Saturday, September 26, 2009

Against All Odds

Something statistically unlikely happened to me at work today. After finishing the audio of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters -- which, by the way, is great -- I decided it was time for some tunes. It seems that these days I'm even too lazy to decide what I should listen to. Luckily I have a playlist on my iPod of around 2,000 songs I'm usually in the mood for -- I set the iPod to shuffle and the playlist does the rest.

In 1979, The Police released their second album, Regatta de Blanc. Really worth checking out... punk, reggae, and rock rolled into one... it might be my favorite Police album. But I digress. The fifteenth song to come appear on my shuffled playlist was the semi-ubiquitous Police track, "Message in a Bottle," the opening song on Regatta. The next song -- to my surprise -- was "Regatta de Blanc," the second track on the identically named album.

What are the odds? That two songs appearing consecutively on an album would appear consecutively on a shuffled playlist?

Well, if my calculations* are correct, the odds are 4,551,882 to one. Which, according to C-3PO are even slimmer odds than successfully navigating an asteroid field (which, since you're dying to know, are 3,720 to one).

*The boring part (cuz the rest of this post was so entertaining):

Total songs in mix = 2148
Message = song 15
Regatta = song 16

P(Message) = 1/2134
P(Regatta after Message) = 1/2133
P(Message then Regatta) = P(Message) x P(Regatta after Message)
P(Message then Regatta) = 1/2134 x 1/2133
P(Message then Regatta) = 1/4,551,882

Monday, September 21, 2009

I will be anxious arms

Flew solo to the show tonight.

Didn't realize how much I missed the Jealous Sound until tonight's opener, "Hope For Us."

Blair -- J Sound singer -- looking skeletal as ever.

Couldn't bring my Canon in, had to use my old Sony:

Where have you been? Great to have you back.

New J Sound track -- "New Loves" -- pretty hard. Nabbed the setlist from Pedro (guitarist).

Enter Messieurs Enigk, Hoerner, Mendel and Goldsmith.

Been up close and personal with Jeremy Enigk before but never as the singer of Sunny Day Real Estate. Surreal.

"Song About An Angel" and "In Circles" blew me away. "Seven" and "Grendel" hit pretty hard too.

New SDRE track. If they don't record an album, at least a single or 7 inch. Please. Or an EP.

T-minus 25 till round two, Seattle, WA.

Dan Hoerner (left, guitarist) and his eternal smile (though impossible to see in this photograph). Contagious and infectious.

Not cool enough to hang at the Denver Diner with the hipsters after the show.

I miss having show-going friends.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

sometimes you see right through me

Can't wait to hang with these guys tomorrow night.

Sunny Day Real Estate's reunion tour was announced in June but it's only recently that I've really let myself get excited. Don't get me wrong though, I've still taken all necessary precautions to ensure attendance at two of their shows. Which just seems weird, going from never having seen them to seeing them twice within the span of a month, Denver on Monday, Seattle on October 16. I tried to make it three shows (Tempe, AZ, on October 9), but I just couldn't justify the cost of another plane ticket.

Last Tuesday, Sunny Day released remastered reissues of their first two albums, Diary and LP2, and each contains two bonus tracks. I lost my copy of Diary who knows how long ago and my copy of LP2 won't play without skipping on several tracks. I felt more than justified in picking up the new remastered copies at lunch on Friday.

The remastering is definitely noticeable but not necessarily needed, especially since you seem to not notice much of a difference after continuous listening. The bonus tracks are fun, but they're nothing new since these previously unpurchasable tracks were relatively easy for any hardcore SDRE fan to find online, which really is who these reissued albums are for. What really makes these reissues worth it are the expanded liner notes.

I was surprised to learn that Sunny Day was signed by Sub Pop in 1993 after playing their second show ever. Apparently Sub Pop knew what they were doing, as the band's debut album Diary, released in 1994, went on to become Sub Pop's seventh biggest seller of all time, moving over 231,000 units. Regarding Diary, quoth Ben Gibbard, "I had never heard an album I'd felt was so custom-tailored to me. The dynamics, the singing and the raw emotion in the music -- it's something that really knocked me out."

