Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mountain mama

For the first time in over two years, I am taking a trip to a destination of my choosing. Not for a wedding or a conference. Just for pleasure. So what exotic locale did I pick?

West Virginia. Tonight, after the pumpkin pie, I'll be making the long drive to Morgantown, WV to meet up with several Peace Corps friends.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving and a great holiday weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Rise and Fall of Zima

I really enjoyed Slate's article about Zima, which was finally discontinued by MillerCoors this past October.

Although I was never much of a high school partier (during that time of my life, my alcohol intake generally consisted of sipping Kahlua drinks while watching Mystery Science Theater 3000), the two or three times I attended a cool kid party, I definitely had me some Zima.

And heck yeah I put Skittles in it.

Book Club!

The final decision has been made. The selection for the second DCoE Book Club is American Pastoral, by Philip Roth. The first assignment is to read the first two chapters (up to p. 59 in my version, the one pictured) by Friday, Dec. 5th. That should give everyone ample time to acquire the book and get started. Please leave a comment if you're participating. Happy reading!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Punk Cabaret Rocks!

A word to the wise, if you ever have the opportunity to see Amanda Palmer live, do so! The frontwoman of the Boston-based Dresden Dolls is currently touring in support of her new solo album (produced by Ben Folds) Who Killed Amanda Palmer? I caught her last night at the Paradise, and it was one of the most creative performances I've ever seen. The show opened as if it were a funeral, with a pianist playing Amanda's favorite classical piece. Then, Amanda's mother took the stage, handed out sheet music, and cajoled the audience into singing a mourning hymn. After that, Amanda rose from the dead and played an energetic set of songs from both her solo album and earlier Dresden Dolls material. Oh, and did I mention that she was aided by a violinist and an a troupe of Australian performance artists called The Danger Ensemble? And that they ended the show with a hilarious lip sync and dance routine to Rihanna's "Umbrella"? So, no, not your typical concert, but it was both weird and wonderful.
Unfortunately, I forgot my camera so I pulled the pic from the web. More good stuff on Amanda's blog.
Update: Here's the concert review from the Boston Herald.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Here's something that all of you depressed Notre Dame fans can feel good about: has a nice story about men's interhall football. After sitting through that wretched game against BC, I decided to boycott the team for the rest of the season.

Remember the Filipino prisoners who danced to Thriller? They've added a few more songs to their repertoire, like Jump (for my Love) by the Pointer Sisters.
Oh, and they sure can do the hustle.
And a Soulja Boy/MC Hammer combo.
And I Will Follow Him from Sister Act.
These videos are INSANE. I could watch them all day long.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

CD review: Chinese Democracy

This morning, I picked up a copy of Chinese Democracy and listened to it in its entirety. Countless reviews have been published already (see post below), but I'll post my thoughts on the album, song by song.

1. Chinese Democracy opens very quietly which made me initially wonder if I had somehow purchased a defective copy off the CD or if the sound on my speakers was messed up. The noise level gradually builds, evoking the feeling of when you're at a concert and the hubbub starts to build and you realize the band is just about to go on stage. So, yes, seems like a deliberate way to begin and album that's been in production for over ten years. One minute in, the guitars start and Axl wails. This is definitely a Guns N' Roses album. Hey, and it's pretty go so far. I like it, maybe more than I expected to.

2. Shackler's Revenge. Axl's voice sounds weird. Oh wait, that isn't him, here he is. I check the liner notes. He's the only vocalist listed, so indeed it was normal Axl singing over a deep, weird Axl. I don't like the low voice thing, but the song isn't bad. It's heavier Night Train-ish stuff.

3. Better. Ew, this one's pretty bad. The heavy guitar chords sound Soundgardenesque, like something straight out of the late 1990s. And that's not a compliment. For a couple of years, I had next door neighbors who listened to terrible music- lots of Candlebox, Limp Bizkit, and Bush. This sounds like something I would have heard coming through their wall.

