Friday, December 28, 2007


I brought two discs of Deadwood home with me, as I'm in the middle of the second season, and since we're all adults around here, I figured it as OK to watch it in front of my parents.


I don't think they've been more offended by a television show. And it's not because in almost every episode you see one of the prostitutes giving a BJ. Or because there's a lot of violence, seemingly without consequence. No, it's because they say "fuck" a lot.

Five minutes into it, my father says, "I don't think they said that back then. This show isn't realistic."

It's so goddamn typical that the language would upset them. And entertaining, in a way, since my parents have never been ones to watch their language around their children. Or aging parents. While they usually reserve the F-word for very special occasions (read: when yelling at me), they do say "shit" quite often. In fact, my mother has called me a "shithead" at least twice since I've been home, and it hasn't even been a week.

She's also quite fascinated with "cocksucker" now that she's seen parts of Deadwood. The other night I heard her asking my eighteen-year-old brother if he's ever heard anyone use that word.

Something tells me that by next Christmas, Momma is gonna have a new term of endearment in her vocabulary.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Movie reviews coming to you from O'Hare International Airport

I'm sitting at a gate in O'Hare right now. I was supposed to fly to Richmond twenty minutes ago, but because of the FOG in Chicago, my flight it delayed until 10:27. I'm really tired because I didn't go to sleep last night because I put off packing and cleaning until really late, and then I was like, "Oh, it's five o'clock. I need to leave to go to the airport now." Usually, I don't have qualms about sleeping in public, but I don't want to miss the flight. I feel like if I fall asleep, I will sleep for hours. So instead, I'm staying away by watching two old gays let their tiny Italian greyhounds scamper about and paying too much fo Internet access. Huzzah!

Part of the reason why I didn't pack earlier yesterday evening (other than my general laziness) was because I went to Evanston with Justin, Katy, and their unborn child (I wasn't a third wheel!) to see Sweeney Todd. I didn't really want to wait until I got home to Virginia. I had to see it last night.

I was actually surprised that I didn't hate it. I was neither over or underwhelmed. It was a pretty generic kind of "whelmed" feeling, I suppose. I still don't like Johnny Depp, but I was surprised that Helena Bohnam Carter was actually entertaining. I think maybe my biggest complaint - other than Johnny Depp's pseudo-rock star vocals, was that a lot of the character development seemed to be cut along with some of the songs. I've never actually seen the play; I've only listened to the soundtrack, and I wasn't really aware of the plot line for the second act. When you take away the characterizations, you're kind of left with a hokey story. (I can suspend my belief, but NO ONE recognizes Sweeney Todd as the barber who used to occupy the same shop above Mrs. Lovett's? The Susan Sontag-streak served as a disguise that is about as believable as Clark Kent's glasses.) And It was pretty to watch, if you're into that whole goth sort of thing that Tim Burton does in all of his movies.

To be fair, I will say that the group of fourteen year old girls who took up an entire row in front of us (with their moms sitting in the very back of the theater, natch) LOVED it. "That exceeded my expectations!" squealed the girl with the cheap black wig onto which she'd painted a white streak. So if you're the type of person who likes wearing Victorian dress to film openings and, consequently, never have a significant other, you'll probably dig Sweeney Todd.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Very Meta Mystery Post

Yesterday I had a huge surge in traffic here, probably one of the busiest days in the history of Too Much Awesome. According to my SiteMeter, I had 236 visits; Google Analytics tells me that 192 of them were unique visitors. Sure, some of them came from some of you terrific, anonymous Internet readers who keep up with this site with frequency. I got a few Google searches, but nothing too nutty (mostly people still searching for that damn Merry Christmas pin).

But there were a few odd visitors that had either Googled my name or had my blog address emailed to them. This happens occasionally, but usually these types of visitors are from Chicago or Virginia. Last night and this morning, I've had visits from IP addresses in Michigan. Who do I know in Michigan, or who do I know who is forwarding my blog (specifically this post) to people in Ann Arbor?

