Lessons Learned: Dad’s iPod

To mothers, iPods are not tiny hard drives. They are magical fairy lands where anything can happen and data doesn’t have mass. “I can’t get music off of it! All the music on it is gone!”

“Does the iPod still work? Like, will it play?”
“Well, yes.”

I didn’t go into the speech about how, if a 20GB iPod is full, it’s got to be full of something. I didn’t go into detail about how music files on an iPod live in a hidden folder because Apple is trying to cockblock your file copying efforts. Instead, I just asked mom if I could borrow the iPod until Christmas.

My mission: copy the music off the iPod, label the songs and burn them to a couple data DVDs. The problem: any of you who have learned the “always backup your music” lesson the hard way know that iPods (old ones, anyway) scramble the file names. Thus, I had to open each file in iTunes and then label the file appropriately. I give you: Lessons Learned from Dad’s iPod.

1. Big & Rich have attempted to use rock music’s “wall of sound” principle in country music. As a result, I can say with some certainty that I will never own a Big & Rich album.

2. One’s age is directly proportional to the mass of one’s collection of Christmas music.

3. Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” kicks ass, even if it will forever make me picture people wearing banana hammocks and body paint. That video was made back when people still thought Elton John was straight, which can only be explained by the fact that EVERYONE looked gay in the 80s.

4. Aaron Neville needs a lozenge.

5. Somebody somewhere is listening to an Elvis Christmas album for some reason other than kitsch. Strange but true.

6. When I go to Hell, the only music available will be Rockapella. If I go to the part of Hell where Hitler lives, it will be a Rockapella Christmas album.

7. When I type “Beethoven,” the voice in my head pronounces it like Bill & Ted. “BEETH-uhvin”

8. Norah Jones is boring.

9. Merle Haggard needs a good therapist.

10. If you didn’t live through the 70s and would like a musical picture of what the 70s where, listen to any song by the Gatlin Brothers. If you can get through “Sure Feels Like Love” without feeling like you need a really, really long shower, you are a better man than I.

Children of Nowhere

I have learned two things from radio this summer:

1. I shouldn’t be getting Cobra Starshop and 3oh!3 confused with each other. 3oh!3 are a watered-down poor man’s Mindless Self Indulgence (spaghetti misogyny) and Cobra Starship are pop pixy stix tastiness.

2. Leighton Meester (as heard on Cobra Starship’s “Good Girls Go Bad”) scares the shit out of me.

OK, so it’s not just Leighton Meester. It’s all of them, the whole genre of emo kids from America’s suburbs. They hail from Nevada, Chicago, Michigan and Tennessee, but they all sound like they’re from exactly the same place. Like they were taught by voice coaches who told them, “you’re never going to make it in this business with an accent.” They speak perfect suburban white kid English; it’s like they come from some strange stepford-like planet where people have flat irons in place of left hands. (How do they play guitar with that flat iron hand?)

Exhibit A being Paramore. I have no problem with Paramore in theory; their first album was beautifully produced and it’s great fun for a sing along. However, I know that those kids are from Tennessee, giving them an inborn right to be ornery, grungy, and generally cantankerous. (And to use words like “ornery” and “cantankerous.”) We helped invent the blues! We helped invent rock! We’re marginalized! Granted, we stole most of those things from the even-more-marginalized African-American population, but let’s not nit-pick.

Then again, Paramore aren’t from the south, per se.* They are from Brentwood. Brentwood is not the south so much as it is The Suburbs. Everything looks the same in the suburbs, no matter the state. In the words of Christian Slater in Heathers, “no matter what city you’re in, there’s always a Snappy Snack Shack just around the corner.” The suburbs are the same. Brown brick, short signs, and people who don’t have accents but do tend to enjoy Volvo products.

The Leighton Meesters of the world are unsettling because they’re hard to pin down. They are everywhere, coming from nowhere. They have taken on the image of America: non-regional, homogenized, and a little unsettling.

*When you see the phrase “per se,” does it remind you of the “goths vs. vampires” episode of South Park? Me too.

