Thursday, April 28, 2011

je l'adore

Two weeks ago my roommate Brian mentioned that a friend was trying to give away a couple of kittens. Brian, Matt and I have been talking about getting a pet -- a mascot, if you will -- since we started living together back in January. So taking in one of these kittens was a bit of a no brainer. The next day Brian and I went up picked up this adorable creature:

Here she is on the day I got her. If that doesn't melt your heart you're dead inside. And you're dead to me (OK, not really).

I named her Scout, after Scout Finch. I feel like the name suits her. She loves running around, climbing, exploring, attacking hands and feet, and she's the most ravenous eater I've ever seen.

And here she is helping me out with a pair of cut-offs. I may have posed her inside the cut-off pant leg for the sake of the photo.

Here's the thing with kittens -- some even say it's a problem -- they grow up to be cats. I like most animals no matter their stage in life so I look forward to her growing up -- I just hope she maintains whatever element of her personality that makes her Scout. Because I'd hate to have to start calling her Jean Louise.

Post Script: For a few hours her name was Steve Buscemi. Still an awesome name, and I fully intend on giving it to some future pet. But like I said, Scout just seemed to fit her so well. Speaking of Mr. Buscemi, you really need to check this out.

Friday, April 22, 2011

formidable, indeed

As soon as I heard their band name -- the Nervous Wreckords -- I knew I wouldn't like them. And sure enough, they didn't disappoint (in the sense that it felt pretty good to have my prejudice validated). They weren't terrible, it's just that mediocrity isn't my style (I'm trying to be less hard on myself so maybe I shouldn't admit that sometimes it is).

That said, I wonder if Brandon Flowers chose the Nervous Wreckords as his opening band because he knew they'd make him look and sound so much better -- not that he needs it, the guy oozes charm and pumps showmanship through his veins. Like I mentioned in one post prior, Saturday I road tripped with some pals to see Brandon Flowers perform at the House of Blues in Las Vegas (don't ever see a show there unless you can get general admission floor seats).

I haven't seen a white tuxedo jacket look that good since Sean Connery as James Bond.

I had a similar experience when I saw the Joy Formidable, from Northern Wales, at the Rhythm Room Tuesday night. The opener, the Lonely Forest from lovely Anacortes, Washington, left me with nothing to complain about (other than some weak lyrics and the bass player's choice of attire) but they didn't impress me either. Then the Joy Formidable took the stage. It only took them thirty seconds to make the Lonely Forest look like a junior high talent show band (not that they were trying to do that, TJF had great things to say about the Lonely Forest).

Here's a sample of what you missed on Tuesday.

I loved pretty much everything about this band. Ritzy Brian's intense rock-out death stare and her adorable Welsh accent were simultaneously charming and disconcerting (in a good way, of course). Rhydian Dafydd's full-chord, distorted bass lines carried the weight of a rhythm guitarist and a bass player. And I'm usually not a fan of the double bass pedal, but if more drummers were to use it the way Matt Thomas does, I wouldn't mind. I hope to see these guys and gal live again, and soon.

Monday, April 18, 2011

in a heartbeat

Last Saturday was a holiday, an albeit lesser known one, that celebrates two of my favorite things -- record stores and records. Record Store Day 2011 was recognized as a holiday in Arizona this year by our governor, Jan Brewer. Other states and cities did the same.

My Record Store Day started early... I was up at 5:30am because I couldn't sleep due to excitement and anxiety; several factors contributed to that -- a new kitten, a trip to Vegas to see Brandon Flowers, and yes, Record Store Day itself. So I went for a run, packed for my trip, met up with some friends and was in line at Stinkweeds by 8:45.

I was so impressed and pleased with how many bands issued special releases (mostly in the sonically superior vinyl format) for record store day -- over 300 new releases (compared to about 150 releases in 2010). I spent more than I planned but I don't regret it at all. Here's what I got:

Heady Nuggs by the Flaming Lips

This is the crown jewel of my Record Store Day purchases. It's a box set containing their first five albums on the Warner Bros. label. It's some of their best stuff -- The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, and Transmissions From The Satellite Heart are my top three favorite Lips albums -- and four of the five albums have been out of print for 10 years or so.