In other news, today is my last day at work before I fly home to Virginia. I'm super excited, even though I know I'll be ready to fly back to Chicago on Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


I didn't think anything about today would rival yesterday's Preggers Jamie Lynn news, but DID YOU SEE THAT POSTER?

Who's that Nottie? Why, it's Christine Lakin, better known as Al from Step by Step.

The Internet keeps exploding all over my face.

McSweeney's should look into gay porn; I think I've found them a managing editor.

Jackie published on his blog an amazing missed connection he found a few weeks ago. In that spirit, I'm going to publish one that I found over the summer, which was not so much a missed connection as it was a personals ad, but it was one of my favorite things all year. It pretty much serves as an example of everything I hate. It's been passed around amongst friends through email, and I figure it's time to share it with the rest of my Internet family. Enjoy!

I hereby decree that a Gay Hipster Consortium must no longer exist exclusively within the greasy-hair-enveloped minds of Chicago's queer indie crowd. No more shall we secretly admire each other with the steely glances born out of insecurity and envy. Nay, nay: we must unite our musical prowess, our varied film interests, our nerdy bookishness, our love of the obscurely beautiful, our interests that give us the capital-I-indie status.

(But we, of course, must also be able to chortle at ourselves, calling ourselves "hip" and "indie," as though there were anything tangible in these self-definitions.)

If you are already meeting, under the cover of darkness and smoke and sweat, please welcome me into your malnourished arms. If you are dreaming of such a delicious feast of minds and music and men as I am, reveal yourselves: remove your mask of cool indifference and admit that you just want to be surrounded by living mirrors of yourself, each reflecting a slightly different manifestation of your Indieness.

Bless his little heart.

The Way I Are.

Christina told me last night that after re-watching Pee-Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special (1988), she discovered why she feels like a gay man trapped in a young woman's body (culturally speaking, of course). To make her point, she told me to find this video, which features Grace Jones singing "The Little Drummer Boy."

Personally, I blame her parents for letting her watch so many reruns of The Love Boat, but who am I to judge?

We also spent about an hour on YouTube watching old Sesame Street clips. I told her that this video explains why I am who I am:

"What child gets excited about all of those celebrity cameos?" she asked. Clearly, that child was me; I loved Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito.

An aside: my father still loves "Put Down the Duckie."

And I realized my hatred for a capella stems from these dudes:


I have a couple of other favorite Sesame clips, such as this one where Patti Labelle sings "How I Miss My X."

Do you see what they did there?

And finally, I've always wanted to be this little girl's BFF:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Five Ways To Not Get Pregnant.

1. Use condoms.

2. Take birth control pills.

3. Don't fuck your stupid, blond, nineteen-year-old live-in boyfriend.

4. Only offer HJs.

5. Don't be related to Britney Spears.

Sorry, Jamie Lynn. FAIL.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Michelle Obama is so effing fierce.

I kind of have this huge crush on Michelle Obama. I'm kind of apathetic about Barack... In fact, I kind of like Hilary better (although I'd vote for either of them). But something about Michelle really appeals to me. I think it's how she'd stare you down and make you lose your shit with little to no effort at all. She's foxy.

And that is why I created this Facebook group. Oh, yes, you can join it.

Albums of the Year: The Rest of the Best

David Karsten Daniels - Sharp Teeth
Dean & Britta - Back Numbers
The Fiery Furnaces - Widow City
The Good, the Bad, & the Queen - The Good, the Bad, & the Queen
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings - 100 Days, 100 Nights
The Pipettes - We Are The Pipettes
Radiohead - In Rainbows
Mark Ronson - Version
The Weakerthans - Reunion Tour
Wilco - Sky Blue Sky

Honorable Mention:
Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova - Once: Music from the Motion Picture
Various Artists - I'm Not There: Original Soundtrack

Albums of the Year: #1. Feist - The Reminder

I absolutely adore this album. I'm willing to look past Feist as a performer and a person, and the Starbucks affiliation, as well as the iPod ads, and focus solely on this collection because, in my opinion, it's an A+ record.

