Saturday, August 30, 2008

Chocolate Skittles=Candy Abomination

I have a weakness for impulse buying wacky candy variants, so when I was in my favorite candy shop in Harvard Square today, I couldn't resist picking up a package of Chocolate Mix Skittles. I don't actually eat much candy anymore, but I kind of like Skittles, and I definitely like chocolate, so I thought I'd give these a try.
I am officially cured of my impulse buying of wacky candy variants.

The package claims there are five "flavors" here (S'mores, Vanilla, Chocolate Caramel, Chocolate Pudding, and Brownie Batter), but they all tasted exactly the same to me. And by that, I mean they all tasted horrible. Up until now, I thought the worst chocolate candy in existence was the Tootsie Roll. Well Tootsie Rolls taste like Godiva compared to this garbage. I would rather boil off a can of Yoohoo and lick whatever dried crud is left over on the bottom of the pot than eat one more of these things. I can't remember when (or even if) I disliked a candy so much that I threw it out after trying just a few, but that's what I did today.

Do not buy this candy. If someone offers you some to try, don't just refuse--take it out of the person's hand and throw it on the ground. Then step on it. And don't associate with the person who offered you a chocolate Skittle ever again. Please just trust me on this one.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Evelyn's Top Ten Albums of 2008... So Far

A little over a month ago EJP put up his 10 favorite albums of 2008. Seeing how it has felt as if I've been on the planet Mars for the last two months, I have been catching up on all things Love-Camel as I prepare to relocate back to the Motherland.

EJP and I often differ in our musical tastes, but it must be said, I appreciate the disparity as it often widens my musical lexicon. I'd like to add that in some respects, 2008 has been a musical bust for me... bands that had releases I was eagerly awaiting, but that just didn't do it for me:
My Morning Jacket: Evil Urges, Silver Jews: Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, R.E.M.: Accelerate, The Black Keys: Attack & Release, and Death Cab for Cutie: Narrow Stairs. Except for DCFC, which to be honest I'm not so much a fan of anymore (the last show of theirs that I went to was an absolute disaster...couldn't hear the band of over the shrill shrieks of 14 year-old girls), I am a huge fan of the other bands and it pains me for them to put out sub-par music. I blame Danger can love, I think he over produces his music. Hence, both the Keys and MMJ sounds are off...hell, the Jacket comes off sounding like a 70s lounge club, church choir-boy act.

Righto, honorable mentions:

Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend. Initially, I would have thought this might be at the top of my list...I think this is a classic case of overexposure for me. Too much Vampire Weekend this and that. When making my lists, I tend to think about how often particular music makes it on my playlist. This album just didn't have staying power. I found the songs became stale after multiple listenings. Oh, I usually do this with my reviews, Pitchfork gave it 8.8.

Flight of the Conchords: Flight of the Conchords. This can't really count for 2008...but if it was new, it'd be in the top ten. Solid hits here. It's probably already been done, but I was thinking for Halloween this year I'd be Hiphopopotamus... just got to find out whose gonna be Rhymenoceros. Pitchfork gave it a 7.2.

Portishead: Third. Eleven years after their last release. That's some time to wait if you were a devout fan...fortunately for me, a friend turned me on to them more recently, so I didn't have to wait that long. It's good and it gets plus points for being released on vinyl with the digital download (why is everybody not doing this now?). Pitchfutch gave it 8.8. I know, you don't care.

#10: M83: Saturdays = Youth. In what might be a re-occurring theme for me this year, synths and beats are on. Must be the Chinese 'Year of Bass' (hehehe, I love my stupid puns. I blame Rick-dickulous). In places it gets a little to presumptuous... Frenchy, if you will. Pitchrock gave it 8.5.

Thao & The Get Down, Stay Down: We Brave Bee Stings and All. Yes, this is good indie pop. I can see why EJP is in love (even Sir Widget loves it, he actually bought the CD). It's great in places...but I feel like they are just beginning to understand what their sound could be even better in my opinion. I predict better things from Thao Nguyen and her band in the future. PF gave it 7.7.

#8: Sun Kil Moon: April. It is no Ghosts of the Great Highway, and for a while I thought it was going to be up there with the other disappointments, but after a while it just clicked. No Danger Mouse. I'm happy to say that I'll get to see Mark Kozelek at Cat's Cradle in November. He is a real treat to see, if you get the chance. PF gave it 8.3.

#7: Cut Copy: In Ghost Colours. I have a penchant for electro-house music. This has been a favorite of mine this past has a very positive feel. Kind of my Sound of Silver for 2008. Not as good, but it's easy on the ears. Pitchfork feels the love. 8.8.

