Archive for January, 2010

Social Commentary at Walgreens

January 26, 2010

In the interests of warming my car in subzero wind chills (and replenishing our dwindling supply of toilet paper before we had to reenact the “can you spare a square” bit through the laundry chute), I drove to our local Walgreens.

I was feeling a little salty because I not only had to brush snow off the outside of my car, but I got to scrape frost off the inside of the windows as well. (I know, waaaah. But it’s still messed up.)

As I rounded the corner, Charmin squeezed in my hand, I saw this:
Really?

And this:
Sad.

(The shirt on the right is supposed to say “My Dad Rocks” in a ripoff AC/DC font.)

Any kid whose parents buy these also need to look for the shirt that says, “My parents have low self-esteem.”

I don’t have a problem with the Grandma shirt, and I don’t have that much of a problem with the dad shirt, although I find them really cheesy. But “My mom is hot”? Really? Is this the companion garment to the “I’m with the MILF” tank we saw on a guy at the State Fair?

Proper Bidet Use

January 17, 2010

When you are visiting hotels in a country outside the U.S. (or U.S. hotels that have extra-large bathrooms or cater to foreign visitors), you might encounter a bidet.

A bidet is located in the bathroom and is typically used to freshen and cleanse your nether regions. (How you go about that is completely up to you.) You can also use it to have your own private fountain shows in your hotel room, with lights and music. My personal favorite is “Singin’ in the Rain,” just like the song in the Bellagio show.

bidet-1

When facing the bidet for the first time, it is important to notice the faucet setup. In most U.S. hotels, the lever for the hot water is on the left, and the lever for the cold water is on the right. Should you choose to face this direction on the bidet (and that is an option), you will have no problem confusing the two.

However, things get a little more tricky if you’re facing the other direction. If you face away from the faucet, you must remember that the levers are reversed. The hot water is now on your right and the cold water is on your left.

bidet-2

For the safety of your bits, do not forget this! If you mistakenly turn the hot water on high, you might end up with scalded parts, just like a dear friend of mine. He limped around for days, possibly weeks.

2009 Music in Review: The Albums

January 1, 2010

For Part 1 of the singles, go here.

For Part 2 of the singles, go here.

    Favorite retro-sounding albums:

    • Noisettes – Wild Young Hearts: This is the mental picture I had of Amy Winehouse before I saw what she looked like (and having high def does nothing for her, let me tell you). Shingai Shoniwa is her polar opposite who is stylish, restrained, and together. Admittedly, I know nothing of her personal life, but it’s a safe bet that it’s a lot more organized than Ms. Winehouse. Shingai has an amazing voice and is engaging to watch (in videos, at least– I hope to see them perform live someday).
    • Raveonettes – In and Out of Control: The Danish duo are at it again with another fantastic album. I have no idea what the lyrics to “Bang!” mean, but the melody makes me giddy. The album has some pure pop moments (the previously mentioned “Bang!”), along with some lush melodies contrasted with dark lyrics (“Last Dance,” “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)”).
    • Cocktail Slippers – St. Valentine’s Day Massacre: The singer’s voice reminds me of Voice of the Beehive, who I absolutely adore. This is a garage band from Oslo, Norway and they have “cocktail” in the name. How could I resist?
    • Glasvegas – s/t: The Jesus and Mary Chain had a love child with The Ronettes and raised it in Scotland.
    • The Leftovers – Eager to Please: I would like to thank my friend Dave for introducing me to yet another fun summer power pop album. He does this every year (see also: Rhett Miller, Everybody Else).

    Favorite mellow albums:

    • The Damnwells – One Last Century: Offered as a free download from Paste magazine, it was priceless in every sense of the word. It’s beautifully written and performed. “Closer Than We Are” gets me every time.
    • Various Artists, Sweetheart – Our Favourite Artists Sing Their Favourite Love Songs: A lovely, understated cover album. The versions of “Take on Me” and “I’m on Fire” surprised me in a good way, and I love Death Cab for Cutie’s cover of The Cure’s “Love Song.” It’s perfect winter music for cuddling under a blanket either alone or with the one you love.
    • The Twilight Hours – Stereo Night: Local mainstays Matt Wilson and John Munson team up for a dreamy collection of songs. The first time I heard “Alone,” I got chills.

