Sammy the Seal

Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

“You gotta find your f—in’ place in the sun, jackass”

In experience, funny ha ha on Tuesday, 29 May, 2012 at 14:43

I love that line, it’s very real. I like this guy. He did Fear Factor, UFC and the other fighting stuff, and he looks and even jokes about being a meathead, but don’t let his appearance, humility, or self-awareness fool you. He’s a pretty intelligent, self-aware human being. There’s nothing like taking the piss out of people who think they know better, and this clip brings it boldly. “Can’t compete” is the diplomatic, polite way to say “lazy”, “makes excuses”, and “avoids”. “You’re trying to pull the playing field down….. you’re not trying to rise.” Say it, brother. I especially like the last bit, as a hypothetical retort those who would judge or rationalize others. Besides, he already acknowledges the importance of balance and compromise (0:45). (Ugh, I wish there were no music in the background, it ruins it a little for me. The words are strong enough that they sure as hell don’t need to be scored.)

Then again, one shouldn’t be worried how one is perceived anyway. I have no idea what the hell the video is, I just listen to the audio anyhow:

If you can be objective and impartial, this is actually scarily coming to pass, I think. If you can look past his intensity, he’s making a lot of insightful points, while still being funny. That’s the best kind of comedy.

“Our nature’s working against us and shooting down our plans”

In music videos, vinyl on Friday, 25 May, 2012 at 15:36


Song: Transparence
Artist: Asobi Seksu
Album: Hush


Song: Transparence
Album: Transparence 10″

Such bittersweet, dreamy and immaculate beauty. Normally a song will grab me, but it seldom reflects on my current state. If it matches it, it’s usually a coincidence. I don’t post “message” songs, it’s kinda hokey, and, to be frank, a little self-involved. Mostly, I just like a song. Well, this is one of those exceptions, sort of. I’ve loved this band and this song, so it’s as much them as anything, if not more. It probably wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love them, actually. It’s pretty much a things-gone-amiss-between-two-people thing, but it’s also so sparkling and lovely with a perky rhythm to prevent excessive mope. The guitar line in between the two verses (the “if we get to sleep tonight” part) is just too sweet, and those lyrics somehow make it sound better, along with the bounce of the drum. And then, it gives way to that even prettier one-note riff that floats over the second verse. Hush rubbed some small-minded people the wrong way with its cleaned-up, cooler, polished sound, and in fact, I believe James Hanna said something about wanting to strip away all the noise and build the songs back up from scratch. Certainly a daring approach/change of direction, coming off the thing that got you noticed in the first place. I personally prefer their bigger sonics, but for what they set out to try, it acquits itself pretty well. If it was said out loud, but surely it was intentional to push Yuki’s vocals to the center, where they can’t hide. We can focus on how much more her soprano has progressed. Once again, her vocal performance is just wonderful all around, but my favorite part is on the refrain, especially her delivery of “mirrors”– oh yeah. Plus the second part of each verse– “talking over one another” and “these are the story”, pretty sweet too. Hmm, did I just cover the whole song? Yeah, throw it all in there.

It may seem pointless to include two copies of the song, especially since the only difference between the two versions is the respective intros. However, the second one has a weightier, slightly moodier tone, which affects the way I listen to the song. The album version is still bittersweet, but feels a little lighter. The 10″ version sounds more ponderous and resigned and forlorn. But, it’s all in how you finish, and both of them find themselves carried away in the rush of that rousing, dramatic conclusion. Yuki ain’t no delicate Japanese flower. She can wail.

The version of the song used in the video is from the 10″, which I think I like better. It’s a slightly more enjoyable listen just because of that. Interesting what starting off on a different foot can do. Nice, low-key video, too. No plot, no grand concept, just a day at the lake. I really like how the surface-of-the-water shots fit into the song structure. There’s just something about the view at/below the surface with Yuki floating on the water… Good uncomplicated imagery. Then again, AS videos tend to include a lot of Yuki fawning.

