Alright, that title is obviously overly dramatic. The Patriots are not going away in any way, shape or form. In fact, after the moves we made, it sets us up to be even better (and younger) than last year. However, after the Patriots dealt 2008 hero Matt Cassel and long time favorite Mike Vrabel for the 34th pick in this years draft, it kind of feels like a big part of our identity is missing.
Not so much with Cassel, but Vrabel really is the personification of the Bill Belichick way. Gritty, versatile, durable, and eminently coachable, Mike Vrabel plays football the way it is supposed to be played. Need him to line up as a down lineman off the edge? He's got that. Inside linebacker? Outside linebacker? No problem. Hell, tight end on goal line plays? You betcha coach. He does it all, and he does it all well, and it's going to be sad seeing him play for the Chiefs next year (in the theorized universe where the Chiefs are actually broadcasted on television).
Cassel is a joy also, and was the savior of 2008 after Tom Brady got hurt. It's good to see him get the opportunity though, as with Brady back (and you have to assume his recovery is going well considering the Pats dealt Cassel) he just wouldn't have the opportunity.
No less, like I said, I'm excited about the future for the Pats. Perhaps I'm just making lemonade out of lemons, but dealing a QB with clear physical tools but inflated stats due to his system and supporting cast and an aging linebacker for a high pick and tons of cap space isn't all bad. There is already word that the Pats will likely make a run at one of the linebackers in the market, from Julius Peppers to Ray Lewis, or even Jonathan Vilma in a trade for picks. They have a ton of cap space, and people have speculated that they may go for TJ Houshmandzadeh to replace Jabar Gaffney (I don't buy it, but you never know). Plus, with four picks in the first 2 rounds (and 5 in the first 89 picks), they have a lot of room to move up or get younger support very quickly.
In short, it's not doomsday. It's actually a brand new day for the Patriots, and perhaps even a better one than the day before.
I hope at least. Let's hope I'm not just deluding myself, because that's totally possible.
Alright, that title is obviously overly dramatic. The Patriots are not going away in any way, shape or form. In fact, after the moves we made, it sets us up to be even better (and younger) than last year. However, after the Patriots dealt 2008 hero Matt Cassel and long time favorite Mike Vrabel for the 34th pick in this years draft, it kind of feels like a big part of our identity is missing.
I'm going to go ahead and admit, when I first heard of "spinning" class I honestly thought it was a class where you spun. As in, spinning in circles like you were five years old all over again, except this time for exercise instead of general weirdness and to experience the feeling of being dazed. I think the first place I had heard of it was in Arrested Development, when Lucille 2 (as played by Liza Minelli) said she had to go to her spinning class. I should have immediately realized my mistake then.
When I started going to the gym regularly on the west side of Anchorage, I'd always see this stationary biking class where, from what I could tell, a very angry woman would lead everyone in a theorized arduous bike journey in an incredibly dark room while listening to obscenely loud mainstream rock and 80's hits, all the while screaming at them as if she was some sort of Secret Police throwback from World War II. In short, it was horrifying and I would take a wide berth from that little room in my ventures at the gym.
I found out that this was spinning shortly thereafter, far different than the child like and very literal version that was in my mind. Still, I never thought I'd cross that bridge. Too intense for me.
Sure enough, yesterday while working out on an elliptical machine with Joanne, I saw a group of people going into the class and I somewhat facetiously said "maybe we should go try spinning out."
I was overcome with what felt like fear. "I seriously don't know if I can handle this class."
"Don't be a pussy David. You already drive a Jetta."
That worked. We go in there, and everyone is ridiculously fit and intense. However, once the class started and I got used to the state of being perpetually as tired as I've ever been and sweating as much one human being ever could (I told Joanne at one point "I think I'm more liquid than solid"), I actually started to have fun. I think I was doing really well, mostly because during one six minute stretch where you had to be out of your seat, the fraulein running the class looked over to me, seemingly impressed, and gave me a thumbs up.
I killed it. That class was great, and totally something I would do on a regular basis I thought to myself.
Then I stepped out into the bright room and started to feel dazed. For the rest of the evening, I felt about as disconnected as one person could possibly feel. I wouldn't say it was a bad feeling, as I kind of just felt like I was existing outside of my own body, if that makes any sense whatsoever. Thankfully, after a delicious dinner at Bear Tooth with Joanne (who had one bite of her food - who's the pussy now Joanne?), I went back, threw on pajamas, a hoodie, and my Six Feet Under slippers and pieced myself back together through the power of comic books.
Amazingly enough, even though it made me feel like I was all kinds of discombobulated, I have plans to do this on a regular basis now. It's a killer work out unlike anything I've ever done, and I have health goals that I will reach. Even if it kills me.
After last night's excellent new episode of Lost, "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham," an episode that followed my favorite character John Locke in the time between leaving the island and his death, I started thinking. Is this the best season of Lost yet? After 7 straight episodes of all killer, no filler, I have to think yes. We're getting story progression, great character moments, huge twists, and everything we've come to love from the show without any of the things we don't.
Meanwhile, my all time favorite show Battlestar Galactica may be having its best one as well in its' final season, with high drama, mutiny, and tales of predestination around every corner. Characters make dramatic shifts and turn on their former friends, enemies become friends, old friends die, and huge questions are answered. It's been edge of your seat intensity for 6 straight episodes.
So the question is, with the two best dramas on TV having my favorite seasons yet for each of them, which is better so far? Let's break it down in to some very important criteria.
Acting: Both have some of the strongest acting on television, with extremely deep casts full of accomplished actors and very talented unknowns. However, this season you've had breakout performances by Alessandro Juliani as Felix Gaeta and Michael Hogan as Saul Tigh (who has been progressively been getter throughout the series) on Battlestar, while Lost has been typically centered on one character an episode, limiting it's ability for stellar season long performances.
Story: Dreams dashed by the bucketful, mutiny around every corner, series long questions answered vs. time traveling castaways, people that find themselves even more lost while in civilization, stunning reveals that ask more questions, and the return of the un-Losties to the island.
Man. A lot is happening.
Advantage: Neither. That's a big fat tie.
