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Audio18

Posted on December 29th, 2018

Dave!It goes without saying that 2018 was a terrible time to be me. Too much of the year was spent grieving, and escaping into movies and music were about all I had (other than my cats, of course). To be honest, I didn't spend a lot of time seeking out new music. In terrible times I usually sink back into that which I already know. In this case, it was a lot of old-school rap, 80's favorites, and whatever I happen to catch in music soundtracks or internet radio.

So while I'm sure there's plenty of new stuff that escaped my notice in 2018, here's the music I found which I liked quite a lot.

   
THE BEST...

#1 Indigo by Wild Nothing
You'd think that I'd become accustomed to stumbling across a band that's been around for years that I never knew existed. There I was watching To All The Boys I've Loved Before (it's on Netflix and you should definitely check it out) when I hear a beautiful track playing. A little Google research reveals it's Chinatown by Wild Nothing from their 2010 debut album. That day was August 18th... the same day that Wild Nothing released their latest album, Indigo! It took me all of five minutes to completely obsess over Jack Tatum and everything he's ever done. Thoughtful lyrics, beautiful vocals, and a mellow sound all come together to wrap you up like a warm blanket. I've been listening to the album many, many times over the last several months.



   
#2 Golden Hour
by Kacey Musgraves
This album took me completely by surprise when I had Amazon Music Unlimited Radio playing and Oh What A World came oozing through the speakers. At first I didn't know what to make of it. Is it pop? Is it country? Is it folk? What in the heck am I listening to? Who is singing this magical mashup? Turns out it was Kacey Musgraves, and her album Golden Hour was a new kind of wonderful landing in the middle of my Springtime. I am not a country music fan AT ALL, but there's something incredible about what she's doing here that can't be denied. Achingly beautiful music at every turn, I'm head over heels in love with Kacey Musgraves.




   
#3 Science Fiction
by Tom Bailey
There has been a trio of bands that have become the bedrock of my love of 80's music. Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, and Thompson Twins. The latter being the only band to stop making music. Until Tom Bailey decided to ride a nostalgia wave and tour with old Twins' hits. After that was a success, he came out with a new album that feels very much like what I had hoped for. A brilliant 80's throwback with a bit of a contemporary edge.


   
#4 Great Big Blue
by Geowulf
Like everybody else, I was swept away by the lovely dreamy pop stylings of Saltwater (aka that Corona commercial song). It feels like it's been around forever, but was only released in 2016. Two years later, the song shows up on Great Big Blue along with other magical tracks. Perfect music for a sleepy Sunday, there's a lot to love on an album that sounds like Summer (even if some of the tracks were released well before 2018).


   
#5 A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
by The 1975
While this album was a step down from the previous two (very nearly making it to my "Disappointments" section) there was enough going on that I ended up listening to it quite a lot. Not surprising considering that The 1975 is one of my favorite bands.




   
#6 EP
by Silhouettes
So there I was watching an ad for the excellent Shoshannah Stern dramedy This Close which has this awesome track playing in the background. I spent forever trying to track down who sang it and where it comes from. Eventually I fell down a YouTube comment rabbit-hole and found out it was called A Home To Come To by a band called Silhouettes. Fine. Except the only band called Silhouettes that showed up anywhere was the Yip Yip Yip Yip Sha Na Na Na Get a Job band from the 50's. Months later I gave it another shot and found that the (new) Silhouettes released an EP on iTunes that was fantastic. I bought it immediately and, for the longest time, that's the only place you can find it. Now it's on Spotify and Amazon Music as well. Hopefully you have one of those, because they have nothing on YouTube. All I can get for you is the This Close ad that started it all...

P.S. This Close was finally released to the iTunes Store if you're not a Sundance Now subscriber.

   
#7 Dirty Computer
by Janelle Monáe
I don't know how to say this without offending a great many people... but Dirty Computer sounds more "Prince" to me than some of Prince's later albums where he found religion and turned his back on the nasty side of pop that he defined. Never one to leave a good idea laying on the ground, Monáe picked up that baton and took it in a fresh direction that had me singing "You fucked the world up now, we'll fuck it all back down! Let's get. Let's get. SCREWED!" while the song is blasting on my stereo. Her latest effort is inventive, imaginative, and all Janelle Monáe. What more could you want?


   
#8 Black Panther (Soundtrack)
by Kendrick Lamar & Various
My favorite movie of 2018 got a killer soundtrack to go with it. Orchestrated by Kendrick Lamar (whose Damn made my list last year), the standout track would have to be All The Stars (with SZA) which so flawlessly closed Black Panther over the end-credits. Lush, haunting, and beautifully realized by not only the best video of 2018 but one of the best videos of all time. The rest of the tracks are suitably catchy (even though not all of them were in the movie). Notably Pray for Me (with The Weeknd).


