destroyer", this album is loaded with tracks that I (and only I, it seems) completely adore. Yet what is a favorite albums list without some surprises, and there is my first one.

41. Cake - Comfort Eagle (2001)

Recommended track: Shadow Stabbing

Why I love it: A lot of groups that I've been listening to since I really started listening to music have not stood up to the test of time. However, Cake has somehow not only maintained their lofty status in my mind, but improved on it. Albums like Comfort Eagle certainly help, as from the first track to the last track it is filled with quirky and infectious tracks from John McCrea and the rest. This album won't win any awards for lyrical content, but not every album is developed to elicit a response other than to feel happy and good about life. This is a drive around with the windows down and shout out lyrics album, regardless of how ridiculous they make you sound.

Mike Blowers = Nostradamus?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

While I watch the Mariners as often as I think of it (which is quite rarely I must admit), I still really love the team and I really appreciate their broadcast team. Especially when Dave Niehaus and Mike Blowers are involved, as Niehaus is one of the all time best play-by-play guys and Blowers does a great job on color commentary.

However, they recently took it up a notch. Actually, they took it up many notches, as what happened before the game in their "Picks to Click" section (Blowers and his incredibly specific prediction) and then what happens during the actual game (Niehaus and his amazing play call and Blowers' hysterical laughter in the back ground is the best) demands to be heard. If you're even sort of a baseball fan, you have to listen to this. It's fantastic. Click the link below.

Best. Call. Ever.

News from the Front

Monday, September 28, 2009
There are three really quick topics and two updates I wanted to touch on, and while none of them are really post worthy, when you combine their power they are somewhat akin to a super post. Enjoy!

- After years of bragging about how I've never had to go to jury duty, inevitably has now caught up with me. Early November I will have to go in for jury duty summons, and knowing me it will be impossible for them to resist. I mean come on, who wouldn't want me on a jury? Fair, honorable, passionate about justice, and with a deep set desire to find the truth in situations, I'm pretty much the ideal jury candidate. Well, besides the fact I fall asleep within 15 minutes of sitting in one place and doing nothing? I'm going to need to get a Big Gulp filled with a Caramel Americano to survive this.

Here's hoping my case is eerily similar to the one from the Pauly Short classic film Jury Duty, minus the serial killer and lengthy case parts and plus the Tia Carrere (circa 1995) part.

- Somehow I've gotten to the point where over 20,000 visitors have came to my blog. I don't know who I feel worse for: myself for writing that much nonsense or you all for suffering through it. Can't wait for the next 20,000, especially considering I'm getting more visitors than ever. Thanks for stopping by!

- My comic blog has now hit the big time. After numerous quotes from comic publishers, high profile interviews, and tons of content, we officially decided to purchase our own web space: Multiversity Comics is now at http://www.multiversitycomics.com. Awesome! Congrats to Matt and Gil, my compatriots who have done a masterful job starting it up, and I appreciate them letting me tag along for the ride.

- Yes Month update: This month has completely ruled, and by my count I've still only really said no once (to the Germans about going to Firetap late on a work night). Been busy as hell and I've had an amazing time so far. Thanks Yes Month!

- Starting this Wednesday, I will start counting down my top 50 albums of the 2000's. Wednesday will be 50-41, Thursday will be 40 through 31, and so on and so forth, with my top ten falling on Sunday. Expect shocking revelations and surprising choices all over the place.

The Weekend Edition

Sunday, September 27, 2009
This weekend was a bittersweet one, as it was a lot of fun but at the same time it represented the last weekend myself and my friends were going to be able to spend with our wonderful friend Amy Steele. She's being a jerk and is moving, but alas, at least it gave us a good excuse to have a party. What went down this weekend?
  • Iron & Wine at the Wendy Williamson with my mom and sister
  • Koots with Cate, Eric, Joanne, Lorna, Jason, Becca and Team Germany
  • (500) Days of Summer with Amy
  • Amy's going away dinner at Simon and Seafort's
  • Hijinks and tomfoolery at Point Woronzof
  • Party down at my place with everyone
  • Peanut Farm for football Sunday with Jason and Joanne (go Pats!)
  • Relaxing all day after that (very necessary)

Us shrouded by the sunset

Our Saturday evening was quite magical, with a large posse of us Alaskans going from a very nice dinner at Simon and Seafort's, going on a road trip to Point Woronzof to watch the sunset, and then going back to my place for Rock Band, beer pong, and loads of ridiculousness. It was a great time, one in which we figured out what exactly I was going to be for Halloween (very exciting), we made Amy sad and happy simultaneously (my going away present was quite well received), and we had a ton of fun while doing it. All in all the party was a great success, and I will stop using words and share pictures instead. See them below.

Cate, Darren, Amy, Eric and I harassing Joanne at the end of the night

Ladies rocking the house

I'm pointing everyone to the future...of America

Three person piggy back!