Consistency: 6 and 7 episodes into Bstar and Lost's respective seasons, both have been extremely high quality. However, Bstar has something Lost hasn't had: filler. While every episode has been predominantly important things, the last two episodes have had story aspects that kind of felt like they were fluffing up the story to have a full episode of material. It's something Bstar has been accused of in the past, and was definitely true in the last episode.
Meanwhile, Lost is a well oiled machine at this point, cutting all fat from their bones in an effort to fully engage the audience and burn through a ton of material in the last two seasons of the show.
High points: Lost: Desmond's episode "Jughead" vs. Battlestar: the two episode Gaeta/Zarek coup arc of "The Oath" and "Blood on the Scales."
Not even close. "Jughead" was an extremely good episode, but overall it was only slightly better than the rest this season. "The Oath" and "Blood on the Scales" were series defining episodes for Battlestar that were as intense of television as you can get.
Advantage: Battlestar Galactica
In summation: While Lost has been fantastic this season and has been more consistent overall, Battlestar just has higher highs. Plus, there is a fundamental difference between the two: Bstar is mowing through the answers to questions we always wondered and looking like it is going to tie everything up nicely, while Lost is still piling up the questions without answering the mysteries in the past. Because of that...
Advantage: Battlestar Galactica.
Recently, I've been looking to develop more direction in my blog, and I think the way to do that is to set more routines within it. Currently the only one I really have is the Weekend Edition, and I'd love to develop more new ones. On this one, I'm going to recommend a new or recently released album, plus guide you to a couple other interesting tracks from artists I'd recommend checking out. Now, let's get on with the show.
Recommendation of the week: Beirut - March of the Zapotec/Realpeople Holland 2xEP
I came in late to Beirut. It wasn't until I was piecing together my Best of 2007 when I finally listened to my mom (notice a trend? my mom listens to cooler music than you do) and started listening to one of the many albums I got for her in my college radio heyday: Beirut's Gulag Orkestar. Then I grabbed Zach Condon's follow up under the Beirut moniker, the Flying Club Cup, and sure enough, I was in love.
Since then, my love has only increased for Condon and his extremely unique and Eastern European influenced work. Besides Animal Collective and Eels, I've listened to no one more over the last three months, and my appreciation for the music has skyrocketed while pairing it with varieties of reading materials (it turns out that Beirut is a natural fit with almost everything I read).
Strangely, right as my interest is peaking, Condon threw down a sneak attack and released a double EP collection without me being aware of it until after it's release, but sure enough, as soon as I could get it, it was mine. The two EP's, which are titled March of the Zapotec and Realpeople Holland (after Condon's old electro pop work under the title Realpeople), could not be more disparate.
The former is what happens when Condon becomes enthralled with the idea of getting a 17 piece band together deep in the heart of Mexico to play some sort of Mexican/Balkan fusion version of his own work, while the latter is a throwback to his old work, as it's simple electro pop with trademark Condon warbles layered throughout. That last part is the weakness of the album however (not the EP, the warbles part), as Condon strongly emphasizes his songwriting from an instrumentation standpoint and greatly reduces his voice's role in the whole affair. There are a number of tracks where you keep thinking his voice is going to swing in, but sure enough, it never does. Over the years, I've grown quite the affinity for his voice, and being teased of the prospect is quite frustrating indeed.
However, the instrumentation is really what he's looking to push, and the first half of the album feels like a rough preview of where we could be going with the next Beirut LP in the best way possible. While some tracks feel like you could be hearing them in some sort Dia de los Muertos march in southern Mexico (in a "whose funeral is it?" sort of way) instead of the beautiful Eastern European celebration of tracks off his first LP's, life is abundantly clear in them at the same time, and so is the Condon songwriting voice. It feels like Condon is clearing the cobwebs and stretching his legs at the same time, and the results are alternately surprising and invigorating. However, the EP as a whole is overly short and filled with too many half tracks (or in the case of the leadoff track, 1/6th tracks) to be considered an outright success.
The latter EP is unlike anything Condon has released under the Beirut name before, but due to my love of two things (Zach Condon and electro pop), I predictably love this EP. While tracks like "No Dice" and "My Night with the Prostitute in Marseilles" may land on the side of cheesy beats, they still flow with an innocent and effortless charm. Standout track "The Concubine" feels like the spiritual sequel to "Scenic World" off Gulag Orkestar, and has a toe tapping and driving beat throughout that pairs incredibly with repetitive accordion and Condon's trademark vocal stylings.
It's as if Marc Bianchi from Her Space Holiday tried to electronically recreate a Beirut albums instrumentation and chose to let Condon sing the vocals still. The results are occasionally spellbinding.
So, while the first EP feels like a bit too much like a teaser (but a delicious one at that), the second EP more than makes up for it with a solid 19 minutes of unique Beirut materials. I'll take whatever I can get from Condon, especially when it's fun, interesting, and truly unique like these tracks.
Beirut - March of the Zapotec/Realpeople Holland 2xEP: B+
Track to stream:
- Check out the new Cursive single "I Couldn't Love You" (off Mama, I'm Swollen)
- Two new tracks from the new Bat for Lashes' album Two Suns on their Myspace
- The White Stripes performing on Conan O'Brien's last episode (it means the world to Conan for you to watch this)
I'm starting to think I really don't need to preface these posts. I think by the mere fact that I'm not working, every weekend ends up being awesome and precisely what I want to be doing. Or at least it just seems like that. No less, this was another great weekend that was enriching to my mind, and to a far lesser degree, my body. What went down?
- Cover letter business for Hannah at the Spenard Roadhouse with Amy
- Rocking with Puma Town for the first time in a while (I am so bad now)
- Out on town with the Crewnit
- Having exactly enough time to do all the nothing I wanted to do
- Discovering Chuck Klosterman
- Cruising through a lot of new music (more on this tonight)
- Jo Jo Jee Jo Jo back in town
- Rocking the bball with Colver
- Watching the Oscars (go Slumdog!)
With all kinds of people seemingly considering a move out of Alaska (all kinds!), having someone come back for once felt pretty nice. Especially given the fact that it sounds like Joanne will be back for a good while, I'm really glad I have another person to hang out with a good amount for the summer. After all, summer (or really all times) are better when shared with a good friend.
