Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Can I Get A T-Shirt That Says "I Survived 2013"? I'd Wear It.

It has been a typical day at our house: Stella has been running scared from a rogue horsefly; my Grandy just stopped by to say hi and pick up an extra slice of cheesecake; and I have been annoying my mother with videos of The Maine, because I am bound and determined that she should know who she's going to see in less than a month when I take her to their Acoustic Evening With... tour. Between the tea drinking and usual ass-hattery that goes on at Fusspot Farm, it is time to pause for a few moments for our annual anamnesis. Since today is the final day of 2013, it feels prudent to think about some of the things we have been doing outside of operating rooms and pointless college courses.
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Reginald Kitty is not amused.

*February: San Antonio; The Who
*March: We were mainly busy with family things, but the early part of the month was marked by the loss of my boy, Nigel. To everyone else, he is a bird; but my little pop-punk prince and I know better. I continue to miss him, and his lessons, every day.
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Isn't he beguiling?
*May: Back to Tulsa for Paul! Twice. Perhaps you'll hear the story one day when I'm feeling talkative.
*July: The 8123 Tour! So many memories there -- potatoes and spoons, kids, potatoes and spoons.
*August: I was rather indisposed due to my somewhat major spinal surgery.
*September: Galveston! We had a great time there, actually, considering it is the beach.
*October: Austin/San Antonio; Dallas
*November: Dallas; our annual trip out to Las Vegas was eventful this year: we went to LOVE, of course, but we also saw Ringo Starr, and Michael Buble, which was a hell of a treat.
*December: In the early part of the month, while we were in Dallas, we went to see Donny & Marie's Christmas show -- yes, a fun time was had by all, including me. Don't forget, I also had that horrific nasal surgery (honestly, you feel like you're dying for about ten days; I didn't handle this one well).

When we add together some other family things, like moving my granddad, starting up at UT Arlington, and some other health issues within the family, it's been a tough one. My mother told me this has been the hardest year of her life, so I don't feel it's that far of a stretch for me to claim that this has been one of the most difficult for me, too -- maybe not the hardest, but close. I was able to take some pretty cool pictures, though, so that helps.

During all of this, we have been able to find our distractions, naturally. First, let's look at some of the fantastic television we've watched and imported this year.

We finally got to say goodbye to one of the greatest television shows of the new millennium, and it was well worth the nearly three year wait. It was a satisfying end to an endearing series.

Seriously, if you haven't been watching Call the Midwife, you've been missing out. The new season starts January 19th in the UK, and heaven knows when in the US; I just hope we'll be able to find it somewhere, because I hate to wait for my stories.

I know most of America hasn't seen the new series of Downton Abbey, so this is a spoiler-free video. Seriously, though, I don't wait for my stories if I can help it.

Has anyone else been watching Bad Education? Such a cute show; don't ask me, though, since I think Jack Whitehall is hilarious, regardless -- he's got good comedic timing.

Does anyone else feel that Fresh Meat is just going in circles on some points? Don't get me wrong, I love where they took Howard this series, but the Kingsly/Josie storyline is feeling a little Ross/Rachel right now.

Community didn't die! Don't forget to watch January 2 when the new season premiers.

Naturally, The Bachelor is our sacred ritual.

And The Bachelorette is our most sacred of all Bachelor rituals.

What keeps me most sane -- or close enough to sane, anyway -- is always the music. It must have been that whole doomsday thing that happened last year, but damn near everybody I like was spurred to make fantastic records left-right-and-sideways this year.

Miles Kane, how I've missed you. This boy knows his rock and roll. If this song doesn't make you want to rip apart a government building brick by brick, then set it on fire, I don't know what will. Did anybody catch his set at Glastonbury this year? Amazing; and a Union Jack motif to boot -- reminded me of this, and made me happy.

I really wish they would have released these songs on a separate EP, rather than an extended re-release; that's life, though. It doesn't change the fact that they released four new kick-ass songs.

Rocket's last record was great. On the 8123 Tour this summer, they played a few songs from "Wild & Free", and it was a fun experience. Gonna miss those four guys playing together.

What did I say precisely one year ago? Intentional or not, demos were leaked, and we got the unofficial Ryan Ross solo debut. Sounding good, indeed; I hope there's an album of finished material soon. Also, if you want it right-the-hell-now, this was a free download. Treat yourself.

And, because God loves me, everyone I love also gave the world new material.

This record is typical Paul. A triumph; seriously, if you don't have it yet, just go get it, it's worth the money, you will thank me after you hear it (but get the deluxe, it's got two extra tracks). Maybe, though, let's not wait so long for more solo work, OK, Paul? What a babe.

Why do I love them? Their material is so hard to get hold of. I don't care, I love 'em, anyway. Also, thank the good lord the Big Bad World jacket (kind of) made its return (yes, that's "So Wrong, It's Right"-era Alex Gaskarth interviewing the Plain White T's during the "Big Bad World" album cycle -- life is beautiful).

Not only did The Maine give us "Forever Halloween" this summer, but they gave us "Imaginary Numbers" earlier this month. Seriously, go get it, it's gold; "Lovely Sad" has a "Ram"-esque quality to it -- you know it's got to be good if "Ram" comes to mind when you hear it.

If you don't smile and/or dance while watching this amazing clip, you are not human, and need to return to your mother planet. Honestly, it was like watching the opening scene of Pirate Radio.

Even my YouTube suggestions get it.
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I find it interesting to look at last year's New Year post, and compare it to what actually happened this year.

*Paul did release an album.
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Look at you, being adorable.

*Lots of amazing people made fantastic art, and gave it to the world.
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*And there were many, many big decisions to be made.
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Considering my predictions for 2013 were pretty spot on (weren't they, weren't they), I'm not even going to try and think about 2014. Perhaps this apathy will last forever! As of right now, I have no plans for the new year, and I'm just going to sit back and wait for it to happen to me. So much went on this year, I wouldn't be surprised if the next twelvemonth was a decline; I also wouldn't be surprised if it snowballed on me, too.

All I will say about 2014 on this final day of 2013 is good luck to the United States, and God bless rock and roll.
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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Chocolate Bells and Foil Money

Christmas this year has been a great kick in the pants. For starters, I have felt like this for the last ten days...
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Through it all, I have been baking my little heart out for our huge Buford Christmas party...
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Homemade Eggnog Cheesecake, Snowball Cookies, Soft Gingerbread, Bourbon Balls, and my infamous Deviled Eggs.

...and, let's be honest, here, we all know how I cook...
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Cook's privilege to sample all ingredients! Also, that looks like vodka, not rum.

Then, yesterday, I come to find out that only about thirty percent of the usual participants in Buford Christmas are actually going to show up. I over-cooked, and have been frantically eating cookies ever since -- I have three dozen Snowballs, two dozen Gingerbreads, and three dozen Bourbon Balls, plus Cheesecake to eat, and four people to do it.
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Also in the last ten days since my surgery, I have wrapped about five dozen presents, which will now be sitting unopened in my Grandy's house until people eventually grace him with their presence.
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The most any of us can do is put Lilly in her little red dress, and try to have as wonderful a Christmas time as we can.

But, you know, this video helps...

So, this Christmas, I am reminded of wise words...
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...and offer my own festive greeting.
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Saturday, December 14, 2013

We're Celebrating Our Wood Year!

On this date in 2008, my sister told me I should blog, and I, somehow, agreed. Now, here we are, 368 posts, one hairless cat, and five years later. I sit here in the dark, pretentiously sipping my dark hot chocolate with vegetarian marshmallows, listening to NEW, tapping my bunny-clad foot to the beat, and wondering where to begin.

I think the obvious should be stated right from the off: in 2013, I have been a bad blogger.
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Reginald Kitty approves.

There are reasons, of course. I didn't just abandon writing publicly for no good damn reason, naturally. Considering it isn't really much of a look-at-all-the-stupid-things-we've-talked-about-on-the-blog anniversary post, I think it's time to tell everybody what in hell happened this year. Don't worry, there will be photographs.
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Reginald Kitty does not approve.