    Favorite albums to play loudly:

    • Tinted Windows – s/t: Fountains of Wayne meets Hanson meets Cheap Trick meets Smashing Pumpkins? Absolutely. It helps that Adam Schlesinger wrote most of the songs. He’s one of the most talented songwriters of our time. He’s like Lennon and McCartney rolled into one, except without “Spies Like Us” and “Freedom.” Bun E. Carlos and James Iha are solid, and Taylor Hanson’s vocals are outstanding.
    • Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown: How do you follow up American Idiot? First, you do a side project (Foxboro Hot Tubs) that sounds like a garage band, then you incorporate some of that sound while writing the musical-influenced sequel. It’s not as much of a surprise as American Idiot, but an enjoyable album all the same.
    • Weezer – Raditude: This album could have also fit in the retro category, because there’s something old school about a lot of the songs and the melodies. I liked the red album, but I felt like they were trying to do too much with it and could have used a couple more passes at some of the songs. This album is more cohesive and it seems like they’re having a lot more fun.
    • Cheap Trick – The Latest: They can do no wrong, really. But there are so many bands who have been around forever who just pump out crap to make a buck, yet Cheap Trick produces these solidly crafted albums.
    • Frank Turner – Poetry of the Deed: We were first introduced to Frank Turner when he opened for The Gaslight Anthem in October, and we were glad we got there early to see him perform as the opening act. He played an acoustic set, but it was powerful and passionate, and his songs stayed with me long after he stopped playing. Even though this is acoustic, it rocks in the best way.

    2009 Music in Review: The Singles, Part 2

    January 1, 2010

    For Part 1, go here.

    My other favorite songs from 2009:

    I didn’t really have a neat category for these, but it doesn’t mean I love them any less, and I wanted to give them their own time in a separate post.

    • “Just Say Yes” by Snow Patrol: There’s something sensual about Snow Patrol’s music. It makes you want to grab the person closest to you and make out with them. Or maybe that’s just me.
    • “I Do Not Hook Up” by Kelly Clarkson / Gaslight Anthem: Two different versions of this song, one poppy and upbeat and produced, and the other acoustic and mellow and sparse. Both are excellent.
    • “Fuck You” by Lily Allen: My dedication to all the bigots in the world. Or in the words of a Facebook group, “Against gay marriage? Then don’t get one and shut the fuck up.”
    • Cartoons and Forever Plans” by Maria Taylor: This song features Michael Stipe on backing vocals and is one of the most relaxing songs I’ve ever heard. It just makes me feel calm and happy.
    • “Dominos” by The Big Pink: The production is really lush and it has a Jesus and Mary Chain vibe going on, except with higher vocals.
    • “You Pulled the Rug Out” by Two Harbors: This song also reminds me of British pop, but Two Harbors are from Minnesota. (Side note: This was filmed at Sauce, a bar just around the corner from Hair Police, which is a business you should totally support if you live in the Twin Cities, New York, L.A., or San Francisco. They do amazing things with cuts, color, extensions, and dreads, and are all around good people.)
    • “Okay” by KaiserCartel: Along with “Oasis,” this gets my vote for best song to get stuck in my head this year. If I heard a few lines of this on my way to work, I’d be mentally singing it all day.
    • “Led To The Sea” by Jenny Owen Youngs: I first discovered her work through her cover of “Hot in Herre” on the Coverville year-end countdown a few years ago, but her original songs are fantastic too.
    • “I’m Sorry Baby But You Can’t Stand In My Light Anymore” by Bob Mould: In other words, I can’t stand here and watch you screw up your life and drag me down with you, set to a great melody.

    2009 Music in Review: The Singles, Part 1

    January 1, 2010

    Warning: The next few posts are long and overthought and partly coffee-fueled and partly beer-fueled. Hence the rambling. And I had to split it into three parts because there was so much music I enjoyed this year. I don’t expect anyone to like every single thing that I do, but if someone discovers something new that makes them happy, then I’ve done my job.

    My favorite new song from 2005 that I discovered in 2009: “Gravity” by Embrace

    We’ve been watching a lot of Gavin and Stacey lately. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s because BBC America played the episodes about a year ago and has been running nothing but Top Gear and Gordon Ramsay ever since, instead of using their resources to introduce America to more brilliant British comedy. This is the song played at the end of season 2, during a very important event which I won’t give away because you probably haven’t seen the show yet, but you should because it’s brilliant.

    This is a lovely, moving ballad that still has an anthemic quality to it (like “Run” by Snow Patrol), which isn’t surprising considering that it was written by Chris Martin of Coldplay. It sounds beautiful while you’re sitting quietly in your room, or singing along with thousands of other people in a stadium.

