On the Shelf 184: Blondie

Jul. 25th, 2017 07:33 am
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I suppose it might be a guitly pleasure to say I love the band Blondie.

Not in the way that everyone loves Parallel Lines, a perfect blueprint for new wave and New York indie.

Although don't get me wrong, I do. I also mean I love the unloved Blondie. I loved the reunited Blondie records (particularly No Exit and The Curse of Blondie), which generally got mixed reviews. (I am also a fan of the hardly loved Autoamerican disc).

While the image of Blondie generally follows that of their 80s pop brethren, playing casinos and festivals, they are trying to stay relevant.

For me, they have been succeeding, and though music press and fandom favors the young, you can't tell me that you would rather hear some nth generation version of them like Haim.

Pollinator is very much of the Supernatural design, trying to stay relevant by being matched up with lots and lots of guest stars and collaborators. The guest list is telling. There are fellow icons (Laurie Anderson, Joan Jett), indie rockers (Nick Valensi from the Strokes, Johnny Marr, David Sitek from TV on the Radio) and pop stars (Sia, Charli XCX). This being Blondie, none of that seems out of place.

The great thing about this album is how well it succeeds. It is a very good record, and worthy of repeat listens. I don't want to discount the band by saying it will never succeed Parallel Lines, but I am not exactly grading on a curve either. It's a pretty good record. Even the indie folks who would normally savage records like this, have good things to say.

At its best, it's classic Blondie. "Fragments" is a classic Debbie Harry ballad which finishes as a killer new wave/post-punk burner. The lead single "Fun" puts Blondie back on the dance floor. The Joan Jett "Doom or Destiny" is another rocker that outdistances any followers.

That this is Blondie, there are genre-hopping mis-steps. There always have been. The amazing thing is that this album falls on the right side almost the whole time. Take "Love Level"- which would most certainly be a misstep. Cringe-worthy ribald jokes, simplistic lyrics, guest vocals of John Roberts (who's best known for being the voice of Linda on Bobs Burgers), a beat that hasn't been in fashion since the days of the Farm and the Happy Mondays. Yet, all that aside, you can't resist hitting the replay button.

It's really a great statement from the band that they have lot of life left. Fans should be more than pleased with it. Long may they rock.

(NSFW words on both of these)

Good Old Fashioned Blog Post

Jul. 22nd, 2017 01:28 pm
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[personal profile] bedsitter23
In the good old days of LiveJournal, way before Reddit and Facebook, we shared crazy local stories here. Of course, we had fark and digg, too, but it didn't beat a personal find.

In which case, I may have also blogged about this when it happened ten years ago, but it is time for the local Corpse Flower to bloom.

(From wikipedia)

Several news outlets have reported on it, but this should give you all you need to know.

A corpse flower is expected to bloom at any moment at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.

The flower was expected to bloom Wednesday night, then again Thursday night, and now it could pop open at any time.

Horticulturists at the garden say the flower has begun “peeling” which is a good sign. The corpse flower gets its name from the odor it emits when it first blooms.

The flower only blooms once every three to five years.

The plant is native to Borneo and Sumatra, and wiki lists about 20 plants that are in various botanical centers in the US. This particular plant is the only one in the state of Iowa.

The last I knew, everyone was still waiting, and with what must be some kind of weird anticipation, the kind of morbid curiosity one gets with trying spoiled milk. A rare Garbage Pail Kids version of a Solar Eclipse or GG Allin flavored Halley's Comet.

Of course, as per usual, local media fills in some extra tidbits

For example, it does what it does as to protect itself from beetles who find it tasty, but are repelled from the smell. It has been nicknamed "Carrion My Wayward Son" via popular poll. It also can best be described as smelling like a decaying whale.

As an aside, I have been to the Botanical Center a couple of times (as documented here elsewhere) and the early Oughts it actually served as a home to punk bands. Des Moines has become a much friendlier live concert city, but this has only happened since I moved here. I saw a band that eventually spun into indie-rock faves Crocodiles play there for about 20 fans, mostly kids (and it was awesome).

The Corpse Flower (as all great internet age phenomena) has a live webcam, while we await the bloom, and lets you see it minus the smell. (Time lapsed video of previous blooming is also widely available)
cereta: Laura Cereta (cereta)
[personal profile] cereta posting in [community profile] agonyaunt
DEAR HARRIETTE: I work in a typical “millennial office.” We have beer in the fridge, a frequently used table tennis table and no dress code. Most of the employees are men in their mid-20s, so shorts and a T-shirt is the go-to work look for them. As a woman, I feel like I would look silly if I started wearing dresses and more formal wear to the office even though I want to, since I usually have plans after work. I don't want to look stuffy at work, but I don't want to look like a slob when I'm out with my friends. Is there any in-between? -- No Tees in the Bar, New York City

DEAR NO TEES IN THE BAR: Get creative. You can develop a personal style that stays casual but is more dressed up than the average guy at your office. Look around. There’s bound to be someone who dresses a notch above the norm. You can also choose to dress up on occasion when you have after-work events. If somebody ribs you, tell them you have an event to attend and leave it at that. You can also bring a change of clothes to work and slip into your dress just before you head out. Most important is for you to feel confident in your appearance and clear that you can make personal choices that extend beyond the casual norm.

