Monday, November 28, 2011

Songs about feelings (R.E.M., Audioslave, The Avett Brothers)

I made it through turkey day. I’m a few pounds heavier from all the carbs (and mounds of whipped cream on top of the pumpkin pie), but I was happy to have the time to spend with my family. My music picks for this week are about moments of vulnerability. In each of these, I am amazed with the level of honesty and exposure and how it leads to something so beautiful.
Audioslave – Like a Stone

I really thought this song was about love. Wikipedia corrected me. It is about a man, all alone, waiting to die. It disturbs me how much I want to dance to this song. It's also unsettling that I listened to this on repeat for a day and a half. It is philosophical and makes me think. Sometimes, I need to think. And sometimes for a day and a half on repeat in my car, I just want to get lost in Chris Cornell’s sweet, sweet voice.

R.E.M. – World Leader Pretend

I have listened to this song hundreds of times. I have a habit of getting sucked into an R.E.M. vortex where I found it impossible to listen to anything else. However, the other day, I really heard this song for the first time. It is a stubborn, lonely song. I always heard it as a song about self-empowerment, but now I hear a story about someone who is hiding and protecting himself. At the end, he does ask for someone to make it cool to come out of the hiding. Maybe it’s a little of both. Maybe it is just a reflection of the day I was having when I listened to it.

The Avett Brothers – I Would Be Sad

I guess that it wasn’t really much of a stretch to put an Avett Brothers song in a post about emotional vulnerability and honesty, but I have been on a serious tear of listening to this song. It makes me want to give him a hug and tell him that it will all get better. And then I cringe, thinking of all of the times that I felt so desperate to get some guy’s attention. It always feels so dramatic and serious at the time.It is both good and a little sad to realize how such strong feelings can fade or change. I also haven't lost the irony of how I’m totally embarrassed for myself but sympathetic to others.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Bibliophilia: Book 35

My reading has slowed down dramatically in the last month. The list of books that I'm currently reading has grown exponentially and I hit a roadblock book. You know, the type. It isn't so bad that you give up, but you just can't quite get into it, so you’ll do just about anything other than reading. I guess that I'm far too stubborn to give up. Luckily, I finally finished the book earlier this week.

Halfway to the Grave (Book 1) - Jeaniene Frost

I didn't hate this book, but I didn’t love it. The reviews on Amazon and Shelfari were fantastic, so I was expecting more. The characters were interesting enough, but it felt like everything (every description, plot twist, etc.) took too long to develop. Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind because I normally eat up these cheesy vampire novels. Growing up, I taunted my sister for her love of smutty, romance novels. While reading this, all I could think was how the literary mighty have fallen. I won't be finishing out the series. Ironically, I still didn't totally hate it. If it came out as a movie, I think the story might even be pretty interesting.

Anyway, the reading roadblock was happily cleared. I am now lost in the crazy, cracked out land of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Most of last night, I had nightmares about bad trips with lots of lizard people and bats. Thank you, Hunter S Thompson.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Washed in Black..." (and then some color)

When I paint, I pick out some cool vinyl and then get lost in the mess of emotions and colors for hours. My favorites have always been Rolling Stone’s Flowers or anything by Simon & Garfunkel.

The other night I listened to the remastered version of Pearl Jam's Ten on vinyl. I’ve always loved the album because it is so angry and full of energy, but I hadn’t ever realized how much darkness is in there. I was particularly taken with the lyric “washed in black, tattooed everything” (well I’ve always loved that lyric really), so I started playing around with the idea of what things would look like washed in black. Plus, I like any excuse to make a mess with paint.

Here’s a black and white version:

And then, I tried one in color:

Normally, I prefer black and white, but on this go, I’m voting for the color version. These were fun to paint, so I might just play around a bit more with some different color combinations.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Songs to even out my scrobbles... (Airborne Toxic Event, Justin Townes Earle, Candlebox)

I had to force myself to listen to something other than Pearl Jam this week. I’m pretty sure that no one wanted to read another post where I get all nostalgic about being 14 and then get all moony over the front man and his weird emotional quirks. Plus, this week, I’m into bassist, so here’s to you Jeff Ament and your 20 years of funny hats.

The Airborne Toxic Event – Welcome to Your Wedding Day

I have been meaning to post this song for a few weeks. I wanted to pair it with other songs that made me want to dance. Plus, I’ve been trying to figure out what the song is about. I hear a deep social commentary about our government and war. I hoped that a few more listens would make it more clear. Mostly, this song makes me want to dance (and yell and kick stuff) and then day dream about Mikel Jollett (he's got a sexy mouth like that guy on Burn Notice). That in itself is reason enough to post.

