Archive for June, 2007

I played with an iPhone

I needed an outfit for a couple of weddings this summer that aren’t for a few weeks, but I purposefully went to Ridgedale this weekend to shop, mainly due to its Apple store.

I didn’t even have to wait to get my hands on one. I just had to walk past the security guard and grab one (yes, a security guard–how often does a product release need a security guard!) It’s not quite as small as I imagined it. It’s a bit bigger than the biggest iPod. The one I played with was already heavily smudged and kind of gross after not even 24 hours of use. I don’t see how this can be prevented, and it’s kind of a  turn off. But of course, this is how the iPhone works.

It is really intuitive. So intuitive, that you assume that what you want to do with your fingers to, say, move the cursor on a web text field, will not work. But it does. I decided to look up my employer’s stock price, and I couldn’t delete the pre-filled in text because the cursor was to the left of the text and there’s no Delete key like on a keyboard. So what would I do with a mouse? Move the cursor to the far right of the text. Sure enough, touch your finger to the end of the text, and the cursor moves there.

However, typing is a major challenge. I don’t know how a person with big thumbs could work that keyboard. The letters are tiny, but unlike the similarly tiny Blackberry keyboard, you can’t feel your thumb over a button to know if you’re centered. I typed in the Notepad feature and consistently typed the letter to the left of the one I actually wanted, though it didn’t even look like I had my thumb on the correct letter. So I consciously moved my thumb to the right more, and got better results. There is a decent auto-suggest, but then you have to move your thumbs from the keypad area to take the suggestion. So, I suppose it’s learnable, but seriously, don’t bother if you’ve got fat fingers.

One thing I really liked about the web function is that it zooms in to the area you are filling out. I did have an issue with text size though, when just reading mlb.com (the first page that came up for some reason), and couldn’t figure out how to make it bigger.  There’s no browser menus available (What about bookmarks?). Oh, and another neat thing was that the address bar disappears until you click the top of the screen. Very cool.

I played some music and though it’s neat that you can do other things on it while music is playing, I wish there was a shortcut to control the music from the “desktop” (for lack of a better term). I also watched a clip from “Lost” on the iPhone, and it looked absolutely fantastic. It was much crisper than the iPod Video and at least as crisp as the best internet video. The video controls disappear a second after the video starts, but you just need to tap the screen once to retrieve them just as quickly. Super nice.

I wish I would have asked one of the Apple employees  if there’s a lock feature because I don’t understand how you could prevent pocket calls or video or music or weather or whatever. None of the employees said a word to me, which was disappointing. Maybe I won’t get my iMac from them after all.

Anyway, no, the iPhone is not for me. I mean, it’s really fucking cool, but it’s a bit much. If I had extra hundreds of dollars lying around, I’d rather buy a Wii.

Review: Bedlam’s 10-minute play festival

I love knowing people involved in the Twin Cities theater community because then I feel obligated to see things that I would otherwise see in the paper or online, want to go, but not actually follow through with. I want to support local arts, but it’s hard to know what’s worthwhile.

One of my oldest friends (Emily McPeck) directed a play and wrote another at Bedlam Theatre’s 10-minute Play Festival. After a brief scare with a missing actor in the play she wrote, the show went on thanks to a rock star of an actor, Carl Swanson. He jumped right in and practically memorized all of his lines and blocking in a matter of minutes. He had the script with him, but he barely used it. He was already in two other plays in that group, plus two more in another group. Really amazing. My friend’s play, aptly titled, “Coming?”, was definitely one of the two or three best written plays. And I swear I’m not biased. :)

The highlight of the night for me was the final play (which ran over 10 minutes, but I doubt anyone minded), “Albert Went Down to the Intersection.” It began with Albert the Sasquatch with a slight moustache getting kicked out of a Topeka, Kansas, comedy club for not being funny. From there Albert is told to “go down to the comedy crossroads” for better jokes. After providing the signal (yelling “What’s the deal with airline food? Seriously?” to the comedy gods), he is confronted by a incredibly hilarious, completely traditional, court jester played by the brilliant Maren Ward. The writing was hilarious but Ms. Ward could have done anything with that outfit and props and we would have cracked up just the same. She stole the entire evening, not just the show. But back to the story…Albert is disappointed in the jester’s old-fashioned advice so another comedian comes along. This one is more modern, well, in a Paul Poundstone / Arsenio Hall sort of way. But that turns out to be just about perfect because Albert later has an epiphany and changes his name and image. Albert the Sasquatch evolves in to, now brace yourselves, Weird Al Yankovic. How fucking hilarious is that? Love it.