4. Street of Dreams. For just a split second, the opening piano sequence sounded just like the beginning of "Friends in Low Places." It's ballad time! Axl starts out singing in a weird vampire voice. You know the scene in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (which was really funny, by the way) when Jason Segel and Jackie go to a tropical bar, and Jason Segel performs a song from his Dracula musical and starts singing in an eerie vampire voice, and everyone in the bar is like WTF? Well, that's how Street of Dreams starts out. But in a good way. As the song goes on, I like it more and more. Yes, it's campy, and theatrical, and sort of like a modern November Rain, but so far, it's my favorite track.

5. If The World. Mellow, modern sounding. I like this one, too.

6. There Was a Time sounds like classic G N' R, a calmer track that's not a ballad. The song picks up speed and gets better towards the end. Axl's vocals sound great, as do the guitar solos.

7. Catcher in the Rye. Kind of reminds me of the song "Yesterdays," which I always liked. But naming a song "Catcher in the Rye" is just plain pretentious. Sorry, Axl.

8. Scraped. More late-90s heavy guitar datedness. Do not like.

9. Riad N' The Bedoiuns. The title must allude to something, but I have no idea what. And G N' R are obviously big fans of using N' instead of And when naming things. It's pretty good, though, and sounds like their classic heavier material like Rocket Queen.

10. Sorry. Uh-oh, the weird vampire voice is back! Klosterman put it best in his review:
On the aforementioned "Sorry," Rose suddenly sings an otherwise innocuous line ("But I don't want to do it") in some bizarre, quasi-Transylvanian accent, and I cannot begin to speculate as to why. I mean, one has to assume Axl thought about all of these individual choices a minimum of a thousand times over the past 15 years. Somewhere in Los Angles, there's gotta be 400 hours of DAT tape with nothing on it except multiple versions of the "Sorry" vocal. So why is this the one we finally hear? What finally made him decide, "You know, I've weighed all my options and all their potential consequences, and I'm going with the Mexican vampire accent. This is the vision I will embrace. But only on that one line! The rest of it will just be sung like a non-dead human."

11. I.R.S. More of the classic G N' R sound.

12. Madagascar is by far the strangest track on the album. Axl starts out using a low, raspy voice. Why? Because it's a Sad Ballad. Towards the end of the song, an odd stream of samples are used, including several bits from Martin Luther King speeches and the movie Mississippi Burning (Perhaps Axl is trying to atone for past racist remarks?), as well as the same "What we have here" clip used in Civil War. What is going on here? Only Axl knows.

13. This Is Love is the only song on the album written solely by Axl Rose. It's another ballad, that starts out terribly- more Dracula musical stuff. It gets better, though, and goes from tolerable to almost good by the end. I never noticed how many G N' R songs suck at the beginning and then get really good.

14. Prostitute. I'm glad that this is the last song, because I'm just starting to get tired of the album. It's pretty standard, but this one has more of a polished studio feel than some of the other tracks.

Overall, Chinese Democracy is not as good as earlier albums like Appetite For Destruction, but it's not half bad. And it's definitely fun, entertaining music. Axl is the only original member still in the band, but since Guns N' Roses has always been defined by his voice and the guitar solos, this album still sounds like the band you knew and liked way back when you had braces and an unfortunate haircut. Mostly, I purchased Chinese Democracy out of pure nostalgia, and I wasn't disappointed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Something very, very exciting is happening this weekend

Chinese Democracy is being released. For reals. This Sunday. At Best Buy.

I am planning to buy it and review it. Until then, tide yourself over with these links:

1. Stream it on myspace
2. Read Chuck Klosterman's hilarious review. He liked it. I liked his opening: "Reviewing Chinese Democracy is not like reviewing music. It's more like reviewing a unicorn."
3. Read the NYT review. They didn't like it so much.

4. (UPDATE!) Dr. Pepper is making good on its promise to give away free soda to everyone in America if Chinese Democracy actually gets released in 2008. "We never thought this day would come," Tony Jacobs, Dr Pepper's vice president of marketing, said in a statement. "But now that it's here, all we can say is: The Dr Pepper's on us." Get your coupon on this Sunday only.


