Archive for June, 2013

The Girl’s Night With Neil

Posted: June 30, 2013 by kmriad in Uncategorized

(This is a repost from http://kellyriad.blogspot.com/)

It took a while to fall asleep afterward, to stop the thoughts and cease the replaying of events in my mind.  The close of a memorable evening gave way to a following morning in which the night had not faded in any way.  Even if the Sharpie writing on my arm had, just a bit.

Friday night Sharif and I made the drive in 107 degree heat (Why the hell did we move to Northern California if it’s gonna keep acting like Texas?) across the Bay Bridge where it dropped thirty degrees in a matter of a tunnel.  We arrived one hour before the doors of the Geary Theater opened and two hours before the show started.  There was already a proper line dotting the sidewalk, but it wasn’t too bad and we weren’t too far down.  It’s difficult to be bored waiting while in San Francisco.  The city does not disappoint.  People of all varieties hurry or don’t along its up and down sidewalks.  We were entertained by a homeless man who told us cow jokes.  “What is a cow abortion called?  De-calf-inated.  What do you call a cow with no legs?  Ground Beef.  And in honor of the end of DOMA, what do you call a gay cow?  A Dairy Queen, Baby!” complete with rounded over the head snap and all.

People are pretty laid-back in California and even more so in San Francisco.  They are tolerant to a fault.  My Southern ass grew more annoyed as the hippy woman ahead of us in line allowed more and more folks to join her spot, to the point where I finally complained, “What the hell? Did she invite her whole g-damn Ashram?!”  But I was soon saved from having to kick organic ass as the line began to move.

We found seats about seven rows up.  The theater, though grand and gilded, is small and compact.  Neil Gaiman arrived on stage to raucous applause.  As he spoke, you could tell the people there were truly there for him.  They laughed a bit too much at his jokes, awed WAY too much when he spoke of his wife and wore a perma-smile for the entire night.  But as soon as Neil began to read, his voice an accented, hypnotic purr, everyone sort of disappeared and it was just you and Neil.  The reading wasn’t long, which was good because I’ve never much cared for being read to, no matter who does the reading. Then he answered questions and Sharif and I felt that was the best part–Neil sharing with us some of the behind the scenes experiences with the illustrations of SANDMAN and how he writes his stories.  He then read from a new children’s book he will be publishing in September and after a bow, the crowd’s applause, the stage was set up for the autographing.  And we waited.  And waited.

Going on ten hours of waiting and not eating, Sharif and I assessed that we weren’t really cut out for this waiting stuff.  But nothing would have made me leave.

Through hunger and migraine we pushed until the reward came when we were summoned to stand on stage in line.  People had brought armfuls of books, they brought presents, they brought homemade crafts all seeking Neil’s signature on them.  We had the book that brought us to the event, THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE and ourselves.  In my mind, I had been playing a scenario where I asked Neil to sign my tattoo of Delirium. I knew, from past experiences that if I played this out in my head, there was a good chance I wouldn’t make it happen in reality.  But as soon as I stepped up in front of Neil, said “Hello” and he looked up, smiling and saying “Hello” back, I knew I had to go for it.
“Do you think you could write ‘Tempus Frangit’ on my Delirium tattoo?”  Without looking up from signing my book, he said, “Sure.  Come around.”

It all got a little blurry after that.  I was still light-headed from the hunger and migraine.  I thought I would rest my arm on the table, but he had me squat beside him and rest it on his leg.  After saying, “I’m sorry, this is going to be awkward,” he repositioned himself and began writing.

While waiting–too nervous to say anything–I remembered Kevin texting me before the event asking to tell him what Neil smelled like.  So I leaned in just a bit and took a deep breath, hoping he wouldn’t look over his shoulder and ask, “Did you just smell me?”  He didn’t.  And he smelled of Sharpie.