Of course, she did tell me that I was driving a girl car now, so maybe she isn't that good of a friend.
I think because every part of my life is influenced by pop culture, I feel like it's necessary that the things I love to read are deeply influenced by pop culture as well. Whether it's Reverend Jesse Custer meeting Bill Hicks in Preacher, Yorick Brown talking with one of the billions of abandoned women about how one of the things they'll miss the most are the male musicians who perished in Y the Last Man, or Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay crafting legendary comic book characters in the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, they're all directly infused with pop culture and heavily influenced by it as well.
Of my favorite written works though, nothing is more directly influenced by pop culture than Bill Simmons' columns for ESPN.com. The guy analyzes sports through the microcosm of movies, music, television, and everything else. Whether he's breaking down the Red Sox season by comparing it to a multitude of Godfather quotes, analyzing the Wrestler, or comparing anything and everything to Teen Wolf, Karate Kid, and Rocky, it makes the writing more hilarious and easier to relate to.
While using pop culture in such a fashion is not exactly innovative, Simmons does it better than anyone else and the fact he uses it to write about sports makes it all the better. I really didn't think I'd find another writer that makes me laugh like that and does it about something I really care about.
Enter Chuck Klosterman. I'd heard a lot about him, kept seeing his name everywhere, etc. etc. Then last Friday, I read that he was coming up to speak at UAA (University of Alaska Anchorage for the uninitiated) in late March, and I decided it was time to check out his writing. Sure enough, he was exactly like Bill Simmons, which is unsurprising given the fact that Simmons and he have a bit of a mutual admiration thing going on.
No less, Klosterman does the same thing as Simmons, except he uses pop culture to look at life, love, and rock and roll. His book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs is a collection of essays about any number of things, from understanding modern day love and how it is influenced by Lloyd Dobler and When Harry Met Sally, to the Real World and the way it has created archetypes for the current generation of young people to fit in to. It's hilarious, it's occasionally quite insightful, and really odd (to read a study on America's modern sexual identity by talking about the Pamela Anderson/Tommy Lee sex tape, well, you just never expect things like that).
The guy has the potential to join Simmons as one of my favorite writers, and I just can't recommend him enough. He writes like I dream to write, and has a conversational tone that is superb at conveying a point without making the reader feel like it's being hammered home (to put it simply, it's like you're hanging out with a really well spoken and hilarious friend who has a great point of view on life). Sure, he may look like an extra nerdy version of Corey Feldman, but that's okay. He's still absolutely hilarious, and highly recommended by yours truly.
Tonight is the Oscars, and as a self anointed cinemaphile, I would be foolish to not lay my opinions on the line. This year feels a bit like a non-starter to me, mostly because it has the feel of a coronation ceremony, and a not that interesting one at that. With Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle, and Heath Ledger having all but locked up their respective categories, the two actress categories being pretty boring (Kate Winslet in the Reader was the best performance by an actress this year...seriously?) and mediocre years, really, we're left with just a few things to look forward to.
-One of the most competitive Best Actor categories ever
-M.I.A. performing (plus another song from Slumdog, hell yes!)
-In Bruges in the position to take the dark horse win as Best Original Screenplay
Really, it's all about the Best Actor category. With Mickey Rourke and Sean Penn in a dead heat going in to tonight for Best Actor, and the deadly duo of Frank Langella and Richard Jenkins both giving incredible performances to put them in contention to steal it if the votes are split too hard on Rourke/Penn, the Best Actor category is rife with intrigue. For those wondering, there is no fifth candidate - I will not reference the fact that the Academy chose Brad Pitt's blaise performance over Clint Eastwood's one in Gran Torino.
Anyways, see below for my choices:
Will win and should win: Slumdog Millionaire
Will win and should win: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire (huzzah Danny Boyle!)
Will win: Sean Penn, Milk
Should win: Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Will win: Kate Winslet, the Reader
Should win: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Best Supporting Actor:
Will win and should win: Heath Ledger, the Dark Knight
Best Supporting Actress:
Will win: Ummmmmm....uhhhh...
Should win: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Best Original Screenplay:
Will win and should win: Martin McDonagh, In Bruges
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Will win and should win: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Documentary feature:
Will win and should win: Man On Wire
Best Animated feature:
Will win and should win (and should be nominated for Best Picture): Wall-E
There you have it. Check back later to see how horrifically wrong I am, when the Reader and Milk dominate all categories and I prove how incredibly bad at this I really, really am.
Today I found myself in my cubicle, responding to emails, working through spreadsheets, and coming up with brilliant marketing plans (you know...the usual) all the while blaring incredibly awesome Ghostface Killah albums. First off it's pretty hilarious to me that I'm listening to Ghostface's unique brand of hardcore rap while working in cube world (whenever I'd go to warm my coffee, I'd leave my iTunes up and it would be an entire page of "Ghostface Killah" songs which, I'm fairly certain, is grounds for termination in corporate world). But besides that, I found myself really surprised by how dorky these songs were!
As Jada Yuen said in this article for NY Mag, "Wu Tang really seem to connect with dorky white guys," and I think I know why now. I cannot find any actual proof about this, but at one point I'm convinced that Seth Rogen stated that the reason the Wu Tang Clan was so awesome was because they are in to the same things as nerdy white guys. You know, comic books and kung fu.
All these guys love comics (Method refers to himself as Johnny Blaze from time to time - no accounting for taste), but after listening to Ghostface's albums today, I really, really know where the comic book part comes from. The guy refers to himself as Tony Starks for gods' sakes! The guy is constantly making comic references in his songs (in between massive amounts of innuendo and drug references of course), and apparently has even said on record he relates to Tony Stark's need to wear his armor to live because he uses machines to live with his diabetes. This guy is dedicated.
So apparently the main requirements to be a member of the Wu Tang Clan are love for the Shaolin and the Marvel comic universe. Done and done. When do I get to appear on an album? Can I go on their next tour? After seeing them at Bumbershoot 2007 and seeing the million man march of people they had on stage, why exactly can't I be a member? I'm fairly certain most every other person in the Pacific Northwest that evening was a member, so I feel like I should get my shot, especially considering pretty much no one on stage was doing anything besides hyping and acting ridiculous.
