This song got recommended to me by a close friend, and I knew I was going to save it for the 4th. I’ve never heard of the dude, and have no idea what to expect of him. (That’s the whole point of this anyways, so expect me saying that in virtually every review, because I’ve got nothing better to introduce any of these with). Hopefully, listening to this redeems me and the rest of Virginia Beach from getting our fireworks rained out and celebrating in the middle of a freak storm.
Thoughts: From reading the bio and listening for less than 30 seconds, I learned two things about this guy: he’s been around the block MANY times before, and he can play a harmonica DAMN well. The tune itself is campy and upbeat (this is an alternate, acoustic version, so I’m sure that’s got a lot to do with it), very reminiscent of some old Dylan or Springsteen. The lyrical fodder repeats simple yet loaded rhetoric about a man’s desire to drive, giving off true-Americana vibes in droves. Mr. Forbert nailed his instrumentations on this track, and proves himself a well-versed songwriter more than enough, but it’s also easy to see why he didn’t stand the test of time as well as the other aforementioned artists above. At least not to their degree, anyway. I enjoyed the tune, though it isn’t something I’m recommending to go instantly search a bootleg of. Overall, Steve Forbert’s ode to our Nation was enjoyable, yet easily replaceable. Rating: 5/10 (plus a gold star in the spirit of Independence).
I didn’t get around to this yesterday because I was hanging out in a hospital for the duration, waiting for my nephew to be born. For those of you who are shaking their head in confusion going “..wait a minute..Tommy has never heard of Iron Maiden?!”, let me assure you that I am well aware of the rock legends and their impact on music today. I just never got around to REALLY giving them a listen, and that’s what this is for. Maiden has been cited as one of the greatest bands of all time, inspiring everyone one from Madonna to MCR and Gaga to take the idea of spectacle to the next level. So many times I’ve been at a loss in conversation because I can’t chime in on my stance of Maiden’s music. I’ve lost friendships and even a girlfriend because I couldn’t namedrop my favorite IM album, or discuss the finer points of the 7th Son of a 7th Son Tour. Today, I’m proud to say I take my first true step into Maidenhood with one of their most popular songs, ‘The Trooper’.
Thoughts: Recorded in 1983, ‘The Trooper’ is widely accepted as one of the most popular and iconic heavy metal songs of all-time. Such is evident from the very first riff. I knew I was going to enjoy it the second the overall groove of the song set in. The style itself is a cry back to the days of New-Wave British Heavy Metal (ala Def Leppard, Judas Priest, etc), and Bruce Dickenson absolutely wailed in a register that, as Marah would put it, no guy should ever have the range to. I see this song as a precursor to the likes of Muse, specifically Knights of Cydonia (with definitely an 80’s rock vibe). The soloing harmonies and agressive instrumentation prove that Maiden meant business, which nowadays seems obvious given their 40+ years and more than 2000 live shows as a band. This song got me pumped, and within literally seconds, I felt as if I understood why so many revel in calling Iron Maiden ‘the greatest rock band of all time’. Though I’d say a couple other acts given them a run for their money, I can’t deny that this was a really fucking good song, and that I’ll continue feeling enlightened all the way to Five Guys later today.
(I am now going to begin making up a week’s worth of back-reviews. Thank you, vacation, for sufficiently making me lazy. I promise this is one challenge I won’t let slip through my fingers.)
I’ve neglected this thing for a week. I had limited internet access, and was busy completing my childhood dreams. Whatever. On one of the last days of our excursion, we ventured to Park Ave Records, a local shop in the outskirts of Orlando. Though our desired purchases were plentiful, we each also bought a $5 ‘grab bag’ of 10 random CDs. This track is the first song off the first album in my bag. I knew none of the artists, and can only form semi-witty, D-List judgements of their sound from the album covers alone. In other words, my purchase was perfect for this project. This track looks promising though. I mean, how wrong can you go with a bluesy, soul-ful looking black man with a harmonica and a top-hat?
