So after having read Scott’s post about Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men we had a bit of a conversation about how awesome it was that his post generated so many hits. In the midst of this dialogue, I realized something. I am not a nerd, or at least, I am trying really hard pretending I am not. My only Joss Whedon experience was and still is the brilliant “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”. I haven’t seen any part of any episode of “Buffy”. I was never a “Trekky”. I never went apeshit for Star Wars. I was briefly into comics in middle school, but not much came out of that. I have no credentials.
With that said, I feel the next several weeks and months will be interesting for me. It is probably fair to ask why it has taken me so long to try to get into things like “Lost” (I’ve only seen the pilot), Harry Potter (haven’t read a page, haven’t seen a frame), saw Watchmen but only read about 20 pages of the graphic novel. I’m been partially baptized in nerd culture, but my full indoctrination has still yet to happen, and not because I haven’t been surrounded by it, or people who are passionate about it. I think it is because I am set in my ways on many things. I find things I do like, and watch or experience them over and over again. With this being true, new things that come along by recommendation or, my own discovery take some extra effort that I am reluctant to put forth. With friends like Scott and Wes, who are both part of this “nerd” subculture and partners and founders in this blogging adventure, I am now ensconced in this culture and (not that I had an excuse before) I now have no excuse whatsoever to avoid these things any longer. And anyway, as Scott mentioned, I may not be as far removed from the subculture as I think. There lies in me a love for these things which is dormant. Will jumping in awake the sleeping monster?
What are some things that I should make sure I don’t miss out on as I seek to be ravaged by nerdom. Who should be my first? Who should I let pop my cherry?
This is the kind of art I would like to be a part of …
La Blogotheque is a French based music video/blog project of independent film maker Vincent Moon. He records bands on the streets of Paris, in cafes, in moving vehicles, in people’s living rooms. There are similar things out there, but I knew of Mr. Moon’s work first. These performances are called Take Away Shows or Les Concerts à Emporter. It is really awesome. Really awesome guerrilla-style art. The Shins, Andrew Bird, St. Vincent, Beirut, Of Montreal, Sufjan Stevens (covering the Innocence Mission!), Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, Sigur Ros, Phoenix, Essie Jain, Cold War Kids, My Brightest Diamond, Islands, Grizzly Bear, Vampire Weekend, Okkervil River, Menomena, and Jens Lekman are some of the artists featured. Read that list again. Read it again, and get going. Most, if not all of the videos can be found on youtube. Go. Now.
If you’ve stuck around, shame on you … but here are three of my favorites:
I can’t imagine how cool it would be if I was walking down the street and heard one of my favorite bands playing a song, turning a corner, and seeing one of my favorite bands performing on the street. How awesome would that be?
Look out the window at dusk in the dead of winter. Trees, long stripped of their colorful plumage, are stark and black against the blue of the darkening sky. All alone. Their branches reach for the stars, reaching for their small ancient light. The wood is dry and cracked from the harsh elements of a cold winter. Winds from every direction have seemingly battered the life out of the mangled organism. A branch or two is felled with every gust of wind, which are then covered over with the freshly fallen snow, and forgotten. Snow and ice coat the trunk and remaining branches like a well-worn fitted suit. The tree shakes in the blustery winds of arctic origin (where there are no trees, for good reason), like chattering teeth, the branches rattle together. The tree turns its attention anxiously to the east. Waiting with great anticipation as it shivers through the night. The night is cold. The sun breaks over the horizon and wraps it’s warm, yellow arms of light and heat around the cold, covered wood. The suit of frozen precipitation is melted; stripped away like a robe dropped to the floor. Branches, previously weighed down under the cover of snow and darkness, readjust & reach for the sky once again, like a good stretch after a long nap. Light gives heat gives life, yet light is born out of darkness.