Iron and Wine in Anchorage

Sam Beam: Guitar Hero

This past Friday, my mom, sister and I attended a sold out concert at UAA featuring none other than Iron & Wine. For those that do not know, Iron & Wine is effectively one man - Samuel Beam. Mr. Beam is a crafter of intimate indie folk music, and is quite renowned for his high level of talent in that field. While I appreciate his music and recognize his talent, I'm not crazy about him overall because I find his style of music to be quite boring. So Mr. Beam, it's not you, it's me.

Regardless, given that Alaska so rarely gets high quality shows and that this was assuredly going to be one that was huge in Anchorage's cultural zeitgeist for some time, I had to go. Predictably, I'm quite glad I ended up going as the show overall was a very good one, with both Beam and his opener Eric Johnson (from Sub Pop's Fruit Bats) performing quite well with just their voices and acoustic guitars (as neither artist's band joined them on this trip).

Eric Johnson of the Fruit Bats

Johnson kicked things off with a musically strong set featuring impressive lyrical imagery. However, one thing he lacked was any sort of rapport with the audience, or even an attempt at creating one. Perhaps he felt oddly about trying to interact as the opener, but I feel that his set suffered due to that lack of interaction (he should have taken a cue from Dawn Landes, whose pervasive cuteness was a highlight of the Josh Ritter show from earlier this year).

His performance was very good though, as his brand of indie folk was charming and relaxing simultaneously. His guitar work was filled with very intricate finger picking and his voice was quite soothing overall. Even with the extreme lack of interaction with the audience, his music was engaging enough to be a more than capable opener.

Sam Beam: Master Guitar Tuner

Beam more than made up for it, as he was not just a stellar performer but a seasoned entertainer inbetween songs. His stories varied from ones about "churchy colleges" to discussing Santa's Little Helper pizza (the audience ate up this Moose's Tooth reference), and was showered by adoration after and during every song. Kicking off his set with his cover of "Such Great Heights" by Postal Service (and encouraging the audience to singalong before hand as well) and following it up with his track "Woman King" off the Woman King EP was a fantastic decision, as those are two of his most well known songs and immediately had the audience engaged. The only real disappointment was that he did not play my mom's favorite track "Jezebel", although she still yelled for it inbetween songs (I choose to think Beam was simply ignoring her).

So even from someone who is not a huge fan of his music, I came away impressed. This is a man who has a firm grasp on his identity as a performer and works extremely well with intimdate audiences. Plus he is freaking hilarious. Highly recommended if he comes to your area, even if you are not a huge fan of his music.


Coming soon...

Haiku Reviews - 9/25/09

Friday, September 25, 2009
Lately, I've been wanting to write more reviews, but due to the fact that there hasn't been anything lately that I've been desperately wanting to review, I couldn't reason to myself that I should write a full out review. Also, I've been looking for ways to work more haikus into my blogging.

Then, like a bolt of lightning, Paste Magazine started running Haiku reviews of albums on their Twitter feed and I was inspired! So starting today, for the albums that I have feelings towards but I do not necessarily want to write a lengthy and mentally arduous review for, I will start a new feature called Haiku Reviews. Hope you like it.

Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2

Best Wu Tang Album
Since Wu's Thirty Six Chambers.
Oops...not Wu Tang? Hot.

Verdict: A-

Brand New - Daisy

Artistic noise is
still just noise when you face facts.
Brand New feels tired.

Verdict: D

Islands - Vapours

Islands change again.
This time it's for the better.
Synth, horns, guitar, oh my!

Verdict: B+

Biz Bee: The Sequel

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Myself nailing a word

I pride myself on my ability to spell. It's kind of uncanny how good I am at spelling, and you could argue that perhaps my mutant power is the ability to spell anything correctly. Quite the gift. Of course, I used those powers for good last year in a charity event in which I represented my company in a spelling bee against other Alaskan businesses, titled "the Biz Bee." We came in 8th last year, so I can only assume someone had a power dampener there, negating my powers (I still spelled all of my words correctly).

Power dampener or not, it was so much fun last year that I'm back for round 2, with my faithful compadre Sharee joining my side once again, along with new teammate Sara. I'm really looking forward to completely dominating Alaskan businesses, as this year we won't let silly words like commisar (err...commissar) bring us down. You're ours Biz Bee!

White Magic in Anchorage on Wednesday

Monday, September 21, 2009

Recently, I've grown a little less than enthused with Anchorage's music scene. I've come to the decision that unless you are a) a metal band, b) Elton John, c) a Moose's Tooth summer show or d) a very big rap group, you have basically no hopes of selling a lot of tickets for your concert. Look at the Hold Steady last week - evidently at the beginning of the show they had only sold 400 of the 1,000 tickets available. That makes me very sad as I'm sure bands come up here, see the paltry sales numbers, and then go around sharing with all of their friends in bands about how Alaska is just a terrible place to go to.

Which is why I think everyone should go see White Magic this Wednesday at the Kodiak Bar. I'd never actually heard about this band until recently, but a person who was running the show emailed me and suggested I checked the show out as it seemed like something I'd be interested in. She said that White Magic was on the same label as personal favorite Bill Callahan and Bonnie "Prince" Billy, which immediately stoked my interest. Ultimately though, White Magic is nothing at all like either of those artists, as this is a much more experimental group. The sound is very art rock and reflective, but still accessible. It's solid if unspectacular music that isn't necessarily my cup of tea.