#6: The Walkmen: You & Me. This is a band that I have always been on the fence about...I've seen them live multiple times. I even have a great scatological story, but you have to buy me several beers before I talk. I digress. The Walkmen may have finally done it. This album has just come out, but I already think it is one of the best of the year. This one has the potential to move higher. PF gave it 8.5.

#5: Frightened Rabbit: Midnight Organ Fight. I was going to see a French Kicks show and saw that these guys were the opening act. Checked out their music and whammo!!! This album is well put together. A definite sing-a-long. The hits keep coming song after song. PF gave it 8.1.

#4: Girl Talk: Feed the Animals. I know there are so many issues surrounding this 'album'...the sampling, is he really a musician...blah, blah, blah. Things I know. I listen to this a fuck-ton. I can almost recite the album line for line. Going to a Gregg Gillis show is hella fun. No I'm not into hip-hop, but for some reason, this does it for me. Pitchfork gave Gillis an 8.0 for effort.

#3: Beck: Modern Guilt. This is the first album that I completely disagree with PF on. It is way better than the 7.0 they give it. Beck runs the full happy/sad spectrum here...the album is beat heavy. I'd say it's his best effort since Sea Change.

#2 and #1: Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago & Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes. I cannot separate the two. I know BI technically came out in 2007, but realistically, no one (except for the cool kids) knew about it until it was re-released with a larger distribution. In fact, you couldn't find it. I wrote about this album earlier in March. This album will forever be etched in my memory. This year has been really trying and difficult...this album was its anthem. Pick it up.

Fleet Foxes... is, well, simply put just amazing. What the Jacket should have released. I'd highly recommend it as well. They sound amazing live from what I've heard. 8.1 and 9.0, respectively from PF.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Retro Review: Barbarella

So the other night, after a long and fairly stressful day, I decided I needed to watch something not-so-serious. I've had a copy of "Barbarella": Queen of the Galaxy sitting around for ages, and I knew it was time for a little Jane Fonda workout, if you know what I mean.

It had been years since I watched Barbarella, and it was every bit as awesome as I remembered. From the opening credits, played over Barbarella doing a strip tease out of her space suit at zero gravity, you know this film is going to be something special. That space suit? Clearly held together by Velcro (or something very much like it...did they have Velcro in 1968?). The entire inside of Barbarella's big pink spaceship? Orange shag carpet. The music? Never will you feel so compelled to run out and buy go-go boots.

Make no mistake, this movie is ridiculous from beginning to end. The plot, such as it is, involves Barbarella fulfilling her mission (as a what, you never really learn) to find Durand-Durand, the missing earth scientist who invented a positronic ray. But really, the movie is about Barbarella cavorting across a planet, conveniently ruining outfits and exploring her newly-discovered sexuality. Barbarella loses outfits the way people lose lives in some horror movies: very creatively. At one point she's attacked by razor-toothed baby dolls. Then there's the parakeet attack...and then of course her clothes are ripped off by the giant sex-torture piano. These are not really spoilers...these scenes really have to be seen to be believed.

Sometimes, the dialogue is clearly supposed to be funny, such as Barbarella's "What's that screaming? A good many dramatic situations begin with screaming..." Sometimes, I'm not so sure, such as when an enraged Durand-Durand yells, "I'll do things to you that are beyond all known philosophies!" But nearly all the dialogue is either hilarious or hilariously delivered. Every word Fonda utters, whether it's space jargon (much of which could rival anything on Star Trek) or sexual advances, is delivered in a dry, dead pan manner that has one marveling at her Oscar win just a few years after this film. The rest of the cast is just as awesomely bad, including John Phillip Law, who made a career out of movies like this (including at least two that became excellent MST3K episodes).

Watch it for the terrible special effects. Watch it for the awful dialogue and acting. Watch it for the crazy late-60s music and freak-out scenes. Watch it for the skin, 'cuz there's plenty of it. Just watch this movie at some point in your life. I've heard rumors of a possible remake of this movie for years now, but I don't think it can be done. Barbarella was paradoxically both ahead of its time and also purely a product of the 60s. I'm not sure exactly what I mean by this, but I think you'll understand if you watch. And remember, the password is "Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch"!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Taste Test: Vosges Mo's Bacon Bar

Lately there's been a lot of talk at my work about eating wacky foods. We're a small organization and we all eat lunch together, and there's often a lot of "You've never tried ____?! But it's so good." So far the wackiest taste test we had was mac&cheese with ketchup. That got a thumbs down from me.