Bedlam is in an interesting building that apparently once housed a gay bar. It’s also a punk hangout in a Somali neighborhood with very PC bathrooms. I got confused and wound up in the mostly urinal one and opened the stall door to discover a stream of pee, but luckily, no bits and pieces. I quickly closed the door. In my head, I’m all for shared bathrooms. But in practice, it’s a bit more difficult.

Still, good times. Good, good times.

Here’s an idea

Dear Katie Couric,

I hear that you’re having some problems at work. Despite my famous wish of good luck when you first started as the “CBS Evening News” anchor, it appears as though luck has not come your way…yet.

Fortunately, I have an idea.

My ever-opinionated-about-Couric mother informed me today of a National Enquirer headline that said you’re sick of the CBS office because your co-workers are back-stabbing you. I then had an epiphany, on your behalf:

There’s an open spot at “The View”, Katie. Why not join Barbara and her crew?

It’s a perfect match! The irony would be uncanny! I know that “The View” got a little interesting last week with a new token black lady named Star, but you are much more than qualified for this job. Plus we can watch you and Barbara bond over your common history of hosting the “Today” show. You know and I know, soft news and interviewing celebrities and other people at the height of their 15-minutes is more suitable to your talent.

I hope you’ll consider this incredible move, Katie. I think it will get your career moving in the right direction again.

Warmest wishes,

Concerned Blogger

Concert review: Feist w/ Grizzly Bear

This was a show I was never really gung-ho about. It was a bit pricey and featured two artists I was only slightly familiar with. But neither of those issues mattered after the show. These two artists were phenomenal bands that I would tell anyone who complains about the state of music today to go see as hope for America.62307.JPG

We were about 15 rows back on the main floor of the Pantages, a beautiful theatre (on the inside only) in the “Hennepin Avenue Theater district”. The sound was amazing. Each drum, cymbal, guitar string, woodwind…whatever, was miked up perfectly. Grizzly Bear opened with full, bright voices that commanded the 1/4 full theatre’s full attention. All four members had angelic voices that, as I told my companion, stole a bit of my soul. I don’t think I’ve ever said anything so cheesy, and meant it. Each bandmember was a great musician as well, showcased by two cover songs: a sea shanty (or “lake shanty” for us Minnesotans), and “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)” (sung by the bandmember I thought resembled a Monty Python lumberjack). The latter was barely noticeable as the Goffin/King girl group smash, but there it was, in all its avant-glory. The lumberjack guy also played an autoharp, which explained the sounds I couldn’t discern on their album.

Feist was more like Grizzly Bear than I imagined. Her band was similarly multi-talented. Feist happily enaged the audience with sing-a-longs, including what I thought would be a round of some sort. Only a song after we met her, she asked folks born during certain times to sing certain notes. She continued with her quarky participation requests throughout the evening.

The two highlights for me were when she sang without the microphone for little bits. The sound of the her beautiful voice in the acoustically-sound Pantages were spooky and gave me goosebumps. The other highlight for me was watching Feist count the frets on her guitar before she placed her capo. That made me feel really good about my guitar abilities. AND she doesn’t appear to play with a pick, like me. :)

I still don’t think I’ll become a regular listener of either Grizzly Bear or Feist, but the concert certainly was an enlightening experience. Feist mentioned that when she awoke in Minneapolis that morning, she assumed she was playing First Ave, but security wouldn’t let her in there. She was thrilled at the “unexpected room”. I was as pleasantly surprised as she was.

Fixed at last!

Wow, it’s like a whole new world! Not only were the images on my blog not showing, but because WordPress is hosted on my server, the images in the WP app weren’t even working. No wonder all these little blue boxes and the Visual post menu were weird.

My problem with images revolved around the .htaccess file(s) I had set up to prevent hotlinking. Thank you ccoupe on the WP forum! And a shout out to my lovely helpers at the Dreamhost forum too.

