Sunday, 27 June 2010

Sad songs and waltzes aren't selling this year

Saying goodbye to someone I love, even if it is not for an immensely long time, is always a struggle -- not just at the time, but afterwards, usually for several days, when I feel his/her absence and time stretching out until I see him/her again.

Luckily I can usually find a song to fit the situation that matches my mood. This time around it's "Kolniður" from the solo album by Jónsi, lead singer of Sigur Ros.

Iceland, Eyjafjallajökull - May 1st and 2nd, 2010 from Sean Stiegemeier on Vimeo.

Here's a video to give a good idea of what the song sounds like (it cuts off the quieter beginning, sadly, but the video is too good not to be shared). The title of the song means something like "deep darkness" or "pitch blackness", via the Jónsi message boards.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010


This past Wednesday, I had the pleasure of witnessing the best Rockies game I have been to (yet) at Coors Field. It was the Rockies vs the Red Sox, the second game in the series, following a Rockies win the day before, with a sold-out stadium.

My past two games at Coors Field had been fun but not awesome. The one I attended in April for N's birthday was an easy Rockies victory but we arrived late and spent the end of the game distracted by two girls making out violently several rows down. The one before that was the final Rockies game of the 2009 season, a playoff game against the Phillies, in which we were about to win -- bottom of the 9th, two outs and two strikes, closer Huston Street on the mound -- I literally had the camera ready to take a picture of the Rockies win -- when the game got away from us and, five minutes of stunned silence in the stadium later, the Phillies wound up winning and knocked us out of the playoffs. Walking down the concrete steps from our extreme upper deck seats that night, I just remember a crowd hushed into miserable, cold silence, made all the worse for the suddenness with which it had happened.

Either way, I was ready for a great game, and although I knew it would be tough, I was optimistic (as always, with the Rockies!). I met N at the Broadway light rail station on our way downtown. We were in a train packed with fans, both Rockies and Red Sox, including someone with a Boston accent so obnoxious that it must have been fake -- and prompted N to chat with a visiting Cardinals fan in order to avoid the sound of it. We got off the light rail at Union Station and walked in a huge crowd to the stadium. Our seats were upper deck but the view was good -- unlike when we sat in the upper right field seats for the playoffs, where it was impossible to tell if a ball was a foul, a huge pop up or a home run due to depth perception issues, we could see most everything. There were some Red Sox fans around us, but the crowd seemed to be about 70 or 75% Rockies fans.

The game opened with a strong lead for the Rockies, but they fell behind despite having Ubaldo Jiminez on the mound -- this was by far his worst outing of the season and we watched his ERA climb throughout his innings. We also got to see Huston Street back for the first time since that playoff game in 2009, but he didn't do a perfect job. By the time the bottom of the 9th came up, the Rockies trailed by one run and our batting line-up did not look promising -- Ian Stewart, in a slump, Clint Barmes, doing better but not awesome, and Ryan Spilbourghs (ok he looked promising, but that's partly because I love him).

Hooray for Spilly!

Anyway, N was pessimistic and I was cautiously optimistic. In 2009, the Rockies were very good at coming back in the ninth... so what if their 2010 record of doing just that was 0-23? The magic could happen ANY TIME!

And as you can almost certainly guess, just then the magic did happen. The second pitch of the inning -- the first being a ball -- was a monster home run by Stewart to right field. Tie game. The crowd started screaming, we were on our feet and jumping up and down as he rounded the bases. The guys running the PA system at Coors got into it and exhorted us to be as loud as possible, and we kept it up. Barmes singled, the crowd got wilder, and Spilly sacrificed bunted him to second base.

A pinch hitter was announced for first in the line-up, new Rockie Jonathan Herrera -- Jason Giambi. N and I immediately both became skeptical. Herrera had been doing relatively well all evening and Giambi has been in a bit of an offensive slump, so we were concerned. Luckily, we didn't have to be for long. The first pitch was a ball, but the second one Giambi absolutely murdered. I can still picture the arc of it as it soared past me and into the stands in right field. A two-run home run. I screamed so much I almost lost my voice and N grabbed me from behind and gave me a huge hug.

