Friday, July 29, 2005

Pop Me One, Right In the Face

As my updated "Ear's Current Cravings" section shows, I've had insatiable pop cravings lately. The music snob in me sometimes feels guilty about my ridiculous affinity for well done pop. But, under current circumstances, I'm not being too hard on myself. Partly because I think, deep down, we all love pop. Some just admit it more openly than others. You know that all the stereotypical emo kids switch out the Bright Eyes cd for some Destiny's Child and sing along happily when no one's looking. If not DC, then some other poppy artist. Everybody's got their "guilty pleasures".

The other reason I'm guilt-free about my pop bingeing is that, honestly, I need it. In the last week, I have redone all of the analysis for my internship research project 3 times, while trying to make a poster, and write a paper (possibly for publication) about these constantly changing results. Thinking is too much to ask of me right now. I need happy, peppy, easy going music that doesn't ask much of me other than to perhaps sing along from time to time.

I need to write Kylie Minogue a letter of thanks. Fever kept me sane today during the most recent (and hopefully the last) re-working of results. I can't feel stressed or worried when I'm Burning Up (baby).

So Many Australians, So Awesome.

It has been brought to my attention (thanks, Jay) that Architecture in Helsinki has a new video out. The song, "Do the Wirlwind," is one of the many excellent songs off of their newest album In Case We Die. It also happens to be featured on one of my exclusive summer mixed cds this year. So clearly, it's quality.

Anyways, the video can be seen via Yahoo!'s Launch here. It's very silly, playful, Super Nintendo era animation--very fitting for their youthful and vibrant sound. I love it. Though, I would be curious to see a video featuring the whole lot of 'em with all their instruments.

P.S. In case you're unfamiliar with the band and/or don't have access to their material, the new album can be streamed off of their website (linked above). Je l'aime.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Z Makes It Awesome!

The somehow popular kids compilations of pop songs known as Kidz Bop completely baffles me. I don't understand the appeal of any manufactured compilation cds of this sort, really. (Now That's What I Call Crap, Volume 22!) But this phenomenon in particular has me especially curious.

These kid rockers (and you know they rock, because it's Kidz Bop) are obviously reasonably popular. They wouldn't have 8 editions of the stuff if it wasn't selling. But, why ? What is the appeal of kids shouting along to popular songs? And more importantly, why can't kids listen to the original versions of the songs? It's not like Kidz Bop changes the lyrics of the songs to make them more age-appropriate. They just add the overly excited yelling of children.

But, I suppose I shouldn't bother tryng to understand this bizare trend. I'd rather just laugh at it. Sound clips of the kid screaming can be found here . I'm particularly fond of their version of Amerie's "1 Thing." Kid shouts have an odd effect on that incredibly catchy, sex-filled song. I'm also curious about the ending of U2's "Vertigo". That's got to be chock full of ridiculous cheering and mayhem. The full Franz Ferdinand rendition can be found here, thanks to Stereogum. I don't think Gang of Four inspired post/dance-punk and a choir of children mix too well.

When it comes to laughing at Kidz Bop, nothing beats the video for their version of Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" (the link is on the right-hand side of the page). Kids rocking out to bad music played by furry-esque animal musicians. Honestly, does anything more need to be said?

My Alcoholiday

This post comes a little bit after the fact, but the ending weeks of my internship are getting pretty busy. Having to actually turn things in does that.

Anyways, last weekend I journeyed to Greensboro, North Carolina to see The Definitive Source (TDS) [Also known as Matt]. The primary reason for my visit being to see Teenage Fanclub kick off their U.S. tour at the Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill. Partly, I wanted to see a concert with TDS, since his music geekery makes him an ideal concert companion. But the opportunity to see these power-popping Scotlanders (that rarely tour the U.S.) live was certainly reason enough for the journey.

The Rosebuds, a local North Carolina band, opened, and are opening throughout the tour. They were a good opening band. I wasn't blown away, but they have a nice sound. They sometimes have too much of an affinity for choruses entirely composed of yeahs, ohs, or whoas. Don't get me wrong, I love yeahs, ohs, and whoas. But in moderation. It also takes some real skill to master the art of non-repetitious repetition. That sentence sounded very...repetitious.

After the long equipment-shift pause between bands, which was filled with lots of shuffling around in the crowd to avoid me being stuck behind tall people, Teenage Fanclub came on stage. From the very opening song, I was very impressed with their musicianship and talent. Their vocal harmonies sounded delightful; very well balanced, which can be difficult to pull off live. And the guitars--all three of them--excellent. They don't simply wail away at the things, attempting a non-stop rock out, like some bands mistakenly do. They practice just enough restraint that when they do really let things go, it's a perfect contrast. Don't think they didn't rock. Trust me, they did. Norman, one of the guitarists, broke a string during one song and just kept right on going.