    My favorite new song from 2006 that I discovered in 2009: “I Love It When You Call” by The Feeling

    We recently upgraded to a high-definition TV this year, about three years after everyone else, but we’re enjoying it immensely. Plus, our reward for waiting was getting a 46” TV at a very reasonable price. Anyway, we now have a new high-definition music channel called Palladio, and we’ve seen loads of European and British music festivals as a result. And on one of those shows, we discovered this song by The Feeling and haven’t been able to stop listening to it ever since. I’ve listened to it over three times today already. It’s the best song Fountains of Wayne never wrote.

    My favorite new song from 2007 that I discovered in 2009: “Fluorescent Adolescent” by Arctic Monkeys

    I wasn’t really fond of “I’ll Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and it got tremendously overplayed and overhyped. But this is a fun, unpretentious song that sneaks up on you. The introduction gets stuck in my head constantly, and it’s a pleasant thing to have bouncing around in your brain.

    My favorite new songs from 2008 that I discovered in 2009: “Love Story” by Taylor Swift / “Oasis” by Amanda Palmer
    These songs could not be more opposite in form and content, so I’ll discuss them separately.

    In the first half of 2009, I listened to the Taylor Swift album more times than most teenage girls did. I have a bit of a shady past with country, having spent several years in Texas where you couldn’t exactly avoid it, and some of the songs got under my skin. This album is incredibly poppy, but with enough of a hint of country to make me reminisce a little. “Love Story” isn’t Shakespeare, but it wasn’t written for music critics. It’s the perfect girly girl song, with the balconies and pretty dresses and princesses all wrapped up in an extremely catchy melody. All that’s missing is a pony, but she gets to that in “White Horse,” the fallout of the dream “Love Story” creates.

    Ever since Clinton from Zombie Fights Shark! posted a link to Amanda Palmer’s video for “Oasis” in April, I’ve had the song in my head. Due to its content, I’ve had to refrain from singing it aloud on several occasions (team meetings, trips to the South, family reunions, and so on). It’s catchy and fun and irreverent and ironic and hilarious.

    My favorite new song from 2009: “Never Forget You” by Noisettes

    I just get filled with joy whenever I hear this song. I love her vocals, I love the production, and I love the ‘60s soul/girl group vibe.

    My favorite song that should have been written in 1978: “Free Energy”“Something in Common” by Free Energy

    Free Energy takes all the good things from the late ‘70s, puts them in a blender with a few dashes of the ‘00s, and pours out these enjoyable songs. The keyboard lines and guitar effects that would irritate me in other songs? They completely work here.

    My favorite new Christmas song: “Christmas Tree” by Lady GaGa

    I played this over and over and over again, much to my husband’s amusement, then dismay. I have a minor GaGa obsession right now. I expect it to last about two months. But her music is poppy, mindless fun that makes you want to dance even if you don’t know how. Oh, and thank you Amazon, for offering this for free during your 25 Days of Christmas.

    Also voted best music to serenade your designated driver with. After our holiday happy hour for work, my friend Beth’s husband was kind enough to drive us home, and this is how we repaid his good deed. I think I owe him one or two.

    Two of my favorite songs that I didn’t think I’d like, but was pleasantly surprised: “Fallin’ for You” by Colbie Caillat / “The Fixer” by Pearl Jam

    Colbie Caillat looks a bit like Jennifer Aniston, if she were actually happy with her life. Colbie doesn’t have that hard, angry, hungry edge to her face, and she always looks peaceful and content. I absolutely hated the song “Bubbly,” but I love this one. It also helps that the opening guitar part sounds like “Dreams” by The Twilight Hours and contains some of my favorite chords.

    In our house, we refer to Eddie Vedder as Goat Boy because of his penchant for filling his vocals with vibrato. I actually liked some of the songs from Vs., but really didn’t enjoy anything Pearl Jam had put out since then. In retrospect, I’ve enjoyed some of their one-off singles that sound like ‘60s garage bands (their cover of “Last Kiss,” and their Christmas single “ Don’t Believe in Christmas”), and now they’ve released an album with that guitar sound and more straightforward vocals. It’s an excellent combination. They seemed sort of humorless before, but they seem like they’re having fun with their music again, and I’m having fun listening to it.

    My favorite songs I found through the Rock and Roll Geek Show:

    • The Dirt” by Tinted Windows: The band played hard-to-get with this song, only including it on the Japanese import of their self-titled album. It totally worked because it made me want the song even more. I was unaware of its existence until I heard it on Michael Butler’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Geek Show, and I listened to the first five minutes of that episode about 10 times just to hear that tune. I feel lucky that I discovered this song.
    • “Mazel Tov Cocktail” by The Wildhearts: A solid song from a wildly underrated band. This song makes me drive faster. The video is a live recording from one of my favorite places in the world. I haven’t been inside the specific building, but I love the general area.

    My favorite retro-sounding songs: