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.