I walked away still shaking and waited while Sharif got his autograph.  I had noticed during my wait that everyone walked away from Neil with a smile on his or her face.  To everyone, it was a personal, magical moment.  I can’t imagine it being that way with many authors–not the ones on Neil’s level–or many heroes.  Neil stayed until everyone received their moment, until the wee hours of the night.  He said it would be his last book-signing tour ever.  We’ll see.  He seemed to love being there as much as we loved having him there.  I imagine that love will nag at him, will draw him back.  And we’ll be waiting, clutching our comics and AMERICAN GODS and readying a spot on our tattoos.

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Just left a viewing of the new Superman situation with Tito and John Stasny and a very zealous theater laugher. Here’s a few of my personal reactions:

1. I could watch Amy Adams fold laundry for two hours and thirty-three minutes.

2. Michael Shannon is the best thing this film has going. My fear is that Hollywood will wise-up to Shannon and he’ll get overplayed too soon. He’s capable of anything. But so was John Goodman, and no one ever complains about too much John Goodman.

3. There’s enough Christ imagery in Man of Steel to make Mel Gibson sweat for a Passion sequel.

4. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane have both aged very well. I’d be content to look like either of them in 20 years.

5. I love that Superman’s goal is to protect humanity, but, in doing so, he wipes Manhattan/Metropolis off the map, throwing the bad guy through the only buildings that still stand. Reminded me of the opening sequence to Team America: World Police when the puppets run the terrorists out of Paris by destroying Paris. It was a better joke when the puppets did it.

6. Also, the never ending fight scene between Superman and Zod was way better when fought between Keith David and Roddy Rowdy Piper.

7. Maybe it’s the educator in me that so despises the “you can be anything you want to be” bullsnot. All the talk of Superman choosing his own path, while still needing to choose a particular path, just made me roll my eyes. It’s sweet. And it sounds very positive and empowering. But it’s like telling the popcorn kernels in the concession stand that, if they just believe, they could be hot dogs or pickles or Sour Patch Kids, and then tossing them in the popper anyway. So let’s just stick to Superman being a swell, bulletproof guy and skip all the graduation speeches.

8. Zack Snyder – whose Sucker-Punch is a great 90 minute music video but an awful feature length film – enjoys visual-oomph. He seems to care very little for characters and story. With that said, Man of Steel is not bad. It would benefit from a little humor. The script sorely needed a fresh set of eyes. The narrative needed to slow down at times, speed up at times, and choose development over destruction. But if you realize in advance that Snyder makes his films according to the principles of the Smallville clergy, “Sometimes you gotta take a leap of faith. Then trust [your audience] later”, then you’ll know to set your expectations low enough to feel you’ve gotten your money’s worth.

9. Man of Steel gets 2.5 smashed IHOPs out of 5. Nothing chides the heart of America like a crushed breakfast nook.

For the past few years, I’ve written monthly beer reviews in a column titled Still Drinkin’ for a local dirtbag rag. This month I’ve written my first Still Drinkin’ column since January. It’s still a beverage review piece, just with a non-alcoholic twist. I hope this inspires curiosity in your attempts to quench the summer heat.

*****

After deciding to lay down the bottle back in February, I needed something to replace all the beer once holding purchase in my crisper. Remembering the great discovery the wife and I made last summer while sucking down two-to-three Moscow Mules a day, I turned my attention first to ginger beer. *(Notice the Moscow Mule recipe at the end of this article.) That love of ginger beer piqued my interest in root beers. Over my past few sober months I’ve tried just about every craft made ginger beer and root beer sold in the BCS area. Places like The Brazos Natural Food Store, Village Foods, and World Market have provided a cornucopia of non-corn syrupy, pure cane sugar soda beverages. The result is a new passion for natural sodas, one I believe will surpass the end of my beer fast. Below is a brief selection of the best craft sodas I’ve discovered. Enjoy.

