Sunday, December 30, 2012

I Wish That I Could Live It All Again

It's time to wrap things up. Farewell, 2012.

Top 5 Albums Of 2012:
  1. Class Clown Spots A UFO - Guided By Voices
  2. Clockwork Angels - Rush
  3. Reign Of Terror - Sleigh Bells
  4. I Bet On Sky - Dinosaur Jr.
  5. WILD FLAG - Wild Flag
Top 5 Singles Of 2012
  1. 'Default' - Django Django
  2. 'Don't Pretend You Didn't Know' - Dinosaur Jr. 
  3. 'Simple Song' - The Shins
  4. 'Dark Star' - Polica
  5. 'Closer' - Tegan And Sara
Thanks to 91.3 WYEP, I have enough music to present these lists. Virtually the entire list of singles, except The Shins, came from listening to my new favorite radio station. 

Best Movie: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The other movie I saw this year was The Avengers, and the first chapter of The Hobbit has just about blown it out of the water. Also notable is that much earlier this year I saw The Big Lebowski and Raiders Of The Lost Ark on the big screen, thanks to the Hollywood Theater in Dormont. 

Best Concert: Marky Ramone's Blitzkrieg
Again, one of two shows I saw this year, the other being the Beatles tribute band The Fab Four at the Carnegie Hall in Homestead. Both excellent shows in their own way; but for the implausibility, Marky and the boys take it. 

Best Railfan Event: Nickel Plate Road 765 visiting Pittsburgh
Steam, in large-and-in-charge mainline action, is hard to come by in this day and age. A very large thank you to Norfolk Southern for bringing back a steam program to celebrate their 30th anniversary as a company. 

Top 5 Restaurants Of 2012
  1. Lesvos Gyros
  2. Cambod-ican Kitchen
  3. Clem's BBQ
  4. Messina's Pizza
  5. Emiliano's Restaurant & Bar
Ok, I cheated slightly. I've known about Clem's and Messina's for years now, and have eaten at both in years prior as well. But the chance to eat at either doesn't come very often in this day and age, and so I'm including both here due to recent and delicious trips to each. 

Top 5 Bars
  1. Dee's Cafe
  2. Jack's 
  3. St. James' Place
  4. Lava Lounge
  5. Bar 11
Dee's keeps its top spot for its jukebox, Jack's is still a classic, St. James' is nice and out of the way, Lava Lounge is different, and Bar 11 has to be seen to be believed.

Top 5 Months Of Posts
  1. December (17)
  2. August (14)
  3. July (11)
  4. October (6)
  5. November (4)
Top 5 Months Of Traffic
  1. August (289)
  2. July (195)
  3. December (164)
  4. October (123)
  5. September (84)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Can't Get The Pawprints Out Of The Henhouse Now

That's a new one on me. I am so glad Ok Go has a sense of humor; they're one of the most fun bands around. And putting them together with the Muppets to do the Muppet Show theme is just hilariously brilliant. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Sun When There Is None

This is obviously a fan-made video, but it's unambiguously strange. That said, I would totally get that jigsaw puzzle and the comic book. And the Pez dispensers. Also maybe the velvet paintings at the end. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

No One Told You When To Run

From Wikipedia. 
I am endlessly - and bizarrely - fascinated by the Manx Triskelion. Depicted on the flag of the Isle of Man. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Well, He Looked At Me And I Damn Near Died

I'm not going to the bar this week. I feel like that would be too tragic.

Not as in dying-in-a-ball-of-flame tragic, but rather the circumstance of hanging out at the bar by myself over the week before Christmas. (I feel like 'pathetic' would be the more technically appropriate word to describe the situation; but screw that, I want to use 'tragic' anyway.) What kind of schmuck would do something like that?

*raises hand*


Last year I popped down to Jack's, on the South Side, the week before Christmas. There was quite a crowd for a Wednesday evening, and said crowd was having quite a good time, dancing and making (appropriately enough) merry, etc. I had planned to come down for one of my typical acts of jukebox terrorism, but I wasn't at all prepared for this. The bouncer must have known what I was going to do, as he cautioned me not to mess up the mood as I approached the jukebox. I had no idea what the hell to play, so I put something danceable by Blondie on, finished my beer, and booked it.