Here are a couple of recipes I've tried recently:

1. I spotted this recipe for Black Bean and Butternut Tacos on Sarah's delightful cooking blog, The Pink Shoe Cookbook. The last time I made butternut squash, I bought a whole squash and struggled with the whole peeling and chopping bit. I've seen diced butternut for sale at the supermarket, but it just seems like a cop out. Am I really that lazy that I can't cut up a squash? I also try to avoid things with excess packaging, and the whole styrofoam tray + plastic wrap was a turn-off. Then, I spotted the happy medium- a peeled, de-seeded squash in plastic wrap. So I bought it. And guess what? It was still a pain in the ass to dice! I think I need a cleaver. Or next time I'll invite this guy to dinner. Or I'll get over my moral qualms and buy the pre-cubed stuff.

Anyways, the recipe was tasty and healthy, and can even be served to pesky vegans. I bought hard corn tacos, and here's a tip- definitely warm them up in the oven before serving them. At room temp they taste like cardboard.

And now for something more carnivorous:
2. Spiced Beef Patties with Couscous. So easy! So beefy! So delicious! Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture, but basically they look like mini hamburgers on a bed of couscous, so use your imagination. You could serve them with hummus, pita, and a salad to make it a more formal dinner, but I just went with the patties and couscous and found it plenty satisfying.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Book Review: Water for Elephants

It's been a while since I read a book that kept me up way past my bedtime or that I would feel comfortable recommending to everyone I know. Water For Elephants, by Sara Gruen, is that sort of book. The protagonist, Jacob Jankowski is an elderly man in a nursing home reminiscing about his younger days. Specifically, about his time as a circus veterinarian during the Great Depression. Water For Elephants benefits from a likeable protagonist, captivating characters, and an exciting plot: love, friendship, action, danger, greed, murder, an elephant...all set on a traveling circus. After reading the bizarre and horrific Geek Love, I thought I was through with circus lit (okay, maybe that's not technically a genre..."Oh yes, I enjoy biographies and circus lit.") but Water for Elephants is universally appealing. So if you're looking for a fun and interesting read, by all means pick this one up.

Also.....I've been thinking about bringing back DCoE Book Club! No Salman Rushdie tomes this time around, I promise. Here are two choices:

1. American Pastoral, by Philip Roth.

2. Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson.

If you're interested in participating, leave a comment and let me know which one you prefer. Also, if you've already read either of these books, let me know if you think they would make good book club selections.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

'Tis the season

Two radio stations in Boston began playing holiday music 24 hours a day, starting on November 1st, but we all know what really marks the beginning of the holiday season....The Annual List of the 10 Most Dangerous Toys!!

Oh, how the list fills my Grinchly heart with glee.

Sure, Digger the Dog looks harmless, but behind that innocent facade lurks the POTENTIAL FOR STRANGULATION/ ENTANGLEMENT INJURIES!
And for the record, the Inflatable Giga Ball looks really fun, POTENTIAL FOR IMPACT AND OTHER SERIOUS INJURIES! be damned.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Only in Framingham do stories like "Mysterious meat has residents baffled" make the front page of the local newspaper. It reads like an article from The Onion, but the meat mystery is no joke: "Police will also take the meat reports seriously, said spokesman Lt. Paul Shastany. He asks anyone finding a hunk of meat to call police."

Elsewhere....Bert, friend of Ernie, friend of Osama bin Laden? It's true! Well, sort of. This is an old story, but a good one if you haven't heard it yet. Apparently someone creating a collage of Osama bin Laden to sell as a poster inadvertently copied a picture from the now-defunct humor website Bert is Evil, which contains photos of Bert posing with notorious villains. Angry demonstrators, oblivious to the presence of a certain Sesame Street character, displayed the posters at anti-American rallies. Check it out:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sad news

Well, it seems as though my last post came at an appropriate time. My grandfather passed away early yesterday morning. Although it is a sad occasion, he had been ill for long time and had worsened over the past week, so there is some comfort in knowing that he won't suffer anymore. He's the only grandfather I ever knew, and I was lucky to have him in my life for as long as I did.
Since my grandfather was always a big fan of the "Irish sports pages," here's a link to his obituary.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Letter from a veteran