I think everyone should be caught up on the earlier part of the year when I tried to explain what was going on, so let's pick up where that left off.

The last time I did a proper blog post was three days before going to see Paul in Tulsa. What I do for that man; he has no idea, and never will, but that's OK, because I lurve him. We planned to be gone May 29-31 to go to both shows, and drive back home. Stupid me decided to take a five week literature course that started, you guessed it, May 28th. I missed nearly four days of a five week course -- I reiterate, a five week course. Who in their right mind takes a five week course? So, naturally, I had to work to catch up (rather reminiscent of the time I completely missed the first six days of an eight week Freshman Comp One class to see Paul in Vegas, but still made 114% in the class, and was asked if my work could be used to instruct future students. Sue me, I'm proud of that). I don't care. I took these photographs, and don't remember a damn thing about the course: which was more important?
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May 29 limo watch.

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May 30 limo watch.

So, about two weeks into a five week class (again, why?) my second Summer session class started; I was half through with a five week course, and was starting an eight week course at the same time. Why, why, why do I do these things to myself? Who sets this up as a possibility, anyway? There must be some kind of flaw in their system to be able to do stupid things like that. As the five week class was wrapping up, we headed down to Dallas for some business we will discuss momentarily, and, most importantly, to see The Maine on the 8123 Tour.
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See that black spot right under Jared, next to the tire? That's me and my umbrella. I was dying, as it was over 100 degrees in Dallas that day. I think I may have passed out for a minute from the heat. Also, thanks to whoever took this picture.

I hope to be able to talk about my concerts from this year separately -- maybe throughout the month of December, maybe into January when the next one comes up (I can't help it, when I heard that The Maine's acoustic "Evening With..." tour was passing through Oklahoma City, I bought two tickets, and I'm takin' my Mama to see something really, really special on January 30th, because I can). So, for the sake of actually being able to talk about some things, we'll save that for another time.

This is where it starts to get a bit heavy, so hang in there. My purpose for going to Dallas was to see The Maine; everyone else in my family wanted me to go to Dallas to see a specialist for a problem I have battled constantly for fifteen years. My scoliosis is something I never talk about, because, once people know about it, they treat you differently. Maybe it stems back from those public school days, but I know better that to let people know about my spine. I am breaking that silence because practically everyone I know, and a lot of people I don't actually know at all (damn small town living) found out about it. It's my story, and it's been a big part of my life, so I may as well dive into it.
This is what my spine looked like on July 23rd.
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45 degree curvature on the top, 35 degree curvature on the bottom.

Now, don't be mistaken, here: I have been under a doctor's care for this since it was discovered when I was seven years old. It's just that, when your doctor tells you that you aren't in pain at age twenty-one when that was the first complaint to him out of your seven year old mouth, and in every visit since then (sometimes five consultations a year to keep check on it), you start to wonder if he's all that great a doctor. I wore a brace for two years, but it did nothing to help. I was at the point where it was the undoing of my life when I was persuaded by my family to seek a second opinion. If it weren't for the 8123 Tour, I would not have gone to see if I could be fixed, and, subsequently, would not have been.

The surgery happened quickly. I saw the doctor on July 23rd, and had the surgery August 9th, with a week's worth of pre-surgery procedures (myelogram, MRI, CAT scans, etc). I stayed in the hospital for seven full days because there were complications with the drugs they had me on; I stopped breathing for a while, my heart rate crept up too high for them to move me, things of that nature. I should only have been in ICU for twenty-four hours, but they kept me three days. Less than a day after the surgery, they had to pull all of my pain medication to try and bring me out of it -- something they had never had to do to a patient before, apparently. So, in essence, I had an enormously invasive spine surgery, and had little to no pain medication afterward. It certainly wasn't their fault, it's just that my body doesn't handle drugs at all. At. All. I found that out when I got home, too. The narcotic pain medication they had me on after the surgery knocked me out so far, I slept through about the first week of recovery. Unfortunately, starting on August 19th -- ten days after the surgery date -- I began at the University of Texas at Arlington with a full course load. I had no choice but to minimize the pain medication, to the point where I stopped taking it so I could do my work. By about the third week after surgery, I was off the narcotic pain meds, and only taking one muscle relaxer a day, per the doctor's order. I was at the minimum amout of medication I could possibly take; the muscle relaxer they gave me isn't even considered a narcotic in this state.

So, about thirty-five or so days after the surgery, sometime in early September, I was feeling fantastic. So good, in fact, that we went with my dad on a five day business trip to Galveston. While I was still taking that full twelve hours of upper-division undergrad work. Lunacy.

In October, I began post-op physical therapy. The ass-kicker about it, however, is that it was in Dallas, over four hundred miles from my house. We had to stay in Dallas for five days in October, and three days each in November and December for it. I finished therapy last week, so those whirlwind trips, for which my mother and I had to drive in tandem, are over. We also decided to go with my dad on another business trip, and went to Austin and San Antonio for my twenty-second birthday, which just so happened to coincide with the trip. All while, I will remind you, was during a full time college schedule. Keep that in mind.

Last month, after the physical therapy trip, it was time for our annual Vegas vacation, for which we were gone nine days. Also during November, we had to pack my Grandy up, and move him fifty miles from the big city to our tiny town. After that, we packed up for a couple of days and headed to Wichita, KS, for my birthday present: my mother took me to see Theresa Caputo. You know, this lady. And then, two Thanksgivings (one of which I cooked two pies from scratch, two nut loaves [my specialty], the Tofurky roast, sweet potato dumplings, mashed potatoes, colcannon, and deviled eggs). All while taking a full college schedule.

This month, after the final physical therapy sessions and between getting Grandy's and our house ready for Christmas, I had about a week to finish my courses before I had to go in for another pre-op and surgery ordeal. Yesterday -- which, incidentally, was the last day of classes -- I had sinus surgery to fix all of the wretched sinus infections I have suffered with for years upon years. My pre-surgery nose was shaped similarly to my pre-surgery spine; no wonder I have had so many problems with this since ever. Hell, as you read this, I'm probably still sleeping off the drugs.

In between all of these goings on, I have had some post-surgery issues that have come to light. I have some unusual growths on my thyroid that are being monitored to ensure they aren't cancerous, and they have discovered that I have a very high heart rate (what should be between 60 and 100 beats per minute is 169 for me). Not to mention the two sinus infections I have had since the spine surgery, the post-surgery anemia that everyone gets, and, because of the surgery, an extreme vitamin D deficiency. I don't mind it, though, since this is the after.
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Less than ten degree curvature both top and bottom, fusion on T2-T12.

And, importantly, something I don't know if I have talked about yet is that my pride and joy and reason for living, Lilly, was diagnosed with diabetes in January; throughout this year, she has been gradually losing her eyesight, and, by now, is nearly blind. She also has arthritis in her left hand, and can no longer jump up and down. She is still a puppy at heart, and loves to do all of the things she's always done -- it's just a little harder for her now.
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Look at that beautiful babe. Most beautiful in the whole wide world. But, you know, I'm not biased or anything.

As you can see, I have had so much going on, I simply haven't had time to tell you all about it. Less blogging, more living. That's it. That's the story. This is especially crazy to imagine since I was supposed to, in the words of my doctor's assistant, "be watching daytime TV for three months". In the four months since my surgery, I've been busy, and taken absolutely no breaks -- there wasn't time to. I am looking so forward to my life screeching to a halt after going a thousand miles an hour, even if it's for another recovery period. Buford Christmas is ten days away now, and Christmas Day follows, but that's all I have planned until late January when university starts again, and we go to Oklahoma to see The Maine, and that's how it will stay. I refuse to leave the house, and, most likely, will only change my jammies and socks for different jammies and socks. I will not put on pants or a bra, I will not leave the house, I will not receive visitors, I will not be a visitor, and I will not answer my telephone. If you want to reach me, too bad, I'm out-out-out. I hope that, after my nasal surgery, I will still want to blog through the recovery and talk about some concerts/vacations/experiences that have happened this year; if that isn't the case, it will just have to take a long deserved break, and wait it's turn.

