United State of Pop by DJ Earworm

About the only thing I look forward to during this, the least wonderful time of year, is DJ Earworm’s United State of Pop mashup. This year’s effort was excellent as always – despite my initial declaration that it was not his best work. I should really know better – he’s not called “Earworm” for nothing – for as has been the case each of the last three years, once this mashup settles into my brain, it becomes irresistible to me.  Of course, relying on hooks from Swedish House Mafia and Capital Cities, along with the piano track from “Can’t Hold Us” makes it nigh impossible for me not to listen to this mashup compulsively.

What never ceases to amaze me is how completely DJ Earworm transforms the source material – it’s very different to me than something like Pop Danthology, which, while certainly impressive technically, sounds more like a medley of songs. DJ E combines lyrics, hooks and backbeats – and videos! – into something that stands on its own as an entirely new and cohesive creation (or at least that’s my view as a known philistine). I inevitably download the mashup to my iPod, despite already owning a good number of the originals – not because I want this remix, but because I want this new song DJ E has created.

I also like that he respects the genre while also poking some fun. This year’s version was pretty subtle – the various “whoa-oh-oh-oh” phrases plucked from a couple of different songs, reminding us of the sameness inherent in pop music – a genre that is by its very nature trendy and derivative. This same technique was rather more pronounced in his 2010 mashup, where he was able to grab lyrics from five (five!) different songs urging the listener to “put your hands up”; and in 2011, we got the “boom-boom-boom” refrain.

Some additional observations:

  • Robin Thicke has one of the most punchable faces ever.
  • Britney looks fucking great.
  • Lorde’s eye make-up is flawless – though I’m on the fence about her eyebrow game.
  • Speaking of eyebrow game, what’s up with Nellie’s?
  • Despite his association with this year’s rapiest song, Pharrell always makes it work – even with that ridiculous pork-pie hat.
  • Macklemore rocks a fur like nobody’s business. Same goes for Batman pajamas. God, he’s cute.
  • I just find Katy Perry very appealing as a performer. I know I’m not supposed to, but here we are… I mean, c’mon – the stilletto heel as spearhead? That’s pretty hilarious.
  • That trumpet hook from “Safe and Sound” is the hookiest fucking hook of all hooks.
  • With Swedish House Mafia running a very close second in the hooks category.
  • Poor Gaga…

And here, just for some extra fun, is the charming video for “Safe and Sound.” Sebu Simonian, the hot bearded one, is freakin’ adorable and manages to cut quite a respectable rug – I especially love his Rockette routine at 1:12.

An Astonishing View

gmapsThis is completely fascinating…

First, go to these coordinates on Google Maps (just copy and paste into the search box):

16°51′55″N 11°57′10″E

It’s the middle of the desert in Niger. Now, zoom all the way in.  All the way…

Then you can read this article about what exactly it is you’re seeing. It’s pretty incredible.

from Viral Nova

Keep On Keepin’ On, You Crazy Kids

There’s that old saw that “youth is wasted on the young.” And, like any other embittered old, I could point to many examples of the truth of this statement. But, let’s face it – it’s ultimately untrue. Youth is best enjoyed by the young.

I remain kinda pissed that electronic music remains a niche category in the USofA – it gets such short shrift, in my opinion. Why? I don’t know – the music, while certainly adhering to the modern definition of pop (i.e. some good singable lyrics and an irresistible hook) is viewed as somehow sub-par. I suppose in some ways it’s related to the rampant (though happily evaporating) homophobia in the United States (i.e. listening to dance music is gay. And I’m not gonna even try and get started on the whole subject of “I think I was born in the wrong country because this music really speaks to me, like it does to everyone in Europe”).

And while I’m not one to read too much into pop music (the pop is, after all, short for “popular”), I know of many instances of electronic music that I find far more moving and affecting than any syrupy pop throw-away.

Anyway, my only point is that this song by Swedish House Mafia is not only really amazing to me, this concert video makes it even more so. These young kids are living it up, taking in a concert that will never be repeated and reveling in every moment of it. They are enjoying their youth and I love (and yes, envy) them for it. Keep it up, you young whippersnappers – it surely helps me hold onto that part of me that is still young and carefree.

Out of the Water

I quite like this song. And this dude has a very pleasing voice (and ain’t too hard on the eyes…) And his name is Fabio! So this is win-win-win.

And what about that mixing board? I’m genuinely curious as to whether it’s a prop or for-reals – because that is some straight-up Star Trek: The Next Generation shit.

Nice Job, Topeak!

rackI have a Topeak beam rack for my bike – it’s a rack that attaches via quick-release to my seat post and allows me to carry a case with my gym stuff in it. It’s a superbly designed accessory, especially the fact that it’s so easy to attach and remove from my bike.