My aunt recently found a letter that my grandfather had written to his parents at the end of World War II. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he joined the Air Force because liked planes, but he ended up spending his time either on ships in the Pacific or on land in Okinawa. It’s amazing to read something like this and try to imagine what life must have been like back then (the world in peril! typewriters!), or to think of my grandfather as a young man, in love with a schoolteacher named Millie (my grandmother) and worrying about the safety of his two brothers. You can click on the images to enlarge them enough to make them readable.

I’ve tried to make it a habit to call or visit my grandfather every Veterans Day. This year will likely be his last. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease several years ago, and his health has been declining rapidly over the past few weeks. He hasn’t known who I was for the past few years, and recently, he’s grown so thin and frail that I’ve had trouble recognizing him. Reading the letter, I was reminded of the grandfather I knew, the one who made friends with everyone he met and used to slip me dollar bills when I was a kid, and always had cookies hidden in his pockets. Aging is perhaps life’s greatest tragedy, but it helps to remember what a long and happy life he’s led.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Weekend Report

I had a very busy weekend that included the following activities:

Ern and I hosted a lobsterfest at our apartment in honor of my friend and former roommate Maria, who is leaving on the morning U-Haul to Georgia. Here are some pictures from dinner, and our Halloween-themed dessert. Since Maria loves Halloween but missed our Halloween party last weekend, we all put on wigs and various other accessories. We even got her dad to participate.

College friends (and DCoE readers) Amanda, Liz, and Beth came to town for a football game that shall not be discussed. Despite the outcome of the football game that shall not be discussed, we had a great time hanging out and catching up. Never ones to behave like normal people, especially when in public, we brought a fake severed hand out to the bar with us on Saturday night, which provided for lots of comedy. My favorite trick was pretending that it was my real hand and then high fiving someone and having it fly off like they somehow severed my hand. Ah, good times. I didn't end up taking many pictures, but here are one of the girls getting rained on at the game and one of the prop of the day:

Lastly, I attended a Celtics practice courtesy of my friend Justin, who works at the official hospital of the Boston Celtics. It was pretty cool to get so close to the players and sit in on their practice- you can see the hierarchy of starters vs bench guys, and get little glimpses of the players' personalities. Sam Cassell is LOUD but everyone seems to find him hilarious. Rondo and Perkins seem to listen to the coaches the most. The rookies get stuck putting the balls back on the rack. Ray Allen is probably the smoothest athlete on the team- he glides through drills and his shot is seamless. Most players get called by their first names- coaches and teammates only call KG "Kevin", but Tony Allen is "TA" and everyone calls Glen Davis "Baby." No wonder why Leon Powe is getting so good- he has to guard KG in every practice. There were a lot of similarities to a high school practice- drills, then scrimmaging, a couple people who never look like they're paying attention to the coach, the one guy who makes the team every year because he tries harder than everyone else (Scalabrine). But the differences were obvious- these guys are phenomenal players and dunk with ease, and damn, they're big. We weren't allowed to take pictures during practice but the team did pose for photos with the staff. Justin is over 6 feet tall, and both Paul Pierce and Big Baby towered over him.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Football Weekend

This weekend, three of my college friends are coming to town to watch the ND vs. BC football game. I started thinking back to the last time I watched these two teams face off in person, and realized that it was exactly ten years ago. In November 1998, fourteen friends and I rented an RV, piled in (along with some snacks and a keg), and drove it all the way from South Bend, Indiana to Boston. Here are a couple of photos from the RV trip- I still can't believe it was ten years ago!

Some observations:

  • If you are college student and someone invites you to take an RV trip somewhere, say yes. You won't regret it.
  • Don't, however, proceed to get drunk and fall asleep in between two people on a pull-out bed while clutching an open bag of trail mix. You will wake up sweaty and covered in oats, grains, and dried cranberries.
  • Tailgating in the midwest > tailgating in the northeast.
  • Fashion in the late 90s? NOT FLATTERING. I'm glad that we didn't feel the need to slut it up, but wow, there's a lot of baggy fleece, sweatshirt, sweater, and denim going on in those photos.