Ben Gibbard? Who knew the sphere of SDRE's influence was so far-spread. Oh wait, I did.

The fist time I saw Sunny Day's singer Jeremy Enigk play a solo show was as an opening act for Cursive on Halloween 2006. I came away disappointed, not in any way because of Jeremy's set but because of the indifference the Cursive fans showed him. Tim Kasher himself mispronounced his name, calling him Jeremy En-ick (short 'e'), not Jeremy Ee-nick (long 'e', like Enoch). While Cursive has made their way as a band probably without much direct influence of Sunny Day, Cursive and many of their contemporaries are nevertheless in debt to Sunny Day for the market they played a big part in creating.

It made me a little sad that Cursive's fans seemed to be so unaware of Enigk's contribution -- via Sunny Day Real Estate -- to a genre that might not have otherwise succeeded without albums like Diary and LP2.

(I tried to make this post shorter but I just couldn't manage to say what I wanted in fewer words. Sorry.)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fend For Yourself

You're better off dead
When you don't know
An original thought
Where do you go
When all your thoughts
Are hand me downs
Pictures and sounds
Bring back childhood memories
We were humble and meek
With independent confidence
Trust in ourselves
Through imagination
Fending for ourselves
With our superhero powers
Back when curiosity
Made us better in the end
Trusting in ourselves
And our superhero powers
Thoughts of mediocrity
Never entered in our minds

-- J. J. Stock

Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big.

-- Daniel Burnham

Noun vs. Adverb: Round I
The first time I had heard that quote (the one by Daniel Burnham, not Mr. Stock) was right after moving to Colorado. As a BYU-I alumnus (if you can think of a more stuffy, pretentious way to begin a sentence let me know) I was invited to attend a fireside given for students who had traveled to Denver on one of the school sponsored expeditions. In my business casual attire and two-day scruff I felt a little out of place among the all the suits and freshly shaved faces (as if I could have expected anything else from a BYU-I sponsored event). In order to not attract attention to myself, I got there right as it started and sat in the back. But alas, dressed in a red and blue sweater -- I wasn't even wearing a tie *gasp!* -- with growth on my face that would've got me sent home from class, I was positive everyone was looking right at me.

If I didn't feel inadequate enough already, hearing that Daniel Burnham quote sure did the trick. I had just started my first out-of-college job as an auditor. Revenue requirement. Regulatory compliance. Fund administration. Do those words stir your blood? Maybe a light simmer? Yeah, me neither.

Think big indeed, Myke.

Thoughts of mediocrity
Never entered in our minds

I want you to think of someone who is normal. Average. No distinguishing features or talents. Blends into a crowd.

While you're thinking enjoy this picture. These fine gentlemen where the only four stalwart devotees to make it through all six installments of the Star Wars saga in one sitting during the First Annual Olsen Family Star Wars-athon, which took place on December 26, 2005. Left to right: brother Matt, myself (man, I miss those pants), Steven J. Packer, brother Thomas. Talk about ambition!

OK, by now you should've thought of an acquaintance that you would describe as normal or average. Now, how well do you know this person? Probably not very well. Am I right?

I can't say I've ever really known anyone who's normal or average. First impressions can come off as such but once you really get to know someone, you find out that that person has so many facets that make him or her truly unique, far from average, and even strange. Sure, some folks parade their eccentricity more than others, but just because it's not readily visible doesn't mean it's not there.

One day my life got easier
I starting running in October 2005 -- though I've stopped and started many times since -- with the goal of one day running a marathon. I think I can pinpoint with accuracy the reason why I started running. I was pretty insecure about myself at the time. Some of my best friends had just gotten married and others weren't too far off. Friends were transferring to ASU or BYU while I still had another year to go at Mesa Community College, aka High School with Ashtrays, 13th Grade, or my personal favorite of my own coinage, McCollege.