Pop to English Translation: Pitbull – “Hotel Room Service”

If it had an equal, the subtle poetic nuance of Pitbull’s “Hotel Room Service” could only be approached by Sharpie scrawlings in an elementary school bathroom stall. (Translation first, followed by original lyrics in italics.)

[Intro]
Hello, everyone. If I may be so bold, I would appreciate your attention. If you find yourself dancing with someone with whom you’d like to have commitment-free sex later in the evening, please show your intentions by clapping and yelling.

I want everybody to stop what they’re doing. Now if you know you’re with somebody you’re gonna take the hotel room tonight, make some noise…

[Chorus]
Please don’t be concerned about the monogamous relationship in which you are involved. Get together a group of your best female friends and join me in my temporary residence.


Forget about your boyfriend and meet me at the hotel room, you can bring your girlfriends and meet me at the hotel room. [x2]
We at the hotel, motel, holiday inn. [x4]

[Verse]
I favor women who enjoy double penetration, anal sex, and/or “the shocker.” I’m available for pretty much any sort of sexual escapade. I would like to inspect your fallopian tubes and, if they are free of sexually transmitted disease, I would like to ejaculate in their direction.

She like that freaky stuff, 2 in the oh! and 1 in the ah!, that kinky stuff, you nasty, but I like your type and like TI its whatever you like. Bring your girls its whatever tonight, your man just left, i’m the plumber tonight, i’ll check your pipes, oh, you the healthy type. Well, here goes some egg whites.

[PreChorus]
I would like for your nether regions to become well-lubricated, as I would like very much to remove your clothing. I would also enjoy it if you would then remove my clothing so as to facilitate intercourse.

Now gimme that sweet, that nasty that gushy stuff, let me tell you what we gon do. 2 + 2, i’m gon undress you. Then we’re gonna go 3 and 3 you gon’ undress me. Then we’re gon’ go 4 and 4, we gon’ freak some more, but first!

[Bridge]
After my musical performance, we will proceed to my place of lodging. Once there, I would appreciate it if you would place your digits in your foodhole, unbutton your shirt and lower your scant undergarment. Again, I would like to point out that you are welcome to bring any female friends you may have. In the event that none of your female friends would like to participate in group sex, I can call one of my female friends who would definitely be interested.

after party in the hotel lobby,
then we off to the room like vroom! put them fingers in your mouth uh open up yout blouse and pull that g-string down south oooo! OK shawty, 1’s company, 2’s a crowd, and 3’s a party. your girl ain’t with it, I got somebody, and by nature she’s naughty.

Hellblinki Sextet Rock My Lame Ass

Oh, Nashville. We can’t have goth night without winding up with a room full of giant chain pants, but if a show is on a Thursday and tornadoes are in the forecast, attendance sucks. Fine, the show was on short notice and, if I had a more Lohanian social calendar, I wouldn’t have made it either. Then again, half the people on my social calendar would have wanted to go to the show and the other half would have been totally cool with me flaking on plans with no more reason than “dude, top hats.”

“Amy, haven’t you been bitching about work hours being cut? Why were YOU going to a SHOW anyway?”

Consult the memento mori ribbon on my wrist. Life is short. Sometimes, you have to eat ramen for a week so you can not sit at home watching So You Think You Can Dance. Besides, the cover was only five bucks. If a bunch of people can drag their asses to Nashville for a last-minute show in a tornado, by God, I can take a shower and slap some makeup on my pasty flesh.

What did most of you you miss? A typically energetic set from everybody’s favorite band of accordion-toting, cymbal-with fist-playing, sideburn-having miscreants. I just like saying miscreants; Hellblinki are actually good kids, but don’t go telling anybody. Reputations, you know.