Last week, I upped the ante a bit with a Vosges Mo's Bacon Bar that I purchased at Whole Foods for way too much money. As I wrote to my colleagues when I announced this taste test, "Bacon: good. Chocolate: good. How could this be bad?" I mean, just read what it said on the back of the package:

"Breathe…engage your five senses, close your eyes and inhale deeply. Be in the present moment, notice the color of the chocolate, the glossy shine. Rub your thumb over the chocolate bar to release the aromas of smoked applewood bacon flirting with deep milk chocolate. Snap off just a tiny piece and place it in your mouth, let the lust of salt and sweet coat your tongue."

Well, we all did just that, and I have to say it went over surprisingly well. Here are a few comments I heard from my co-workers:

"It's not as bacony as I thought. It's more like chocolate with just a hint of bacon."

"It's not nearly as bad a I thought it would be."

"Dude, you're cool, because if I'd bought one of these, I'd keep it all to myself and not shared it with anybody."

"If this didn't cost $8, I'd actually consider getting one for myself."

For my own part, I thought the balance of bacon and chocolate was just about perfect. Like a chocolate-covered pretzel in terms of the salt/sweet ratio, with traces of delicious smokiness we associate with bacon. The chocolate was quite good, too. I actually can't imagine a whole bar by myself since it's very rich, so I'm glad I shared it. All in all, a step up from my personal lollipop taste tests of yore.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Last fall, I wrote a post about The Believer, a magazine put out by McSweeney's that I enjoy thoroughly. I'm also a devoted fan to another McSweeney's product, Wolphin, which is essentially a quarterly DVD magazine. The good people at Wolphin poke around the world to compile short films that normally wouldn't see the light of day. "Short films" is a very generic term for what you actually see, however. These shorts consist of live action fictional pieces, short animated films (some of my personal favorites), short documentaries, and occasionally a bizarre foreign sitcom with subtitles written by American writers/comedians.

I really can't stress enough how cool these compilations are. I won't say every single item is cool,, never mind. I think everything I've watched on the Wolphin DVDs has been cool. These shorts are often visually stunning, cleverly written, incredibly informative, or thoroughly thought-proving. Often they are all of these things at once.

I happen to be posting on this tonight because I watched a video in an entertaining Onion A.V. Club post (see video below) that I originally saw in the second issue of Wolphin. This Oscar-nominated animated short, called "More," is a fine example of what you'll find on these compilations. But really, there's something for everyone on these DVDs, particularly if you're a film buff.

I subscribe to the DVD, and I'm working on watching Issue #5 right now. Issue #6 was just delivered, so I've got some catching up to do. If you've never seen any of these, you've got even more catching up to do. The web site recently starting selling the issues individually, and you can get the first four issues as a pack at a heavily discounted price. I suggest checking them out.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Beer Review: Geary's Summer Ale

I haven't been drinking a whole lot lately (still trying to work off a little Winterspeck), so now that I'm finally getting around to reviewing one of my summer beers, it's barely summer anymore. Seriously, look at your calendar. But I won't let that stop me from prattling on a bit about a tasty brew.

Geary's is probably best known for their pale ale, and a fine pale it is. I'm writing about their Summer Ale, however, which I hadn't tried previously. Summer ales are always a bit risky. A lot of brewers put out some weak-ass beer and call it their summer ale just because it's light in color or tastes slightly lemony. I hate to disparage Wachusett Brewing Company because a) it was started by some guys from my alma mater and b) many of their beers, especially their Nut Brown Ale, are really quite good. But their Summer Ale falls into the weak-ass, slightly lemony category and I can't endorse it. Lemon: summer ales as cloves: winter ales. At least I can tolerate the lemon...cloves in beer is just wrong.

But I digress. Here's the description of the Summer Ale off the Geary's site:

The style of our summer ale is traditionally European, similar to a German kolsch: full bodied with a spicy hop tang and a rich, crystal clear golden color. Alcohol content is approximately 6% by volume.

Availability: April - September

Original gravity: 1060

Alcohol by volume: 6%

Ingredients: Two row English malt (clarity, wheat and caramalt); Magnum, Tettnang and Saaz hops.

So there's the technical stuff, but how does it taste? The beer pours a nice, light amber with just a touch of lacy head. The smell has notes of citrus, but not overwhelmingly so. The first taste, if the beer is cold, will seem pretty mild at first, perhaps slightly nutty. Then the hops hit, and that was a surprise. There are probably a few breweries out there that would go so far as to call this a pale ale or IPA due to the hoppiness. I've been drinking enough extra-hoppy IPAs lately (like Magic Hat's Lucky Kat) that I know this doesn't come close to an IPA, but it is the hoppiest summer ale I've ever tried. I'm guessing upper 30s/lower 40s for the IBU. Unlike a lot of IPAs, I find that this beer only improves as it warms (I write, as I take another sip), which is a nice feature for a summer ale. I confess that you can taste a bit of citrus in the finish, but the hops balances it enough that it doesn't taste like somebody squeezed a drop of lemon juice into a Bud.