   
#9 Bloom
by Troye Sivan
I have never been a big fan of Sivan's stuff until I heard My My My! burning up the airwaves and realized he was the one singing it. The album that spawned it ended up being played far more than I thought it would throughout the Fall (especially Dance To This, his magical duet with Arianna Grande). Will be interesting to see where he goes next.


   
#10 FM!
by Vince Staples
This was my go-to album as I worked through the holidays. Raw lyrics married to dirty beats that confront all the shitty frustration that life rains down day after day. People don't understand how somebody like me can find solace in rap... especially rap like this... and I'm hard-pressed to explain it myself. All I know is that every last track on FM! was like mana from heaven at a time I needed it most. Brutally brief in length, you can burn through the entire album in 20 minutes and come out the other side feeling like you've run a gauntlet. Only the best rappers can manage something like that.

   
#11 Walk Between Worlds
by Simple Minds
I'm just going to be brutally honest here... Jim Kerr sounds like he's sleepwalking his way through this album. Maybe it's the 40 years he's been fronting the band. Maybe it's the sound he was going for. I don't know. But the bright, fresh vocals that pounded through such seminal Simple Minds tracks like Don't You (Forget About Me) and Alive and Kicking have left the building. Sure there's an occasional glimpse of what was, but Walk Between Worlds is a totally different animal. I still like it though.

   
#12 Expectations
by Hayley Kiyoko
Kiyoko's debut is pretty spectacular. Poppy goodness with a slight edge to it and terrific vocals. On top of all that, she's got something to say. Built around LGBT themes, her music and videos serve as the ultimate form of self-expression, and that's always a good thing.


   

HONORABLE MENTION...

Scorpion by Drake
The latest Drake album dropped the day my mom died and I was quick to give it a listen. All these months later, I still don't know what to make of it. 25 tracks. There's rap. There's R&B. There's even a semblance of pop. If I'm being honest, it's a bit of a mess. And yet... it's Drake, so there's gems to be found in them thar hills.


   

SINGLES TO LOVE...

All the Ways by Meghan Trainor
Meghan's latest album TREAT MYSELF was due this year, but got pushed into next year because she wanted to add more tracks. But Amazon Music and iTunes has a partial album up, leaving us to live with tracks 1, 2, 3, 12, and 13. It's that 13th track, All The Ways which got stuck in my head for months thanks to those dang Target commercials. I do love it though (as I do the other tracks)...

My guess is I'll be seeing TREAT MYSELF on next year's BEST list.

   
Party For One by Carly Rae Jepsen
As a mega-huge fan of her last album (EMOTION) I have been waiting on pins and needles for her new album. That didn't happen in 2018, but we did get a taste of what's to come.

My guess is I'll be seeing Carly Rae on next year's BEST list.

   
Without Me by Halsey
Like Robyn, I have tried to get into Halsey but just can't seem to grab hold. Then she unleashes Without Me, easily one of my favorite tracks of 2018, and suddenly wonder where she's been all my life.

   

VIDEOS TO WATCH...
The best video of the year, hands-down, is All The Stars (see above). But a close second would have to be The Carters (aka Beyoncé and Jay-Z) RENTING OUT THE LOUVRE to shoot a video for Apeshit.

   

I JUST DON'T KNOW...

Pray for the Wicked by Panic! At the Disco
While the album isn't necessarily bad (some of the tracks I like quite a lot) I can't seem to take Brendon Urie's vocals in anything more than small doses. And then there's tracks like Dancing's Not a Crime where his screeching makes me want to jump in front of a bus. This is a band I should like, but can't seem to buy into because it feels like my ears are bleeding if I listen to more than two songs.

   

DISAPPOINTMENTS...

Jake Shears by Jake Shears
After getting completely hooked on Scissor Sisters just after they broke up, I was happy when I found out that Shears had more music on the way as a solo act. The resulting album is kinda Scissor Sisters but mostly not. And I honestly don't know what to make of it. I like a couple tracks, but was left mostly disappointed.

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Bullet Sunday 592

Posted on December 16th, 2018

Dave!The weather outside may be frightful, but there's warmth to be had... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Stranger Strange! It was announced earlier this week that Scott Derrickson will be returning for the sequel to Doctor Strange, which is fantastic news considering how amazing the first one turned out...

XXX

There are dozens of different directions that a new story might take. Baron Mordo (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) is almost certain to be the villain. Or one of the villains anyway. Since magic-based characters in the MCU are scarce, they wouldn't necessarily have to go off-earth in order to come up with something wildly different, but some kind of inter-dimensional aspect to the plot is probably a safe bet. But what else? Will we get to see Mephisto? Clea? Umar? Nightmare?

