Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Linkin Park!

We all know how much I love this effing band.  The new album is on my short list of favorite albums ever, and I have been looking forward to seeing them live for the first time for years now.  So, new album = big tour, right?  Right.  Sadly for me, though, big tour = wicked expensive tickets.  Let's think analytically about this for a minute - who are LP's biggest fan base?  Probably 13-24 year old guys.  The fanboys, if you will.  These are largely high school and college kids.  They don't have the money to be shelling out $80 a ticket, right?  Wrong, apparently.  They're playing two shows around here - Mohegan Sun, which is notoriously expensive, being a casino and all, but it's a great size venue - nice and small - and easy to get to from where I live, and the TD Garden in Boston, and going to Beantown on a weeknight after work is a huge pain in the ass.  I could've bought pre-sale tickets the week before they went on sale, but because tickets were so expensive, I didn't think I was going to be able to go, so I didn't get them when I had the chance.  Still kicking myself.  By the time it was decided that J and I were going to go, Mohegan was sold out, except for seats behind the stage (why even sell those, seriously?), and the GA floor at the Garden was also sold out.  Our seats aren't awesome by any means, and I'm still a little burned up about the fact that I'm not going to be on the floor, but I'M GOING TO SEE LP IN FEBRUARY!!  I've been flipping out a little bit since the day I bought the tickets.  Our seats are lower level, 21st row, straight back from the stage.  It's a long way back in an arena that big, too.  Whatever, I'm SO EXCITED to be going at all.  Sure, tickets were hella expensive, but experiences are so much more important to me than things - I can pass up some things (including some Christmas presents this year) in order to be able to see one of my favorite bands live.  I'm now officially counting down the days until February 1. 

AlternaTickers - Cool, free Web tickers

Sunday, December 26, 2010


For Christmas, I asked for Madeleine pans.  I know, weird, right?  But it turns out I like baking more and more with each new thing I make.  I still wouldn't say I'm really getting the hang of it because I'm still a slave to the recipe, but I'm enjoying it, anyway.  

Madeleines have been one of my favorite treats for a while now, but they're one of those things that I was afraid that if I could make them myself, it would take some of the magic out of it.  But in the end, I couldn't resist the urge to at least try.  If you don't know what they are, I think buttery tea cakes is the best way to describe them.  They're somewhere between a cookie and a cake, and they're light and fluffy and buttery and a little citrusy and just delicious - delicate and cakey on the inside, but with just the slightest bit of a crunch to the edges.  If you've never had one, I highly recommend that you seek them out.  The cafe at Nordstrom has awfully good packaged ones, and if you can find them good in a package, it's a rare and delightful day.  I followed the recipe that I found on 101 Cookbooks, at least in part because the blogger managed to make the recipe so personal and made it sound unbelievably good.  

Oh. My. God.  These cookies are SO delicious.  And look how pretty they came out!

I managed to not even try the batter until I was filling the pans, and then I didn't want to stop eating it.  The batter came together so light and fluffy - I've never made anything like this before.  My only comments are that I sifted the flour over the egg batter, rather than just sprinkling it in; I put too much batter in each cookie mold, so they came out a little huge; and I thought they were just a bit too lemony.  Next time I will use far less zest, and I may try orange zest instead of lemon.  Overall though, I even impressed myself this time.  Thank you, Mommy, for getting me these gorgeous Madeleine pans for Christmas.  I will bring you a tin of delightful little tea cakes as soon as this silly snow storm clears up.  Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rock Hall 2011 Inductees announced!

Check it out - the 2011 class of inductees into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is as follows:

Alice Cooper Band 
Neil Diamond
 Dr. John 
Darlene Love 
Tom Waits
 Jac Holzman 
Art Rupe
 Leon Russell
The last three on the list were not on the nominee list when I posted it a couple of weeks ago.  Leon Russell is receiving the Musical Excellence Award.  He's a piano sideman who has worked with the likes of The Byrds, Willie Nelson and Elton John.  Art Rupe is the founder of Speciality Records, which was responsible for putting out all of Little Richard's early stuff in the 50s, and one of the first independent labels.  Jac Holzman is the founder of Elektra Records.  

Other than those three, I called Tom Waits, Neil Diamond and Dr. John, and Alice Cooper is no surprise.  I'm glad to see it's his whole band, and not just him, too.  I don't really know much about or by Darlene Love, but from what I do know, she's not really my style.  Still, good for her.  Congrats to all of the inductees.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's gotten this bad . . .

My mild obsession with the Rolling Stones, I mean.
Since I finished reading Keith Richards' autobiography, Life, my love for him and all things Rolling Stones has only grown.  I'm still working on building my collection of Stones albums, and I'm trying to do that slowly so that I can spend some time with individual albums as I get them, and really feel them out and establish them in their proper place in my head, as if that makes sense to anyone but me.  I think Exile on Main Street might be my favorite favorite album of all time, now that I've spent a good deal of time with it.  I don't mean just that it's my favorite Stones album, but it's like, my favorite album ever.  And I don't really believe in favorites, but there's something about that album that's just mind-blowing.  I think part of it is the whole tax exile - living in a mansion in southern France - recording with a driveable studio, with wires snaking all over that shady basement - everyone's in a different room, suited to make their instrument or voice sound the best - it's hot as fuck - there's no air moving around - everyone's high, and most of them are also half naked - they're recording all night long - or whenever the mood suits - it sounds dirty and gritty and just fucking brilliant.  This is a whole post to itself.  I'm serious, it's already mostly written, I'm just working out the kinks and waiting for the right time to drop it.  It'll be another thesis.

In addition to acquiring all of the albums though, J is harassing me endlessly right now about the DVDs.  I admit that I'm obsessed, and I try not to push it on him or anyone else.  That's what this blog is for, right?  I asked for Shine a Light, the recent Scorsese concert film, for Christmas, sight unseen.  But just after asking for it, one Friday or Saturday night that we were spending at home cooking recently, it was on VH1 and I caught it from the beginning.  So good.  If you like the Stones, this makes for amazing background while you're cooking or doing whatever it is you do at home.  It's worth owning, for sure.  In addition to that, I've recently watched Stones in Exile a couple of times, as well as Gimme Shelter and Sympathy for the Devil.  Since Exile is probably my favorite album ever, I also can't get enough of watching the documentary about the making of it.  Like I said, I think that whole story really adds to how much I love the album as a whole.  Lucky for me it's currently available On Demand from Netflix, so I can watch it whenever I want.  But again, this all goes with that other thesis of a post . . .

Gimme Shelter was excellent.  The whole section about Altamont was really why I wanted to see it in the first place, and it lived up to the hype as far as all that is concerned.  Yup, a Hell's Angels "security guard" totally just stabbed that dude.  Wow.  And it's all on film.  Sure the dude had a gun, but there wasn't a better way than multiple stab wounds in the back?  He was later let off by a jury, finding it to be self-defense because the victim had a gun.  No doubt, he was probably planning to use that gun for no good purpose, but still.  How society has changed, huh?  Not that people don't still get stabbed, and they get stabbed or shot at concerts still, that hasn't changed, but I just mean that no one would ever even think about attempting to put on a show like that nowadays, I don't think.  You'd be crazy to try, and it would be SO expensive to pull off.  Free?  With a couple of the biggest bands in the world?  For 300,000 people?  With the Hell's Angels working security and getting paid in beer?  Sure!  Why not, what could possibly go wrong?  Zoinks.  The Dead pulled out and decided not to play because it was all getting too violent for them.  Good for them.  Even aside from that, though, it was a good movie.  Again, great background, like any music film is bound to be.