It might be helpful, first of all, to distinguish some sort of fundamental difference between ginger ALE and ginger BEER. From what I can tell through my palette’s research, ginger BEER features more ginger spice, less sugary soda sweetness. After discovering ginger BEER, I noticed my long loved Canada Dry Ginger Ale tasted like a 7-Up knock-off. Not true of the ginger BEER! And of all the ginger BEER we’ve tasted, Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew takes the crown. Smooth and buttery with a spiked ginger finish, Reed’s is not an overly sweet soda. And the ginger spice is a crisp thirst quencher. But for the spicier palette I highly recommend Maine’s Spicy Ginger Beer, Regatta Ginger Beer, and Cock-n-Bull Ginger Beer. I’m looking forward to trying these spicy brews in a Moscow Mule one day. And the added bonus of Ginger Beer consumption is the medicinal benefit of ginger. Good for the belly.

I’ve never been much of a root beer drinker until I discovered craft natural root beers. Like your corporate ginger ales, most big name root beers are high fructose corn syrup sticky sugar bombs. Not refreshing. Void of complex flavors. This was my impression of root beer until I tried my first bottle of Virgil’s Root Beer. Virgil’s, made by the same company that makes Reed’s Ginger Brews, hands down wins the root beer category. Virgil’s is stout stuff with a strong black licorice flavor profile, which is probably why it won me over. Blue Sky Creamy Root Beer is a bit less licorice-y and easy to palette. It also makes the best floats we’ve tried. Sprecher Root Beer (sold in bombers at World Market) is a thick beast that reminds me more of a Russian Imperial Stout than a soda pop. Be prepared to split the Sprecher with a friend. And you can’t go wrong with BJ’s craft root beer on tap. And with free refills, they make a strong case for a fine happy hour.

*Moscow Mule recipe: Traditionally served in either a Collins glass or a copper mug, squeeze ½ a lime over ice (drop in lime peel), add two ounces of preferred vodka, and four to six ounces of ginger BEER. Be careful with the Mule! The ginger is deceivingly refreshing and inviting of more Mule. You’ll be three Mules into the afternoon before the vodka shouts a howdy.

A Recommendation For The Whole Hand

Posted: June 27, 2013 by Kiki Malone in Kiki Malone, Music Reviews
Tags:

In pure bullet-point style, with commentary. NO PICTURES. We’re going minimalist, son.
**

The older I get, the less I find that I have time to pay attention to the breadth of music. My CD collection is a wasteland of genres, of various themes and phases that represent a period of time in my life when I was gobbling up everything I could get my hands on. These days, I honestly find it more difficult to care as much. Case in point: I’m going to the Austin City Limits festival in September, and I’m glad that I have over two months to get to know the bands, as there’s lots of stuff (which I’m sure will be good, and which I’m sure I should get to know). But my inclination is to just to wait around for the Wilco set and nod at the rest.

WITH THAT CAVEAT, my 5 recommended listens of 2013 thus far. It’s a hodge-podge of old and new. Okay–curmudgeon-mode disengaged.

1) Kings of Convenience–Declarations of Dependence

This one popped up on my Spotify radio one day, and I couldn’t stop listening to it. It’s beautiful, lush guitar duets by two Swedes that sound like they’re California beach bums. Best paired with early morning, coffee, and paper grading. Think of what would happen if Simon and Garfunkel had a little Xanax and sat on the beach instead of moping around the grey streets of NYC. This album’s actually from 2009, but is new to me. It’s my list.

2) Josh Ritter–The Beast at the Door

My wife turned me on to Josh Ritter a few years ago with his Animal Years album, which I can’t say enough about. His recent novel, Bright’s Passage is just okay, but don’t hold that against him, because even evil geniuses can’t hit home runs every time. His new offering was written in the wake of his recent divorce, which means for the first time, his songs are semi-autobiographical. They still carry his signature lyrical precision and imagery, but have a much more raw feel to them.

3) The National–Trouble Will Find Me

The National continues to be one of my low-fi favorites. Their sound has really hit a groove in the last two albums, mixing ethereal imagery with straightforward rhythm guitar and drum schemes. No fancy guitar solos, no break-out drum solos–just well-written moody lyrics hung over driving music. This latest one, as others have observed, has a more melancholy feel than their first albums, which had the sense of them about to take over the world. Best paired with a late-afternoon work day or an evening drive.

