Sammy the Seal

Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

“…and must I refrain, now that I need you?”

In music videos, vinyl on Friday, 30 March, 2012 at 15:01

Song: Thursday
Artist: Asobi Seksu
Album: Citrus

Why I’ve been saving this, I don’t know. I liked it when I first heard and it while living in New York in 2006, when the album came out, but evidently I was too lazy or shy to pick up or even sample the album, even though I went to music shops all the time there. Four years and many missed shows later, I finally made a move. A lamentably belated move.

A shame that for most people who even have heard of them, this is likely all they know. Often, the first thing one hears that they like becomes the ne plus ultra by which to judge in perpetuity, which is unfair, but as this is one of the most beautiful, satisfying things mankind has ever produced, it’s understandable in this case. I have come to love their other stuff as much, but this still might be my favorite of theirs, top 3 at the very least. Its appeal has not diminished– my ardor still smolders, flames even. Though by mere accident of chronology, this is quintessential Asobi Seksu– dreamy, expansive, ethereal, atmospheric, and, aside from Yuki’s deceptively light soprano, not at all delicate or gentle. Aside from the airy and almost haunting opening (I love hearing it when my music is on shuffle, it signals excitement), the rest of the song charges ahead, from the bass that gives so much and asks so little, to the beefy drum fill at the very end. (Start out simmering, then raise the stakes dramatically on the second verse– hmm, sounds familiar…) First I get to enjoy the poetic, gorgeous things like the guitar tone in the second verse and how each individual note of the heavenly melody sparkles (and even then, the rhythm is jumpin’), and then I get to throw my head about when the second, pumped-up iteration of the chorus slams down. It even comes across an a smaller scale, in between the first chorus and second verse, when the drum is thumping at the single guitar notes chime in off beat. I love that part. The songs bounces and rocks and just moves, refusing to be merely pretty. The end of the song, aside from being a sea of sound you could drown in over and over, is such a generous embarrassment of riches. Let’s see, what hook to follow, the bass line, the first melody (“whistle through your window…”), or the backing melody (“la da”)? It’s too difficult, I usually end up switching from one to another every few bars. And I’m never satisfied.

Like “Strings”, the song that follows “Thursday”, this is immaculately written, arranged, performed, and produced. The way every small musical passage leads into the next one makes it impossible to identify a favorite section or moment. As a matter of fact, I’m going to go ahead and put these two together, sequenced as they are on the album. A wondrous and magical ten minutes:

For whatever reason, a few bars (equaling about 18 seconds) at the end of the song were edited out for the video. It’s not like it was on commercial radio and they had to pare it down, it’s an indie video, leaves those bars in!

(Not 726,000 views in almost six years? And yet Neon Indian in the corner there is pushing 3 mil. Interesting…)



“Come on down, I’ll chew on a dog!”

In celluloid, funny ha ha on Thursday, 29 March, 2012 at 22:14

Has it really been twenty years since the days of videotaping movies off of pay-per-view? Yes, Beetlejuice, you were one of the first, you’ll always have a special place set aside. Granted, I haven’t seen it in full in probably 15 or so years, so I don’t know how amused I’d still be. I’m still laughing at these clips, so I have a good feeling. Michael Keaton is wonderfully psycho, what a great character. His hick routine here is still funny. Notice he doesn’t know how to lasso that well. I love the little song at the end, the spot would just not work without it.

What a wonderful, perverted, scuzzball of a lout. It should be noted that this movie was rated PG, and yet in this clip we have Beetlejuice stroking himself (which I never caught until today) and the immortal “hey, nice fuckin’ model!” Bonus points for his awkward, nancy run up the hill when he’s inviting them in for dinner.

And finally, some parting words from the bio-exorcist himself: “go ahead, make my millennium.”

Red plum tart, sweet cream cheese filling

In delicious on Wednesday, 28 March, 2012 at 11:57

plum tarts cream cheese

(Is that a jar of gooseberry preserves in the background? It sure is!)