I just watched Sympathy for the Devil, though, and that was a whole different kind of movie.  I picked it up because about half of it chronicles the recording sessions for the song of the same name, and follows it from its beginnings as a slow, folky tune through various incarnations and phases as it worked its way into the groovy, fun dance tune that we all know and love.  For that, I was in awe.  Being the way that I am and obsessing the way that I do about certain bands, songs, etc., it was very cool to me to be able to watch a song that I love so much grow and change and get written.  It really captured the feeling in the studio, and in that way, at least for me, it's absolutely a film worth watching.  However.  However.  The other half of the film (and it's not like the first half and second half, it cuts back and forth) is a big clusterfuck of a French "statement" of some sort.  I'm still not sure what sort of statement it's meant to be, though.  Frankly, I started fastforwarding through the French film stuff as the recording stuff started to feel like the song was really coming together.  There's the beginnings of a few other songs on there too - just in the form of the band getting in the studio to jam and see what comes out.  I don't know, there's just something about watching music being made that really impresses me.

Hunger Games casting trailer

This has been floating around YouTube for a while now, but it's worth sharing.  I love the Hunger Games book series, and this is just a really well-made video.  I think these two unknown actresses are excellent choices for Katniss and Prim, IMO.  The blonde is cast as Rue here, but I think she'd be a perfect Prim.  The fact that the guy that made this video used a few songs from the new Linkin Park album as the soundtrack doesn't hurt either.  As far as I'm concerned, the whole new LP album, A Thousand Suns (read my thesis of a review here), could be the soundtrack to this movie, when they ever get around to making it.  Seriously, it's perfect.  Every song.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I'm done with Life.

Seriously, I am listening to music with whole new ears thanks to this book.  I don't know how you did it Keith, but damn, can you put the passion of music into someone.  Thank you.   I might've learned more about music and music history from Keith Richards in these 550 pages than I have in a lifetime of listening to it.  I finished the book the other day, and have been thinking about it constantly ever since.  Part of me wants to start reading it again right now, but a bigger part of me wants to spend a little more time really getting into some of the artists that he talks a lot about, and even a little more familiar with the Stones whole catalogue, and then I want to read it again.

It's funny, it's revealing, it's insightful, it's bitchy, it's unbelievable at times.  Keith has this opinion of himself that is just so skewed - he's in some ways amazingly humble, but in some ways, just so sure of himself and so positive that he is levitating above it all, it's unbelievable.  Arrested again?  Just pull some of that merchandise and a few of those albums out of the trunk, sign it all, pose for some pictures with the cops, and be on your way.  No worries.  It's hilarious at times, just how out of touch with everyone else's reality he seems to be, and in some ways has been, for 40+ years of his life.  But then he'll talk about his family, or his feelings on friendship, or his belief of what heaven and hell are like, and he comes drifting back down to earth.  Never more so than when he talks about playing in to the image that he created for himself back in the 60s - with both a sort of regret that maybe he lost a little of himself to the image, while at the same talking about himself as a latter-day folk hero :

"They imagined me, they made me, the folks out there created this folk hero.  Bless their hearts.  And I'll do the best I can to fulfill their needs.  They're wishing me to do things that they can't.  They've got to do this job, they've got this life, they're an insurance salesman ... but at the same time, inside of them is a raging Keith Richards."
Everybody's got a little Keith in them, then?  The messed up thing is how you find yourself agreeing with him.  Yes, Keith, yes, I believe everyone does have a little of you in them, and thank you sir, for allowing us all to live vicariously through you for all these years.  It's all very tongue-in-cheek, I think.  The whole of the book comes across as this wink and a nudge, stream of consciousness sort of diatribe.  It's really conversational, like you're just hanging out listening to Keith Richards tell you stories.  And in that way, it was really hard to put down - he has some amazing stories.  And he's really quite funny.  But at the same time, there really is a strong and serious sense of humility about him.  He's humbled to his core by his whole life and his whole career, it seems, although he would never come right out and say that.  But you get the feeling that through four decades of the Stones just getting bigger and bigger and bigger, Keith has never ceased to be amazed by what he was actually getting paid to do, and the doors that it all opened for him.  He talks endlessly about getting to play with some of his heroes, and how awestruck he still gets with the fact that some of them want to play with him, and it's that sort of insight that make this book such a great read.

What really had me well and truly hooked on this book so hard, though, is his passion for music.  Through and through, music is in his soul, and it shows.  From start to finish, his passion for music is bleeding off every page.  Learning some of these neat little details about the origins of some of these songs was really interesting for me too - Keith wrote the beginnings of "Satisfaction" in his sleep; "Happy" took 4 hours from when it didn't exist to when it was recorded and done, and KR was the only actual member of the band playing on it.  At the same time, it's also just a hilarious collection of Keith sitting around shooting the shit kind of stories.  His humor is great - dry, witty - I was laughing out loud a lot.  A few of my favorite lines:

On the Stones' decision to put out a cover of Willie Dixon's "Little Red Rooster": "In our arrogance at the time, we wanted to make a statement.  'I am the little red rooster/Too lazy to crow for day.' See if you can get that to the top of the charts, motherfucker.  Song about a chicken."

In the midst of a multiple-page rant about Mick, on the topic of Mick's dance lessons:  "We know the minute he's going plastic.  Shit, Charlie and I have been watching that ass for forty-odd years; we know when the moneymaker's shaking and when it's being told what to do."

You can feel the real brotherly love between Keith and Mick, though.  Despite all of the badmouthing, there's still a deep-seeded sense of respect and love when Keith talks about Mick, and you get the feeling that they are very much like brothers - the seem to be so, so, so alike in so many ways that keep them together forever, but at the same time, they have really unique goals and drives and interests that push them apart.  It's almost sweet.

Like I said, reading this has really expanded my choices of music, lately.  I had heard of a lot of the old stuff that Keith cites as influences, but I hadn't really listened to a lot of it, if you know what I mean.  Chuck Berry, for example.  Everyone knows Chuck Berry, Johnnie B Goode and all of that, but I never really paid much attention to his music, you know?   I've always had a really healthy respect for BB King and John Lee Hooker, as another example, but again, I've never seriously listened to all their stuff.  But lately I have been, and I feel like I'm making up for years and years of not listening to it.   And I've looked into a lot of the stuff that I wasn't familiar with, and I'm really enjoying most of that too.  Seriously, it's been like a little bit of a music education for me, and I love that.

Anyway, the bottom line is that I really and truly loved this book.  I'm adding it to my list of favorites, and I will forever recommend it to pretty much anyone who will listen.

** If you're interested, here's the link to my 1/2 way through book review of Life.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Ben Harper - Diamons on the Inside

It's retro album review time again!  This time I'm listening to Ben Harper's 2003 offering, Diamonds on the Inside.

This is a really, really good album.  Just the right mix of blues and funk, each song has the feeling and emotion to evoke something inside of each of us.  The album starts out stronger than it finishes, in my opinion, but that last track makes my heart hurt, it's so sweet and sad.