   
• Julia Sans Julie! Did you know that somebody edited out all the horrible Julie Powell parts from Julie and Julia? Well they did! And it's so much better...

Makes me wish that they would have just made a Julia Child movie from the start. Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci were magic, and Julia's story is a fascinating one. Thanks to Run Jen Run for the tip!

   
• Musical Guest! Talk about lighting in a bottle. Mark Ronson and Miley Cyrus (along with Sean Ono Lennon) performed the classic John Lemmon track Happy Xmas (War Is Over) on Saturday Night Live last night...

I've been a big Miley fan since I first saw her on Hannah Montana. She has an incredible voice... in and out of the studio... and, crazy antics aside, she knows how to sing. She's especially great at interpreting other people's music (as the above video shows). One of my favorites remains her beautiful take of the Crowded House song Don't Dream It's Over with Ariana Grande...

Can't wait to see what she's got lined up next.

   
• Echo! "Alexa, what song is this?"

"This is Good Time featuring Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson from the album Good Time by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson."

"HOLY SHIT, ALEXA! ENOUGH WITH GOOD TIME FEATURING OWL CITY AND CARLY RAE JEPSON!"

"Now playing Good Time featuring Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson from the album Good Time by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepson."

"Well played, Alexa. Well played."

   
• Don't Look Here, Look There! It's always the people with fucked up shit in their closet that goes after the LGBTQ community. Always. You can set your clocks by it. Whenever I see somebody "railing against the gays" I just set an egg-timer until the news drops about them going to prison for something heinous. Then a Facebook friend shared this...

There's a reason that there are people who are virulently attacking people who have nothing to do with them. Set your egg timers.

   
Stay warm there, buckaroos.

   

Bullet Sunday 591

Posted on December 9th, 2018

Dave!I may have been to Maine and back this week, but that just means I'm locked and loaded... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Endings! Obviously the news of the week is that the Avengers 4 trailer finally dropped. It's everything it needed to be, with plenty to unpack. If you don't want to hear about it, best skip to the next bullet...

Okay, first of all, the name... Endgame is lame as shit. For months we've been told that the name was being kept secret because it revealed the plot and gave too much away. But does it really? No. Not even a little bit. LAME!

It's not much of a leap to figure that Ant-Man is going to be the key here. The Quantum Realm and its time-bending properties is an obvious way to undo what was done and bring back all those dusted characters so they can continue to print money for Marvel Studios (and Disney). I also wouldn't be surprised to find that Hawkeye (who looks like he's in his Ronin persona in the trailer) will have a major arc. Odds are his entire family was dusted and that's going to be the push to answer the question: "Why in the hell is he an Avenger?" No sign of Captain Marvel, but we know she's going to be kicking around...

Avengers 4 Sneak Peek

April seems a long, long ways away...

   
• Pet Shop Christmas! This week I received an email from The Pet Shop Boys wishing a Merry Christmas to their fans. Which is nice, I guess, but it's the way they did it that was so cool...

Pet Shop Boys Merry Christmas

Now, if you're a fan, you'll immediately "get it." But if you're not... does this help?

XXX

Seriously, how cool is that?

   
• MIB4! This week we finally learned the title of the fourth Men in Black movie... Men in Black International. It stars Chris Hemsworth as Agent H and Tessa Thompson as Agent M...

Men in Black 4

The spinoff film will not have Tommy Lee Jones (Agent K) or Will Smith (Agent J) in it, but it will have Emma Thompson reprising her role as Agent O.

   
• Outlook! As I prepare my home for winter, I ran across something interesting...

XXX

Apparently my region of the country will be "much above average" when it comes to temperature this winter. I'm not quite sure what to think about that, because the nighttime temperatures seem as though they're the same as they've been for years now (which is not as cold as it was a decade ago, I can tell you that). I took a look at weather averages for the past couple years and it reads similar to what's been recorded lately. And while we haven't had any snow yet, I'm guessing it will be on its way any day now? While I'm happy at the idea of saving on heating costs, we really need good snow pack in the mountains or else we'll end up in drought conditions in the Summer. That's something we absolutely do not want.

   
• NHL! Good news, everybody! Something I've been waiting for... for a very long time, actually... is Major League Hockey coming to Seattle! I became a hockey fan when I got into The Milwaukee Admirals while working in the Mid-West. From there it was a short hop to the Chicago Blackhawks, which has been my team ever since...

Spy Movie Poster

I've been to a couple local games here at home, but love the idea of escaping to an NHL game from time to time. Earlier this week they finally gave Seattle an expansion team, which will debut in 2021. But what will they be called? It's a big mystery. I was greatly amused to find that Bovada is running Vegas odds on it...