Since I felt kind of bad for the poor turnout and my own lack of ability to buy merch, I wanted to make up for it by offering up my place as a crash venue. It’s kind of like when you’re the oldest kid in your class Sophomore year; it’s your job to pick up your friends so they don’t have to ride the bus with the freshmen. So it is with crashing space. Now that Company doesn’t have to sleep in my kitchen, I’m able to say to friends, “hey, if you come to town, I have space…just don’t let the cat out.” Besides, people my own age are much more low maintenance than certain older, “gave birth to me” people I could name. When mom comes to my house, she just stares at my array of coffee mugs and points out that there are no glasses to drink from. Being bourgeois is a continuum; compared to mom, I’m punk rock. Compared to my friends, I’m Mariah Carey. How do you expect me to put on my shoes standing up? I need a settee!! Also, people who drive around in a van are usually too tired or polite to ask why the fuck you keep canned goods in your fridge (old habits), why there’s a tripod set up in your bedroom (shooting blogs, not porn) or why there’s a dismantled wire hanger on your bathroom floor (see “Widowmaker: The Horror”).

Rambling must stop.

Hellblinki will be at Dragon Con; say hi and buy some merch, for God’s sake.

(Sidebar: did you know there’s a “Juggalo Convention” every year? Somebody pay for me to go so I can write about it. Nothing says “comedic potential” quite like a hotel lobby filled with Insane Clown Posse enthusiasts.)

(Sidebar 2: After getting badgered about it, Andrew Hellblinki apparently set up a Twitter account, but it never really took off because, as he says “I do not text.” I cannot wrap my head around such a concept. It’s like when a friend in high school told me that he’d never eaten fish. “What do you do? TALK to people? WTF?!”)

Xi, Axe and Jib

There are two kinds of Scrabble players in the world: the “if” people and the “is” people. The “if” people stare angrily at their letters, thinking of 7-letter words they could spell if they just had I-N-G. The “is” people do their best with the letters they’ve got, getting by on the crafty use of 3-letter words and multiplier squares.

I learned a little something about Scrabble during the time I spent working at Vanderbilt. The place was a huge machine, where it took five powerful people getting in the same room to fire a person. As a result, I spent five years at a job that I, with my German sense of efficiency, boiled down to one hour out of eight. What did I do with the extra seven hours of my day? I played a lot of Scrabble.

Unfortunately, the same five powerful people decided when to give raises. In the way that they could never agree that I was pointless, they could also never agree to give me more money. Even I didn’t have the balls to ask for a raise. It’s hard to feel entitled when a skit about your at-work backgammon habit is performed at the office Christmas party.

As a result of my years at Vanderbilt, I am now a person who doesn’t play Scrabble with friends. I play Scrabble with people who have pissed me off. I’m an “is” player. I’ll xi, axe, and jib your ass to death.

What I’m getting at is that, while it’s all well and good to be able to lay down “slaying” or “jazzed,” the game of Scrabble isn’t about what you could spell. It’s about what you can spell.

This came up years ago when record companies were approaching new media by suing the hell out of college kids. Now, as magazines and newspapers are soiling themselves and going out of business because of bloggers, paper costs and current lack of ad sales, we’re all running around like chickens, praying to jump onto the Next Big Thing before it’s over. I call this “MySpacing.” It’s cool for a while, but the party can only be so big and so fun before somebody invites some douchebags who come and puke into your return air vent. In the case of MySpace, it got overrun by friend requests from bands (are you also being stalked by Ligion?), corporations and people who over-customized their pages so hard that viewing the page crashes the browser. (PS: we hate you, we don’t want to watch all those damn videos, and you definitely shouldn’t have set them all to auto-play.)

Magazine industry, take a lesson. Suing people and whining isn’t going to change a market that has already changed without you. Hire some people who are entertaining and informative (or keep the ones you have), build a user-friendly site, and put all the crap that anyone would want to know in one place. Then encourage linking. Don’t hoard your stuff. It’s pointless anyway, because your kids are probably more computer-literate than you. Make it easy for people to link you and give you credit. If you really want to get crazy, hire someone to track the trackbacks, and have that tracker give props to everybody who gave you props. Hey, if there’s anything bloggers love more than making fun of Speidi, it’s validation. I know, this will mean validating people you not-so-secretly hate and mock. Suck it up.