The Book of Chinese Beliefs

Jul. 18th, 2017 12:14 am
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[personal profile] marycatelli posting in [community profile] book_love
The Book of Chinese Beliefs by Frena Bloomfield

A book that includes every day religious practices and like beliefs, and also some information on other everyday practices.
Read more... )

Current Reads

Jul. 17th, 2017 10:24 am
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[personal profile] sitonmyinterface posting in [community profile] book_love
I just finished reading the start of another series (The Order of the Sanguines) called The Blood Gospel.

A soldier, a priest, and an archeologist walk into a bar... not really. They are all in Israel in an attempt to uncover the Blood Gospel, a book reportedly written by Christ in his own blood. And hey! The Bathory story is also woven into this story. There are vampires, called the Strigoi, and those called Sanguinists. The latter are priests that follow the church and drink a wine infused with Christs blood by special consecration or blessing, as opposed to human blood. This is all brought about by an old prophecy and the book ends before a new mission so I am assuming book 2 will pick right up.

Another book I am reading, published in 1887, is called Ten Days in a Mad-House written by a woman named Nellie Bly, a reporter, who fakes her way into an insane asylum in order to report her findings on the treatment of patients, etc... I instantly think Lana Winters from season 2 of American Horror Story. What's sad is the treatment reported within this book is happening all around us.

Lemon Rosemary Grilled Cheese

Jul. 16th, 2017 12:32 pm
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[personal profile] foxfirefey posting in [community profile] omnomnom
This is inspired by a place by my work that does something similar, but with pear compote.


* Sharp white cheddar (mine came from CostCo, the Coastal stuff)
* Rosemary bread (mine came from Trader Joe's)
* Lemon curd (another thing from Trader Joe's)
* Butter (I did unsalted, the cheddar is plenty salty enough)


* Toaster Oven
* Frying pan and oven


* Lightly toast one side of the rosemary bread in the oven
* One one slice of rosemary bread, put a pile of chopped up white cheddar chunks on the toasted side. Put it back into the toaster oven until the cheese gets pretty melty.
* While that's going on, spread lemon curd on the other piece of bread, on the toasted side.
* Put a pat of butter in your frying pan and melt it
* Take your melted cheesy bread out of the toaster oven, put both pieces together so the cheese of one side is against the lemon curd of the other
* Put your sandwich into the pan, swish it around, flip it to the other side--this will make sure that both sides have butter as you pan toast.
* Toast both sides of your sandwich in the pan with the butter, flipping as necessary. When it's toasted to your liking, put it on a plate.
* Tada! Fancy grilled cheese.

(no subject)

Jul. 16th, 2017 01:30 pm
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A Season for the Ages: How the 2016 Chicago Cubs Brought a World Series Championship to the North SideA Season for the Ages: How the 2016 Chicago Cubs Brought a World Series Championship to the North Side by Al Yellon

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This won’t be the best book on the Cubs 2016 season, but it was the first. There’s a lot of low ratings for this one, but it’s understandable. This isn’t John Feinstein or Roger Kahn. Some one will write the definitive story of the 2016 Cubs. Maybe more than one (and given the historical context, maybe five or six, and a few players who were on that bench will likely write their story too). Still, Yellon got to the market first.

Which explains a lot- the spelling and grammar mistakes (not enough that I worry about them, but the criticism others pointed out is true enough) Also the weird ending which the books leaves off with the Cubs on their way to the World Series (not yet winning it). The first chapter does cover the aftermath of the World Series. Surely, this was an aftereffect of being the first book on the market.
One can understand hesitation. The bookcover is filled with quotes from the Cubs (and Cubs superfan Bill Murray) but none of those quotes are about the actual book itself. Still, Yellon isn’t quite a nobody. He runs Bleed Cubbie Blue, the SB Nation Cubs blog, which I reference a lot, and is a good source of Cubs information on a daily basis.

That also may be why people don’t like this book. The book is essentially written from the point of view of a “superfan”. Yellon went to Arizona to watch Spring Training, caught a few road games, and watches every home game in the Right Field bleachers. I am fine with this. It’s a personal perspective and he has plenty of trivia he throws in. Sure, I read Sports Headlines every day, but few people have the ability to spend the day following his team as well as journaling about it on a daily basis. It may not have the heavy perspective of a player or a journalist, but it’s still a fairly educated voice.

In which case, this book likely lifted a lot from Yellon’s daily blog writing, which I don’t fault at all, if that is what you are looking for. Yellon essentially walks us through if not every game the Cubs played, then pretty close to it, and certainly covers every series that they had.
The Cubs aren’t my favorite team, but living where their Triple-A team is located, I have become a fan and have seen most of these players play ball in person (Rizzo, Bryant, Schwarber, Edwards Jr, Baez, Almora and others). If your expectation is quite simply a light read that lets you relive the moments of the Cubs season, then you should be pretty pleased with this. (or at least I was).