I suppose the main reason why I can't join is because I don't have an awesome nickname like Inspectah Deck or Raekwon, but really, how hard is it to come up with an awesome name like that? I'll keep you posted, but you heard it here first: David Harper - Wu Tang Clan member.
Today the initial lineup for the 2009 rendition of the Sasquatch Music Festival was announced, and my first reaction was "who's coming with me?" While I'm not super stoked off of any of the headliners, or at least on the same level as at least the Flaming Lips UFO show last year, the rest of the lineup is absolutely stellar. I mean come on...check this out:
Saturday, May 23th
Kings of Leon / Yeah Yeah Yeahs / The Decemberists / Animal Collective / Bon Iver / Devotchka / M. Ward / Doves / Sun Kil Moon / The Gaslight Anthem / King Khan & The Shrines / Ra Ra Riot / Shearwater / Passion Pit / Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band / Vince Mira / Blind Pilot / Owl City / Arthur & Yu / Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele / Death Vessel / Hockey
Sunday, May 24th
Jane’s Addiction / Nine Inch Nails / TV On The Radio / Peter Bjorn and John / of Montreal / The Avett Brothers / Calexico / M83 / The Airborne Toxic Event / The Walkmen / The Wrens / St. Vincent / The Dodos / John Vanderslice / The Submarines / Viva Voce / The Builders And The Butchers / AA Bondy / Fences / Point Juncture, WA / Jon Benjamin
Monday, May 25th
Ben Harper and Relentless7 / Erykah Badu / Silversun Pickups / Fleet Foxes / Gogol Bordello / Santigold / Grizzly Bear / Explosions In The Sky / Girl Talk / Blitzen Trapper / The Knux / Monotonix / Bishop Allen / Black Moth Super Rainbow / Beach House / Mugison / The Dutchess And The Duke / School Of Seven Bells / Horse Feathers / The Pica Beats / Loch Lomond / BLK JKS
So let's see...you get the opportunity to see the Decemberists(!!), Animal Collective(!!), Bon Iver, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kings of Leon, Shearwater, Nine Inch Nails, TV on the Radio(!!), PB&J(!!), Of Montreal(!!), M83(!!), the Walkmen(!!), the Wrens(!!), St. Vincent, the Dodos, John Vanderslice, the Submarines, Viva Voce, Silversun Pickups(!!), Fleet Foxes, Gogol Bordello, Santigold, Grizzly Bear, Girl Talk(!!), Explosions in the Sky(!!), Blitzen Traper, Bishop Allen, Beach House, Zack Galifinakis, Todd Barry, AND Demetri Martin over 3 days? I mean come on...how awesome is that?
There are still a number of spots to fill over the next while, with rumors indicating the Shins as a possibility amongst others. I really wish the headliners were better, and I feel like Ben Harper closing out the festival is kind of weak, but there are so many awesome bands to see. Like I said, the only question that remains is "who's coming with me?"
Jerry Pappas: Time Gigolo
So recently, two things have really gotten me in terms of flat out hilarious forms of entertainment.
The first is Important Things with Demetri Martin. It's a new show on Comedy Central, and it is a bizarre mix of animation, stand up comedy, drawing, and sketches (a veritable variety show) from Demetri Martin, one of the funniest and most original guys in stand up comedy. Each episode Martin takes you through important things in the world today, and the first episode last Wednesday took us through the power of timing.
Of course, this led to a strangely disconnected series of hilarity, highlighted by the segment (partially at the top) about a time traveling janitor who used his found technology to sleep with famous women throughout history. In short, an innovative and really hilarious way to use time travel. While the style of the show has a tendency to seemingly fall in love with itself, anyone that can come up with a character who uses a vending/time travel machine to sleep with Mary Magdalene earns my viewership, that's for sure.
The other comes as no surprise. Most of my friends know of my obsession with Bill Simmons (also known as "that Bill Simmons guy"), ESPN's resident god amongst sportswriters, a man who fuses sports with pop culture better than anyone on the planet. I've been reading his column(s) since he came over from his own website to ESPN.com, read his book, and love pretty much everything he puts out there.
Over the while, he's stopped writing as often on ESPN. You can call it "he's been focusing on his new book," I may call it ongoing spat with his editorial staff. Whatever. Whatever it is, he's been writing less columns and I find it really annoying. Plus, he's been doing tons of podcasts (they're called The BS Report), and I'm just not a podcast guy. Some will claim they don't listen to podcasts for a number of reasons (1. I'm trying to support other forms of journalism, 2. I don't have the time to listen to 80 minute podcasts, 3. Journalists have annoying voices, etc. etc.), I have but one reason: podcasts pair poorly with restrooms and work, both of which are superb Simmons' locales.
However, today I couldn't resist the opportunity to listen to his analysis of the NBA All Star Game. Too much entertainment could be had by it, and by god, I listened to it. And it was glorious. After a long day at an event, I spent the last part of the day working efficiently while listening to it. It worked really well, as I got my work done inbetween laughing hysterically at everything from their analysis of the H-O-R-S-E competition to their personal Mt. Rushmore's of fast food (mine: McDonald's, Subway, Wendy's, and Taco Bell - I am not a classy guy).
A lot of people love those audiotapes of books and think they are a great alternative to reading, and I always thought that was a bit odd. This is like an audiotape of a Simmons' column, and good god, it is glorious. I now know what I will be listening to at work from now on, so thanks a lot Bill Simmons. You've done a great job at making me even more inefficient at work.
One week from one of the worst weekends in recent memory, I predictably had one of the best weekends in the last while. Oh, how a week will change things. What happened?
- Crush with Hannah, Amy, and Cate
- Bagging and boarding hundreds of comics plus the Reader with Hannah and Amy
- Battlestar Galactica! Five more episodes!
- Coffee with my sister
- Sweet, sweet Middle Way with some travel research thrown in there
- Bstar Glac with Hannah
- Valentine's Day dinner at Suite 100 with Amy, Hannah, Cate, Jason, and Amy's mom
- V-Day party at Rebecca and Christina's
- EDWARD FORTY HANDS!