Justin Townes Earle – Learning To Cry

Ahh, Justin Townes Earl. From what I can tell, the dude has a pretty crazy life story, but he creates some seriously awesome music. I would try to classify it, but each album has a bit of a different sound. This song in particular strikes me as really old style country. Every time it shuffles in, I find it impossible to say no. It gets stuck in my head and heart. It is so super smooth.

This is a live version, but I seriously suggest that you listen to the album version.

Candlebox – Far Behind

Last night, I came across a 90s music folder on my external hard drive. It was filled with one-off gems from the 90’s that I forgot that I had. It was also filled with songs that I can't believe that I ever purchased or wanted to keep (aka Hey Leonardo). It was a fun time capsule. It contained this song.

A few weeks ago, I read that this is one of many songs written for Andrew Wood (see also: Alice in Chains’s Would? and the Temple of Dog album). I always thought this was a love song. I’m not sure why, but I’m guessing that I never spent a lot of time actually listening to the lyrics. I listen to it differently now.

This is such a strange video, but I really wish that someone would make wearing skirts with Doc Martens and flannels and thermals come back in style (especially for appropriate work wear). Please?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dear Me (#tweetyour16yearoldself)

My Dear Evil Annie Woo (February 1996),

Happy 16th Birthday. It was quite a day, eh? Stop pretending that you're embarrassed by all of the attention and just admit that you loved it. Now, I'm 31, about twice your age. It sounds old, but most days I feel younger than I did at your age. That crazy Algebra teacher was right when she told you that your 30s would be awesome.

I know that you're still sad about having to move to Florida, but don't dwell on it. I remember those times well and you're having a great time. Enjoy the concerts, your friends, your family, and all of the wonderful things you are learning. Keep dreaming up all those amazing things that you'll be able to do when you're say, oh I don't know... 31.

Here's some advice that might allow you to stop worrying a bit:

Your dad will disappear for good this year. I know that you don't really care now, but later in life, you will dwell on it. He is NOT worth it. Focus more on the amazing people, like your mom and sisters, that always there for you. Enjoy every minute with your Grandma and Grandpa and ask lots of questions. You will miss them so much when they are gone.

You're a smart girl. Sometimes people will give you a hard time because things seem to come so easy for you. It's not necessarily true. You work hard and put your heart into things, so don't let anyone make you feel like you can't enjoy and be proud of yourself for all of the wonderful things you're about to accomplish.

This one is extremely important, I know that people like to tell you that you're too emotional... fuck them. Being emotional is a gift, and it makes you extremely special. Think of all of the people who you love and admire for being emotional... Paul Simon, Eddie Vedder, John Lennon, John Steinbeck, and John Hughes... and so many more to come as you get older. Plus, emotions fuel your writing and make it beautiful.

Don't be afraid of things that are difficult... especially playing guitar! Ask for help sometimes! And very important, don't let anyone make you feel scared of doing things that feel right in your heart (your instincts rock!). When you really want and believe in something, you have more strength and courage than you can imagine. BTW, when you finally cut your hair, it's going to look great!

Sometimes you question not fitting in. Stick to your ideals. Somewhere in your mid-twenties you start giving up your ideals to  fit in. It makes you very, VERY unhappy. You see the world differently and while that can set you apart, it also ensures that you are surrounded by people who love you for exactly who you are. There won't be a shortage.

I would tell you to stop being so boy crazy, but you won't change. I know. Try to be more sincere and open with the ones you really care about. I know that it intimidates and makes you feel insecure, but there are a few that you let get away by being too scared. You'll really regret that. There isn't a shortage of wonderful boys that can see you, but you're going to have to open your eyes and stop focusing on the troubled ones all the time.

I know that you love  McDonald's fries and Smarties, but give us a break in the future and throw some healthier foods in there sometimes?

Keep writing and designing those journals. The all caps is annoying and sometimes I laugh at the mellow drama in the poetry, but they still bring me tremendous joy. Remember that writing and art can always heal you and will keep you strong and emotionally healthy.

Oh, and you have an awesome record collection. When you try to get rid of it and Mom asks you repeatedly if you are sure, listen to her. You will be sick over what you gave away and spend a lot of money trying to get it back.

Mostly, you are amazing. Look forward to the future, but make sure that you are having fun and enjoying it, ok?

With all of my love,
Your slightly older yet still awesome self in November 2011.