That said, anytime from the 26th to the 30th is fair game. We'll see.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Was Down On A Frown When The Messenger Brought Me A Letter

Some random stuff I've found. Enjoy!

Check out Jackson Pollock, by Miltos Manetas. This is an online app that lets you create paint-splatter art that resembles Pollock's style. Really cool stuff.

Also interesting is this article: ‘Missing’ woman unknowingly joins search for herself

A collection of pictures from Nickel Plate Roads 765's visit to the city earlier this year. Steam Locomotive Nickel Plate Road 765 Returns to Pittsburgh – August 2012

From the blog English Russia, a tour of my old employer. In Soviet Russia, burger flips you: McDonald's - How It Works

Saturday, December 15, 2012

There Was A Band, They Were Sickening, Arousing Everyone

The above video is for the song 'Shocker In Gloomtown' by the Breeders. But the video is bizarre in that all these guys are peeking through the windows as they play. I just thought it was a weird video until I realized that the dude looking in the window at 54 seconds is Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices. Looking closer, you can tell that the whole group of peeping creepers is actually the classic GBV lineup. 'Shocker In Gloomtown' was originally a GBV song, and apparently the boys from Dayton wanted to see how they were doing.

Also, why are the Deal sisters each short about five guitar strings?

Thought I'd Better Have Another One Just In Case

Just remember, folks; que sera, stays in Las Vegas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

He Didn't Cry On Safari

I just realized how long it's been that I've been messing around with new music. It's been seven years since I first saw the videos for 'C'mon C'mon' and 'Nowhere Again' in the PSNK cafe. I've still been discovering new music since I left college, but not at the same rate. It's taken me almost three years to put this CD together. This is, effectively, the culmination of seven years of my life and my musical tastes. I'm not sure how much it's changed from the first one, really.

New Stuff CD 8

  1. Rollerdisco – Black Moth Super Rainbow
  2. Lowest Part Is Free! - Archers Of Loaf
  3. Safari – The Breeders
  4. Pumped Up Kicks – Foster The People
  5. Two Princes – The Spin Doctors
  6. Tropical Ice-land – The Fiery Furnaces
  7. Black Out Fall Out – Polysics
  8. Sun Of A Gun – Oh Land
  9. Electric Feel – MGMT
  10. Wildcat – Ratatat
  11. Sundrop – The Flying Eyes
  12. Sticky Honey - Juliette & The Licks
  13. Wrong Time Capsule – Deerhoof
  14. The Eton Rifles – The Jam*
  15. Paljon On Koskessa Kivia – Korpiklaani
  16. Keelhauled – Alestorm
  17. Voodoo – Godsmack
  18. Industrial Enemy – Templar**
  19. Comeback Kid – Sleigh Bells
  20. Last Caress – The Misfits
  21. Rebound – Sebadoh
  22. Hold My Life – The Replacements
* Okay, so The Jam were from the 70's. But they straddled the line between punk and post-punk (both era and sound) that they sound so different from their contemporaries. I say they were ahead of their time. I'm surprised they don't have a bigger following.
** My friends Sam Joyce and Joe Cervasi. You're welcome, guys. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

It's Not Just You, The Problem's Mine To Hide

Some photos taken my last year at Penn State, from my third apartment in State College. There are actually three different days/nights represented here, grouped into the first thirteen, the next one at night, and the last three.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Day You Move, I'm Probably Gonna Explode

When I became interested in new music in college, I started making CDs to share what I'd found with people. Not too many people took me up on the offer; but nonetheless, these discs provided me with a soundtrack to my college years. Here's the first one, created in late 2005.

New Stuff CD 1
  1. God Killed The Queen – Louis XIV
  2. Do You Want To – Franz Ferdinand
  3. Cold Hard B**** - Jet
  4. DOA – Foo Fighters
  5. Seven Nation Army – The White Stripes
  6. Disrepair – The Cycle*
  7. Walking With A Ghost – Tegan & Sara
  8. Nobody Move Nobody Get Hurt – We Are Scientists
  9. I Just Wanna Be Loved – AM Radio**
  10. Boulevard Of Broken Dreams – Green Day**
  11. I Want To Be Buried In Your Backyard – Nightmare Of You
  12. Lost At Home – The Sun
  13. Slow Hands – Interpol
  14. Checkmarks – The Academy Is
  15. Stories – Deception Point
  16. Enter Sandman – Metallica
  17. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
  18. Welcome Home – Coheed & Cambria
  19. C’mon C’mon – The Von Bondies
  20. Alive & Amplified – The Mooney Suzuki
* Local band I saw at the Penn State New Ken Battle of The Bands. They turned into another band called Eightfold after one member left.