You’ll have to pay developers and maybe designers (but you’ll probably just hire developers who THINK they’re designers…no one’s bitter), but you won’t have to pay for paper or shipping. From the looks of the graphic design industry, you’re all starting to get wise to this, because you’re firing all of my friends.

As for me, I am done shaking my fist at people who think that web development and web design are the same discipline (aside from the bitchy comment in that last paragraph). I can point out the douchiness of the “design is development” assumption all day, and it’s not going to change the market. The market wants what it wants. So, in the vein of music and magazines, I’m going to evolve. I’m going to become a developer.

I’m going to xi, axe and jib your ass to death.

Unless, of course, you hire me. That alone will save you 😉

That Which is Not Understood: RoboKelly.

Everybody with ears knows that Kelly Clarkson can sing, whether or not everybody agrees with the message that lies beneath the glossy surface of American Idol. The message: we can make these nobodies into somebodies, provided those nobodies conform to traditional standards of “good singing.” Clarkson adheres to those standards, even if she has recently not adhered to the Los Angeles standard of anorexic beauty. Clarkson has regained her realistic Texan body, but it has come with a bizarre side-effect.

Kelly Clarkson has become a robot.

I understand that the way people make records has changed. Everything is over-processed, auto-tuned and, once unleashed on radio, compressed into submission. What I don’t understand is why someone somewhere thought that Kelly Clarkson needed her voice to be processed beyond all recognition. On “I Do Not Hook Up,” she’s someone else. She’s Miley Cyrus. It is unsettling and unbecoming, as the world barely even needed the first draft of Miley, much less a clone. Kelly Clarkson is not a pop princess. When The Machine tried to turn her into a pre-fab Pseudo Britney, she fired The Machine. Why, then, is she now doing such a realistic impression of a product of The Machine?

My music business degree is now hopelessly obsolete, as I graduated years before MySpace. One thing that still applies is this: when real talent steps into a studio, it’s a bad idea to put effort toward making it look like fake talent. The Jurassic Park rule:

Just because you CAN do it, doesn’t necessarily mean that you SHOULD.

Walking (in mud) In Memphis

Pete Wentz has been joking on Twitter that Fall Out Boy’s current tour is cursed. Sickness, people getting hurt, bad weather conditions, dead bodies falling from the rigging…you know the drill. OK, maybe I made up that thing about the dead bodies.

I bought my ticket to the Beale St Music Festival back in March, excited to finally see FOB play, willing to make the drive to Memphis, and secretly glad that the openers I would witness would be Three 6 Mafia and Snoop Dogg instead of All Time Low, Cobra Starship and Hey Monday. I was so busy thanking the concert gods that the show wasn’t in the “please kill me” heat of July that I didn’t realize that the concert was in the monsoon season of May. “So, I’ll get rained on. Big deal. I’ll just wear clothes that will dry quickly.”

Wrong.

FOB were set to play on Sunday. It had been raining for three days. Whatever notion of grass there had once been was gone, long gone, under the feet of thousands of people. What had been “wow, it’s kind of muddy” on Friday became “ankle deep, lose your shoes” by Sunday.

All of the port-a-potties that had been set up on the right side of the park had been long abandoned by anyone wearing shoes, so the lines at the port-a-potties on the left side were twice as long, turning the walkways into pedestrian parking lots. Ditto the food stands. A trip to buy a 5 dollar slice of pizza was more of a fool’s mission that required 20 minutes of negotiating through hordes of wet, poncho-clad seething humanity.

Never mind that the port-a-potties were alternating with said food stands. 20 feet of toilets, 20 feed of food, and so on. The olfactory result was a generalized potpourri of urine, fried pork products, and elephants (the mud). The port-a-potty company provided a small bay of port-a-sinks, but they were completely unused, save for the people using the sinks to WASH THEIR FEET.