However, it does sound like something that would work fairly well live, which is why I will be attending the show. Well, besides the fact that I need to put my money where my mouth is and support my local music scene. If we want any chance at consistently bringing up great artists, we're going to have to support everyone. Such is the duty of an Alaskan music fiend.

Check out White Magic this Wednesday at the Kodiak Bar, 9 pm. Tickets are $13, which is a small price to pay for great live music.

All Good Things Come to an End

In Her Space Holiday's track "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend", Marc Bianchi sings about how his sister used to say how hardships always seem to come in two's. Cool lyric, but I never really noticed that trend. Until today.

Last night, Amy Steele, one of my best friends, told me that she was not only moving (knew that was coming) but that it would be in like a week and a half. I was shocked. Obviously I knew it was coming, but a week and a half is not much time to mentally prepare myself. I went to bed a sad version of myself, to wake up to a frosty morning with cold precipitation, reports of snow coming this evening on Twitter, and termination dust invading our mountain views. It's as if the mere announcement of Amy's departure triggered Alaska to say "hey! it's winter time!" Fannnntastic. I do have to say that this summer has been amazing and I'm thankful that it has been as great as it has been, but still, I'd prefer winter to just stay away.

While I hate winter deeply (it's a mutual thing), Amy moving is far worse. I'm very upset with Alaska right now, and all its stupid stupidness (I write poorly whilst upset).

You Gotta Stay Positive

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Craig Finn pouring his heart out with Franz Nicolay behind him

This past Thursday I went to see The Hold Steady perform at Bear Tooth. I expected it to rock pretty hard. I mean, The Hold Steady are a ridiculously cool band who makes rocking tunes about drinking, women and life in general. In many ways, frontman Craig Finn is simply a storyteller and that comes out even better live. They pretty much rocked the house, as every song sounded just as good as the recorded material does and the intense guitar solos melted my face maybe even moreso than usual (that may have something to do with the fact I was right next to one of the two primary speakers though).

The best thing I can say about them though is that this is a band that obviously loves to play music. Whether you like their recorded material or not, the way they are obviously loving performing is infectious and makes the whole experience that much better. As Finn said during the show (and I paraphrase), "I was 30 and working in an office when I realized that I was really bored. So I decided to form a rock and roll band and by the time I was 32 we had played our first show." To someone who is looking for proper direction in life, Finn's words rang very true to me. What's the point of life if you aren't doing something you love? Finn clearly loves what he does, as he would encourage singalongs perpetually and drink Budweiser between moments he would need to sing (my friend pointed out how funny it was that the band was drinking Budweiser while Bear Tooth was loaded with tasty craft beers).

Due to laziness, my aspirations are not being met on this post as I originally intended to write it up in a significantly longer form. But the heart of what I wanted to say is still there. If you like live music and energetic performances from tight rock bands, see The Hold Steady if they are near you. This is a band who is at the peak of the live rock world and I wholeheartedly recommend seeing them, if only to see their keyboardist Franz Nicolay, whose dance moves, dapper suits and amazing mustache needs to be seen to be believed.

Craig Finn rocking it

The one, the only, the Franz Nicolay


Guitar meet up - faces were melted

These people were insanely drunk and dancing like very entertaining idiots - loved them

"The Muse" Rocks Italy

In modern day music, many artists put on live performances on television shows that are not exactly "live." Quite often the network putting it on will require them to perform to a track to ensure the quality of the performance, and if I was a betting man I'd say that most of these artists don't mind having to do that. I mean come on, performing live is stressful. It's a lot easier to just fake it.

Evidently, Muse is not one of those bands (another reason as to why they are one of the coolest bands around). Recently they appeared on an Italian talk show in which the show told them to perform to a track and the show incessantly referred to them as "the Muse." So, as a bit of revenge the band gave their performance with each band member playing a different instrument than usual, most notably lead singer/guitarist/keyboardist playing the drums like he was an old windup drumming monkey. It's pretty fantastic, especially considering you can tell that no one at the "performance" could tell any difference between that and what Muse should have been like. Go Italia!

Ghostland Observatory: Dance Party Plus in AK

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Alaska is kind of on fire with concerts right now, at least relative to our normal amount of fire. First we had the Hold Steady coming to visit Bear Tooth this past Thursday (more on that later), then next week we have Iron and Wine visiting, and now comes word of Ghostland Observatory coming up to visit on November 5th. While I may like the Hold Steady a bit more recorded than Ghostland, I have no doubt in my mind that Ghostland is going to put on one of the best shows around as everyone I know that has seen them raves about their live performances.