The band also had a great stage presence. You could really tell that they love playing, and they don't take themselves too seriously. Norman, the primary speaker for the band (the others seemed a bit shy about speaking to the crowd), forgot what album one of their songs was on, announcing "And it was of our records. I don't know." Even more charming was his frankness about the encore: "We've got one song left, and then we're going to go backstage and pretend the show is over. And then we'll come out and play a few more songs." All said with his thick (and wonderful) Glasgow accent.

After said encore, the crowd seemed intent on having a second, but sadly they did not come back out. And despite playing an excellent set full of wonderful songs, they didn't play one of Matt's very favorites, Alcoholiday. But, he did get a set list to take home. Always an excellent concert memento.

There was an interesting mix of people in the crowd. It was about one third indie hipsters, one third older folks, and one third random people, some who seemed to have just wandered in on a whim. I heard one guy lean over to some girls and ask "Are these guys from Scotland or something?" Gee, I wonder. . .

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Ass-Face, the Blue Ribbon Winner

Late night TV is some real slim pickin's. I just found myself watching a dog show on Animal Planet. Sheesh.

I really don't understand dog shows. At all. Look at this monstrosity of a dog that won the Eukanuba Tournament of Champions in Harrisburg Pennsylvania (Jeffery the Pekingese was the winner, he's first in the line of video clips to chose from). That thing is a giant puff of hair with a face that looks like a butt.

Yeah, sure, they judge the dogs based on the standards of their breed. But good lord! That is an ugly dog!

I'll Willy Your Wonka

I just got back from seeing the new Tim Burton remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I was originally pessimistic about the outcome of this movie. I generally dislike remakes, and I was skeptical about Johnny Depp replacing Gene Wilder. But, I really liked it--I mean, really liked it.

The remake was able to use new-fangled fancy-pants special effects to its benefit. I can usually forgo the special effects; most movies now are unnecessarily filled with them. But modern special effects really allowed them to capture the far-out, beyond-your-wildest-dreams nature of Willy Wonka's factory. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is actually one of the few Roald Dahl books I haven't read, but having read the majority of his other books, I think Burton's depiction of the factory and all of the crazy antics were along the lines of what he envisioned.

The Oompa Loompas . . . Awesome. Their song and dance scenes were some of the most amusing parts of the film. The song for Veruca Salt sounded like it could be on the next Super Furry Animals record. I must say, I'm envious of the Oompas' dance moves and groovin' skills. It was also nice to see them, well, not so orange.

Otherwise, I think the movie had just the right amount of weird humor. The comedy wasn't overwhelmingly slapstick, and it wasn't too subtle either. It was delightfully odd, and hilarious. Though, Wonka running into his glass elevator doors twice was a bit too much to me. It almost seemed like a last minute attempt to get some kid-directed humor into the movie, just in case.

Johnny Depp is definitely cut out to portray a cooky, crazy guy. (But didn't we already know that?) There was also just enough sinister in his Willy Wonka to make it interesting. He didn't try to replace Gene Wilder by any means. It was very neat to see the different ways the actors interpreted the character.

The only thing I didn't like so much about the film was the addition of Wonka flashbacks. Not having read the book, I can't say if they were a complete Burton creation, or if they were in fact adding a part of the book originally left out. Either way, they didn't really seem necessary to me. They provided some insight into why Willy Wonka was so odd, sure. But do we really need to know? I prefer him mysterious. The only other purpose they served was adding "yay families!" push at the end. Yeah, ok. It's a movie that many kids are going to want to see, so you include a nice little moral-of-the-story ending. But it just seemed forced. Besides, even without that addition, the story has a moral: don't be a brat.

This certainly isn't a movie entirely aimed at children. There's a lot of odd humor more for adults, and there's a squirrel scene that would have terrified me when I was little. But not surprisingly, there were a lot of kids there. I got a real kick out of seeing a movie in a theater filled with kids. The random shouting gives you another thing to laugh at. There's also all the children parading in and out to use the bathroom. One girl felt the need to hop down every step on her way out to the potty. So funny. Some might find it distracting, but every now and then, I like it.

On the whole, it was $6.50 well spent. If only to see the synchronized swimming, dancing, singing Oompa Loompas on the screen, and the hopping little girls in the aisles.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Comments, Questions, Concerns?

Related to my last post, I have a request.