So I started running. "You can have babies but I can run farther than you!" Don't get me wrong, I was happy for my friends and their accomplishments. Trust me, I really was. I was just insecure, that's all. So I kept running. But ultimately my motivation to want to prove something, to outshine someone else wasn't enough to keep me going. I can't count how many times I've started running consistently then stopped because one day my life got easier.

His head was down and his voice was heartbroken
The legititude that is James Dean: he makes one heckuva Cal Trask.

From the movie East of Eden. Don't feel obligated to watch the whole thing; it's kinda long. Do feel obligated to keep reading though. Thanks.

Though I'm not sure how I feel about Julie Andrews as Abra Bacon (great last name, eh?). I don't think the real Abra would've giggled as much. But no one asked me. Had I been alive, I'm sure they would've. And I'm not sure whether I should really like or hate her hair.

It's no secret that East of Eden is one of my favorite books. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned that fact in at least five separate blog posts. From said novel, I love this:

"Lately I've never felt good enough. I always wanted to explain to him that I was not good."

"And now that you don't have to perfect, you can be good. Is that it?"

"I guess so. Maybe that's it."

Noun vs. Adverb: Round II
I've thought a lot about the world 'passion' lately; I've concluded that finding your passion isn't so important but living passionately is.

Fending for ourselves
When I was in eighth grade, after school my friends and I played a fair amount of football. I guess I did OK because after a few days of playing my friends told me I should try out for the school team in ninth grade. The school held early morning practices at the end of the year for eighth graders who wanted to try out for the ninth grade team. I attended the practices but I didn't enjoy them. I had played football with my friends for fun and it was apparent for the coaches and fellow players that "fun" wasn't the primary objective. So, like Ben Folds, "I dropped out and joined a band instead."

Having chosen rocking with my best buds over endless hours of drills, sprints, and butt slappings, I wonder how well I would've done had I gone on to play Toro football at Mt. View High School, Campus of Champions. I mean, the rest of my family is pretty athletic; in one way or another my siblings and parents have all excelled at some kind of sport or other display of physical exertion, from track to football to basketball to dancing (I will add, however, that my interpretive dancing skills are unparallelled; actually, Matt probably has me beat there too).

I wonder because sometimes life happens and we get stuck playing football when we'd rather be at band practice.

With our superhero powers
I get this feeling that comes and goes that my career isn't supposed to be the focus of my life. Granted, one's life contains many foci (or focuses, if it's been a while since your last intermediate algebra class), I just don't think my career is one of the major ones.

I heard some statistic somewhere that the average college student (but then again, what is average, right?) changes his or her major like five times. When it came to choosing a major, long story short, accounting just kinda fell in my lap. During my junior and senior years when my course work started getting rough I considered changing my major. I didn't because I knew I was supposed to study accounting. It wasn't my favorite subject and I wasn't always good at it, but I knew -- probably better than I've known so many things -- that accounting was where I should be.

Noun vs. Adverb: TKO
Do I like my job? Yes. Is it my 'passion'? No. Will it ever be? Probably not. Do I want it to be? No.

Friday, September 11, 2009

extended play

I like EPs. Usually for one of two reasons:

1.) It's the signaling of a forthcoming full-length album;

2.) They contain extra tracks that didn't make the cut for the most recently released album, or the songs are recorded for the sole purpose of releasing an EP; either way it means I don't have to wait another year or two for new tunes.

Here are some Extended Plays I've been enjoying as of late:

The Open Door by Death Cab For Cutie, 2009

First of all, how great is this cover? It explains the EP quite well: the repeating tale of some non-committal dude whose open door is nothing more than the stairs to the attic apartment at his mom's place.

