Monday, December 16, 2013

Album Review: Lorde // Pure Heroine

Lorde // Pure Heroine

It’s been said in other reviews of Lorde’s “Pure Heroine” that she mentions being bored twice in the first twenty seconds of the first track. This is true, but I don’t think she’s disaffected or jaded. She’s 17 and her lyrics make you want to pick up your friends and just driiiiive. 

Lorde’s voice is somewhere between Lana Del Rey’s sultry alto and Florence Welch’s theatric wail-vibrations. 

The vibe of this record includes a barrage of emotion constrained into a monotone voice and for some reason, I’m totally into that. For example, I heard this awesome band Clawhammer this weekend at the Blackthorn and they had this statuesque chick, not unlike Katharine Whalen from “Squirrel Nut Zippers”, standing almost on the outside of the rest of the band playing washboard. She was good at it, but she barely moved as she played, and her face was deadpan, even when she sang. I imagine this is Lorde’s visage live, having only heard the record and not seen her videos, though I’m told she stares at you through the screen without blinking. Sounds about right.

I can’t even describe the effect Lorde has on me. “Pure Heroine” has the ability to transport me back to 11th grade within those first “bored” twenty seconds. It captures that summer after junior year (I know, it’s like REALLY specific) when you’ve just begun to feel the prickling of adult depression and you’re trying to pretend you didn’t see it creeping up on you. You’re young enough that turning your head and sticking your fingers in your ears is enough to block out that Grey Beast, at least for a few more years. You’re starting to feel old, even though you’re not…at ALL. To be completely honest with you, I don’t feel that differently now. 

I have a feeling you could play this album at some awkward hangout with old friends from high school that you haven’t seen since high school (like maybe a reunion?) and suddenly everyone would clink their Pabst cans in solidarity. Then someone would suggest going out to vandalize something. Perhaps Lorde is a bad influence, but if loving “Pure Heroine” is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Best Lyric: “Nothing’s wrong if nothing’s true…I live in a hologram with you.”
Best Track: Glory and Gore

Overall Rating: 3/5

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Justin Timberlake // The 20/20 Experience

"If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter." -a quote from maybe Mark Twain, maybe a French mathematician named Blaise Pascal, or perhaps it just appeared in consciousness.

In many ways Timberlake, like countless artists throughout time, suffers from a lack of brevity. "The 20/20 Experience" is 21 tracks long, both parts told, and the tracks average at 7 minutes long. Timbaland/Timberlake tend to crescendo into a groovy dance or R&B track and just when you've decided you like it, the mood shifts into a totally different animal that you might not like at all. Just because this approach worked with "Lovestoned/I Think She Knows" doesn't mean it works with everything, boys. At least with the aforementioned masterpiece, they had the courtesy to name the track with a slash. One knows a song is going to change with a slash in the title.

I have a repeating rant in my head about brevity. Editing is a religion to me. Artists NEED to have people around them telling them to cut songs. An album you can play in its entirety is going to be 8-10 tracks long. Edit, people! There's just never a good reason for 15 tracks and three bonus remixes, in my opinion.

Verbosity aside, I am very partial to JT, to his entire person. I like his attitude, his acting, his style, his dancing, and his lovable freaking face. I'm always going to give Justin's endeavors a fair shot, because I find him to be a spectacular human being. His lyrics are sexy in a way that at first seems a bit submissive towards his women protagonists, but on closer inspection the submissiveness is revealed as respect and consent. Consent is hardly ever implicit within pop songs about sex, but JT's overall song demeanor is body-positive, respectful, AND consensual. Timberlake's lyrics have just a touch of bravado, instead of the usual r&b man's downright assault of it. This makes the man actually sexy in all the ways that other male r&b artists THINK they are.

Justin seems to have a lot of respect for women in general. Even onstage, his women backup dancers aren't objectified. They're typically wearing suits as snazzy as their frontman's duds. In JT's world, women are appreciated and the implications that their pleasure "comes first" are obvious (in "Cabaret") and welcome. It's easy to feel like this man is a good man AND an excellent lover. I can't say that about any other male artist off the top of my head, except maybe Josh Homme.

Though I am obviously very enamored with JT's personae, I find his music aurally to be hit or miss, like a lot of pop/r&b artists. I skip the r&b tracks, gravitating toward the more pop/dance flavors of JT. I typically keep about half the tracks on each of his albums, but I usually fiercely love those tracks. "Cry Me a River" is still a masterpiece 11 years later.

With "The 20/20 Experience" it's a different animal entirely. I wasn't compelled to buy ANY of the tracks from part 1 and I'm just sorting through part 2. So far, I really dig the first two tracks of part 2, but overall, the "...Experience" is a disappointment. I read that he's fulfilling a (record) contractual obligation by putting out these two records this year, and it shows. His heart doesn't seem to be entirely in it, though part of that could be explained in that his vocals seem to be processed a little back in the mix. In listening to this album, I feel JT is distanced from me. For an r&b man, one is supposed to feel like it's just you and JT in a bedroom. This album gets there in lyrics about half the time ("True Blood" and "Gimme What I Don't Know [I Want]" are the songs I'd like to be alone with.). But again, that voice that's usually so invitingly confidential seems partially hidden on this album, or perhaps Justin is putting on that fake smile that doesn't quite reach the eyes.

This lack of warmth makes me afraid this is Justin Timberlake's last musical effort. Though this album falls flat, the man behind it has got a voice (both literally and P.O.V.-wise) and I don't want to stop hearing it.

MixtressRae's final RATING -- 1/5
Best Tracks -- "Gimme What I Don't Know (I Want)" and "True Blood"

Top Five JT songs ever:
"Cry Me a River"
"What Goes Around..."
"True Blood" (maybe...I've only known this song three days)

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Gender =/= Binary

I'm of the opinion that the only binary thing in this universe is computer coding.

We all know that some people are boys and some people are girls.

Most of us also know that some women feel like they should have been born men and vise versa.

But the thing that hardly anyone (outside of the internet) talks about is that some people don't identify with any gender at all. Or maybe you feel about 65% man, 30% woman, and 5% "meh?"

Gender identity is a continuum. You can identify at any point on the 0-infinity scale.

My theory is that gender is a made-up construct*.

*Overall, I am a female with no real problems with this fact. I don't want this theory/argument to AT ALL diminish the very real struggles transgender individuals deal with on a daily basis. I don't know how that feels. However, I theorize that without the societal pressure surrounding gender constructs that I feel we imposed upon ourselves as a species perhaps people wouldn't feel uncomfortable in their own bodies anymore. If there weren't all these rules about WHO you're supposed to be based upon your genitalia, would you be unhappy with the shape of that genitalia?

How many of, again societal, problems would be fixed if gender binaries weren't so strictly enforced?

I've whined many times about the continuum of sexuality. The dial tunes precisely for preferences of frequency and gender. A third dial is for gender identity. Or maybe the second two dials shouldn't even exist at all. Without gender, your identity AND your attraction to another would be attached to who you are, not what's between your legs and flooding your brain.

Life could be more about how we treat each other and whether or not we're nice human beings than about gender and sex.

While it's not as simple as dials that go from 1-10, if you were to determine where you fit on these three dials, what would your numbers be [see chart above]?

I'll start:
Sexuality -- 3.5
Gender Preference -- 6.5
Gender Identity -- 4

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Battle of the RADIO stars.

You may have heard that there is yet another “Pandora-killer” on the market: iTunes Radio. It works the same way all the internet radio services work. It plays a station based upon an artist/song/genre of your choice and you can “star” it or reject it. We all know the drill of user-input internet radio. 

I decided to compare 4 of these radio services in a highly scientific (I made a chart and everything!) analysis. I gave each service a point for each of 8 set parameters they excel within. With each service I listened to a station based on Grimes’ “Circumambient” for an hour counting songs listened and songs liked, then converted the ratio to a percentage. If the percentage of songs liked was at least 75%, the service gets a point. Math! Who will win the battle of radio??

Spotify Radio --

Availability/Convenience: Available on computers, Apple and Android apps. (+1)

Price: free with ads or $10/mo (+1)

Library Size: 20 million songs (+1)

Ability to Customize Stations: Once a station has been started, only customization is “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” within tracks.

Streaming Quality: 320 kbps (+1)

User Interface: Pretty if a bit of a learning curve. There are a lot of apps/features within the computer program that make it easy to discover new music. (+1)

Standout Features: When you “like” a song, Spotify automatically adds it to a “Liked from Radio” playlist. This playlist isn’t playable on mobile devices if you’re a free user, however.

Listening enjoyment: 65%

Overall Score: 5/8

Pandora --

Availability/Convenience: Available Everywhere. (+1) 

Price: free with ads or $36/year (+1)

Library Size: 1 million songs

Ability to Customize Stations: You can rename stations and add multiple artists and songs. (+1)

Streaming Quality: free users are stuck at 128kbps and paid subscribers can only get up to 192kbps. 

User Interface: UI is fine online but the mobile app’s ads take up a lot of space and are incredibly annoying if you’re a free user. The album artwork is typically low quality and often altogether missing.

Standout Features: Pandora started it, but they are way behind and need to retool their approach now that everyone else is in the radio business.

Listening enjoyment: 92% (+1) Though this percentage is high, the selection was boring overall.

Overall Score: 4/8

iTunes Radio -- 

Availability/Convenience: The service is conveniently integrated into the iTunes app on computers and iDevices, but it’s not available on Android devices. 

Price: free with ads or $25/year (+1)

Library Size: 27 million songs (+1)

Ability to Customize Stations: You can rename stations and add multiple artists, songs, and genres. There’s also an option to tune your station to “hits, discovery, or mix” which is pretty cool. (+1)

Streaming Quality: Apple hasn’t revealed their kilobits per second, but it sounds decent. Purchased tracks from iTunes are 256kbps, so that’s likely their streaming bitrate as well. (+1)

User Interface: UI is user-friendly and pretty, as is Apple’s wont. I also really enjoy the simplicity of the service being integrated into iTunes apps. (+1)

Standout Features: That ability to tune your stations is pretty sweet. You can also add songs to a wishlist and/or buy them directly from iTunes. (+1)

Listening enjoyment: 79% (+1)

Overall Score: 7/8

Google Music Radio --

Availability/Convenience: Available on computer, Android and there are workaround apps for Apple, but no Google Music app proper as of yet. (+.5) 

Price: $10/mo to access the radio feature and Google Music All Access, their on-demand music service.

Library Size: 20 million (+1)

Ability to Customize Stations: You can rename stations only.

Streaming Quality: 320 kbps. (+1)

User Interface: UI is great on Android and computer, but the workaround apps for Apple are clunky and don’t always work. (+.5)

Standout Features: Because Google’s radio service is only available with their subscription service, you have the ability to add songs to your library, skip, replay, and see your future queue. (+1)

Listening enjoyment: 65%

Overall Score: 4/8

WINNER -- iTunes Radio.

FINAL THOUGHTS -- iTunes Radio wins for me because it’s convenient, customizable, and I have several Apple products. It was incredibly liberating to FINALLY give up on Pandora. Their bad bitrates and annoying ads led me to close Pandora’s box, maybe forever. If you’re an Android user who is similarly vexed with Pandora, Spotify Radio is an excellent free alternative. Which radio service to use is highly subjective, so pick your favorite and email me your thoughts at

Friday, October 4, 2013

My journey with Body-Acceptance.
Watch her videos. They will make you happy.
Worrying about my appearance has been a lifelong struggle for me and everyone reading this, I presume. I'm not going to go too much into how badly our society treats us, because we all know how bad we feel about ourselves. We blame ourselves because we take the seeds planted everywhere outside the body and nurture the growth of self-hatred within it. Yeah, I blame "society" but I want to talk about how I've begun to internalize self-love instead of -loathe. WE make up society, so let's change the attitude of the collective one body-positive soul at a time.

I used to count calories. I used an app and logged every damn thing I ate. Did I lose weight? Maybe at best, I lost 3-5 pounds. Did I learn to hate eating? Yes. Did I avoid eating things so I wouldn't have to log them (how many peanuts is a serving? ah, fuck it. I'll just go take a nap.)? Yes. Was I constantly hungry? Yes. Well, ok, so there would be days that my allotted calorie intake was too high. I'd be full and satisfied but still have 750 calories left and wonder if I was starving myself without knowing it and then eat more than I wanted to eat. Most days I would hit my calorie-quota at like 5pm and be hungry the other 8 hours of my day (My bedtime is 1am.). Hunger causes headaches and crankiness. I was bitchy a lot of the time and for what? A measly couple of pounds? About a month ago I decided to try to count calories again after a hiatus. I did it for less than a week before I decided once and for all that I'm not doing that anymore. Suddenly it seemed so simple. Calorie-counting makes me nuts. It isn't enjoyable. Following numbers on an app instead of listening to my body and how much food it wants on any given day not only didn't work as a weight-loss tool, but made me hate eating. I typically take great joy in eating.

I now suffer from the earth-child belief that if I really listen to when my body wants food and when it's full and when it needs to eliminate waste (I have sphincter-shyness, so I kind of have to remind myself to poop.) I will be happy and healthy and weigh whatever it is I'm "supposed" to weigh. Since adopting this attitude I have been steadily losing a bit of weight. When I feel idle, I take a walk or pop in a bellydance or yoga DVD or Just Dance game. When I'm hungry, I eat, etc. Mindfulness is the key here, I think.

I just finished a three month long challenge a friend on Facebook started. We were all supposed to pick a fitness-related goal to be achieved in the months of July, August, and September. Most people chose a number to subtract from their bodies. I knew from the beginning that if I chose scale-digits, I would be setting myself up for self-loathing and disappointment. I chose to walk 900,000 steps in those three months, the equivalent of walking 10,000 steps/day for all but two days. I figured two days off were pretty reasonable. I've had a Fitbit (pedometer-type activity tracker) since April of last year and only ever really averaged 7-8,000 steps a day. Let me tell you, 10,000 steps a day is a bit of a feat. To get that number, I had to walk 45 minutes - an hour and a half per day. I picked up the habit of walking to work every day. I even started walking home for lunch on days I had an hour lunch. It takes about 15 minutes for me to walk from home to work or vise versa, so on 8-hour workdays I'd walk half my hour lunch break and another half hour total at the beginning and end of my shift. I also walk around at work a bit, though I'm sitting most of the day. These days I'd average about 12,000 steps. On days off if I don't take any walks whatsoever I average about 4,000 steps. On a brisk-paced walk, I get about 1,000 steps per 10 minutes so on days off I have to take at least two half-hour walks in order to get to my goal of 10,000. That's a lot of stats.

So what happened with the three-month goal of 900,000? I made it. I totally achieved that shizz and it was hard! I walk everywhere now. I only use my car now to get to my cleaning job on Thursdays and to run errands or go on road trips. I learned that I can walk to work in the middle of terrible August heat. Sure, I'm a bit sweatier/stinkier at work these days, but if anyone has noticed, they're being too polite to let me know. I learned that I can walk to work in the rain. I suspect that snow and cold won't be a problem either, come winter. I have a coat and boots. The 10,000 steps per day goal is also a number that doesn't always need to be achieved, however. If you're sick, you might want to listen to your body's pleas to sleep and drink OJ. On my cleaning job days I work really hard for 6 hours straight scrubbing and vacuuming and dusting, etc. At the end of 6 hours cleaning I might have only amassed 6,000 steps but I worked my ass off, so I think I can skip the 40 minute walk. Computing fitness can be helpful, but it's no match for listening to YOURSELF.

A big important message that seems so nauseatingly simple that I don't think many of us consciously realize it: OUR BODIES ARE OUR OWN. We can do with them whatever we please, no matter what the people around us tell us, both to our faces and behind our backs. I ultimately decided that walking to work is more important to me than showing up to work sweat-free and squeaky clean. I might be a bit red-faced and sweaty when I get there, but I'm invigorated with exercise and mentally ready for the day. If it feels like a no-bra day, I don't put on a bra. What the worst that could happen? I get cold and someone sees the definition of a nipple? OMG, not like we don't ALL have nipples.

It bears repetition: OUR BODIES BELONG TO US. I have the right to go braless or cultivate pit hair or wear glitter or take a nap at four in the afternoon and so do you. It's not even a matter of listening to our bodies...our bodies are ourselves. We need not fragment the whole of who we are; mind, body, soul. What's the fucking difference? If we listen to ourselves, we know what to do. Eat, sleep, move, nap, intellectualize, create. What do YOU want to do right now?

An' it harm none. Do what thou wilt.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

An' it harm none, do as thou wilt.

My favorite tenant in Wicca. I think it's akin to the inherent wisdom of The Golden Rule.

In my baby moleskine on 9/14/13 I wrote the following:

"Figuring out where you fit in a world (any world, be it highschool, marriage, as an art major...) isn't worth the turmoil. Be a world unto yourself."

What I mean by this...

A person can waste a life worrying about what others think and squelching their natural reactions.

