Category Archives: Other Schtuff

The LDN Chronicles: 2

Day 2

The next morning we arose early to take full advantage of the coming day of shopping. Since our hotel is just a short walk from Camden High Street, we were among the first to begin perusing the various wares on show. The market (and even some of the surrounding shops) are great places to find deals. However, I offer three bits of advice that I accrued in my pursuit of the best and cheapest clothes:

1. Don’t be afraid to look around. One thing you will notice is that there is a lot of overlap with regards to what is sold at the market. Don’t assume that just because the stalls are selling the same thing that they are selling them for the same price! A lot of times I would see a dress that was £30 at one stall sell for £25-20 somewhere else in the market.

2. Don’t be afraid to bargain. Many of the shopkeepers are willing to negotiate the price of their goods with you as long as you keep the discount to a reasonable range. If by some chance you meet someone who isn’t willing to bargain, never fear! You can probably find someone else selling the same thing who is willing to!

So after conquering the market and making tons of super-cheap and awesome purchases we made our way back to the hotel for lunch (which, I must add, was graciously paid for by one of our parties’ grandmother).

After lunch we headed to one London’s more conventional shopping mainstays; Covent Garden. It was nice, of course, but I just didn’t feel like spending exorbitant amounts of money in stores whose American counterparts offer much better deals (i.e. Urban Outfitters, Aldo, Mango etc.) I did however plan to spend at least a (semi) exorbitant amount of money in Rockit, but since last year they’ve really marked up their stuff. Last November I bought an awesome blue and green Cosby sweater there for £10 and KG bought a beautiful old hounds-tooth coat for a similarly reasonable price. When I browsed the same selection of old man sweaters I had enjoyed the year before, I was disgusted to see how much they were marked up. I mean, who pays £25 for a wool cardigan in summer? Suffice it to say I was not very pleased.

After such a crushing disappointment on the sartorial front, the only thing that could fill the void in my life was a milkshake from Candy Cakes. If you can get past the mediocre service, creepy mint green walls and blasting pop music, it’s a pretty awesome place with delicious cupcakes and other fattening things.

Once we were sufficiently sugared-up we headed to an awesome little karaoke place in Soho called Lucky Voice. Although my friends thought it looked a bit shady (with its rather nondescript subterranean entrance), they were surprised when we entered the sleek, wood-paneled, vaguely Japanese reception area. We were promptly shown to a private karaoke room that would be ours for the next two hours. Complete with pom-poms, afro wigs, and a choice of various mood lighting schemes the place was pretty fancy. I must admit, dear reader, those two hours were among the most fun of the trip. We danced, we sang (read: yelled), we rocked with the fury of any of the many legendary bands to come out of London’s humble streets, and we didn’t actually pay that much for it either!

As we walked back to the train station in our post-karaoke glow, the whole of England glowed with us. The English team had just won against Slovenia in the World Cup and tons of happy football fans (in various states of inebriation) flooded the streets reveling in their shared national pride.

It was a good day.

MUSIC: Daisy – Fang Island

I actually bought the LP at Rough Trade while we were in London. I highly recommend it to anyone who still likes a really nice kinda old school guitar riff now and again. A lot of people are calling this “stadium rock of the future” (you know, kinda like Surfer Blood), but that label kind of connotes the 80’s hair and crazy shallowness we’re all trying to forget. Sure this stuff is epic and anthemic enough for a stadium (and total karaoke material which is why it is appropriate for this post), but it’s got wicked heart too. Think John Farnham as opposed to Gene Simmons.

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The LDN Chronicles: 1

I just (and I mean “just” in the most loose definition of the word; as in I’ve been home nearly a week) returned from probably the best trip ever. As my first semi-independent holiday, I think my friends and I have proven to be quite the competent travel planners! Anyway, here’s my account. I hope you enjoy it!

Day 1

As I woke up on Tues. 22nd I couldn’t be more elated by the fact that I would soon be leaving rainy cold Germany. Seriously people. How unfair is it that, even though it was mid-June, I felt it necessary to wear a heavy wool cardigan and jeans to survive the 15 second walk from my door to the car. Suffice it to say ’twas a sad, sad state of affairs.

In any case upon arrival I was reunited with my wonderfully Swiss (a word for which “punctual” is also a synonym) friend and occasional contributor, KG. We made our way through check-in and customs rather uneventfully, the only slight delay being my encounter with an anal German customs officer who was visibly suffering from a bad case of male PMS.

But friends, despite this minor hiccup KG and I soldiered on with the type of optimism only found in giddy teenage girls about to do something new and exciting.

Once our group was completed with the addition of my other friends Ilyena and Kasia we all sat down to catch up and do the whole giggly girl talking thing. Ilyena shared a bunch of stories about her transcendent two month wilderness course  while Kasia chimed in with her own additions (having heard Ilyena’s stories the day before).