Thoughts: It’s one thing to write a number one single. But it’s a whole other ballgame to write a song with such depth, clarity and musicality that it can stand on it’s own, no matter the listener. This is such a song. First of all, the fact that this album came out LAST YEAR, and that it’s already in the bargain bin is ridiculous. This guy can outplay 99 percent of the hacks who call themselves ‘artists’ just because they have a slender build and can play 5 chords. This man has soul. He’s played with the legends. He’s been active since ‘53 and he’s STILL rattling off blazing harmonica solos to complement the thick bass lines and Chuck Berry-esque guitar riffs that define his sound. AND HE BEAT THROAT CANCER! C’MON! This is a CD that I’m glad to have rescued. James Cotton may not be a household name or a icon of sorts, but two things are certain: he can teach them all a thing or two, and he can write a damn catchy tune. Mad props, good sir. Mad props.
In what may be my most grueling run of 30-day challenges yet, I’m setting out to conquer the event that got me doing this whole thing in the first place. I took the month of October off in anticipation of this one, and I can honestly say that there’s no task I’d rather commit to and finish than this one.
-Complete NaNoWriMo (50,000 words in 30 days).
In just one month, I plan on writing a novel’s worth of words. November is National Novel Writing Month, and a few folks decided to take the concept online for writers everywhere to engage in 30 days of ‘literary abandon’. I’ll be posting updates to my quest semi-frequently. I can already feel my fingers bruising.
NaNoWriMo 2k11 Working Title: But We Calm The Nerves The Canvas Can’t Contain
Something of a mixture of poetry and recollections of my first 19 years of life. We’ll see where it goes.
Bonus Challenge: Find one song a day to add to repertoire of show-songs. Just so I have something to work on next month.
When it comes to breakfast foods, I’ve always been a Waffle-Crisp-or-bust sort of kid. Growing up, sugary cereal was pretty much the only option. Eventually, I got so sick of it that I just stopped eating breakfast altogether. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I started consciously eating the mainstays instead of cold pizza or Froot Loops.
I’ve noticed a great deal of people who’ve had periodic cravings for this mysterious thing called lox as of late. I had no idea what it was and felt a bit out of the loop. Nobody at our table even had a clue what it was (so before anyone jumps at my throat with the whole WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!? rouse, my parents are equally at fault here). So when a regular-looking breakfast plate arrived at our table much to my surprise, I felt like I copped out a bit here. However, a quick Google search dutifully informed me that lox is basically salmon, and my fears were quelled. For some reason, I’ve never had salmon before in any capacity either, so my meal still counted.
I’ve never had a more enjoyable breakfast (save for that one time I got a hella-rad Star Wars watch in the bottom of Waffle Crisp on my birthday).
After a series of misfortunate events (stomach viruses, unexpected closings, derpy meetings), I took to the depths of Shafer for a new dish to try. I wasn’t too optimistic about Fried Chicken Mondays yielding any results, but the Vegan/Vegetarian section saved the day! (Props to Kat for the swipe.)
Tofu strikes me as the perfect diet snack: bland, virtually tasteless and filling. After finding out that it’s low in calories and relatively healthy for you, this only makes more sense. Soaked in ginger sauce and served with vegetables, I could hardly complain. Going vegetarian would be a whole lot easier with this, which makes the fact that you can get almost anything made as a tofu-substitute totally awesome. Being a diehard carnivore, this wasn’t really my slab of meat, but it wasn’t intended to be, and that’s perfectly alright.
Also, as a bonus to make up for the fact that I didn’t get any of Tori has stashed away (at least not today, anyway), I also had a few slices of Shafer’s Baked Ziti pizza. Granted, throwing a few reject noodles on a really nice looking slice of cheese hardly counts as inventive cooking, but I’m always down for a slice.
