Sammy the Seal

Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

“You got to feel it to know, you got to know it to dare, you got to dare to let go”

In music videos, vinyl on Wednesday, 29 February, 2012 at 23:52

Song: Don’t Move
Artist: Marit Larsen
Album: Spark

I don’t know how else to keep describing the same things about her, so I’ll just continue the Marit Larsen Jukebox, with something a bit more traditionally pop. And so what, when it’s sweeping and lively? Not only do I start to melt like a sucker when the magical, twinkling keys open, but I imagine sitting stage right (where I’m booked) and getting all excited when these opening notes play (“gasp, it’s ‘Don’t Move’, hooray!”). I assume, though I don’t know why the hell she wouldn’t play this sweet little stirring tune from a new record.

I thought it only fair to warn my lady that I may be Mr. Larsen at the end of this weekend– she understood. Look at the gleeful, spirited, and lovely girl in the red dress shake her head at 1:05, 1:54, and once more at 2:09. (I actually like the last one best, it’s more subtle.) And of course, the laugh at the end of the performance. Goddamn, I’m pathetic:

Copyright fucking issues. Someone re-posted a couple of weeks ago, let’s see how long it lasts:


Banana cream tart with honey-glazed pecans

In delicious on Tuesday, 28 February, 2012 at 23:11

banana cream tart with pecans 2

Ah, creation and food, a great way to fight the drabs. Marit Week has been temporarily suspended, as I’ve been dying to bake something. Not since the valentine ganache tarts more than two weeks ago had I done something worthwhile. (Banana bread doesn’t count, I can do that in my sleep.)  Since I’m going away for a few days and don’t want to shop, I threw something together with what I had lying about. It’s amazing how far the basic elements of food can get you. In order of preparation, I toasted the pecans, then made the pastry cream filling, then made the tart shells.

Since pecans are expensive up here (hell, back in TX we had a pecan tree in our front yard, still do, as long it’s still healthy– sigh, cheap nuts…), I only got 1/3 or 1/2 cup. I toasted them for 15 minutes at 300º, then set them aside on a sheet of wax paper, to be glazed with honey later.

Then it was time for the pastry cream:

2 c milk
2 t vanilla extract
1/2 sugar
1/4 c cornstarch
1 whole egg + 3 yolks

Over medium heat, I brought the milk to a simmer. While waiting for it do that, I put the sugar, cornstarch, and all egg-ness in separate bowl and whisked until smooth. Then I stirred the vanilla into the milk. While the milk is coming to a simmer, I added half (1 cup) to the other ingredients and stirred (to temper), then added it all back to the saucepan with the rest of the vanilla milk. Then, still on medium heat, I whisk-stirred thoroughly and constantly until the mixture thickened, which was very quick, less than a minute. Then I transferred it to a separate bowl and added about 1/2 teaspoon or so of ground mace (because I can’t let well enough alone), then whisked periodically throughout the entire process to cool, to prevent any skin or crust from forming, and to smooth out lumps.

The dough was pâte sablée, the same one I used for the animal cookies, just rolled out and draped over the mini-tart pans. I rolled the dough out to about 1/4″ thick, not too thin though, then lifted the dough and spaced the pans underneath about an inch or so apart. I then molded the dough into the pans, and ran the rolling pin over the top to smooth the edges. I then pressed down on the overhanging dough and tore it away, balling up the dough, wrapping it in plastic wrap, then refrigerating it. I filled the empty shells with small dry beans, placed them on a baking sheet, and baked them at 380º for 13 or so minutes, until the tip of the crust browns ever so slightly. At that point, I took them out, emptied out the beans, pricked the bottom and sides of the crusts with a fork, then returned them for another 13 minutes. Since I only have two of these mini-pans, I had to repeat this a couple of times, cooling the empty pans in the fridge while rolling out the next round of dough. So this took a while.

While waiting for crusts to cook, I glazed the outside (the rounded side) of each pecan half with honey and a pastry brush. It sounds tedious, but it wasn’t too precise a process, and I didn’t have that many pecans anyway. Some of the honey ran down onto the paper, but oh well. I just thought it’d be better than plain pecans. “Honey-glazed” sounds cooler.

Finally, the easy part. I sliced a couple of bananas into coins, then spread a layer of pastry cream into each shell, arranged banana slices on top, followed by the pecans in a cute little flower shape. The trick to eating them is to take one slice of banana per bite. It’s surprisingly filling. I’m pretty proud of these, no complaints from myself, for once, if I’m to be believed.

