What’s Up? (8/18/15)

Shut the Window 
Disabling automatic Windows Updates comes with a lot of perks. Having your operating system constantly reminding you about things it needs to do is a terrible distraction. At best a Windows Update feels like a nagging responsibility, at worst a Windows Update will launch in the background while you’re in the middle of a game or movie and restart your computer while you were in the middle of something. Living in a world without Windows Updates is wonderful. I’ve been doing it for years, and guess what? My computers don’t suffer from crashes, or viruses, or any bugs that I’m aware of. So what are these updates for anyways? 
Well, here’s the thing. I’m home in New York right now (more on that later), and my desktop computer could use some work. It’s old. It was at one point, pretty close to top of the line… But that was back when I was in High School. It’s golden days are long gone. The mouse I’ve been using for years is gross and sticky. The old keyboard has been replaced by a mechanical generic (the only improvement as far as I’m concerned). But none of this really matters. This desktop computer is only used about… 10 percent of the year? I can ignore its shortcomings because its stronger than my Laptop. Not faster, mind you, but all of my video games look significantly better on this machine. But like I said, it could use some work.
The last major change I made to this computer was “upgrading” it from Windows Vista to Windows 8. What a mistake that was. I experienced no problems with Windows Vista, and a litany of problems with Windows 8. No native DVD support, the fucking app store (on a desktop?), and the god awful tiles interface optimized for tablets (and not desktop computers). A switch from Vista to 7 would have been an upgrade, but Vista to 8 has been a nightmare. A mistake. It basically cursed this computer. It killed the computer I used to know. I had to reinstall everything. All my files not stored externally were lost. There were no improvements, I just found myself adapting to a new environment for no good reason. 
So I’d love to get off of Windows 8, and I heard Windows 10 is better, even if it looks like Windows 8, it might default to the desktop instead of the tiles? I’m not sure, but I’m willing to roll the die. Problem is, I haven’t launched a Windows Update in years. It’s been so long since this computer had any contact with Microsoft Corporate, that Windows Update had to Update. Now it can’t even figure out how many Updates it needs to install. My estimate is going to be in the triple digits. 
I look forward to turning this computer on in 15 hours and seeing the words “Welcome to Windows 10” and noticing zero improvements. (Though in all honestly, I’d love to love my Windows again. I’d like it if Windows 10 were so satisfactory that I removed disc copies of Windows 7 from my eBay watch list). 
Look Out the Window To Your Left
Outside of my airplane window, I could see the Statue of Liberty, roughly at pinky nail size. That’s one hell of a way to be welcomed back into New York. 
My 11 AM flight from Pittsburgh to New York went as smoothly as these things could go, with a few extra bonuses. I got to the airport early enough to have a hash brown at McDonald’s, which you may find gross, but McDonald’s breakfast is something of a Pittsburgh airport tradition for me. I then kicked it back at my terminal gate for a little less than an hour, listening to De La Soul’s “De La Soul Is Dead” and Janelle Monae’s “The Electric Lady,” all the while working my  way through Lewis Black’s “Me of Little Faith.” 
Yeah, I’m consuming a lot of media today. 
When I boarded the plane, I was given a tag to put on my carry-on just in case it wouldn’t fit in the overhead. That’s never a reassuring sign, when someone takes a look at your luggage and is skeptical about it’s chances. Triumphantly, I forced my carry-on into this airline’s sparse overhead space. I felt like I had just beaten the system somehow. I felt like the crew member who thought my luggage was too big was watching my victory, and not sharing it in, but rather feeling defeated. Her eyes were saying “it’s not going to fit. It’s not going to fit. He’s attempting a fool’s errand.” 
On the subject of eyes that need to stop sending bad messages. People in first class. Please stop looking at everyone walking by. Period. There’s no way a business class passenger makes eye contact with a first class passenger without feeling the patrician/plebeian divide. When we look at each other, I think you’re judging me, and you probably think I’m judging you. You should just take that free sleep mask you’re getting and put it on while the rest of us board. It’d make everything less awkward. 
If everyone in first class just puts on their sleep masks, I promise not to flip you off and steal your complimentary mimosas. 
Today though, the back of the plane business class scored a major victory. That victory, being that the plane was practically vacant. With nobody else in my row, I moved from the aisle to the window, opened up my book, and enjoyed the view. 
I flipped through Amy Stewart’s “The Drunken Botanist,” and learned a little about what types of herbs, flowers, fruits, and berries can be muddled into an alcoholic drink, and which ones make good infusions. Might be enough to put most to sleep, but I love the subject of botany, especially when combined with cocktails! 
The fifty minute flight flew by in no time (heh), and before I knew it, I was on the Belt Parkway headed home. 