So, at the first of the year, the blog was quiet because life was quiet; in the second half, the blog was quiet because life hijacked me. I have taken the opportunity to try and come up with a short Mr. Gee-esque poem for the posts that were made.

In the five years since this blog was born,
it's never been so damned forlorn;
sitting untouched for months at a time
makes it hard for this poem's bad rhyme.
I wish there was more I had said to you,
but the posts that were posted will just have to do.
We contemplated Elvisces while Pete rocked out,
caused some commotion, saw what publishing's about.
There was heartbreak, which fangirling mended,
a 365 blog that started and ended.
We met Elmo Tinsel, had supersleuthing to do,
quarter-life realizations, and flashbacks, too.
Least we forget the Top Fives and Mixtapes,
which rounds off the content I happened to scrape.
As we dive headlong into blogging year six,
I hope you'll stick with me and my stupid tricks;
I know it's been quiet, but I plan to blog on,
and I'd like to think that you'll come along.

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Really though, I am constantly pleased to think that whatever my tiny fingers are typing on my keyboard, someone somewhere in the world maybe got something out of it; whether it's a chuckle, or what I sometimes do with people -- shout at my screen "how can you be so stupid?!" while shaking my hands in the air -- there is a satisfying exchange of ideas somewhere here. I hope you think the same. Thank you for putting up with this blog for five whole years -- half a decade! My sister's children are younger than this blog, and that's creepy to think about; so much has changed in five years, and I am glad that I have been able to share some of that along the line.

To year six! May it be slower, less taxing, but just as exciting.
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Sunday, December 8, 2013

This Will Just Take A Minute

It has been a busy day. After meeting deadlines, it was time to put up our Christmas tree. Since my Grandy has moved to our tiny town, he has been at our house more often, and we have been at his new apartment a good deal of the time, too. It was really the first time we had had anyone over to our house to decorate the tree; naturally, I channeled my inner post-war bride, and put together a spread...
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Home-made eggnog, and home-made pecan toffee, with other snackables.

Between the cookery and holiday cheer, though, it is highly-highly-highly important to take at least one minute out of today to Think Peace, Act Peace, and Imagine Peace. My hope is that, perhaps, by taking a minute out of your day to do so today, you might continue to do so tomorrow, and the next day, until peaceful thought turns to peaceful action; I can't simply preach it to you, you have to do it yourself. We all do, and it isn't always easy. Just for now, though, think about it; take that sixty seconds out of your day.

And, perhaps, take another minute to think of an amazing human who also believes in the power of sending light and love to the world.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

An Additional John Lennon Facet

I miss a lot of things, but John Ono Lennon's birthday is never one of them. Over the years on this piece of the Webbynet, we've talked about many of John's facets; in planning this post, I had to stop and ask myself "what else can be said?". I rattled my brains, trying to come up with something I have not proclaimed time and again, when I stumbled upon the very thing I needed, quite by accident.

It is fairly obvious that I tap into my inner Rob Gordon frequently: making playlists; mix tapes; arranging and playing with other people's material; and, especially, looking at how artists I love are playing with that material, too. As I was reading a playlist that The Maine recently took part in compiling, what John O'Callaghan wrote about a superb Double Fantasy track said everything I could have wanted:

John Lennon - Watching The Wheels
I am reminded of a dear friend when I hear this song. One of the many reasons I adore music, it’s ability to arouse nostalgia. I know where I was when I first heard this song, who I was with, what we were doing, etc. Beautiful song, beautiful arrangement, beautiful nostalgia.

After reading this, the puzzle started to come together.

I recently underwent a somewhat major -- albeit elective -- surgery; though, in my mind, I knew I had chosen wisely to move forward with the procedure, even on the day before the surgery itself, I was emotionally uncertain. That day before, however, my best friend sent me a fantastic present: a 1980 pressing of the "(Just Like) Starting Over/Kiss Kiss Kiss" 45.
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Though he didn't say it (he often leaves me to guess what he intends, and we both love it that way), I knew his meaning behind the gift was that he would be with me to help me, and to wish me good luck in "starting over". Of course, no other song would have meant as much, since this particular song has been distinctly prominent in our relationship almost since its beginning, and continuing since. He and I are separated by a great distance, but, in this way, he was right beside me when I needed him.

And, in piecing these things together, that's the part I had never really talked about. Of course, all of the things John has done still impact the world today, but in how many forms? Sure, we can all watch interviews and film clips that prove his merits as a creator, but has anyone stopped to think about the impact of these pieces at the disconnected-from-the-artist-solely-personal-public-domain level? Not just because John is a great artist, but because his art touches people in the most magnificent ways -- and it doesn't look like it will stop doing so in the foreseeable future. As a kind young drummer once told me, music is magical; if that is true -- and we all know it is -- then John Lennon must be one of the best magicians I know of.

It is time to raise a teacup: my guy, these years are adding up, and of all the love I have, it's due very much to you. Multicolor monotones, electric cacophonies, and forever to figure it all out. Bless and keep, love and love, and happy birthday, darlin'!

Be sure to check out the lighting of the Imagine Peace Tower at three o'clock central time, and, because interviews and film clips never hurt to watch, birthday tributes for both John and Sean from 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 might be a good way to celebrate.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Mixtapes Mean Love

It is thirty-two minutes past eight o'clock. The entire house is dark, since I am the only one in it -- this also means that Forever Halloween is turned up a little too loudly for the neighbor's comfort (but when did I ever care about the bloody neighbors?). I have to say, since that album came out, that is where my time has been devoted. Lack of posts? Blame Forever Halloween. Lack of general productivity in life? Yeah, Forever Halloween. "What are those dark circles under your eyes?" That's also Forever Halloween, but at sunrise. Burned the dinner? Sorry, Forever Halloween. That record is like aural heroin to me right now. How do I know this? Back in July, my sister and I had a lengthy discussion, which gave me this little epiphany.

We were on our way back from Dallas, and I somehow got talking about the fact that I was grateful that I didn't make a fool of myself two nights previously when I met Jared Monaco (oh, don't worry, we're going to talk about that at an annoying length very soon, because I need to fangirl about this event in the worst possible way). It all started innocently enough. We had somehow gotten around to talking about Katy Perry; this, however, is a subject I have limited breadth in. She married Russell Brand, divorced Russell Brand, and did this video...

Yes, you saw Miles Kane, Dallon Weekes, and The Maine -- that was not an illusion.

I quickly exhausted the Russell Brand angle, and frantically turned to the video for some kind of support. I didn't know what I would be met with, considering I pointed out that all of those awesome people are in it. I know my sister reads this blog, so I figured she might at least recognize a name or two that I mentioned. I was shocked and appalled to read her response text (I only just got this stupid iPhone, I don't know how to screencap anything, suffer with me, OK?): "Yeah... That text had a lot of people in it I've never heard of... Who is The Maine?"

That was where I proceeded to creep both of us out by not shutting up. She even sent me this photograph to illustrate how I need to learn to shut my damn pie hole.
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This exercise proved two points to me. While the minor point is that I need to stop acting like the Energizer Bunny when it comes to my hobbies (let's be honest, here, that isn't going to happen), there is a major point here, too. I always just assumed that, if someone was reading my blog, they would either know who these people are, or would look into it themselves. Just because I have a psychotic need to research things does not mean the rest of you do, and I took that fact for granted.

Let's go back to that psychotic-need-to-research thing, though, because that brings up another good point regarding the whole reason this post exists: I have done your research for you! You can thank me later. Before you back away from the screen in horror, let me explain what I have done. It occurred to me that, should you read this blog, yet remain totally clueless about some of the things I have talked about in the past (and will most likely bring up again in the future), let this be an attempt at a sort of "Beginners Guide To..." kind of thing. All you really have to do is hit the play button, and be brought up to speed.

