Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Canadian PSAs Are As Strong As Their Currency

Canadian PSAs getting some huge props today.

First, via Deadspin, comes this horrible, HORRIBLE kitchen safety PSA:

I don't think she's making head chef next year! Did I say horrible? How about horrifying? I'll never cook again.

But to lighten things up, let's mix in a bit of sex with our violence...

Welp... there goes my sex drive.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Today's Dose of Musical Blasphemy

I'm unblocked! I can finally stop swallowing down the bilious, hateful things I've been thinking all these weeks! So let's make ourselves a sacred cow hamburger.

Now that I'm working from my brand-new, Ikea-sweatshoppified, dorm-reminiscent PC hutch on a daily basis, my musical selections are no longer limited to whatever I bothered to load up in the office. My entire CD library is at my disposal. This has a few notable benefits:

Fun turn-back-the-clock theme days. For example, my first order of business was to dig into the high school and college era, back when I was taking cues primarily from the radio. I listened appreciatively to some albums that would probably make my head spin today. I swam out past the breakers and watched the world die. I slowly walked down the hall, faster than a cannonball. And it was awesome.

Theme Days
Pearl Jam day! Everything from Ten through Binaural! R.E.M. day! Document through New Adventures In Hi-Fi! Ben Harper day! And so forth.

Correcting Past Mistakes
If something slips through the cracks, I can give it some more attention. For example, on Pearl Jam Day, I paid very close attention to No Code, the album on which the band clearly and unmistakably turned off the no-seat-belts sign from there on out. It's still mediocre (with a few exceptions like "Hail, Hail") and clearly a birth-defective cousin to both Yield and Binaural, but it's not as unmemorable as I once felt. Standing it up against Ten, Vs. and Vitalogy is clearly unfair.

I'll get into specifics on some of those other discoveries in a later (and longer, if you can believe it) post. But for now, let's get blasphemous.

With Radiohead's In Rainbows making the rounds, I thought it'd be fun to cue up Kid A, an album I never really cared for. I tipped my cap to the band after a few listens (you can't argue their brilliance) but apart from "Natural Anthem" and the opening track, it never made much of an impression on me. But I figured that my modern-day self, a much more open-minded listener with more complex tastes than my 21-year-old self, might have a different reaction.

So I popped it on. And I did indeed have a different reaction:


I was shocked to have so different a reaction than what I expected. My bias in favor of "Natural Anthem" and against pretty much all the other tracks actually got worse. I'd say six or seven years is enough lead time to determine whether an album is really all that good or not. Unlike the famous Onion headline, I'm not getting into it, and I won't. It's unfocused and meandering. It has its high points, but the lesser tracks are boring to me.

I guess I just have a bias against experimentation for the sake of it... or, at least, subjecting us to it. The fact that they're brilliant doesn't mean their output is just as brilliant, nor should it. Who cares if it's a landmark if it's not all that good? Bitches Brew was a landmark for Miles Davis... and for the destruction of jazz. Enjoy Your Rabbit is a landmark for Sufjan Stevens, but it's nowhere near as good as the albums that have followed it. Likewise with Kid A, and to a lesser extent Amnesiac.

However, I'm grateful that those two albums influenced Hail To The Thief, the best of their post-OK Computer output. It's an ideal blend of their border-pushing electronica fetishes and the this-is-your-brain-on-drugs-[pause]-THWACK adrenaline rush that's their true strong suit. The best five or six songs on Hail are better than everything on Kid A. The fact that one couldn't have happened without the other only goes so far.

Maybe I'm just pulling a Flowers For Algernon and reverting to my old ways. Perhaps I got a taste of Everclear and the Foo Fighters and, like a heroin addict who's been clean for a few years, I got sucked back in. (Losing myself to a white-trash hell... lost inside my heroin girl!!!) But I just gave Kid A a second spin, and had the same reaction: so what??? So I guess that's really what I think.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

My Majorly Massive Non-Dismissive Missive On Moving

I get the sense that most people haven't really heard from me since I moved. Let's rectify that.

After exactly seven years in the DC area, I shipped off to Boston... TO FIND! MY! WOODEN! LEG! And I'll be looking for it from my apartment in the aptly named Mid-Cambridge neighborhood, equidistant from Inman, Harvard and Central Squares. I'm closest to "stuff" in Central, though the neighborhood demographic and appearance are more like Harvard. So if that leg I lost whilst climbing about in the topsails turns up in any of the fancy, high-priced Euro-style pawn shops in my neck of the woods... or perhaps in one of the twelve local Crate & Barrel shops, refashioned into a set of matching coffee stirrers... I'm all over it.

Unexpected and unfortunate unidexterity aside, I'm really thrilled to be back. My situation worked out just about exactly how I'd want it to work out. I'm in a great spot... a quick hop from anything I'd need, and a quick T ride from everything else. My apartment is nice, furnished with all the luxury items a cultured manchild-about-town could ever need. I was quite lucky to find an apartment on such short notice that covered the heating bill and also had an electric peg-leg sharpener in the bathroom.

(Here's where I stop pretending to have one leg. I am not a unidexter.)

So, some thoughts on being back...

Being back. (Great segue!) I'm adjusting, albeit slowly. It's becoming less and less of a big, romantic deal to be here... every bill that arrives at my new address reminds me of that.

But just because it's less so doesn't mean it's not so. I haven't stopped marveling at the brick sidewalk under my feet every day, nor at the weirdly-shaped streets that probably weren't so weirdly-shaped 400 years ago. And I still appreciate being able to run along the Charles, looping around at the fields where I had soccer practice in high school.

It isn't as universally awe-inspiring as casually playing ultimate under the Washington Monument... but in a way, it kinda is.

