Archive for the 'Ranting' Category

On this Self-Imposed 140 Word Silliness

I had a conversation with Mary the other week which I used as the inspiration to begin blogging again. The topic which we discussed was mostly my lack of blogging lately and my attempts to justify it. She was quick to point out, however, that my tweets had not decreased in size. I countered that they were easy and quick to pound out at only 140 characters a piece to which she suggested that I simply make my blog posts that long.

I couldn’t justify such short blog posts; what’s the point? Then they might as well be Tweets. So what if I made them 140 words? It seemed to be a great idea; I’d write succinct posts and the word limit would be beneficial to my momentum.

As it turns out, that was a silly idea. For one, the limitation led me to feel like i hadn’t hashed out my thoughts thoroughly enough. (That was 143 words…I still feel unfinished) I do ramble, and, though it has no place in professional writing, this is my blog. I feel that rambling is my way of casually communicating my thoughts in a (hopefully) entertaining fashion. So I won’t win any writing awards and I probably wouldn’t even get an A were this graded. It’s mine. My self-imposed limit was an exercise in restraint. I have none.

Second, even with such a short requirement given to myself, I haven’t been writing every day. I can’t promise that to myself or to anyone. It’s fun and I enjoy my ranting and raving, but I don’t always have the time make the time. Other things take precedence. Sleep is one of those. Studies have shown that sleep makes one less tired. That, in turn, means I am able to be less cranky at work. Who’d’ve thought?! Crazy…

So I may to another 140 word blog post. I may not. I hated ending things mid sentence. I also didn’t like the brevity. Tweets are fun because staying within 140 characters can be an interesting challenge, but it’s always doable. This 140 word garbage was just that. Shit.

140…139…138

I am pretty certain that a tweet is 140 characters. I’m’a make this post 140 words. Why? Cuz it’s a number I can reach quickly without the chance to ramble TOO much. Rambling is a bad habit of mine. However, recent attempts to motivate myself to write coherent, useful blog posts have failed. Epically (that word looks funny written).  Mostly because I’ve discovered the beauty of unlimited texting. At my friends chiding of my 1500 text a month plan (which I finally surpassed), I went unlimited for $5 more. I won’t go into my previous justification of being limited, but I’ll say that I wanted to get my money’s worth. My billing cycle ends tomorrow. Estimated text message usage for the month? 4,400.

Epic.

30 text bursts certainly contributed to that impressive number. So, if I’ve been notably absent on the interwebs, that is most certainly the reason why.

A Positive Rage

What is a web log for if not to occasionally complain and rant about things that get under your skin? While such pedantry has no place on a professional blog, I believe this subject breaches protocol in an apropos fashion becoming of my online persona.

I recently saw the Hold Steady in concert with my good friend Christi. I know I’ve probably mentioned it before, but it was likely the single most exhilarating concert I’ve ever experienced. The energy and love emanating from the band on stage was unsurpassed by anyone I’ve ever seen perform. It certainly didn’t hurt that they were my favourite band to begin with.

To prepare myself, before the show, I listened to nothing but their music for two weeks prior. As I learned from seeing Ben Folds live, I sometimes will not know a song they perform. Though well versed in the catalogue of Ben, he played some unfamiliar ones that, while still enjoyable to witness, were not as fully experienced as the ones I knew by heart.

So, in those preceding weeks, I did some research. Despite it’s often bad rap, wikipedia is a great compendium of information regarding bands and their releases. Through it, I discovered that the Australian version of Boys and Girls in America had four bonus tracks and the European version of Stay Positive had three. As I already owned the American release of Boys and Girls in America, I set about locating my missing tracks via various means. Said tracks were fairly easily located.

The Stay Positive bonuses, however, were slightly more elusive. The copies I was able to find were poorly ripped and had many glitches reminiscent of mp3s from the late nineties. As I did not own Stay Positive legitimately, I promptly ordered the UK version used from amazon.com. Though cheaper than new, it was still a good eight or nine dollars more than the American version. I was quite happy with my purchase, seeing it both as a worthwhile investment in a good band and a guarantee of the unadulterated tracks. For a while, I was content.

Fast forward to last night. Or rather, a few days ago. Last night is really the climax of the story. I was browsing the hold steady dot com and found their twitter link. As they do not post prolifically, I though following them would not bloat my twitter feed and so I did just that. Some promos were tweeted about their upcoming DVD/cd. These I largely ignored as I try to make a point a) not to buy live albums and b) not to waste time watching videos online.