In the same regard that I have made it as easy as one, two, play, I have also followed a categorical approach, which I think will be helpful to those who remain oblivious. Now, there is only one problem with my system: do you remember that scene in High Fidelity where the girl from the magazine comes to interview Rob Gordon, and she asks for his Top Five albums of all time, and the scene is pretty much him adding to/changing his mind about the list he gives her? Yeah, that kind of happened. I tried to keep it to a Top Five, because it is a formula that works; unfortunately, it is not a formula that works for me. Instead, there is a Top Eleven -- almost an album's worth of material from each band listed. I don't mean to scare you; I know the whole Top-Eleven-categorical-approach is a bit daunting. To make it easier, I will, of course, talk a bit about each song, because it is my blog, and I can.

The categories are:

1) What I Suggest Starting With (there is a lot of material to sort through! I get it. This category has you covered for what you need to start with if you are remotely interested)
2) What I First Heard (self-explanatory: the song I first heard from the band)
3) Newest Material Pick (a song from that band's latest album or EP which kicks ass)
4) Early Material Pick (baby bands! You know, the stuff they want everybody to forget because everyone cringes at their early work)
5) Album Cut (any album is up for grabs here; songs that don't get the love they deserve)
6) Acoustic Pick (one of their own songs, reworked as an acoustic track)
7) Compiler's "Because of Reasons" Pick (because it's my blog, and I can)
8) In Studio (you've been listening to these beautiful people, now get to know them and their material a little better. Nerd out with me, please)
9) Songs Featuring (guest spots featuring a band member on a different artist's project)
10) Covers (like the good old days, don't we all want to hear a familiar song done in another artist's style? It measures their worth, dammit)
11) Acapella (who doesn't want to just hear the vocals by themselves sometimes? I love it)

Also, note that there are some links sprinkled around here and there. Feel free to click and enjoy. You're welcome.

An important factor in picking the Songs Featuring and Covers categories was my sister. I tried to look at songs that fit more what I thought she would like than what I might have otherwise chosen for those categories. After all, I'm trying to educate, here. Since those choices are geared for a certain taste, just be forewarned.
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She never did outgrow Cyndi Lauper.

The bands are organized as the entire set of eleven for that band in one heading, with three bands in total. Since I talk about these three often, I have decided to place them in the order I have seen them live (because why not?). With that said, my love for the Plain White T's is really, really well known, and we're going to start there, because the Wonders of the Younger Tour was pretty cool.

1) What I Suggest Starting With: "Boomerang" from Wonders of the Younger (2010)

I have loved this song since before it came out. Seriously. The thing is, the Plain White T's like to play unreleased material at their shows, and they do it often. How many incredibly low-fi versions of this song did I sit up late at night in the dark trying to figure out? A few, anyway. And, they've been playing their as-yet unreleased material while on tour this summer, so we're back to low-fi madness (you will notice, though, that technology makes it a little easier four years later). This, however, is the official studio version, complete with awesome music video. Watch it in HD and try not to fall in love, I dare you.

2) What I First Heard: "Hey There, Delilah" from All That We Needed (2005)

Isn't this the first song most of the universe heard from these guys? It certainly was for me. This song was blowing up major when our little family was making our way up to Canada (which we never talk about), and fifteen year old me flipped her respective wig. It took me a while, but sixteen year old me fell in love with the band the winter of '07/'08, and my life has pretty much been on a downhill spiral since then. It is obvious you just can't stop with one band -- which, for me, my starting point was The Beatles -- without finding other people to want to invest time in, too. (Really, I haven't slept since Paul's Chaos and Creation came out in 2005.)

My problem, however, is that the version that made it big -- and, in effect, is the one played on the radio -- has added strings. Added. Strings. This song is meant to be Tom Higgenson, and an acoustic guitar. Period. End of discussion. Commercialize it all you want, but listen to the original version and tell me it isn't better. They George Harrison-ed it, man. Tom Higgenson, and an acoustic guitar: magical.

3) Newest Material Pick: "Helium" from Should've Gone To Bed (EP) (2013)

I very openly had reservations about the new EP. We all remember how I had a small nervous meltdown back a few months ago about it. Fortunately, the EP sounded nothing like the eponymous single. Four songs total, two from Tom Higgenson, two from Tim Lopez, and three of the four are fantastic (because that part of me just can't stand "Should've Gone To Bed" unless it is acoustic). "Helium", however, does, indeed, kick ass. Before I go and buy the EP, though, I am waiting to see if these songs are on the album that should be coming out sometime this fall (maybe? I mean, a partially announced fall tour, and some rumors about what they're calling From This Night On sound promising [psychotic-need-to-research crops up every time]. No one seems to be talking about this; I am inclined to blame the record label, simply because labels always promise things they don't deliver on). That is a thing that has happened in the past, but if you need these songs right-the-hell-now, don't be a bloody skinflint, buy the damn thing.

4) Early Material Pick: "Happy Someday" from Stop (2002)

It was because of Stop that I realized I had an actual valid point with the Theory of Twenty-Three. Only then did I further investigate it, and found out I have a method for guessing a male lead vocalist's age that is almost as accurate as carbon dating. As for the song, I love how idealistic it seems eleven years later, knowing a bit more about how the member's lives have changed since then; in that respect, though, haven't we all?

5) Album Cut: "Come Back to Me" from Every Second Counts (2006)

Falling in love with a band between album cycles is a tricky situation. While I was busy keeping this album on constant loop, the band was live tracking Big Bad World, which, in my opinion, is their greatest album to date. Every Second Counts, though, will always be special to me; I spent hours upon hours writing to this album, trying to figure out how to play with words. Even now, when the lights are off and the house is quiet, this is the album I put on to write to. This song in particular has always been a favorite of mine, and has spent heaven knows how long on repeat by itself (probably because the bridge is catchy).

6) Acoustic Pick: "Broken Record" from Wonders of the Younger (2010)

A few months before the album came out, acoustic versions of some of the songs somehow made their way out to the world. I don't remember much about the other songs, because I was fixated with this one. Now that I am familiar with the album version, I am amazed at how well they recreated the song acoustically. When the album dropped, though, it was a total shock to hear the studio version. I have been known to play this version as often as the album version, just because it is that good.

7) "Because of Reasons" Pick: "Meet Me In California" from Big Bad World (2008)

Because you should never love the idea of people based on the fact that you like the same kinds of books; and it only took four years to figure out.

8) In Studio: "Meet Me In California, Part Eight" (2008)

If they were able to film a making-of documentary on any of their albums, I am so very glad it was Big Bad World. The entire documentary, split into thirteen short segments, is entirely worth every moment of your time. It is somewhat hard to get hold of, though, as only the first three parts are available from the band's YouTube page. Check out the full film, if you can.

9) Songs Featuring: Ashlee Simpson's "Little Miss Obsessive", featuring Tom Higgenson (2008)

Back in the day, my sister liked some of Ashlee Simpson's singles; because we live in two separate spheres, I don't actually know if she still has a flavor for this particular sound, but I'm flying by the seat of my pants on this one. Keep an ear out for Mr. Higgenson in the backing vocals during the chorus.

10) Covers: "Jessie's Girl" from Rip Off the Hits (2001)

I have to make a confession: I don't actually know if this track is from their 2001 self-released EP. I am using common sense and the Theory of Twenty-Three. This isn't my favorite cover they have done over the years, but my sister is a child of the 80's, and has never shown an interest in acoustic Beatles covers (like this one, go look, you will be glad you did, it is beautiful, you are welcome [also, "The Beatles are one of our favorite bands"? Mr. Higgenson and I are fighting to be Paul's biggest fan under age forty, he had a remaster listening party on the release day, and he named his son Lennon. Do we even need to get into the creative process, here? He is just as bad as I am]).