I’m not saying I have them perfect, but man are the lyrics available online wrong as hell. Remember not to believe everything you read on the internet. People just lazy, cut and paste, don’t find things out for themselves. Of particular great use was this live version for a session they did at SXSW in 2009:

Yeah, I’m pretty sure she’s not saying “chewing down the plants”– moron sheep.

“We can figure out ways to complain there’s nothing new
afternoons spent on a park bench where everyone acts like you
talking over one another
this time was better, that way was better
don’t really know you, I think you hate me
you gave me nothing, and I offered less than you

pull out the doorstops and reach for the lights
someday is coming, so we’ll hold ourselves tight
cover our mirrors, nothing feels right
someday is coming, but we’ll stay asleep tonight

if we get to sleep tonight

we can laugh our heads off when no one understands
our nature’s working against us and shooting down the plans
these are the story, I’m such a criminal
if anyone saw me, I’d be so embarrassed
what’s up about you, what’s up about me
you sounded ______, and I offered less than you

pull out the doorstops and reach for the lights
someday is coming, so we’ll hold ourselves tight
cover our mirrors, nothing feels right
someday is coming, but we’ll stay asleep tonight

spelling our daydreams
I’m catching myself in time
spelling out our daydreams
I caught myself in time”

(Anyone know what goes in the blank? Or any other error?)

“I Can’t Love You Anymore”, live from Cambridge!

In music videos, vinyl on Thursday, 24 May, 2012 at 14:28

I never did watched any videos of the Marit show, seeing as I was there. The guy who took my photo with her recorded and posted on his youtube channel all the songs she played, with little bits of monologue here and there. But it’s mostly music. I felt like listening to a bit of Spark yesterday and decided to go back for a peek at “I Can’t Love You Anymore”, one of my absolute favorites from the new album, which, of course, I was thrilled to hear. Usually at a show, there a songs that one hopes the artist plays, and most of the time one comes away disappointed, but at least one wish got filled. Ai, quelle douceur. At 2:21 she reaches up on “holding on” (on the album version, she doesn’t)…. ah, I’m swooning again….

I’m trying to hear myself hooting, but the video cuts off any further crowd reaction. Still, I should be the loudest one there. It was only two months ago, and I forgot what a great time I had. I’m giddy again. Tack så, så, så mycket, ängeln.

“Every time when we lied, I kept my legend by my side”

In vinyl on Monday, 21 May, 2012 at 16:48


Song: The Uselessness Of Friends…
Artist: The Reputation
Album: The Reputation

Elizabeth Elmore, folks! Everyone’s favorite charmer, ain’t she? Actually, it makes sense when one knows the backstory instead of just assuming she’s spiteful or morose. Sarge was pretty well-known in the mid-to-late-90s Chicago indie rock scene, and then they got a little press in behemoth music rags like Rolling Stone and Spin, merely along the lines of “hot new band”, really. Humble for her former profession (she’s likely a lawyer now), she was just trying to deal with the attention of being in an up-and-coming indie band. And then, out came the haters. (In fact, I learned that the band name is a play on the name all the shit-talkers in the Chicago indie scene created for her. And here I just thought it was a bleh band name.) And, not only were people jealous of the attention, but there were also scores of phonies and hangers-on:

“I had all these friends who came to every show Sarge played in Chicago for the past year and a half, and literally I would say 90 percent of those people have never come to see me play since [Sarge’s breakup]. It’s almost shocking how bad it was.”

So this song is quite obviously a reflection of that scene. Now, the music… I admit the piano ballad approach was initially a little jarring. It’s a bit pretty, but now knowing what she went through to arrive at that point, it’s as fragile and resigned as it is pretty. I would have like it better without any percussion, so it would stand in starker contrast. Indeed, this stands out from the others on the album. The emotional tone is more at home with that of Sarge, in that Elizabeth was sincerely trying to make sense of the mess of interpersonal relationships, e.g. “Stall”: “…this could turn out fine if I shut up and let things be okay…” I think it’s something we all come to terms with in our adult life, musician/artist or not, when we take stock of our lives and the people in it. Wanting and hoping things will be okay, that things and people can be fixed, discussed , or reasoned with. And then you learn how seldom that happens, from a healthy, realistic perspective. The tone and lyricism of her second band is much more direct and blunt (if that’s possible for her), and a bit scathing and defiant, even. At least for me, the conclusions I reached and the approach I learned seem to mirror this shift in tone between her two bands, and can be summed up in this amalgamation of quotes from Ms. Elmore:

“I’m not very good at not saying things I’m not supposed to say…. My bluntness makes people uncomfortable, or maybe not uncomfortable, but it just makes me not always welcome as a part of conversations–  and that’s fine….It took three and a half years, but I finally feel okay here. And now I don’t fuckin’ care what anyone says. Because, you know, they’re just gonna say it anyway.”

References/resources below. Insightful reads, these:

http://www.sfbg.com/36/24/art_music_elmore.html
http://www.reputationmusic.com/reputation-latimes.html

“Another lonely night…stare at the t.v. screen…I don’t know what to do…I need a rendezvous”

In music videos, vinyl on Friday, 18 May, 2012 at 15:42


Song: Computer Love
Artist: Kraftwerk
Album: Computer World

So the party line goes that these guys were ahead of their time, pioneers of the digital revolution, and this album was a display of their prescience of the ubiquitousness of computers, and their application to every aspect of human life. This song specifically was singled out as predicting the phenomenon of online dating (“data date”), years before the fact. While I acknowledge and marvel at those things, to me this is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard, the one with the spare, lonely, and utterly sublime melody. Thirty-one years out, its digitized heart still beats strong. If anyone ever says electronic music is cold and heartless (and, depending on the day, I may be one of those people), present this to them. If they aren’t moved in some way, they are at best narrow-minded, at worst, a demon (demons being soulless). The warmth they wring out of their machines is amazing. Regardless of the themes (“another lonely night….”), there is something decidedly human about this song, don’t let Die Roboter fool you.

Not surprisingly, Coldplay sampled this for a song, “Talk”, though they got permission, allegedly. I can understand samples in hip-hop and electronic music, and sure, there are no rules, but it’s kinda sad if you’re a rock band that multiple times cops melodies and riffs. For people who say they merely sampled it, well, I’ve heard it, and the entire song is structured around that melody. It’s not that far from a cover, it’s just sprinkled with a few new notes and chords. And the song is nothing special, a bland arena rock song, pumped up with their customary yawning chasms of self-indulgent and pomp.

I’ll throw my hat in with subtlety on this one. Without all the extra noise and bombast, you can focus on the crystalline main melody and its smooth descent, and the dated, but almost lush synths. Till exempel, whatever that tone is that sounds at 5:22, I love it. Terribly minimalistic, not to mention deep and indelible. An underrated element not to be overlooked is that fact that it’s over seven minutes long. I am pleased and grateful.

Here is a pretty cool video (in still photos) depicting the evolution of computers, set to the German-language version. To see the progress and imagination, most notably from the pioneers who were doing it more than twenty years ago when computing was still pretty much a cottage industry, is nothing short of inspiring and humbling:

Once again, the awesome album cover. You can’t miss with old green screen. I think it should be their official logo:

computer world

“If you don’t got Mojo Nixon, then your store could use some fixin'”

