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If only...

If only what the Republicans claim was true about Obama were ACTUALLY true, then he'd be a pretty nifty President.  Unfortunately, he's just another slightly right of center politician great at smooth talking and pretending to be more liberal than he actually is in order to gain the support of supposed progressives.

Universal healthcare?  I'm sure not reaping the benefits of that.

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Live Noise

I used to go to a lot more concerts than I have in the last few years.  While by many people's standards I still go to more than most, by my standards the numbers have dwindled.  Much of this has been due to things like time and money.  And while things haven't really improved in the money department and free time is only a luxury for me, we've started going to more shows again and I'm glad.  I missed it a lot.  

This past week we went to two concerts.  Two very different concerts.  And we certainly had two very different experiences.

The first one we went to was Lana Del Rey at the Oakdale in Wallingford.  Now I know what some of you are thinking.  But I'm not here to defend my musical tastes, so suffice it to say that I like her music enough to want to see her perform live.  This show was $49.50 plus $10.10in  fees per ticket.  This is probably the most expensive show that I've paid to see in a long time (I've seen more expensive shows, but got the tickets for free.)  The second one was David Ford at Club Passim in Cambridge, MA.  This one came in at $20 with $2.65 in fees plus a $1 "donation" (odd choice of words for an involuntary charge but there you have it).

The Lana Del Rey show was a bit surprising because while I do manage to come across so called pop music, I don't always realize how popular something is or who the expected demographic is because I almost never listen to the radio.  I find things through word of mouth, through online streaming, or by complete accident.  In this case, Amazon was selling a number of albums for $1 each a while back, so I picked up a few including Lana's.  I ended up liking it.  She's not your typical "catchy tune, vapid lyrics" pop star.  It's intelligent.  But also, it's dark.  Quite dark.  It comes from the perspective of someone once thought her lifestyle was pretty great and then got older and realized how truly fucked up things were.

So arriving to a concert filled with screaming 13-15 year old girls dressed like Lana was not what I was expecting.  I was figuring we'd be on the old side, but I didn't think we would end up being younger than the parents of the average attendee.  As an older male, I felt a bit uncomfortable there because any time Melinda wasn't around me, young girls and parents alike stared daggers at me like I was a predator.  Not a fun experience.  

The show itself was pretty good, or at least I think it was because Lana was mostly how I expected her to be: very mellow.  The crowd however was decidedly not mellow.  The girls knew every single word and they screamed every one of them, so it was tough to hear her.  Also, someone in our section was smoking a whole lot of pot.  Now that person is the kind of person I expected to be at this show.  I was figuring late 20s, low 30s.  People who had seen some shit.  People who had been through stuff.  Not people with an algebra II test the next day.  Not that young kids haven't seen shit, but it seemed very likely that these kids hadn't.  In fact, you got the idea that most of the crowd thought that the stuff that she sings about being about would be super cool and they wanted to be just like her and be super cool, too.  Except they didn't get the memo that her life sucked.

Lana's biggest weakness as a performer was that she didn't really behave like a performer for a venue that size ought to.  In between songs, she would go out into the crowd and pose for selfies and sign autographs.  The band (who she neither introduced nor allowed to be lit) did nothing during this time, so there were these weird 5 minutes gaps where it was cool to be in the front row and the rest of the crowd just looked at a band doing nothing sitting in the dark.  When you consider that her whole set was about 65 minutes... well, it's not hard to feel a little cheated.  But the crowd was treating her like royalty, and I mean that in a very literal sense.  It was kind of creepy in a way, to watch these very adult songs with very adult imagery being projected behind her (we're talking bible verses, strippers, etc. – all appropriate to the songs) while masses of kids were yelling, "I LOVE YOU LANA!" and screaming with joy if she happened to glance in their direction.  They almost seemed hypnotized.  I'm not even slightly exaggerating.

So there was that.  The opener was terrible and forgettable.

Sunday we drove out to Cambridge to see David Ford for our 5th time in 4 years.  If you've never heard of David Ford, you're not alone.  He's a British performer who performs generally by himself, although this time he was touring with Jarrod Dickenson who is also great and they played in each other's sets.  I try to tell everyone I know about him because think he's amazing. He uses a looping machine in order to play all the parts of some of his songs by himself.  For an example of this, check out his video for Go To Hell, which is pretty much how he performs it live minus the drum kit.  He is lyrically, musically, and vocally incredible and his live experience is one you owe it to yourself to check out.  