They looked pretty with just banana, even before the pecan flowers:

banana cream tart

“My sound is pop music with no rules”

In music videos, vinyl on Monday, 27 February, 2012 at 15:27

So says Marit, on the International Artist Feed. How sweet. Likely it’s from 2005-6, when her first solo album came out. I thought it might be neat to jump back in time to see her from a few years back. I love hearing her interviews, she’s so darned natural. There’s more good interviews around to show that, but there’ll be time during the rest of the week. In six years, I’ve never seen the video for “Under The Surface”, shockingly. Since she brought it up:

I know she explained why there is a contrast between song and images, but it still feels strange. I guess she doesn’t seem that fanciful. The nonsensical doesn’t show until after the 1:00 mark. It’s got everything, including Captain America: The Skater vs. Big Bunny.

Song: Under The Surface
Artist: Marit Larsen
Album: Under The Surface

“Did you love her the way you love me? Is there a chance that there might be traces of her that you carry under the surface?” Wondering about your beau’s ex while happy in the relationship? Yeah, I think it was a serious song for her. This is obviously one of the more girly and melodramatic tunes of hers, given the words and sound. First, I cut her slack, because she was only about 22 when she wrote it.

Second, I don’t necessarily mean any of this in an undesirable context. Coming from anyone else, I’d roll my eyes at least, but it sounds true coming from Marit. Insecurity on its own is nothing special, it can grate, but what separates her for me is her unabashed insecurity, as shown by the swaying, sweeping arrangements of the song. I’d rather hear someone who is willing to share and put themselves out there, than someone who makes something quiet and solitary and precious. For me, there is strength in such unabashed insecurity. It takes a bit of strength sing about this stuff, not to mention admitting you were in a “fragile” place when you wrote it. That kind of fearlessness despite oneself is quite attractive.

It’s not one of my absolute favorite songs of hers, but it’s still quintessential Marit.

“You’re safe inside your barricades, your shining armor– but I’m tireless”

In music videos, vinyl on Sunday, 26 February, 2012 at 20:54

Song: Keeper Of The Keys
Artist: Marit Larsen
Album: Spark

I love that line, girl. She’s actually got a few good ones on this album, they’ll appear later. I wasn’t even paying attention to this one, I was pretty content with “I could help you out, instead of breaking in.” Thank you, Ms. Marit, for the new album, and for coming to the U.S., even if I have to go east to see you. It’s kind of a no-brainer, especially since I get to travel for the first time in two years, to someplace that’s not Texas, no less! She’s pretty much my excuse for going, as my upcoming trip is less than five days, less than four off the airplane. Once again, the only way to get the album was buying as an import through an online seller here in the states. I was rather neutral about the trip, until the mail came yesterday, and I quickly became the most excited I’ve been since I bought plane tickets two weeks ago.

This would be a good song to open the show with, very subtle and unassuming. How that piano, guitar, and voice avoid coming off as too sensitive and plaintive is amazing. I’m normally kinda skeptical of that stuff. As before, the music and themes on the album are a bit girlish, insecure, and melodramatic (at times), but with a realistic dose of honesty and wisdom. She’s not a vapid, naïve diva, nor is she a self-serious acoustic queen. Singer-songwriter is not terribly appealing to me, but since listening to her as far back as M2M, she’s earned a fair amount of credibility with me. However, I’m not sure she could ever find a niche in this country for those reasons. Not hip, ironic, or detached enough for the cool tastemakers, a bit too much under the surface for mainstream. I can’t imagine her on any radio station, polished and palatable as her style is. At least she’s enjoying some success across the water, though.

Reading the lyrics below, it still surprises me on occasion that I enjoy her music, in relation to other tastes and styles that I listen to more often, but I think it’s because she seems real to me, I don’t hear any fronts. When I listen, I believe I have a genuine feel for who she is as a person. To re-use the same words as before, girlish, insecure, and occasionally melodramatic, but honest, wise, and still a little playful and energetic. Her music has always had an idiosyncratic little spark (no pun intended) to me, even though I’m not a sentimental girl. Plus, I’m a sucker for those tinges of soul and country in her voice. There’s something about her hum, I love it.

“When you fall, when you fall,
when you fall into your silence
No way to touch, no way to reach,
like a bottled ship, no less

I wish I were the keeper of the keys,
so I could help you out,
instead of breaking in
Oh sweetheart, when the blues come marching in
Oh sweetheart, won’t you lean into my arms again?

When you go, when you go,
when you go into your darkness
You’re safe inside your barricades,
your shining armor
But I’m tireless

I wish I were the keeper of the keys
So I could help you out,
instead of breaking in
Oh sweetheart, when the blues come marching in
Oh sweetheart, won’t you lean into my arms again?”