In fact, when we went to Sasquatch 2008 and saw the Flaming Lips UFO show to close out the festival, Ghostland was playing at the same time on another stage. Could not skip the Lips (obviously), but when we were getting onto the bus after the show was over to go back to our campsite, a woman told us that she saw Ghostland instead (she'd seen the Lips many a time before) and that Ghostland completely blew them away. This was immediately following a Lips show that blew my mind and immediately escalated into my "favorite live shows" discussion. Evidently there was an amazing laser light show and strippers involved, plus Ghostland's keyboardist wears a cape. A CAPE! How could that not be amazing?

Needless to say, I'm pumped about the show and really cannot wait to see them. It's going to be a dance party plus for sure (or a booty shaker as that woman at Sasquatch said it), and I can't wait to dust off my ol' dancin' shoes.

Save Your Library

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Philadelphia Free Library

When I was growing up, I read constantly. Whether it was checking out every Matt Christopher book known to man at my elementary school, or disturbing my 8th grade English teacher by reading James Ellroy's L.A. Confidential and Dean Koontz' Dark Rivers of the Heart and doing oral book reports on them, or terrorizing the Loussac Library in Anchorage as a youngster, perpetually departing with a stack of books and the old video Bambi vs. Godzilla while wearing a typically goofy smile on my face, I was addicted to reading.

In fact, reading so heavily throughout my life has been a big part of my development as a person. I learned life lessons from Atticus Finch. I learned that in some places they eat until they're hungry from the Phantom Tollbooth (I have yet to find this place). I even learned that the best way to properly collar a perp was through force from Bud White. Books gave me the opportunity to develop my varied knowledge base (and a bit from video games: how else would I know who Shiva and Quetzalcoatl were if not for Final Fantasy...oh wait...reading), I am eternally thankful to the Anchorage Library system for providing me the opportunity to attain those books, thus helping me become the person I am today - a mostly literate and occasionally quite thoughtful young adult.

Now I hear that the entire city of Philadelphia, a monumental city from the most powerful nation in the world, will be shutting down their libraries. I understand that times are tough and that sometimes you have to make certain cuts to keep your city alive, but if you take away libraries you start taking away from the heart and the mind of a city. When I read that news, I tried to imagine growing up in a world without easy access to books. What I would have been like had I not read so much. I shudder to think of that personal dystopia, that hellish world where the flames of my imagination had not been stoked by the written word.

Now it's entirely possible that an entire generation of people could grow up in one of the most historically relevant cities in the nation and not be able to go to a library and pick up Fahrenheit 451 or any other classic. I've went on and on about the degradation of the English language and how we're going down a path that is going to nowhere resembling good, and this is another major step in that direction. Not only that, but if this turns out to be a successful venture for the city of Philadelphia, other cities are certain to follow. New York, Chicago, Portland, Seattle...Anchorage? Who knows what the future holds for our treasured libraries?

I know times are tough and that everyone has to make cuts in places and programs that they do not necessarily want to. But this should not be happening. Libraries are influential places that open the hearts and minds of those that go there, and if and when I have kids I will assuredly have them frequent whatever my local library is. That is, if they still are operating wherever I am.

A scary thought, but an increasingly realistic one.

Update: Evidently in the eleventh hour there was a vote to stave off the closing of the libraries and the laying off of 3,000 employees. Huzzah!

Anti- Sampler Fall 2009 for Free!

While you're likely not familiar with it unless you're a big music person, Anti- is one of the most diverse and high quality music labels out there today. They're loaded with talent, and right now they want to share it with you - for free! They've just released their Fall 2009 sampler and it's positively stocked with awesome tracks, including new ones from The Swell Season (for those Once fans out there), Dead Man's Bones (the new band featuring Ryan Gosling), a stellar new track from Islands, and the first release from Kyp Malone's new solo work Rain Machine (he of TV on the Radio fame). Plus, there are great tracks by other luminaries like Frank Turner and a bluesy track from someone named Joe Henry that totally rocks.

Highly recommended from yours truly, and thanks to Largehearted Boy for posting this on Twitter. You can't beat free, unless it's a free album that is loaded with incredible music.
  1. The Swell Season - In These Arms
  2. Os Mutantes - Teclar
  3. Neko Case - Magpie to the Morning
  4. Alec Ounsworth - Holy, Holy, Holy Moses (song for New Orleans)
  5. Islands - Vapours
  6. Dead Man's Bones - My Body is a Zombie For You
  7. Rain Machine - Smiling Black Faces
  8. Joe Henry - The Man I Keep Hid
  9. Booker T. - Hey Ya
  10. Frank Turner - Poetry of the Deed
  11. Jason Lytle - Rollin' Home Alone
  12. Solillaquists of Sound - Look

Shamefest 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Once upon a time, I was quite the hefty fellow. Most of you know that, but for those that don't I was around 272 pounds in May of 2006. Between then and December I managed to go from the aforementioned rotund version of myself to a newly svelte and sharp looking 185 pounds, with arms made of things I was later told were "muscles" (weird word to try and pronounce...muss-culls? moo-sklays?) and the ability to walk up stairs without contemplating suicide. It was delightful.

Yet over the nearly three years since, I've managed to keep the weight mostly off...until now. I've been inching more and more upwards (mostly due to my affinity towards delicious foods and and beer) by the month, and now I've grown to an altogether unsatisfactory weight of 217 pounds. Not cool if you ask me. So what am I going to do now...fight the weight off again or just keep on going until I'm the David from May 2006 again?