Ah, the joys and possibilities of leftover dough. Miniature pies don’t use up much dough, so with an extra lump, there was more pastry to be had. So versatile, just whip up some kind of paste or creamy filling, then toss in fresh fruit. And even then, you can top it off by glazing, dusting, or flambé, if you have the tools. And, I had a couple of red plums lying about. The filling was pretty much a cream cheese icing, but with a tablespoon less butter and 1/2 c less powdered sugar:

8 oz. cream cheese
3 T butter
1 t vanilla
1 c powdered sugar

I whipped up the cheese and butter pretty good, blended in the vanilla, then sifted and whipped in the sugar. I probably could’ve used only half a block of cream cheese, as I only had enough dough for two small shells, but maybe I’ll make cake or muffins or something with the rest of the icing. Or more dough. Then I put it in the fridge for a couple hours so it would set/firm up.

Rather than baking the shells at 380º for 13 minutes, then the same after removing the weights (dry beans) last time. I baked the shells at 400º for the first 13 minutes. Honest mistake. Is that why they shrunk? The shells came out no more than a centimeter or so tall. Hm. Very light though. They didn’t char or brown excessively, they were just smaller than I’d hoped. I let them cool to room temperature, then spread in the cold frosting, then sliced a red plum into wedges and arranged them as above, while spattering a little filling. The sweetness of the icing offset perfectly the tartness of the plum, specifically the skin, of course.

Cold fruit is good, and so is cold dessert– non-messy, fits-in-the-palm-of-your-hand, cold dessert.

“Why did you not talk to me? You said you would talk to me”

In vinyl on Tuesday, 27 March, 2012 at 14:17

Song: I’m A Ghost
Artist: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
Album: Hearts Of Oak

There are not many things can cleanse like a good solo, much less one by Ted Leo. This is one of the most satisfying solos I’ve ever heard. “I don’t mess around,” it says, “I’m unfuckwithable.” In an album review for this album, the author described his as “skillful, noisy exorcisms”– contrasted with “technical flaunting”– which sounds about right. I can never turn this song up loud enough. And yet, from 2:15 to 2:40, I bump it up just a bit higher. The very rough, raw quality of the song as a whole continues to thrill and spark the hell out of me, nine years after it was released. Ted’s vocals are as impressive and impassioned as ever, and, whether or not you completely agree with him (his lyrics don’t often hide their politics/meanings), you have to respect that he wears his heart all over his sleeves. Very few truly do.

It’s not enough that the guitar work often makes my hair stand up, but top it off at 3:40 with a white-hot, blistering coda and Ted’s awkward, unabashed, unrestrained wailing, and you have a song that makes my ears and head hurt because I keep listening to it.

(I should find a good performance of this as proof, but I don’t have time right now. Hm.)

“We had a time, oh what a time”

In celluloid, music videos, vinyl on Monday, 26 March, 2012 at 19:29

I think this song is the best one in the movie, it’s by far the most memorable (comparatively and personally/historically). Just on its own, it’s a great, sweet all-too-brief little number. It’s not just the nostalgia talking, it’s the warm songwriting and the gentle, comforting vocal tones. I dare you to listen to this and not smile and repeat the hooks. I always liked the animated mouth singing “why-yi-yi”, it was animated so strangely and goofily. Or maybe a disembodied mouth singing with a wide smile is inherently amusing.

Song: Are You Sleeping?
Artist: Harry Nilsson
Album: The Point

Why it cuts off at 2:18, I don’t know, but according to the album listing, that’s how long it is. I guess it just bleeds into the next track or something. Somehow, it actually doesn’t sound that jarring, despite the abrupt end. It must be magic. Well, maybe they could’ve faded it out a bit more smoothly. Evidently, Harry Nilsson had story credit on the movie, too. Story and songs, I had no idea he was so involved. I just remember knew he was the guy who did the songs, most notably this simplistic, innocent, playful, yet strangely wistful song. Gosh, I’m turning all soft now.

“Are you sleeping?
Can you hear me?
Do you know if I am by your side?
Does it matter if you hear me?
When the morning comes, I’ll be there by your side

And in the morning when I wake up
she may be telling me goodbye (la la la la)
And in the evening if we break up
I’m wondering why

There was a time we had a time, there was a time we had a time
There was a time, there was a time when you were mine
We had a time, we had a time, we had a time oh what a time
There was a time, there was a time when you were mine

And in the evening if we go out
night time will find us at the show (la la la la)
Oh, we may decide to stay inside
you never know

Are you sleeping?
Can you hear me?
Do you know if I am by your side?
Does it matter if you hear me?
When the morning comes I’ll be there by your side”