Bovada Book on Seattle NHL

Oh dear Lord. The odds favorite is the Totems?!? Now, I get it... that's the historic name for the team. It's a name which has emotional appeal to those who have been fighting to get a team here for a very long time. BUT COME ON! Are we really going to go down the cultural appropriation route again? My team, the Blackhawks, was named in honor of Black Hawk, a real-life Illinois historical figure. The team has kinda gotten a pass on this because it's not an offensive stereotype (like "Redskins") but it is still mired in controversy...

In 2010, for instance, Joe Podlasek stated that, "The stance is very clear. We want the Chicago Blackhawks logo to change. For us, that's one of our grandfathers. Would you do that with your grandfather's picture? Take it and throw it on a rug? Walk on it and dance on it?" John Blackhawk, Chairman of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, has suggested that the change in position for the American Indian Center may be connected to contributions the Blackhawks organization has recently begun making to the center: "We all do contributions, but we don't do it for the sake of wanting to be forgiven for something we've done that's offensive."
Wikipedia

So can we please just not this time? Personally I'm really liking the Sockeyes. There's a lot of logo potential there, and it's a fish that has cultural significance to Seattle both past and presence. The Emeralds isn't bad, but what do you do with it for a logo? And tying the name to The Wizard of Oz is kinda silly. Rainiers is already tied to a crappy beer. Kraken might be fine, but it's too abstract since it's mythological and all. Renegades, Cougars, and Eagles are boring and done to death. Sea Lions, Seals, and Whales just sound silly. Evergreens would give us a frickin' TREE as a logo? I dunno. Might work in the right hands? Firebirds isn't bad, but it's within spitting distance of Totems for me.

So... can we just be the Sockeyes and be done with it? Please?

   
• So Long, Fuckers! I finally managed to transfer everything away from my previous web hosting company, Media Temple. After being a loyal customer for over a decade and putting up with their broken promises and bullshit, the last straw was the horrific way I was treated when I tried to get an issue resolved. No help, shitty service, and a bill for $38 that they wouldn't reverse. Seriously, what a bunch of assholes. If you're looking for a place to host your stuff, keep looking.

   
And that's the end of that. See you next week.

   

All About That Bass

Posted on November 26th, 2018

Dave!I was upset with myself for going into credit card debt to buy the Sonos SUB (subwoofer) to complete my Dolby 5.1 setup... but couldn't pass up the $100 Black Friday savings. The thing is SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS and knocking a Benjamin off the price was just too good to be true. Even if it means that I've spent my tax refund before I've even seen it.

Now that I have it installed though? Amazing. Absolutely amazing. No regrets. Totally worth the three months' worth of groceries this thing cost me.

XXX

I knew that adding a subwoofer would give me better bass. I had one with my old audio system, so I knew what to expect. What I didn't expect is that Sonos would take the bass load off my front and rear channels so they can focus on producing bright, crisp midtones. Movie dialogue is phenomenal. My music is more alive. The room sounds bigger, fuller, and sound fills the space better. Acoustics with the SUB enabled are drastically improved.

As expected from Sonos, the build quality is excellent. The SUB weighs 36 pounds so you know the thing is capable of pushing serious air volume. The face-to-face drivers cancel cabinet vibration, which means it can be placed upright or lay flat. Sonos had mentioned you could put it under your couch if you wanted, so I attached the felt pads to a face, placed it on its side, then shoved it underneath mine (where the cats can't get to it). This has the side benefit of adding a nice punch under your butt when the bass is firing!

Setup is dead simple. You just open the Sonos app, tell it you want to add a SUB speaker, press a button on the unit, and everything happens automatically. You can then balance the sound by sitting where you'll be listening from and having the phone app "listen" to the room acoustics. Then you can use Sonos Trueplay tuning to walk around the room while the app "listens" to the space and adjusts to best fill it. The app makes the entire process fairly painless.

The first thing I did once I was all set up was to play Postiljonen's Plastic Panorama which is a beautiful piece of music that has soft, haunting vocals that can be overwhelmed by the punchy bass-line on a bad stereo. My Sonos system with the SUB added played the track beautifully. I've never heard the song sound so good...

Halsey's Without Me is particularly good with the SUB in play...

I then proceeded to play a wide variety of different music from every style and genre I could think of. Sonos took everything I threw at it and performed flawlessly. I then ran some movies with excellent sound design through the Sonos Dolby 5.1 separation and was consistently thrilled by what I was hearing (Blade Runner 2049 is incredible). I thought my stereo system sounded good before... and it did... but now it's next level. I turn the SUB off and on while listening and the difference is not subtle. This is one piece of equipment that will not be returned to the manufacturer because I don't want to live without it! I spend a huge chunk of my time listening to music and watching television or movies. It deserves to be the best experience it can be in my life. Even if I had to go into debt to do it.