Anyway, I’ve owned this rack for 18 months or so and I noticed the bungee part of the rack seemed to be wearing out and getting ready to break. So, I sent Topeak an email at 9:04AM today, asking how one goes about ordering a replacement.

And at 9:05AM, I received a reply from Nick at Topeak with specific instructions on how to do exactly that. That’s right – I received a reply to my email within one minute of sending it. I called the 800 number he provided, spoke with a very efficient woman at Topeak who took my order for a new bungee and it’s being sent to me presently.

So, within ten minutes of contacting Topeak by email, not only had they answered my question, they had fulfilled my request for a replacement bungee (and it only cost $6). While this is first and foremost a tribute to some fine customer service on the part of Topeak, it’s also a rather sad commentary on the general level of service I am accustomed to receiving. What Topeak did was straightforward and something they likely do every day – it really shouldn’t even be remarkable, since nothing I sought from this interaction was unusual.

But for so many other businesses, even responding to a customer inquiry is too much to ask for. I recently attempted to contact JayBird regarding some of their Bluetooth headphones I own – I’ve been having trouble with them holding a charge. I submitted my inquiry online – and the site told me to expect a reply within 24 hours. That was several weeks ago and I’ve heard nothing… and I’ve since purchased new Bluetooth headphones from one of their competitors.

So, good job Topeak! And, even though I generally frown upon the inclusion of literary quotations in email signatures, I couldn’t help but smile at the one that Nick from Topeak used:

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” – Dr. Seuss

Sorry, I Know You Wish You Were Gay

This is a perfect example of why I prefer to be gay. Too bad it’s not a choice, fellas!

facebookPXDB

Oh, also, this, since I’m sure you’re interested. “Now, Jill and I are gonna demonstrate the Hustle.”

“For the guy is second best to none…”

There was a marvelous tribute to Marvin Hamlisch a couple of weeks ago on Live from Lincoln Center. A particular highlight for me was hearing Audra McDonald, Megan Hilty and Kelli O’Hara (!) singing “At the Ballet” (it’s at the 1:03 mark in the show, if you want to skip forward…)What a treat – not just watching this performance, but remembering again how astounding A Chorus Line is – the music, obviously… but also the dancing and the deceptive simplicity of the staging. A true masterpiece of American musical theater.

However, I also learned a rather fascinating tidbit about Mr. Hamlisch – his first hit song, composed at age 21, was “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows”! OK, OK, not exactly “The Way We Were” (so amazing) – but a pretty irresistible pop confection. Check out this performance by Lesley Gore (known lesbian – you go on with your bad self, Ms. Gore!) from Ski Party Weekend.

This is pretty much exactly like every ride I take on Muni! And I totally have that same outfit! Which I wear on Muni! And I would totally give my eyeteeth for that ‘do…

You Go On With Your Bad Self, Bumble!

Look, I’ll be honest. The new Windows Metro “look” is very pretty. But so far, I don’t see it as much of an improvement on my desktop, given that most of what I do still takes place via the desktop which is essentially identical to Windows 7, but with some questionable “improvements,” e.g. the lack of a Start button is kind of ridiculous.

And Metro looks pretty sweet on the latest Windows phones – but I question whether it is truly as robust or versatile as Android Jellybean running on my Note 2. Live tiles seem pretty cool at first – but ultimately a bit gimmicky.

However, if I were buying a new phone based solely on their ad campaign? Well, then, MS wins by a country mile.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of Rudolph…

rudolph

YOU’RE WELCOME, SAN FRANCISCO!

Sure, the Giants played an amazing 4 (ha! 4!) games to win the World Series – but credit where credit is due. Without my rally cap, rally shirt, rally underpants and rally cat with rally cape, there’s no  way we could’ve won!

Also, Bye Bye Baby! And hello second championship in three years!

And did those feet in ancient time…

I’m thinking maybe London should host every Olympics. Or maybe the IOC just needs to hire this lady to work the opening ceremony for every Olympiad – she is  brilliant.

I’m Lazy…

Surprisingly, I’ve not yet gotten up the steam to rant about how terrible NBC’s coverage of the Olympics has been (other than a couple of Facebook posts). And I’ve not been inspired to write about anything else this week. So, in the meantime, please enjoy an elephant drinking from a swimming pool.

Pray God You Can Cope

I fell in love with this song pretty much immediately upon acquiring The Sensual World lo those more than 20 years ago. Of course, it wasn’t until at least a decade later that I learned it had been featured in She’s Having a Baby, a John Hughes film I’d never seen. And I thought to myself, “Well, he is an effective filmmaker. Why wouldn’t he use such a beautiful song?” Imagine my surprise another ten years later when I learned that Kate Bush had actually written the song not only specifically for this movie, but for this particular scene which had already been filmed.