On a side note, the reason I do not generally buy live albums is this: archive dot org is a great source of live recordings. It also highlights what sucks about live recordings: shoddy recording by a fan will not get one the full effect of the live performance. Also, if you weren’t at the concert in question, at least for me, you don’t get the feeling of reliving the experience, so this point is kind of in the same vein as my first. Still, the site is a great way to get a feel for an artist you may have not heard yet or even heard of and offers a legal way to sample their music.

Likewise, the hold steady live compendium is a great source for all things live by Craig Finn and company. The quality is what you’d expect, but if that’s what you’re looking for, it won’t disappoint.

My general distaste for recorded live music aside, I did not ignore a tweet regarding a stream of one of their new tracks off the album. The track was so excellent that I utilized a certain firefox plugin to allow me to encode the stream as an mp3 to take with me until the album arrived. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that that song alone convinced me to order A Positive Rage.

Amazon shipped the two disc set very promptly and I ripped it then stuck the disc in my car stereo and have been listening to it since. It’s great! I can’t speak for the DVD just yet but will update when I can give an opinion.

Last night, as I mentioned earlier, was the moment of truth. I put the cd in and ran the program to get my free bonus tracks. As these programs usually are, all it contained was a link. This link required my e-mail address. Soon, I was e-mailed a link to download the songs. Excitement!

The one track was the one I loved, 40Bucks, now owned legitimately (something I hope someday to say of all my music). The second, a new track called Spectres was one which I’d never heard. The remaining three, however, were the very tracks I bought the UK Stay Positive for: Ask For Addedall, Cheyenne Sunrise and Two Handed Handshake !!!

A Positive Rage boiled through my veins!

Truly, the previous statement was only aimed to be hyperbole. Also, I wasn’t particularly angry, per se. It just kind of sucked. I suppose had I waited and done my research, I’d’ve known what the bonus tracks were. That, however would’ve required buying Positive Rage before Stay Positive, which isn’t something that would have happened. Regardless, for a live album, A Positive Rage is quite well recorded; ’tis a far cry from those found at the compendium. Plus, the pleasure of the new song and the the legal version of my favourite song was well worth the money.

The moral is this: patience is a virtue and will pay off in the end. Also, don’t steal music. Thank you.

My Tuxedo is Sad

Symphonic

Went to the symphony this weekend. Slightly more money than I thought, but dammit if it wasn’t a great excuse to break out my newest tuxedo.

I had to steal this photo from Mary for a few reasons:

  1. I neglected to bring my SD card with me today
  2. I haven’t uploaded the pictures from said card anywhere
  3. I wanted to post this at work and not later
  4. I am at work right now

The reason I never pulled the photos from this evening off my camera is two-fold: I meant to do it that night, but the power was out so I couldn’t use my desktop. I forgot to the next day.

I was excited about the symphony because they would have beer and I had a great excuse to break out this tuxedo I had yet not worn.

I hadn’t worn this newest one because for another list of reasons:

  1. It was purchased on Ebay but afterward I never had anything formal enough to warrant wearing it
  2. It is stylistically more classic than my pinstriped, notch-lapelled first tudexo (it features peak lapels and a double vent – my vent of choice)
  3. Said first tuxedo got more wear due to said non-classicality and the risk of damage being negligible
  4. Last time I tried it on, the pants were smaller than I remember them being

When deciding what to wear for the evening, this tux was pulled from the bowels of my closet. I went to try on the pants and realized that they did not go on all the way. The culprit: a safety-pinned note (holding the legs together thus making them impossible to separate) telling me to get the pants taken out. I pulled the note off and found that the pants fit perfectly again! I was ecstatic; my period of non-drinking has actually had an effect on my waist size in a positive way!

So I wore the tux and we had a great time at the symphony, making steak and pasta afterward and watching the Rocker (a veritable who’s who of television celebrities, I must add). ‘Twas raining when I left and visibility had decreased. It took a while to realize that the decreased visibility was also due to all the power being out within a mile radius of my house. It’s truly eerie to drive home in pitch darkness (I turned off my headlights for a moment to feel the full effect – it was neat). Arriving home, I parked in the muddiest spot, not realizing it was the muddiest spot due to the darkness like pitch that enveloped the night. Stepping out of my car, I must’ve hit a mud puddle or something. This morning, whilst brushing the dog hair off it, I discovered the interior of the pant legs caked with mud.

I’ve worn it once since my last  dry cleaning, and it’s a mess again.