The plane ride was smooth and when we touched down in Old Blighty the excitement and anticipation was visible in everyone’s faces. Being the poor students we are, we opted to take the normal Piccadilly line train into the city rather than the Heathrow express. I will not lie dear reader, the train was crowded and hot, made only worse by the fact that we four were still clad in our gloomy stuffy Munich attire. Attempts were made to remedy the situation, but since half of us were wearing literally transparent shirts  (not like, plastic though… don’t get the wrong idea) under our sweaters we erred on the side of decency and remained fully clothed deciding to just face the heat.

When we emerged out of the cavernous Tube to revel in the vibrant air of Camden we immediately knew we had chosen the right place to stay. Although this part of London’s underground cred has begun to erode, assaulted by the waves of tourists (ourselves included) flocking to its famous market, it still maintains remnants of its counter-culture association. As you walk down Camden High street you see punk after brütal punk on the sidewalk holding signs and handing out brochures for tattoo parlors and Dr. Marten’s stores and other suck “punky” stuff. I found the irony of this advertising scheme  utterly hilarious. I mean, here are people who are singularly defined by their devotion to non-conformism and being anti-establishment, acting their part in a consumerist advertising scheme. I mean think about it, they are capitalizing on their anarchism! Perhaps I’m over-thinking it and the punk subculture has just been reduced to a fashion style, but  I kept on getting these mental images of like, a furniture store add with some Johnny Rotten-esque character on the front giving the cheesy smile and the thumbs up alongside text reading something along the lines of “Lenny’s Couch Barn: Punk Compliant”… As if a Mohawk is some sort of endorsement. Funny, funny. Ha ha.

In addition to the tourists and the punk advertising schemes, another way Camden has changed is that it now has places like the Holiday Inn to stay at which, coincidentally,  provided our accommodations for the week. Only cementing the fact of Camden’s transformation from the pseudo-bohemian slightly sleazy underbelly of London to a respectable tourist district was the diversity of our fellow hotel guests. I saw people from every age group and various walks of life passing through the lobby. It was pretty cool. Anyway, after speedily unpacking and changing in to more appropriate attire we ventured out into Camden to explore a bit of the market and find something to sate our ravenous hunger (we are growing girls after all). As we perused scores of trinkets and jewelry and ridiculously awesome t-shirts I forbade myself from buying anything that day, a pact I am happy to say I dutifully kept.

Once our hunger had gotten the better of us we headed down toward the Lock to get some food. Now, time to dispel a popular myth. I have seen countless videos and web-pages devoted to the pursuit of cheap food in London; all working under the assumption that cheap food is hard to find. This is just not true. I’d say that with the exception of maybe two days my friends and I ate dinner for less that 10 pounds. Our best find? Eating at the Camden market food stalls. Our first night we ate delicious HUGE Quesadillas for 5 pounds each. Honestly, how can you beat sitting on Camden Lock when the sun is setting and the water is all sparkly in the sun, eating delicious food that’s made right in front of your face? Well you can’t really beat it, especially not for 5 pounds!

After our frugal and magnificent meals we headed back to the hotel. Although our aim was to retire to early allow Ilyena to get the rejuvenating sleep she needed to combat her jet lag, we just ended up talking all night about everything. I guess excitement has a way of distracting you from less important things… like sleep. In any case, we eventually succumbed to our tiredness and slumbered, dreaming of the awesome day that was sure to follow.

MUSIC: Kids – Mark Foster

Since this is (mostly) a music blog I thought it appropriate to accompany each post with a new (or not so new depending on how energetic I’m feeling) musical find. This is a song from none other that our favorite Foster the People front-man Mark Foster. It’s sun soaked chords and plaintive request of “Don’t stop takin’ me places” is the perfect accoutrement to the beginning of our vision quest.

Next Time: Shopping Day One!

Keep Indie Alive: Say no to vampires!

One of the many bizarre things I got sucked into while through the respiratory illness looking glass was bad T.V.  I’ll spare you the gory details as a lot of it is super-embarrassing, but one show I became particularly obsessed with is called “The Vampire Diaries”

Yeah, it is as bad as it sounds.

It basically takes all of the crappiest and soppiest elements of True Blood and Twilight and assembles them into this vapid, pulpy, bloody mess. It’s written badly, the actors aren’t great (EXCEPT for Ian Somerhalder… Oh God, Ian Somerhalder) and generally you just feel like you don’t deserve to procreate while watching it. However, most alarmingly perhaps, it’s got this crazy obscure soundtrack.