Anyway, it hardly matters. It’s a beautiful song. The clip from the movie is marvelous, as is Ms Bush’s music video. Happy Father’s Day to one and all.

And here’s a quite lovely cover…

Trois Jours à Nouvelle Orleans

WELL! I must say, New Orleans was pretty great. The word that I used to death while I was there? “Charming.” And it truly was – I find that very few things charm me, but here was a whole city that did. The neighborhoods. The architecture. The trees, plants and flowers. The streets. The street names. The wrought iron. Just a lovely place.

My friend Tim had just visited and mentioned that the city often seems desolate – and I agree. Clearly, this has something to do with losing a third of the population after Hurricane Katrina. But even in obviously well-maintained and populated neighborhoods, there seemed to be little activity. No one out tending the lawn, walking the dog – not even many cars driving around. It could be a bit eerie.

Anyway, I arrived Friday evening and checked into the Hotel Modern. Had a very nice, quiet room with a really comfortable bed. After unpacking, I went for dinner at Root. I’d read that they served dinner until 2AM and it was a ten-minute walk from my hotel. Since it was after 10PM, I didn’t want anything too much, so I ordered some Vietnamese-style vermicelli salad with grilled tofu. And, in the most unexpected twist of my visit, I am still raving about the tofu. Two large slabs, apparently marinated for 24 hours with soy, sesame and a bunch of other Asian flavors, grilled like steaks with an amazing char on the exterior. Absolutely the best tofu I’ve ever eaten.

Saturday morning, I took a guided walking tour through the Garden District and its cemetery. Saw many, many lovely houses – though toward the end of the tour it devolved into, “And here’s Sandra Bullock’s house. And that’s John Goodman’s house. And here’s where Nicholas Cage used to live…” And here’s me not giving a rat’s ass. But it was free…

Dinner that evening at Boucherie. I didn’t realize it was such a tiny place – small tables in an old house (yes, it was charming, of course). Four seats at the bar, so I grabbed the one on the end. Was served a Riverbend Martini (gin, orange liqueur, cucumber, orange & lemon juice) by the (charming, natch) bartender, Michael. Besides helping me navigate the menu, he steered me toward an amazing Achaval Ferrer Malbec to accompany the literally falling-off-the-bone tender and delicious St. Louis-style ribs I had for dinner. Dessert was a Thai chile chocolate chess pie. I tend to steer clear of chocolate desserts – they are typically the least inspired offering. But this one was great – mildly chocolate-y  enhanced with a sharp yet subtle bite from the chile. Topped with some perfectly sweetened cream, it all came together beautifully – reminded me a bit of a black & white milkshake, but for grownups.

Then, to Bourbon St. Wow – it is a hellmouth. Stinking of stale booze, puke and despair, drunken tourists stumbling every which way, touts barking the desirability of their particular establishment. Yeesh. Made it to Dumaine St., which is where a few gay bars are located. They were OK – crowded, lively, loud music, friendly bartenders, bachelorette parties (ugh). But I did stay and drink and dance,  so clearly it wasn’t too terrible.

Sunday breakfast in the French Quarter (a.k.a. Vieux Carré, apparently pronounced “Vook Array” in the local dialect. So much for getting to practice my French accent…). Did a bit of walking around, but not much. Had a nap, then met up with my friends Jacqui, Saunia and Oscar (the dog). They took me to Bacchanal, which was great. It’s sort of an odd place – a tiny little ramshackle wine store on a corner. But you take your bottle out to the very large garden, where there are tables and chairs, along with live music. Food served, but you order at a window and eat off paper plates. It was really great – we managed to score a table on the small upstairs balcony overlooking the scene while chowing down on pork shoulder, steak, salad and a dessert of sweet goat cheese in puff pastry. And maybe one or two glasses of wine…

Spent Monday on a more thorough walk through the Quarter. It’s really just lovely – and amazingly quiet once off of Bourbon St. Had a couple of Pimm’s Cups at Napoleon House, then took the streetcar back over to the Garden District for a walk down Magazine St. for a little shopping. Also explored some of the side streets I hadn’t seen on my walk on Saturday. Again, just absolutely charming…

Dinner that night at Cochon, just a couple blocks down from my hotel.  Started off with crawfish boulettes (heh) which were sensational. Then a really tasty pounded pork loin (heh), breaded and fried, served atop a German potato salad. Very schnitzel-y and delicious – though I could barely finish half (yes, I am dainty!) Plus, I had to hit the bars one more time, so I didn’t want to be too full…

Bourbon St. definitely less raucous, though still rancid. The gay bars were very quiet (granted it was only 9PM) and didn’t even have their balconies opened! Back home early-ish, packed, slept, then off to the airport at a leisurely 11AM. It was definitely a bon temp!