Me And My Green Blazing Arrow

In celluloid, music videos, vinyl on Sunday, 25 March, 2012 at 23:57

Song: Green Arrow
Artist: Yo La Tengo
Album: I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One

I can identify most of the songs in my library during the first few seconds, yet every time I hear this unassuming, ambient, evening-tinged bit of instrumental balm, I wonder what and who it is. I check– it’s hipster icons Yo La Tengo! Lovely nonetheless. The song title then results in word association, and I am led to another seminal animated film from childhood, The Point. It’s from 1971, so it was kinda trippy, but not too wacky. After all, they showed it on the Disney Channel, which is where I first saw it, Alan Thicke narrating in place of the original Ringo Starr. The animation is a bit crude and simple, it’s during the songs that the animation starts to go into outer space (except for the one below). But, it’s still grounded in a way, it doesn’t feel psychedelic and indulgent. I don’t know too much about Harry Nilsson, but he did some pretty good songs for this. Did someone say “arrow”? (Yeah, I did.)

Song: Blazing Arrow
Artist: Blackalicious
Album: Blazing Arrow

Memorable enough that Blackalicious sampled it for a title track. Yes, it was pretty cool to hear the first time. Nice use of it too, and I’m not saying that because of nostalgia. It works well.

Baby nectarine pies

In delicious on Saturday, 24 March, 2012 at 21:41

mini nectarine pies 1

Made in a miniature tart pan. It worked out fine, but if I could get my hands on some miniature pie plates, that’d be nice. Also, I forgot to bring sugar crystals with me, so it’s just a plain, unadorned crust. Still good though. I hadn’t made a pie in about four months, shockingly. Since I was doing little pies, I made but a half batch of dough. The filling was made out of two small nectarines, sliced into wedges about 1/2 inch thick, then tossed with 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch and 1/8 cup brown sugar (could’ve been less, I wanted it more tart). Then the top crust went on. Rather than using egg glaze and therefore having to open an egg, I brushed the top crust with milk. I baked at 400º for 15 minutes, then turned it down to 350º for the last 25-30 minutes.

If you look closely, much of the top crust of the pie on the left isn’t attached to the bottom crust. The reason filling the crust didn’t work so well is because tart pans have fine edges, so when I draped the dough over, the pan edge trimmed the dough off. Also, I wanted to cram a lot of fruit in, since fruit tends to shrink in a pie, and as a result couldn’t (read: didn’t really try– I wanted to get those things in the oven) press together well the top and bottom crusts. The only thing holding the top on was the sticky filling. It peeled off with a little effort. Funny, but kinda cool. The pie on the right had a little of that,  as well, but it was mostly sealed. Here’s a better angle of the hovering crust:

mini nectarine pies 2

So where is the goo that bubbled out of the pie? It’s there on the pan, but I obstructed it and framed the shot just right so it wouldn’t look tacky. As if that mattered in this case.

“And though my love is true…..”

In music videos, vinyl on Friday, 23 March, 2012 at 15:37

Song: I’m Like A Bird
Artist: Nelly Furtado
Album: Whoa, Nelly!

I quite like this song, but it sure is sad. I can understand why it was/is on the radio, it’s pretty and sweet and it has a good hook,  but it’s quite depressing for a pop song. Maybe that’s why she didn’t truly blow up until she ventured out into club and skanky territory, e.g. “Promiscuous Girl” and “Maneater”, years later. It’s likely being Canadian (like Fefe Dobson) didn’t help. But the awkward, insecure, and brutal honesty in the lyrics are refreshingly devastating. I didn’t have the pulse of pop radio then, but it was 2000-01 (the dreaded teen pop years), so I’m pretty sure there was very little as relatively mature as this getting airplay. Granted, the last minute, when she’s just repeating the chorus, sounds especially full, relieved, and almost joyous, but it’s still basically four minutes of “I’m all heart, but I’m also fickle, mercurial, and restless, so be careful”:

“You’re lovely, but it’s not for sure that I won’t ever change”

“And though my love is great, and though my love is true…” (I love the ellipsis of this line, even though she completes it on the bridge)

“I’m like a bird, I’ll only fly away”

“Each and every single day, I know I’m gonna have to eventually give you away”