- Lunch with Hana
- The world's most epic one on one basketball game ever against Colver (game to 15, win by 2 - final score: 33 to 31 me)
- NBA All Star Game
Really, it was the perfect Valentine's Day to spend while not in a relationship. It was a ton of fun, I got to spend it with great people, and I cannot say anything but great things about the dinner and the party. What an awesome weekend.
I finally purchased my ticket to Europe. While it set me back quite a bit (although a bit less than it would have been without assistance - thanks Bekah...err...I mean Anonymous!), I think my finalized skeleton itinerary is set. Now I just need to fill in the details exactly (with guidance by Rick Steves, I will prevail!) and I will be well on my way to an amazing trip.
My current break down is as follows: April 10th to 15th in England, April 16th to April 19th in France, flight out the night of the 19th to Prague, the 20th and 21st in Prague, the 22nd to the 24th in Austria, and the 25th to May 3rd with Hannah and Kim in Italy! I'm getting a pretty good start on locking down the minutiae to make this trip as awesome as I think it can be, but man, am I excited. It's already the best ridiculously large sum of money I've ever spent, and I haven't even taken the trip yet!
I was always really skeptical of Lily Allen's debut album Alright, Still. There were a number of reasons - I am really resistant to hype trains, her brand of sassy girl pop didn't seem my style, and as most succinctly put by my mom, I don't like girls. As in girl singers, but she finds it hysterical by saying it the other way in public to massively embarrass me. I just was very unsure about it.
Yet, I finally tried it out and absolutely loved it. I loved the ska influences, I loved her sassyness, loved the lyrics, and just thought it was a fun, fun album. She was wonderful and tracks like "LDN" would make me think of cruising during the summer even if it was negative 10 outside up here in Alaska. There is something that can be said about that.
Yet to a certain degree, she was overshadowed by Amy Winehouse's drunken buffoonery and boozy (and showstopping) soul jams, and then further pushed out of the limelight by Katy Perry's ascent via sexual ambiguity and annoyingly popular hooks (this is not a resistance to popular thing, I genuinely distaste Perry's music, and think that this Zooey Deschanel look alike needs to go away from the pop consciousness and be replaced by Deschanel's wonderful pop outfit She & Him). Winehouse gets the Grammy's, Perry gets the number one smashes, yet Allen gets...well, a sub Platinum album in two countries.
Now Allen is back before Perry or Winehouse can produce a follow up (Perry is going to be living on "Hot & Cold" and "I Kissed a Girl" for the rest of her career and Winehouse is off doing something controversial, predictably), and she produced a new album completely unlike Still. It's Not Me, It's You (currently streaming on her Myspace page) still has the sassy vocals and sharp lyrics from Allen, but gone are the structures of previous top songs, ignoring the ska influences and horn arrangements in lieu of more traditional production for someone of her sort.
That sounds like some sort of condemnation, as she subtracted two things that I claimed to love about her old album and replaced them with "traditional" aspects. But that doesn't matter - the album is just fun. In just three days, I've listened to the album no less than 6 times through - in the gym, at work, driving in my car, while writing blogs...it doesn't matter. This is a perfect mood setter, making me happy regardless of what I was previously feeling.
While albums like Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion may be more sonically explosive and Andrew Bird's Noble Beast may feature a lot more musical talent, I find myself finishing Allen's album and quickly starting it over just so I can recapture the fun I was having while listening. That may not make it the best album I've listened to this year, but I'd probably say it's one of my favorites so far.
How's that for not liking girls mom?
While perusing Absolute Punk (my strange, strange addiction to that site, a website which celebrates a genre of music I no longer listen to, never ceases to amaze me), I amused myself by checking out the thread that announced Brand New was visiting Alaska and responding to the range of statements that essentially said "Alaska? Seriously?" However, one comment got me excited, and then led to the discovery of something awesome.
Recently reformed indie pop all stars the Get Up Kids are coming up to support Brand New at their Alaskan date.
This is a band I had just started to get into right as they broke up, and is a band that is packed with talent. Band member side projects include the New Amsterdams, Reggie and the Full Effect, Blackpool Lights, and Koufax, all of whom I enjoy, but none as much as the Get Up Kids. It's like this show just got twice as awesome as it was before.
Because it literally did just get twice as awesome.
Very excited for March 28th now.
In a whirlwind 48 hours, Alex Rodriguez went from a legendary ballplayer embattled by Madonnagate and an inability to hit in the postseason, to a man who allegedly failed steroid tests in 2003, to a man who was openly admitting to taking performance enhancers during his three greatest statistical seasons.
This is the man who people would point to during this questionable decade of major league baseball and say, "at least the best was clean."
This is the man I grew up wanting to be as a baseball player, growing up a pitcher but wanting to play in the middle infield like A-Rod, the shooting star of the Seattle Mariners.
This is the man who every day during my hour as library aide in the year 2000 inspired me to incessantly refresh ESPN.com in hopes that the headline would say "A-Rod Stays in Seattle" in bold letters.
Of course, little did everyone know, he never earned any of that respect and adoration. With the word about the three years of taking performance enhancers and his admission of that, there are two more questions I have: was his admission because he honestly felt bad, and were those really the only seasons he took them?
The first answer is obvious. A-Rod has always been a cold and calculating ballplayer, always looking at the bottom line and never really thinking about the game as a sport, but as a business (besides a certain ridiculously awesome dogpile that took place in 1995 when the Mariners won their first playoff series). When I was younger I didn't see it. I was little and I only had blind adoration for my sporting idol. However, now I recognize A-Rod as a man who saw the respect and relative survivability presented by the prospect of admission.
Over the past 48 hours, I'd wager A-Rod and his publicists were studying the two forks in the road that were presented as options. You have the admission route, successfully parlayed into furthering of careers and even gain of esteem by both Jason Giambi and Andy Pettite. Then you have the "wha? steroids? me? no!!!" route that Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens followed, which led to a complete disappearance from the world of baseball and what essentially is the most thorough blacklisting since McCarthyism.
Shockingly, A-Rod's savvy team suggested the former option, which would be similarly effective if it weren't so blatantly transparent.