I'm going to fight, suckers!

Thankfully, I have a wonderful compatriot in this campaign in Joanne. Joanne and I created Shamefest 2009 (it was titled that because whoever fails will be shamed relentlessly for their inability to achieve their goals), in which we establish a weight, cardio and strength goal to reach by Christmas and then completely and utterly dominate it. Also joining us will be Lorna and Cate, who heard of our desires to become vastly slimmed down version of ourselves and decided they wanted to join.

It's going to be a rocking few months, as my goals are pretty good ones. Essentially, I want to get back to where I was - back down to 200 pounds, back to 3 miles in 20 minutes, back to being able to bench 185 pounds. I'm excited about being reenergized and about really accomplishing something. Now I just have to be able to do that. I've done it once though, so I can assuredly do it again.

The Cardiac Kids are back

Monday, September 14, 2009

Stephen Gostkowski: The Patriots Secret MVP

My beloved New England Patriots played their first game of the season today against the Buffalo Bills and it was...not at all what I expected. They were 10.5 point favorites, everyone (including myself) expected them to roll over the Bills...and sure enough, they didn't whatsoever. In fact, the game was about as intense as you can get...and it was everything I wanted from my guys. Especially considering they won 25 to 24.

See, the weird thing about the Patriots for me is that for the entire time I've been a fan of them (since 1993...but who's counting?) they've played games down to the wire and made everything exciting. This isn't something that most people would like, but I loved them for it. I called them "the Cardiac Kids" as every game they played felt like a heart attack. Except, you know...a good heart attack. Like a heart attack of happy.

In 2007 though, they annihilated all competition (besides the Super Bowl that year, which was mysteriously canceled) and went undefeated. It felt weird. Sure, winning everything by 30 was fun and exciting in its own way, but I sort of missed games being close. Plus, our games were always turned off because of enormous leads. Last year wasn't the same as my boy Tom Brady was out all year because of injury, but it brought the return of the Cardiac Kids to a degree (a somewhat unhealthy degree).

But tonight with five and half minutes left with the Patriots struggling, Tom Brady looking hesistant, star linebacker Jerod Mayo hurting, and the score being Buffalo 24 and the Pats 13, they remembered who they were.

They were the Cardiac Kids, damn it, and it was time to start acting like it.

Sure enough a classic Tom Brady 4th quarter drive led to a touchdown, and then they kicked it deep when many teams would try for the onside kick. Jon Gruden (announcing his first regular season Monday Night Football game) questioned it, but sure enough the Pats sent it deep and the combo of Brandon Meriweather and Pierre Woods managed to strip the Bills kick returner with the hero of the night Stephen Gostkowski (the kicker!) recovering it.

Two minutes left. Three time outs. Thirty yards to go.

Come on now...it's Tom Brady. You know how the rest went.

Sure, this may have been exponentially more stressful than other games (I was making Twitter updates throughout, to the point that someone asked if I had multiple personalities or that I was just WAY too into football) but I loved it. It was exciting, it was intense, it was classic Patriots football. They were the Cardiac Kids again.

Just the way I like it.

Kanye Being Kanye

Kanye sporting the dumbest sunglasses of all time

Evidently Kanye made an ass out of himself last night at the MTV Video Music Awards. Why is anyone surprised about things like this anymore? Kanye doing something controversial is something I expect on a day to day basis, sort of like getting an Americano or sleeping. To act as if this is anything but that is to enable him. Don't get me wrong, I really dig the guy's music, but he's an overgrown adolescent (and that is coming from someone who ate dinner last night on a Harry Potter plate and reads comics) and deserves to be ignored like the petulant child he is.

Of course, given that this happened at the MTV Video Music Awards (an event which seems as relevant today as the Oscar's celebrating the best in silent film) I fail to see why anyone cared at all. Then again, why am I surprised by that when celebrity hijinks are only rivaled in news coverage by Health Care and H1N1 paranoia these days. Nothing should surprise me at this point.

The Weekend Edition

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Myself with two cute girls all over me - don't pretend you're not impressed

As previously mentioned, Yes Month continues to be an roaring success. This weekend was a good example of that as nearly every minute of every day was accounted for with fun to be had by all. By all, I mean myself and occasionally others as well.

What went down?

  • Moose's Tooth after work with Amy, Cate, Joanne, Eric and Darren (plus a special guest star - couch surfer whose name I cannot recall)
  • Counter-Strike, Hot Rod, and the No Pants Dance (not like that) at my house
  • Dancing like crazy for four straight hours while at the bars with the previous group minus Darren and the couch surfer)
  • Relaxation at Middle Way and Kaladi's with my best friends (a breakfast burrito, an americano and a really awesome comic)
  • Two seriously intense one-on-one basketball games between Colver and I
  • The Charbonneau Family Dinner (so much fun!)
  • The first Football Sunday of the year (wake at 8, early games with Amy, Jessie and Joanne at Eddies' with a tasty breakfast buffet and coffee, late games at the Peanut Farm with Joanne and...a different Jessie)
  • Balancing hours of sitting and watching football with running at the gym
  • Decompressing at my home for once

With all of the high highs that happened this weekend, I feel like this is a good time to talk about something that I've always meant to talk about on here: the ongoing one-on-one basketball tournament that Colver and I have been playing for a long time. First up, a little back story: Colver and I have been playing basketball together since college, but we mostly played with other people while at college.