Goddamn, I’m all excited again. I hope she laughs at the end of each song like I’ve always seen her do. Hooray!

“I’m still the mack”

In experience, vinyl on Saturday, 25 February, 2012 at 21:09

Song: Hotwax
Artist: Beck
Album: Odelay

I forgot that line came from groovy “Hotwax”, I was just going to use it as a link to the t-shirt. Awesome rhythm, great random moments, like the accordion between the first and second verses, and The Enchanting Wizard Of Rhythm, and memorable guitar lines and tones, like the ones that open. No wonder everyone likes Odelay!

mack shirt

As long as I’m reminiscing, I thought this shirt would fit right in. It’s from a computer game we played as kids, Hard Hat Mack. Pops used to be a computer programmer back in the early 1980s, so we got on the home computer train well over a decade before home computers started to become commonplace. It was kinda cool to get in on it so early, we got to see exactly how far the technology has come. So, thanks, dad! As you will see in the videos, the copyright is 1984. I don’t think we had it quite so early, but I had no idea the game had been out a few years by the time we got our hands on it. So that’s the backstory. Then, quite a few years back, my younger sister had this shirt made for and sent to me as a birthday present. I don’t wear it much, but one of the primary reasons is because I want to preserve it. I hope it never falls apart.

Samples of the game are below (run on emulators of course), two videos demonstrating gameplay, and one with fun audio commentary, done by famous, fabulous Youtube “Let’s Play” authors hercrabbiness and LateBlt. As you see in the intro, the antagonists are someone from OSHA and some weird creature named Vandal. I assume it’s human, though it doesn’t look so up close. I’m happy with my shirt, but I would have been just as happy with an OSHA or Vandal shirt. Oh man, if only action shirts were possible, I could have OSHA waving his fists in the air like in the game.

This is the PC version, which is what I had. The visuals are the same, though the sound effects, of course, aren’t exactly the same:

This one shows more levels of gameplay, though it’s the Commodore 64 version, so the colors and sound quality are different. The author of the video doesn’t show it, but at the end of the third level, you start back at the first, and I think the game speed increases is all:

And finally, the fun version. It’s great to hear hercrabbiness’ frustration, as LateBlt finds it amusing as well, so I don’t feel bad for laughing at her. The sad/cute thing is, she never gets the hang of it, all ten minutes of the video are spent playing the first level! 🙂

“We’re chained to the life, but…our blood is alive”

In music videos, vinyl on Friday, 24 February, 2012 at 4:16

Song: Shine A Light
Artist: Wolf Parade
Album: Apologies To The Queen Mary

Late night emotional downpour and exposition, fortunately into a calm, sensitive ear. But now that that’s done, no time to wallow, no time to be scared, just keep going. And this is the song that succeeded it all. Desperate and resigned, but still it punches forward. To this day, a great album that goes especially well as a night time listen, best taken with cool, outdoor air. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dark music, in fact, many of the songs are quite a kick.

Thanks to the hype, surprisingly, I got in on the ground floor with this band. I have fairly distinct memories of buying this album, in my wonderfully located (at the time) apartment on First Hill, without first hearing it in October 2005, due almost entirely to the hype (it was all about them and Arcade Fire that year), but feeling not too impressed on the first listens. I picked it up a few months later and immediately saw the light. Like most other people, this song eased me into it, being more straightforwardly accessible, lovable, and rockin’. I grew to love other songs a lot more, but this song helped hold the door open. Spencer’s backing “oh”s and “ooh”s are great, you can hear them even better in this high-quality video below. Looks and sounds like a fun time, Spencer hitting notes with his sexy headband.

Lyrics entirely subject to question, Dan doesn’t make it too easy. The video is a good reference tool, though Dan is known to mangle the lyrics due to alcohol, so who’ll ever know:

“I keep my head uptight
I make my plans at night
and I don’t sleep, I don’t sleep, I don’t sleep ’til it’s light
Some ghosts float and some are buried alive

There is an awful sound
in this haunted town
and it will not, it will not, it will not just be quiet
Some ghosts sink, some will get called to the light

I spend boring hours
in the office tower
In a bus on a bus back home to you and
that’s fine, I’m barely alive

It’s just a matter of time
no one gets out alive
and I’m content, I’m content, I’m content to be quiet
Some sink, some will get called to the light

Do you know why our hearts beat time out very slowly?
Do you know why our hearts beat time?
They’re waiting for something that’ll never arrive

I keep my head on tight
I make my plans at night
and I don’t sleep, I don’t sleep, I don’t sleep ’til it’s light
Some ghosts float and some are someone buried alive

We both are little birds, we built another world
but we’re chain- chain- chain- chain- chained to the life
But that’s fine– our blood is alive

Do you know why our hearts beat time out very slowly?
Do you know why our hearts beat time?
They’re waiting for something that’ll never arrive”

“I’m all naked and wet!”