In music videos, vinyl on Tuesday, 15 May, 2012 at 16:56


Song: Punk Rock Girl
Artist: The Dead Milkmen
Album: Beelzebubba

So it turns out all those endless facebook updates other people pump out occasionally yield value. Thanks to The Thermals for turning me back on to The Dead Milkmen. Evidently, they played these parts last weekend, having released a new album last year, and they went. Despite how silly, tasteless, bizarre, druggy, or just plain wacko they could be, they could actually write songs as well. Surely, “canonical” would not be the first word most people think of when describing a DM song, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. I mean, take this great song. It’s their most well-known song (no doubt aided by the video), and for good reason. I forgot how great this song is. It’s a bit silly and tongue-in-cheek– you never really know how sincere these guys really are. (The “do you have a beau?” line is a nice, sly little jab.) And yet, it’s kinda sweet. Listen to the intensity in the final “travel ’round the world”– he sounds like he actually means it. The song has plenty of jaunt and jangle, and, despite rough, unrefined edges, the music is most definitely pop. A nifty solo that’s (intentionally) slightly out of tune is still a nifty solo. The guitar tones overall have an amateurish feel, which adds to the endearing quality of the song. And that perfectly placed accordion that makes its way halfway in, it really picks up the song. It’s not gratuitous, it works perfectly. Ah, l’instrument juste. What a fun song. Bless you, you nutty Philadelphians.

Ah, the good old days of music video. Back when you used to see them. There’s a reason this clip is in the pantheon of DIY music videos. A hoot and a half (and then some) from start to finish. First, just look at the filming location: a craggy, most-likely-abandoned something-or-other, not to mention Punk Rock Girl’s digs which are kinda, well, crappy, given that her dad is The Vice-President. Proudly dingy shooting locations. What ranks it a cut above is that, like the music, The Milkmen take their fun seriously. Right off the bat, you have Joe Jack glaring into the camera, looking alternately dazed, menacing, and whatever-that-thing-he’s-doing-with-his-lips-is. Then, there’s Dean Clean biting his fingernails while drumming (one of my favorite bits of the video), Rodney casually singing backing vocals while reading his ubiquitous newspaper, Joe Jack entranced by Punk Rock Girl’s anarchy stomp, The Vice-President’s squeal and Rodney’s consequent simper, Rodney and Dave dueling in the background, all the band members trying the solo, with Joe Jack in the background looking so small and cute wearing Dave’s shirt, Rodney and the washboard player, singing zombies (Dawn Of The Dead !), and pretty much everything else, especially in the background. And then there’s the food. Apart from the pizza, which is in sepia tone so you can’t tell what it really looks like, all the food is completely disgusting. If I were going to my girl’s parents’ for dinner, I hope they serve that. And, my god, do they look ugly in drag– I love it! The dopey smiles on the reveals for Punk Rock Girl’s mom and Punk Rock Girl are classic. They’re so homely! My god, the production value is fantastic, and that’s no sarcasm nor irony. Fun, fun fun. Not just DIY, but a great video, period.

Lyrics:

One Saturday, I took a walk to Zipperhead
I met a girl there and she almost knocked me dead
(Punk rock girl) Please look at me
(Punk rock girl) What do you see?
Let’s travel ’round the world
Just you and me punk rock girl

I tapped her on the shoulder and said “Do you have a beau?”
She looked at me and smiled and said she did not know
(Punk rock girl) Give me a chance
(Punk rock girl) Let’s go slam dance
We’ll dress like Minnie Pearl
Just you and me punk rock girl

We went to the Philly Pizza Company and ordered some hot tea
The waitress said, “Well, no, we only have it iced”
So we jumped up on the table and shouted, “Anarchy!”
And someone played a Beach Boys song on the jukebox
It was “California Dreamin”, so we started screamin’ on such a winter’s day

She took me to her parents for a Sunday meal
Her father took one look at me and he began to squeal
(Punk rock girl) It makes no sense
(Punk rock girl) Your dad is the Vice President
Rich as the Duke of Earl
Yeah you’re for me punk rock girl

We went to a shopping mall and laughed at all the shoppers
And security guards trailed us to a record shop
We asked for Mojo Nixon, they said “he don’t work here”
We said “if you don’t got Mojo Nixon, then your store could use some fixin'”

We got into a car, away we started rollin
I said “how much you pay for this?”, she said “nothin’, man, it’s stolen”
(Punk rock girl) You look so wild
(Punk rock girl) Let’s have a child
We’ll name her Minnie Pearl
Just you and me
Eat fudge banana swirl
Just you and me
We’ll travel round the world
Just you and me
Punk rock girl

Spiced plum bread (+ pizza for good measure)

In delicious on Monday, 14 May, 2012 at 23:59

pretty good pizza

Frankly, the reason the pizza is here is that I wanted to put up something nice to look at. The bread came out nice, but it’s just brown. Lots of brownness:

plum bread

Brown.

plum bread sliced

Brown again, brown…. (Izzard!)

