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!