I was worried about the cats adjusting to the increased bass, but they have completely ignored it. Don't ask me how they can sleep while music is playing, but they've never had a problem. There are quiet places they can retreat to but they don't. With that in mind, I try not to get too loud so as not to damage their sensitive ears.

So... to sum up...

If you've got a Sonos audio setup... especially if you've got a PLAYBAR with rear speakers for your home theater... the SUB is a fantastic addition. Perhaps even a necessary addition if you spend a lot of time watching movies at home like I do. Without it, you're kinda missing out.

The problem, of course, is the price tag. $700 is insanity. The $600 I paid on sale was still absurd. This is a $500 piece of audio equipment, tops. And yet... it sounds like a million bucks, so go figure.

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Almost AirPods

Posted on November 2nd, 2018

Dave!I bought Apple's "AirPods" when I got my iPhone X.

Since there was no more headphone jack, I pretty much had to. I mean, I'd purchased wireless headphones in the past... but they never had the sound I got from my faithful Sony buds, especially in the bass. AirPods were reported to have fantastic bass and nice clarity, along with being wireless, so they should be perfect, right?

Gronk Tide Pods Says AirPods!

Not so much, no. I ended up returning them.

The sound was, as expected, fantastic (for an in-ear bud). But they would not stay put in my ears and fall out easily. Especially out of my left ear, which is apparently mutated or something. I was told I could buy some silicone "hooks" to wrap around the AirPods so they would "stick" better, but that was a crappy solution because then you have to take the hooks off in order to fit them in their recharging case.

I went back to the dongle adapter so I could plug my Sony buds into my iPhone X, which sucks ass because then I can't charge the dang thing at the same time. I bought a splitter, but it didn't work half the time. How much easier would my life be if Apple would just put the fucking headphone jack back in their fucking phones because I do not buy the bullshit excuse of "not enough room." Lazy. Apple just doesn't want to have an ugly hole on their pretty pretty phone.

Fast forward a year.

There I was trying to get rid of some expiring shopping points and I see that Apple AirPods are available. This was shocking because, despite being nearly two years old, they are still in high demand and sometimes hard to find. But... here they were (because I'm guessing that Apple is coming out with a new version any day now). My points plus $55 and they were mine. Never mind that I don't really have $55. Never mind that they don't fit in my ears. I figured that I'd buy them anyway then get some of those stupid silicone hooks. At $159, they were not worth that hassle. But $55? Maybe.

And that's when I decided to Google and see if other people were having trouble fitting them in their ears. Turns out I was not alone! I ran across a forum post on MacRumors that said dots of Nexcare tape can be applied and solve the problem.

I gave it a try and it kinda worked. But adding a third piece of the tape mostly worked...

Apple Air Pods Fit Fix!

All those dots and they still fit in the charging case! Perhaps with some experimentation I can figure out a better way of applying the tape so I won't have to use so much of it. As it is, I'm still incredibly paranoid about them falling out of my ears. I just hope I don't end up losing them, as that would be just my luck.

"But other than the fit, how do you like them?"

Well, they're pretty great.

The core to Apple's lone wireless earbud entry is their W1 chip, which allows for some interesting features. The best being the smart way that they pair and sync up with your iPhone automatically after they have been set up (speaking of which, setup is a breeze). The chip is also supposed to be highly energy efficient so you get great battery life (around 4 hours, give or take). Additional juice is stored in the charging case which, according to Apple, gives you a total play-time of 20 hours.

Ultimately "AirPods" are yet another case of Apple being Apple and coming up with something that is of exceptional quality and looks sublimely beautiful... but has questionable functionality because "functionality" always takes a back-seat to what Apple does. Perhaps if I come into some real money (unlikely given Jake's vet bills!) I can afford to get a pair of BeatsX earbuds ($120) or Beats Studio3 over-ear cans (AT THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS!!!), both of which have the W1 chip. Or, since I'm reaching for the sky here, buy both... seeing as how I prefer cans for home or work and buds for travel.

Whether or not Apple gives a shit about what people actually need and has plans beyond AirPods is anybody's guess. If they could come up with a version of AirPods with variably-sized flexible silicone flanges to keep them in your ear... and a charging case which would accomodate them... something tells me a lot of Apple whores like me would be very happy.

Which would be a nice change of pace from how I've been feeling about Apple lately.

   

Bullet Sunday 582: Aloha Bye

Posted on October 7th, 2018

Dave!Home again and all is well... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Homeward. And, just like that, Hawaii is over for me. I would have liked to have stayed another couple days to hang out with my friends and relax but, alas, I've got a cat back home that is undoubtedly really, really anxious to get out of the hospital. I did get bumped to First Class, which is kinda like a vacation. A vacation with a bowl of warm nuts...