Now, on with the blogging and designing…

New format

I got fed up with Blogger’s supposed FTP publishing tool (where you use Blogger’s app to upload your post and images to your own web host). Images hardly ever uploaded and now this weekend I couldn’t even publish after trying for a day.

After a lot of putzing around today, I think I got WordPress figured out. I ended up switching publishing methods at Blogger to blogspot (because WordPress can’t copy from the FTP method), then I copied over all of my Blogger posts to WordPress. Next I added a domain on my web server along with an index.php file in the “/blog” directory to force a redirect to the new domain. Of course, it didn’t happen that succinctly but that’s what I came up with.

The most obvious issue so far as been that none of my images are working, including one I tried to fix on the post I couldn’t publish on Blogger yesterday. I don’t get it. I’m sure it’s something totally stupid.

I like the WordPress webapp so far, but this php thing is new to me. I’ll be working on the design for the coming days and weeks, probably.

Let me know if y’all see anything funky!

A new way to geek out

I have a new obsession. It’s not a band. It’s not a TV show. It’s from a different part of pop culture that I rarely think about.

It’s retro Nike basketball shoes.

Particularly, Dunks.

This isn’t totally out of character for me; I’ve always loved tennis shoes. One of the few things I was relentless enough about that my parents actually bought for me was a pair of Reebok Pumps. They were as fucking cool as you’re thinking. The awkward part was that a boy two years older than me had the exact same pair. (And yes, btw, I did use them for basketball. In the 7th grade. No, they did not help me play better.)

When the Air Jordans came out, a couple boys in my class always had the latest pairs. In looking through pics at sneakerhead.com, my heart skipped a beat recognizing all these shoes that I analyzed during classes for four years. Some of them I hadn’t realized were Air Jordans.

But Dunks were the Nike basketball shoe before the Air Jordans. Anyone would recognize them. Now the seem to be marketed to collectors and skateboarders. The new Dunks come in every imaginable material, patterns and colors. I wish I could find a full list of every design made.

I can barely keep myself from ordering multiple pairs. I’ve settled on a practical gray, white and blue slightly used pair off eBay. The first pair I saw was at Macy’s late last year. I even tried them on. Recently I saw a multi-shade green pair at Journey’s, and boy is it tempting. But, I’m thrifty and scared of this turning in to a habit.

The design of the Dunks is really perfect for sneakers. It allows for all sorts of intricate details and variations, which is what any good design does. I could look at Dunks all day and never get sick of it. And that’s nearly what I did last Friday at work.

Well, all right! Yer fly is down!

Last night I saw Minnesota music living legend Tina Schlieske doing her “Tina’s Elvis” Vegas-style Revue at the Cabooze. It was as rockin’ and kitschy as I wanted it to be. The huge neon “Tina’s Elvis” sign resembling that from his TV special was a nice touch to the big band (3 horns and 3 backup singers) feeling the stage already had.

She started out slow, and I was thinking that it maybe was her lack of a guitar that made her uncomfortable. She wasn’t moving much in her black pants and silver-sequined jacket (from the B-Sides Last Dance show, oddly enough) until just before the intermission. It wasn’t until the second half of the show, after Tina had a few more cheap macrobrews and a shot of tequila, that she really got going.

Tina was sexy as ever, but nothing was sexier than her doing “Heartbreak Hotel” on the edge of the stage to a random drunk guy. She had the Elvis gestures down pat–the on one bended knee thing, the waving the left hand with her arm up thing–but she doesn’t need Elvis moves to be one of the greatest unknown performers around today. It’s already in her.

Every song, even those I didn’t know, were done with such umpf and crispness (thanks to Trailer Trash) that you couldn’t help but move. There weren’t a ton of people at the Cabooze, and many left at the intermission, but probably 90% of those left danced for the second half (including moi). It was an absolute blast.

The best part of the show for me, though, was how it showcased Tina as a student of rock n’ roll. Between several songs she provided little tidbits of rock trivia, like about the German inspirations for “It’s Now or Never” and a random Tina Turner quote. The woman is what a lot of me wishes I could be–local rock star, deep & powerful voice, huge music fan, fantastic songwriter–but the only one that is likely to be true is “huge music fan”.