Bleed American Deluxe by Jimmy Eat World
I wasn't planning on picking this one up but I couldn't resist once I got to Stinkweeds. I didn't care for this album when it first came out, but it's really grown on me since so I'm happy to own it on vinyl. And it's the deluxe version so it's three records worth of music.

Volume I-III by Piebald
I've been looking for We Are The Only Friends That We Have on vinyl for months now -- I'm pretty sure it was never issued. This three vinyl collection has that album and two more. Each vinyl disc is a different color so that's a plus too.

Dharohar Project by Mumford & Sons/Laura Marling
This is a collaborative EP by Mumford and Sons, Laura Marling, and a "collective of Rajasthani folk musicians" from India. I don't think this EP is destined to become a favorite but it was nevertheless a necessary Record Store Day purchase.

I only had time for Stinkweeds this year because I had to be on the road for a concert in Vegas that evening. Next year I hope to have enough time to hit up Zia and Hoodlums as well. Regardless, it was the best Record Store Day yet.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

the relative theory of practicality

I had a hard time falling asleep the other night (a nap at 9:00 pm, no matter how short, will do that to you). Around 1:00 am, as I read the last pages of In Dubious Battle, I started fleshing out an idea I got Sunday night as I was looking at satellite images of Montreal on Google Maps. More on that later.

Earlier today I was perusing different graduate degree programs at ASU. Why is it that anything I have any interest in studying has no application in the real world? Or won't provide any benefit to my current job/career path? Why can't I get a master's degree in French just because I want to? Never mind that the only thing I could do with that is maybe teach; never mind that I'd make considerably less money doing that than if I stuck with what I'm doing now.

I don't regret getting an undergrad degree in accounting, not for a second. Would I regret getting a master's degree in something less practical like American literature or geography? I really doubt it. At this point though, I feel like the only reason I would get a master's degree is because I feel like I shouldn't leave this life without one. Maybe when I feel like having a certain master's degree would benefit my career or life in general, maybe that's when I should tackle it.

So the other night when I couldn't fall asleep I thought about giving away (selling when possible) all my stuff (i.e., records, books, CDs, most of my music gear) and moving to a big city. Or rather, a city with a bike/pedestrian friendly downtown area. Just for the summer. From May to September or October. San Francisco comes to mind. So does Montreal. I'd try to make friends with random people I'd meet while frequenting whatever city's public transportation as well as other atmospheres and venues that don't exist here in Mesa. I'd take an hour or so to run every morning. I might find a job somewhere but I wouldn't work for more than four hours a day. I'd ride my bike or just walk around the city, exploring, really getting to know my surroundings. I'd read a lot, write a lot, and take a lot of photos.

I think about doing all that, and suddenly, a master's degree in French doesn't seem so impractical.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

your already cold mind

I read somewhere that Alcatraz was the only prison in its time to have hot showers. This was so the inmates wouldn't grow accustomed to cold water, which would facilitate escape through the hypothermia-inducing waters of the San Francisco Bay.

The hot water heater at our house is currently non-operational. I got in the shower Friday morning and the water was too cold to do anything but wash my hair. Friday also happened to be a record-breaking 100+ degree day here in the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area. While the water was still a bit chilly, the weather was perfect for a quick dip in the pool. I stayed in long enough to get used to the cold water, which made taking a cold shower bearable.

This photo turned out much better than the ones I tied to take of Alcatraz, which shares the Bay with this iconic landmark.

So until the water heater is fixed, if I want a shower I've got to go for a quick swim first.

== == == == ==

If there's one thing I've learned over the past year, it's that life is much easier, more enjoyable, and [insert any positive superlative adjective here] when you involve other people -- be they family, friends, or even complete strangers. For that reason, when my buddy Buster invited me to contribute to his blog, I was happy to accept. Read my inaugural post here.