I purchased this EP via iTunes when it was released in April; iTunes is usually against everything I stand for (like the fact that you never really 'own' the music and you're stuck with a digital-only copy when the physical copy is only a couple dollars more), but I really wanted to hear it (it was released digitally a week prior to being released physically) and it came with a download of the "Grapevine Fires" video. Like most digitally procured music, I listened to it once or twice then listened to it a track at a time as it came up on my shuffled iPod (see this post here for my feelings on digital music). I enjoyed it but I never really got into it.

Then I saw D Cab in concert last July. The two tracks they played from this EP, "Little Bribes" and "A Diamond and A Tether", stood out a bit sharper than the rest. So I gave it another spin (though not literally because I was still listening on my iPod) and found a set of the most relatable songs since Pinkerton (which is probably the biggest compliment I can give to a piece of music). Gibbard's metaphors are spot-on, per usual, and as modernly eloquent as ever.

Stay On My Side Tonight by Jimmy Eat World, 2005

The parental advisory on this EP is kinda silly; Jim drops the f-bomb on the song "Half Right", which is an Elliott Smith cover, I believe. It's not even a JEW song. Other than that it's as clean as anything.

This guy was released about a year after their album Futures so the production is pretty similar and the songs are of the same quality, they're just a bit darker. Well, "Disintegration" is more than 'a bit' darker. Such a legit track though. It's almost eight minutes long and the song gains more layers as it progresses. Some of the hardest drumming I've heard on a JEW song. "Over" was recorded as a demo for Clarity and for Futures as well but found its home on this EP. "Closer," another Futures demo, is also awesome and rocks a bit harder here than the demo version. Jimmy Eat World can do no wrong.

Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell by The Flaming Lips, 2003

Speaking of doing no wrong, how about them Flaming Lips? This seven track gem is follow up to their 2002 hit album Yoshimi Battles and features four non-album tracks and three remixes, two of "Ego Tripping" and one of "Do You Realize??" My favorites are "Sunship Balloons" and "A Change At Christmas" (Wayne sings uncharacteristically low on this one). Again, it's hard to go wrong with these guys.

Jimmy Eat World by Jimmy Eat World, 1998

OK, I haven't really been listening to this one that much lately but it was the first EP I owned so I figured it was worth including. I picked it up on vinyl for a pretty good price about a year ago, which is awesome because it's out of print, as is the CD format.

The Oz EP by Weezer, 1996

This came out before I really knew what an EP was, in the days when what could be considered an EP was still being called a 'single'. So I always referred to this as The Good Life Single. There's something elusive and highly nostalgic about this EP that I just can't explain. Something about the cover. And something about the awesome synth melodies on "Waiting on You" and "I Just Through Out the Love of My Dreams". There's just something about these songs that are subtly different than other Weezer tracks. Sure, IJTOTLOMD is sung by a girl, but that difference is far from subtle and it's not what I'm talking about. Anyway, these are some of my all-time favorite Weezer songs.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I've made a huge mistake

It seems like my blogging fire hasn't been burning quite as bright as of late. Either I don't have anything to blog about or my blogging plans are just too ambitious and take up all kinds of time and before I finish my feelings change about what I was writing.

The following post is barely blog worthy but it's something that's been on my mind a couple of weeks now. Recently I've had a couple of conversations with friends Kayla and Brianne on the merits of the TV shows The Office and Arrested Development. Said conversations have usually ended with the declaration of my preference of Arrested Development over The Office, or with Kayla or Brianne stating the opposite. While I don't feel a need to defend my preference, I might just be bored enough to blog about it.

Why Arrested Development Is Better Than The Office

By Myke Lewis Olsen

First, you just can't beat the cast. The Office has Rainn Wilson and Steve Carrell. John Krasinski is pretty good. Ed Helms is OK; we'll throw him in there for the sake of giving The Office a fighting chance. But really, Rainn and Steve carry most of the weight for The Office, and on their own they're fabulous, hilarious actors. But pit them against the combined strength of Michael Cera, Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, David Cross, Tony Hale, and Jeffrey Tambor and they really stand no chance. And this is without considering Jessica Walter and Portia de Rossi.