I’ve known Claire Anthony for nearly ten years. Ever since I’ve known her, she has continually left me in awe, and even intimidated with her depth and incredible talent. There is a quality to her performance style that is hard to pinpoint. It is something that cannot be learned or taught. It is not something one can emulate. It is a quality that is inborn. There is a vocal quality that gently, yet firmly grabs your attention. It beats back at distraction like the deluge beats back conflagration, and guides your focus. Even with everything else fallen away, the honesty is disarming. Despite any nerves that may be present, the performance is still as if we have joined Claire in her bedroom at 3am, listening in as she sings and plucks her way through songs freshly copied from the tablet of her heart. I’ve found it is rare that a performer can combine talent with this honesty and vocal expressiveness. You believe every word because every word feels true, because every word is true. But I am biased, I suppose …
It will be hard for me to not have this last paragraph sound exactly like Gina’s …
Her lyrics are steeped in poetic imagery and her voice conveys emotion where mere words fall short … just reread the first paragraph of this post … the scene I described is what her music is. Her songs wrap their long, loving arms around you and warm you back to life. Visit her myspace. Listen to the songs I’ve linked here, and the ones there. If you’re in Western Washington, go to one of her gigs. You will be in awe too. Listen:
Malbec is an interesting varietal because it was first grown in the Bordeaux and Cahors regions of France, but because of a devastating frost in 1956, 75% of the vines were destroyed. Though some were replanted, the grape dropped in popularity in Bordeaux but stayed fairly popular in Cahors, where it is primarily used in blends.
Malbec was introduced to Argentina in 1868 and since then, it has really come into its own. The Argentinian Malbec produces “a softer, less tannic-driven variety than the wines of Cahors.” It is said that the Malbec in South America (it is also grown in Chile) has virtually nothing in common with its European sibling. As a varietal, Malbec has become almost synonymous with Argentinian wine. This is no surprise as evidenced by the abundance of Malbecs to be found on the shelves of wine shoppes worldwide. They are fruit-full wines, packed with full bodied punch, and one can usually do well for under $20. I picked up this bottle of Punto Final from Whole Foods for around $11.
First pour: Harsh and overwhelmingly fruity, but promising. A lot of dark fruits with a finish rife with minerals, green earth, and acid. Virtually nothing on the mid-palate.
Day One: Perhaps i was a bit congested, or perhaps Punto Final needed some more time to open up, but the notes on the mid-palate explode in this wine after letting it breathe a bit. Still very fruity and sweet … cherry, some cranberry, currant, almost raisinlike. The mid-palate reveals pronounced earthiness. Berries linger, but mingle nicely with tobacco and green earth. Finish is hot and woodsy. Had part of a glass with some spicy chili and the heat of the chili was intensified by the heat of the wine. Preferred it by itself.
Day Two: Had a guest on Day One, so the bottle didn’t make it past first day intact …
Overall: I am curious about this one. On the fence a bit. Would maybe buy it again and keep it on hand for a year or so, since it is so young, and see what happens, but definitely a good Malbec.
A cold wind blows through the old growth pines, whose height towers above everything around them. They stand, stately and distinguished; weathered by years of abuse. Powerful storms have blown off of the cerulean blue Pacific, moisture laden and taut, the winds whipping at the thick, lichen covered bark. There is a natural and chaotic peace in this scene that comes from routine. Everything is in balance around this routine. There is green everywhere. The rain falls and the birds take shelter, singing songs from covered perches. No matter the weather, they sing. The song is the same, rain or shine. Beautifully accompanying the percussive patter of the rain. Their song rises and falls with the rain’s intensity. Singing from their shelter of hollowed out evergreens. These are the songs of Gina Belliveau. Drizzle and downpour all at once. Nuanced and in your face.
It feels very weird to be writing (read: boasting) about how talented and lovely a person Gina Belliveau is. She isn’t just another girl and a guitar. She isn’t just another girl. She’s a friend. A friend from back east. We were both (separately) “transposed” to the Pacific Northwest from Baltimore, as her ReverbNation profile indicates. She moved to Olympia with her husband Mike, who is a brave member of the United States Armed Forces. Formerly the bassist for Baltimore’s No Picnic!, Gina possesses immense talent. Now using the acoustic guitar as her main source of aural awesomeness, Gina has taken the percussive aspects of bass, and combined it with alternate tunings, looping, and delicate finger picking to create a style that one would be hard pressed to find anywhere else. — this is sounding cliche … ugh … here, just listen:
I really can’t do her justice. My words will always fall short when trying to capture the beauty of an image or song. That is why I am extremely happy there are people like Gina who see the world the way they do, and who can translate it so adeptly into beautiful songs. Her songs have depth, both musically and lyrically, and there is an urgency in her voice that invites us into the moment and into the beauty. Listen:
The Wolftrap, from Boekenhoutskloof (that’s the vineyard in South Africa), is a red blend consisting of 68% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre, and 2% Viognier. Picked it up on a whim. Just perused the wine aisle at Whole Foods and found an intriguing wine for under $10, of which there are many.