What’s Up? (England Day Two)

As I come to consciousness Saturday morning, I can hear two distinct types of shouting. I could hear children playing Football in the courtyard right outside of my window. I couldn’t possibly be angry if they woke me up with shouts of fun, it was so cute. The second type of shouting was less immediate and loud, it was more like a wind that was sweeping through the area. It was the sound of screams and songs of joy coming from St.Mary’s Stadium. I could tell Southampton was winning, but when I checked Sky News it turned out to be more than just an ordinary victory. The Saints had shut down Aston Villa 6 to 1 and just claimed the new record for fastest Hat Trick in Premier League history.

Oxford Street.
My friend had to work this Saturday, so I had Southampton to myself. One of the things I have to mention early on here is just how interesting every little detail of the city was to me, details that are probably mundane to the city’s citizens. I stopped to look at this punk-rock venue that was located underneath a brick bridge–it looked like something out of a fantasy game like Skyrim. A tavern/musical venue built under–no, inside the bridge. I found Oxford Street incredibly welcoming and pleasant. A cobblestone sidewalk, historical buildings, bars and restaurants everywhere, and it was so close to my temporary home. I only ate in one Oxford Street establishment, but the street is a fond memory, a place I saw flooded with the peppermint-striped kits of Southampton Saints fans drinking to an amazing victory.

A Drunk City.
Perhaps because of that amazing victory, I got to see Southampton particularly drunk that Saturday night. The drunkest I got was probably at lunch, drinking Rosé and eating pizza–and it seemed like the average citizen out on the sidewalk was about twice as drunk as that. I’ll go ahead and say there were two standout characters, though everyone was impressive in their own ways. So the first amazing person we run into is super drunk, and super gay. I think he maybe came from the gay bar on Oxford Street, but who can say? All I know for sure is that he liked to sing and dance, and accuse people of hating him.

“You hate me! Oh I’m sorry. You think I’m weird. I’m just lost.”

Well anyway, this guy danced his way to a bar called Isis and in hilarious but classy fashion, the bouncer gave him a cigarette and a light, but would not let the drunk man in. What kind of conversation they had, I don’t know, but it was great fun to watch.

In the middle of this drunken tale, my friend and I hit up a place called The Orange Rooms, which is filled with good throwback music, sexually aggressive couples doing lots of spanking, an AT-AT in a fishtank, televisions playing He-Man, and urinals with video games in them that you play with your pee.

On the walk home, wouldn’t you know it, we run into more drunk characters. This time it’s a man called Parkour Jacob. See, at first we don’t see Jacob. We see his friends staring at three stories of scaffolding shouting “Get down from there! Jacob! Stop!” Well, Jacob listened to reason and got down from the scaffolding, only to tell his friends that “I know a shortcut home.”

Those were Jacob’s words.
“I know a shortcut.”
And then Jacob went over a nine-foot stone walk, and walked along it until I couldn’t see him anymore.
“Somebody’s played a little too much Assassin’s Creed” was the best quip I could come up with.

What’s Up? (6/2/15)

LaGuardia Airport. A Tale.
Something changed at the airport. When I sat down at the bar, I felt like I was retreating from chaos. That was an hour ago. Back then, announcements had to be made so that the impatient folk trying to get on the plane would get out of the way for 85 passengers trying to get off the plane. People seemed stressed out, me included.

I arrived at the airport around 3:30 PM, and my 5:55 PM flight was delayed to 8:00PM, then canceled, and I was rebooked for a 8:30PM flight, which was delayed until 9:20.

The time is, right now, 7:53PM. I have no idea whether or not I’ll be on an airplane at 9:20 PM. I have little faith in US Airways, who have canceled two flights on me today.