What about the secondary cast members? The Office does have Creed Bratton, I'll give them that; anything this guy says is hilarious. And sure, the actors that play Kevin, Phyllis, and Toby do a great job. However, how can you top Henry "The Fonz" Winkler as Barry Zuckerkorn? You just can't.

Barry: So, basically, you’re about 2,000 shares short of being the majority stockholders. Now, unfortunately, it’s a private stock, so you cannot just buy up the shares unless someone is willing to sell.
Michael: Are you sure?
Barry: That’s what they said on “Ask Jeeves.”

To finish off with the cast, let's play the trump card: Ron Howard as AD's narrator.

One thing that The Office and AD have in common is their 'reality TV' feel. For The Office, seasons one and two set a precedent that hasn't been matched in the following seasons. The thing that I enjoyed about the first two seasons -- especially season two -- is that it seemed pretty realistic. Sure there were moments of outrageousness -- after all, we're talking about TV here -- but for the most part, you felt like most of this stuff could actually happen in your office. The show was relatable. Then season three of The Office rolls around, and they immediately shy away from relatability. From the very first episode, when Michael kisses Oscar after finding out Oscar is gay -- sure, it's funny, but c'mon, what happened to relatability?

Again, AD has the advantage because the show never set the precedent of relatability in its first season. As seasons progressed so did outrageousness. However, AD never claimed the pretense of parodying reality the way The Office did in seasons one and two.

Is anyone else as sick of the inter-Office incest as I am? The Jim and Pam thing was cute in season two. It was funny when Michael made out with Jan. Then Dwight hooks up with Angela. Ryan and Kelly date (although to the show's credit, Kelly is pretty funny in how she tries to get Ryan back after they break up). Jim dates Karen (who, BTdubs, is way hotter and more likable than Pam) Angela dumps Dwight. Phyllis marries Bob Vance. Jan and Michael finally hook up. Jim and Pam finally hook up. Angela gets engaged to Andy. Jim and Pam get boring because they are dating and happy together and even when there is any kind of dynamic in their relationship you know that they're still perfect for each other and will always be together and them breaking up would be more suicidal for the show than them hooking up. Jan and Michael break up. Angela cheats on Andy with Dwight. Andy and Angela break up. By the looks of the season five finale, it's pretty obvious that Dwight and Angela will get back together. And because Jim and Pam are boring now, we're to assume because of Jim's elation at the end of the same episode that Pam is prego (I still don't care). I mean, really, do these people have no contact with the outside world? Are suitable mates only to be found in one's working environment? (If that's the case, I'm in big trouble.)

In contrast, how hilarious are George Michael and Anne ("Her?")? Buster and Lucille II (Liza Minnelli, another credit to AD's cast)? Even better, what about George Michael and Maeby? Tobias and Carl Weathers (just kidding)? But really, who was dating who was never a main focus of AD and it seemed to do wonders for the show.

Speaking of Carl Weathers and Liza Minnelli, I don't think a show has had better cameos than AD. Zach Braff, Ben Stiller, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Scott Baio, Justine Bateman, Amy Poelher... oh yeah, Charlize Theron? (It's really too bad they never pulled the Andy Griffith stunt in season three.) The Office had that one episode with Jack Black and Jessica Alba but it was somewhat disappointing because they didn't even interact with the actual characters. Granted, Tim Meadows in "The Client" episode was pretty hilarious.

Finally, AD rewarded it's loyal viewers like no other show has. One of my favorite aspects of this show is how so many of the jokes tie back to a previous episode. It makes repeat viewings as enjoyable as watching it for the first time.

If it sounds like I'm biased it's because I am: Arrested Development is a better TV show. Seasons of The Office are like Weezer albums: the first two are incredible, the follow ups have their high points, but they just can't capture that initial magic.