In You're a kitty! on Thursday, 23 February, 2012 at 14:30

There’s nothing like a wet cat to inspire feelings of pathos and compassion. Really, how can you not be sympathetic? I hesitate to use the word “cute”, because it might seem like I doused her for my benefit. It was for hers– I found a flea last night (boo), so it was immediately bath time. Always a good girl: no crying, no clawing nor scratching, minimal resistance and attempts to climb out, and consequently, almost no mess. Fabulous. I so seldom bathe her, so I must make record of it, I must!

Before– the “fatty” with wings:

fatty with wings

And now for her shrinking act. She hopped out once, while I ran for the camera, but after putting her back in, she stayed in until I picked her up for drying. I felt a little guilty, yeah. So well behaved, though, that’s my good girl. (It should be said she likes the tub in general, she often jumps in after I finish a shower.) After:

wet cat 1

wet cat 2

wet cat 3

She kinda looks like a little rat, I know.

wet cat 4

Big, beautiful eyes.

wet cat 5

After the ordeal was over was the only time she was vocal and noticeably uncomfortable.

wet cat 6

Like here.

wet cat 7

All clean. Fresh shampoo scent, ahh! Be happy, you smell so good.

“…and my little hedgehog Humphrey”

In celluloid, experience, funny ha ha on Wednesday, 22 February, 2012 at 13:44

I know I’m old, but still, it’s hard to find someone I know (apart from siblings) who has heard of Pinwheel, Nickelodeon’s answer to Sesame Street that began in the early 1980s. (By the way, the two bees– or whatever– in the clip are there because it’s the only version of the intro that was good quality.) It was back when my parents would pay for cable, was having cable so special back in the 1980s? I actually think it was. I had a cousin who had Showtime, HBO, and the other premium channels, and I thought that was a pretty big deal.

I swear, the last great gasp in imagination, especially in children’s programming, happened in the 1980s. And it lasted all morning. Today’s Special was next in line at about 1pm or so. Apart from having puppets and marionettes and such, the show also featured animation and other international shorts, though the only names I can muster off the top of my head are Hattytown, Emily, Simon, and Paddington Bear. Jesus Christ, I’m going to start tearing up, just hearing the music. Not just the Pinwheel theme, but the Simon and Emily themes set my heart a-flutter– they’re so good! Back when theme music was as important and essential to the program.

Emily. Ah, Emily. Originally in French, this was dubbed into English for airing in anglophonic countries. A note about the video, the “yippee” visual was added by the author of the post, it was not in the original. God bless the little girl who sang the dubbed version of the theme song. I never knew what she said at the end, now I am utterly thrilled and overjoyed to learn that it’s “yippee!” Dressed all in red, but sometimes her gloves are green. Fuckin’ A, yes.

For kicks, I found the original French. Good lord, so much awesomeness, I might explode. I love you, Emilie/Emily. Quelle douceur. Les français, je vous remercie.

“Well, you know my name is Simon…” (Still fighting the tears….) I believe Simon In The Land Of The Chalk Drawings is a British creation, I never checked though. The theme song explains the premise, but a little explanation of the weird psychedelic thing at the end of the clip, is that climbing the ladder (mentioned in the song) is what took him over the wall into The Land Of The Chalk Drawings:

And finally, Hattytown! It appears that there is no theme song, just a spoken intro. Bless you again, British people.

“If I make it through the night, everything will be alright”

In vinyl on Tuesday, 21 February, 2012 at 13:37

Song: Waving My Dick In The Wind
Artist: Ween
Album: The Mollusk

Sometimes all you need is a bit of two-minute inanity to take some of the edge off. For an ostensible country piss take, this is terribly jaunty and hook-laden. If you ignore the juvenile title/chorus, it’s sort of sweet and innocent, actually. It’s not drunken, sloppy, nor tossed-off, it’s competently and professionally played and produced. I have no idea what those background vocals at 1:50 are saying, but I love their floaty, ethereal, indistinct sound. Ironically, I think it adds a sense of gravity. And yet, on second thought, it seems a bit silly. You just never know with Ween, eh?