1.5 c flour
1.5 t baking soda
1/2 c superfine sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
~1/2 t cinnamon
1.5 – 2 t allspice
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 c applesauce
1 1/4 c dried plums, diced

Mix all the dry ingredients, stir in the eggs and applesauce just until flour is incorporated, then stir in plums. Bake at 350° for 48 minutes. There’s a reason these are called quick breads.

(A side note, about the pizza actually, I finally got the thin crust to work! Reasonably well, anyway. The ratio of flour to water was between 2:1 and 2.5:1, and I let the dough rise for no more than 2-3 hours before baking it. Still haven’t gotten it crispy enough, pizza stone not within my budget, but at least I remembered to not overload with topping and weigh down the crust and increase the likelihood of soggy. Sauce, so easy to make. Small can of tomato sauce, add salt, pepper, garlic, and lots of thyme and oregano.)

“I’m dizzy from her kiss, so vertiginous, lost in lysergic bliss”

In music videos, vinyl, You're a kitty! on Sunday, 13 May, 2012 at 20:26


Song: Lysergic Bliss
Artist: Of Montreal
Album: Satanic Panic In The Attic

If in need of an absolutely splendid song you can’t get out of your head, je vous presente… I like that it doesn’t dive in and give up the goods so quickly, there’s a cool tribal-sounding intro, followed by a couple seconds of country jangle (an awesome tease), and that unpredictable, shifty rhythm at 0:31 to 0:36 (it eludes me every time!) before Kevin Barnes & Co. unleash the gift of golden, sun-drenched perfect pop, fitted with ungodly hooks and harmonies. When Kevin’s on, he’s on. Good lord, forget about the chorus, the verse melody is immaculate. Man, to have the ability to put together notes like that, I’m envious. (By the way, it’s normal to come at 2:36.) And as well as a nice intro, it’s fitted with a nice flute-adorned coda as well, mellow and instrumental, but still sprightly. Those damn melodies won’t leave me alone now. What a magical song.

Despite the analogy to a LSD high, the lyrics are most definitely a love song. Saccharine on paper, but behold the artistry of the music, and how they give the words sincerity and soul:

“Wearing an olive drab, but feeling somehow inside opalescent
Wonder how I’m managing to smile, oh, when I can’t even pay my rent
Maybe it’s because I’ve finally found my little tulip, my Norge dear
Funny, how in spite of all my woes, life can appear rosy and clear
rosy and clear

And I’m dizzy from her kiss, so vertiginous, lost in lysergic bliss

(Because it hurts me so bad!)

Love the way you wear your curly hair, sanguine and spiraling, tied in a bun
Love the way it falls about your face, mercurially gilded by the sun
If we were a pair of jigsaw puzzle pieces, we would connect so perfectly
Creating a still photo of a scene from The Phantom of Liberty
of Liberty

And I’m dizzy from her kiss, so vertiginous, lost in lysergic bliss

(Okay children, remember your breathing– one, two, three, four)”

More from the “happy new home” front. A more perfect depiction of today there could not be:

corner sprawl kitty 1

corner sprawl kitty 2

Oh, and a pretty neat performance of the song by an a cappella group at SUNY-Binghamton (one of the three schools I was accepted to for undergrad, those I chose to do my drama degree at the U. of Washington), in New York:

“Hold me, don’t hold me….coax me, don’t coax me”

In vinyl, You're a kitty! on Wednesday, 9 May, 2012 at 13:38


Song: Celestica
Artist: Crystal Castles
Album: Crystal Castles (II)

Every time I hear that squeak (the first one is at 0:06, and especially at 3:36) it’s like the music player is skipping. I’m fooled for a split second. The first time I heard this, I didn’t quite believe it was Alice’s voice. It was a nice, mild surprise. (Sort of like hearing Kathleen Hanna’s yowls vs. her little voice.) Prettier, not as abrasive or bratty, and certainly more controlled. Indeed, the music is more clear, full, and expansive, and I think the extra focus and more varied sound makes this and the other songs on the album a lot more memorable than the debut. It doesn’t have the immediacy and punch like before, but they didn’t trade in all their edge (“Doe Deer”, anyone?), and besides, being grungy, irreverent, or offbeat for its own sake gets cute and tired but quick. A definite leap forward from the previous album.