I've been a fan of Feist after I got a bootleg copy of Let It Die in 2004. It was her second album, and despite her work with Broken Social Scene, it was the one that gained her some indie credibility. It was a good album, but it was kind of touch-and-go. There were some stand-out tracks, like "Mushaboom" and "Let It Die," but the she had the tendency to slip into a mom-rock /soft-pop feel, which ultimately turned her off. Seeing her live, however, made me realize that she did have potential as an artist, and The Reminder solidifies that.

On a personal level, this album hit me hard. For reasons both good and bad, I'll always associate this album with what I was going through when it was first released at the end of April, when I was still dealing with a tough break-up, depressed and angry about everything. Not to mention my fruitless job search was underway, and my father had recently started cancer treatments. It was a rough couple of months, and this album guided me through it with songs like "Past in Present," "The Limit to Your Love," and "How My Heart Behaves." And there were the up-beat songs, too, like "1234," and "I Feel It All."

This album is pretty perfect, and easily shot to the number one spot in my favorites list early this year. I could care less about Feist at this point, but The Reminder will always hold a place in my heart for reminding me that I got through a shitty, shitty time and came out on top.

Video: "1234" (Duh.)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Albums of the Year: #2. The National - Boxer

I'm rather disappointed that I didn't know more about The National before Boxer was released. I'd certainly heard of them, but for some reason I was never interested in listening to them. Per Adam's suggestion, I gave this one a try, and immediately fell in love with it. It's one of the few albums this year that I've been able to listen to on a loop without getting tired of it. I can't really explain what about it is so appealing to me, but I find myself getting sucked in whenever I press Play.

Video: "Slow Show" (fan video)

Albums of the Year: #3. Bright Eyes - Cassadaga

I discovered Bright Eyes shortly after the release of Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground back in 2002. It was my first introduction into indie-rock, and it's still one of my favorite albums. Cassadaga is no Lifted, but it's pretty damn close. It features similar moments of huge orchestrations, guest-spots from other Saddle Creek band members, as well as Maria Taylor, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, M. Ward, Rachel Yamagata, and Janet Weiss. Like previous Bright Eyes records, Cassadaga focuses on both the internal and the political. "Four Winds" is an especially brilliant protest song, both musically and lyrically; it never gets too preachy, and keeps a level head in regard to its ideology. The rest of the album is brilliant, and one of Bright Eyes' best efforts.

Video: "Hot Knives"

Albums of the Year: #4. Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha

Andrew Bird makes fascinating music that isn't so complicated and ambitious that you can't listen to it. He manages to layer on several instruments, samples, vocals, and whistling without overwhelming his audience. And he's got tremendous talent, which sometimes doesn't come out on his albums as much as it does when you see him live. I didn't really notice how powerful his whistling is until I saw him last year; it simply blew me away to know that it wasn't being augmented electronically. Armchair Apocrypha is ambitious in the sense that it features collaboration with Martin Dosh, who provides some gut-busting drums and a buttload of samples to compliment Bird's songs. It may not be the instant classic that The Mysterious Production of Eggs was, but I think it'll stand up on its own as Bird progresses musically. (And he gets points for having the best cover art of the year.)

Video: "Imitosis" (live in Paris)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Albums of the Year: #5. PJ Harvey - White Chalk

White Chalk is an extreme departure for Polly Jean, as she wrote the entire album on piano, which she learned while she wrote her songs. It's not the typical alternative-rock / PJ Harvey album, but it's still just as strong as her previous efforts. It's supposedly inspired by her childhood in Dorset, England, which seems appropriate as Harvey sings in a much higher register than she's used to, giving a very childlike, yet ultimately haunting, feel. In places her falsetto is wavering, yet it's impressive in others. It's a quite beautiful album, and probably ranks as one of my favorites of PJ's.

Video: "White Chalk / Silence" (live on Later... with Jools Holland)

Albums of the Year: #6. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible

It seems like such a long time since Arcade Fire released Neon Bible, probably because the hype and expectations for it were huge. The sounds on the album are just as huge: it's bold and brash with gorgeous orchestrations. You can tell with this album that frontman Win Butler is heavily influenced by Springsteen (and maybe Eddie and the Cruisers?), which is alright with me. Like Springsteen, Arcade Fire's songs tend to make observations about our culture, ranging from religion, war, and pop music.