11) Acapella: "Natural Disaster" from Big Bad World (2008)

This one is more of a click-the-link kind of thing. So click the link. It is absolutely magical. I had to stop writing just to listen to it; it literally took every ounce of my attention, because I had never heard this particular song acapella before. Love it, embrace it, tuck it in at night and give it a glass of water.

How is everyone holding up? Enjoying the awesome so far? I hope so, because we are only one-third finished. The next band lands in the second slot chronologically, thanks to the Rockshow at the End of the World Tour -- we're talking about All Time Low.

1) What I Suggest Starting With: "Somewhere In Neverland" from Don't Panic! (2012)

Do you ever listen to a song for the first time, and just feel yourself fall in love with it? In the build-up to their latest album, a couple of songs were released early to promote it (I don't know if they were officially singles at that point, or if they were just trying to get a feel for audience reception to an album that was recorded without a record label). Regardless, this song came out at a perfect time in my life for it to make absolute sense -- a twenty-something anthem, while simultaneously asking for a way out of being a supposed grown-up. Also, it is awesome live, and a generally nifty track in general.

2) What I First Heard: "Damned If I Do Ya (Damned If I Don't)" from Nothing Personal (2009)

At the time, this video was the first YouTube result when searching the band name. Everything about it says "huh?", but the song is just so catchy, you can't help but love it. It's also a pretty good introduction to the band members, since they don't take things too seriously, including most of their videos (if you couldn't already tell).

3) Newest Material Pick: "Me Without You (All I Ever Wanted)" from Don't Panic: It's Longer Now! (2013)

I said it when Don't Panic! came out, and I'll say it again here: this is the kind of album that kids my niece and nephew's age are going to go nuts for in fifteen years. A kid could grab hold of this record when they have nothing else to cling to, simply because it gets them. To boot, the album has staying power because of the angsty-yet-not-adolescent theme. When it was announced, however, that their four new songs and three acoustic tracks were going to be as part of a reissue, rather than an EP, I was not the only person that got a tad bit peeved. Some of us spent rather a lot of money on the Don't Panic! cycle, and then, a super-dee-duper deluxe edition comes out nearly a year after the fact. Even though I haven't bought it yet, I probably will, just because I really like the new material (though "A Love Like War" is debatable for me at this point, regardless that most fans are loving it [keep in mind, though, that I have never been a big Pierce the Veil fan]). This material has only been out for a couple of weeks now, but this chorus is so damn catchy that it's been in my brain for as many days.

4) Early Material Pick: "The Beach" from So Wrong, It's Right (2007)

This is just one of those songs that sticks in your head for days and days, and you aren't exactly sure if it is a good thing or not (let's be honest, it is a good thing). You will also sing it in your head every time you go to the beach, just because you can.

5) Album Cut: "Return the Favor" from Dirty Work (2011)

Some fans have an issue with Dirty Work as a whole, and I never have been able to understand that. Yes, it is somewhat more manufactured-feeling than their previous albums had been, but the songs are still fun. I particularly like the harmonies on this track, and would love to hear more of what the band could do with layered backing vocals in the future. It needs to happen.

6) Acoustic Pick: "I Feel Like Dancing" from Dirty Work (2011)

I have had an unidentifiable love for this acoustic version since it came out. The song has never been one of my favorites -- though it is a great road trip song -- but this particular performance is great.

7) "Because of Reasons" Pick: "Vegas" from So Wrong, It's Right (2007)

Because everything about 2006 changed my life, including best friends and total idiots (which includes me).

8) In Studio: Recording for Nothing Personal (2009)

There is something heartwarming about watching an artist have fun with a project. It isn't incredibly serious all the time in any creative environment, and this clip is proof of that.

9) Songs Featuring: We Are The In Crowd's "Kiss Me Again", featuring Alex Gaskarth (2012)

My thing with this song is that you can tell Mr. Gaskarth's vocals were recorded in a makeshift booth set up on a tour bus. There, I said it. So much autotune for such a beautiful voice. The video is pretty fun, though.

10) Covers: "True Colors" (2012)

I don't exactly know what was going on with this: there was some kind of competition, and they had bands from different countries cover songs, and there was a car. That's all I know. That, and I kept seeing Cyndi Lauper lyrics pasted over pictures of All Time Low for weeks after this came out. Did these people never have a sister that come complete with the Cyndi Lauper "Greatest Hits"?

11) Acapella: "Dear Maria, Count Me In" from So Wrong, It's Right (2007)

Never one of my favorite songs, but the acapella version shows it in an entirely new light. Even before twenty-three, we can all agree Mr. Gaskarth has a fabulous voice. We can agree, right? Then we're all in trouble, here.

By this point, I am assuming the dear reader is either ready to smile widely as they murder me, or is wondering what took them so long to find these things (I hope it is the latter, because then I've put in this effort for nothing). Have you even made it this far, dear reader? Good on you. You are nice people, and need cookies to make your day better. While you get cookies, let's talk about the third band (don't cheer 'cause it's almost over); by order of first-tour status, the 8123 Tour brings The Maine as our closing band.

1) What I Suggest Starting With: "Misery" from Pioneer (2011)

This particular song always comes up in interviews as one that the band is very proud of; why not? It's a great song by itself, and as part of the album as a whole. Even without knowing the story behind the album, Pioneer is a triumph of a record. Seriously, buy it blindly, sit in a dark room with no distractions, and play it front to back. Start with "Misery" for now, though, because why not? Why. Not.

2) What I First Heard: "Into Your Arms" from Can't Stop Won't Stop (2008)

I was doomed from the start, wasn't I? Some folks think the video is a little much, but I never saw anything incredibly wrong with it.

3) Newest Material Pick: "Kennedy Curse" from Forever Halloween (2013)

Even before the album came out, everybody was prepared for the emotional roller coaster that "These Four Words" promised to be. It was hyped quite a bit before the release, and most people reacted with Kleenex and chocolate. Here's the problem I had: in album order, "Kennedy Curse" comes before "These Four Words". Knowing that the entire album was coming from a similar place as "These Four Words", my big reaction came from "Kennedy Curse" (which makes no sense, really, given the context of the story that's being told here). So, as much as everyone loved and reacted to "These Four Words", I have done the same for "Kennedy Curse". Keep in mind that Forever Halloween was recorded live to analogue tape, and this song is just that much more amazing. (Also, cheeky fun fact: The Maine are fantastic about putting up free material. The 8123 Tour EP has a live version of "Kennedy Curse" on it, should you decide that you need that in your life -- or, to tide you over until your copy of the album comes in the post [or, if you decide to wait, we all know something is brewing, so save on shipping].)

4) Early Material Pick: "This Is The End" from Can't Stop Won't Stop (2008)

Of all their early material, I feel like this is the best indicator of where they were headed in the future; compare, say, this song with songs from Black & White, and it's a fairly logical progression -- unlike a few singles put out for the Can't Stop album cycle (because 2008 was just a weird year for everybody).

5) Album Cut: "Untangle Me" from In Darkness and In Light (2010)

What I love about this particular release is that it's mostly just The Maine playing with Pro-Tools, but with their Black & White material. B-sides, home recordings, a short film score, and a live version, more accurately. It's almost like a sampler experiment for Pioneer in a way; another good predictor for what was to come.

6) Acoustic Pick: "Jenny" from Pioneer (2011)

"Jenny" is a fairly slow song to start with, but it's fabulous -- as all of Pioneer is, really (I am biased, OK? It's like their Big Bad World for me, don't judge). This particular version has always felt special for reasons I don't ever really contemplate, but just go with. (Also, if you haven't noticed yet, The Maine are absolutely fantastic about documenting what they're doing at any given time, which gives fans a comprehensive record of their career. Watch the track-by-track, have a good time.)

7) "Because of Reasons" Pick: "Waiting for My Sun to Shine" from Pioneer (2011)

Because, sometimes, being a human is a giant pain in the ass, and John O'Callaghan gets that. This is the song you put on when you have a huge decision to make, you pour a strong cup of tea, and you call your friends to help you out. (Skip to the 8:30 timestamp for the cheeky hidden track [unless you have the imported Pioneer & The Good Love version -- guess how I know that one].)