** I fucking hate Green Day, and AM Radio doesn't interest me anymore.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Breakfast Where The News Is Read

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a very avid fan of webcomics. I know what I like and I wanted to share a list of my favorites. Many of these I've been reading for years, some almost eight since I picked them up in college.

Currently reading:

Questionable Content is a slice-of-life humor comic that I picked up at the start of my college years, and still read. The attraction lies in the strong characterizations and young-person-savvy humor, for me, even though at first the strip was heavy with indie music references and humor that may seem dated now. Not that I minded at the time; the strip's creator, Jeph Jacques, has inadvertently introduced me to some new bands through mention in the strip and in his newsposts with comics. 

Sam & Fuzzy is an alternative comic that, when I started reading, was a joke-a-day strip, but thanks to some interesting recurring characters and the opening of some very interesting plotlines, has become quite the impressive story. Absurd and extreme humor abound, along with deep drama and tension in the later cohesive plot arcs. 

If you're looking for a joke-a-day comic rife with nerd, geek, engineering and internet humor, I would recommend XKCD. Randall Munroe, a former consultant for NASA, started the comic to show off doodles from his college notebooks, and eventually created the stick-figure, pun-steeped, and often impenetrably nerdy comic we all know today. 

The definitive webmanga. Although notorious for his often slow update schedule, Fred Gallagher has transformed Megatokyo from its initial concept of a gag-a-day strip for an anime news site into its own massive story encompassing, commenting on, and often poking fun at and subverting many anime and manga tropes and themes. Gallagher gives his characters believable motives, serious emotions, and drops them into situations that challenge them as much as they do the reader. 

I'm no longer sure this comic is in the right category now; I just read today that the comic will, in a fashion, be rebooted. But for the past ten years (damn, has it been that long?) Ctrl-Alt-Del has been a great geek/gamer comic with an opinion on every slice of nerd, gamer, and otaku culture, with likable and occasionally unpredictable characters. 

Dead Winter
Only one comic about the zombie apocalypse has kept me intrigued from the beginning - and that is the fabulous Dead Winter. Boasting a central cast of characters with serious backstory and depth, the struggles of this ragtag band have kept me on the edge of my seat for months now.

Diesel Sweeties
A classic gag-a-day (or running-gag-a-week, depending on how long R. Stevens' attention span lasts) strip with fun pixel art and characters steeped in their own unique attitudes and identities, Diesel Sweeties is another comic that deserves its long-runner honors. Although some humor may be obscure, it's often best that way. 

Historical references? Check. Geographical humor? Check. Making fun of the differences in societal standards in Victorian times versus now? Really big check. HaV jabs at history, war, kings and queens and presidents alike with a goofy and often affectionate wit. Drawn by the talented Canadian lass Kate Beaton, laughs historical await. 

Created by the mysterious Ohioan known as Drew, Toothpaste For Dinner is a bizarre strip in laugh-a-day format with simple art and a penchant for finding the strange and uncomfortable side of humor as often as poking fun at everyday and mundane things. Also very self-deprecating/-referential.

Meredith Gran's ongoing comic about the lives of two Brooklyn twentysomething girls who couldn't be more different captured my attention thanks to its evocative art and great and deep characters. Hipster humor and general silliness make this a fun read, while Eve's romantic and social struggles bring a seriousness to some chapters. 

Menage A 3
Ongoing comic about a virginal comic book geek nearing 30, which pairs him with the skinny punk rawk chick and the Amazonian-figured Quebecois as roommates? What kind of story is that? It's a sexy one, duh! Also hilarious - generally lighthearted sex comedy abounds. With characters as fun and still human as these dudes and dudettes are, it's tough to pull off well, but Ma3 does it, as contra-worksafely as possible. 

Players of tabletop RPGs may enjoy Order Of The Stick, a stick-figure comic revolving around the adventures (literally) of a six-player-character band of heroes out to save their world from certain doom. Hilarious, action-packed, and with a quasi-realistic viewpoint towards war and fighting, the story and all of its little subplots fascinate me to no end. While much of the humor and drama revolved around the D&D 3.5 edition rules and quirks thereof in early chapters, well-developed and real characters take over and drive the story like a pack of marauding goblins (literally). 