Aloha Bye

Aloha Bye

The last time I came to Hawaii for fun was when I managed to tack a few days on the back-side of a work trip in 2011. The four times since then were all work all the time. And while I wouldn't have missed this wedding in Oahu for anything, coming to photograph an event is still work!

   
• Salmon. I have been this close to flying Alaska Airlines' Salmon-Thirty-Salmon too many times to count. But I'm always a gate or two away. Like today...

Aloha Bye

It's not every day you get to fly in a plane painted to look like a big fish... and, alas, today is not my day either.

   
• Simon. On my trip to Honolulu on Friday I saw the available movies I hadn't seen (Tomb Raider, yawn... Won't You Be My Neighbor, awesome... and Blockers, surprisingly watchable) and so on my trip back I watched movies I enjoyed that I've already seen... Deadpool 2 and The Disaster Artist... and also Love, Simon...

This movie is so amazingly good (despite a rough start to the third act) and has an ending that's ten tons of wonderful. I've seen it three times now, and one thing continues to stand out... the casting on this film is phenomenal. Not just the main characters, but supporting roles as well. In particular, Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner as Simon's parents. I knew Garner could pull off the emotional weight... but Josh Duhamel?!? And yet...

And that clip has been edited down from the original scene.

The first coming-of-age-love-story with a gay lead character from a major studio was going to be a landmark film regardless of how good it was. Or how terrible. The fact that Love, Simon turned out to be something great is just icing on the cake. One can only hope that more films like this entering mainstream culture becomes a step towards more acceptance and less bullying in our schools. Because isn't high school hard enough?

   
• Haerts. In addition to being one of the sweetest, most charming, funny, genuine films in recent memory, Love, Simon has a great soundtrack. It was especially awesome that Wings by Haerts got a snippet into the movie. It's such an amazing song...

And now I'm addicted to it all over again.

   
• Photography. It didn't actually rain on the wedding yesterday, which was nice. A lot easier to shoot photos when you're not soaking wet. The problem was my poor back, which was in spasm the entire day. I was eating muscle relaxers like candy in an attempt to keep being able to move. The good news is that the photos turned out pretty good. Not so much because of my talent as a photographer, but because the bride and groom are phenomenally good-looking... and patient.

And... despite my not being a professional photographer (and especially not a wedding photographer), this was my sixth wedding shoot. No idea how this keeps happening to me.

   
• Home. Jenny meowed when I walked through the door. Meowed after me when I rolled my bag in. Meowed after me when I went to the bathroom. Meowed after me when when I went upstairs. Meowed after me when got undressed. Meowed after me when I got in bed. She did not stop. "Sheesh. I am sorry I had to leave you all alone! Are you going to calm down if I can bring your brother home tomorrow?!?"

Jenny Cuddler

Such a sweetheart. I hope that Jake and Jenny's reunion goes well.

   
And... I turn into a pumpkin at midnight, so... much aloha.

   

Depeche Mode Albums RANKED!

Posted on September 28th, 2018

Dave!There were three bands that defined my love of 80's music. Thompson Twins, Pet Shop Boys, and Depeche Mode. Of the three, Pet Shop Boys has been my most enduring favorite (Thompson Twins quit long ago, though Tom Bailey has recently come back). As for Depeche Mode? Well... things happen from time to time that remind me why they were my favorite band for nearly 20 years, but it's been tough for me from Exciter onward.

Here's a ranking of their albums from love to loathe...