Yes, some people had given up entirely on the whole “wearing shoes in public” thing. I don’t know whether to applaud their practicality or be horrified and their apparent lack of concern for glass, nails, and whatever bacteria were living in the mud. I don’t know about you, but if there’s a port-a-potty even visible, I feel like I need a hazmat suit made of Purell-lubricated condoms.

It’s over-dramatic to compare this to some kind of Mad Maxian apocalypse, but stay with me. As the day wore on, these seething, stinking, portly, dripping, leg-of-something-eating masses of 311, Hinder, and Snoop Dogg fans…GOT DRUNK.

I don’t know how many Hinder fans you know, I don’t know WHO is still listening to 311 (people with time machines who have come from 1997?), but I know this: these are not people you want to have invading your personal space. Emo kids, I can handle. We’re musical cousins, I can beat the crap out of them, and they’re just so damned pitiful when they’re sopping wet. Not Hinder fans. I can’t fathom that life choice. On the “Amy is bewildered by this behavior” scale, they fall between people who are homophobic and people who think the Holocaust didn’t happen. (Note: there’s probably a lot of overlap between the three groups.)

After leaving the relative safety of the baby-boomer-filled Blues Tent, I ventured down the long, muddy path, determined to suck it up and get something to drink and use the bathroom. Yes, I would pay 4 dollars for a 12-ounce lemonade. I would drink it and try not to think about how it was prepared next to a port-a-potty. Maybe I’d get crazy and EAT something too. Yes, I would stand in a line in the middle of a crowded walkway with the hope of eventually getting to urinate into an over-sized Rubbermaid container. Because these things, they tell me, are how it goes when you want to rock.

Somewhere in the middle of the 30-minute trek to cover 100 feet, I began to ask myself “what would have to happen when FOB take the stage 3 hours from now to make this whole thing worth it? What would make this fun?” My answer:

“Prince would show up, give me a post-show bubble bath, and promise me that I’d never have to do this again.”

This seemed a little unlikely.

When I finally peed and got a drink, I did so at a gas station outside of Memphis. By the time FOB were done with their set, I was almost home. The 3-hour drive took 4.5 hours because of heavy rain and standing water, so I ended up being very glad I wasn’t making said drive three hours later. Was this a lot of time and money for nothing? On the surface, yes, but I think a valuable lesson was learned. Actually more than one:

1. Festival shows result in the mingling of social groups that were never meant to mingle (i.e. me and anyone who enjoys “Lips of an Angel”)

2. No more outdoor shows, unless said show involves Prince.

3. Wet naps and Purell are as important as sunblock. Well, almost.

4. Sturgis boots ARE waterproof to the ankle and worth every penny.

5. In certain circumstances, I am capable of murder. (Note: I’m pretty sure the judge would let me off on the “311 defense.”)

Pop Rocks: Keri Hilson “Turnin Me On”

“But don’t you ever like to just shake your ass to something?” Emmaly asks after being subjected to a mini rant about the tyrrany of the Black Eyed Peas releasing another annoying single.

“Yes, but not like that.”

So, what does inspire booty shaking? Recently, Keri Hilson’s “Turnin Me On.” This little bit of sassy, minimalist pop isn’t being played on most pop stations yet, but the R&B and hip-hip stations have caught on. Hilson comes off as a proto-Beyonce, telling the guys in the club exactly how it’s gonna be.

As much guesting that Hilson does on hip-hop songs, you’d think she’d be able to land a bad ass for this single. She does, being artist number 2,749 have a guest spot by Lil Wayne. His short rap is more clever than all of Kanye’s discography combined.

Is it high art? I don’t know, but it’s definitely fun.

Friday LOL: Songsmith / Songsmith Classics

For those of you unfamiliar with Microsoft’s Songsmith product, it’s a piece of software that was designed to be Microsoft’s answer to Mac’s Garage Band. And so, hilarity has ensued. Here, for your LOLing delights, are the originaly songsmith commercial and a couple of “songsmith-ized” classics. Props to Blender Blog and Jrob for this one.

Link for commercial

Link for Van Halen

Link for The Police