One of my many new goals is to improve Music Is My Boyfriend for the upcoming fall semester. [For those unaware, Music Is My Boyfriend is my show on WRUW, which I started this past spring. I'm assuming I will get to continue with it this fall.] I only did a few themed shows in the spring, and I'd like to change that.

I've come up with a few theme ideas, and am slowly working on coming up with track lists to go with them. A few possibilities are:
  • Covers and their Originals
  • Sampling: Songs that sample, and the originating songs
  • Non-Traditional uses of guitar over the ages
  • References: Songs that reference other songs/artists/etc. and music the music they allude to
  • Track # day: Songs that are the blank-th track off the album they appear on
  • Another tribute to the handclap (That was easily one of my best shows)

The Request: Thoughts on these (suggestions for songs to include and so on), or new theme suggestions?

Underachievers, Please Try Harder

Summer always presents me with a confusing conflict of interests. Summer is vacation time. Time to be lazy, sit around doing nothing particularly ambitious--to recover from the academic year just passed and to rest up for the coming one. I start my summers in this traditional fashion. Mid-May, I can most often be found sitting on my posterior watching one of the millions of episodes of Law and Order on TV (At any given time, some channel, somewhere, is playing an episode. I swear, Ice-T is inescapable.). Or perhaps sleeping. I do a lot of that too.

But somewhere around early July, my typical overachiever-nerd habits return. I find myself making all sorts of ridiculous plans for future projects and setting absurdly high goals. There's nothing especially wrong or unnatural about this. I've always been a little too high-reaching for my own good. Only problem is that by the time I get around to the meat of my projects, school starts again and I am too burned out by work to persue my side projects with the fervor and gusto they deserve. I spite my work for taking me away from the things I'd rather be doing, and feel like a slacker for never carrying through with my original plans.

I don't know that the cycle will ever be broken. I can tell that I'm already a bit over my head for the fall. That is, if I am to keep all my self-made promises and my obligations. Some are things I've been meaning to do for years, some more recently developed desires.

Overachiever trapped inside an underachiever, I suppose.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Internet Induced ADD

About an hour ago, I put a tea bag into a mug of hot water and sat down at the computer to pass time as I waited for it to seep.

About 5 minutes ago, I remembered that I was once in the process of making tea.

The internet is a damn distracting thing! Time seems to fly by whenever I sit down at a computer to do my usual perusing of websites. Maybe with all this information traveling near the speed of light, time dilation occurs in the computer frame of reference.....

Some length contracting links:

Apparently Xiu Xiu is going to play at The Spot (Case Western Reserve University's campus bar). To be honest, I can't see too many Case kids liking that show, but nice work getting good acts, UPB!

Said the Gramaphone's got some great mp3's up lately. Recommendations here, there, and everywhere.

STOP THE EMO!!!!!! [wmv] (courtesy of Music (for robots)) Watch all the way through. The thank you is my favorite part.

Technologically savy Ukulele players' prayers have been answered. (courtesy of BoingBoing.)

A small sampling, I suppose, will have to do for now. Beds are too comfortable, and I am too willing to give in. After all, sleeping is giving in.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hold On a Second, I've Got a Call...

I've been thinking about it lately, and I really, really hate cell phones.

I have one of my own, but it was forced on me by my parents. The only reason I agreed was because of the free long distance on nights and weekends, and because they were paying for it. As I'm sure many of my friends are painfully aware, I rarely pay attention to it, or keep it with me for that matter. There's a reason my voicemail message is "Hey, it's Amy. You know how much attention I pay to my cell phone." If I look at it, it's usually to make a call, because it's making some annoying beeping noise, or to use it as an alarm. I wish others would do the same.

I know I'm not the first person to note this, but cell phones have caused rampant rudeness. If two people are at a restaurant having a nice conversation, it would be incredibly ill-mannered for one of them to turn to another table mid-conversation and start chatting with someone new. But nowadays, cell-phoners do this on a regular basis. Perhaps even more exaggeratedly so, since they strike up new conversations with people who-knows-where.

When I was venting about this to someone the other day, they commented that perhaps this widespread cellular crudeness happened because the technology came around after the days of etiquette. Maybe so. We're certainly far less concerned about manners than our ancestors--less likely to take offense.

I can't quite decide if this evolution is a good thing. But I do know that technology should not interfere in our everyday lives as much as cell phones tend to. I talk with people and am blown off at the ring (or vibrate) of a phone. I go to concerts and have my view obstructed by people holding up their cell phones to let a friend hear the music, or to take pictures. Time is wasted in my classes reminding people to turn them off, or dealing with interrupting calls. Movies, plays, performances of any kind now feel the need to take time at the beginning of shows to tell people to turn them off.