Since moving to Alaska, we've gotten gym memberships and started playing an endless series of one-on-one games which have effectively rendered each of us useless against the other person. Colver is a naturally good defender because he's quick and is long, but against me he's like a mixture of Bruce Bowen and Ben Wallace circa 2004 because we've been playing together so long. Essentially at this point, the only shots I have open are three pointers (once a strong suit of mine but a skill that has regressed) and shots in the paint that are preceded by approximately 8 spin moves and are often in the form of no look finger rolls while fading away from the basket. That is not an overstatement.

For the most part, we play weekly, but with two weddings in the past two months (including Colver's own) we had not played in a month and a half. Yet as soon as we stepped on the court, we picked it right back up and split both games. Of course, given that we battle to stalemates constantly and our games to 15 almost always end up finishing at 23-21 or some other rather insane score, our games end up looking like the basketball version of today's Bengals/Broncos match up (minus the insane last play), or like a slow motion version of our earlier selves. Basically, the winner of the second game is the person who survives it.

We've had a running tab of wins/losses for the past half a year or so and Colver is up 16 to 14, but that is after a hot streak carried him to an early 9 to 3 lead. I've made a fearsome comeback, but ultimately that's not even the point. You always see in movies where the main character has a main friend or a main group of friends who they play basketball with and it always seems a bit contrived. Oddly enough, I've found out that not only does this happen in real life, but it's incredibly awesome. It's the ultimate friend bonding experience for guys and it really is my favorite part of the week.

That's even with me being down in the series, which is amazing because I'm incredibly competitive. As soon as I surpass Colver (and I will), I think I'll like it even more. Which is amazing.

Yes Month: Day 13

Cate also says "yes!" to September

Yes Month is in full swing and continues to be a most excellent month indeed. I have many things coming up that should be a grand time thanks to Yes Month, including attending my very first live musical (The Lion King this upcoming Saturday). That in itself is quite the feat given that I strongly dislike almost every musical I've ever seen (exceptions: Moulin Rouge!, Across the Universe) and seeing one live sounds like cruel and unusual punishment, albeit a self-inflicted variety. No less, I've been assured by outside sources that TLK is indeed quite magical and that I will love it, so there that is.

Of course, an update sharing that I'm being incredibly successful at this would not be entirely forthcoming as I did manage to say no to an invitation. Our new German friends went out for a drink Wednesday night, and due to a combination of a strong pull created by my new comics and a fearsome need to rest (saying yes all the time is two things: expensive and exhausting) I politely declined by saying "ich bin ein TIRED" in my text. It may not translate well, but I think it got the point across. Still, I had to be honest and share that there was a no within Yes Month. I can't promise that will be the last one, but I can say that unless I have a really good excuse it will not happen again.

Also, I want to comment on my current fixation on embarrassing my good friend Cate by posting ridiculous pictures of her on my blog to lead seemingly unrelated blog posts. Cate - it's not that I'm trying to embarrass you, it's that your awesomeness is so legendary that I feel like I'd be selfish if I held it back from the rest of the world. Be thankful that I selected the least ridiculous picture of the lot from Friday night, at the very least.

Slices of Fried Gold (Noah and the Whale edition)

Noah and the Whale...and a very bright yellow umbrella

It is really hard to track down every good album that comes out in a year. I try as hard as I can because I'm addicted to music, but I can't do it. Some people may be able to handle it, but that's just too much for me.

Yet, when the album is already on your iPod and you've never given it a shot, that's pretty damn stupid if you ask me. Granted, as it currently stands I have 14,280 songs on my iPod, but the fact that I have Noah and the Whale's album Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down and have had it for probably 10 months and had never listened to it before this weekend is inexcusable, I say. Because it's good. It's really good actually, reminding me of a more orchestral and adventurous version of Frightened Rabbit, a band whose last album was in my top 10 from last year.

No less, they have a new album/film coming out titled The First Days of Spring which will be mine in a smidge less than half an hour and I'd say this is about as good of a time as any to climb on board with these very talented Englishmen. I enjoy them so much, I think I may actually purchase these albums (this should generate audible gasps and "no way"'s from readers, so if you haven't yet, here is your cue). Give them a shot and see if you enjoy them as much as I do.

While you're at it, watch the video to their hit (in the UK, not in the US) "Five Years Time" here. It's a great song with a very fun little video that speaks volumes of their adoration of Noah Baumbach and Wes Anderson and their spare and quirky visual style.