Allow me to illustrate: So I’m watching the show. It’s come to one of those typical cliché moments when the vampire sexyman love-interest is conflicted in whether he should tell the beautiful brunette protagonist about his “true nature”. He’s being brooding and mysterious (no, not like the normal brooding and mysterious, like, intensely brooding… like, Tolstoy and opium man) and she’s standing there looking pretty and confused and they’re standing on some bridge which, for no apparent reason, has  twinkly white Christmas lights all over it. They go through the pedestrian dialogue, the sighing and the “discrete” glances, and then, all of a sudden WA-BAM, Glass by Bats for Lashes starts playing.

At this point I’m totally confused. It would be one thing if this was some quirky indie vampire show (that’s fun to imagine), but this show airs on a sister channel of Fox… IN AMERICA.

At first I thought it was a fluke, some show intern’s little victory. I could just imagine her, the little waif from NYU with her horn-rimmed glasses, inwardly beaming at having incorporated an obscure British dream-pop ballad into a cookie-cutter teen drama. But then the frequency of these songs abolished all pretence of coincidence from my mind. For example, at one point in the show the mayor’s unsatisfied and lovably cougar-ish wife is slumming it at the local bar. I’m not really sure why because trying to figure out why things happen in this show is kind of like trying to defeat a ninja, it’s pointless and ultimately painful. ANYway she’s sitting there, and then the “bad” vampire (because now all of a sudden predatory beings that drain you of blood and are meant to be hella scary can be something other than bad) comes in and seduces her. As the director of this show, I would want the music to reflect the sense of dark foreboding to foreshadow the violence of the impending scenes. Although derivative, I’d probably opt for some creepy classical music or just some dissonant strings. But that’s not Vampire Diaries’ style. No way man, that’s too obvious. They’re the hip cool vampire show. So in a scene that basically sets up for the murder and brutal exsanguination of a well-meaning middle-aged woman, the backing track is MGMT’s Kids.

Suffice it to say I was shocked.

I could go on about other instances in the show where the obscure music selection was inappropriate and downright weird, but unfortunately these few instances I’ve mentioned in relation to the Vampire Diaries are just small satellites orbiting a bigger problem. Vampires are infiltrating music. That’s right, you read it, they’re infiltrating it and it’s flipping sick. Just take a look at the track list for the recent Twilight: New Moon movie soundtrack:

1. Meet Me On The Equinox    – Death Cab For Cutie
2. Friends – Band Of Skulls
3. Hearing Damage – Thom Yorke
4. Possibility – Lykke Li
5. A White Demon Love Song – The Killers
6. Satellite Heart – Anya Marina
7. I Belong To You [New Moon Remix]  – Muse
8. Rosyln – Bon Iver & St. Vincent
9. Done All Wrong – Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
10. Monsters – Hurricane Bells
11. The Violet Hour – Sea Wolf
12. Shooting The Moon – Ok Go
13. Slow Life [with Victoria Legrand]- Grizzly Bear
14. No Sound But The Wind – Editors
15. New Moon [The Meadow] – Alexandre Desplat

I suspect the vamps have had these guys for a while: note the pseudo-victorian apparel, guyliner and effeminate posturing

And the great thing is, these are all original songs. That’s right, if you want to get these songs you have to buy the New Moon soundtrack. This means that Thom Yorke sat in his sound proof biosphere (for some reason that’s where I imagine him working), put on his smoking jacket and thought to himself, “What kind of song should I, a literal rock LEGEND write for this silly teenage vampire drama? I who wrote the album that single handedly changed the face of alternative rock… Hmmmm…”

It’s hard to imagine that the same person I loved for coldly refusing to meet Miley Cyrus at the Grammies could pull something like this. I mean it’s not like he needs the money, or cares for that matter. This is the man from the band who allowed their fans to choose their own price for his record.

So what do you do when you feel like one of your favorite musical heroes has seriously challenged his own credibility? You go into denial. I don’t choose to believe that Thom Yorke did this of his own volition, I believe that the vampire overlords have impressed him into their infernal service to help them in their quest for world domination. You may think it extreme, but with this kind of stuff being sold to children, I think there’ve been crazier beliefs.

P.S. Thom, I will save you… on the condition that you let me hang out at your biosphere sometimes.

More proof:
Vampire Hands – Paradise Knife Fights

New Year! Get with it!

I hope everyone had fulfilling and memorable last moments of 2009. I know I did! In between dodging maverick fireworks and sharing resolutions with family I managed to have a pretty good time, considering.

So resolutions… I’m sure most of you have at least one. I have six! I won’t bore you by posting them all here, but I would like to share one of the better ones with you: buying a new pair of shoes.

Ahhh, I can hear your incredulous gasp already. “What?” you scoff, “What kind of stupid resolution is that?”

Hush you! It’s a damn good resolution and I’ll tell you why. You see, I don’t want just any shoes, I want some Toms.