Notre Dame won that game, 31-26. They haven't fared as well in years since, but I'm hoping for an Irish victory this Saturday.
Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Addicted to former love

I can't get enough of this website, Dear Old Love, where people post one or two line anonymous notes to their ex-loves.

Here are some of my faves:

I discovered the hard way that I’m allergic to your cat, your laundry detergent, and your deepest beliefs.

You signed my 9th grade yearbook, “We could’ve used a girl like you at the Alamo.”
I’ve had a thing for you ever since.

I know we tell it differently, but the truth of why we broke up is that you wet the bed while drunk and refused to wash your comforter.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

One last election post...

Congratulations to the next President of the United States of America,

Barack Obama!

Wow. It really happened.

I thought John McCain gave an excellent speech, very gracious and heartfelt. I'm really looking forward to the next four years, but right now, I think I need to go to bed.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Do you know who loves voting? Old people.*

Did you vote today? How did it go? My roommate and I went together around 7:30 and waited for about an hour. Could have been worse, but it also could have been far more efficient. Like, they only had two people doing the check-in, and they were both women over age 80. Nice ladies, but not exactly models of speed and efficiency. There were plenty of empty booths, so they check-in was definitely the rate limiting step of the process. Still, everyone was patient and friendly, and it felt fun and exciting to vote. And since it's a great excuse to be late to work, I stopped and had a coffee and muffin afterwards. I think I got lucky, because I walked by a polling station in the South End, and there were over 500 people waiting in line.

*I like to make old person jokes with my grandmother. For example,
me: Do you know who likes potato salad?
my grandmother: Who?
me: Old people!

She thinks they're funny, I swear.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Election Eve

So, tomorrow's the big day. I know that many people have grown weary of election, election, election, but I've enjoyed following the campaigns. In this age of economic and social turmoil, I believe that we're facing a pivotal point in defining what kind of nation we want to be- we can either move forward and reinstate ourselves as a beacon of liberty, justice, and progress, or we can continue the slide towards a nation whose policies are motivated by fear and arrogant ignorance. (And no, I don't think all Republicans are bad people or anything like that, I just miss the old days, when they stood for small government and low taxes and weren't so wrapped up in this wingnut fearmongering nonsense.)

Oh, has been recommended to me by several people as the most accurate polling tracker, so that's where I'll be checking in tomorrow.

One last time, I'll urge everyone who has the right to vote to get out there and use it. And I'd much prefer it if you voted for these guys:

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Halloween Party

This year's Halloween party started off with a Ern and I struggled to haul a keg from my car to the front steps, a cop saw us and offered to help and recruited a neighbor. They ended up carrying it up the three flights of stairs, so Boston's finest saved us the girl method of carrying a keg: "1-2-3 lift" pause on step "1-2-3 lift" pause on step. It takes about half a hour, and we end up sweaty and hateful. The party was a great time, and the costumes were as amazing as ever. I was ABBA with a three friends, and one thing I learned about group costumes- when you're not standing with the rest of your group, no one has any idea what you're supposed to be. Because my outfit was made of some strange plasticy material, solo I came across as more space alien than Swedish pop star. Here are some pictures from the party:

A Mexican wrestler and Marie Antoinette won for Best Male Costume and Best Female Costume, respectively (note the impressive bedazziling, done by Timm himself):

Other awards included Best Ass, male and female:

Here's a photo of Scariest Costume Sarah Palin posing with Best Couples/Group Costume winners, the Wasilla teenagers- Bristol and Track included. (yes, the partygoers were mostly Democrats):

I didn't manage to get a good picture of Most Creative, the Buck Hunter game, but here's Worst Costume winner claiming his prize, a half-empty jar of pickles:

All in all, it was a great night, and I was reminded once again of how much fun and genuinely nice people my friends are. And the nice thing about having a party on a Friday night is that you have two days to recover.