Still, either the hour has become so late, or the rich alcohol has soothed me so much that LaGuardia has become, tolerable, peaceful even! There has to be, I guess, 80% fewer people. LaGuardia feels empty, and quiet, and I love it. At this level of peace and quiet, I could tell that there were regulars at the airport bar. Regulars at the airport bar. People who fly so often the bartender knows them. Frequent flyers, and frequent drinkers. My type of people.

Myself? I ordered a French 75, a hot pretzel, a Black Russian, and a Negroni, in that order. It was a hefty price for three drinks, but if it buys this type of serenity, then it has no price. I’ve heard of drinking in airports gone wrong, leading to missed flights, or miserable flights, but this is peaceful, this is wonderful, and I feel like I have not been at the airport for five hours.

What’s Up? (4/5/15)

Pride Week
I was just thinking before writing: “Man, nothing’s changed since I last wrote. I’m still coughing. I’m still stuffy from time to time. Being sick is still holding me back.”
But then I remembered I had an amazing Pride Week from beginning to end. On Monday I saw the amazing Laverne Cox who gave an amazing speech, touching on topics of gender, bullying, and perseverance. On Tuesday the Campus Women’s Organization had another great meeting, this week on reproductive justice ( maybe one of my last meetings ever :c ). On Wednesday the Fourth Wave feminist magazine had its last meeting of the semester, complete with pizza. On Thursday there was of course a Condom Casino, where I heard of an opportunity from Planned Parenthood, met up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while, and walked away with fist-fulls of condoms.
And that brings us to Friday, the night of the 15th Annual Drag Show, which was amazing. Very talented people, very funny, and I had a chance to go backstage and become friends with a Drag Queen ( c: ).

So am I still sick? Yeah. My throat is still sore from time to time. I’m coughing pretty badly.  My nose gets stuffed up.
But I’m having a good time.

In trying to think about how to write my Senior Seminar project, I think I’ve come across a route that I like: Drinking and Sophistication. See, it’s hard to drink with an ounce of sophistication in a college setting, I think. For starters, if you’re underage and in a dry college dorm, you have to keep it on the down-low. When you are of age, you find liquor stores filled with adults buying booze for kids, stocked with cheap liquor. You find bars that don’t have cocktail glasses because they’re too expensive and too delicate to give to drunk college students. When you live a mile from the nearest place that serves you a drink in a martini glass, you have to do it on your own. A martini glass was probably one of the first things I bought from the University of Pittsburgh store after books, and when I got off campus it was a low-ball glass and a stainless steel shaker. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but the arc is a little like this: at college you’re surrounded by cheap easy choices, and I chose the sophisticated path.

What’s Up? (3/5/2015)

The Jinx
This week I’ve been largely obsessed with a new miniseries on HBO called The Jinx. It’s like a true-crime documentary/interview/creative non-fiction project. The show’s full name is, I suppose, “The Jinx: The Lifes and Deaths of Robert Durst.” Does that name sound familiar? It may–it seems the murders associated with Robert Durst garnered a lot of media attention in the not-so-distant past. The show is a lot of fun to watch, for a grisly and ghoulish as it is, thanks to editors who understand how to craft drama. Interviews end at the right time, cut to dramatic music, a reinactment of a crime, then return to the interview. Like all good true-crime novels, certain things are amplified to make reality extra-exciting for viewers of The Jinx, but reality itself is the most exciting part to watch thanks to the center of attention: Robert Durst. The things the man does outside of possible murders, are fascinating and strange. I mean, when he was on the run from Galveston, Texas for murder, he risked it all to shoplift a hoagie from a Wegmans in Pennslyvania… so I remain glued to the TV, wanting more and more from this guy… what will he say next?

Spring Break
So I’m flying tomorrow, that’s crazy. I hope things aren’t as… slushy, as they are here in Pittsburgh. I’ll be gone for almost ten days but it’ll be good. I feel like I have nothing but city plans, like everything I want to do over break is: go to the city for a concert, go to a museum in the city, meet a colleague in the city, city, city, city. Not so surprising I guess, I mean there are places and people I love on Long Island but… you have to drive. And the thought of driving just does not go super smoothly for me, like I can feel a bit of the driving anxiety just writing about it now. I think I was born for walking and mass transit.