Today I tried to stop myself from smelling souvenirs a friend was giving me from Iceland. But, I ALWAYS smell things! That's how I know I like them. If they smell good. It helps me get the full sensory experience. I suppose this is one of the things I'm learning as an just let myself have the reactions. I tend to have to get STINKING WASTED DRUNK in order to do some of the things I naturally want to do in life like a/ hug ppl, b/ scream "you're the hotness!" at the top of my lungs, c/ lay in the grass, and d/ prance. I will get upset if I don't remember doing these things when drunk, but I'm not at all surprised. I do those things then because I do what I feel in that state. I really do love my friends and think they're the "hotness" and I want to dance and sing and prance and act like a freaking weirdo, because that's what I fucking am.

Here's a gif of Buffy drinking. I love her post-shot face. It makes me happy:

So my point, and I do have one, is that as long as you're not hurting anyone else by your behavior, please just be yourself. Do your thing and others that are just as whatever-the-fuck-you-are will be attracted to your aura and shit. I swear, I'm only on my second beer as I write this...

Anyway, this is not at all a new sentiment. I'm not saying anything interesting here. I do want you to know that you've got specialness, bitch! Flaunt it.

Friday, September 6, 2013

My "unreasonable" expectations.

I recently learned about this phenomenon called the Bechdel Test for movies. Essentially, it is thus: For a movie to pass the Bechdel Test, it has to a) have two or more NAMED female characters that b) talk to each OTHER c) about a topic other than MEN.

Sounds simple, yeah? NO. It is unfortunately not FUCKING SIMPLE at all. I am angry.

So, after finding out about this thing I decided that I would check on the status of my favorite movies and every potential movie in the theatre I wanted to see. I have, for now, refused to see any movie that doesn't pass. Guess what doesn't pass? "Star Trek" barely has two female characters and they sure as shit don't talk to each other. A movie about the future doesn't include women, apparently. Gene Roddenberry would NOT approve. "World's End" (wtf, Simon Pegg? What the ACTUAL fuck?) has two or more named female characters but all they do is talk about the men. This movie is ostensibly (and I don't know, because I prevented myself from seeing a film that I SHOULD really enjoy) about a bunch of friends drinking and hanging out waiting for the end of the world. God, that sounds like a riot. I want to watch this movie, but it's on the surface a film that doesn't care enough about half the population to have them talking about something other than their male counterparts.

This thing has RUINED TV and movies for me, but it needed to be done, so I hope it ruins it for you too.

After the "World's End" debacle I asked myself if I was being too strict. I decided I was not. In the year 2013 women (again, 50% of the population of Earth? You know, HALF?!?!?) should be respected enough to appear in movies for reasons other than support of men in the form of sexuality and pep talks. I happen to know a lot of women (being that we're HALF the population of Earth) and you know what? We barely ever talk about men, especially for the purposes of trying to figure them out and never, I repeat NEVER, to worship them. There's the occasional, "He's so dreamy" but then we shake the stars out of our eyes and talk about our creative projects and music and pop culture and politics and literature and....

*deep cleansing breath*

When you think about it, this Bechdel Test is a really low expectation. All a movie has to do is have named females talking to each other about something, ANYTHING, but boys. How hard is that? A lot of terrible movies can pass the test. The test was created in the '80s and we still need it. This pisses me off to such a ginormous degree that I can actually feel my heart slamming against my rib cage right now. We deserve better, Simon Pegg. How hard would it have been to include three or four females in your pack of boy BFFs in your damn blockbuster movie?

One ray of hope is Paul Feig, the creator of "Bridesmaids" and "The Heat". "The Heat" is the only movie I've been able (As in wanted to watch and then succeeded in going to watch, time and funds allowing. There are others I have yet to see that pass.) to watch this summer. It is hilarious. See it. Paul has stated he strives to make everything he creates pass the Bechdel Test. Thanks for being on our side, Feig. Thank you so much.

Another pet peeve that's so far in our hypothetical future that it's like four post-Bechdel Tests from now: men in graphic sex scenes are never shown with a hand to the vagina during coitus. Most women need clitoral stimulation to have an orgasm during sex. As in the majority. But the women in movies and TV are shown losing their fucking minds during sex while the dudes are just jackhammering away (I'm talking to you, Bill Compton) without any regard to the nerve-centric pleasure center on the female body. Cliteracy, people!

My favorite movie of all time (as stated in this blog after extensive hours of analysis) is "High Fidelity" and it doesn't pass. There are many named female characters, but the only conversation between two of them occurs at a lunch between the characters of Laura and Liz and they're just talking about Rob the whole time. I had to reorganize my brain to explain away this betrayal by telling myself that they probably talked about several other topics too but because this movie is told from the point of view of Rob, this conversation could have been entirely in his head anyway and he's a selfish character so why would he think they talked about anything BUT him? Check out to see if your favorite movies pass.

The Bechdel test can be modified for minorities as well. Are there two or more named (insert minority here) characters? Do they speak to each other? about something other than the main white male characters?

Why the fuck is our society so backwards? We're just now letting same sex people get married but we still act as if women and people of color are second class citizens decades/centuries after legally giving them "equal rights" so how long will gay people still have stigma-status after their rights have been equalized? We're backsliding. I hate us so much right now.

*drops mic*

Thursday, September 5, 2013

TV in the kitchen.

I worry about the effects of forever-connectivity on our social culture.

Also, the last few days I've been thinking about how massive smartphones are getting. Like physically massive. They're getting so ridiculously huge that they might as well be called tablets. And what's the difference between a phone and a tablet these days if the size doesn't distinguish? Why do I have a laptop and a tablet and an ereader and an iPod and a phone? If phones keep getting bigger will we eventually reach a point where we just say "fuck it" and just carry our laptops with us everywhere? I mean, we might as well.

I listened to a podcast today that was speaking to this issue and the hosts brought up, we make reservations for dinner from an app on our phone and then check in on foursquare when we get to the restaurant and then we upload pictures of our food to Instagram when it gets to the table and on and on. Frequently, when out at dinner or a bar or a show all I can see are blue-light tinged faces sucked into their "dream machines" as my mom calls all handheld devices since my GameBoy in the '90s. The boys on the podcast mentioned an article comparing our relatively new smartphone era (the iPhone has only been out 6 years, though it feels longer) to the "TV in the Kitchen" phase when TVs had become such a member of American families that we started letting them interrupt our dinner. But this phase arguably (though I still know people with televisions in their kitchen) didn't last long. One can hope that smartphones will fade into our pockets in a few more years and they won't be the downfall of human interaction like a lot of us are foretelling.

I am so torn on this issue. On the one hand, I'm hopelessly in love with aluminum electronic devices that keep me plugged into the Matrix. But I worry about how fragmented my time has become by checking my phone every five minutes. I used to be very strict about keeping my phone out-of-sight out-of mind in social situations. I still hardly ever take pictures in the presence of others and I never answer my phone when I'm with friends, but so many of my friends just have their phone's screen up-and-at-the-ready on the table and I've started doing it too. But I want to be present. I still will not take my phone out at concerts because the pictures/videos you take will be crappy and distract from your experience in the moment. The lens through which we view the world organically (our eyeballs/brains/etc) is still farrrr superior to the 8MP lens on our phone camera. The sensory world is something I feel I am missing more and more. While I relish the opportunity to plug in and tune out the world sometimes, I'm overusing this tool. For fuck's sake, as I'm writing this blog I'm getting texts that alert me on my phone, my tablet, and my computer simultaneously in case I miss a single emoticon.

Don't even get me started on social media. There's TOO much! Google +, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest...ahhhh. They all have their advantages, of course. I go to Facebook to actually get ahold of people I know in my life. I go to Instagram to upload pictures of my animals. I go to tumblr to get validation for being a weirdo. I avoid Twitter and Pinterest and Google+ most of the time....but they're tools too. I'll use them to promote this blog. It's maddening. It would be nice if we were all connected to one conglomerate social media that was infinitely customizable...oh, wait, that's just sitting in front of a person and fucking talking to them. What?

As introverted as I am, I still prefer face-to-face when it comes to my real connections, my top ten friends and family.

All this blathering is to say that I'd like to make some parameters for myself...boundaries between me and my technology. My first move was to delete all but Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram from my social media folder in my phone. Next, I think it would behoove me to unfollow a chunk of people on my Instagram and Tumblr to remove the temptation to get sucked into those worlds. I tend to scroll through those sites until I'm updated on EVERYTHING, which has got to be the mark of insanity. I get up every morning two hours before work in order to play with my tablet while drinking my coffee. True, I got up that early before the smartphone era, but then I was READING and/or WRITING.