Screw You, Comcast!

Yes. Yes they do.

I’d been flirting with the purchase of a new TV for awhile and recently came across the right combination of price and quality – but I wasn’t in a particular hurry to upgrade. One thing I did know, however, was that I’d have to trade my old cable card for a cable box – which seemed like a good reason to renegotiate with Comcast.

Currently, they offer new customers a price of $29.99 a month for “Digital Starter”; the same package for existing customers is $63 (nice way to reward loyalty, you fuckers). So, I sent an email to Rick Germano, SVP for Customer Ops at Comcast. Of course, I knew it wouldn’t get to Mr. Germano himself, but I was hopeful it would at least be directed to a team of service reps who understood customer value equations…

In the email, I advised that I wanted the same deal as a new customer would get – and that I was perfectly willing to sign a two-year service agreement to obtain the offer. I further advised that if Comcast was unwilling to accommodate me, I’d cancel my subscription once I bought a new TV – it’s Wifi enabled, so I can watch Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime right from my TV and use an antenna for local channels (in HD!).

I got a call the next day from an unhelpful dolt at Comcast, reading from a script, telling me the offer I was requesting was not available to existing customers. When I restated my request, the rep testily replied, “Well, if you’d let me finish what I was saying.” This did not bode well… Anyway, his counteroffer was a plan for $39.99 a month. I explained again that I saw no reason why a new customer should get a better offer than an existing customer. I went on to explain that I was disappointed that Comcast had someone contact me who is apparently unable to comprehend that, while giving me the offer I’d requested would lower my value as a customer, that my cancellation of service would eliminate my value. $29.99 per month > $0 per month. Not to mention the money Comcast will spend trying to win me back as a new customer – in which case I’ll qualify for the offer I’d requested initially.

Needless to say, as soon as I ended this call, I ordered my new TV online – out of spite. And I couldn’t be happier. It was delivered yesterday; it is beautiful; and it is meeting all of my television viewing needs without any help from Comcast. I am eagerly anticipating the call to end my subscription. I’ll show them!

Oh, and here’s my gorgeous new TV. I’ll post an update shortly re. the antenna, which is freakishly well-designed and gloriously effective.

Before:

After:

Girl, Please. (A GIF Is Worth a Thousand Words)

NYC GAYS is hands-down the funniest thing I’ve seen online lately. While it helps to have some familiarity with NYC gay nightlife (he says smugly), it’s certainly not a necessity… I will tell you this: Splash is a terrible, terrible bar that appeals to out-of-towners and NYC neophytes; there are go-go dancers and the crowd skews young and cheesey. That’s my recollection, at any rate. And apparently, it’s still true, since the NYC GAYS site uses this gif under the headline When You Get Invited to Splash:

Oh, Whitney – we miss you… And I will never ever tire of this gif. Or this one.

Also, here’s How Being at Splash Makes You Feel. I am adopting this as my new catchphrase (though I’ll have to adjust the age – only slightly, yes, but I’m going to savor the next 4 1/2 years of being not 52…)

Caine’s Arcade

Are you like me? Do you hate people? Sure, we all do. But every now and again, I see something that penetrates my crusty and wizened exterior to my schmaltzy and gooey interior – and this short film certainly qualifies.

Seriously, though, this kid is amazing. And the college fund that the filmmaker set up for him already has nearly $75K in it. Though I suspect young Caine will go far, college fund or no.

from The Awl

Tigger Please!

Proving once again that it really is the happiest place on earth… For realz, though – this is just delightful. Tigger totally pwns that dude. And who knew Eeyore could shuffle?

Last time I was at Disneyland (the original one – God, it’s been years… maybe even a decade?), a cast member came up and asked me if I’d like to be one of the special guests in the parade. Would I, would I? Yes, of course! The fact that I was wearing sorcerer’s apprentice mouse ears was probably a clue that I’d be interested… At any rate, I got paired up to dance with Tigger – TIGGER! Who doesn’t love Tigger? NOBODY! Oh, and it was such great fun. They taught us a simple little dance which we did together all the way down Main St., stopping occasionally to shake hands, give hugs, etc. Seriously, it was my best brush with fame ever, since Tigger’s lovableness rubbed off on me for those few wonderful minutes…

And let me just add – the men and women who perform as characters at Disney parks are really amazing. It’s a difficult job that they make look easy – and, corny  as it sounds, they really do bring smiles and happiness to one and all. God, I need to get down to Anaheim stat…