Update: Just to explain, this blog post is in response to a lovely book called Dear Me, which is a collection of letters that celebrities wrote to their 16 year old selves with advice. A few months back, I posted about the British version and since then a great American edition has been released. I submitted my letter and it is now included on the blog. You should check it out here, look around, read other posts, and write one of your own. It is such a great concept and does wonders for cleaning out some of the adolescent rubbish that lingers in your brain.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Steven Tyler vs. Peter Frampton

Despite the evidence in the following video, I'm still pretty sure that Steven Tyler would take out Peter Frampton in a battle for Penny Lane/Lucy/Strawberry Field's heart. Aside from this fight scene, this movie turns the awesomness of the Beatles into a total snoozer.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cameron Crowe, PJ20, and a look back at my adolescence...

I was finally able to watch Pearl Jam 20 and I lurvey, lovey, loved it. Granted, I was raised on healthy doses of Fast Times, Say Anything and Singles, so Mr. Crowe had me from hello.  I know, bad joke. Sincerely though, I am forever influenced by his work. I dig how he sees the world. I am forever changed by the lovely perfection of Llloyd Dobler and my never ending adolescent fantasies that if I could just get to Seattle I could live in the same apartment building as Eddie Vedder (hint, hint, wink, wink... if you know what I mean). 

So, on the completely awesome note, a big  thank you to PBS for airing Pearl Jam 20 (Any chance that you’ll be showing Living in The Material World anytime soon? Please, please please? I need to know the intimate details about George Harrison!).  It was two hours of history, great music, and a bit of a step back into my younger “grunge” years.  I was definitely singing along and I won't deny that I tried to recreate a bit of my slam dancing days. Did head banging always make me that dizzy or am I just getting that old?

In 1993, I was 13, and every inch of my bedroom walls was covered with photos and posters of Pearl Jam. I would buy Rolling Stone, Spin, and those old rocker magazines with the pullout posters and carefully save any photos that I could find.  Ironically, I'm pretty sure that Vedder wore the exact same brown shirt for all of 1992 and 1993. Good music was a serious way of life those days. Ok, so it still is. The fun part about the documentary is that it was an amazing way to see what life was like for them and get to see the progression of how they have continued to evolve into amazing artists.

On a side note, why was Stone Gossard such a curmudgeon and has anyone else noticed that he sorta looks like Paul Feig (superhero of Freaks and Geeks awesomeness)?  Excuse my brain, I apparently have severe ADHD.

I especially loved the interviews with Chris Cornell. He was engaging and real. He provided a really interesting perspective on the band and the time period. I would love to hang out with him and just hear his stories. Chris Cornell if you're listening, we should totally hang at Starbucks sometime and just shoot the shit. 

And finally, the soundtrack is a great compilation of performances used in the film. I have really enjoyed the listen and in my own special tribute, I've selected my ten favorite Pearl Jam songs... for today. The list might change by tomorrow, so I need to hurry up and post this.

10. Just Breathe (A triple swooner)
9. Harvest Moon/Last Kiss (Both amazing covers, and I couldn't pick just one.)
8. Porch (At 13 and and now at 31, I really love singing the f-bomb)
7. Nothingman (And he who forgets, will be destined to remember...)
6. Oceans (Just generally amazing)
5. Go (Just try to listen and not totally rock out to this song... I wanted to put Animal too since I always listen to them together)
4. I Am Mine (I only own my mind... I try to remind myself of this daily.)
3. Man of the Hour (Eddie Vedder song for a Tim Burton movie, need I say more?)
2. Rearviewmirror (Best song to growl along to ever.)
1. Black (Pretty certain that this is all my all time favorite song ever. I've listened to it more times than is sane. I can never skip it when it shuffles in on my iPod. I love singing it on Rock Band. It's perfect for car singing. It might just be my musical kismet.)

Songs for a week without tv... (Dead Man's Bones, Simon & Garfunkel, Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, & Pearl Jam)

This week sucked. It really could have given me a break and taken a giant step back into chill-land, but we all know that rarely happens. To spare you the details, just draw a big photo of Eeyore and slap my name on it. Damn that tail, where did it get to again? As always, music saves me.
Dead Man’s Bones – Lose Your Soul

I love Dead Man’s Bones because all of their songs have such a haunting and supernatural quality to them. Granted, the multiple mentions of zombies, werewolves, and graves probably helps with the general feeling. On the plus side, I don’t think that I’ll ever complain about a little Ryan Gosling serenading. I won’t deny that his being in the band made me buy the album, but it is the fact that it’s pretty awesome that what keeps me listening.