And how much do you hate Facebook these days? It's gotten to the point that people seem to think just because you're friends on Facebook that you have seen and memorized all the details of their lives and the lives of our mutual friends. It often seems that people are continuing a conversation with me in person that started with a pictures of someone's granddaughter online assuming I have seen every single update on Facebook. Or that I want to see every single update on Facebook. And how weird is it when someone from high school you haven't seen SINCE high school runs into you at Target and already knows everything that's going on with you because you posted it on Facebook and forgot to make your post "friends only"? Social media is this weird privacy invasion we all signed up for!

Just in the time it's taken me to write this blog I've gotten an email and a dozen or so text messages. Maybe I should turn the alerts off on my phone too. This world of immediacy is driving me bonkers. I feel like I don't hone in on a task anymore...the distractions are constant. I feel like I'm about to have some sort of meltdown and go back to my pink Razr, sell my tablet, and just log onto the internet for an hour at the end of the day like I did back in high school. I had a social life back then. And I got lots of exercise too. Damn screens are ruining my life!! I don't really mean that. I love you, screens. Don't ever leave me.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Top 5 Buffy Significant Others.

Y'all know I have a RELATIONSHIP with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. What you may not have known is that upon each re-watch I fall more in love with a different character I may have overlooked before.

I give you my current top 5 characters in Buffy I would so totally date if they were real and I weren't happily married to a man who embodies qualities of all 5 (yes, even the Honorable Mention, Michael. Embrace the similarities!). Oh, um *spoilers* ahead, if you care about that kind of thing.

#5 -- Giles.

Admittedly, though I do at times find him sexy as hell, what I really want from Giles is for him to be to me what he is to Buffy. He gets to be on the list because a) the older I get the more attractive I find him and b) if I were Giles' age and lived in the Buffyverse, I'd totally ask him out. Back to wanting him to be my dad though (ok, that sounded gross. Someone that isn't your dad you can find attractive AND want him to be your dad, right?)...

Giles is smart, protective, witty, goofy, and wise. My whole life I've chosen men in pop culture to be the "dad I never had" (It's a whole thing, but my dad and I were at odds most of my childhood. He wasn't really a "dad" so much as an adult who yelled at me every other weekend. We made up before his death in 2011, but our relationship was never easy.) in my mind, and Giles is really the most satisfying example of a father figure in pop culture. Though he did betray Buffy that one time (he tried to help Wood kill Spike in season 7), he was otherwise consistently supportive of Buffy without coddling her or sugar-coating life. He was willing to say and do the hard things (confronting Willow after bringing B back from the dead, killing Ben when Buffy couldn't, etc) while still being unquestioningly there for Buffy (When her mom dies, that moment when he immediately belays his reaction to comfort Buffy within an INSTANT of realizing what has happened just KILLS me.). If all dads could be like Giles, Cliff Huxtable, and Red from That '70s Show we'd all turn out just FINE, thank you.

#4 -- Spike.

Spike used to be my #1 Blondie Bear, but upon recent re-watchings I've realized how manipulative and terrible he was to Buffy when they were boinking in season 6. As SOON as he finally "got bouncy" with her, he got cocky and started saying controlling boyfriend-type things to her to get her to keep coming back to him. It was really gross. And I still haven't forgiven him this last time around for attempting to rape Buffy. That was a genuinely terrible moment. I kind of glazed over it like it wasn't "no thang" when it first aired (2002), which just tells you how abusive my relationship was at the time. Spike was a fluffy puppy in comparison. Anyway, he is #4 on my list because of his complete loyalty to the woman he loves. It's blind and retarded loyalty (he was willing to kill Drusilla to "prove his love" to Buffy!), but if that loyalty is directed at you, you've gotta respect that. The way he looks at Buffy when he's in love with her and having empathy for her is enough to put him in this list. That look he gets when he's awkwardly trying to comfort Buffy slays me. Even before he got his soul back, he had genuine love for Buffy and Drusilla. He would literally die for Buffy or Drusilla. He treated Harmony like shit though, so I don't know. Spike has the most interesting character arc of any male character on Buffy, and I really genuinely like him, but he would be an unhealthy boyfriend to have. Probably a good lay, however.

#3 -- Tara.

Tara is the perfect girlfriend. She's sweet and loyal and beautiful and awkward and nerdy and smart and empathetic and a good witch. She's just perfection. She has the coolest bedroom ever in the history of television (black walls, crystals, white Xmas lights, candles, jewel tones, etc). She doesn't put up with Willow's shit and she has integrity coming out her ears. There is literally nothing wrong with Tara. I wish Tara had gotten more development on the show, but since she wasn't a main character or a bf of Buffy, she was often too much in the background. She deserves her own comic or something. Origins of Tara? That would be awesome. Anyway, her place on the list starts the practical S.O.s. From here to #1 on my list, these are the relationships that could be forever-material as actual loyal, realistic, fully-actualized relationships to have.

Look, I refrained from posting that topless pic of Nicholas Brendon!
#2 -- Xander.

Xander is loyal, pretty (just look at those eyebrows!), and genuinely good. His character probably changes the least of anyone on the show. He starts off dweeby, cute, and sweet and he stays that way. Extra points for becoming a carpenter! His attraction to weird girls, demons, and tactless-truth-saying females is probably his most endearing quality. He also has mad empathy and delivers the most heartwarming speeches of anyone on the show. Why can't Willow magic him a freaking eyeball?!?! Grrr. He still has the patch in the comics! His refusal to like any vampires ever, even if they have earned redemption-status, is a little annoying, but I forgive him because he's just such a stand-up guy in every other respect. He's a lot like my pretty Mike, too.

I like pictures of pretty people
standing in trees, apparently.
#1 -- Oz.

Pale. Black fingernails. Ever-changing hair color, while being a ginger in his natural state (rawr). Smart. Loyal. Likes weird girls. Taciturn. Philosophical. He's just as perfect as Tara, really. I don't think I was ever mad at Oz, until he left Sunnydale. He needed to go, though. I understand that. I don't know how I could have chosen between Tara and Oz when he comes back after Willow is already beginning a relationship with Tara. Willow gets to have the most perfect boyfriend ever AND the most perfect girlfriend ever in the space of a year. Bitch! Seriously though, Oz makes my heart melt and he is absolutely the boy I'd pursue if I were Willow, and often when I dream about the Buffyverse, Willow is the character I embody. The only thing that could make Oz cooler would be if he could control himself when he was in wolf form, so he could be an asset in a fight and maybe be cuddled as a wolf. That could be cool, but that would require a totally different mythology of werewolves than exists in the Buffyverse. In my mind, he's that kind of werewolf, though. And he has Buddy Holly glasses. Ok, NOW Oz is perfect.

A velvet shirt AND a tree in this one. Ooh!
*Honorable Mention -- Angel.

Initially, Angel was a character I truly didn't give a fuck about. The more I rewatch both Buffy and Angel the more I like Angel. He likes to sit around in the dark and read all broody-like. I can respect that. He can be really funny and he's a good guy as long as he hasn't lost his soul or anything. The way he tirelessly seeks atonement for his evils as a vampire is pretty endearing to me, as well. I do love an angsty boy! I used to not find him attractive at all, but he's grown on me in the last 5 years or so. I absolutely love it when he and Spike bicker. Cutest. I also enjoy all the opportunities the writers of Buffy took in getting any male character topless whenever they could, though I wish Spike and Angel hadn't been intentionally hairless. Let that chest hair grow wild, boys! Angel does look good in velvet, I must say.

Thus concludes my list of Buffy relationships. Here's a couple of other pictures I found that are pretty hilarious:

This looks like if Willow, Xander, and Buffy had been a cool '90s electronic band. Awesome!!

Friday, August 2, 2013

top five playlists/radio stations on the internet.

I enjoy calling myself a writer, laughable as that assertion seems on any given day in which I binge-watch The Office, read trashy horror novels, or do anything but put pen to paper or fingers to keys. When I finally get beyond the distractions, in order to really knuckle down on a writing sesh, I need music, naturally. 

These are the top five playlists/internet radio stations I listen to while working:

Drone Zone --
somaFM’s description: Served best chilled, safe with most medications. Atmospheric textures with minimal beats.
my recommended usage: I’ve mentioned this station before. It is heaven if you like very minimal ambience in your background work music. You could also take a bath while listening, or fall asleep, not at the same time! Emphasis on the word minimal. 
find the soma fm app on your smahhht phone

Psybient --
Songza’s description: Also referred to as psychill, psybient is a genre of electronic music heavily influenced by world music and psychedelic sounds. Wherever you are, these songs will take you somewhere else.
my recommended usage: This playlist reminds me of the cheesy psychedelic weirdness my dad used to make on his synthesizers. It provides a general background hum of electronic soundscapes. Good for scifi/fantasy writing or just zoning out, man.
seriously you guys, I have told you about Songza multiple times now. You NEED this app if you don’t already have it. Don’t argue with me. You will love it more than all your other music apps. You don’t have to be obsessed with electronic music like me. It has every genre, it’s free, and the ads are visual instead of aural. Songza is perfection. Don’t make me tell you again.