Apparently, if you live within the confines of any urban city for longer than 6 months, getting Boba tea is more common than showering. Arguably the successor to the whole kitschy frozen yogurt store craze that’s been sweeping the suddenly health-obsessed nation, Boba tea offers something completely different for the same price as your “must-have” double shot Carmel Macchiato with extra whip/all the foo-foo trimmings. That, and it comes in just about every flavor of smoothie every conceived ever. Rad.
Upon first sip, I instantly shot back to the first time I bought a bag of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans from my local Blockbuster (RIP) at my Dad’s behest. On the very first try, I got this weird tapioca-reject that was supposed to be buttered popcorn. Hardly Orville Redenbacher quality. Taro is exactly that odd blend of confusion and vanilla-whatever in liquid form. As for Boba, I immediately assumed I was getting melty Milk Duds in the bottom of my drink or something, but instead was met with this jelly-tastic barrage of chewy globular pudding. Again, rad says I, but my American tongue accustomed to chocolate-everything didn’t quite know how to handle this mixture of flavors at first. Hindsight 20/20, it wasn’t all that bad.
Overall, I can see why this thing caught on somewhere, somehow. Granted, I’d hardly go out of my way for one of these. Falling somewhere between a step-up from any McFlurry and a demotion from a typical Tropical Smoothie drink, you kids need to get on this, even if just once.
Day 4: Key West Salad (Jerk Chicken, Scallions, Dried Cranberries, Pineapple, some weird dressing)
I like a good ol’ fashioned Caesar Salad just as much as the next dude. No frills, no bullshit, no surprises. Not gonna lie, I’m a pretty simple soul when it comes to what I put in one of these if the mood strikes me. Every time I saw this Key West thing advertised at Croutons, I went back to my boring default lunch with a gag-face that would make the ’90s proud. Today, I became a man (as far as salad-selection goes) and took the plunge into this friendly-yet-ominious concoction.
Yes, I’ve technically had hundreds of salads before. However, I’ve never consumed jerk chicken (spicy, yet satisfying in a way that no buffalo-derivative could ever hope to achieve), scallions (this weird additive that only added more weird texture) or dried cranberries (haters gonna hate). Though it was a lot better than I originally thought it was going to be, I still got a whole mess of beef with this. Salads should not be sweet. I should not be forced away from my delightful indulgence of spicy chicken by the throngs of villainy in the form of sticky cranberries and sweet juices. That shit just doesn’t make sense. Maybe it’s an acquired taste. Maybe I’m missing the point here. Either way, I was annoyed by the juxtaposition, and will hardly be storming the gates to get one of these ever again.
Something good did come out of all this though. My disposition on pineapple before? Couldn’t stand. My disposition on pineapple now? Tolerable, but not my first pick.
Day 7: Garbanzo Beans w/ Acorn Squash and Zucchini
Every single second of this was a bad idea. These looked terrible, smelled terrible and tasted terrible. I don’t know what possessed me to get an entire bowl, but I was done in less than 30 seconds. There was no way I was sticking that out. I managed a whole three bites before I came to the realization that the shame and remorse were nowhere near worth it.
Vegan section of Shafer, I back you most days. I get mystified at all your quirky names for things and exotic hummus flavors. I always wonder what it would take to officially feel like I belonged walking away from you with a plate of roots and protein-addled good for you food. Yours is a realm I hold in high regard, but this piddly nonsense deserves some explanation. How does it work? What does it do? Why can’t my bull testicle-conquering stomach even stand to be in it’s presence for more than a minute? Explain this tomfoolery, I beg of you.
Before you call bullshit, let me ‘splain myself. The purpose of this challenge is to try new foods and such that I’ve not yet had, and by definition, I, like most of the world, have not consumed the recently released trial version of Pepsi Next. As a diehard Coca-Cola fan, I can say that my intentions were partially motivated by this challenge and the convenience of free samples in the Compass, but moreso by the continued affirmation that all Pepsi spin-off products are, for the most part, total crap.