“I’m just scared that we may fall through”

Well, at least the music isn’t depressing. Well, it does have a melancholy tone, but the beat is decent, though. I like those keys during the verses that move up and no more than a whole step or two at a time, the melody is understated and doesn’t reach. And those weird spacey, ambient noises that are all over the album. Kind of cheesy when you focus on them, but they work. And I want to know what that “ting” during the verses is, it sounds like just glass. And, as always, I’m a sucker for well-placed, simple drum fills, like at the start of each chorus. Her vocals walk a perfect line. They’re not soft and confessional and sensitive (and weak), but they’re not all diva and too strong and forceful to relate to either. From the sound of it, she’s doing most, if not all, of the backing vocals too. I really like them, especially on the last chorus minute. The scatting-type she does the last 20 seconds is sweet.

The video is kind of “eh” but it was her debut, maybe the production company didn’t want to go all out just yet. That, and I think she’s looked prettier. Make no mistake, though, she is short. Like 5′ I think. I saw her live twice touring behind her debut, at The Showbox(!) and The Paramount (that’s how unknown she was), and met her after the Paramount show, where she graciously accepted what few fans stayed around over half an hour to meet her, even though she was clearly beat. She took autographed and posed for photos, forcing smiles through her exhausted face.

The Girls And Boys Of Rock And Roll

In celluloid, funny ha ha, music videos on Thursday, 22 March, 2012 at 12:23

Anyone who came of age in the 1980s ought to appreciate how great this is. The Chipmunk Adventure (1987) was full-length animated film featuring, of course, Alvin, The Chipmunks, and The Chipettes. The plot was all of them getting unwittingly involved in a global smuggling caper, punctuated by many silly and memorable musical numbers, like the one below. Look at the heart and imagination, the animation is so loose, with flair to spare. Every animation moment elicits a smile. It’s the good kind of cheesy. Fuck the corny-ass CGI version of The Chipmunks and fuck CGI (in general, not absolutely). If it doesn’t have Eleanor and Jeanette prancing-flying up the stairs, I don’t want it.

That’s just a good song. Innocuous, but good. Now, the real reason I’m here, is that a couple of years ago, some fantastic, fearless, and awesome people in Colorado Springs decided to re-create this song– dance moves, costumes, and all. If you didn’t grow up with it, it doesn’t seem so transcendent. Except it is. Well, even if you don’t know it, you have to give it up. Their faithfulness to the dance moves is nothing short of marvelous and inspiring. Hearty bravo, cheers, and thank you, gang:

(Sadly, and strangely, the movie is out of print. Ebay/used is the only way, for now. Well, at least the used price is decent.)

Oat + walnut flax muffins

In delicious, You're a kitty! on Wednesday, 21 March, 2012 at 10:07

oat walnut flax muffin

I know, these aren’t much different from the ones I did before, but for a change of pace, and because I didn’t want to shell out for a big jar of applesauce to replace butter in the recipe, I thought of making my own apple sauce/purée.

1.5 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c + a little extra milled flaxseed
1/2 t salt
1.5 t baking soda
1 t vanilla
2 eggs, whisked
1/2 c Pink Lady apple, peeled, cored, and puréed (about one apple)
2/3 c milk
old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 c raw walnut, chopped

Fresh apple is too firm to make purée (or else my blender is weak), so to make the purée, I first had to soften the apple a bit first, by cutting it up into bits and cooking it a tablespoon or two of water on medium-high for about five minutes. Then it went into the blender. In one bowl, I combined all the dry ingredients, and in another I combined the wet ingredients. I stirred them both just until there was no loose flour, then I poured the batter into a double muffin pan, each cup about 3/4 full, and sprinkled nuts and oats on top. I baked at 375 for 20 minutes.

oat walnut flax pan


Not terribly sexy looking, but that’s brown for you. I didn’t notice much difference with the fresh apple, but at least I can say I used fresh. So I have that as a selling point. Also, I think I just wanted some sweets, but it wasn’t sweet enough. Then again, 1/2 cup of sugar is really low for a batch, so it’s my own fault. The next ones are getting a grape glaze, that’s for sure.

Also, I love my angel. She’s so cool and pretty.

kitty with arm out 1

kitty with arm out 2

kitty with arm out 3

kitty with arm out 4

kitty with arm out 5