“no one receiving” --
This is my personal Pandora station based on Brian Eno’s song of the same name.
my recommended usage: Brian Eno is like THE pioneer of ambient electronic music. If you require a background hum that’s a little less drone than “Drone Zone”, look no further than basing your own Pandora station on this or any of your favorite ambient tunes.
find it: DIY or listen to my specifics here: no one receiving.

Witchy Thug Grrrl Pop --
Songza’s description: Spooky female vocals over southern-rap-influenced electronic music distinguish this playlist, with plenty of noise-pop, chiptune, and hip hop mixed in for good measure. It’s purple lipstick music to read Jezebel to.
my recommended usage: I’ve been listening to this playlist a lot while writing for Camp NaNoWriMo (July is a National Novel Writing Month and I’m getting my word count up on my novel--shut up.). It can get a bit distracting, because the beats are intense and scary at times, but that’s the sort of bone-jangle I like accompanying my creativity. Not for the faint of heart, but if you like Santigold mixing with your Grimes and Crystal Castles, you can handle it.
*ahem* that app you were supposed to download like five minutes (or months) ago. Oh, and if you don’t know what Jezebel is, it’s this rawkin’ feminist blog. Check that out too.

Slow Motion Disco --
Songza’s description: Inspired by pioneering DJs, leftfield disco, and the spacier side of synth-driven music, modern-day disco producers slow down the BPMs and explore hypnotic, psychedelic moods that move both the mind and the body.
my recommended usage: I use this playlist during my celebratory struts around the neighborhood with my husky and/or shepherd after I’ve successfully written something for a specified block of time. The vibe has the perfect walking rhythm to it in the way that “Stayin’ Alive” does, but the music is nothing like that. It’s spacier and more inspired. The songs are long without being boring, allowing you to get lost in a sweaty summer walkabout, after your work is done, of course.
say it with me: get the damn app and experience a heightened-to-the-divine music app love. 

tell me how much you love Songza here:

Friday, July 26, 2013

Walking with Headphones: a Guide.

The short version involves donning headphones, then putting one foot in front of the other. Happy July everyone! Ok, I’ll be serious...

As summer starts to scorch, wandering Joplin’s avenues in a sundress with some hazy drawling tunes in your ears is becoming a more and more appealing and worthwhile activity. There are many benefits to walking while wearing headphones. Slowing to a walking human’s pace (as opposed to viewing the world through 45mph-speeds in your car) concurrently slows your brainwaves to a similar pace. Suddenly you begin to know the cracks in the sidewalk, which houses have the best wildflowers, and which empty lots have the biggest variety of weeds you need to ask Jill later if you can eat. And the graffiti! In a car, you’re likely to miss all the cool “You Are Beautiful”-type graffiti on dumpsters and the spray-painted stencils behind stop signs. In my experiences, headphones make you more likely to zen-walk, taking the element of startling sounds out of your outdoor stroll. With only the sound of Goldfrapp to guide you on a midsummer night’s walk, you may find yourself prancing with your hands raking through vines and tree branches, leaping over concrete parking thingies and twirling around street poles. What if you tuck a single lavender flower behind your ear and grin like you haven’t grinned since you were 8? It can happen and I can show you how.

MixtressRae’s guide to walking with headphones with wild abandon and child-like joy:

*First rule of walking with headphones is a reminder that needs to be shouted from the rooftops. You don’t owe your attention to anyone. Let me type that again: you don’t owe anyone your attention. You don’t have to talk to the skeezy dudes on the street that drunkenly offer you a ride, and with headphones, you can more convincingly pretend you don’t hear them. For that matter, with your tunes at proper volumes and/or sufficient noise cancellation, you don’t have to hear others at all. I have a couple of decades of experience wandering these streets at all times of day and in all kinds of weather. I’ve been victim to catcalls (by catcalls, I mean anyone yelling anything lewd, insulting, or generally abusive at you as you try to just take a freaking walk!), porch hollers, and the creepy slow-down (when a car stuffed with guys slows to your pace beside you while spewing lewdness in your general direction). It’s yucky, but if you stomp your confidence into the asphalt while fervently ignoring the offending individuals, you’ll intimidate the little weasels. They’ll slink away with their tails between their legs. As with most vermin (and if you catcall people on the street, you ARE vermin), they’re more scared of you than you are of them. Don’t let anyone stop you from walking with headphones. It is your AMERICAN right!

*Second rule of walking with headphones is a continuation of rule one; pretend no one is watching you (and honestly, they aren’t). Stop and smell a flower. Stop (not in the street!) and change your Pandora station. Dance-walk. Dancing while walking is one of the most glorious joys in our world and it’s free and available no matter where you are. You must dance in this life. If your first reaction to this rule includes protestations of “looking silly” or some other such nonsense, just imagine how you would feel if you saw someone dancing on the street or in their cars. You’d think, “Man, I wish I had the guts to enjoy myself that much.” Well, I’m here to remind you that you, yes YOU, have the capacity for great freedom and glee. This glee only needs to be unleashed...with DANCE! In this life, we’re all too wrapped up in our own brains to notice others, so why worry what you look like?

*Last rule of walking with headphones may at first seem like a contradiction to the first two; hyper-visual-vigilance. Not having your ears to alert you to possible danger means needing to be aware of your surroundings with your eyeballs. This is not contrary to dancing and ignoring vermin, as it is actually a big part of the zen experience. These rules are meant to make anxiety melt away and turn the focus inward. Looking at the world around you at 3mph with the soundtrack of your choice is a gigantic part of the fun of walking with headphones. I don’t really need to tell you to look both ways at intersections, right?

Now that you have the attitude and the attention (and a pair of headphones, I trust), go out and walk before it gets August-hot and all you want to do is hide underground until October.

Music to listen to on a summer walk with headphones:
She & Him // (any of their albums, except the Christmas one)
Goldfrapp // Seventh Tree
Queens of the Stone Age // (any of their albums)
Lana Del Rey // Born to Die

Aesop Rock // Fast Cars, Danger, Fire, and Knives

Friday, June 28, 2013

top 5 bits of technology you already have.

As a "red-blooded Amerrrrican female" most of my problems, as one might expect, are first world problems. Ever since the tornado (I can call it by its actual name now! Progress?) my obsession with technology and the possession of the newest, brightest, shiniest electronic gadgetry has been ratcheted up to its most perverse and unhealthy level. For a time I claimed, as the daughter of a similarly afflicted (recently deceased) father, it was my penance to carry on his legacy of obsession. I will most definitely use that excuse to buy something again, but on the whole, I've GOT to get ahold of myself, man!

In the past three years I have owned: 4 iPods (a touch, 2 nanos, and a classic), 4 tablet-type devices (an iPad, a nexus 7, a nook color, and an iPad mini), 2 ereaders (nook touch and nook touch with glowlight), 3 iPhones (3GS, 4S, and 5), and miraculously, only one computer (MacBook Pro). Of these  14 devices, I still own 6. To my tiny credit, I typically only keep one item in each category and give away or sell the other items. My iPods are the only exception here, as I have kept my nano and my classic. I reason that I NEED the classic for its capacity to hold all of my media with 160GB of storage capacity. I keep the nano because I like to use it at my cleaning job, because it's small and light and I have a little belt-holster for it. Most of the time Apple products can fetch me at least 80% of what I'll pay for the next thing, but that's still no kind of excuse for being such a greedy bastard.

At this very moment I have a pedometer listed on ebay (fitbit ultra) because selling it means I get to get the new one (fitbit flex)! And the new one will sync to my phone via bluetooth!

Let me further outline the more pornographic details of this obsession. Part of the intense infatuation with these gizmos is the amount of wooing I do in conjunction with the desire for a new device. I watch YouTube reviews of the device I covet. I read the reviews on cnet over and over until I have sections of them memorized. I walk about my daily life pretending I have the new device, imagining how awesome it will be to have it. I make pro and con lists to justify my need. I stare at images online of the device at all angles. I go to Best Buy and Target to see if I can touch the device/see it in person. It's really sick.

This expensive addiction has to stop but I cannot kid myself here: it won't stop. But perhaps I can at least slow the boiling madness to a bit more of a simmering bubble.