The title track is just so, so good.  I feel like the past week or so, I just can't get enough of it.  I've always loved this song, and it's what made me pick up the album in the first place so many years ago, but I feel like I'm only just now rediscovering how great the whole album is.  There's something a little gospel-soul-revival about the album at times, and it's great.  But this song!  You just want to crank it up on a sunny day, and smile and sing along.  And maybe sway a little.  Reading Keith Richards' book has had a profound effect on my music tastes and the way that I listen to music lately, and in my hunt for more blues and R&B in my iPod, I put this album on the other day.  Lately, I find that I'm focusing more on the roll and less on the rock (Thanks, Keef).  Some standout songs:

With My Own Two Hands - I've somehow gotten more familiar and comfortable with the Ben Harper/Jack Johnson slow, lullaby-esque duet version of this track, and allowed myself to forget how cool this album version is.  A little reggae rhythm, a little bluesy guitar - it strikes just the right chord.  This totally makes me want to dance, while the slowed down version is such a sweet lullaby.  A good tune overall.
When It's Good - I feel like this is a classic old blues song rather than a BH original, but maybe that just goes to say how good Mr. Harper is.  He's an old soul, I reckon.  Or maybe it is an old song.  I'm not entirely sure.  I just feel like I can hear an older, rougher version of this playing in my head whenever I listen to this song.  The version in my head is playing on vinyl, and was recorded on 8-track or something.  Maybe at Muscle Shoals.  I don't even know - I feel that way about 1/2 of this album, I think.  This is tied with the title track for my favorite on the album.

Brown Eyed Blues - It's killing me that I can't currently think if the classic mo-town song that this reminds me of.  But I can't think of the damn song.  Either way, this song has a great, funky feel to it, and there are some cool riffs in here.  It really does have sort of a cool mo-town feel to it.  
Touch From Your Lust and Temporaty Remedy - Since Keef has me paying more attention to guitar sounds lately, it's worth pointing out how cool the fuzzy guitars on these two tracks sound.  These songs are both a little more rock and have a slightly more modern feel than most of the rest of the album, too.
Bring the Funk -   Ummm, duh - I love the funk. This feels a little like Bushwalla's funk to me.  I guess maybe that's a function of the whole modern funk thing, but I'll just throw it out there again - if you haven't checked out Bushwalla yet, you don't know what you're missing.  If you like Ben Harper, BW will totally do it for you.  Check him out.
So High So Low - I feel like the Black Keys are screaming out of this song at the beginning.  It's just got a really cool, down and dirty sort of feeling to it.  It's a great song, and another one that's a little more rockin than some of the rest of the album.
Amen Omen and Blessed to be a Witness - These are nice little tunes, and this is sort of what I mean about the church-y feeling, I guess, is these few soul tracks the album has got going on.  But church-y lyrics or no, get down to the music, and these are pretty cool tunes.  There's a lot going on with Blessed to be a Witness (more than you pick up at first listen, but give it a few trys), and it all comes together really nice.
She's Only Happy in the Sun - So sweet, but also SO sad.  Like I said at the outset, this song makes my heart hurt.  Pay attention to this one, and it'll really rope you in.  Might be my new favorite lullaby.

I like Ben Harper a lot; new and old, and whoever he's playing with, I seem to always be drawn into his stuff.  I've seen him live with DMB once or twice too, and he puts on a great show live.  Either way, this album has been on heavy rotation this past week or so, so I thought I'd throw something out there in support of it.  If you don't have it, check it out.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame class of 2011 - the nominees

Last week, I was checking out the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame website for some information about last year's 25th anniversary concerts (which were amazing, by the way - if you have a chance to check out the DVDs, please do it.  There were some amazing performances, and you can watch a bunch of them on YouTube, too).  Anyway, while I was there, I saw that they have listed this year's nominees.  Inductees will be announced "in the coming weeks," according to the site, but here's the list of those nominated:

Alice Cooper
Beastie Boys
Bon Jovi
Neil Diamond
Dr. John
J. Geils Band
LL Cool J
Darlene Love
Laura Nyro
Donna Summer
Joe Tex
Tom Waits
Chuck Willis
The norm of how many make it in each year seems to have grown in the past few years, with a whopping 11 inductees last year (one of which was not the Red Hot Chili Peppers, much to my chagrin, and I'm sorry, but if Bon Jovi gets into the Hall of Fame before RHCP, something is tragically wrong with the universe).  I confess to not knowing who a couple of these artists were when I first saw the list, and even on learning a little more about them all, I'm still unsure what a couple of them doing on the list.  But I confess to having not listened to all of their music as of the time of this writing, or even to have listened very objectively to the couple of tracks I did check out.  Either way, that's the case every year for me when I see the nominees list, but such is life.  That's why I'm not on the Hall of Fame board, I guess.  

If I'm being honest, I don't think the Beasties and LL will go in the same year.  I'd love to see it, but I think the Beasties make it in first.  I predict Dr. John and Tom Waits both being inducted this year.  I'm sort of surprised that Neil Diamond's not in yet, so I pick him, too.  But after that, it's anyone guess - Chic?  Donna Summer?  J.Geils? Alice Cooper?  I like all of their chances.  Ditto for Joe Tex and Donovan.  I hate to sound like a hater, but I give Bon Jovi a big thumbs down.  Sorry New Jersey.

So what do you think, dear readers, who will make the final cut?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Change in Terms?

I got one of those "change in terms" letters in the mail from the bank that owns one of my big-box store credit cards.  As I was walking over to throw it in the recycle bag, I noticed that the spanish translation of it had one more paragraph than the english version.  So, with my minimal Spanish-fluency equivalency ability, I tried to figure out what it said.  And I did it!  And I'm surprised by what it says, but at the same time, I want to start using it on any Spanish-translations that we have to do for work.  Here's what it said (I have no idea how to make my computer type in Spanish, so please pardon my leaving off all of the accents or whatever - you'll still get the point, I think):

La traduccion al espanol de este documento sirve unicamente como referencia.  De haber alguna discrepancia entre este traduccion y el documento original en ingles, se usara la version en ingles.

Now, if you read Spanish, wonderful, you're all caught up.  If not, let me give you my rough translation: The Spanish translation of this document serves only as a reference.  If there are any discrepancies between this document and the original in English, use the version in English.

So, my question and the source of my slight amazement is the fact that, if you can't read in English, how the fuck are you supposed to be able to tell if there are any discrepancies?  You would do what I just did, and see that the approximately-the-same sized paragraphs match up along the documents, and the same paragraphs are emboldened, you'd see that the dates and amounts and numbers all match between the two, and you would move on.  And really, That's all I read in English anyway - what are late fees being raised by, and for what amount of balance, and when is this happening.  Those are pretty much numbers and a few big, bold words.  I didn't read a lick of the text on this letter. So I guess it doesn't really matter if you can't read the English version, as long as you can check that they both have the same numbers and all that, but still.  And yet, as I said, when we do public notice documents at work, and they have to be translated in Spanish, I want to start adding this language to those documents.  I'm such an effing lawyer.  Eeew.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Atlantic Records: The House that Ahmet Built

This was an installment of American Masters that I caught on PBS a month or so ago, and which has stuck with me ever since.  I missed the beginning, but I caught the last hour and fifteen minutes or so, just by chance as I was flipping past and finally saw something on television that was actually about music.  I need to re-watch it from the beginning.  I don't have much love for major record labels these days, but I respect that you needed them to make things happen back in the day.  Without proper recording and distribution, not to mention the networking and marketing that labels provided back in the day, we wouldn't have the music that we have today.  Just for up-and-coming artists to be exposed to other artists - it served an important role that the internet has now come to replace in spades.  Anyway, this was an absolutely excellent documentary about Ahmet Ertegun, the co-founder of Atlantic Records in 1947.  He was one of the rare breed, then as much as now I'm sad to say, that was really and truly into it for the music.  Because of that, he drew so much real and amazing talent to that label, at such an important time in music history.  He was personally responsible for getting Eric Clapton into the studio with Aretha Franklin.  He negotiated the deal that brought the Stones indie label into contract with Atlantic, even though it paid them less dough than what they could've had with some other labels - because everyone involved cared more about the music than the cash.  He "discovered" Led Zeppelin.  He wrote Mess Around for Ray Charles.  I mean, the man is responsible for SO MANY amazing things that have happened in music history, and this documentary about him and Atlantic Records was really, really well done and really interesting.  If you're looking to watch something engaging, about some really pivotal moments in music recording history, or just interested in learning some more about a genuine, great guy who truly cared about the music and about making some amazing music happen, definitely check this out.