  1. 101 — Depeche Mode is at their best when performing live. Truth to tell, there are few bands which can compare to their live performances. And if one needs proof, you need look no further than 101 from their "Tour for the Masses." Not only did it include several songs off that incredible album, it included the best tracks from those that preceded it. Magic in a bottle. And still my favorite DM album.
  2. Some Great Reward — A remarkable album from just about any angle, it was the inclusion of People are People, Blasphemous Rumors, and Master and Servant that had me completely absorbed. It was right here that Depeche Mode became my favorite band on earth for decades.
  3. Black Celebration — I listened to this one nearly-continuously for a year after it was released. Decidedly dark in tone, it spoke to every corner of my soul as I headed into adulthood.
  4. Music for the Masses — Up until this album I was a big fan of the band... but I was a big fan of a lot of bands. And yet once I saw the "Tour for the Masses" and finally got to experience Depeche Mode live for the first time (see 101 above)... I was a big obsessive fan of the band. It was the album which brought true fame to the band here in the States (at last) but bigger things were yet to come. Would probably rank higher if 101 (essentially the live version) didn't exist.
  5. Songs of Faith and Devotion — The last truly great Depeche Mode album. I don't think it's a coincidence that it's also the last album to feature Alan Wilder. Mercy in You remains my favorite track by the band, but there was so much more to love on this album. There was a track-for-track re-release as a live album, and I think I actually like it better than the studio version.
  6. Violator It took a while for DM to break the USA wide open. Thanks to standout tracks like Personal Jesus and Enjoy the Silence, this was the album to do it. I loved it, of course, but older albums were still the ones I was listening to most.
  7. Construction Time Again — Some really great songs here as the band found its footing. Mostly thanks to the track Everything Counts, which went on to be a staple of their live shows.
  8. Ultra — After Alan Wilder left, I really didn't think that the band would be the same. And they weren't. Still, they did manage to rally with Ultra which was different, but not necessarily in a bad way. Half the album was as good as ever. The other half was meandering and kind of fell flat for me.
  9. Playing the Angel — When the first single, Precious, was released, I was flying high over the idea that just maybe the band had rebounded from the previous album (Exciter). And rebound they did. Sure the album version of Precious wasn't as good and there were a few tracks that never quite landed... I was still very happy with the album... and the tour.
  10. Sounds of the Universe — The last album by the band that I truly enjoyed. Not all of it... but enough of it. And the tour was fantastic.
  11. A Broken Frame — In their second album, things started coming together for the band. This was quite a feat given that their songwriter (Vince Clarke) had left.
  12. Speak & Spell — The first Depeche Mode album (and the only album with original member Vince Clarke) was pretty raw. But there were some gems to be had.
  13. Exciter — The first album by the band that truly disappointed me. A couple decent tracks, but nothing to write home about. They rebounded a bit, but never reached the heights we got from Songs of Faith and Devotion.
  14. Delta Machine — I do not, for the life of me, understand how the band got to this point. Before release, I was actually excited about Delta Machine — because there was talk they had returned to their roots. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was yet another album filled with angels and redemption, but was a joyless mess. I went to the supporting tour, but was only interested in the tracks that weren't from Delta Machine.
  15. Spirit — Hated every single song on it. Never bought it. Never saw the tour. Shocked that things could get worse than Delta Machine, but here we are.
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Categories: Music 2018Click To It: Permalink  3 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

The Eighties in Salt Lake City

Posted on September 21st, 2018

Dave!This morning I threw a change of clothes in my backpack, filled the cat feeder, filled the bird feeder, then tried to figure out which route over the mountains would be the best way to get to the airport. Which was not as easy as I had hoped because pulling info out of The Washington State Department of Transportation website was far more difficult than it should have been. But that's how it goes when you're dealing with a website that looks like it came from the 90's.

Almost three hours later, I was at the airport.

Two hours after that, I was winging my way to Salt Lake City so Marty (of Banal Leakage fame) and I could go to a concert featuring Tom Bailey (Thompson Twins), The B-52's, and Culture Club.

Things did not get off to a good start.

The main reason I wanted to see this show was because I really wanted to hear Tom Bailey perform tracks off of his new album, Science Fiction, which I love. But there were technical difficulties at Maverick Center where the sound kept crapping out. For reasons I cannot comprehend, he wasn't given extra time to perform his set once the sound was restored... which meant he didn't get to perform a single new song. He barely got to perform his old songs. This was incredibly disappointing. Because what little he did get to perform was great...

Tom Bailey

I fully anticipated The B-52's to come out and play songs off of Cosmic Thing (their most popular album by far) and be done with it. But that wasn't what happened at all. They played a set that was very much geared towards The B-52's Faithful. Half the stuff they played was off their self-titled debut album, including Planet Claire, Dance This Mess Around, Lava, 52 Girls, and Rock Lobster. Their second album Wild Planet got two tracks... Private Idaho and Give Me Back My Man. Mesopotamia got no tracks. Whammy got Whammy Kiss. Bouncing Off the Satellites got no tracks. Cosmic Thing got Roam and Love Shack only(!). Funplex got the title track. And that was it...

The B-52's

The B-52's

I would have loved to have heard Legal Tender and Song for a Future Generation, which are two of my favorite B-52's songs. They are a fantastic bridge between the two eras of the band in their journey from post-punk new wave to pop sensations. But overall I was thrilled that they played so much from their early days, which was when I fell in love with them.

Culture Club was one of those bands that I appreciated, but never became obsessed with as I did other bands of the day. That being said, I was still very much looking forward to seeing them perform. And I wasn't disappointed. Boy George (and the dozen musicians on-stage with him) blew through all their biggest hits that people wanted to hear (It's a Miracle, I'll Tumble 4 Ya, Time (Clock of the Heart), Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?, Miss Me Blind, Church of the Poison Mind, and Karma Chameleon)... threw in some interesting covers (Let's Dance by Bowie, Everything I Own by Bread, Addicted to Love by Robert Palmer, and Chain of Fools by Aretha Franklin. They also tossed in a couple of more esoteric later tracks (The Truth is a Runaway Train, Different Man, Life)...