View all my reviews

Book Review- Payoff by Dan Ariely

Jul. 15th, 2017 11:46 am
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[personal profile] bedsitter23
Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations (Ted Books)Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations by Dan Ariely

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What motivates us? It’s a pretty good hook for a book. Ariely uses some experimental research to find these answers. It’s not money. In fact, monetary incentives can de-motivate us. For example, if you pay more for hard work on a Friday, people are only can work hard on Fridays ( Kind of like the Bed Bath and Beyond 20% coupon we’ve come to expect).
It is that personalization and recognition that is what make those connections. A handwritten note goes further than a $20 bill. Ultimately, Ariely argues that humans are driven by the need to leave a legacy- that what we do is important.

There are some interesting experiments he shares such as one where he wants to see if people continue to do a project, based on whether that project gets reviewed or shredded. It certainly is easier to do a job that no one ever looks at your output, but ultimately we find it is less satisfying.

This is a TED book, so it’s brief in the way a TED talk would be. There’s barely 100 pages and the author makes the least of those pages as possible. If this was a book I bought (as opposed to borrowed from the library), I would deduct a star for paying $16 for this.

Ariely is probably an interesting guy, but this book does little to display that. I have read other reviews, and suspect that is the nature of the TED books. Like hearing only a greatest hit compilation from a great album rock artist. I just don’t think it did him justice, as if you should come to this book already knowing his work and expertise.

Like nearly all business books, it can fall short in real world answers, but the goal is to facilitate discussions, and this gives enough in that category. I would not discount money as a motivation altogether, as certainly it does motivate certain individuals. Ariely brings up workers who have worked on a project for months to only find it closed for whatever reason, and there’s no closure for them. If the CEO could even have them present what they learned, would be some recognition. Still, the modern business world generally does not work that way. He does hit some important parts- how modern business has de-personalizes us. The impersonal cubicle which is increasingly smaller. Companies that put emphasis on titles and enforce that some people are ‘more important’ than others because of their level.

I also think the only real solution for managers is that we “frame” our jobs to show how important they are. Ariely uses the example of someone who hated his job of cleaning hospital waste, but found satisfaction when reminded that sterility in an environment where surgeries are performed is one of the most important things ever.

I think Ariely really missed the idea of “layoff” errr.. “restructure” culture. Certainly the last decade has reinforced the idea that companies have no loyalty to employees- an idea that grew in the 90s and 00s as companies took away retiree benefits and pensions, but has built more upon those post-recession experiences that have touched nearly everyone in some way.

I will take his conclusion that we want to be remembered when we are ultimately gone, and I think that is true regardless of religion (or lack of) and even if there are children to carry on. We are our passions and we want to be thought of as doing something important. Even if it is just writing a book review that three people will read, right? It certainly makes sense to me. Now, I have had some recent conversations about pursuing passions as a career, and starting to hear some strong arguments against that, but that’s fuel for a different book.

View all my reviews

Lady of Eyre

Jul. 13th, 2017 11:44 pm
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[personal profile] marycatelli posting in [community profile] book_love
Lady of Eyre by Tom Rogneby

Fourth and final (thus far) book of the Minivandians. Spoilers for the earlier ones ahead.

Read more... )

Comic Review- The Defenders #1

Jul. 13th, 2017 07:21 pm
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[personal profile] bedsitter23
Defenders (2017-) #1Defenders (2017-) #1 by Brian Bendis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I haven’t picked up any first issues in awhile (sorry DC), but obviously couldn’t resist this one. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that this is going to be a Netflix series. I, at times, do live under said rock, so that was news to me. This teams up Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones and Iron Fist. It is in theory, the perfect Bendis book. So why am I grading it so low?
I love Bendis, and this seems to be down his alley. These characters. That 70-ish noir feel. Great art by David Marquez. I usually love this stuff. For me, it fell a bit flat. As if this book could not be more Bendis-y, it became formulaic.

This book is tied to the Netflix series, so recent events in the Marvel universe between Jessica and Luke are brushed away. I don’t have a problem with that. I do love the characters and I do love the art. There’s just a lot going on in this first issue, but it moves too quickly, as if he can’t wait to get started. I didn’t really take much away from it, and I didn’t feel like there was much character building (sure it’s not really needed with these characters, but it would have made it a more enjoyable issue.)

It feels, I hate to say “Bendis by the numbers”, and it suffers in the way I felt some of the recent Iron Man work did. I feel BMB needs to do a project that is a bit out of his normal comfort zone. It got me thinking about if Bendis would ever go to DC (surely, some day he will) and that would probably breathe some life into DC, and to him. OK, DC fans may shriek at that thought. Still, Bendis used to make killer #1 issues and they turned into pretty great series, and he still is very good, but there’s less and less of those great Bendis moments. If Bendis wasn’t writing Alias/Jinx/Powers for the 100th time, then we might get excited about him again.

Don’t get me wrong, I am sticking with this (issues 2 and 3 already out). Bendis is still one of the very best, and this is set up to be a good book. Also, the reviews I have read of Defenders #1 are mostly 4 and 5-star, so maybe it’s just me. We will see how this progresses.

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