Monday, November 15, 2010

1/2 way through book review - Life by Keith Richards

This is one of those books where I can't stop thinking about it, and I even want to be sitting at the computer as I'm reading it, in order to look up and learn more about what I'm reading.  And it's all I want to talk about, much to the chagrin of those around me.  And I'm only about 1/2 way through.  And part of me doesn't want it to end.  So that's why I have this blog.

One day last week, I woke up from the weirdest dream about the Stones, and about Keith in particular.  I'm SO not getting into that right now, but suffice it to say, Gimme Shelter was stuck in my head when I woke up that morning.  I was in the middle of reading The American by Martin Booth at the time, but over the course of listening to the Stones all day at work, I quickly decided that I wouldn't be reading that anymore, because Keith Richards' new autobiography, Life, had been subliminally working its way into my dreams, screaming to be read.  It had been on my shelf for only about three days before this happened.  Severe.  And there's a reason: it's SO GOOD.

Seriously, though, I'm awestruck by the depth and passion of Keith's love of music.  And I know that he's an artist and a songwriter, but I'm also loving the way that he expresses himself.  The writing is so conversational that I sometimes find the book hard to put down.  He goes off on these tangents and asides, and it's just wonderful to read.  From the very start, I've been rebuilding the roots of my appreciation for music through this book.  Most of what I've been looking up as I read has been some of the music that he cites as influences, and I've been ordering CDs from the library like mad this week.  Jimmy Reed.  Chuck Berry.  John Lee Hooker.  B.B. King.  I've been listening to the Muddy Waters albums that I already owned a lot, and to Big Al Carson covering a lot of classic blues.  Blues and R&B has pretty much been my MO for the past week.  And lots of the Stones, of course. 

I've said before how much I think knowing the background to what you're listening to gives you a whole new appreciation, and this is like that on crack.  I even like the Stones a ton more now that I ever used to, which was bound to happen, but I was already a pretty big fan.  I've always been a fan, but this is ridiculous.  Did you know Keith wrote the main structure of "Satisfaction" in his sleep?  Literally.  He used to sleep with his guitar and with a tape deck by his bed, and he woke up in the morning to see the tape was full - played it back and there was "Satisfaction" plus about 40 minutes of him snoring.  I also just learned the background to "Ruby Tuesday," and now that song kind of breaks my heart.  And the pictures in the book are great.  Turns out Keith was pretty hot back in the day.  Maybe that's just me.

I don't know.  This is me just about half way through reading this brick of a book.  And while I'm finding it hard to put down and I just want to devour the whole thing, I also don't really want it to end.  More to come when I finally finish it.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The infamous religion quiz

I think most people have probably heard about the religion quiz set up by the Pew Forum that the majority of Americans failed, and which showed that Athiests and Agnostics seem to know the more about the various religions of the world than most people who practice an organized religion, and that Catholics know the least among various groups.  Not a surprise, if you ask me.

None of it is a surprise to me, really.  I feel like Athiests and Agnostics tend to reach the decision to believe as they do after a lot of consideration.  Religions came to exist for a reason, and to walk away from believing in any faith at all is not a decision that I think anyone could make lightly.  So I feel like people who have no faith in any higher being, or who believe in something, but they're not quite sure what, tend to have weighed their options within existing belief systems before getting there.  I will keep my opinions on the Catholic church to myself.

It's 32 questions long, and I strongly encourage everyone to take it and see where you fall.  Here's the link.

And here's a summary of the average results:
Americans overall: 16/32 correct
Athiests/Agnostics: 20.9/32 correct
Jews: 20.5/32 correct
Mormons: 20.3/32 correct
Protestants: 16/32 correct
Catholics: 14.7/32

For the record, I got 29/32 correct.

Tags of the week! 10-20-10 edition

Yay!  It's been SO LONG since I did this!  These are definitely not all radio songs, but they're all worth checking out.  Without further ado, here are my top 5 today:

1) Mumford & Sons: Little Lion Man

The first time I ever heard this song, it was stuck in my head for four days.  I adore it.  Check out the whole album - Sigh No More - it's all good stuff.  Something about a banjo and an upright bass . . . it's part folky Irish coffee shop feeling, and part downhome bluegrass jam session, but all awesome.

2) Florence and the Machine - Dog Days Are Over

This is another one where I chose the radio song, but the whole album really is excellent.  Her voice is so rad, and the songs are so catchy.  This is like the rockin' version of that chick Adele.  Love.

3) Seether - Careless Whisper

Dude, I like the Wham version of this song, okay?  And I love Seether.  I think they did a great job on this.  Maybe better than the original.  Not Johnny-Cash-doing-Hurt better than the original, but real, real good.

And while we're talking about covering old 80's songs:

4)  Chris Cornell - Billie Jean

I actually haven't researched where this came from at all, if you can believe that.  J found it and played it for me, and I almost had a heart attack.  I could listen to this man sing all. day. long.  Nevermind acoustic and covering an MJ classic.  Alien Ant Farm did an AMAZING job on Smooth Criminal a few years back, too.  Check that out, whenever you have a chance.

5)  The Black Keys - Chop And Change

This was a toss up between this song, which I heard on the Twilight: Eclipse soundtrack or The Black Keys' Tighten Up, which is a tagged radio song in my phone.  They're just a really rad band.  Kind of southern funky.  I dig their bass lines.

There's gonna be more music recs coming soon.  I have so much new stuff that I'm into right now.  On the off chance that you're in the market for something completely different - check out Sigur Ros.  They're Icelandic, and they sing in either Icelandic or this other language that they created.  My high school intern introduced me to them, and I can't thank her enough.  It makes awesome working or driving background.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Whoops!  Clearly, something needs to be done about my mobile blogging functionality!  This post was supposed to say:

Instant cake and muffin mixes are our gift from the WW2 generation.   Powdered milk, powdered butter, powered eggs, and flour - all in one convenient package?  Just add water?  Yes, please.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's that time of year again!

This is my second year participating in the In2Books program.  In case you missed my post about it last year, In2Books is an internet-supported, curriculum-based reading mentor program.  "What what what?" you say - translation: it's a program wherein you're partnered with elementary school kids, you read books with them and then you discuss by email.  And it's awesome.

Click the link to read more about it straight from the source, but I can tell you firsthand, it's a really rewarding program.  Last year, my pen pal was a 3rd grade girl from the Seattle area.  I had so much fun getting to know her and hearing about what was going on in her life, all while seeing how excited she was about the books we were reading and about having a grown-up in a whole other part of the country who was really excited to be reading with her.  As the school year went on, some other pen-pals in her class had "dropped out" and stopped responding to their students' letters (seriously?  Who does this?  These amazing kids are so excited to write to you, and you just fail to write back?  There's no excuse - if you can't stay involved, don't sign up, but at least tell the kids that something has come up and you can't keep writing to them), so the class needed more mentors.  I took on a second student for the last unit of the year, and it was even cooler to discuss the book with two completely different kids and see their different takes on the subject.  The teacher in the class sent occasional emails to let the mentors know what was going on in the classroom, and he was really nice and seemed SO into what the class was doing with this program.  I had such a great experience, I sent the class a gift at the end of the year - 4 books for the classroom/school library, or for the teacher to do whatever he saw fit with, and a little grab bag for each student with a book mark, book plate, pencils, an eraser, and some candy.  They were stoked, and I hope to be able to do the same thing each year that I'm involved in the program.