8) In Studio: Recording the Pioneer B-sides (2011)

I showed this video to my mother when it came out (because I am actually like this in real life, too), and now, whenever she sees Pat Kirch, she says, "that's the guy that got so happy when he ripped some paper".

9) Songs Featuring: The Arkells' "On Paper", featuring John O'Callaghan (2012)

This particular version is quite different from the album version (which doesn't feature Mr. O'Callaghan), and feels very High Fidelity to me. That's fine by me, though, because I have a certain caution regarding people that dislike that film (or anything from Nick Hornby, but we aren't here to talk about book nerdiness right now).

10) Covers: "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" from Punk Goes Pop 5 (Compilation) (2012)

It's a fun cover, but I always love how they say "sorry, Cyndi" before they play it. Like I said, this is one of those things that's directed more at my sister's taste than my own, since I don't think she would like certain things (because I would never tell you to listen to John O'Callaghan sing Paul McCartney's words, nope, never. I would never show you how they did it, either.)

11) Acapella: "Don't Give Up On 'Us'" from Pioneer (2011)

Usually the fan-made acapella versions include a bit of background instrumentation, but since this was an officially released version, it's just vocals. The pity is that it isn't on their main channel so everyone can find it.

That's it. That's what I have for you. Thirty-three songs, compiled over about two months, because I actually have no life. It's all for you, man. What a post, one for the books, I'll see y'all later.
"Hang on!" I can hear you calling...
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Yeah, about that: Paul can't play in these kinds of games -- we talked about this before. Not only is his catalog ginormous, but I can't pick Paul stuff; where would I actually suggest you begin? Everyone has already been exposed to Paul, even his solo stuff. Album cuts? Too many, couldn't possibly undertake that.
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Because God loves us, Paul is finally putting out his album.

Now that it's over, I am questioning what I thought was going to come from this post. I'm kinda over here going...
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...and you will respond one of two ways:
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It's interesting to note, though, that, in the process, I have learned a couple of things about myself.

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And, fourth, that mixtapes mean love...

Always be leery of people who don't like High Fidelity. Always.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

How To Fool Anyone Into Liking The Things You Do

Do you ever feel like you've fooled a group of people so successfully that you just sit back and wonder how it was that easy to dupe so many folks? As an introvert, I experience this more often than is probably socially acceptable to mention. Fellow introverts understand how you have to pretend to be an extrovert in most situations, resulting in no one ever really knowing that you are, indeed, dreaming of curling up in a ball under the covers until two in the afternoon the following day, all while someone else is talking about something you stopped listening to fifteen minutes ago.

I have often wondered if artists and writers feel the same. Do they think they've tricked masses of people into believing their work holds merit? Are they just as confused by affirmation of their talents as introverts are at false identification as extroverts? Then, when asked about their pieces, do they perform the part of artist/writer in the same way introverts disguise themselves?

I ask myself these questions because, as a hobby-writer, I have always said that, if I were able to fool someone into thinking that what I do is of any value, I'd let them have it. Prior to taking a creative writing course, I never showed my wordplays to anyone. The only person that knew they existed were my two best friends, and that's only because they know more about me than I do. I had absolutely no idea what other people were going to say about the pieces, which was a highly unpleasant experience -- remember that introvert thing we discussed? Sure, my friends puffed up my ego, telling me that I could really be a writer, and that I should try in earnest to do so. "If somebody else is dumb enough to pay me for it," I say, "I'll let 'em have it."

Back in March, while I was taking the writing course, a class-wide email was sent. In a most nonchalant way, this little tidbit was slipped between bits of highly unnecessary information.

The deadline for the Freelancer is coming up--April 5th. Each of you, as part of your grade for this class, must submit at least one work to the Freelancer, though the work does not have to be poetry.

I was immediately outraged. Freelancer? That little magazine that the English department deluges the campus with ever year? This was the first that anyone had ever heard of such an assignment -- it wasn't listed in the class schedule, list of work to be completed, in the grading criteria, or the list of due dates. Yet, there is was, dropped into my lap on short notice.

I looked through some of the pieces I had submitted in the class, and decided on two. The first, I was sure, was publish-worthy; numerous people complimented the piece highly, and the teacher suggested I send it in for Freelancer publication. The second, however, did not receive such praise. Phrases such as "off-putting", "difficult to read", and one blatantly put "I do not understand" were used to describe it. The teacher suggested I rearrange the piece, and leave the content alone. I humored him by playing with a different arrangement, but I had absolutely no intention of permanently altering the piece, and I told him so upfront. By this point, we all know that my ornery streak isn't so much of a streak, but my not-ornery streak is considerably smaller, and spiders through the ornery like a feeble conscience; I think that's why I submitted it with my original arrangement, instead of the altered one.

Thirty-five days since the due date had gone by, and the class was drawing to a close. No one had asked or been told if any of their submissions were used in the publication. Once again, I had to take over the vacant leadership role of finding out what had happened to these submissions. The teacher then sent an email back telling me that one of my pieces had, indeed, been published; he offered to send me a copy, and a letter of confirmation.

Since he didn't tell me which of the two pieces were used, I had to wait almost a week to find out if the supposed shoe-in piece was selected, or my obnoxious submission was published. As if it had been planned in a movie, I happened to be at the front window when the postman walked across our yard, large manilla envelope in hand.
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I opened the letter -- which was dated April 16, a full month before I received it -- to read that my rebel piece was the one selected. The one that no one in the class understood, and the teacher said "worked better" after I had rearranged -- more importantly, the piece that I submitted as I intended it to be seen, not what I was told was "better" another way. Also important, I suppose, is that I was one of only two students in the class to have been published.
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The full page.

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The piece itself.

So, the question still remains, then, if artists/writers hide behind a fixed persona when discussing their material. I realized soon after I received the advance copy that I had already answered my question. The person who didn't understand the piece asked if it was a poem, or a statement. Naturally, I felt I had to set him straight.

Put simply, it is a poem stating preferences. There are two elements, I feel, that make it poetry: word choice, and arrangement. The first draft looked nothing like what I have posted here, though it was just as brief. Originally, the word "incongruity" was "juxtaposition"; however, I decided "juxtaposition" didn't fully encompass what I wanted to say, and the form made little sense. There was a second draft, which I added a bit to, but was not entirely happy with; the piece lost the brevity I found charming, and drew out the conclusion reached at the end. Finally, on the third try, I knew I had found the right word in "incongruity", and eliminated the unnecessary additions. I also decided that the poem should feel imperfect, almost to make a reader trip over the words. By arranging the piece as it is, I intended readers to experience that imperfection on the first reading, and absorb the meaning of the words in the second reading.

As for whether this particular piece can be interpreted as poetry by others, I really can't say. I have never shared any of my work with other people, which has left me free to develop how I feel I should write in order to please myself, rather than what others find artistic value in. I hope, with a bit more insight on this particular piece, others might find merit in it; regardless, I am quite pleased with how the work turned out.

The truth of it is, though, that I made up the answer. I did accurately describe the writing process and discussion about word choice, but I didn't exactly tell the truth. The piece is the way it is because that's how I like it, and I cannot explain why I like it, but I do, so don't question my judgement. It's not like you can answer someone's inquiry with that kind of truthful response, so what else was I supposed to do? You can't just tell someone that you did what you did because it felt right.

So, that is the answer. We detrimentally overcompensate when we cannot make others understand. Sure, we can get all philosophical about how we as humans should be more open-minded, or less ruled by societal norms, but, if we're going to be honest about it, we all know we do it as a means of survival. And isn't that why art exists in the first place? To let us express what we ordinarily could or would not? Besides, we can all practice exaggeration when we try to fool people into thinking our work has merit.
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Monday, May 13, 2013

Adventures In Supersleuthing: Now With Royalty!