Simon and Garfunkel – The Boxer

I am trying to abstain from television for a week, so I’ve spent a lot of time listening to records and drawing (the exact reason why I should avoid TV). I recently completed my Simon and Garfunkel record collection, so I’ve enjoyed getting lost in the albums again. I have everything digitally, but they are just better on vinyl. Paul Simon is my writing hero. His word choice astounds me In a few simple lines, he can break my heart.

I have squandered my resistance for a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises...

The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy – Television, The Drug of a Nation

And because I’m feeling all up in arms about how television is sucking my life away from me, I thought that I would share this…

Pearl Jam – Yellow Ledbetter

I know, I know… and yes, Pearl Jam again. I finally had a chance to watch Pearl Jam 20. I found their emotional vulnerability (especially Vedder, the scene where he tears up talking about his friendship with Jeff Ament was perfection) extremely inspiring. I think I’d be a lot better off if I was better at dealing with my emotions in a productive way. Oh, and Mike McCready is seriously badass on the guitar.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Things I wish I had known when buying an iPad...

A few months back, I decided that I needed an iPad. I didn't have a legitimate need other than it looked like a lot of fun. I am thoughtful when spending money (even on expensive toys), so I spent a lot of time researching before I bought it. Last week, I finally made the plunge.This is a list of information that I wish that I knew and understood about the iPad before buying it.

Size Matters

I had a difficult time trying to decide which storage size I needed/wanted. To be fair, I always agonize over storage when buying an electronic device, but while I didn’t want to spend a fortune, I also didn’t want to be a few months down the road and really regret my purchase.

When I bought my first iPod touch, I got a 16 GB, which ran out of space very quickly. I spent way too much time shuffling around albums to fit everything that I wanted and always ended up feeling like something was missing. It was annoying and limited what I was able to download. So when I upgraded, I made sure that I bought the biggest one available. Now, I am extremely happy with it.

Mostly, I made my decision for the iPad based on this experience and went with the 64GB model. People tried to talk to me about iCloud and not needing all of the space, but I just don't feel like I'm there yet. It was a splurge, but I saved some money by also choosing the Wifi model because I generally always have WiFi access.

After one week, I’m using about 11.5 GBs. That’s 400 songs (just the essentials, I have about 6,000 on my iPod), 5 videos (2 movies and 3 tv shows), 1300 photos, and 72 applications. I could probably have installed less, but I like choices. Plus, it’s nice to know that I have lots of room to grow.

Everyone Needs Protection (Aka Covers or Cases)

You could definitely use an iPad without a cover, but it doesn’t seem sensible to me. I plan to carry mine around with me a lot.I’ve heard far too many nightmare stories of cracked screens to take a chance. There seems to be a million options in a variety of price ranges, so I’ll just give you a run down of what I chose:

Apple Smart Cover ($40)

Pros: This cover is nice because it protects the screen, acts as a stand, and will automatically wake your iPad when opened. In addition, there are magnets built in to the device and cover that allows the cover to go on perfectly every time.

Cons: My biggest complaint is that the cover doesn't protect the back of the device, which makes it difficult to carry it around without scratching it. Also, the cover seems to clean the screen when it is closed, but it leaves behind some strange smudges on the screen where the indentations sit. I shopped around a lot, but the color selections were limited (and grotesquely ugly), so I ended up with a baby blue color that is not my favorite in the world. I would have preferred black or purple, but that’s just the Robert-Smith-lover in me talking. The problem is that at $40 it’s not that cheap to switch it out.

GreatShield Smart Cover ($12 - Black, issues reported with other color) 

Pros: So far, I really love this cover because it barely adds any weight, yet it seems to add a good amount of protection to the back. I feel pretty secure carrying it in my purse now. Also, this cover was designed to be used with the Smart Cover, so it fits perfectly. At $12, it was a good deal.

Cons: If you want everyone to see your Apple logo, it covers it up.

A Little More Power

At the Apple store, I specifically asked if my iPhone/iPod chargers would work with the iPad and was told yes. That answer is only sort of true. When plugged into the wall, you need to use the iPad charger because it requires a different voltage than an iPhone. When you hook the iPad up to your computer to sync with the USB cord, charging is dependent on the available voltage from your USB port. It was something that I would have expected (and appreciated) being explained to me up front. Depending on your usage, you may want to budget for an extra iPad charger ($20 -$30 at Apple Store). I was told that both the iPhone and iPod would charge on the iPad charger, but I haven’t tried it yet.