It is a sad day for tuxedo wearers everywhere. Or maybe just for moi.

Mea Culpa

boom

As several bishops have been known to issue dispensations on carnivorous abstinence when St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday during Lent, I feel it is my duty to toss back a pint of the brown stuff in honour of our Irish brethren, though I’ve given to alcohol abstinence these forty days. (not on the Sabbath though–I’m only human!)

EST it is now officially midnight. I crack the can and pour myself a tall glass of the delicious beverage. Good things come to those who wait (the commercial tells us so), so I patiently allow the beer to settle before taking my first sip.

Heavenly. The Irish sure know what they’re doing.

That gets me thinking; they’ve got whisky too! I pour myself a shot. Excellent. Isn’t there a cream based liqueur as well? Sure, Irish Cream! Another shot. This is turning into one hell of a Saint Patrick’s Day!

. . .

Alright, so the above was just a dramatization of how this evening could’ve played out. In truth, I have sampled all three beverages, just not tonight. Having done so, I can assure you that my reaction to their delicate and complex flavours was accurately represented.

Still, one cannot accurately speak of the festivities of this “green before the green movement” holiday without making mention of the one drink that you knew had to be coming: the Irish Car Bomb.

A combination of the three drinks, the ICB – as I will henceforth abbreviate it – is a variation of the old boilermaker “cocktail” (I use quotation marks because a shot with a beer chaser isn’t really a cocktail per se). Wikipedia says a lot of things I will not rehash; I will however say this: I do not like ICBs.

Guinness was the first beer I truly loved. I don’t know if it was the fact that I like to hate things the masses like (light beer) or if my advanced coffee-loving palate could handle the bold flavours and dark undertones of this famed brew. Regardless, until I discovered micro-brewed stouts, this was my favourite.

Whisky, on the other hand, took quite a few years to warm up to. Jameson was the first alcohol I snuck from the parent’s liquor cabinet. It was, however, inherited from their parent’s liquor cabinet, and not in the freshest state. It wasn’t until Kelly introduced me to Bushmill’s that I realized whisky could be drunk without gagging. I’ve since graduated to Scotch, but a fifth of one of the Irish whiskys is always in my stash.

Everyone likes Irish Cream. I think.

However, contrary to what one barista/bartender may write, not everyone likes ICBs. I am one of those people.

Again, I’m not exactly sure what it is. Maybe it is the curdling of the Irish Cream in the concoction. Maybe it is the fact that you have to chug it, something I loathe doing. Maybe it is the bastardisation of three very delicious single alcoholic beverages. Or it could be, again, the fact that so many people like them and that so many of them are douches. Sorry kids; Dude-bros, Kerplowskis, New Haircut Kids, less than squiriferous chaps, whatever they’re called now, they’ll never cease to enjoy their light beer and ICBs.

For the sake of research, I made an ICB just before writing this. It was an unpleasant experience. I can handle shots, despite their sole purpose being to get you as drunk as possible as quick as possible. But ICBs seem to take that to another level of ridiculous. Plus the fact that if I want to order a pint on March 18, it is almost guaranteed the Guinness is gone.

Still, I raise the remains of my pint to you. (you didn’t think I’d use the whole thing on that bloody car bomb, did you?)

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Sláinte!

On Laziness

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One of the most annoyingly pervasive trends I’ve found lately is the removal of the stigma that laziness once had. Rather than being frowned upon, it has now become so commonplace that it is the catchall excuse most commonly heard: “I was going to bring my laptop today but I was too lazy.” Too lazy to unplug it and put it in your backpack? This is a task which requires so little energy, you might actually add rather than burn calories doing it. I know that television and YouTube have destroyed our culture’s collective attention span, but this is just ludicrous.

It truly serves as a measure of the inherent laziness developing in our society. Barring the fact that sloth is one of the 7 deadly sins, it’s become so ingrained in our daily lives that one often doesn’t realize its pervasiveness. It’s become one of those phrases that has almost become a slang; we hear it so often that we will sometimes say it ourselves just because it’s so frequently uttered by others. Like poor grammar. I’ve even stopped myself on several occasions from using it.

So, here is my charge to you: PAY ATTENTION. I trust you will once or twice catch yourself saying that you didn’t do something or do not want to do something because you are “too lazy.” When this happens, take a moment to ask tyourself if you really are too lazy to do this? What is the real reason you choose not to accomplish this diminutive feat? I bet that by really thinking about it, you will have no good excuse. Then, perhaps you will actually do it, realizing that it was not that hard to begin with. Please make an effort; I implore you. For the good of yourself and society, stop making excuses and get off your lazy arse.