Last year, on this very blog, I made a somewhat creepy/highly entertaining post: Adventures In Supersleuthing, Or, It's All In What You Fangirl. In it, I somewhat cryptically ended the post with this image...
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At the time, it was a little joke. That is, until a couple of months ago, when I was put to a major supersleuthing task.

Back in February, when we were driving home from going to see The Who, my dad was on an antiquing adventure. For reasons still unknown to me, he wanted to stop at every curio shop between Tulsa and home. Usually, I'm OK with doing little stops along the way -- after all, that's part of the adventure. His stops that day, though, were excessive. At one point, I stopped putting my seat belt back on, because the odds of being hit by a car seemed smaller than the odds of us stopping at another branch of Auntie Wainwright's.
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We had already been to a few cold buildings that morning, I was developing a migraine, and growing more highly irritated with every "hey, let's go to that one!" he exclaimed as he made sharp turns into the eroding drives of the crumbling buildings dotting the highway -- then, before I knew it, I was crawling back out of the car into the biting winter air, saying to my mother, "if he wants to go to one more, I'm waiting in the car". When we walked past the threshold, I was pleased to feel a blast of heat on my chilled little frame. I was further placated with chocolate biscuits, and left to wander about the place at my leisure. And, let me tell you, those chocolate biscuits were sinfully delicious that morning. What with the lovely nibbles, I didn't mind being there; dare I say it, I was enjoying wandering in and out of little heated rooms, dribbling crumbs on my hideous travel jacket (yes, I know how ugly it is, that's why I wear it when I travel: I don't especially care if it gets destroyed).

It felt like we were there for ages, but I eventually reached the final room. It was a large space, with expansive windows, and rows of glass cases lining the walls. In the middle of the room were little cubicles, stuffed to brimming with an assortment of nick knacks and paddy whacks. In one of those teensy cubicles, I found something that immediately caught my eye. I don't know how long I stood there staring at it before my mother found me, and told me it was time to go. I, apparently, didn't pay too much attention to her, because she asked, "do you want to buy it?"

I couldn't help but be enamored with it. I felt like it had a story to tell me, and I was instantly compelled to find out what that story might be. As I carried it to the front of the shop to pay for it, I reasoned with myself that, regardless of what tale the object would tell, I liked it for what it was.

The next day, when we were finally home, I unwrapped the piece from it's newspaper, and prepared it for investigation. What I ended up with was this...
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At first glance, it looked like a newspaper page that someone had framed. The paper itself appeared thin and yellowed from time, and the ink is obviously aged. Knowing what little I do about older things, it looked like the picture had been framed in the 30s or 40s, and the print inside looked somewhat Victorian to me. Upon prying it out of the frame, I noticed that the paper is in much better condition than I originally gave it credit for, especially for guessing that it's at least ninety or so years old. It also revealed itself to be a playbill, as there is nothing printed on the reverse side.

I decided the best place to start unraveling the playbill's story was with the theatre itself. A quick Google search revealed the first piece to the puzzle: the theatre's first performance was in 1734, and, in 1892, the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden was renamed the Royal Opera House. Logically, this gave me a start date -- a much earlier date than I first imagined.

With a time frame to work in, I knew I could start narrowing it down to a more specific date. It seemed pertinent to see if I could figure out which His Majesty the royal command performance was going to be for. I'm an American, I know little to nothing about the history of the British monarchy; again, Google to my rescue. At this point, it could either have been King George II, III, IV, or King William IV. At least it's a place to start.

Knowing I wouldn't get far just by looking for which king it could be, I decided it would be a good idea to investigate the performers. Mr. Sinclair's name is most prominent, so I thought that Googling him would be a logical next step. It was here that I started to bridge the major gap I needed. I should have known this would be the pivotal point in the search: the very first link I clicked was an etching of Mr. John Sinclair (no, not that one) as Orlando in The Cabinet -- you know, the royal command performance piece.
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Pleased to know he had been in that part, I tracked down his birth and death dates; doing so eliminated King George II. As I was looking over the print for more keywords, something struck me as important: one of the actresses listed as appearing in Guy Mannering was a Miss M. Tree, and, beneath her name, it reads, "(her first appearance since her indisposition.)" Abandoning the Sinclair search, I tried to track her down. The first mention of an "indisposition" I could find was in a volume of "Theatre in Dublin". Entered as Wednesday, August 9, 1820, "deferred from 8 August on account of the indisposition of Miss Tree." This little bit of information eliminated the possibility of King George III being in attendance of the command performance.

So, how long was Miss Tree indisposed? Good question. It took some digging before I found this site detailing the text of another playbill. Miss M. Tree and her sister made their reappearance on August 16, 1822.

With the date beginning to narrow itself down, I thought it would benefit me to see if I could identify that any of the plays on the bill were performed in the theatre beginning in 1822. Back to searching for the Theatre Royal. I decided to start with Shakespeare's King John, thinking that something well known to a moron like me would have been important enough to write down as having been performed somewhere. An article from this site appeared, with a paragraph detailing how the attention to details in the theatre's production of King John in 1823 helped to boost theatre revenue, saying "receipts of from £400 to £600 nightly soon reimbursed the management for the production; and a complete reformation of dramatic costume became from that moment inevitable upon the English stage." The paragraph also mentioned that the theatre was under new management, as is touted at the bottom of the playbill. The source listed was a copy of the Illustrated London News in 1846.

I felt like I was close enough to finding out the exact date, but wasn't happy leaving it there. John Sinclair seemed too important to ignore; I had to go back, and find out more about his career. After some biographical digging, I confirmed from not one, but two sources that Sinclair performed as Orlando in a comeback performance on November 19, 1823. This information pretty effectively suggests that King George IV was in attendance of the royal command performance.

I still wasn't happy with suggestions. It's like I told my mother, "he was a reigning monarch, there has to be some record of his whereabouts that day". And, by jove, I was determined to find out what he was doing. 'Cause I'm nosy like that. In the process of figuring out if he was there or not, I found another playbill advertising the November 19 performance, but this second bill makes no mention of the king. The discovery of another playbill shook my confidence for a brief moment. I began to doubt my trail of discovery until I found a copy of an article written in 1889. Scattered between dates and names of people I don't know was the single line that satisfied my supersleuth-y-ness almost completely. The article states, "[e]xcept to open and prorogue parliament, he made no public appearance in London after his visit to the two theatres in 1823." Apparently he was self-conscious about his dropsy symptoms, and this playbill is advertising what became one of the final two public appearances made by the monarch.

There was just one more thing I felt like I needed to check before I was 100% sure I had followed all of the right trails. On my playbill, it says the command performance was performed on a Wednesday; the digital playbill also says that The Cabinet was performed on Wednesday. All I wanted to make sure of was that November 19, 1823 was, indeed, on a Wednesday.
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So, what I thought would look really neat next to my Lord Kitchener print...
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...ended up being quite a lot more than I bargained for.

The moral of the story, I suppose, is that you really can Google anything.
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And, if that isn't it, then I think it just means that you really do have to hide things well if you want to keep them from me.
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Saturday, May 4, 2013

How To Kill A Fangirl In Twenty-Five Days

Something I have learned about myself over the last ten years or so is that I will either strongly dislike something, be totally neutral about something, or invest the only two worthwhile commodities -- time and emotion -- into something. There really doesn't seem to be any middle ground, which I have yet to decide is a good or bad thing. Regardless, this story deals with the time and emotion side of things. To be honest, I don't bloody know how I've survived it, because I thought I was going to die of hyperventilation and/or extreme stress a couple of times there. Just know that you have been warned about this before we even get into it.
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OK. We can proceed.

I had known that April 9th would be a high stress day for me. There was quite enough to be getting on with: questionable EPs and equally questionable television shows at the same time. I was bobbing up and down in anticipation for these things on the night on the 8th, as well as the highest stress event I can ever have in my little life, and we will talk about in a minute. At any rate, I was just minding my own business that night when this video came across my radar...