As for the other question, what about the other years? No one knows besides A-Rod (or A-Fraud as Joe Torre so lovingly calls him) and his confederates. However, with 2005 and 2007 appearing to be statistical anomalies in comparison to the rest of his career (omitting 2001 to 2003), perhaps the weight of the New York limelight led A-Rod down the path of the less than righteous once again. These are just inferences by yours truly, but if he lied once, why wouldn't he lie again?
People say this invalidates his career and makes him just another fraud, and I don't necessarily disagree. However, the concept that one of the most naturally talented players ever to play the game cheated in itself isn't the worst thing to come from this. It's the fact that young ballplayers around the world just lost a hero, and the fact that he robbed people like me of a boyhood idol. I can't wait to burn my A-Rod posters hanging up in my room from when I was little this week.
What happened to the good old days when you just find out years later than your idol had slept with 20,000 women ala Wilt Chamberlain, or that they were a filthy alcoholic or racist like so many baseball players from yesteryear? Is it really so much to ask for that we just have to put up with debauchery and shenanigans, and no more of this cheating business?
Ugh. What started as an incredibly awesome weekend wiped out towards the end with perhaps a bit too much ridiculousness. As much as I enjoy my fair share of buffoonery from time too time, perhaps I got a little too silly this past weekend. Oh well, I still had a good time and learned valuable life lessons. Yay! What else happened?
- Rereading the first four books of Scott Pilgrim and reading Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe
- Catching Taken and Coraline
- Battlestar Galactica blowing my mind
- Getting Hannah hooked on Bstar Glac
- Drinks with Hannah, Lorna, Christina, and Rebecca
- Hardly functioning all Sunday
The good thing thing it does do is serve as an eye opener of sorts. As many of my friends will point out, one of my most dominant traits is my all or nothing nature. My inescapable nature of going all out or nothing. Or as thousands of cheesy bumper stickers across the nation say, I go big or go home. For the next while, I'm going the home route. More reading, more good natured hanging out with friends, more respectable activities. Less drinking (not that I really do that very often), far less bars, and less of the all.
Sure, that may seem like a bit of an overreaction, or at the very least, perhaps impulsive. But whatever. I do what I want!
This weekend I had the opportunity to see two new movies, fresh for 2009 and hopefully indicative of what the year will have to offer of us. If it is, then we're looking at a great year for movies. Here's a brief review of both of them.
Coraline (written and directed by Henry Selick)
Coraline was released this past weekend and is the new visual tour-de-force from James and the Giant Peach and the Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Selick. This is one of the most inventive and visually stunning movies I've ever seen, which should not be a surprise given the pedigree of Selick and source material creator Neil Gaiman. It was also the first movie I've seen in Digital 3D, and wow, it really, really blew me away.
Besides that, the story was extremely well told, the characters were well drawn, and the dialogue was snappy, and it was like a living breathing fairy tale. The voice acting was fantastic, from Dakota Fanning to Ian McShane to Teri Hatcher to John Hodgman, to the absolutely awesome Keith David as the stray cat of the house. Superb film, although it is actually creepy and is not exactly a "family" film by nature.
Taken (Directed by Pierre Morrel, written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen)
This is not a perfect movie. The setup of the movie is slowly paced, supporting characters are occasionally underdeveloped, and Liam Neeson's family is painfully stupid.
That doesn't matter at all.
Liam Neeson rocks the freaking house in this movie. I mean, he completely and utterly dominates the screen in this, whether he's killing his way through France, planting a bug on a pimp, or simply coldly announcing over the phone to his daughters kidnapper that he will find him and kill him. Everything he does in this movie is so calculated, it's like everything happening on the screen is precisely what he planned it to be.
He walks around like a combination of James Bond, Clint Eastwood, and MacGyver throughout the whole film. It's really a sight to see, and I found myself constantly looking forward to what his next unfathomably badass thing would be. This movie is as action packed as you can get, and is highly recommended if you like action and spy stylings.
#3 - Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe with words and art by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Scott Pilgrim is a really odd duck. The series, not the character (okay, perhaps a bit of both). When you think about it, it's a graphic novel series that perfectly encapsulates being a hip twenty something in the world today, and the way creator Bryan Lee O'Malley does it is by not only displaying the character in a realistic fashion with massive insecurities and girl problems galore, but by infusing the fantastical elements that Pilgrim has been raised on directly into the story.
Example: Pilgrim regularly earns experience points for successfully completing something, he wears an X patch on his jacket to signify that he went Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, and the central premise of the story is earning a girls love by defeating her seven evil exes (who predictably formed a league, not unlike the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants or the Injustice Society, except this one is primarly focused on beating Scott's ass). The funny thing is, people who grew up playing RPG's, reading comics, and listening to music always imagine life if there are elements of each of these things in them.
We just never put them into a brilliant comic book about love, lust, and the Scott Pilgrim way.
Volume five of this series, Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe finds our titular hero turning 24 and promptly announcing that he was going to be the best 24 year old ever, which clearly indicates that this volume will be problematic at best for good ol' Scott. And the hits keep on comin' in this one, with troubles arising on the Sex Bob-Omb (Scott, Stephan Stills, and Kim's band), Ramona Flowers, and evil exes fronts (exes works particularly well here - he fights twins!!!) in this volume.
However, regardless of the trouble he faces, O'Malley still pumps the story with laughs, charm, pop culture references, fourth wall destruction, awesome action scenes, and wonderful character development. This book did a lot to work towards my theory of where this story is going in the long run (I really like Scott's bandmate Kim Pine...), and all in all it was another great volume in what is one of the best two or three series on the market right now.
Now if only we didn't have to wait another year or two for the finale from O'Malley and his bizarre and splendid Canadian universe. That's okay. I can always reread them once again.
This past Thursday, Frank Warren visited Anchorage's Wendy Williamson Auditorium for a lecture. Warren is the creator of the blog/movement PostSecret which began as a Washington, DC based art project and turned into a site that generates millions of hits and a movement that is a bastion of hope for many a person. Needless to say, it seemed like something that would be interesting, so Hannah, Amy, and I attended to find out what exactly a postcard collector with a mission statement could offer the Great White North.
The answer was definitely a varied one, and not what I expected in any way shape or form.