It reminds me of junior high when every kid just had to have one of those virtual pets. They would bring it to class, where it would beep and buzz constantly, much to every teacher's delight. Those things eventually had to be banned. I wouldn't be at all surprised if many schools have banned cell phones.

I understand why we have them. They're absolutely wonderful in the case of an emergency. They can really come in handy in sometimes. But I see some people, and I'm amazed that their faces don't have permanent indendations where their phone goes. Since when was it impossible to live without a phone at your constant disposal?

I'm certainly not anti-technology. I went into withdrawl after 2 days without my computer and can't imagine life without it. And there certainly are people who have cell phones and use them politely, responsibly. But it seems like the large majority of the population is back in junior high, thrilled about their new toy, and insisting on taking it and using it everywhere.

You know, you can always call them back. It's ok to not answer sometimes.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Don't Tell Me Not To Blog, Bucco.

Five days a week, eight hours a day, I can be found sitting in little cubicle #4, generally bored out of my mind. To break up the monotony, I usually wander the internet aimlessly and often find some interesting stuff. Today, I came across this article from Chronicle Careers. I found it both thought provoking and annoying. But mostly annoying.

The article talks about the influence job applicants' blogs played in the selection process, and concludes with a very strong "Don't Blog if you want a job" push. Eww.

Now, I understand one of the main points of the article and wholeheartedly agree. People who use blogs as personal diaries, publishing all of their neuroses to anyone and everyone who want to read it, are just asking for trouble. Employers certainly have a right to read applicants' blogs, and to judge the person for their dabblings in internet publishing. So if you use your blog as a forum to discuss your craziness, good luck!

I've never quite understood the whole concept of blogs as online (i.e. public) diaries. I have a warm spot in my heart for actual hand written (what?! People still use pen and paper? gasp !), personal journals. Maybe I'm just a romantic, or old fashioned, but I prefer them. It may also have something to do with my love of notebooks. I have no idea why, but even if I have no use for them, I like having nice notebooks.

My preference isn't entirely for privacy reasons, either. There are no locks on any of my journals (I have lots of them, even though none are full. Like I said, notebook weakness). If people ask me to read them--and actually a pretty decent amount have--I have no objections. But, there is a huge difference between acquaintances being able to access my thoughts and publishing them for anybody and everybody to read. I just don't see the need for that. There's also the fact that I doubt anyone would care. I have had both livejournal and xanga accounts before due to the urgings of friends, but I almost never updated them (as you can see). Mostly because I didn't like the whole concept behind them. I actually update this, though, because I like using blogs for discussing ideas and prodiving information, instead of just being a place where I can tell you all about my latest gossip.

Of course, I can't sit here and say that this blog is entirely impersonal. Most things I write about are related in some way to my life and things I'm going through. And of course, everything written here contains my opinions (directly or indirectly). But, this is by no means my online diary.

While I agree with the idea that people who publish diaries online are just asking for trouble, I completely disagree with the article's argument that all blogging is harmful to bloggers' future employment and otherwise. Yes, bloggers publish raw, unedited opinions for everyone to see. Yes, anyone can read these opinions and make their own judgements about the person and the ideas expressed there. But how is this any different from sitting down and having an intellectual discussion or argument with this person? If anything, employers should encourage people to submit blogs of this type. It gives you an insight into the interests, thoughts, and personality of a person. Certainly more so than stuffy, uptight resumés and interviews. Yes, in the end, what the employers learn about the person via their blog may end up being the reason they aren't hired. But, can this not go both ways? Even though it will cause rejections, if they are based on a better understanding of who the applicants are, perhaps it would facilitate better hiring decisions.

I'm not about to shut up just because I aspire to live in something more comfortable than a box. Future employers: Read what I write and like it or don't. I see no reason to censor myself because people might happen to use it later to learn more about me.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Je Suis...Not so Bien Calée

Indeed. Today, replacing the "bien calée" with "un stupid-head" would be a bit more accurate. [For those non-French speakers, the literal translation of "je suis bien calée" is "I am good/very clever." However, as my blog description points out, the actual phrase means "I am very full."]

Yes, mes amis, today I was humbled beyond belief when I joined the "I locked my keys in my car" club.

In rushing to get to lunch with the rest of the interns, I got out of the car, grabbed my wallet, and in doing so put down my keys. My lack of keys once outside of my car, which I always lock as I get out of, went unnoticed until about half way between my car and the door. The train of thought went something like this:

Hmmm, I'm not carrying very much.
That's weird. I usually have more with me than this.
[small pause]
Wait, why don't I have--FUCK!!!--my keeeeeeeeeys!!!!