Good beat, great chorus. Beautiful.

And beautiful:

cat in a sunny windowsill 1

cat in a sunny windowsill 2

I don’t mean to show off, we just haven’t been accustomed to this much sunlight in a long time. We’re enjoying it while it’s here.

Mango strawberry crisp

In delicious on Monday, 7 May, 2012 at 20:49

Finally, a break from all that darn chocolate! Time for delicious fruit. One of the things I love about tarts and pies, other than the inclusion of delicious fruit, is their relative simplicity. It’s a rather democratic dessert– so easy, it’s within anyone’s power. (It really is. The fruit does most of the work.) They’re not as fancy as other desserts and pastries, certainly not aesthetically– they’re not much to look at, a bit prosaic by comparison. But, for something so simple and surface unsexy, there is such comfort, gratification, and layered sexy. Not to mention, there are few things to be quite as satisfying as cold fruit (the best way to eat a crisp or pie).

I actually resisted the urge to gussy up the crisp by adding spices and/or nuts. I even cut back on the sugar, especially on the filling. I wanted to let the fruits (and butter and oats) speak for themselves. There’s a natural urge to keep adding, to pile on, to get greedy, than to let things be. (Not just that, but I don’t think strawberry nor mango go with spices, really.) For me, certainly. I always have to remember to scale back and relax.

3 ⅓ c strawberry, hulled, diced, chopped (~1 ¼ #)
2 ⅓ c mango diced, chopped
¼ c corn starch
½ c less 2 T sugar

Tossed together and dumped in a 9″ pie plate. (It likely would’ve fit in a 8″ square cake pan, just rather heaping. I opted for more room.) Sprinkled/covered with:

1 c + 2 T old-fashioned oats
¾ c flour
½ c + 2 T brown sugar
7 T butter, slightly softened

It may seem a bit much, but it’s better to have every bit of fruit covered than have a few bits sticking up. After topping, it was all baked at 400° for just under 40 minutes. I made it too late in the day for it to cool sufficiently that I could have some last night, which was fine, because I had it waiting for me for after dinner today, sitting in the fridge all day getting cold.

At least with tarts, you can see most everything. Pies and crisps are a bit more enigmatic. Sure, they look normal on the outside, but there could be mud, or fish heads inside:

mango strawberry crisp whole

Now, I was initially very slightly disappointed that it came out such a deep brown, dark in some places, fearing that maybe I should have decreased the oven temperature. And then I ate some, and was vindicated with a wonderful crunch. The individual serving is more picturesque than the whole, but still, as is the nature of a pie or crisp, down-to-earth and unassuming. Unfussy and easy to get along with. Ah, cold fruit…..

mango strawberry crisp bit

Oh, and I ate it with a fork. A completist thing, you could call this:

mango strawberry crisp bit with fork

What I could have done differently

Not much, really. The only things I can think of are variations to suit a certain preference, like maybe:

1) I might lower the oven temperature 10-20°, but that’s minor. Depends on how brown one likes their topping.

2) Maybe subtract a tablespoon of cornstarch, to have the filling slightly gooey and runny. The consistency on this one was firm, no pools of any size. I thought I’d need it, having never baked mango before, and fearing release of water (ever sliced a mango and tried to keep it steady?).

3) Maybe a little less sugar in the filling, to get a little more tang from the fruit.

Also, the strawberry imparted a pinkish hue to some of the mango, which was kinda neat. So good. I’m having another bit.