Cantabridgianity. This may not seem like a major adjustment, but it's huge. Walking around Cambridge with a sense of ownership is just totally bizarre to me. Growing up, I reserved the status symbol of Cambridge residency for Brahmins, Ivy Leaguers, professors, politicos, snobs, pain-in-the-ass Euros, and the self-consciously well-to-do. Not me, the son of public school teachers, the middle-class bankruptcy survivor. Moving to Cambridge seemed as likely as moving to Mongolia. Strictly a fictional proposal.

Of course, it's a silly way to look at it. It's not that big a deal. But it sure seems like a big deal. The fact that I'm sitting in my Cambridge apartment right now kinda blows my mind, in a good way.

My pre-Comcast routine. Prior to getting internet installed at home (and, by the way... FUCK YOU, COMCAST) I had a nice daily grind mooching wifi from cafes. It was a nice routine... plunk myself down at Darwin's, buy tons of food that I normally wouldn't because I'm mooching their wifi all day, exchange pleasantries with the mostly female employees and underage 100% legal customers of the non-denominational cafe... all that's a big step up from the office environment I left behind. (The one I'm simulating seamlessly from 400 miles away.) It's not a sustainable lifestyle, but one I enjoyed while I could.

My apartment. I've grown to like my apartment. I didn't like it much when it was empty, but I liked where it was situated. But now that I've furnished it (well, almost) I'm beginning to like it a lot.

The building isn't as ideal as its neighborhood, but the roughness around the edges can be chalked up to it being a self-built, self-managed mid-rise, as opposed to a professionally developed... development. That's something I can get behind. I'll forgive a broken AC outlet or two in exchange for the knowledge that I'm not helping the filthy rich get filthier or richer.

That's not to say it's a hole. The bathroom, for instance, is nice enough that I felt obliged to buy, for the first time in my life, a shower curtain. And not just any shower curtain... one that matched the tiling. It's not stunning, but it's a start. Maybe by the time my kids graduate college I'll give a shit what the rest of my living space looks like.

Then there's the balcony, which doesn't do me much good now that it's getting down into the 40s at night. I've been looking longingly at the planters at Home Depot, thinking about how to spruce things up a bit out there... put in an herb garden, plastic furniture, etc... only to realize that the basil plant of my dreams is about to be draped in a snow drift. But come spring... it'll be nothing but fresh basil and rosemary up in this bitch!!!

Boston is expensive. Want some advice? Don't be a neurotic, short-fused headcase who can't share space with other people. Learn to deal with minor personality quirks. It will save you thousands if you ever move to Boston, especially if you like things like "clean dishes" and "heat." Ohhh, dishwasher. How I need you.

(Call me a spoiled, insufferable, prissy little pussy who has grown up to become everything he hated as a child if you must... but this is a simple matter of public health. I've seen the foul beasts that emerge from the dish-stacked sink when I'm left to my own devices. I flatly refuse to subject my neighbors to filth and disease just because I want to prove a point. Should someone's poor old grandmother die because someone on the internet thinks I'm a wuss? Why not go kick a homeless guy in the nuts while you're at it? In summation, I need a dishwasher because I love homeless children more than you do, you inconsiderate prick.)

Cambridge is nicer than Silver Spring... I'll defend Silver Spring until I'm blue in the face. Over seven years, I watched it grow from a shallow turd of urban blight into a mere shitstain on the side of the Toilet of Columbia. What a difference a few years can make! All kidding aside, Silver Spring became a community worth taking the Metro (and leaving the District) to check out. But it's not Cambridge. You can't beat someplace that has so much character. Cambridge will always be Cambridge; Silver Spring hopes someday to be Bethesda. Chalk one up for those of us on the wrong side of the river.

...but it definitely fails the class diversity test. The most underrated thing about Silver Spring is how diverse a place it is. Even after the recent Bethesdification of the downtown area, it's still a minority-driven and largely middle-class city. How long that will last, I don't know. But that's one striking difference with Cambridge: it's not narrow, but it's more narrow. Having become accustomed to being a minority, it's odd to be back in the majority, in terms of both race and class. Not better or worse, just foreign. Just an observation, based on a few weeks' walking around.

Thank Jesus it doesn't fail the pizza test. DC is the worst pizza city ever. Much as I adored a late-night jumbo slice after a night in Adams Morgan, the faithfully excellent 2 Amys, or Armand's delivery, Washington is a gimmick pizza city. Go there and try to find a regular slice of pizza, from a typical greasy pizza shop. Not possible. The market for plain old pizza just plain old sucks. You can find a 1300-calorie behemoth, a Chicago-style cake slice, or a Denominazione Originata e Controllata-approved Neapolitan pie. But you cannot find a good old slice of pizza. Thank God I'm back in a city that appreciates a slice of friggin pizza.

Well... I suppose it warrants mentioning that the best slice of pizza in walking distance comes in squares. It counts as a gimmick, but it really, really isn't fair at all to Pinocchio's. They do serve cheese in regular slices, so they count. And my point stands if you use Il Panino, which owns every pizzeria in DC without even being a pizza shop in the strictest sense. And Pinocchio's owns Il Panino, though not by much. So there.

Bars. For now, let's just say I prefer them. Two words: People's Republik. Game, set, match for Cambridge. And how many DC bars have scorpion bowls, hmmm????????

In fairness, I have not yet been out on a typical Friday night yet. So I will refrain from judging with any finality until I've done that. I also haven't come up against any insane last call times either, so once that happens I may change my mind. But until then, I'm pro-Mass.

In conclusion... come visit. I even have guest parking decals to share!

We now return you to your regular, fluffy, frothy blog of music reviews and stuff.