This show was head and shoulders above what the Lana Del Rey show could have been even if it hadn't seemed like some sort of cult gathering.  It was so much more personal interacting with the performers.  And unlike my recent experiences at the Iron Horse, the other people attending this show were extremely courteous to both artists.  During the emotional ballads you could hear a pin drop and after every song the room burst in applause.  It was bliss.  I'd go see them again in NYC if I had the money.

Now I know not every show can be like that.  David Ford is happy doing what he's doing and how he's doing it, but some artists strive for more fame not only for the money that it can bring in so they can keep doing what they love, but to reach larger audiences.  I've been to great theater, arena, and stadium shows.  But I think the Lana Del Rey concert was the first time that I felt so out of place.  Have I aged out of the ability to see pop music live?  I think what was confusing about this particular show was that the demographic didn't seem to match what I pictured in my head as the target audience.  But sometimes I know I'm not the target audience.  I love Lily Allen, for example.  Pretty sure I'm not the person she's trying to reach, but does that mean I should abandon all thoughts of seeing her perform live?  Maybe.  I don't really know.

What I do know is that I'm going to try to go to more shows.  Thankfully the music scene in this area is pretty damn good with acts like the Winterpills playing the area frequently.  The Green River Festival is coming up.  There's an XTC tribute concert later this month.  A Great Big World is playing next month.  

It might be time to invest in musician's ear plugs, though.

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Blue

Before I watched Blue is the Warmest Color, I promised myself that I would try not to compare it solely to the graphic novel on which it is based and to see it as its own work of fiction. In truth that's probably an impossible task because it's kind of hard to forget something you've already read, never mind something that I felt was among the best in the genre.

Did I like the movie? Overall yes, but with serious reservations. Did I like it as much as I liked the graphic novel? No, definitely not.

I'm not willing to spoil the graphic novel or the movie here so I can't be very specific about some things. One thing that I knew before watching was that there was a major plot difference between the two works. I'm glad I knew it, because I would have felt incredibly cheated by the end of this three hour movie if I had not. Going in knowing was better because I was not expecting something that would ultimately never happen.I will say this though: I feel much worse for Adèle at the end of the movie than I did for Clémentine at the end of the book. Not sure why the name change was necessary either, but I digress.

As I said the movie was three hours long. It didn't need to be three hours long. Sometimes it progressed like a movie that has a typical plot and other times it meandered in a style that worked well for Lost in Translation but dragged here. Some of it was completely unessential, but most of it just could have been shortened. 

My biggest problem with the movie was that the most powerful message was that Adèle Exarchopoulos has a really nice butt. Please don't misunderstand; I'm not saying that Adèle Exarchopoulos's butt was distracting me on its own. I'm saying that the director was constantly showing the audience her butt and was clearly infatuated with it. All the time. From beginning to end. He also loved to let the camera wander up and down her body for no good reason other than to titillate the audience. The straight male audience, not the lesbian audience, make no mistake. Being a straight male, I'm probably more forgiving of this common cinematic tendency but here it was just so unbelievably obvious how much of this movie was the director's lesbian fantasy with little basis in reality. There was one completely ridiculous moment where Emma gives Adèle a loving little spank (which wasn't the ridiculous part) and the camera travels down her back to show her hand hitting Adèle's naked buttocks and then quickly returns back to where it was (which was the ridiculous part). 

Don't even get me started on the completely purposeless solo shower scene at the end.

But it wasn't just the butt shots and camera roving. There were thematic elements (completely unrelated to the graphic novel) that also just screamed, "I AM A MALE DIRECTOR WHO KNOWS NOTHING ABOUT WOMEN BUT LOOK HERE ARE SOME CHECK THEM OUT AND ALSO I'M GOING TO HAVE SOME MALE CHARACTERS EXPLAIN FEMALE SEXUALITY TO YOU WITH FEMALE CHARACTERS SITTING AROUND NOT COMMENTING ON HOW RIDICULOUS HE SOUNDS!"  