This year, I opted to get paired with a new student rather than sticking with the same girl as last year, though I'm pretty sure that was an option.  My pen pal this year is a 5th grade boy, but I'm still not sure where he's from.  We just got paired up last week, and I've only gotten one letter from him so far.  I just found out the first book he's chosen, and I'm picking it up from the library this weekend.  I can't stress enough how cool I think this program is.  Childhood literacy has become sort of a key issue for me, and whatever I can do to help get books into kids hands is SO important to me.  I was blessed to grow up in a reading family, and I think it made all the difference in my life, in terms of my learning ability, my absolute love of learning, and my ability and desire to go as far and do as well in school as I did.  In2Books is always looking for new mentors, and they haven't finished pairing people up for this school year, so it's not too late to sign up.  There's a nominal $5 or $6 fee to pay for the cost of a background check, and the only time commitment is to read 5 kids books over the course of the school year, and exchange at least one email per book with your pen-pal. 

Seriously, go to their website and check it out.  Consider signing up as a mentor.  You can thank me later.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Stop Talking, Start Trying to Catch Up

A Thousand Suns
Linkin Park
Released 9.14.2010
(hang on, this review is going to be really long - it's maybe more of a thesis . . .
but look at me posting a review of something the week it came out!  Go me.)

I've hardly stopped listening to LP's newest since I downloaded it on Tuesday morning before work.  I wrote a lot of this review on Tuesday, but wanted to give myself a few days to mull it over before posting.  My opinion hasn't changed, and in fact, my extremely high regard for LP's fourth studio album has only increased in the ensuing days.  Bravo, guys.  Bravo.  The album is, in a word, Epic.

I want to start by saying that this is like nothing LP has ever done before, and not like much I've ever heard before.  To call it "experimental" or a "concept album" is fair - it's more electronic than everything they've done previously, and I guess it's not as heavy, but it is definitely bigger than anything they've done.  When they put out Minutes to Midnight, I recognized the new direction, and I liked it.  The band indicated with that album that they hoped that people would treat the album as a single work, and listen to it that way, as opposed to individual songs.  This time, they weren't taking any chances - the iTunes versions of A Thousand Suns all include a 16th track called A Thousand Suns: The Full Experience.  It plays the entire album in one piece without breaks between tracks - the way it was intended.  If you're going to listen to this album, and especially if you're going to place judgment on it, please, please, please do yourself (and the band) a favor and set aside 47 minutes of your life to listen to the whole thing beginning to end.  And do it with an open mind.  I think you'll find that this is more LP than you might have initially thought.  Of course the individual songs stand out - but you need to hear it all in context to really get it. This isn't "9 songs with 6 little blips of noise in between" like some (former?) fans have argued - it's a 47 minute cohesive work.  If you're looking for a collection of radio songs and arena anthems, this is obviously not for you.  Open your mind up and listen in one piece.

And I feel like a lot of the reviews that are dissing this new album just don't get it.  Bands grow and evolve and advance, just like the people in them do - U2 is never going to make another Joshua Tree, and the Chili Peppers will never put out anything like Mother's Milk again - that doesn't mean that what they're doing now is no good!  LP has been one of my favorite bands since Hybrid Theory came out, and I've really loved seeing them progress as a band and as individuals, including Mike and Chester's side projects.  I fully acknowledge that this new album isn't full of hard, screaming anthems the way that HT or Meteora were, but feeling or saying that this album is awesome doesn't take anything away from how great those two albums were.  It's just different.  It's different in an awesome way.  

I can't help feeling like When They Come for Me is LP's retaliation against everyone that just wants them to keep making HT and Meteora over and over and over again.  Lines like: "'cause even a blueprint is a gift and a curse/'cause once you got a theory about how the thing works/everybody wants the next thing to be just like the first/and I'm not a robot, I'm not a monkey/I will not dance even if the beat's funky ... Ya'all ought to stop talking, start tryin' to catch up, muthafucka!"  It's like saying that they're going to do what they do, how they want to do it, no matter what anybody thinks, and you'd best stop badmouthing it and start trying to keep up with it - they're doing cooler and cooler shit, and you're going to miss out on all of it if you get so hung up on the old stuff.  I LOVE this song, by the way, and I cannot wait to see this performed live, with the chanting and all of that.

The fanboys want something heavier - they want to hear Chester screaming.  You know what?  Chester has been screaming for a long-ass time, and maybe he's tired of it.  Get over that and actually listen to him - he's a fantastic singer.  Enjoy it, you can thank me later.  Pay close attention on The Messenger at the end - Chester's voice is completely laid bare with nothing but some acoustic accompaniment, and it's effing beautiful.  And while you're at it, go back and replay When They Come for Me, Blackout, and Wretches and Kings - they're all pretty heavy, and the beats are sick.

The beats on this whole album are pretty sick, and most of the songs are stick in your head catchy.  Stick in my head, anyway.  The whole thing has this feeling of being bigger than itself - of being bigger than anything - it's almost ominous.  I've often said that part of what's always drawn me to LP is the complexity of their sound, and I think that's more noticeable here than ever.  There's sort of a middle eastern/African/reggae influence that seems to pervade a lot of the album, and that's super-effective, when the political anti-war theme of the whole thing is taken into consideration.  This album is smart.  It's brilliant in it's concept and in it's execution.  From the creepy opening, through quotes from Robert Oppenheimer, MLK Jr., and Mario Savio, the album builds and builds, taking you with it through an uprising and rebellion with a virtual apocalypse of sound before summing it all up with the beautiful song of hope and love in The Messenger to wrap it all up and let you walk away with a great feeling.  I'm pretty sure that the chorus from that song has been the most quoted in all the reviews I've read, so I'd be remiss not to point out that "When life leaves us blind/Love keeps us kind" is maybe the sweetest thing LP has every said to anyone.  Awww.  But it's effective.  I usually can't support the interludes and quotes and everything on a lot of hip hop albums, but this is completely different - the quotes that are used are used in a way that works. I said at the outset that there's a lot of electronic sound here, and there is, including a lot of vocoder/autotune-type stuff.  Frankly, I could have done with a little less autotuning, but I get that it's used for the feeling it gives the songs, not to eff with Chester's voice, so I'm over it.  I'm just don't love autotune.  My one and only other criticism is that somewhere in the middle of Blackout, the mixing feels sloppy.  It's totally possible that the sound is also intentional, because it works with the song, but there's just something a little off about it.

While we're talking about individual tracks - Waiting for the End is like magic.  It might be the most perfectly produced song I've ever heard.  I love the flow.  It just rolls - it rolls you up and takes you with it.  The timing and the pace are so spot on.  I'm pretty sure it's my favorite track on the album.  I adore the nods to Chuck D and Public Enemy in Wretches and Kings, and Burning in the Skies threw me for a loop the first time I put the album on - it initially seemed too poppy to me, but after hearing it 100 more times in the last couple of days, no, I think it fits perfectly with everything else

I don't know folks, the bottom line here is that A Thousand Suns just made my short list of the best albums ever, and I just want you all to give it a fair chance as a single piece of work.  The band has made it clear from the start that this wasn't going to be your typical album - it was designed to be something completely different that the record stores wouldn't know what to do with.  Mission accomplished.  It's not a collection of 15 songs, and no one wants you to listen to it that way.  Set aside 47 minutes of your life to enjoy this in one big bite, then feel free to go back for seconds (or thirds or 57ths) so you can really let it all sink in.  I love it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fall to Pieces by Mary Forsberg Weiland

If you know me at all, or if you read this blog, you know that I have a thing for addiction memoirs and for music autobios.  You may not be aware of my similar predilection for mental illness memoirs - I guess I think of addiction memoirs as a subset of this anyway, and while I don't read the crazy stuff quite as often anymore, there was a time when it was about all I read (I've always said that crazy is drawn to crazy, and at the point in my life when I was reading this stuff all the time . . . let's just say things weren't quite normal in my corner of the world).  I digress.  Anyway, with all of that intro in place - did you see the subtitle of this book?  It says, "A Memoir of Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll and Mental Illness."  A trifecta!  Additionally, if you'll please note the author - yep, it's Scotty Weiland's ex-wife. 