At 6% alcohol, this is too strong for a session beer, but maybe if you had a really looong session it could work. I see this matching just about anything grilled, but particularly strong tasting seafood might work best. Then again, I'm probably being influenced by the lobster on this year's label (the picture on this post is from last year). It's also a fine beer to have on its own, which is what I'm doing right now. Hey, it may only be Wednesday, but it's been a long week already and this beer tastes very good.

Grab this one while you still can, and if you can, since I don't know how far out of New England Geary's distributes. If you miss it, put it on your list for next summer.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Concert Review: Big Digits, The Ruby Suns, Tilly & The Wall

So last night my sis and I went to show in downtown Boston. I hadn't been to a show since TMBG, so I was about do. I'd been wanting to see Tilly & The Wall for a while and they'd come through Boston several times, so I gave'em a shot.

Both my sister and I had early days today, and she had over an hour to get home that night, so it was a risky venture. But in the end, I think it was worth it.

We started at 9PM with Big Digits, a "band" I'd never heard of before. This opening, opening band will probably get the longest description because, quite frankly, it blew my mind. They started with one guy on the stage in front of his Macbook and a Wii remote in his hand. He had on a T-shirt proudly proclaiming "Whoomp! There it is!" and some sport shorts right out of the early 80s. As my sister said, this guy might have rolled out of his BU dorm room and straggled across the street to the Paradise. He proceeded to do his DJ thang, drinking beer with his right hand and changing samples and bass lines with the Wii remote in his left hand. DJ Mark E. Moon definitely subscribed to the "More Bass is Better" school of thought. We were up in the balcony, and when I commented to my sister that the bass was a little out of control, she said, "Yeah, it's making my boobs jiggle." "Mine, too", I said.

He never took his eyes off his screen, and sort of bopped up and down to the beat. It was one of the most awkward things I'd ever seen on stage. My ever-observant sis spotted another oddity. I dude with a ninja hood on over at the end of the stage was REALLY getting into it. Soon afterward, things got more awkward.

The ninja guy (sporting very tight, bleach white, denim cut-offs) jumped up on the stage with another dude. Then the rapping began. Big Digits hail form Cambridge, MA. They were very white, and they were there to rap and dance for us. For the next half hour, they busted every dance move from the last three decades or so. The Robot came out several times. There were definitely some New Kids on the Block moves. Some random flailing. They rapped about fashion, being name it. Ninja guy's hood started falling down, revealing a handlebar mustache and some mutton chop side burns. At that point he looked kind of like he was wearing chain mail.

For a while, I just found the entire thing hilarious. The rapping, the dancing, the DJ still waving his Wii remote was too much. Then I ran out of snarky comments and just sort of became hypnotized by the entire thing. By their last song, when the non-ninja guy whipped out a tambourine to accompany their rap, I kind of wanted to be friends with these guys. At one point, my sister said, "This is like something you'd see on YouTube." Funny she mentioned that, because here's just a tiny taste of what you all missed by not seeing Big Digits live:

The Ruby Suns were up next at 10 (whoa, it was getting late!), but they were a bit of a letdown. I like their most recent CD (see a brief review of Sea Lions here), but I'm pretty sure there were about a dozen people playing the songs for that album. There were exactly two people up on that stage last night. I realize it's a long trip form New Zealand, but c'mon! Try as they might, the synthesizers and multiple instrument playing did not compensate for the loss of that many people. The music went from something kind of tribal and fun to something very, very 80s, and not the good 80s. And really, it was only 1.5 people up there, because I'm pretty sure the woman was on ludes. I can recommend the album, not so much the live show. I'm assuming these Kiwis are much better playing at home.

Finally, at 11PM, a good hour or so after I usually go to bed, Tilly & The Wall came on. Full disclosure: we did not stay for whole set. I have no idea how long they played. I just knew that we had to work in the morning and my sis had a long drive ahead of her. That said, what we saw rocked. Yes, their outfits were a tad pretentious. Yes, the tap-dancer-as-percussionist is a bit gimmicky. But they put on a true performance, and they sounded great. I was actually pretty mesmerized by Jamie, the tap dancer. She puts enough energy into her dancing than you can usually get out of an entire band. And the vocalists, Neely and Kianna actually sound much better live than they do on CD. The whole band sounded better live. I've liked T&tW since their first CD, and they definitely have a few great songs and several good songs. But live, I think all their songs sounded great. I highly recommend seeing them live if you can. The video below is for one of my favorite songs of their newest album. It doesn't really do the live show justice (and in a bit of a departure, it's actual drums), but it's still a fun song:

Pot Kettle Black from Team Love on Vimeo.