Hank Williams...stop asking stupid questions

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I'm looking forward to Randy and Jabari recreating this picture

If Barack Obama wanted to do something to make me happy, he'd make the opening Thursday of the NFL season a national holiday. I mean, I really don't think that's asking too much. I know it's not a big deal for denizens of locations outside of Alaska, but we get pretty much screwed up here. Basically, if you work the classic 9 to 5 job, you're missing out on a full quarter of sweet, sweet opening day action between the Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers!

Complete shenanigans if you ask me. Let's get that national holiday in line so I don't have to miss a single snap.

Regardless I'm jazzed for the first game of the season. To me, there is football season and then there is summer time and then there are the other two seasons which I don't even want to think about right now. As long as I have those two things going, my cup runneth over with excitement.

My New England Patriots are looking fantastic, with new players like Derrick Burgess, Shawn Springs, Leigh Bodden, Fred Taylor, Greg Lewis, Julian Edelman, Ron Brace and others bolstering a roster that already includes superstars like the returning Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Wes Welker and burgeoning defensive stalwarts like Brandon Meriweather and Jerod Mayo. Sure, we may have lost Richard Seymour (in a complete decimation of a trade with the Oakland Raiders - potential top 5 pick for an aging star? Yes please), Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi and Matt Cassell, but I still feel great about this season. I'm feeling Super Bowl great.

Let's hope the Pats are as well.

Welcome back football. I sure did miss you.

New blog design!

In case you hadn't noticed, my blog looks way different than it did yesterday. Or even this morning. I actually had a quick redesign by a guy I know off of Twitter named Sergei Shiryayev who used to work where I work but now does a lot of freelance design work. Not only that but he created a most excellent site called SaveTable which basically is a one stop shopping guide to Alaskan restaurants. It's very cool and if you live in Alaska I highly recommend it.

No less, let me know what you think of the redesign in the comments if you see fit. I realized after a while that my blog looked awfully rudimentary and that it managed to have its sidebar wig out on widescreen monitors, Firefox, and Google Chrome, so this seemed like a really good time to fix it up. Thanks a lot to Sergei for turning this around so quickly.

Top 5 Films of 2009 (So far...)

Monday, September 7, 2009

With nearly three quarters of the year completed, most mediums of pop culture will have developed a pretty solid list of what exactly is going to be on end-of-the-year lists (if you're the type of person who is into that sort of thing...which I am). Yet movies are one medium in which typically you'll have almost no idea what are the "best" movies of the year until the very end of the year, or for Alaskans three months into the next year when those end of the year movies are released in the good ol' AK.

With awards season upon us, I figured I'd address the year so far. The year can still be split into two halves: before awards season and after awards season. I reserve the right to completely and utterly alter that once we move into the latter half, but I feel pretty strongly about my top five so far. Expect to see them again when we get to the end of the year.

#1 - (500) Days of Summer (Directed by Marc Webb, written by Scott Neustadter Michael H. Weber)

Every lover of movies has a niche that they like a little bit more than the rest. You have your action heads, your musical aficionados, your drama enthusiasts, and many others. Then you have myself, who is a dual sided connoisseur - kids/family films and quirky romantic comedies. While the former is something I enjoy always, rarely does it transcend into my all-time favorite movies range, while quirky romantic comedies always seem to creep in there. Whether you're referring to Rushmore, the Hudsucker Proxy, Garden State, or whatever, they always tickle my fancy.

Given that, it should be wholly unsurprising that (500) Days of Summer is my favorite movie of the year so far, as this fills the quirky, romantic and comedy aspects about as well as any movie I've ever seen. Throw in the fact that it is bolstered by two exceptional lead performances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (an actor I love and my personal choice to play Yorick Brown in Y the Last Man) and the love of my life Zooey Deschanel, that it is told in an idiosyncratic and engaging structure, and that it has one of the best score/soundtrack combinations in recent memory, well...this is a film that hit me hard.

If you're a hopeless romantic such as myself, mired in a world where everyone around him is getting married and I'm left to my own devices, this will really speak to you. It's about fate, it's about love, it's about finding the one and figuring out if she's the right one. It's about life and being young and discovering what it is that you really want, no matter how hard it hurts. Through it all, it's a movie that speaks directly to me as a viewer and allows you to project yourself as the lead, not unlike the scene where the main character Tom imagines himself as the protagonist to various depressing French films.

A truly wonderful and unique film filled with innovative flair, I really never thought something could top Up, but this did.

Plus, any movie that demonstrates what a young man feels like after the first time he sleeps with the girl of his dreams with what goes on in the scene depicted below is assuredly going to be a winner in my book.

#2 - Up (Co-directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, written by Bob Peterson)

Arguably Pixar's finest film yet, this movie is at times touching, hilarious, action packed and about as close to perfection as you can get for a family film. Basically, if you don't like it you are a heartless monster.

Check out my full review here.

#3 - District 9 (Written and directed by Neill Blomkamp)

This movie never would have happened if the Halo movie wasn't scrapped because of Peter Jackson's insistence that unknown Blomkamp directed it. In that case, I'm very happy it was scrapped as Blomkamp shows the world what you can do with a lot of creativity and $30 million - make one of the best sci-fi flicks in recent memory.