This book was a grand slam from the day I found out it existed, so how psyched was I to read it and find out that it is also a pretty awesome book?  Psyched.  I'm not going to say that the writing was the best ever, but it was good.  What was so awesome were the stories that this woman has to tell, and the way that she tells them.  It's candid and honest, brutal and funny.  Mary and Scott both suffer with bipolar disorder, and pretty severe alcohol and drug addictions.  Not to mention some level of co-dependency that came to define their almost-twenty year relationship.  It's terribly sad, but at the same time, infused with a certain hope.  The book was just written last year, but after everything Mary and Scott have come through, you can't help but wonder where they stand now.

My only complaint is that sometimes the time lines feel wrong.  I honestly couldn't tell whether the book was skipping around chronologically or not, but sometimes it was difficult to tell what time frame things were taking place in.  All is forgiven, though, when you keep in mind that the author was either wasted or manic, or both, during much of the time that she's writing about.  She points this out at the beginning and again at the end of the book, so I really can't fault the story-telling.  What's been on my mind for the past couple of days, since I finished reading, is how a lot of the songs on STP's new album seem clearly to be about Mary.  There were a few points in the book where she mentions hearing Scott's songs about herself, and how she reacted, so I wonder about her reaction to this newest album.

Monday, September 13, 2010

10 Reasons why Transporter 1 is better than 2 or 3

The first installment of the Transporter series is on SpikeTV right now, and I'm completely incapable of shutting it off.  I mean, we all know I love Jason Statham, but this movie is just so full of win, it's more than just the Statham factor.  I used to think that 2 was my favorite of the franchise, because of all the scenes with JS looking after that little kid, and how it's set in Miami, and I love it there, but I stand corrected.  1 really is the best.  And it has the best of everything - fights, chase scenes, planes, parachutes, shit blowing up, boats, the tractor trailers . . . I could go on all day, but here's 10 reasons why Transporter 1 is better than Transporter 2 or 3:

1. The music.  Seriously, the music in this film is fantastic.  Fantastic.  I don't know who the folks are that did the music for these movies, but the guy that did 1 was not responsible for 2 or 3.  That scene in 1 where Frank has just dropped of Lai, and he drop kicks the door down to get back in and beat the crap out of a whole house full of people?  That music is beyond perfect.  It's that way through the entire film.  As an aside - it was that whole sequence that really showed me how awesome Jason Statham is in the first place.

2. There is no room for taking itself too seriously.  It's ridiculous, with just the right amount of plot to keep it from sinking into parody.

3. The directing.  Louis Leterrier directed 1 and 2, making them automatically far superior to Oliver Megaton's (yes, that's really his name) work on T3, but Corey Yuen was also a director on 1, as well as in charge of fight choreography, whereas on 2 and 3, he was just in charge of the fights.  Which were still the best part of 2 and 3.

4. Frank actually followed his rules, except for when checks on Lai in the car.  By T3, all the rules are fully out the window.

5. Madelines.  I'm still pretty sure this movie has something to do with how much I love those damn cookies.

6. You knew it was coming - JS just looks better in this one.  And he doesn't take himself too seriously either.  That whole warehouse fight scene with the buses and the oil?  Brilliant.

7. The chick.  Lai is sweet and likeable.  The mom in T2 is also sweet and likeable, but she's married and she's a mom.  The blond Amazon chick is just scary.  And please don't even get me started on the annoying, food-describing Russian in T3.  WTF was that about?  Don't get me wrong, the JS striptease scene with the keys was sort of hot, but she still annoyed me.

8. Frank's effing house.  How rad is that place?!

9.  The bad guy.  C'mon, Wall Street was way cooler than the guys in the other two movies.  Matt Schulze is great (he also plays Vince in The Fast and The Furious movies).

10. Inspector Tarconi.  It's not necessarily that Francois Berleand is any better in this movie than the others, it's just that this is the first time we meet him and see what a great, funny character Tarconi is capable of being.  Plus I'm pretty sure he has a bigger role in this movie, so there's more Tarconi to love.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New and anxiously awaited albums due this month!

 All signs point to the new Linkin Park album being amazing.  A Thousand Suns drops next Tuesday, the 14th, and so far there are four tracks up on their MySpace: The Catalyst, Waiting For The End, Blackout, and Wretches and Kings.  All of them, as promised, represent pretty huge departures from the LP sound that I have come to know and love, and all are full of awesome.  I've said before that I thought Minutes To Midnight was a bit of a departure for them, and I loved it because I thought it showed the band growing a little, and I loved the direction they were taking, but this new album is light years away from even where MTM was.  There's some sort of international sounds going on, I detect a little reggae influence, especially on Waiting For The End, and Wretches and Kings reminds me of something that Fort Minor would've come up with.  I caught The Catalyst on the radio last week, and while I was initially a little shocked by the drastically different sound behind Chester's voice, I instantly fell in love.  It's an awesome, awesome song, and a great first single - it's downright catchy.  Look for it on the MTV VMA's this weekend - they'll be performing it live.  I'm psyched.  I'm SO, SO psyched for this album.

 In other news, Tommy Lee's new Methods of Mayhem album is FINALLY set to drop a week later, on the 21st.  I was counting down days for this one too - Tommy recorded it using - posting stems of the songs, and allowing anyone who was interested to submit their own takes on the songs.  Then he incorporated some of the amazing stuff that he got into the album.  A Public Disservice Announcement is currently up for preorder on iTunes, and you can preview the whole album in 30 second snippets.  Overall, it sounds like it's going to be an awesome album - completely different, and a lot more tame than the last Methods album, but still pretty experimental and definitely unique.  You can check out the first two singles, Fight Song and Time Bomb - which are dramatically different, I might add - on the RoadRunnerRecords website.  I really like the last Methods album, but there's no denying the heavy, angry feel to it.  It's almost funny to listen to that and then to Tommyland: The Ride back to back.  It's like they're from two completely different people.  From what I can tell, APDA is going to be a fantastic blend of those two guys - maybe it represents Tommy finding a little balance.  Either way, I can't wait to hear the whole thing.

Stay tuned for follow up on both of these before the end of the month.  Yay!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Action Movies I've seen lately

I looked forward to this movie for months!  I was counting down the days until it came out, I'm not even kidding.  Lucky for me, J completely indulges my mild obsession with Jason Statham and ridiculous action movies, because he was probably the only one I ever could've talked into going to see this with me at all, let alone on the night it came out.  But, alas, I was a little disappointed.  It was a pretty typical Stallone movie, so as you would expect, the plot was sort of thin, the dialogue was a little weak, and the violence was pretty heavy.  All of that was to be expected, but what let me down was that the character development just wasn't there.  I feel like they could've done A LOT more with this band of mercenaries/friends who go way back.  I liked it, but there were definitely some eye-roll moments.  It took itself a little too seriously, which is always an issue for me with action movies.   Mickey Rourke was, once again, the perfect casting job for his role.  There was one scene where it's all surreal and close up and Mickey's talking about life and regret and being all deep - and honestly, the scene was sort of laughable, but no one else could've pulled it off in quite the way that he did.  My bottom line here is that I honestly want to see it again.  I think I was too excited and too googley-eyed over seeing JS on the big screen for the first time in a couple of years to really appreciate the film for all of its merits. I have to have missed something, because it was number one at the box office for a couple of weeks in a row.  Clearly, people are into it.  meanwhile, in my Jason Statham-loving world, I only have to wait until January for the next opportunity to see the man back on the big screen, reviving Charles Bronson's bad-ass role as The Mechanic.