Boy Geroge and Culture Club

Boy Geroge and Culture Club

I have no idea what was going on with the sound at Maverick Center, which was pretty bad. In addition to Tom Bailey's sound problems, Kate and Cindy's vocals were obliterated through most of the B-52's tracks, and the sound for Culture Club sounded horribly brassy at first... but evened out half-way through (Boy George's vocals were pretty well presented throughout, however). I don't remember these kind of problems when I saw Depeche Mode's "Tour of the Universe" show here.

And so... fun!

Even though I think that I must be getting too old to enjoy concerts any more. I used to love live music. But between shitty sound at the venues and the unbelievably rude behavior of people attending concerts now-a-days, I just feel done.

I mean... never say never... but there's a nice symmetry to my first concert being The Thompson Twins in 1984 and my last concert being Tom Bailey of The Thompson Twins 34 years later.

And on that sad note... time for bed. I fly back home tomorrow.

   

Sowing the Seeds of Love

Posted on August 28th, 2018

Dave!Today after work I ran into The Big City so I could pick up more bird seed. Not that I really have money to be throwing at birds, but they have been so dang entertaining for my cats that I pretty much have to.

Birds are weird in my neck of the woods. During the summer, regular (cheap) bird seed gets me nowhere. The birds that are looking for food are little things and I guess it's just too big for them. And so I buy "nyjer seed" (aka thistle seed) which is tiny stuff that's five times more expensive. In the winter the little birds have gone, and it's only the bigger birds that stick around. That's when I can pull out the cheap stuff and everybody's happy.

I thought I'd be smart and see if the feed store had bulk nyjer. Turns out they did, but at $2.09 a pound, it was actually more expensive than what I can get at Lowe's. My favorite seed is their "Nyjer Plus" which is cut with bits of sunflower seed. The birds don't seem to mind that at all, and it makes less of a mess. Alas, that's almost always out of stock, but today I got lucky...

Nyjer Seed!

Weird how my entire day can be made by bird seed being in-stock at the hardware store, but there you have it. Maybe this is a sign I need to start a new woodworking project? Probably.

The entire time I was looking for bird seed, this was going through my head...

Interesting side-note... apparently we're getting the first new album in 14 years from Tears for Fears this Fall!

One more thing to look forward to...

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Categories: Cats 2018, Music 2018Click To It: Permalink  0 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

Bullet Sunday 576

Posted on August 26th, 2018

Dave!Time to make the donuts... because an all new Bullet Sunday starts now...

   
• Mars Investigations! In what can only be described as the best news I've heard all week, Hulu is apparently developing a new 8-episode season of one of my favorite television shows of all time: Veronica Mars...

Veronica Mars

And now I want to watch both television seasons and the movie for the hundredth time.

   
• Globalization! Oh how cool. When you zoom out on Google Maps now, it backs into a globe! No more misrepresenting the size of land masses! Africa is now that massive continent it actually is... whereas the US, Europe, and Greenland are proportionally correct!

Google Maps

This is hugely important. The traditional Mercator projection is a grotesque distortion of the world we inhabit...

If you want to play with The True Size of Things... here's a link for you.

   
• Nothing! Heard Chinatown by Wild Nothing while watching the Netflix Original To All the Boys I've Loved Before (which is excellent) and am now obsessed with it. Such a pretty track...

This track is from their 2010 album Gemini, which sounds like it's straight out of the 80's.

   
• Expertly Paired Cheese! This. Stuff. Is. AMAZING!!! It's awesome on tacos, but I have been putting it on everything. Eggs. Veggie Sausage. Sandwiches. Even STRAIGHT OUT OF THE BAG. Where has this been all my life?

Expertly Paired Cheese

They have a Swiss/Cheddar blend that I'm going to have to try too. Not that I couldn't shred the stuff myself and make my own blends... but convenience!

   
• Enchanting? I was anxiously awaiting the new Matt Groening series from Netflix: Disenchantment. From the looks of things, I was guessing it was Game of Thrones meets The Simpsons...

This week it was finally released and I binged the entire series. It was... okay? The background art is beautiful and full of sight-gags that had me pausing my DVR more often than I care to admit. But the story? It's entertaining. But the funny did not come as often as I was expecting. Every episode seemed a little... slow. Even so, it was clever enough to keep me watching. I was more than a little upset that they ended on a cliffhanger. What if there's no second season to conclude it? Oh well. Wouldn't be the first time a show left me hanging because it was canceled.

   
And... that'll have to be enough bullets for today. See you next Sunday!

   

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