These babies aren’t just cool because they’re cute and comfy, they’re also philanthropic. I kinda like to think of Toms as Keds with a conscience because for every pair you buy, a pair goes to an underprivileged child. This is awesome because, although we in the 1st world often take them for granted, shoes are important. Many kids in developing countries’ only mode of transportation is walking, oftentimes barefoot. The primary cause of death in many LEDCs are soil transmitted parasites or infections caused by lack of proper foot protection. By giving them shoes we’re allowing them to travel, play and live easier lives with diminished risk of the amputation, illness or death associated with foot-related injuries.

And it’s all legit. Toms works through internationally recognized NGOs and organized shoe drop tours to make sure that their “one for one” policy is upheld.

But all that “good will” and helping crap aside, the shoes are just cool. In addition to slip-ons, Toms have great men’s and woman’s collections comprised of offerings of Oxford and Keds style lace-ups and boots. They also have an excellent selection of vegan footwear if you’re feeling kind as well as philanthropic.

I’m ordering mine today and seriously, you should too. I can’t wait to wear these out in summer, happy in the knowledge that a kid somewhere out there is enjoying their Toms too.

Cool huh?

Fourth Dimensional Transition

As most people who know me well are aware, I am not the best authority on art. Ever since I was little I’ve always been a more verbal, auditory person. I remember my excitement in fourth grade when we were asked to do some watercolors representing “A day at the Zoo”. I eagerly assembled my brushes and paints, embarking on what I thought was to be my formative mecca to the shrine of artistic brilliance. To make a long story short, my art teacher took one look at my toils and said with the gravest of tones, “Honey I’m glad you’re expressing yourself, but I think you’re going to have to label next time.”

As such I’ve always been a little bit wary when it comes to the visual of artistic media. However, now and again I see the work of an artist that really strikes me and, despite my reticence to relive the horror of my fourth grade artistic failure, feel the need to share it with others. Drew Turner is one of those artists.

I came across his work through Kitsune Noir’s desktop wallpaper project. If you don’t already know about it, it’s really worth a perusal. Basically, the project gives great up-and-coming-artists a platform to display their work in the form of free desktop wallpapers. It’s really a great setup because not only do art-challenged morons like myself get exposed to wonderful artists that would have otherwise gone unnoticed, but it also means that my desktop looks hella-cool with minimum effort.

Anyway, a few weeks ago Drew Turner was the featured artist with this image:

I was immediately struck by the seamless integration of the image of the lion and the nebula, the color transition, and just the amazingly simple yet otherworldly quality of it. Later I checked out his website. As far as I’m concerned, this man can do no wrong. The majority of the images follow the same formula as the image above: geometric structures, an animal, and beautiful space inspired textures. Although the pieces are similar in that respect, they are in no way derivative. Each has its own animalistic intensity and feel, immediately affecting the viewer with its mystical allusions. Suffice it to say I am a Drew Turner fan.

Check out his website and you will be too. If not, then we shouldn’t hang out.

I’m moving in with Santigold

I loved her music anyway, but this has made me love her even more…

Chyeaaaaah man.

New toy!

Now, I have the sneaking suspicion that I’m the last one jumping on the hip and shiny bandwagon that is 8tracks, but gosh-darn it I’m going to tell ya’ll about it anyway!

If you’re anything like me, then you will identify with the desperate desire to somehow magically transform into a super-awesome DJ like Mark Ronson, and, until recently, I believed that my DJ aspirations could only be realized in the shady realms of my own imagination. Thanks to 8tracks this is no longer the case! 8tracks is the ultimate platform to stage your sick DJ fantasies upon. It’s super easy interfaces allow even the technologically challenged such as myself to create mixes that can be shared with the world! As an added bonus for all you LastFMers out there, the site has an additional feature that allows you to scrobble the tracks you listen to on the site. My only qualm about 8tracks is the insanely long upload time for adding tracks to mixes, but I suppose that really can’t be helped. If you are interested you can check out my profile here, but if you want to get started making your own amazing mixes then head on down to the front page.

Go forth and do great things!

It doesn’t seem real until…

…It happens to someone you know. I don’t pretend to know Michael Jackson, but God, he’s dead. I remember listening to Thriller everyday when my Mom would drive me to daycare, singing along with the words and badly attempting to emulate his dance moves within the confines of a safety seat. I remember trying to moonwalk in my socks in our den in Virginia. It’s weird how much he’s ingrained in our social consciousness, how he’s infiltrated it with both his eccentricity and his virtuosity, but now in the wake of his death, I realize just how important his music as to me growing up. He was one pretty cool dude.

This isn’t the best representations of his body of work, and it might not be the most appropriate, but it’s my favorite song by him. RIP Michael

Smooth Criminal – Michael Jackson