Of course the sex scenes are highly controversial and some made them out to be porn. In some ways they are, though not in the sense the anti-gay, anti-sex detractors would have it. There was nothing revolutionary about the filming of the sex scenes in this movie. The sex did not look genuine, mostly because it wasn't; this was no 9 songs. They were wearing fake (yet completely shaven) genitalia and it was filmed in that obvious "let's make sure we have a leg blocking here, and then let's cut to a close up of her face and" blah blah blah. The only difference between the sex scenes in this and any other movie was the lack of a score.

Okay, you can have a good, fake sex scene; you almost have to have fake sex if you want your movie to get on the big screen because we all know pretending to have sex is much more moral than actually having sex.These weren't good, though.The problem with the sex in this film is probably best summed up by an actual lesbian reviewer in the magazine Posture:

"I thought it was hot, at the beginning, and then it got a little ridiculous when they kept switching sex positions every 10 seconds. And started to feel kind of like an infomercial for a kitchen product, where they're trying to, like, showcase all the things it can do. Like, 'Oh, it can chop, it can slice, it can dice and it can mince and puree, and it can eat out your asshole.'"

What saves the movie is the quality material that remained from the graphic novel and Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos's tremendous performances (sex scenes notwithstanding). They were outstanding. The original source material is outstanding. I suppose in the end that's not much and I'm not sure whether I'm being too hard on the movie because of how much I liked the graphic novel or if I'm being too easy on the movie because of how much I liked the graphic novel. I'll let you decide.

In closing, I guess I should note that there probably should have been a line during the credits that said, "No actual lesbians were harmed during the making of this film" because I'm fairly sure there were no actual lesbians anywhere near the set. I guess they couldn't find one that had a butt as nice as Adèle Exarchopoulos.

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Snow

I know that snow allows for many wonderful things;  snowmobiling, skiing, sledding, etc.  However since I can't afford to snowmobile, I don't know how and can't afford to ski, and sledding earns you funny looks when you're almost 40, I don't get any of these benefits.

But for me, snow is anxiety.

Snow is something that ruins four months of the year for me, even when it isn't even actually snowing.  From Nov 1 until Apr 1, there is no street parking between 1:00 and 7:00 in the city of Easthampton.  We have two cars, and zero off-street parking spaces provided by my landlord.  The city will not help.  We've left messages with the DPW and the mayor's office but I might as well just be begging for help to /dev/null.  The best answer we got from the (at the time) mayor-elect was that "The police don't always enforce that."  Well, gee, I guess we have to figure out what mood the police will be in on a given day.

So I don't move my car for essentially 4 months.  It traps me here.  Which is impressive, because I do a pretty good job of trapping myself here without the help of a storm.  Maybe I'm using the snow as an excuse.  But I sure know that I don't want to move my car when I have one of the precious few spots available behind my apartment.

I'm also not as comfortable driving in the snow.  When I was younger, I felt invincible.  Now, I feel vulnerable.  It doesn't matter how good of a driver I am if the people around me are idiots.  I've been in a lot of accidents that weren't my fault due to the weather and other people smashing into me.  Although the worst thing was probably driving home from New Hampshire in 2008 during an ice storm.  It was long, it was terrifying, and I've never been the same since.

So yes, I know people's livelihoods depend on snow here in New England. Some people just like looking at it. I guess maybe I don't belong here.  I just hate snow.  For me, it makes everything worse than it already is. 

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Free at last!

It seems like every couple of years I have to pack up all of the websites I host and move them to another site.  It always goes the same way.  I get to the new place and everything is just puppies and rainbows.  Then after a few months, something changes.  My web host is purchased by a larger company.  My site gets moved to a "new, better server" that I'm just going to love!  Things break for no apparent reason.  I try to get support, but they are no help.  Usually they even insist that the problem is my fault and if I want them to fix it, I'll have to upgrade to some totally unnecessary product.  No more puppies.  No more rainbows.

So here we are on the fourth new server.  Hostgator is out, Servint is in.  So far I've been really happy.  Everything is faster and support answers me in under 5 minutes with all of my questions answered and problems solved.

The puppies and rainbows are back.

I have finally retired the spam-filled picture galleries.  I'm slowly adding everything to my Flickr page.  I'm really not sure what I'll do with this.  I'm growing very tired of Facebook and yet I know that if I post here, almost no one will ever see it.  But maybe it's enough just to post things anyway even if the words just sit here unnoticed.