Check out my full review here.

#4 - Inglourious Basterds (Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino)

Inglourious Basterds has been a film that has long been rumored to be in varying levels of production, as QT had the script developed for quite some time. After rumors aplenty about it starring anyone from Adam Sandler to Arnold to Sly Stallone to "unknown mega star x", the fact that it ended up pretty much starring Brad Pitt and an assortment of random, smaller level actors (including Hostel director Eli Roth and Ryan from the Office) is actually quite refreshing.

So is the fact that this is arguably QT's most assured directing job ever. While the film is two and a half hours long, its pace is always brisk and every scene is layered with import. Leading the film off with an introduction to the villain in a fifteen minute scene of slow burn intensity and tragic reality was jarring, but a brilliant decision that proved to be a very good barometer of everything to come after it.

Of course, given that it's QT, it's still filled with massively entertaining stylistic choices (such as the hysterical introduction to Basterd Hugo Stiglitz), a bizarre and fitting score, intense violence (most of which as carried by Roth, whose Basterd is known as the Bear Jew), and almost incomparable character work.

Speaking of incomparable character work, Christoph Waltz' performance as Col. Hans Landa has to be considered the frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor at this point, because his work as the intelligent, cunning, dastardly and vile "Jew Hunter" is completely engrossing. His work provides the film a villain that is on par with almost every one I can ever think of, giving us the slow build intensity of Darth Vader matched with the simmering brilliance of Hannibal Lecter. Every time he is on the screen, the movie steps up to an entirely different level.

While this is still not on the Pulp Fiction level, I could easily see myself eventually settling on this as my second favorite QT flick. That's really saying something right there. I also reserve rights to move this up my rankings upon a second viewing. At the very least, you need to see this film to hear Brad Pitt's Italian accentm, which is Venezia by way of Nashville.

"Uh-Ree-Vuh-Dare-Chee" indeed.

#5 - The Hurt Locker (Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, written by Mark Boal)

This intense study of what it takes to survive in war features assured direction by Bigelow, sharp character work in the script by Boal and incredible performances by Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie.

Check my full review for this here.

Honorable Mentions: Coraline, Star Trek, I Love You, Man, Star Trek, Moon.

The Weekend Edition (Labor Day Style)

Cate was clearly into the weekend as well

Any time you have a three day weekend at your disposal you will likely have a better time than usual simply because there is more time to do what you want. When you're a person who is going through a month where they have to say yes to everything it's likely to be a very busy time, especially when you have intensely social friends like I do. Somewhat unsurprisingly I just got done fitting a full weeks worth of activities into essentially three days.


What went down?

  • Off work early for Frisbee Golf in the sun
  • Hanging at Snow Goose on the deck with the Anchorage crew
  • First Friday artwalk and dinner at Humpy's with Amy, Cate, Eric, Joanne and Emily
  • The German Party (yes!)
  • Snow City breakfast with my sister
  • Hula Hands with Brian, Colver, Joanne, Eric and Morgan (seriously amazing)
  • Inglourious Basterds with the Hula Hands crew
  • Exercise! Glorious exercise! with Joanne
  • Talking to my mom on the phone for lengthy periods
  • Rib Night at Cate and Darren's (with Wii Sports Resort - swordfighting! - and I Love You, Man)
  • Alaska State Fair with Amy, Joanne, Benny and the Germans
  • Frisbee golf and exercise! with Joanne and Amy
  • Moose's Tooth with Amy, Joanne, Eric, Cate and Darren
  • Weirdest night at the bars ever with Eric and Bobby (after a hilarious episode of coin flipping in my driveway)
  • (500) Days of Summer with my mom (and an avocado melt from Middle Way)
  • A round of Frisbee Golf at Kincaid with Colver, Lorna, Joanne, Eric and Amy
  • Family dinner and PANDEMIC!!

The German Night crew!

The highlight of the weekend (although there were many) was the complete awesomeness that was German Night. German Night was effectively a small get together of the interns of a small German immersion school in Anchorage that Joanne was invited to, and thusly we were invited as well. It ended up being Joanne, Amy, Eric and I raiding the party, and there were a total of seven German interns there and they were amazing. We spent the entire evening doing all kinds of ridiculous things, such as teaching them the fine arts of beer pong (and by teaching I mean dominating their faces as Eric and I were ridiculously on) or wrestling to the death (as Joanne and Benny did later on - Joanne lost).

    Myself, Toby, Joanne, Benny and Alex

    Not only were there hijinks, but there was a lot of bonding to be had. All of these new people were wonderful, as they are intelligent, funny, charming and way better at English than I am, which is all the more impressive given that they aren't acutally from this country. I'm all about making new friends, and with almost all of the interns staying until February of 2010, count me as someone who is psyched about the possibilities. Here's hoping they stay on as full time friends because they are a ton of fun to hang out with.

    Myself and my bride to be Joanne

    Plus, anyone who can make Eric and I look like the Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen of beer pong holds a special place in my heart. Thanks Team Germany!