And speaking of movies that don't take themselves too seriously - Machete was effing awesome.  Robert Rodriguez knows what the hell he's doing behind a camera.  The cast for this one goes on and on and on, too: Danny Trejo (and I'm not sure they could've made this film without him as Machete), Bobby DiNero, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Steven Seagal, Cheech Marin, Don Johnson, Lindsay Lohan . . . it goes on and on.  There were so many ridiculous, laugh-out-loud scenes that you know it's not taking itself too seriously.  The plot is just as deep as it needs to be, the dialogue is great, and the film is sort of satirical at times, which made it that much better.  It's obviously not for everyone, but if you have ever seen and enjoyed a movie by Rodriguez, you will love this one.

Stone Temple Pilots! 8.31.10 @ Mohegan Sun

I'm not even sure that I can come up with words for how awesome this show was. It was by and large all old songs, but for about 4 songs from the new album and one cover. The four or so new songs that they chose were probably the four best songs on the new album. My biggest regret for the night was that we didn't switch our seats sooner. Our assigned seats were in the middle of a row (the seats were great, by the way - upstairs, stage left), so when we walked in we took some empty seats in the unsold section next to ours. Some security dude told us we had to move, so we did. When the show started, everyone in our crowded section remained seated and appeared to have no fun at all. Anyone who's read this blog before knows that I love to dance, so clearly this situation wasn't going to work for me. After about 4 songs, we moved back to the forbidden seats and I danced my ass off all night long. We also missed Cage the Elephant, who I had been stoked to see open, but hunger prevailed and we grabbed dinner before heading in to the show. Without further ado, here's the setlist (which, incidentally, is exactly the same as every other show they've played on this tour, but more on that later):

1. Crackerman
2. Wicked Garden
3. Vasoline
4. Heaven and Hot Rods
5. Between the Lines
6. Hickory Dichotomy
7. Still Remains
8. Cinnamon
9. Big Empty
10. Dancing Days (Led Zep cover)
11. Pretty Penny
12. Silvergun Superman
13. Plush
14. Interstate Love Song
15. Huckleberry Crumble
16. Down
17. Sex Type Thing
18. Dead and Bloated
19. Trippin on a Hole in a Paper Heart

I realized at the show the other night just how much Scott Weiland uses his voice as an instrument. To some extent, I know that all vocalists do, but Scotty's voice can change so dramatically from one song to the next, and sometimes it really just sounds like he's playing along. Check out Hickory Dichotomy and Interstate Love Song, especially, to see what I mean. Along those same lines, I really love the megaphone/microphone thing he does on songs like Crackerman and Dead and Bloated.

The show started off hard and heavy with Crackerman, and that carried the feeling for the whole show. Scotty came out wearing all black, including a cape, hat, sunglasses and a scarf. Song by song, the layers came off. The man has style, I gotta say. I wish that more layers had come off; Scotty without a shirt might've made my life, but even still. Speaking of Scotty's style - I recently learned that he has a clothing line. Crazy, right? And seriously, follow that link and check out some of the clothes in that line - it's all button-downs, suits and ties. And they're really, really nice.

Crackerman was an amazing way to start the show, and Trippin... was an excellent closer. Though, any closer would have made me feel sad, really. I was bummed when I walked out of that show. Bummed. My heart hurt, I was so sad that it was really over. I haven't felt that strongly about a show being over in a long time. I'm always sad, but the other night, it was severe. I can usually turn it around to being thankful that I had the opportunity to be there in the first place, and hold onto that gratitude, but I had to KEEP ON reminding myself of that until I fell asleep.

While we're talking about individual songs - Wicked Garden and Dead and Bloated might have been my favorites for the night. I was so souped to hear Sex Type Thing (Scotty growling something about how he'll give me something that I won't forget and how I shouldn't have worn that dress just does it for me, honestly, and it did it Tuesday night, but not like I wanted it to), but it just wasn't as awesome as WG or DaB. Plush into Interstate Love Song was a moment - the crowd sang the chorus, and it was as cool as it always is when that happens. Those two songs are just so widely known, you couldn't help but appreciate the whole place singing along. There were multiple occasions when I found myself thinking that this was what church should feel like.

Scotty looked almost pudgy about the belly on stage. That made me so happy. The level of awesome achieved on this newest album raised fears in the back of my head that he was back on the smack, but I think he looked too good (and too chubby) for that at this show.  No doubt, he still drinks, and I'm pretty sure that wasn't water he was swigging between songs, but whatever it takes.  I did some further research on this point (shocking, I know), and learned that this new album was only the third that Weiland has ever recorded sober (fn and fn). The other two were STP's debut, Core, and Velvet Revolver's second album, Libertad.  I feel like this helps explain how this album got to be so great, as well as some of the freaky that Scotty had going on in between.

I am a little bummed by the fact that they're playing exactly the same show for every show on the tour, and in that way, I feel a little let down by the lack of spontaneity, but I think this is a common thing with rock tours nowadays, and STP is not alone in sticking to a formula that works.

If I can just digress for a minute here - what happened to the days of bands coming up with and rehearsing a couple of set lists that worked real well, and then shuffling through them throughout the tour, adding and subtracting to suit the mood as it happened? I'll tell you what - major labels and the demand for more and more over-produced shows has led to the lights, cameras, lyricsmonitorsinthestage! (yes, STP, I sat side-stage the other night, I know you're guilty of it - I'm not saying you relied heavily on them, or even used them at all, but they were there) atmosphere that we now see and pay for with every ticket we buy. And speaking of tickets that we buy - don't advertise your show as proudly keeping ticket prices under $50 (and I'm not talking about STP here - they were over $50 and proud of it), only to charge $49.50 plus $13 in "service charges." That's bullshit, it's disingenuous, and it's not how you should be treating your fans. Pearl Jam got out of the ticketmaster/major label bullshit, and others could and should do it as well. Gimme an old-fashioned club show for $15 ($20 at the door) over such an over-produced, multi-million dollar spectacle any day. J even said that this show would've been so. much. better. had it been at HOB instead of Mohegan. I think that at every single big arena show I go to, and it's rare for him to agree or care to discuss the finer points with me, let alone to bring it up himself. I'm glad he has seen the light, and I can only hope that he will continue to vociferate on the topic, as I hope that you will, dear readers. Down with major labels!

All of that aside, though - it was a fabulous show, whether it was the same as every other show on the tour or not. I guess it works out well that I couldn't afford to go to the show in Boston the following night, because it might've felt too contrived after seeing the exact same show the night before. Either way - the show was still one of the best I've seen. If you haven't heard the new album, do yourself a favor and check it out. And if you have a chance to catch a show - go! Trust me on this, I've seen the exact same show already. :)

ETA (on 9.9.10) - Holy crap, I almost forgot about my other favorite part of the show.  Big Empty just came on as I'm sitting at my desk eating lunch, and I remembered how right before STP launched into this last week, Scott lit a cigarette and sang this song kind of low and mellow while he was smoking.  It was great.  See kids, sometime smoking still does make you look cool.  ;)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Remember me?

Wow.  I have nothing to offer by way of an apology for not posting for so long, but I promise that I have a lot in mind waiting to show up here.  Some highlights:

1) I'm currently listening to what might be the best book ever written.  We all know I'm not a fan of favorites, but I might have an actual, single favorite author by the time this is over.  I'm also already in the market for the perfect paper copy of the book so that I can start re-reading and re-reading and re-reading it, something else I rarely do.  This is just that good.. 