On Music

benfoldsWhile the blog can be viewed as “the new resume” — another way for employers to get a look at who you are and how/if you fit into the culture of the work environment — can it also relate to an aspect of dating? Could would-be suitors find your writing pedantic and thus write (sorry, intended) you off as a prospective mate? With the prevalence of this so-called “social networking” and such news items as the scandals related to sixteen year olds finding older men on MySpace, it seems that online dating and its variants have become a social norm; one of the numerous acceptable modern versions of courtship.

How many people do you know that’ve had online relationships? Or kept up a long distance relationship via their Facebook and/or e-mail? Considering the amount of personal information we make publicly available through the various avenues of the InterHighway, is it a stretch to believe that a potential companion can write you off because you mentioned that you liked the movie Labyrinth? I don’t think so.

As I was thinking about the blog as the new resume and the social network profile as the dating equivalent of a resume, I combined the two ideas; what if a girl reading my blog decided that she liked me (or didn’t!) from what I wrote? Sure, she could go to my Facebook profile and read about the movies I like, music I listen to, and what I do in my free time. However, the profile only shows a piece, a vague overview. Kind of like how a resume only briefly covers your “accomplishments” without actually going over your specific role in any given project (or like a GPA shows how well you did, but not what you did well in and why).

The above, as it turns out, was just a long-winded seguing into something that popped into my head last week, so please bear with me.

One could potentially cheat, having never met me, look at my Facebook profile and see my “favourite bands” et cetera, and never really question it. But then all the fun of our first meeting is gone. Furthermore, what then would be the icebreakers on a hypothetical first date? All the basics have been discovered on Facebook. Here, again, I will reference my perceived similarities of dating to job hunting; the first date is like the post-resume (Facebook Profile) interview. Here, two people take the general information they have on each other and expound upon it.  Amongst music nerds, the conversation would probably revolve around your favourite albums and artists. But they wouldn’t just list them off to each other. One might attempt to explain why their favourites have achieved that status; to show a little bit about them as a person and what affects the decisions made in music choices (and from that, perhaps, one could make assumptions and inferences about their life outlook).

In that vein, I set about trying to determine my five favourite songs. Perhaps of all time, but at the very least, those which currently hold relevance. How did I define this? First of all, I thought they would probably have to be songs I’ve listened to many times and I still can listen to without being bored through repeated listenings. This did not yield a list of five. So I set about to do it systematically and came up with the following diagram.

As an aside, Christi called my need for charts and graphs “anal” but “endearing.” I find them helpful; from budgeting to deciding what netbook to purchase, I love lists, charts and graphs. I abhor math, but I like the visual representation of things in decision-making. Otherwise, I sit and ponder for hours and hours, stressing and never concluding.

chartFor the record, most comments henceforth will relate to this image and whatever’s going through my head. Very stream-of-consciousness.

Jets to Brazil, The Hold Steady, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (I still can’t get over swing and they do it so well), Belle and Sebastian and Damien Rice are clearly at the forefront of favourites in the artist category. Aside from holding the highest number of top songs (it was too hard to weed them out!), they are the bands that I can constantly listen to without becoming sick of.

Jets to Brazil were my favourite emo band back in high school (my high school self is yelling at me to clarify: they aren’t technically “emo,” they’re “post-emo indie rock,” but I digress). To this day, their first two albums are amazing, able to be listened to straight through with nary a missed beat. Top notch in their genre and definitely something I will continue to enjoy for years to come.

Christi burned me several mix cds featuring The Hold Steady. I listened to these, not really getting it at first. Craig Finn’s style definitely took some getting used to. To be honest, I don’t even remember when I decided I liked it, but I did. I unscrupulously obtained all their albums and then realized that I enjoyed them so much that I had to own the real thing. That’s how I can gauge my liking of an artist – when I like the album so much that I cannot bear to have just a burned or downloaded copy. I now own all their albums and listen to at least one straight through every week.

I break one of my own rules with Damien Rice. Though I love to own real cds, last summer I bought 9 via iTunes’ Music Store and only own the digital copy. Often times, I forget I own the real thing and that I really did spend money on it, but there it is, registered in my name. I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing Damien Rice is. I saw him live with only a vague knowledge of his music and it was probably in my top 2 concerts ever (it doesn’t hurt that I’ve only been to 5 or 6 in my life though…) The man’s a genius. And he’s Irish to boot. Can’t pick a more winning combination.