Video: "Intervention / (Antichrist Television Blues)" (BBC2 Session)

Inflatable Christmas decorations.

My roommate Christina (say it with me folks: "WHY DON'T I HAVE A BOYFRIEND?!") won this yesterday at her work holiday party:

If you can't tell, it's an inflatable limbo set. The elfin child was not included.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Albums of the Year: #7. The New Pornographers - Challengers

There's nothing new I can say about The New Pornographers, or Challengers. It took a while to grow on me, possibly because it's pretty similar to their last album, Twin Cinema. After seeing them live, however, I couldn't stop listening to it. They're a perfect pop-group, and this is a pretty damn good pop record (even if "pop" wouldn't be the word most would use to describe them). The group sure can blend together some beautiful harmonies and make some spunky music. And this album seems more of Carl Newman's baby than the others, even if a lot of people think of The New Pornos as "Neko Case's band."

Video: "Challengers"

Albums of the Year: #8. Grinderman - Grinderman

Grinderman could have just been another album by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (the band includes most of the Bad Seeds). Had it been released ten years ago, it would have made perfect sense. But as Nick Cave has gotten older, his albums started to get softer. After 1996's Murder Ballads, Cave began writing ballads and love songs, seen primarily in The Boatman's Call (influenced by his breakup with PJ Harvey) and his last album, the two-part Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus. Grinderman represents a middle-age crisis sort of record; Cave learned to play guitar, and the result was a jerky, loud collection of garage-rock songs.

Video: "No Pussy Blues" (live on Later... with Jools Holland)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Albums of the Year: #9. M.I.A. - Kala

Despite the atrocious album cover, M.I.A.'s Kala is fantastic. It's also as complicated as Maya Arulpragasam is herself. It transcends genres, going from world music to hip-hop to electronica. It's political, bashing the West at the same time it asks for acceptance. The production is huge, at times sampling Bollywood and disco in the backing tracks, juxtaposing gun shots and cash register ca-chings, and featuring guest spots from Afrikan Boy and Timbaland. It's tough, natch, to categorize M.I.A. and her music; her American audience is more indie-rock inclined, probably because, compared to other hip-hop artists, her themes are so political and worldly. Seeing her last month in Chicago was surprising; I'll be the first to admit I don't see many hip-hop shows, and, as I expected, the mostly-white audience seemed to be filled with people who would be just as likely to attend any other indie-rock show. Her following aside, M.I.A. manages to produce post-Colonialist hip-hop, finally making Edward Said's Orientalism relevant to a jaded, superficially political hipster culture.

Video: "Bird Flu"

Albums of the Year: #10. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones wrote in a controversial article that today's indie-rock bands lack good, old-fashioned rhythm, using bands like Grizzly Bear and Arcade Fire as examples. In my opinion, it's kind of a ridiculous article; he's just as bad as any of the bands he criticizes for having a style that lacks what he's looking for. Sure, Grizzly Bear doesn't take a lot of inspiration from Motown or '70s funk, and Arcade Fire sounds more like Springsteen than Sly and the Family Stone. And while that may not be Jones's preference, it's silly to think that all bands should sound like Spoon, a top-notch band that sounds like what Jones is jonesin' for, despite their absence from the article.

Spoon has always sounded a little like a throwback to the soulful bands of the '70s, back when white dudes mixed guitars with a horn section. And on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, one of the band's strongest albums to date, they seem to play on that idea with their song titles, particularly the album-closing "Black Like Me." The white guys from Austin, Texas have had a soulful sound for their last few albums, and while this new one isn't much of a departure from that niche, they're certainly not in any hurry to fix something that isn't broken.