I am not very familiar with South African wine … on New Year’s we drank a South African sparkler … outside of that, I don’t know that I’ve encountered another South African wine. So, I conducted a bit of research …
South African winemaking dates back to 1659 and has experienced a rather varied worldwide interest since. South Africa’s current production puts it in the top ten wine producing countries in the world, though this wasn’t always the case. Before the end of apartheid throughout much of the 20th century, South African wine received little attention worldwide.
“Its isolation was further deepened by boycotts of South African products in protest of the country’s system of Apartheid. It wasn’t till the late 1980s and 1990s when Apartheid was ended and the world’s export market opened up that South African wines began to experience a renaissance”
Once the export market opened up, the renaissance experienced in the South African winemaking was helped along by the Vine Improvement Programme. This program(me) was brought into existence in order to bring up the standards of South African wine by bringing a better understanding of the viticultural arts, if you will, to the winemakers. This has spurred the winemakers to strive toward a more “international style” of wine, that would find fans on a global scale. In some cases, winemakers from France, Spain, and California were flown in, bringing with them new techniques and styles to the already unique style of South African wine. Today, as I mentioned earlier, South Africa is in the top ten of wine producing nations in the world. It should be an exciting world of wine to delve into …
Traditionally, many South African wines have been characterized by very rustic flavors, and The Wolftrap certainly hits on the rustic side. It is a very substantial wine; full and heavy, with a touch of gameyness (Some describe it as meaty. I don’t like the sound of meaty) to it, which I didn’t find unappealing at all. Loads of spice and smoke throughout. There is a subtle floral quality I picked up on that was soon washed away by heavy berry influence (blackberry, strawberry). With all of these heavy flavors (the smoke, spice, gameyness), the subtleties remain intact, interestingly enough, which added to the surprising balance achieved in this red blend. If you like big, red blends full of spice, smoke, dark berries, this wine is for you … just be prepared for the gamey aspect, it could be a turnoff to some. For around $10 you could definitely do a lot worse.
It is my great pleasure (no homo) for me to introduce the founder of this scrappy upstart blog, Scott S. aka Scrambler Biggs, aka Scotty Smalls, aka Professor Thaddeus McGregor, aka (unrenderable symbol).
It was the year 1982. Reagan had just taken office two years prior and was making it rain rich people’s money on poor people. It was a great year for music, as evidenced by the slew of amazing, still hip number 1 hits: The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me”, Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical”, John Cougar’s “Jack and Diane”, and Holland Oates’ “Maneater”. Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra Terrestrial was filling seatholes in movie theaters nationwide. And this is where our story begins …
Scott S. or, “The Black Cobra”, as he likes to be called, came into this world in the middle ofa showing of E.T. He burst forth from his mother’s fertile womb at the popular local cineplex during the scene where Elliott and E.T. ride in front of the moon. There are not many details about his birth besides this. (This is perhaps why, later in life, there would be much speculation as to whether The Black Cobra was an American citizen). When I tried to reach his mother for comment, my calls were not returned.
He was birthed during E.T., this led to a childhood consumed by it. Wallpaper, lunch boxes, bedsheets, underwear. You name it, he had it. Since his real father’s identity is not known, Scrambler began thinking that E.T. was his father. (This thinking was further encouraged by the perpetually soused Uncle Griggs, who, by the way, wasn’t his real uncle, who would tell Scrambler of his absent, alien father who was due back to earth “any day now”. There was something about the rapture in there too). Scrambler also developed a hopeless and intense celebrity crush on Drew Barrymore. More on this later …
As Scrambler moved through childhood and into adolescence, he quickly realized he was gifted in several special ways. He first realized this when his mother constantly told him so. Constantly. It was embarrassing.