Another band that’s been with me since high school: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. At some point during the big ska phase in my life, I dabbled into a little swing. I don’t know if it was the movie Swingers or something else, but these guys still ROCK. The swing lover in me just can’t get enough of them, and I dare you to listen to them without at least tapping your foot. It’s wonderful. Sure, they’re often “simple songs, about simple things,” but they are catchy, upbeat and incredible danceable.

Finally, we come to those twee Brits, Belle and Sebastian. Not so much two people as much as, like, 8, but a great, poppy band that has everything I like in music: British accents, guitars, harmonic melodies, catchy tunes, and the occasional horn and steel drum section. Mister J.Lauck gave me much of their catalogue and I’m in the process of purchasing The Life Pursuit and Dear Catastrophe Waitress. And by the way, I remember the exact place and situation in which I was in when I heard my two favourite songs off those respective albums.

My top five albums based on being able to listen to them straight through, not skipping a track (not in any particular order):

Regarding Damien Rice’s O: 9 cannot be disregarded as a wonderful, wonderful album either. It is freaking brilliant. Still, it’s a little harder (i.e. less mellow) and can’t be played in front of your mother. Also, I often skip a few of the tracks, making it slightly less of a perfect album to me next to O.

As far as top five songs go, it is REALLY a tough choice. If there was the dreaded hypothetical (what if you could only listen to five songs ever again) then I don’t know how my choice would reflect this. This really came from months of intensive research… Ok, so I looked through my top played list, then my top rated list, cross-referenced them, loaded my favourites onto my iPhone (bearing in mind an 8 GB capacity, I had to be picky) then chose my tops from there. By no means was it even slightly scientific, and looking at them, I can’t even say that these really are my top five favourite songs. At any rate, I will try to justify this is a similarly introspective way. (Feel free to click to another website, maybe one about kittens, at this point. I am doing this for me and me alone. Cheers)

I didn’t like Belle and Sebastian until I heard Sukie in the Graveyard but I listened to If She Wants Me on repeat one car ride down to Lansing and still love it. Plus I just think B&S are great.

Fired is the best Ben Folds song ever and I am proud to say, I am the only one who knows this. Honestly, I’ve never met another person who holds this opinion. He’s never (as far as I know) played it at a show and the only YouTube videos I can find are of people covering it (ok, so maybe people do like it…). Still, I love the tempo and the style and wish he played more songs like this.

As far as the Ben Folds Five go, I had never heard the Theme from Dr. Pyser until he opened with it in Alma; I was blown away. It was the perfect high-energy song to open an awesome evening. After that, I purchased the extended of Forever and Ever Amen just to get that song. It’s even set as my alarm tone in the morning every few weeks; that’s how much I love it.

I’m finding a lot of these songs (and artists and albums even) are favourites because of where/when I first heard them. What’s Left of the Flag was one of the first Flogging Molly songs I heard, over the PA system in Best Buy. I bought the album then and there and have bought every album of theirs since. I don’t remember when I liked A Praise Chorus first, but I know it was one of the first songs I really loved off this Jimmy Eat World album. Coming from loving Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity sound, this song and album took some getting used to, but I’ll be damned if “crimson and clover/over and over” doesn’t get me every time.

This was a long-winded introspective, aimed at self-discovery. If I am to understand myself, surely my favourite music will help that. Well, it seems that all I’ve discovered is that I am eclectic and indecisive. I also discovered that, though charts are great, they do not work in every situation. huh.

So, now some questions remain:

Does not having a favourite band make me less of a person? Can I ever be happy with one job/life/routine if I can’t settle on something as unimportant as a band? Or is music so important to my life that I cannot limit my choices stylistically? Does the fact that a list did not solve my problem make me die inside? Am I still me?

These are questions I really don’t want to ponder. I just want to continue listening to music and writing meandering blogs to kill time. And so it is.

It looks like I’ve still got a lot of work cut out for me. My indecisiveness underscores my lack of female companionship; there’s not even anything on the horizon. Similar to the job market for me. Someone once said that good things happen all at once. That being said, I should probably go introspective a bit longer, focus on self-awareness before I can achieve self-fulfillment – in any area. After I’ve gotten that far, the ladies already know what I’m into.




Hello; my name is Nicolaus E. Witchger. I am a graphic designer from Saginaw, MI best known for wearing bow ties and drinking single-malt scotch, dark beer, and espresso.

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