This song is also notable, as it is one of a few songs that a friend in college and I tried to translate into Swedish. We had taken a couple of years together, including studying abroad in Stockholm, and I guess we felt it important to translate it. He was a big Ween fan, which is the only reason I know this (The Mollusk being the only album of theirs I own). I’m not sure what else we tried to translate, I only can recall tackling this and “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)”, the latter of which we always wanted to perform at a Stockholm reunion at our professor’s house, with the rest of the kids in the program. We never did get the chance, though I wonder whether we actually would have gone through with it. Oh well, I guess there’ll be no “kuken i vinden.”

“I hope it’s entertaining, ’cause for me, it’s a bitch”

In music videos, vinyl on Monday, 20 February, 2012 at 22:23

Song: Dog Problems
Artist: The Format
Album: Dog Problems

Yup, those were the days. Sitting on my appropriated mattresses on the floor in my 11′ x 7′ bedroom in New York, January-July 2007. Of course, I was exploring a lot more new artists then, so a fair amount of artists remind me of living there. I downloaded it upon reading a description of this bizarre tune, and was rather impressed. The music is a bit kooky and theatrical, not to mention the utter melodrama of some of the lyrics, but darn it, I like it anyway! Starting from even the first time hearing it, I think what impressed me was that I felt it took a decent amount of balls to record something so overblown and highly personal, using a carnival-style, kitchen-sink aesthetic, no less. And yet, the orchestration is rather creative well-done, if you just listen to it. It may feel like a novelty initially, but it’s not really. The lyrics certainly are a mouthful (I could’ve put up any number of too-clever, cheeky lines up front, see below), and the bridge at 1:55 enters sensitive, singer-songwriter plaintiveness, but it’s hard for me to hold too much against any of it, as I was going through and have gone through similar personal issues myself since then. The overwhelming majority of the time, I’d roll my eyes at something like that, and I do admit it comes dangerously close to maudlin territory, but, I am yet moved. However stilted, I get the sincerity.

The record as a whole is a good example of bitter subject matter glossed over with mostly sprightly, upbeat music, and much of it is is not just upbeat, but quite catchy. All of which is good, because it’s pretty bloody. A break-up record is nothing new, but nonetheless. I’ll always be a sucker for that kind of thing. It’s hard enough to deal with such personal issues, I think energetic and/or creative music is more cathartic than soft, plain-spoken tones, which I personally tend to equate with wallowing. You purge the thought and emotion without it dragging you down too much. I wrote about another Format song before, where I included co-leader Nate Ruess’ livejournal entry about the making of the record, thought I’d include it again. It doesn’t have anything specific about this song, as it did for “If Work Permits”, but it’s still a thoughtful, open-hearted read.

The video is below the lyrics. It’s cute, but a little too precious for me. The visuals I thought were a little too slavish to the words, but then again, I’ve never directed a music video. La parole:

“Don’t you dare speak for someone you don’t know/they’ll feel it in the back of their throat/we know I can’t construct a poem, ’cause words, like girls, get bored and run/c’est la vie/I say ‘I’ve got so many better things’/I’ve got nothing/you should see me/I smoke myself to sleep and blame postmodern things I can’t relate, like summer camp and coastal states/like alcohol and coffee beans, dance floors and magazines/I think it’s safe to say I’ve only got myself to blame, but boys in swooping haircuts are bringing me down, taking pictures of themselves

“And so I walk the web in search of love, but always seem to end up stuck/I’m finding flaws in everyone/I reached the point where all I want is to sleep around in hopes that I will catch back up/we are parallel lines, we’re running in circles, we’re never meant to cross/I’m at a loss, you were my tangerine, my pussycat, my trampoline/now alls I gets are wincing is cheeks and dog problems/I signed a lease, thinkin’ my heart belonged at 93rd and Park/instead I broke a girl’s heart and flew back to Phoenix to finish the year as it started

“Can you hear me? Are you listening?/This is the sound of my heart aching, and I hope it’s entertaining, ’cause for me it’s a bitch/Was it worth it? When you slept with him? Did you get it all out of your system?/I am man holding it all, I couldn’t breathe, coming across I didn’t know I couldn’t get up

“B is for believing you’d always be here for me/E is for everything, even when we’d see it through/C, C is for seeing through you, you are a fake/which brings me to: A/because because you always run away/I never finish phrases I misspell/open arms are prison cells/when I said ‘I hate who I’ve become’, I lied– I hated who I was/so when you start to wonder about the pain in my throat, don’t you ever, no never, ever speak for someone you don’t know”