Awesome game, awesome night!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Soundtrack for forever

Over at her blog, BT wrote about songs that she can "never play out" -- the ones she'll never get tired of -- and solicited those of her readers. I wound up writing an enormous comment back to her, and then it got so enormous that it actually hit the limits of commenting on blogger, so I thought that I would just write the damn thing over here instead. So here it is: a brief record of the songs that I can listen to without end (in no particular order).

1. Arctic Monkeys -- Fluorescent Adolescent
It was tough to pick a single AM song but this one has it all -- catchy music, great lyrics, Northern accents, sing-along ease, and reminds me of my road trip through Iceland with Lesl and Jules. What could be better?
2. Belle and Sebastian -- Another Sunny Day
This song will remind me of my time in the UK long after it has passed.
3. Death Cab for Cutie -- We Looked Like Giants
Another great one for the memories. The song sounds epic and reminds me of the Rockies -- though the first time I heard it was lying in a car in the dark with a bad tummyache, listening on my ipod while on holiday with my parents in California.
4. Elbow -- Grounds for Divorce
The opening lines of this song say it all: sexy, sad, sarcastic.
5. Elvis Perkins in Dearland -- While You Were Sleeping
This one is whimsical, weaving in and out of a lover's dreams, with fantastical imagery.
6. Franz Ferdinand -- anything from S/T
This album reminds me of two things: first, the semester I studied abroad in London in autumn 2004, and second, the road trip from London to Land's End and back that Zuzanna and I took in spring 2005. Basically this album reminds me of some of my greatest moments, and, conversely, my most homesick. It also really reminds me of the greatest live show I've ever seen -- FF at Brixton Academy, jumping up and down in a shower of beer.
7. Harvey Danger -- Jack the Lion
I can't really describe why, but I never get tired of this song. Many thanks to Devin for introducing me to this awesome band.
8. Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins -- Rise up with Fists
This was the first thing I ever heard by Jenny Lewis, and although I have since gone on to enjoy most of what she's done, this is the one that still sticks with me. Defiant and wistful and lyrically wonderful.
9. Kanye West -- Jesus Walks
I first heard this song in an advert for that Jake Gyllenhaal movie about the first Gulf War when I was in Australia and I was instantly hooked.
10. LCD Soundsystem -- All My Friends
Sometimes a song comes along that sums up how I feel perfectly. This one does that, all while building up to an epic sound over the course of nearly ten minutes. The anticipation kills me every time.
11. Modest Mouse -- The Stars are Projectors
Like many of the bands on this list, I went through about ten different MM songs before I settled on this one.
12. Nada Surf -- Inside of Love
Same as the above. But the sentiment in this song strikes me every time, no matter if I am inside or outside.
13. Neutral Milk Hotel -- In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Hipsters of the aughts everywhere gonna shout: LOVE THIS SONG.
14. Radiohead -- Reckoner (Rune RK Remadoodle)
I heard this song for the first time after a drive of many hours through the Icelandic countryside. It came onto my ipod (having downloaded it but not listened to it) just as the van descended from a high pass and into a fjord -- the first fjord as one enters the centre of the West Fjords -- and just as a low-slung fog settled over the water and obscured the hillsides. This song never fails to remind me of the breathtaking and otherworldly beauty of that place.
15. Rilo Kiley -- Portions for Foxes
I love how fierce this song is.
16. St Jude's Infirmary -- The Church of John Coltrane
Found on the now-defunct lj music-sharing community __rhapsodical, this song is pretty much one of the greatest of all time. The lyrics blow me away every time. Unfortunately the band has never produced anything even near as good, as far as I can tell...
17. The Arcade Fire -- Neighbourhood #2 (Laika)
I can't explain why I love this song so much, other than a passing reference to my childhood hero, Alexander the Great. But it ranks #1 on my account for most plays -- 138 since November 2004, and that's just on winamp, not counting ipod -- 30 more than the next contender (Heart it Races by Architecture in Helsinki).
18. The Clash -- White Man in Hammersmith Palais
I can't really explain why, but this song is my favourite Clash song. I think it's the lyrics:
Punk rockers in the UK
They won't notice anyway
They're all too busy fighting
For a good place under the lighting
I'm the all night drug-prowling wolf
Who looks so sick in the sun
I'm the white man in the Palais
Just lookin' for fun
19. The Decemberists -- The Engine Driver
This song captured my first broken heart in the most maudlin way possible, at the most maudlin time possible. All these years later, it still resonates.
20. Wolf Parade -- This Heart's on Fire
This song is what being in love feels like, to me.