By the time he was 14, Scrambler could grow a thick, full, bushy beard. It was then that he decided to start dressing exactly like an old sea captain. Since there are no photographs of The Black Cobra prior to 2001, here is an artist’s rendering of what Scrambler might have looked like …
He ran away from home at the age of fifteen after an argument with his mother about the correct pronunciation of Kraft’s instant macaroni and cheese product. He fled west stopping along the way only for what he thought were the essentials: Camel Lights, the Best of Chris Issac cassette tape, Funyuns, and RC Cola. These items were in addition to what he grabbed on his way out of the house: E.T. VHS tape, Drew Barrymore’s alleged phone number and address (which he received in exchange for a Lay’s Potato Chip likeness of the Virgin Mary), his favorite t-shirt, and a handwritten script of the pilot episode of “Wings”. After several days on the road, The Black Cobra ended up at Disneyland. It was here that he settled and got a job as Goofy. He slept in a janitor’s closet and was sustained mainly by cotton candy and Orange Slice. Every day he bussed into L.A. in hopes of running into Drew Barrymore. He was too scared to use the address he was given.
After two years as Goofy, Scrambler applied and got into the film program at UCLA. The film that got him in was a short he wrote, directed, and starred in called “Griggs”, a fabricated biopic about his uncle (who wasn’t really his uncle). Scrambler was on the fast track to Hollywood stardom: Top of his class, brilliant film concepts, and an uncanny ability to write good stories. This path he was on was wildly diverted when, in an attempt to ask Ms. Barrymore onto a project, he ended up in jail for trespassing. The charges were then increased to stalking when a search warrant of Scrambler’s dorm turned up with all kinds of miscellaneous Drew Barrymore items, including her address and phone number. She was just his favorite actress. He had grown out of his crush phase. But that didn’t stop him from being incarcerated for 6 months in a minimum security prison. I know, it doesn’t make any sense, and it not fair, but it’s Hollywood.
While in prison, Scrambler devoted his life to the Lord. He spent his days reading the Bible and every Max Lucado book. He worked out and ate a shit ton of ice cream sandwiches. It was in prison that he got the nickname Scotty Smalls after a prison movie night showing of “The Sandlot”.
Once he was released from prison, Smalls decided it was time for a change. He enrolled at the University of Phoenix online, where he completed a degree in Microfinance (with a minor in African American Studies). Smalls met his nemesis and friend John “Waldo” Welsey Nelsonsonton during his time at the University of Phoenix. Their falling out or “The Pudding Rift”, as it is referred to, is still talked about to this day “on campus”. After a few years of no communication, Waldo reached out to Smalls with a challenge. It was during the events of the several months following, that Smalls came to be known as the Black Cobra. Why the Black Cobra? Few know. Ask the North Koreans. They know why.
With his problems in the rearview mirror, and a bright future laid out before him, Smalls settled down to a life of celibacy in Elko, Nevada. He started a foundation that helps teens with celebrity crushes and has adopted 5 children, Fredward, Edwick, Phoebe, Zooey, and Chuck. Smalls still makes movies, but on a much smaller scale. They have been favorably compared to the brilliant work of one Stephen Groo. The Black Cobra enjoys knitting and running ultra marathons in his spare time.
Ventured down to Tacoma tonight for an open mic of sorts. My friends Claire and Gina were signed up to perform. They are remarkably talented by themselves, but sometimes join forces to melt faces, hearts, and ears with their sweet harmonies. I hope to devote a post to each of these lovely ladies very soon, but for now, here is a picture I captured tonight (with my cell phone).
if you are in Seattle tomorrow, catch Gina (and her bandmate, Mark) at El Diablo Coffee in Queen Anne!
I apologize for the brevity and lack of links and other media, but as mentioned earlier, I will be featuring a post for both Claire and Gina in the not so distant future!