Warren himself was a very charming (if not occasionally cheesy) public speaker who, as Amy pointed out afterwards, clearly has done this a time or two and does not offer a lot of room for his lecture to breathe. It was a very rigidly planned event if not for the ending, as he took us through three sections of his presentation: the history of PostSecret, the postcards his lawyers dared not let him share!, and PostSecret: Live!
The first two sections were interesting and quite often very humorous, and they really allowed Warren to share what exactly his program has grown into and what it is all about at this point. The ultimate purpose of his site is to act as somewhere people can share their secrets with the world without really having to pull back the curtain, as he theorized that there are two things that really drive people down a bad path: the secrets they keep from others and the secrets they keep from themselves. Secrets bring people down, they keep them from achieving all they should be able to, and they are tremendously hurtful if kept inside always.
I had never really thought about it, but he's right for the most part. While he did tend to fall into the trap that his father accused him of, that of taking a selfless thing and turning it into a mildly self aggrandizing event (mostly by tending to turning people's live secrets into opportunities to tell one of his stories or to sell a book), the concept and therapeutic value of what he offers is really there I do believe.
The true highlight of the event was the PostSecret Live! section, where people would actually get up to a microphone and share a closely guarded secret with an auditorium full of hundreds of people. Some ranged from humorous anecdotes to truly intense and highly emotional secrets (some very brave people attended this event), but seemingly every person who shared with the world left the microphone with a level of closure or a modicum of new found relief. Not only that, but it created a community feel in the audience, as everyone began responding to each others statements and encouraging each other in ways you do not normally see in modern society.
Ironically, that part, the clear cut best and most interesting part, also led into what I liked the least about it. PostSecret is, for all intents and purposes, a modern revisionist religion. As Amy pointed out, you have the priest tending to his flock, you have the cleansing, you have the central tenets of belief, you have...a religion. I guess it isn't a bad thing, but I just never expected it and found it a bit off putting that the world so desperately needs to believe in something that they pin hope on a blog about sharing secrets on artistic postcards.
Not that there is anything wrong with it.
Ultimately though, I truly believe Warren and his flock have their heart in the right place, and I got what I came for: a little entertainment, a little insight, and a little bit of interesting in the doldrums of Alaskan winter. It was a win win situation for everyone, and I really do recommend coming to see Warren speak if he's in your area. At the very least it's an entertaining and interesting lecture for all to share. You may even have the chance to share in a truly unifying community event for once.
This week the new volume of Scott Pilgrim came out, and the world of comic fans frothed at the mouth in anticipation. Scott Pilgrim is one of the most original and entertaining books out there, and it'd been far too long since a new volume.
Problem is, the new one was looking like it was going to be really hard to find. I had called around town to no avail, as all of the Anchorage comic stores were not getting any in and book stores were not to receive it until the end of the month. Plus, I started to hear that nationally, a lot of stores were drastically understocked.
This was terrible! I can't believe I wasn't going to be able to get my Scott Pilgrim fix for a week (or maybe more! oh no!). What a tragedy?!
Enter Wednesday late afternoon as I headed in to Bosco's, my local comic shop. I spotted Will, the best comic shop employee ever, and quickly asked him about the Scott Pilgrim status.
"I think we got one...but it may have been for someone else."
After about 15 minutes of talking about other books, he wandered behind the counter and grabbed the copy and gave it to me. This unbelievably shiny and amazing looking copy.
I thought of doing some sort of jig, but I realized that would be weird. So I just excitedly hopped up and down and made unintelligible sounds. It was way less weird.
I guess the general thesis of this is that it pays to be King Dork. Repeatedly going to the same comic shop, talking to the same employees, getting to know all of them...it pays off for a nerd. I mean come on, I'm quite possibly the only person in Anchorage who has the new Scott Pilgrim. That's pretty sweet if you ask me.
All my life I've pretty much dreamt of teleportation. Think about how convenient that would be? Want to go to Italy? Snap your fingers, you're there. Dying to go to Bonnaroo to see that crazy awesome lineup? Done and done. Hell, do you live in Alaska and simply never want to deal with cold again? Teleport baby!
Well the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland is trying to make this possible for you, according to this article from Time.
Actually, not really. They're really just looking to prove that the concept is possible, and they mostly have, making atoms jump as far as one meter in distance while maintaining the exact same structure. Which is super freaking cool, but as one of the scientists in the article said, teleportation of human beings is simply not likely. Too many atoms, too many ways it could go wrong.
But no less, just the fact that they're moving in that direction is impossibly exciting to me. The concept of being able to go places without having travel times is amazing, and the idea of avoiding cold is probably the best concept I've ever heard of. Note to Joint Quantum Institute - I will be your guinea pig.
As long as I get my own personal teleporter when it's all said and done of course. I'm not asking for much to possibly become a odd mixture of atoms on the ground, or to become part man, part fly. I think it's a fair trade for the both of us. Let's make it happen.
To continue the theme from my last post, Alaska is getting another good concert!
Regardless of the fact that they were not fantastic the first time I saw them (you can blame a number of things here: mediocre overall show, bad venue, bad audience, severe hangover) or the fact I never really got into their most recent album The Devil and God Are Raging Inside of Me, it's impossible for me to not get excited about this.
Brand New is coming to Anchorage!
They're coming to play at the Denai'na Center (this tends to make me think they'll be bringing legit openers with them, or maybe I'm just hoping for that part) March 28th, and I am really excited. I love good concerts, and I really feel like Brand New is going to bring it this time.
This was honestly one of the best weekends in recent memory. It was diverse, full of fun, friends, and family, and about as loaded with awesome times as you can get. Plus, I entirely avoided the bar scene once again, which is something I've really been looking to do. What made it so great?
- Aces game with Hannah, Colver, and Lorna (amazing game, 7-6 Aces in overtime)
- Frost/Nixon with Hannah
- Battlestar Galactica blowing my freaking mind
- Coffee with my sister
- Laika rocking my world
- Dinner with my mom and dad
- Josh Ritter concert
- Drinks with Hannah, Kim, and Josh
- SUPER BOWL SUNDAY!!!!!
The first highlight of the weekend was the Josh Ritter show. While you still can make a very solid argument that we do not get a very high volume of shows in Alaska, lately the quality has been really high. I suppose that's ideal, as if I was living in the lower 48 (yes I said that) I'd like to go to shows every once in a while, and I'd like all of them to be great.