This post is a letter to myself, intended to help me resist the siren call of new technology by describing why I love the top 5 bits of technology I already have (and the ones I'm most likely to want to replace with the next better iteration of that thing every time there is a next better iteration of that thing) and why they're perfectly good enough to last me for years to come.

Dear Future Stephanie,

These are the top 5 perfectly functional items of technology you will be tempted to, but don't need to, replace ANYTIME SOON:

1. iPod -- Your iPod classic holds 160GB of media. You won't have 160GB of music for a very long time (only at half that now) and this device will work for at least the next 5 years, so don't even think about replacing it unless you break it beyond repair or lose it. I love my classic so much. Her name is Strict Machine. She has an inscription on the back: "Wonderful electric, cover me in white noise." She is covered by a custom skin of my mixtapes (that image I use for everything). I've mutilated her both by accident (dropping on pavement) and on purpose (trying to further customize an earlier skin with an Xacto knife left small slices in both her screen and her steel back-plate). I don't use her much in day-to-day life, but she's indispensable at parties and on road trips and anytime I want my entire music collection with me when there's no internet connection. As for my Disco Stick (iPod nano), she's lovely for cleaning, but she's only 8GB and is essentially extraneous.

Summation: You are not allowed to get a new classic unless yours is lost, stolen, or broken beyond functionality. No exceptions. When Disco Stick bites the dust, suck it up and start using Strict Machine for the same purposes. Do not replace Disco Stick. Let her die in peace.

2. iPad mini -- His name is Frank Sinatra, for the Cake song, not the singer (though the song is named for the singer, so there's that) and he's a fine tablet. His inscription says "We know of an ancient radiation, a faintly glimmering radio station." You will want the new mini when it's released this fall. You will want it soooo bad because it will probably have a Retina Display and might even come in fun colors! Heart palpitations! But remember, Frank Sinatra hasn't caused you any turmoil and you really only use him on the road and in the mornings to play Yahtzee and watch YouTube videos. You've never thought the screen resolution was crappy, so you don't need the new one.

Summation: You are not allowed to get a new tablet device until the third or fourth generation, at least. Calm down. You don't have to have all the new things. Resist.

3. MacBook Pro -- Her name is Honeycrisp and she has served me well for almost three years now. She will live for another few years, I suspect. She's only 250GB, but when I get to capacity I can always relocate my music, photos, and videos to my 500GB hard drive, so that's not a good enough excuse to replace her.

Summation: You probably won't be tempted to buy a new computer until Honeycrisp dies, so this isn't much of a risk. Just remember that Macs last 5-10 years and they cost like a thousand bucks. Don't do it until Honeycrisp becomes ridiculously sluggish.

4. iPhone -- Her name is Daughter of Avalanche and she's the most current iPhone, for the next few months anyway. She will get iOS updates for the next couple of years and she's 32GB, which is PLENTY of space for a phone. Even when your upgrade is available, really ask yourself if you neeeed to drop a couple hundred dollars on the newest phone. Yeah, you don't. Let this one live for three won't kill you.

Summation: You don't get to have a new phone until at LEAST your upgrade with Verizon arrives (October 2014 probably). Apple will make you want the 5S. You will be shaking resisting it, but you must. Do this for your well-BEING, Stephanie.

5. Nook -- This ereader is fine. It holds books and has a nightlight. It works in bright sunlight, has a long battery-life, and is light. Nothing is wrong with it. Nook is getting out of the ereader biz anyway, so there probably won't be a better version of this ereader.

Summation: For this device, you really just need to let yourself keep it and use it when you want. When it dies, you may buy another on ebay or just use your mini to read with from now on. Just don't get rid of it. You prefer it to tablet-reading. It's ok to have an ereader AND a tablet. You like this device, so keep it until its demise. It'll be fun to see how long it lives.

Seriously, all of these devices have the capacity to live for YEARS, so let them. You take care of your devices and you don't like wasting things. It will be so much more gratifying replacing things because the other things are no longer functioning. You won't have to feel guilty! Imagine NOT feeling guilty for buying an electronic cool will that be? Please refer to this list after every Apple announcement.

Past Stephanie

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Queens of the Stone Age // ...Like Clockwork

Queens of the Stone Age has made a career out of sounding like ‘70s hard rock with sincerity, integrity, and vocals (that of Josh Homme) few rock gods of the era could achieve. The aforementioned voice is lilting without sounding falsetto, hardcore without exclusivity, and dripping with sexuality without sounding overtly macho. I worship at the feet of Homme’s honey-pipes, as I’ve expressed in many other places before. Another oft-mentioned confession I have about Homme’s voice is the following: I don’t feel like it’s summer until I’ve driven down the sun-soaked roads of Joplin with it in my ear-holes, an event I achieved just this week, in case you were worried it wasn’t summer. It is.

This record does NOT disappoint, if you couldn’t tell where this was going. I’ve only ever reviewed one album I didn’t like (Madonna’s “MDNA”) in these pages (those of the Current, Etc where this was originally published). If you already like QOTSA, you’ll like this album, though it doesn’t sound totally akin to other albums before it. The lyrics, song and album titles include a lot of cliches (“passing ships in the night”, “why the long face?”, “is there anyone out there?”, “it’s all downhill from here”), but I think that might be the point, and though I’ve criticized Madonna for this exact same reason, I can look past it when the riffs are THIS good. The essential elements of QOTSA we know and love are all here in abundance: crunchy bass, guitar distortion striking just the right balance, driving/drilling/hypnotic guitar riffs, and Homme’s voice cooing throughout. Overall, the headbangers are subdued to spirited chin-juts and the tempo is slowed to more of a groove than their usual faire on most tracks of “...Like Clockwork”, but you won’t mind, I swear. 

If you get into QOTSA for the first time (this album is in all the regular streaming and music selling places online) and want to REALLY go down the Homme rabbit-hole, check out not only Queens’ other albums, but also Them Crooked Vultures, Kyuss, and Eagles of Death Metal. That should tide you over for an entire summer of creek-ventures, porch beer-parties and long drives to Mother Nature’s Crack. Happy Summer, boys, girls, and other creatures of the night!

Favorite Lyric: “When you own the world, you’re always home.”
Favorite Song (So Far): Keep Your Eyes Peeled
Rating: 7/10

Let me know your thoughts on this and Homme’s other musical endeavors here:

// One-stop Music? Google Music All Access //

Here’s the deal: Google just came out with a subscription-based music service (like Spotify, Rdio, MOG, etc) that could possibly maybe like for really-real replace your cloud-based music storage, Pandora, and Spotify, for 9.99/mo (7.99/mo if you sign up by June 30th) after a 30-day free trial. Google Music All Access could become a really big deal and it’s beyond exciting. Let me tell you why:

  1. Library: You can upload your entire music library (up to 20,000 songs; songs you buy on GooglePlay don’t count towards this total) for free on GooglePlay.
  2. Quality: Music you listen to on the site or on a mobile app (gMusic on iOS and Google Music on Android) streams in high-quality audio at 320kbps. That’s good.
  3. Frugal: When you buy albums on GooglePlay, it will typically be a bit cheaper than buying through iTunes (an album usually runs about 9.49 on Google and 9.99 on iTunes) AND the files are 320kbps to iTunes’ 256kbps. That’s better.
  4. Happy Music Family: With Google Music All Access, for a monthly fee (again 7.99/mo if you sign up by June 30th and 9.99/mo after) you can add ANYTHING to your uploaded music library, whether you own it or not. It will be integrated into your preexisting tunes. Whoa. Your music can all live in one happy household of sound. That’s stupendous.
  5. Radio: With Google Music All Access you don’t even need Pandora anymore, because you can base radio stations on artists and songs here like you can with Pandora. I simply recreated all my Pandora stations on Google. The service isn’t quite as nuanced as Pandora (as of now, you can’t have multiple artist/song seeds in one station), but the song selection is pretty decent.

Just to be clear, uploading your library to Google Music is free (points 1 and 2 above). Google Music All Access is the subscription service (points 4 and 5) that adds radio and on-demand music to listen and add to your library.

I’m jumping up and down squealing with excitement because if I drop iTunes Match (25/yr), Pandora (36/yr), and Spotify (10/mo) I’ll save 85 dollars a year to do everything music (storage, radio, and on-demand) in one place! 

My only beef with Google Music is that it doesn’t have a Google-provided iOS app yet, and all my devices are Apple.  gMusic’s (the third-party app for iOS) interface leaves a lot to be desired. It’s ugly, to be blunt, unlike the very beautiful Android app. The streaming audio hiccups a bit (this could be gMusic’s app or GoogleMusic itself), though I suspect this will be fixed in time.