Despite my lack of talent, I still have delusions of grandeur around rock stardom. Tina’s Elvis plays nicely with my two ideas for rock bands (featuring me, of course): 1) an all-girl rockabilly band taking back those sexist lyrics, 2) a Paul McCartney cover band called Ram of God. I swear Tina and Trailer Trash got their arrangement of “I Got a Woman” from “Beatles Live at the BBC”, which would thrill me to bits if it were true. That’s the album that got me in to rockabilly and subsequently caving in to Elvis’ talent.

Trailer Trash warmed up the small crowd by playing hillbilly and country music with all the sincerity in the world for about 30 minutes. I was annoyed that I dind’t know they’d be opening as well as backing, but I really did enjoy it. The last song ended with the short lead guy saying, “And if you like country, then you’ll love this song.”, then the keyboardist started playing this weird synthy riff. It didn’t sound like country for a bit, but then the slide guitar came in and it got better. Then I listened to the lyrics. It was Prince’s “1999″. Absolutely fantastic. A group of awesome Minnesota musicians paying tribute to the Prince from Minnesota in the original style of Elvis, the King from Tennessee, who we were all paying tribute to last night.

And by the way Tina, in case you’re reading, your fly was down during the whole second half.

Read more at the Star Tribune.

The OS wars are back

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates may be buddies again, but that doesn’t make this Vista ad on macrumors.com any less funny:


Irony, coincidence or a good joke from newegg.com—it’s hard to say.

Pardon me, do you know where they do the country dancing?


Last night I saw Heartless Bastards live at the 400 Bar. I was introduced to them by a co-worker, and then word trickled around our group about the album, “All this Time”, and it really caught on with everyone for some reason.

The album is Heartless Bastards’ second, and ten times better than their first, album. Erika Wennerstrom’s depressing lyrics, raw vocals and fuzzy Les Paul triumph over the rhythm section of the trio. Though Erika proved her talent worth of the focus of the mix on “All This Time”, it was bassist Mike Lamping who really shone brightest at the show. His quiet passion of always playing with his eyes fully shut contrasts perfectly with Erika’s loud,, passionate raspy voice and thunderous guitar.

Normally when I go to a show, I don’t like to hear songs I don’t know. But with Heartless Bastards, despite the heat and sweat of the crowd and my feet panging me to sit down, I got really in to nearly every single song played. There’s something about a powerful trio that makes seeing a live band even more exhilarating. Erika told us that Minneapolis is one of their two favorite cities to play in (the other being Portland), and the crowd lived up to the cause.

The opening bands were A to Jane and The Alphacentauri. I’m not sure who A to Jane know, but for some reason they got a chance to play for about an hour. They were decent enough, but it was 30 minutes too long. The lead singer acted as if he actually were playing soccer, as his shirt indicated, or that he was on crack. He was incredibly agile and jumpy on stage, which was fun, but could not save me from being frustrated at their lengthy set.

The Alphacentari acted like they were the headliners, maybe because their name indicates the kind of stardom they wish to achieve. Led by a Jeff Buckley sound-a-like, the band is like Arcade Fire with synth sound effects. I’m not saying they are as talented as Arcade Fire, it’s just that they have what seem like a a big band and a unique, undefinable sound. They are begging for indie stardom, and they might just get it.

And now for a plea to fellow Twin Cities concert goers: Please do not get piss drunk at shows. You ruin it for everyone around you with your crazy dancing and shouting. Do not push your way to the front even though you just got to the bar 10 minute earlier. I don’t care why you’re late – it’s fucking rude and you’d hate it if someone did that to you. And lastly, do not sing along to every song. Your voice is not as good as the singer’s and this is not karaoke. Thank you.

P.S. The title of this post is taken from a middle-aged man in a Lexus SUV who, while I waited to get on 394, asked me to roll down my window. I did and he proceeded to ask me where “they” do the country dancing. I tried to see if he was drunk. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud – it was 1:30 am, he’s heading out of town, and he’s looking for country dancing in Minneapolis. Furthermore, why would a 20-something girl in a new Honda Civic know? Love it.

Photo courtesy www.watercoolergossip.net.