Apps - The Fun Stuff

I was aware that some of my iPhone/iPod apps would not work on the iPad, but I assumed that most would. Even more annoying was that A LOT of the apps that I had already purchased had to be repurchased in an HD version and were about five times more expensive. Granted $.99 is cheap and five dollars still isn't too bad, but it definitely can eat away quickly at a budget.

Just to clarify a bit, the iPhone/iPod apps can be loaded on you iPad, but they load in the size of the iPhone screen. It's usable, but it feels like a rip off with all of the beautiful screen wasted. You can increase the size, but it looks pretty awful (screen captures below). Even more annoying is that sometimes the Genius results on iPad will suggest an App, and then after downloading, you’ll realize it was really meant for the iPhone. So, my advice is to be more careful than me when making your purchases.

Did I make a good choice?

One hundred times over, yes. While it was annoying that I hadn't even thought to budget for some of these things, I am still extremely happy with my purchase. Each day, I find myself liking it more than I figured that I would. I really had no specific need for it, but I’ve been having fun drawing, recording music, and finding interesting ways to browse content on the internet.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A song for today (and what a day)... (The Avett Brothers)

It's been a long, long day. It was a day that began with a deep wonder over what has given so many people such aggressive road rage and ended with having to pay bills. Bleh. The good news is that while paying bills, I wanted to hear something beautiful and human, so I turned to I And Love And You by The Avett Brothers. If you can listen to this album with no emotional response, I am totally reporting you to the robot authorities.
This one in particular is just killing me today... Something has me, acting like someone I don't wanna be...

2011 Books: 26 - 33

Yikes, it's been awhile since I updated. While it doesn't look like it here, my reading speed has been really stunted lately. I'm stuck on a book that I don't find very interesting, yet I feel too guilty to give up on it. Anyway, here are my latest reads.

26: Frostbite by Richelle Mead

This is another one of the books in the Vampire Academy series. It’s been awhile since I read it, and I don’t remember much of what happened. There were a bunch of vampires and vampire protectors at a ski lodge, and then there was a bunch of teen angst lust drama that somehow ended in murder, sloppiness, and then sadness. Everyone kept telling me how great these books are, but I find them more like episodes of Teen Mom. Even as I start reading it, I know that it’s probably not good for me, but they suck me in, and then three hours later I’m left wondering where my time disappeared.

27: The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman

Again, I was a bit surprise to find just how much I enjoyed reading the graphic novel/comic format. In this one, I was able to find a Robert Smith poster hanging in the background of one of the scenes, and it made me love it all that much more. These stories are very dark and there is a lot of violence, but yet the story is engaging and the characters are interesting enough that you want to keep reading to find out what is happening. I also really love the artwork, but that's really what got me started on them in the first place. Overall, I am a fan of this series.

I really love the idea of natural, one-snap photography. These days things are so over processed and auto-corrected that it has now become much more intriguing to see a natural photo of something beautiful. That is why I love Instagram (@sughadust if you're interested in seeing my random photos of vinyl, cookies, and cats). It is mostly just normal people capturing everyday life. This book reminds me of Instagram. I loved being able to go through and pick out some of the photographers, but generally I didn’t find the book quite as interesting as I had hoped.

29: The Crow

I am a fan of the dark and macabre. When I saw The Crow movie, I was instantly in love with the story and really appreciated how poetic the story was. However, I really didn’t like the graphic novel that well. I felt demented for reading it. It was so gruesome and unforgivingly violent. Granted, I'll read the Sandman series without a second thought, but I felt like this one lacked the emotional substance that could have balanced it out. However, I did enjoy the art work and loved the use of the Cure and Joy Division quotes.

30 & 32: The Secret Circle, Volume 1 and Volume 2 By L.J. Smith

I have a thing with L.J. Smith’s writing. .I get hooked on her books and can’t put them down. I loved The Vampire Diaries, but I enjoyed the Secret Circle Series more. I like that the story revolved around witches living in New England. I was immediately sucked in and read through both collections in about two days’ time. It’s actually driving me a little crazy that there wasn’t more to read. I love the characters and I felt like the story was just beginning.

31: Recollection: Volume 1 and 33: The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1

Both of these books came from, which is the brainchild of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and others. I can’t even do it justice, so I suggest checking out the site and what they’re doing with their lovely community of online artists. I was particularly taken with The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories. I loved that all of the content in the books was entirely original and interesting. There wasn’t a sales spin on anything, and it was exciting to see the process of multiple artists coming together on projects.