No less, this show definitely fit that bill.
Opening for Josh was the female embodiment of Hannah and I's term "precious pop." That person was Dawn Landes, a NYC based musician who sometimes performs with Hem and occasionally captures my heart with her wonderful personality and bizarre sense of humor (don't even get me started about the way she runs/prances every where...she's too cute for words). Not only that, but her music was melodious and very well put together, although limited because singer/songwriter stuff doesn't really get me going. Still, she was a great opener for Ritter.
Up next was the main act, Josh Ritter. Now Josh Ritter was born and raised in Moscow, Idaho, the place where I went to college. This place is very small, very college oriented, and strangely artsy (with emphasis on the strange part of that previous sentence). This, at least in my mind, predictably led to Josh himself being a little strange. I don't mean that in a "this concert is getting uncomfortable" kind of way, but more in a "who is this guy and why isn't he my best friend" kind of way. Josh Ritter is truly one of the most entertaining musicians I've ever seen.
And I've seen a lot of musicians.
He's a total dork who admits to practicing in front of staged potatoes, he's honest to the point where you absolutely believe him when he says that it was one of the most phenomenal shows he's ever played, and he's talented enough to make the first song he ever wrote to be a rousing experience.
Josh Ritter was the bees knees. The cats pajamas. The coolest of the cool.
Considering that it was just him and an acoustic guitar, I didn't think I'd connect that well. Yet he blew me away with his talent and with his personality that couldn't help but draw you in. Never before have I seen an artist entirely unplug in the midst of set, do a song in total darkness, or finish a show with an acapella vocal finale. But Ritter did, and he made it not only not cheesy, but special.
As we were leaving, my mom told me she thought it was the best of the shows we've seen at the Wendy Williamson over the past couple years (we also saw Cursive and Bright Eyes there, amongst others), and it really was a very special show. As I said in the beginning, what we lack in quantity, Alaska definitely makes up in the quality of shows. I highly recommend checking out Josh Ritter or Dawn Landes if they come around to your neck of the woods.
Which they will, because you live somewhere that this isn't such an unusual experience.
Finally, the other highlight of the weekend was the Super Bowl party. While it was far more sparsely attended than last year and then we originally imagined (shame on you Cate and Nick for not coming over), it was still an awesome time. While the Cardinals did not win as I'd hoped they would, Lorna, Colver, Hannah, Amy and I all had an absolute blast watching the game and flipping out towards the end.
Okay, maybe the last part was just Colver and I. At one point (after the safety), we were going to chest bump but instead I picked him up and carried him around my apartment in celebration, shortly followed by him reciprocating the lift. After my boy Fitz's intensely awesome 65 yard touchdown, I actually Olympic quality long jumped into Colver's arms like I was Spider-Man as we both yelled in sheer delight (it was way less gay than it sounds, or, in Amy, Hannah, and Lorna's eyes, way more gay than it sounds). It was pretty much an explosion of pure sports celebration.
No less, the party was awesome, the food was delicious (seriously, home made pizza with Moose's Tooth dough and sauce plus Kim's secret recipe "seven" layer dip is a recipe for pure awesomeness), and as per usual, the Crewnit was off the chain.
Besides when Lorna and I were handcuffed to each other. For that strangely long period, we were entirely on the chain. It was also awesome.
#2 - Laika by Nick Abadzis
To be perfectly honest, going into this book, I didn't know a whole lot about the Russian space program from yesteryear. I knew about the Cold War, I knew about the Space Race, I knew about Sputnik, and I knew about Yuri Gagarin, but in terms of the first lifeform sent to space, I was pretty blank. I thought it was Gagarin, but sure enough, I was wrong.
Enter Laika, a graphic novel from Nick Abadzis. This story at its core is about Laika (or Kudryavka as she was truthfully named) and the Russian team who was tasked with sending a living creature in to space. In particular, it tells the story from the perspective of the eponymous dog, of Yelena Dubrovsky (the woman who tends to the test dogs for the Russian program), of Oleg Gazenko (the scientist who cares), and Sergey Korolyov (the "Chief Designer" of the space program). While it isn't purely factual, most of it is and really reveals a lot of interesting detail about the truth behind this animal and its life.
However, the parts that aren't purely factual (some are hypothesized from the truth) really give the story the emotional depth that makes the story work so well. From the opening with Korolyov trying to survive as he walks to town from a Russian gulag in the dead of winter, to Kudryavka's life as a stray, to Dubrovsky and Gazenko's almost romantic relationship. Plus, the love everyone develops for this "special" dog really gives a lot of weight to the tragic nature of the story.
The story is really for any pet owner who has lost an animal that they loved, as you would be able to relate to it very easily. The love that everyone shares for Kudryavka is really a universal feeling people have for their animals, and Abadzis delivers the story in such a way to make the animals fate all the more devestating.
While Abadzis the artist is not traditionally great, his basic stylings really are bolstered by his layouts. Abadzis seemingly provides different style layouts for each of the primary characters, and sometimes abandons all comic convention to properly capture the mood of a particular segment (especially well done in Kudryavka's dream sequences where she is flying). With the layouts so well put together, it allows Abadzis to focus his art on strict storytelling to further enhance Abadzis the writer and his message.
I'm not sure I've conveyed how much I really loved this book. I connected with it in a way I rarely feel. In terms of standalone original graphic novels, I'd say this is one of my all time favorites, surpassing a lot of the more hyped ones like Alison Bechdel's Fun Home or Chris Ware's impenetrable Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth.
Comes highly recommended. Once again, this is for fans of good stories, not just comic readers.
Regardless of the fact that Colver and I just uncovered the Curse of the Pink Panther (meaning that the last time the Steelers won a Super Bowl there was a new Pink Panther movie released that featured Steve Martin saying "Derberger!" clearly indicating a Steelers victory) relapse, I will persevere. The Cards are my NFC team, Larry Fitzgerald is my favorite non-Patriot (as I said last night, that means he's my 54th favorite player), and I am going to go with a 31-27 Cardinals win with Larry Fitzgerald getting MVP.