Writing about Alcohol
Today I spent an hour in the library just looking at, and looking for, books on alcohol–the history of it, the drinking of it–and specifically gin and vodka. I found a half-dozen pleasant books with Martini glasses on them, but I checked out the three I liked best; “Everyday Drinking” by Kingsley Amis, “A History of Vodka” by William Pokhlebkin, and “The Book of Gin” by Richard Barnett. “Everyday Drinking” is going to be the most enjoyable, since it seems to come from a humorous and witty author, Sir Kingsley Amis. I am unfamiliar with the man, yet he comes strongly recommended by Christopher Hitchens. “He was what the Irish call “your man” when it came to the subject of drink.” And later from Hitchens: “It has been said that alcohol is a good servant and a bad master. Nice try. The plain fact is that it makes other people, and indeed life itself, a good deal less boring.”

I left the library with a pretty solid idea of what I have to write about. Histories of alcohols have been written, stories about alcohol, celebrations and warnings, so I need to cut myself a new space to claim as my own. Taste, and the social identity of the drinker. If we have “all-natural,” “old school,” “modern,” “trashy,” “classy,” and “apathetic,” then where do these identities and practices come from? Is it the drinker’s intent that determines how they drink? At this moment I tend to think that if you don’t care about what you drink, then you drink to get drunk, or drink to be social. Me personally? I think I’d refuse to just drink beers, and if there weren’t any cocktails available, or wines and sherries, then I wouldn’t drink, even if that had social consequences. Comedian Jim Jefferies has this joke where somebody who doesn’t drink says they don’t drink “because they don’t like the taste.” Jim then shouts “Nobody does! We drink because we have to!” And it’s funny and everything, sure, but I’m not in that place. I drink because I can make really good drinks, and, AND, because of the social perks involved. And there are social perks to being a cocktail-maker, to showing up to a house party with a Martini glass, a shaker, ice, and your own ingredients. There are social perks to being a little classy!

What’s Up? (7/21/14)

I just realized I had a finished song that I was sitting on for easily, a month, and hadn’t released. I was going to play it at June’s Pulsewave, but it was a secret location and I opted to hang with the Xanax Cats instead, I think. It’s really good though… I’ll post it this week for certain.

That discovery, and more! There’s a lot of positive brain-storming happening right now. Ideas like, how will I celebrate being back in Pittsburgh? Who will I see first, and when? What outfits can I put together? Can I achieve my vision of complete color coordination? Pants match the t-shirts, which match the scarves, and maybe even the watches. Will I learn to make coffee from grind? Maybe French Press, or my own single-serve machine. Should I pull the trigger on a piece of exercise equipment? A part of me thinks it would be excellent to have a tiny stationary bike in the room. Could get some exercise while I’m going some readings for English or watching Netflix or something.

As my internship goes into its final four days, and my time on Long Island into their final sixteen, it’s only normal for me to be this excited about Pittsburgh again. There are some things I’m still itching to do before that happens though. 1) A drink with the Interns. 2) Another pool & beach session with the Xanax Cats. 3) Drawing my Summer Passport entries. 4) Maybe see Nine Inch Nails a fourth time. 5) Hang out with a Slimeball. 6) Having more Vodka.

Roses’ “Roses EP” (2013)

Roses is a self-described “Romantic Rock’n’Roll Synthpop Band,” and while my experience with Synthpop may be limited I totally understand what they mean by Romantic Rock’n’Roll. Roses’ EP is a braid of soft keyboards, pulsing sin waves, clean guitars, and modestly pretty voices. The band has a particular way of describing painfully obsessive love.  The third track, So Very Wild asks the question “How can I love you when you’re so very wild?” with a sense of romantic honesty that reminds me of Vampire Weekend’s “Modern Vampires of the City” (2013). Sometimes words fail us, and Roses doesn’t shy away from occasional non-linguistic chorus of “la’s” or “oh’s,” not unlike the The Fratellis’ sing-along-bar songs, if that particular bar was a little bit quieter and somber. My favorite thing about Roses’ EP is how they let songs step in both Romantic Rock’n’Roll and Synthpop. It’s not like they sat down and arbitrarily decided one song would be Rock and one song would be Synthpop, each song has a little bit of both and it makes for a dynamic and interesting listen on top of being catchy and pleasant.