Ok, I lied, there is an order -- alphabetical. Whoops!

21. Of Montreal -- The Party's Crashing Us Now
It's solely down to the line, "We made love like a pair of black wizards." Ever since hearing it, that is how I always strive to make love.

Super double bonus:
22. Jay-Z -- 99 Problems
I don't know what you take me as, or if you can you understand the intelligence that Jay-Z has.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Someone is wrong on the internet!

I know I should never, ever read internet comments but sometimes I just can't help myself. My eyes drift downwards, past the bottom of the article* and onto some comments, and I get sucked in... and sometimes I see one so incredibly dumb that I think it deserves an award... so get ready for a heady dose of anti-scientific, anti-British, anti-intelligence.

The original story was this one, about how Easyjet, in conjunction with Airbus and a Norwegian scientist, have come up with a new type of detector for volcanic ash. The video is kind of terrible (the male presenter is a huge jackass), just to warn you, but does feature a bag of tephra (awesome!).

Then some... thing... calling itself ephrim wrote this comment:
Quote"This pioneering technology is the silver bullet that will make large scale ash disruption history"Unquote Chief Executive Andy Harrison. Has it ever occurred to the
Brits that this new technological discovery is the very thing is what caused the erruption in the first place? give or take a few modifications. I would strongly suggest that the British Authorities and whoever else is involved in this new discovery should go back to the drawing board and think this one over and when they have done that I think they
should sit down with BP and realize that there may be ONE common denominator in
this ointment!!! Oil Bloody Blaaah Da.
and think this one over less

Ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding ding


*Luckily this never happens on youtube, because there is no scrolling involved. THANK GOD.

The Soggy Isles.

I'm leaving for a four day holiday in Ireland with my parents tomorrow. They are coming from this:

And going to this:

ILU British Isles!

Saturday, 5 June 2010


I was reading this short article about a PhD student at the University of Wyoming's research into polar bears and how they cope with less pack ice and shorter winters, when I came across a hilarious piece of methodology. It seems that the polar bears are collared for tracking purposes, and that sometimes the collars cause problems. Under the heading "When is a collar too tight, and what should be done if a tight collar is observed?", there is this particularly evocative paragraph:
I am 100% sure that the biologist who is theoretically going to "attempt to remove the collar from the bear" -- at this point an enraged, bloody, obese polar bear -- is a PhD student.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Sometime in the late 1940s, a famous British automaker realized that it needed a marketing tool for their newest class of vehicle. Ultimately their plan would -- if it ever could be included in history books -- go down as one of the most ambitious and groundbreaking ad campaigns ever devised. It is all the more shocking, coming from the poor financial situation of immediate post-War Britain, but such was the vision of designer Maurice Wilks.

The creation of an entire island, and subsequent stocking of it with a hardy race chosen from death matches fought in secret Scandinavian and Irish stadiums, was only the beginning. Historical documents were faked and academics paid off to devote their lives' work to so-called "Sagas"; meanwhile crack teams of stealth geologists poured baking soda down enormous man-made earthen cavities and installed vinegar jets to periodically cause "eruptions".

Sixty years later, and we are learning the ultimate folly of creating a volcanic island in the North Atlantic populated by a super race solely for the purpose of marketing Land Rovers -- but the adverts still look great.

Just one of the many amazing Land Rover adverts produced by this team.


This is what I spend my days (and sleepless nights) thinking about: microtephra. It's the microscopic ash that comes out of volcanoes.

It's pretty cool looking, I think. But then, I have to.

Welcome to the Machine.

This is me in Reykjavik, Iceland, last summer. I am wearing my incredibly sweet ninja outfit/super-warm fleece from Icelandic outdoor gear shop/outdoors nerd wet dream, 66 North. It is literally my most prized possession. I once let my bff wear it at a Rockies game because he was cold and has less body mass than I do, and he should consider that as nothing less than a sign that I regard him with more affection than anything else on earth (except that 66 North fleece).