Video: "The Underdog"

Friday, December 07, 2007

Albums of the Year, Honorable Mention: Magnolia Electric Co. - Sojourner

Magnolia Electric Co.'s box set is, without a doubt, my favorite release of the year. Comprised of three LPs (Nashville Moon, Black Ram, and Shohola), one EP (Sun Session), and a DVD (The Road Becomes What You Leave), Sojourner features music from four recording sessions from which Jason Molina compiled his last album, Fading Trails. My biggest complaint with that album was that it seemed more of a compilation than a true album, and the release of this box set is magnificent. You can clearly see the vision Molina had for the three separate LPs, which were recorded and mixed by different producers at different locations. It's an A++ collection.

Video: "A Little At A Time"

Thursday, December 06, 2007

All Of My Opinions Are Right: My Least-Favorite Albums of 2007.

Before I go crazy with my end-of-the-year list of my favorite albums, I have a short list of albums that I didn't like. And - surprise! - they're all from artists that I like a lot.

Ryan Adams - Easy Tiger
Adams had a great year in 2005 (29 notwithstanding) when he released two albums with The Cardinals: Cold Roses and Jacksonville City Nights. I thought he had gotten out of the Rock N Roll slump. I was excited to hear Easy Tiger, a third collaboration with The Cardinals (although they are mysteriously absent from the billing), but I felt like it was nothing new or interesting. The best songs were "Two," a duet with Sheryl Crow (meh), and "Halloween Head," which starts out with Ryan singing, "Here comes that shit again, I got a Halloween head." Whaaa?

Tori Amos - American Doll Posse
I know, I know. But I used to really love Tori Amos, but she hasn't produced anything worth listening to since Scarlet's Walk, a similar concept album where she followed a single character across post-9/11 America. Here she goes after five different characters (similar to her covers album Strange Little Girls). It's an interesting concept, which works great live (Tori opened for herself on her last tour as one of the different characters), but this album is a mess. She keeps going after a mom-pop/rock production, forgetting that she makes great music when it's just her and a piano. And, frankly, she's much more entertaining when she's being herself.

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Living with the Living
I love Ted Leo, but I just couldn't get into this one. The songs were just as political as his previous offerings, but the production was to the point that I couldn't listen to them. Sure, "Bomb. Repeat. Bomb." may have a great message, but I can't sit through it. And then there was that song that sounded like a Dropkick Murphys cover. No thank you.

Rilo Kiley - Under the Blacklight
I love "Silver Lining," but that's about it. This album sounds like a big change in direction for the band; there's less folk / country sensibility (which I guess Jenny Lewis covered on her album with the Watson Twins) and more big, pop sounds. It's just a personal preference; I like the old stuff.

I think the Grammy Awards are stupid and this is why.

Both Amy Winehouse and Feist were nominated for the Best New Artist award.

This category is a misnomer.

Amy Winehouse's nomination comes for her second album. Her previous, Frank, was released in 2003. Feist's nominated album is her third; Let It Die was released in 2004, and Monarch in 1999.

This is almost as ridiculous as when Shelby Lynne won in 2000 for her sixth album, I Am Shelby Lynne.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Conservatives, perverts, and conservative perverts read my blog.

It's been a while since I've shared my recent Google statistics, right?! Well, this is how people have been finding my blog today:

Do you think there's an overlapping demographic there?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I know because it was there.

I saw I'm Not There on Saturday and absolutely loved it. Read my review on This Recording.

It is certainly not too early for Christmas songs.

It's December 4th, which means that most of us have been hearing goddamn Christmas music on the radio for a month already. But, like every year, I never get to hear my favorite Christmas song: "Fairytale in New York" by The Pogues. I guess ClearChannel doesn't like Christmas carols featuring the words "slut" and "faggot." It's a shame.

Here's a special video of Shane McGowan's jacked up teeth and Kristy MacColl singing it on, um, St. Patrick's Day (oh, the Irish!):

Of course, I enjoy the nice, clean, poppier version, covered by Canadian band Pilate. I'll share the MP3 with you because I'm full of Christmas spirit (and just figured out how to do it!). Download!

And as a special treat, I'll share with you my new least-favorite Christmas song, which I discovered this morning. It's called "CHRISTMAS IN FALLUJAH." Billy Joel wrote it, and some dick named Cass Dillon recorded it. I am not making this up:

Who's drunker - Shane or Billy? It's a tough one.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Please excuse me while I gloat.