Luckily, all hope was not lost. I had driven to the mall (where we were meeting to eat. Yeah, not my choice) by myself, because I needed to leave a bit early, having a meeting with my mentor at 1pm--We summer interns are wonderful at taking long leisurely lunches. And, being my practical, level-headed self, I always keep my vallet key in a reasonable place. In this case, my room back at the lab. So, I was able to hitch a ride back with some of the other interns, get my vallet key, and then get a ride back to the mall to retrieve my beloved Bebop. I felt awful for being such a burden, but the intern giving me a ride was happy to, since it provided him an excuse not to return to work. I managed to be only 10 minutes late to my meeting.

All in all, it wasn't a complete disaster. But it certainly made me feel quite the fool. If I were able, I would have hung my head in shame. I was amazed by how helpless it made me feel. My car was right there! But I couldn't do anything with it! It's a bit like having a great cd and no cd player, graham crackers and no nutella, etc. etc. Useless. Not ironic, like having 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife, though. Because we all know that such a situation is just so ironic. Ahh, Alanis. You silly Canadian with no understanding of irony.

Anyways, I got served. Big time. By a little bit of molded metal.
Quite humbling indeed.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Spiff 'n' Span

Keeping with the musical trend of the last few posts, I decided to spiffify the blog a bit by adding a new link section: "The Ear's Current Cravings." So, in case anyone cares, they can now find out what cd's I can't stop listening to at the moment.

And just a note on the title. The "Ear's" is not a grammatical error. If you know me, you will know why.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The Whoring Must Go On!

Over the years, I have built up a reputation of being, well, a bit of a whore. I am by no means sexually promiscuous; I prefer to slut it up musically. When I find good music, I let as many people know about it as possible, and give them access to it any way I can.

Now, I may be away from Case's delightful sharing network, and I may be restricted to government regulated computers on which I can't so much as change the screen saver settings; but I am determined, damnit! (Luckily, thanks to the wonders of the internet--especially mp3 blogs--this isn't too hard.)

Sufjan Stevens, a very talented indie folk-esque artist setting out to release an album about each of the 50 States, released his second state-devoted album Illinois this past Tuesday. (His first, Greetings from Michigan "The Great Lake State" was released in July of 2003, and is a great listen if you haven't already heard it.) So far, I've heard only good things about the newest album. The hipsters at Pitchfork gave it a 9.2 rating, placing it at the top of 2005's albums to date.

Being a poor college student, I have not purchased the album just yet. However, at this very moment, I am listening to it in its entirety thanks to WRUW's ever-handy web archiving. I was thrilled to find that Denise of the Make Please Me Radio Hour decided to play the entire album on her show this week. So, for those of you interested, Illinois is available for your listening pleasure here (click the 56k link for The Make Please Me Radio Hour to download an mp3 of this week's show). The archives are only held for one week, so get while the gettin's good.

So far, I like what I hear, though I'll need to give it my full attention before I give a definitive verdict. Having lived in Illinois for most my life, I'm excited to hear what he has to say about the state.

And in another whoring effort, I urge everyone to go listen to Rinôçérôse's single "Bitch". Immediately. The song can be streamed from their website (linked above), and a mp3 can be found for a limited time here (thanks to FluxBlog). It inspires booty shakin' to the extreme, and is playful, sexy, rhythmic, and just awesome.


Monday, July 04, 2005

Worry Wart

Whenever I travel, my mother, being a typical mother, always required that I call her upon arrival at my final destination (if not multiple times during the journey). Being a teen deeming herself grade A indestructible, and whom longed for independence, I hated this. It was just my mother being obsessively over-protective of her youngest daughter.

Now in my 20-ish wisdom (ha), I've realized the error in my ways. I too find myself worrying for loved ones traveling. I know it's incredibly paranoid; I feel ridiculous sitting around thinking "oh no, what if they're in a ditch somewhere?!" But, being someone deemed a worry wart as early as first grade, I just can't stop the stream of what if's.

I feel bad for all those times I forgot to call when I got there safe.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Music PSA

Stranded without music, I've taken to turning on the TV for background noise. I generally don't pay much attention. I've never been a huge television fan. But, yesterday, I did happen to hear an MTV commercial that got my attention. For once, "the leak" @ MTV dot com (a service that lets listeners preview upcoming albums a week or so in advance of their release) is leaking a good artist!

For your listening pleasure: Missy Elliot's new album, The Cookbook (to be released this Tuesaday, July 5th).

I gave it a listen last night, and enjoyed it quite a bit. The newest single Lose Control, in particular, is incredibly infectious. Knowing me, I will be dancing to it in my underwear soon enough.