So on May 24th I did it. I cancelled my Spotify subscription and didn’t renew my yearly sub to Pandora. It was sad and sweaty and emotional. I’m nervous to put my trust in Google for all my music needs, but if it simplifies my life the way I know it could, I’m all in, and you could be too.

As you can probably tell, I’m very excited. I love it when things get simple.

Email me about it!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Radio Sunnydale.

May 20th it was 10 whole years since the series finale* of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. To celebrate (not solely because I think about Buffy daily), I’d like to talk about the music of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There were some unique treasures of late ‘90s indie girl-grooves and the dying embers of alternative rock within the episodes. I feel like I grew up with Buffy Summers, as she was only a year older than me on the show. Buffy had a knack for having great bands (Splendid, Cibo Matto, Aimee Mann, THC, Velvet Chain, etc) play at “The Bronze”, Sunnydale’s all-ages club. Places like this really existed in the late ‘90s. I used to frequent the Java House and The Grind in Joplin (!) that were similar to this fictitious place. Needless to say, I feel nostalgia in that deep and painful-est corner of my angsty soul every time I see Xander, Willow, and Buffy dancing to swoony-girl tunes at “The Bronze”. 

In my intensely-studied opinion of all things Buffy, there are three main ways to enjoy the music within Sunnydale, California:

1. Create a Pandora station based upon Velvet Chain, Sarah McLachlan, frente!, Cibo Matto, and Rasputina and sit back and enjoy the ‘90s girl-rock. Alternately, listen to my station called, of course, “Radio Sunnydale” here.

2. Simply type in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” into the search box of your favorite music acquisition site and sample some of the best songs the show featured, including musical numbers, scores, and regular old soundtracks. For the most comprehensive-in-chronological-order playlist, email me--
My top ten songs from the series are:
    • Transylvanian Concubine // Rasputina
    • Full of Grace // Sarah McLachlan
    • Spoon // Cibo Matto
    • Need to Destroy // THC
    • Pavlov’s Bell // Aimee Mann
    • Prayer of St Francis // Sarah McLachlan
    • Blue // Angie Hart
    • It Doesn’t Matter // Alison Krauss
    • Strong // Velvet Chain
    • Displaced // Azure Ray
3. Watch/listen to my YouTube playlist of many tasty musical nuggets from the best show ever in the whole history of the universe. Don’t argue with me on this one, just trust. YouTube playlist (in progress, so let me know if anything needs upgraded) can be found here: 

*“Chosen”: effing spectacular feminist series-cap that can be seen on Netflix and Hulu, though if you haven’t seen the series before, there will be HUGE spoilers in the last episode, DUH. Just start from the beginning and celebrate one of the greatest superheroes of all time.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Drawing Blood, reflection two.

Just read the first sex scene between Trevor and Zach and whew....hawt.

It made me realize that Brite is largely responsible for the positive aspects of my budding sexuality. At the time I first read this book (again, 14 or 15) I hadn't had experiences with men yet, apart from a couple of makeout sessions. Poppy's taste in men is very similar to my own (again, goth, tortured, pale, awkward) and writes of them and their sexuality in terms of beauty and body-worship. In our culture, we're just not used to thinking of men as beautiful, but Poppy compares certain *blush* body parts with rose petals and genuinely relishes their expressions of desire and pleasure in a very visceral way. Further, when hesitation is expressed on the part of Trevor, Zach slows, stops, and talks things through with him. There is clear, verbalized consent present. Despite the violence in this relationship in and out of the bedroom, everything is consensual. Upon pure happenstance, I experienced erotic literature with body-positive imagery (towards the sex that I'm primarily attracted to), consent, with gender and sexual ambiguity. And the ambiguousness was portrayed as ok, just a part of adolescence/life. I was on my way to becoming a sexual adult that might just have turned out ok, despite my culture. I was on my way to appreciating men's bodies even though I was mostly unfamiliar with them. That's pretty cool.

Upon this realization, if you happen to know a goth kid, whose primary interest is boys, who also might be experiencing sexy things sometime in the near-ish future, I recommend this book. Some of it is not necessarily healthy (violence, blood, etc) in the relationships therein, but it only helped my angsty teenage soul.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Drawing Blood, reflection one.

Part of my "read-everything-on-my-bookshelf" project. Book two:

Drawing Blood // Poppy Z Brite

This is my first. The first book I ever fell in love with. The first book I ever read with gay protagonists. The first Poppy Z Brite book, of whom I would become obsessed. I picked this book up after a suggestion from my BFF Kim somewhere around the age of 14 or 15, at the Joplin Public Library. Fun fact: the library's copy I read then is still there! I can barely believe it! It's a historical artifact in my life!

So, I read this book probably once every three years or so. It's a tale of a tortured boy (thin artist-type with ginger hair) who confronts his dark past (his dad killed himself and his mom and brother with a freakin' hammer when he was like 5, but kept him alive) and falls in love with another tortured boy (thin hacker-type with blue-black hair) in the process. Sound cheesy? It is. Sound freakin' summer-read-FLUFF-amazing? It is that too.

So I'm rereading it again (started on my vacation, reading by creeks and in deserts and weird Tucumcari motel rooms) for like the 6th time. This is serious for me. When I reread a book, I might reread it once, mayyyyybe twice. But this book. This book keeps me coming back like crack. I can't get enough of Brite's prose. She makes ugly sound so textural and thick and smelly and wonderful, somehow.

This reread I'm feeling the fluff more than ever; this book is not serious, despite all the gore. This is a coming-of-age story, and it came for me at the perfect time. I needed to see goth kids in fiction at 14, because I was just getting into Shirley Manson and "The Long Kiss Goodnight". I needed to see gay men in fiction because there was nothing I was into more than skinny pale boys with a side of tortured-past. Broken beautiful boys like wounded birds. Yep, that was my thing. I still enjoy a little whimper here and there, but I like to keep that to myself, mostly. Anyway, so fluff. This is probably the most erotic book I like. Most of the time I don't do erotica unless there's something off about it. Off about the people, not off about the act.

I love all the characters in Brite's earlier works (for me her cheesiness didn't translate to her Ricky and G-Man characters in the aughts). They're all strange and interesting and....did I mention tortured? Angsty? I just eat that shit UP, I tell ya.

I'm enjoying it immensely, if you were confused. ;) This is my familiar blanket book. I like to revisit the relationship of Trevor and Zach the same way I like to relive Jim and Pam, Buffy and Spike, and yes, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. I feel love too! I just like it when it's tortured. Have I said tortured enough times in this blog?

I want to buy the hardcover again (lost in the you-know-what of 2011) because my paperback is beginning to resist my multiple attempts at gluing it back together. So, I'm just to the part where Trevor has gone back into the house and the lamp worked after 20 years and Zach is going to show up ANY minute. Then things get real weird. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Perennial Philosophy: Final Abstraction.

I've come to the final, and somewhat freeing, conclusion that this book is no longer meant to be in my collection. It is too...I was going to say esoteric, but I guess I mean the opposite. One might need to be a studied intellectual to understand this book, but one also that doesn't mind the word/concept of "god". It's such a trigger word for me and I keep trying to look past it to the deeper meaning of universe-and-all-of-us-within-it, but it's just not working and never has. As I've said before, I like the idea of "that art thou" but that seems to be all I've taken from this book in the 8 years I've known of its existence.

What makes this particular book-purging really fun is that I'm in a hotel room in Tucumcari, NM, so it's getting left with the Bible in the bedside table. Wait, do they still have Bibles in hotels? ... Yep.

I love letting go of things. First book checked off the list, not 'cause I read it, but because I'm leaving it behind...which meeeeeeaaaans

Next book is one of my favorite books ever, the book I've read the most times in my life, a guilty pleasure summer read, and a book to use on my library book bingo sheet: Drawing Blood by Poppy Z Brite, about two boys in love in New Orleans (there's also murder, jazz, and goth kids!). Perfect vacation read!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Top Twenty Albums.