My boss was in town for the last week. I worked my first four days here without seeing him because he was in Paris for a lecture. I spent those four days with nothing to do. I sat at my desk, stared out the window, played with my Macbook, and thought for eight hours a day, "I can't believe I'm getting paid so much money to do absolutely nothing here. I can't even find anything to put a label on anymore."

Then, on Tuesday, I went to Evanston because my boss was back in town and he works from that office twice a week so he can meet with students who are based on that campus. And all hell broke loose. He decided to go to Singapore this week, which required a lot of planning, especially since next week he'll be in Vienna and Holland for two other meetings. My supervisor told me that it was baptism by fire: I was training myself to do this job by starting with an incredibly complicated assignment. For the next three days, I was insanely concerned that I couldn't do it. Suddenly, for the first time ever, really, I was honestly stressed out about a deadline. It was like I was in finals week, only that instead of doing assignments so that I could pass all of my classes, I was doing them all for someone else, which made me more nervous.

I called and made hotel reservations. I called a travel agents. I made a reservation for a limousine. I emailed people in Austria and Germany. I discovered that the two meetings in Europe were incorrectly on my boss's calendar and were actually occurring on the same day. I called another hotel. I made more reservations. I found out how long it took to drive from Dusseldorf to Vaals.

Amazingly, by Friday afternoon, I was completely fine. I realized that even though I was spending a good chunk of my days (specifically the hours before I managed to find time to heat up leftovers for lunch) running around a maze of a science building tracking down grad students and professors and creating itineraries for a ten-day global trip, I was finishing each day with the satisfaction that I, indeed, could do this job. And on Friday, when I had to fix the middle part of the trip that had unexpectedly blown up in our faces, my supervisor, who wasn't even at work that day, seemed really thrilled that I was in good spirits at noon. My boss, who drove me from the Evanston campus to Chicago in the nicest Mercedes I've ever seen, seemed to think he made the right decision in hiring me.

I've noticed already that as soon as my boss leaves the country, things quiet down immensely. For the first time in a week I can get back to my routine - checking Gakwer (btw, sadness), Jezebel, Facebook, and having the occasional GChat - for a few minutes while I juggle the administrative tasks I need to perform while he's away.

I initially thought that being someone's assistant was going to be pointless and boring, that it'd be menial tasks like taking messages and getting coffee. But my job hasn't been any of that, and I'm kind of enjoying it so far. I feel like I've added so much to my resume in the last week and a half than I did the entire two years since I've graduated college, and I'm so goddamn happy that I can finally prove to someone, maybe even just myself, that I can actually do this.

It took me a year to get here. I had about eleven interviews, signed up with six staffing agencies, and sent out countless resumes. I spent most of my Sundays depressed, a combination of hangovers and dread of going back to work or starting a new job search. I called my parents and cried. I kicked myself because I didn't know what I was doing wrong. I compared myself to people I knew who landed into positions with a little bit of luck. I considered moving away from Chicago, either starting fresh somewhere else or returning to school. I spent a year coming up with rational and irrational plans and, in the end, didn't really have to follow through with any of them. I suppose every successful job search involves a little bit of luck, which with luck like mine, I hope you won't think me too vain for being really fucking pleased with myself right now. I finally managed to get a job with an interview: I wasn't placed here, and didn't use any connections to get it. Sure, there are some cons; I don't get to wear jeans on Fridays, it can get pretty stressful, and, as of right now, I don't have insurance until HR gets it act together. But it pays a lot more than I ever expected, and I can get a degree from a damn fine university for a very sweet price, and I actually feel happier about what I'm doing with my life.

So, in conclusion, I think I'm going to stay here a while.

I deserve the largest Rice Krispie treat in the world.

It's been a busy, hectic morning. I've just gotten the chance to relax a bit (meaning, I've just gotten the chance to read my thirty one emails I received over the weekend). Instead, I got a big-ass Rice Krispie treat.