Did someone say tour?
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Regardless that I live in the worst possible location to go to concerts in the history of ever (think Narnia, then add four hundred miles), I love to hear about new tours; after all, you never know what you can stumble upon, whether you make it happen, or it happens for you. At any rate, this development added to my giddy state; the fact that they announced the tour without talking about dates at that point added to the excitement, since we have known for a while now that a new album was in the works, and wouldn't it just be so damn tidy to talk about those two things at the same time? Yes.

When the morning of April 9th dawned, however, EPs and TV and 8123 were all the furthest thing from my mind. I poured myself a cup of tea in one of my lucky mugs, and probably developed a couple of ulcers while waiting for ten o'clock to strike.

Can anyone say "Tulsa roadtrip"? Yes, on top of all of the giddy, I had been carrying the burden of Paul presale. And, let me tell you, this was not going to be an easy presale. Fortunately, we weren't trying for tickets to the Austin date, because that was an even bigger cluster than Tulsa ended up being. In the first twenty minutes of fan presale -- which began an hour before the American Express presale -- the site's servers crashed completely. Put simply, no one could get on. Everything from the ticket buying portion of Paul's site to the forums were obliterated; what that means, then, is that nobody knew if everybody else had gotten tickets, either. Do you even know how long twenty minutes is? I do. It lasts about half of my lifespan. And, after those twenty minutes, I lost approximately fifteen years from that lifespan. At the thirty minute mark, I still kept getting error messages, and probably developed a third ulcer. Finally, my mother got into the site, and ended up with a pair of seats. She was screaming at this point, which I don't think helped, because, as she was screeching bloody murder, I got in on my computer, too. We had, essentially, two minutes to decide what seats to take. Do you know how long two minutes is? Blink. There, two minutes. We took my seats, and happily forked over a small fortune. To which I say, "who in hell cares, we're going to see Paul!"
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In all of the commotion, I didn't think I could handle a fourth ulcer. It was decided, for my mental health, I shouldn't deal with any of the April 9th festivities. I was OK with that, 'cause, you know, Paul.
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In addition to the presale debacle, Paul's people then decide it's a good idea to put this information out into the universe.

Fun fact: When I started learning about Paul's solo career, the "Wings Over America" footage was my first stop on the crazy train. What eleven year old could say no to that?

And then, the next day, they decide to punch us all in the virtual face by showing us what comes with the super-dee-duper deluxe edition. We all know I can't resist a deluxe edition.

I need seven of these. Now. I guess the one I have on preorder will have to do.

Also, this happened, and a lot of people were not amused.

I thought it was hilarious, personally. They put out a couple of different joke teasers, then promptly removed them. In our modern age, this means to be on the lookout for pertinent information.

By the 12th, I felt I had mustered enough courage to finally listen to the Should've Gone to Bed EP. Seriously, I can only assume that they picked the single for the sole purpose of representing the EP to the popular market; the other three songs on the EP sound like a natural progression from Wonders of the Younger, and will work as a nice bridge between that record and their upcoming release later in the year.

And, speaking of releases later in the year...
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Can we get excited about everything that's going on right now? Too late, 'cause I'm already excited about everything that's bloody going on right now. Are you dancing yet? Do it. Go on, I won't tell anybody.
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Of course, it did rain on my little happy-parade when, on that same day, Paul announced a second Tulsa show. Unless I become a girl without virtue, I can't possibly hand over another small fortune for the second night. That's why I didn't give it a second thought, and I didn't even share the information with my mother, as I was sure it might rain on her puppy parade, too.
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That adorable little bugger.

A couple of days later, I was in my room, minding my own business, when I hear a timid knock on my door.
"Your dad had an idea," my mother said to me. "I told him not to offer unless he was sure, because I know that, once I tell you his idea, you'll take the offer."
Yes, yes, keep talking, woman, you have piqued my interest, what is this endeavor of which you speak?
"What if we stay in Tulsa an extra night, and buy the cheapest tickets we can get for the second show?"
I guess she saw the announcement via Facebook or something, because, within fifteen minutes of the offer being put on the table, we bought tickets, and extended our hotel reservation.
And the clouds lifted...

So, the next day, I'm asking myself if this week can get any better. I mean, judging from what you've read so far, it could be said that I was having a pretty fantastic one. Filled with the joys of my good fortune, I decided to see what was going on in my little band world. It decided to explode by leaking a new song from Forever Halloween, then releasing tour dates at midnight. Even though the tour wasn't possible for me, I still love to look. From tours come the human element of bands: fan stories, photographs, videos, things of that nature. Even from a distance, I can feel like a part of events I would want to be at -- you know, geography withstanding. Isn't the Internet marvelous?

Now, this post originally ended here. It was called "How To Kill A Fangirl In Eight Days" at that point, but things got in the way of posting it. Finals season is upon college students at large, and it decided to hit with a vengeance. I figured that, after finals, things would start to simmer down. Oh, no, not hardly. Before I even took my last final of the semester, I got a call from my dad's mother. She's been trying to get us to go to Dallas with her for a number of reasons, and, on this particular day, she called to remind me of her request.
"You really should think about Dallas," she said to me.
"Let me look at my college schedule, and I'll let you know what I can do."
It then occurred to me to not only consult my college schedule, but tour schedules. Remember how, at the beginning of this post, I said that some things happen to you, and others happen because of you?
Can you guess what I made happen?
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Solve the puzzle, Vanna.

I have to say, though, I am a little nervous about it. I mean, this is the kind of thing where you can meet and greet out by the buses. And, you know, I'm not that good with meet and greets. Remember when I met Alex Gaskarth? My sister does, 'cause she sent me this after she read that post...
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And she's absolutely right.
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I have to keep in mind not to do this...
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...or this...
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My problem is always that I feel like fans expect so much of people in their situation, and they end up giving to their detriment. They give their art, give up their normal lives, make all kinds of personal sacrifices, and then, some little half-wit makes further demands; and, to me, just because you buy an album or a ticket does not entitle you to ask for anything. They've got enough going on without somebody like me going all Scarlett-O'Hara-in-ridiculous-cat-glasses on them. Can you imagine that image? Little ol' me would rather not. I know I'd kick myself if I didn't at least try, but I'll think quite hard about it before then.

In all of this excitement, two days ago, I got another giant surprise. Yes, I arranged the opportunity to see The Maine, but I was actually handed the opportunity to see Ringo Starr and the All-Star Band in Las Vegas. It just so happens that he'll be closing his 2013 tour while we're going to be in town. How's that for timing?
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Ringo's presale was an absolute disaster. I had read the day before that the fan presale would be the day prior to regular sale. What I didn't know until the presale began, though, was that there was some kind of code required. I had to supersleuth for thirty minutes before I found the stupid code, because the Space Jam website is more up to date than Ringo's. And I'm assuming his fans are not nearly as rabid as Paul's, because I couldn't find an active forum to talk about presales. The physical box office wouldn't be open for another two hours, and I had absolutely no leads. I guess that was a major problem for The Palms, because they ended up tweeting the password for all of us scrambling idiots.
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I've been saving this for two years. That's how far in advance I plan blogs.

Believe it or not, I once turned down the chance to see Ringo. He passed through our little truck stop town a few years back, and I didn't want to go. Well, let me rephrase that: I didn't want to go for that outrageous admission price. His cheap seats are still more expensive than Paul's cheap seats; when I found that out, I still didn't think it was worth it. My mother, on the other hand, wants to go. It still irks me that we're paying more to see Ringo than for that second Paul show. Wouldn't that bother you? It bothers me. Regardless, we're going to see Ringo in all his diva-tastic glory. Wait, did I say that?
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What has this exercise taught us?

Who needs savings for the future when there's Paul and band stuff?
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And, have I not got the best parents in all of creation? I don't know how I have fooled them into thinking I'm worth all of this bother, but I guess I'll just have to keep baking to earn my keep.
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Based purely on the evidence before us, this is how to kill a fangirl in twenty-five days.
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Is It A Subscription Box, Or Something More Sinister? (It's A Subscription Box. Maybe.)