Read occasionally:
Danielle Corsetto writes an all-around awesome strip about love, sex, relationships, and drunken antics (sometimes all at once) from a uniquely feminine point of view. 

Between Failures
Another slice-of-life comic, this story follows a group of employees at a big-box store, and their misadventures and antics. Good characters, but the art has changed some, seemingly to make it easier to draw.

The wife of Toothpaste For Dinner creator Drew, Natalie Dee does a similar joke-a-day strip alongside her husband. Although it's similar bizarre humor, the character thereof is significantly different. 

Finished, hiatus, or stopped reading:
A tale of romantic fractals, let alone mere triangles in a Japanese high school in the 1970s, Ai-Yai-Yai was an interesting webmanga that has now been on hiatus for years. I don't know whether it'll ever get picked up again, but its' later chapters feature some very intriguing character development. 

Keychain Of Creation
Currently on hiatus, KoC is another adventure comic based around a tabletop RPG, albeit the Exalted platform in this instance. Unique art and an interesting extrapolation from the Exalted canon make for an entertaining read. 

Scary Go Round
John Allison was the author of an excellent slice-of-life/adventure/British comic running from 2002 to 2009. Boasting some of the best art I've seen in a webcomic, British humour abounds and the strange and decidedly non-sublime plotlines kept me amused and intrigued for days on end. Allison currently writes a new comic called Bad Machinery at the same web address, but I have to admit to not being as interested. 

Generally a joke-a-day strip about a really odd cast of characters. I stopped reading it during a period where the author became somewhat unfunny, and I was looking for something new. 

Not a humor comic; this is a dramatic story about the titular characters and the failure of their relationship. It's a good read, but the story has been finished. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Emotional Feedback On Timeless Wavelength

After I got my first MP3 player, a 4GB Zune that I've been trying to find recently, I all but stopped listening to the radio. Occasionally tuning into Jim Quinn in the mornings was about it, until recently. I've been turned on to listening to 91.3-WYEP (Where The Music Matters!) by a combination of friends of mine; railfan pal Matt, and Jeremy and Woody from work.

I am so glad they talked me into giving the station a try; I've heard new stuff I already like and have been introduced to more still since tuning in. That's where I discovered Poli├ža, Minus The Bear, Florence + The Machine, and Django Django; heard new things from Guided By Voices, Dinosaur Jr. and Tegan And Sara; and just generally playing much better music than I've ever heard on the radio since Channel 97 imploded. I find myself saying that a son sounds like so-and-so band, and it indeed turns out to be them. Too cool. 

In particular, I've come to like their Block Party and After Hours shows. I hear more stuff I like in the evening than I seem to during the day. Not that I've had much chance to listen during the day, since I can't pick them up at work. I am strongly considering making a donation to keep them around.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

I've Got A Red Japanese Teapot

I'm cold. I just helped my dad put the plastic up on the porch, and the day has gotten somewhat chilly since then. So I'm making a cup of tea.

I've always liked tea, and I've had a soft spot for herbal peppermint and Earl Grey. I actually made a batch of peppermint iced tea a couple of years ago. It would have been better if I'd used peppermint candies instead of sugar to sweeten it, but it turned out well nonetheless. (I like my mint, and I like it strong.)

But what I've only recently come to appreciate is the fact that tea has its own little ritual. You put the kettle on, pick your flavor, set everything up for the water to boil, pour, steep, sugar etc, and sip. It's oddly comforting now that I think about it. One of the most interesting days I've had was the day I got up, made tea and had a slice of leftover cake from something I missed, and put on some vinyl. It was really cool.

I recently wrote about drinking coffee again. But thinking about it, coffee and tea are more different in my mind than they probably appear to others. I've never made coffee at home, except for the time in college that I used up some old single-cup coffee brewer thingamajiggers and creamed it with that mint chocolate Bailey's that Tim didn't like before heading off to class. Coffee is for the road, tea is for the home. Coffee is public and formal, tea is personal and intimate. Coffee is hanging out, tea is making out.

And now that I've overextended that metaphor to the point of injury, I'm going to go drink my tea.