Coat-tailing off the recent ‘less is more’ trend that’s the swept soft-drink nation, this beverage gets its hype from the fact that it contains 60% less sugar. Boy, oh boy. Nothing says “Hey! Let me risk wasting $5 on a 12-pack of something I know will probably suck, but is totally going to hit the spot because that less sugar is soooo awesome!” Please. Have you learned nothing, PepsiCo? People are very much of the all-or-nothing mentality. If I want a cheeseburger, I’m either getting the supersized artery clogger Monstertruck 5-layer with twice the FDA-recommended amount of bacon or a salad. Likewise, if I’m getting a soda, I either want my sugar all real or all non-existent. Coke has the right idea. Their signature regular? All the way. Coke Zero? Ba-ba-boosh. Hell, Diet Coke is glorified flavored water, and you can ask my two-cans-a-day-for-40+ years Grandfather if he’d have it any other way. 60% is not enough to get even the most health-conscious throats salivating for your sugar water, and not even a swanky new label/name or a free canvas bag can make up the difference.
Some will contend that Pepsi Next really isn’t any different from Pepsi. Fair enough. But those folks are clearly not as concerned with where their money goes for the subtleties in flavor that they so righteously deserve. But hey, we can’t all be adamant about the little things, right? That’s where I come in. When it comes to cola, I’ll be belligerently outspoken so that you don’t have to!
So, where does this latest abomination stand in the grand battle for soda supremacy?
Since matzo soup was conspicuously absent from Shafer’s lunch time lineup, I decided to give this dish a try instead. Finely grated and seasoned rice, with add-ins for good measure, I was pleasantly surprised. Granted, the add-ins were fairly limited (being a vegan item and all), but I’m sure with more ingredients things would have been better. Also, getting this at Shafer as opposed to, say, I don’t know the restaurant down the block named after it might have been a better option, but no regrets.
Overall, this stuff is just really salty. Maybe it was the batch, but I found myself overcompensating with blueberry smoothie to counterbalance the sodium overload that was going on in this bowl. By no means was it a disaster though. I had a way better time eating this than any regular bowl of chicken/rice/whatever that they usually offer over there. This could probably attributed to the fact that grated rice is just fun, but not in the fun-sized M&Ms “we know you really want 12 packs of these anyways!” sort of way. More like a “you know you totally want to play with your food, but you’re an adult now so instead revel in the delicious nature of your culturally saavy and distinguished dish…that you could still totally play with” sort of way.
Props to Lacey for making my command food decision for me, and for her lack of ice-cream cone-making skills.
Honestly, the most sound piece of wisdom I’ve heard all month was when Kat pointed out the ignorance of the alarming amount of people asking “How was your Easter?”. After all, Christianity isn’t the only major religion in the world that celebrated a major holiday last weekend (and, thanks to my new knowledge, still is for another two nights!) So, as amends for the Passover-derp that most Christians are guilty of committing every year, I decided to pay my respects to the almighty bubala mainstaple: matzo!
Conveniently available to me in both soup and cracker form (we are a country that loves it’s choices, after all), this dish made me forget about my mountain of pizza located just inches away. As you know, my friends, that is a damn-near impossible feat for anyone or anything to achieve. The flatbread accompaniment was quite dry/tasteless, but since Wikipedia informs me that is indeed the point, I’ll venture to say that it was the DRIEST bread I’ve ever had the fortune to have! (If you’re gonna have a niche market, you might as well get extreme with your sentiments, right Rick Santorum? oh wait that’s right how did that work out for you again?) Soups are meant to be more than your typical brothy fanfare. Chicken Noodle being the exception, a bowl of specialty soup should stand out as more than the average go-to sickness suppressor. In this case, the bar has been set, and I’m looking at you Progresso/Panera/soup places of everywhere. If you haven’t stepped your game up to this or something as righteous in comparison, your soup is no friend of mine, and that’s some advice even the Soup Nazi would back.