4) Frightened Rabbit–Pedestrian Verse

I don’t care what Kanye has done; I don’t care what the critics say: this is the album of the year. With every album, this Glasgow-based band adds depth and verve to their sound, which is somewhere between late 90s glam punk and late 90s Radiohead. Go listen to the words of “State Hospital”, and you’ll buy this in a second. Best paired with days ending in “y”.

5) Daft Punk–Random Access Memories

I picked up their soundtrack to Tron: Legacy on a whim, and couldn’t put it down. This is a much different kind of album–less pure electronica and more old-school soul, featuring cameos from Pharrell (which–where has this guy been???) and a host of other soul-bending artists. Pure fun, great early morning music when I want to overcome late morning slumps and remind myself that the day has much more awesome to be sifted out of it.

Half way through the year, and it’s time to take inventory of what’s stood out musically. I asked Myles to join me in a Top Five SO FAR Records of 2013 list. I’ll be interested to see what, if any, of these records make my end of year list. Also, these records are listed in chronological order of acquisition, and they may not have even been released in 2013. If you have a problem with that, make your own list. Here’s what I’ve jammed the hardest this year.

Also, my friend Angela Craig will barf on her own shoes when she sees this.

Kesha-Warrior-Art

1. Ke$ha – Warrior

It’s no secret that I shamelessly love pop music. And it’s also no secret that I do not believe in guilty pleasures. And I have zero intentions of apologizing or shirking my love of Ke$ha – and her entire canon – to make you feel cool. And just for the record: This. Record. Kicks. Ass. The wife surprised me with Ke$ha’s new release, Warrior, for Christmas, and it stayed in our car stereo until February. Super fun jams, party lyrics, a little bit o’ White-girl rap mixed with a whole lot of bar-romping sing-a-long, crotch-rocking attitude. Yeah, I realize there’s nothing I can say to talk you into giving Ke$ha a fair chance, and I’m sorry for you. As for me and my family, we rock the casbah out of any Ke$ha record.

The-Only-Place-cover1 (1)

2. Best Coast – The Only Place

Absolutely one of my new favorite bands! After falling in love with this record, I immediately bought everything Best Coast had released to the public. For such a short lived band, they’ve had an amazing sound evolution. I’m not even sure which of their records I recommend more highly – the new cleanly produced The Only Place or their previous raw-garage rock Crazy For You debut. Best Coast also has a couple of EPs on iTunes that are super fuzzy and killer. I especially love their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Storms”, which showcases angles to Bethany’s vocals not found in their other work. Good stuff. Just good stuff. I actually wrote a review of Best Coast’s The Only Place on my teacher-y blog. I’m rather proud of this review. My buddy Pepe thought it was a Rolling Stone or Paste review, which inflated the mess out of my head. You can go here to relish that glory :

http://www.blackhightops.blogspot.com/2012/11/best-coasts-only-place.html

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3. Duke Ellington and John Coltrane

The air wafting through my office door reeks of two things: stale coffee and big band music. I have both going nonstop all day long when I’m at work. Big band is my go to music when I want to write, when I need to work, when I do not need lyrics getting in the way of my own literary craft and intake. But this past year I decided to expand my territories and reach beyond big band into actual jazz. I did not know exactly where to start, except that I remember my friend Jesse owned Duke Ellington’s Four record when we lived together, and that record found regular rotation – right along with Tammy Wynette’s Run Woman Run – during our late night whiskey and backgammon sessions. So this past spring, when I wanted to study jazz, I started with Ellington. I’m still not sure how this duo between Ellington and Coltrane landed on my iTunes, but it’s divine. Absolutely magical. I’ve since found more from each artist that has stood the test of time and won new listeners – particularly Coltrane’s Blue Train and A Love Supreme records – but nothing so far has topped this duet recording as a flawlessly beautiful incantation of sheer artistry.