2) The new Stallone/Statham movie came out a few weeks ago.  I went on opening night and I have some thoughts. . .  It may be a big movie post, because I also recently saw Inception, and it blew my mind, and there are a few other things I've seen recently that I'm sort of itching to talk about.

3) I experienced Stone Temple Pilots rocking Mohegan Sun last night, and I can't wait to rave about how awesome it was.  I'm still giddy.

4) Despite my current audiobook kick, I have some music tags to post.

5) I'm working on some new short fiction to share.  I know, the very idea that I might share something I wrote is fascinating to all of you, isn't it?  Don't hold your breath.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Best Fruit Dip Ever.

Credit for this goes to my sister-in-law, who served it one of the first times that I ever met her.  My parents and I went to visit my brother and his then-girlfriend at the house they were renting for the summer in Charlestown for a little cookout.  One of the things that C served was cut up fruit with this fluffy, green, delicious dip.  I don't remember if it was a picky when we first got there or a dessert, or how much of it I had to eat before I finally asked her what it was, but I will never forget how excited I was to learn that it was just Cool Whip mixed with some instant pistachio pudding mix.  That's it.  Probably don't mix the whole packet of instant pudding mix into one tub of thawed out Cool Whip, unless you want it to be really stiff and really pistachio-y, but just sprinkle in a little at a time and mix in enough to suit your taste.  I usually use fat-free Cool Whip and fat-free pudding mix, so unless you're following Michael Pollan's rules (more on that another time), it's not even bad for you!  It's amazingly simple and completely delicious.  Maybe this is a common knowledge kind of thing, but I was floored the first time I had it, and I've made it a few times recently to great applause, so I just wanted to share.  It's too tasty to not share!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

D-Day by Antony Beevor

Last August, J and I traveled to New Orleans to meet friends who were there for a conference.  We spent three days in the city, which we love, and we saw and did a few new things that we had missed on previous visits.  One of those things was a visit to the National WWII Museum.  I was interested, but not thrilled with the prospect of spending a full day there.  I could've spent three days there.  Seriously.  And ever since the one day that we spent there, I've been a little obsessed.  I've always been sort of fascinated by the way that the Allied nations and their citizens could pull together against a common enemy, and I think part of that has to do with the fact that I can't even imagine that in today's selfish, self-centered society.  It's always been the civilian side of things that interested me, though.  Until last summer.  Now I find myself absorbing every second of military history from the period that I can get my hands on.

This book was a random pick-up at the library for me.  It was sitting on an endcap with a bunch of other "new arrivals" at the front of the library, and the cover just jumped out at me.  I picked it up, unsure if I'd even crack it open at home, or if I'd just flip through a little, or if I'd actually endeavor to read the whole brick of a book.  When I told J I was unsure about it, he talked me into reading it.  It took me three weeks to read, because I'm sort of military illiterate still, but it was excellent.  When I say I'm military illiterate, I mean that I don't really know the basics of military hierarchy - battalions and regiments and companies - it just doesn't entirely make sense to me yet.  I'm getting there, but it's slow going.  Ranks still sort of confuse me too.  Add to all of that the fact that this book isn't strictly an Allied point of view, but it also explains a lot about the German positions, with all of their 15-letter German names for everything, and I think it's understandable why this was such a slow read for me.

All of that aside, though, this was an excellent book.  Any failings were my own, and not the book's.  There were a TON of maps, which I think is vital to any military history book.  I learned more about the geography of Northern France than I ever thought I'd know.    The book covers the period from shortly before D-Day through the liberation of Paris, and provides a pretty detailed overview of the route there.What I really liked, though, was that this was not as strictly American as most D-Day books I've come across.  It presents a more broad take on the whole invasion, including equal attention to all aspects of the Allied troops, as well as the German perspective, and the French, and most importantly, the French civilian, perspective.  It felt like the time spent on tactical and strategic components and on the more emotional, human, side of things was a very good balance.  I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in getting an in-depth, objective, candid overview of the Normandy invasion.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Buddhism for Busy People by David Michie

I've always had some level of fascination with Eastern religions generally, and with Tibetan Buddhism in particular, and I suppose that was what led me to pick this audiobook up from the library in the first place.  I don't often browse at the library, except for audio books.  I usually reserve the books that I want, and then just run and to pick them up from the desk.  I sort of like to use audiobooks as an opportunity to learn something, or to listen to a book that I might not otherwise have read, so I tend to browse for them, and I've come up with some good ones lately, but this one in particular struck me so much that I thought it required it's own post.
I'm not a Buddhist, and up until the past week or so that I've been listening and really thinking about this book, I would've told you that I was a Lutheren, and I guess really, I still am.  I was raised, baptised and confirmed in the Lutheren Church, and I have always really liked my religion.  Actually going to church hasn't been a huge part of my life lately, I admit, but I often think about my faith and about how it fits into my life, and it is very important to me, though not always outwardly so.  In listening to David Michie's partly-autobiographical, partly instructional, and partly introductory text book, thought, I've come to realize that whether I recognized it or not, Buddhist principles have already been a part of my day-to-day life for a long time.  Listening to this book on my way to and from work for a couple of weeks helped to center me, and helped me to put a number of things in my life into perspective.  At the same time, though, and perhaps more importantly, it called a number of things in my life into question.  I feel silly calling a book life-changing, but at the least it was certainly eye-opening for me.  Somehow, what I know of Buddhist teachings and principles (which is admittedly fairly minimal) just makes sense to me, in a way that my own faith never really has.  I am more able to accept and understand these principles than I am many of the teachings of my own judeo-christian upbringing.  Granted, basic tenents of these faiths are largely the same - do unto others and all of that - but it's more than that.  Buddhism seems, to me anyway, to be so much more focused on the teaching and learning and sharing and understanding than on the idea of "worship," which recently is what I have come to question.  It just sets better with me to be guided than to worship, I guess.

So now I find myself in an interesting place, and I feel as though I have some work to do.  I am beginning to work on more actively incorporating what I know and understand of Buddhist principles into my life, but cautiously so.  I have only a small idea of what I don't know, and I understand how much more I have to understand.  I'm not sure I want to "be a Buddhist," or even what that would entail, but I know that I want to learn more and I want to find myself some help in that learning, and I know that I find a level of solace in what I do know that I have not found elsewhere.  I'm also not in any rush to renounce what has always been my faith and my church, because I know that I still believe in it.  Somehow I just don't seem to take from it what I feel like I have always (and especially recently) needed to get from it, if that makes any sense.

A few months ago, I read Chuck Palahniuk's Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey, and I think the biggest thing I took from that book related to religion.  Rant Casey used to say, as he was riding around crashing cars, just at the moment of impact, Rant used to say, "this is what church should feel like."  He said the same thing just after he had an orgasm, and at various other times too, but what I get from that is that faith and enlightening and religion is not and should not be the same for everyone.  I think that live music, especially in a big arena or stadium with thousands of people all singing along, that's what church should feel like.  Or doing volunteer work.  Or the kind, smiling eyes of a stranger you pass on the street.  Or literally stopping to smell the flowers on a warm, sunny day.  It should feel warm and open and happy.  I'm not sure when I've ever felt warm and open and happy when I was at the church where I grew up, but I can think of a lot of times when I've been at a show and stopping singing along myself in order to listen to the thousands of voices enveloping me, and at those times I've though, if not in so many words, that it was what church should feel like.  Daily, I look for examples of things that church should feel like, and I think that's an excellent way to appreciate the little things.  And isn't that what it's about, in so many ways?