Assignment: exchange top twenty albums with coworker/friend Evan. And now more information than you ever wanted to know about me and my relationship to these twenty albums (in no particular order).


sarah mclachlan // fumbling towards ecstasy -- This album slays me still, 20 years after its inception, around 17 since I first discovered its divine beauty. It's breathtaking, gorgeous, and my #1 makeout album of all time. Forget Barry White, THIS is all you need to get down. I'm pretty sure this album has never been played in its entirety in front of a man I like without something interesting happening, is all I'm sayin'. It's sexy. It takes you through all stages of well, fumbling towards ecstasy. Best named album ever. I don't know what to say...I couldn't love this album more, from start to finish. 

portishead // dummy -- A pioneer in the trip-hop genre, this album is indispensable to my life. Without the soundtrack within the sleeve, if you will, I would not be who I am today. I have a black and white music video of me and my Xine doing "sour times" on VHS if you ever want to see it. It's pretty cool, if I do say so myself. One of the requirements of my top twenty is that I have to be able to listen to the entire album almost without tiring of it, and this one stands the test, for sure. I could probably listen to this album on repeat for a week.

cibo matto // viva! la woman -- One of my most vivid memories of this album was listening to it, Garbage's s/t, and Frente!'s "shape" on shuffle on my three disc CD changer (later when I had a 5-discer, Fiona Apple's Tidal and Tori Amos' Boys for Pele won the other two spots). I can barely remember a time before this album was on my top ten, at least. These first few albums really have become a part of me at this point, knowing them for so long...each at least 15 years. Another album I've NEVER gotten tired of listening to...that's pretty freakin' serious, man!

pj harvey // to bring you my love -- This is one of those serendipitous albums. I saw it at Hastings, having never heard of PJ Harvey, and fell in love with the cover, took it home, and loved it, obviously. This is one of those singular experiences, hardly ever duplicated (happened with Ani DiFranco's Dilate, too) in my whole history of listening to music. These days, listening to something on Google or Spotify is just a momentary click, but back in the '90s living in a small Midwest town, you had to shell out the bucks to experience an album with an intriguing cover, and often, VERY often, they sucked. PJ Harvey does not suck, and I still think this is her best album, bluesy, emotional, and dark.

tori amos // boys for pele -- Pele is a Hawaiian volcano goddess, and she requires boys to be sacrificed to her, like Tom Hanks maybe, in order to calm her lava rage. Yes, my Pele (the cat) is named after her. This is my #1 breakup album ("I shaved every place where you been, boy"). Despite my more recent disillusionment with Amos, this album holds up and was the album that started my scary-intense obsession with her. It's so angry and demonic and dark and scary. Love the harpsichord.

garbage // garbage -- Garbage never really moved past how amazing their debut album truly was. It's legendary, in my mind, at least. It's just good rock. I also have many music videos of me emulating Shirley Manson. Manson (Shirley, not Marilyn, though I sooooo had a crush on him too) and Geena Davis from "The Long Kiss Goodnight" inspired my emergence into goth at 14, and I never looked back. This album is partially responsible for me becoming ME. 

grimes // visions -- This is the newest album on the list (though I briefly considered Lana Del Rey's Born to Die), only from last year, so I wasn't sure if it counted as one of my top twenty, but I think it does because according to my profile I've listened to Grimes 1,182 times since I discovered this enchanting songstress in February of last year. That's almost three songs a day every day since I discovered her. Yeah. I've said it before and I'll say it again, Grimes is what my brainwaves sound like. Her and her bf have really insightful posts on their tumblrs too.

cure // pornography -- This album was made the year I was born (1982). #1 bathtub album of all time. It was hard not to have at least three Cure albums on this list, but I decided I only get one per artist. I can get sucked into a Cure-hole easily. I could spend an entire evening listening to this, Faith, and Disintegration. Disintegration is the #1 driving-around-in-the-rain album of all time, in case you were wondering. I just can't get enough of the wall of sound of The Cure, the dark and twisted vocals of Robert Smith, and the atmosphere. I could get lost in The Cure for days...

depeche mode // violator -- Depeche Mode is another artist I can get lost inside. If you want to know what MixtressRae considers a love song, it's Depeche Mode. Their lyrics are honest love songs. I get the impression that the songwriters (Gahan and Gore are kind of indistinguishable to me) are kind of dicks, but if I'm directing a love song at someone, I'm a little bit of a dick too, so I empathize, I guess is what I'm saying. I'd like to be more like Sarah McLachlan, but I'm more like Dave Gahan. I feel like Depeche Mode is my "cosmic" connection to my dad too, because he was kind of a dick too. He he.

brian eno // here come the warm jets -- Glam. '70s rock. Androgyny. Hot men in eyeliner. Most of the time people think of Bowie, I think of Eno. The Eno in my head based on the sound of his resonant voice, because his face isn't that attractive, but that VOICE. Why did he stop singing? Why? This is the first record I go to when I listen to LPs. Every song is an island.

talking heads // fear of music -- Produced by Brian Eno. The Talking Heads' most atmospheric album. Kind of psychedelic, even, in that world music/punk/new wave way. Contains two of my favorite Talking Heads songs; Air and Animals.

fiona apple // tidal -- Listening to Fiona Apple has always been like reading my diary, if my diary were incredibly, ingeniously lyrical. Again, every song here is an island. So perfectly singular, yet fits within the whole seamlessly. Sullen Girl is my theme song. This is one case in which the critics are right. She really is everything they say she is. My initial music crush on Ms. Apple started in 1996 and it still feels as fresh as it did then. Somewhere in a landfill (or an undisclosed location chosen by weather) is a scrap of sketchbook paper wherein a 15-yr old girl drew Fiona as an angel. I'd never call ANYONE an angel but you, dear sweet Fiona. Incidentally, my best music video ever was my lipsync to Sleep to Dream. I nailed it!

roxy music // country life -- Another album that feels like a world you step into for an hour. I keep characterizing albums as "atmospheric" and this is what I mean. I like fantasy worlds, and albums create that for me if they're worth their salt as ALBUMS. Some songs do it by themselves and I aim to make my mixes sound like worlds unto themselves, but nothing does it like a well-constructed album. Country Life is my #1 ennui-in-the-bedroom-at-2am album ("I'll find myself if it takes all night").

queens of the stone age // lullabies to paralyze -- #1 summer album of all time. Reminds me of drinking bad beer and canoeing, of general sun-soaked drunken debauchery, of long sweaty drives with my hands catching the wind out the open window. Love it. Just good fun rock with a pretty ginger boy on vocals. Honey voice, that one. I'd drink a summer shandy with Homme any July.  

sneaker pimps // becoming x -- Another trip-hop essential that was on constant repeat back in the days of frente!, Fiona, and Cibo Matto. Never get tired of this album. Sad they didn't keep this lead singer longer than one album. She was just too wild to tame, baby.

kate bush // the dreaming -- Kate Bush is way more important than most people know. I can't tell you why (because you have to feel it), and most people I know can't handle her voice (she uses it as a weapon, and most people are just too scared to embrace the hammer), but she's creative and interesting and goddamnit, she's amazing. This album was made in 1982, my birth year. If you ever need to exorcise a demon, play Get Out Of My House and that sucker will leave screaming. Kate Bush is a witch and she's crazy empowering. "Can I have it all now?"

metric // live it out -- When rock and electronic meet. You have the headbanging, all the headbanging, but also the synthesizers. This is the #1 I'm-better-than-the-asshole-I'm-dating-and-he's-never-going-to-understand-me-and-neither-does-society album. And that's all I have to say about that.

cake // fashion nugget -- I have sooooo many stories about this album. The first time I heard it I was cuddling with one of my first boyfriends, so that's a pleasant memory. He also later used Friend is a Four Letter Word as a fuck-you break-up song to me over the phone, so that's a little less pleasant memory. Nugget was playing when my mom told me "fuck" was her favorite word. Frank Sinatra is the name of my iPad with lyrics engraved on the back, not because of the person Frank Sinatra, but the song, you see. All Cake albums are created (mostly) equal, but this is THE Cake album for me. The Distance still brings the house down when I sing it karaoke. I suppose this album is a story of each individual song, and I like it for nostalgia.

nirvana // unplugged in new york -- It was hard for me to pick a live album (because I hate applause), though this is the ONLY live album I listen to in its entirety often, and it's my favorite Nirvana album, so I had to choose it. Every song breaks my soul in half, and I'm into that. "I cannot see the end of me. My whole expanse, I cannot see." What a lot of people don't remember is that Kurt was a feminist and a really spiritual, intuitive, NICE person. I say this like I knew him, but look into those eyes, man. Those Pisces can you not know him? I once wrote a pornographic poem about Kurt Cobain. Not because of his face, but his delicate Pisces soul. I love a delicate Pisces soul, for sho.

bjork // post -- Electronic pioneer, she is. Army of Me is the most perfect "buck up" song. I named a mixtape Army of Me once. So many great songs on this one. I don't even know what to say about this one. I like its isolation. It feels like a girl sitting in a beautiful landscape of circuit boards hacking her way through someone's mainframe just to dance on the 1s and 0s. There's a childlike destruction in the joy of Post. 

Too tired to proofread! so there it is.