blood

4. In This Moment – Blood

I discovered In This Moment while searching metal bands with female leads.  Their previous record, Star Crossed Wasteland, rocked a cowboy vibe with strong metalcore influences. On their newest record, Blood, to which I’m completely addicted, In This Moment dropped their sound several octaves, slowed down the metalcore strumming and drumming, and – in the process – conjured a darker, somewhat sinister industrial grit. I’m not sure I always love In This Moment’s music. It’s a bit crunchy for me, probably leaning more towards some hip new crunchcore metal than good old fashion metal. But for all their musical failings, Maria Brink’s vocals redeem each track ten fold and ten fold. Brink is one of the greatest metal vocalists I’ve ever heard, nailing every level of her metal vocals – shrill screams, gross throaty growls, and pristinely emotive cleans – telling her story as much through her vocals as her lyrics. I’d sell a pinky toe to see Maria Brink perform on a tiny stage in a tiny room. She’s a beast. Like a boss.

lana-del-rey-born-to-die-the-paradise-edition

5. Lana Del Rey – Paradise

Alright. Here it is. The pinnacle of my 2013 auditory experience. Of everything else I’ve musically discovered or rediscovered or explored this year, nothing – absolutely nothing – has shaken me like Lana Del Rey’s Born To Die double-CD. Yes, yes, yes: I remember LDR’s botch SNL performance. It was so devastating I nearly fell into a life of narcotics and addiction-supportive prostitution just watching her bomb. And I don’t know what happened that night. Surely, such nights happen to more performers – LDR just happened to land her fall on national television. But I don’t hold it against her, especially after I listened to this double-album set twice through on a solo drive across the bottom of Arkansas into the top of Texas earlier this summer. I’ve had her spinning on loop ever since. I love her husky, bottom droned voice. I love her Kennedy-esque lyrical persona. I love her videos, all grainy and dizzily grappling at the last raw strands of youth and beauty. And I love her sense of humor, labeling her own musical style “Hollywood sadcore”. I’ve joked that if I ever finish this book, I’ll have to mention Lana Del Rey in the acknowledgements. Her voice has painted several scenes and drawn the interior of a major character. Here’s to redemption from a public fall.

Three times in two days.  THREE TIMES! 

I watched PITCH PERFECT three times this weekend.  I feel like Mr. Rooney (NIIIINE TIIIMES!)  Anyway, the triple-view was necessary because the first watch, I missed the beginning (seven whole minutes, but still) and the second watch, I caught only the end so the third was a requirement, a commitment, really, to watching the movie in its entirety.   Again.  And with every watch, I still laughed at the same bits just as hard as the first and second times (Acca-scuse me?)  So,…why?

Why did a movie that essentially rode the coattails of GLEE while simultaneously bagging on GLEE (see Riff-off category “Songs Glee Ruined”) entertain me so wholeheartedly, so many times?  Because it’s entertaining.  Anna Kendrick can act, even when she’s doing her best Kristen Stewart hardcore hipster chick shtick.  And she can sing!  And play with cups!  The funny parts were funny and the musical parts were fun and Elizabeth Banks with John Michael Higgins (“The Sockapellas, everyone – proving that for some, it does not get better” – Acca-awesome) made me long for a BEST OF SHOW 2 starring the both of them.

I also need background noise while I write (Stephen King would be so disappointed in me) and I was trying to knock out this book four, so something that I was now painfully, quickly familiar with offered the white noise without too much distraction.

So the conclusion after my weekend-long binge of mouth instrument entertainment?  I want more Anna Kendrick.  And Anna Camp.  And Brittany Snow.  And Rebel Wilson, though I think we’ll get more of her and Anna 1 without any further requests; both shined bright in this flick.  So yeah, a year-late review of a movie already lauded.  Acca-deal with it.

I kinda feel like I should add some “It’s great to be back!” line here.  It is, I’m excited about this, I missed this, but this is about as girly as I’ll get about it.