Thursday, December 30, 2010

I'll never forget

Thousands of children and adults received Nintendo Wiis this Christmas and their ability to remember all the details over time is questionable. Speaking for myself, I would say getting mine is something I'll never forget because I still remember getting our first Nintendo in 1991. My sister does not. My declaration of never forgetting it is a reasonable one because it could go either way. My sister who was along for the 1991 Nintendo purchase remembers no details of its acquisition.

As life events go, whether or not I remember such a thing is unimportant and serves only to explain the impact of a potentially forgettable occurrence. But the phrase "I will never forget this" finds itself abused for events which by their very magnitude would never be forgotten without the onset of Alzheimer's disease or a severe head injury.

"Never forgetting" despite a head injury is quite another matter entirely. 
*Note* Google "head injury" and "bandaged head" at your own visual risk.

Carrie Underwood was married this past July but it would seem that this once (or thrice) in a lifetime event has the potential to be forgotten. Her husband is quoted as saying of the day, "She looked so stunning. I was thanking God for her that moment. It's something I'll never forget." I'd hope one wouldn't forget how their spouse looked on their wedding day but I'm sure if I were marrying an American Idol winner it would be even harder to forget.

Stating that something will never be forgotten has the implication that it could be forgotten. Other major events include this year's Australian Rules Grand Final. The Grand Final (Australia's equivalent of the Superbowl) had to be replayed after a draw the previous week. A Grand Final draw had not occurred since 1977 so naturally every football fan was in a tizzy over the replay between St Kilda and the much loathed Collingwood. After a week of madness and the eventual replay, much to the disgust of everyone other than Collingwood players and supporters, Collingwood were victorious, and I must say, it's something I will never forget. As I don't follow Collingwood in saying I wont forget I am indicating what an impact this hoopla had on someone who followed neither team and wasn't even in Australia when it happened. What did not need to be stated was that the players who busted their balls the whole season, built up to Grand Final day only to draw and have to meet again and then eventually win would not forget that. Who could go through all that and forget it?

Imagine it's 2030 and a few 2010 Grand Final players who are still in touch find themselves playing a friendly game of cricket in the backyard after a barbecue:

Steele Sidebottom* of Collingwood: Ahhh! You're out! And it's a bloody draw! Should we keep going?

Nick Riewoldt of St Kilda: Nah, fuck it. It's not exactly the 2010 Grand Final!

Sidebottom: The what now?

Riewoldt: The 2010 Grand Final. We drew. Remember? We had to play it all over again the following week to a stadium of 100,000 people.

Sidebottom: I have no idea what you're talking about.

Typical Collingwood supporter

And the list goes on.  Just this year I have collected these...

  • Woman on National Geographic's Locked Up Abroad described the moment she was busted by airport security while carrying copious amount of drugs as being "something I'll never forget."
  • The producer of hideously drab clothes, and unworthy winner of Project Runway Season 8, Gretchen Jones described her win as "something I'll never forget." We don't expect you to forget, Gretchen since the viewers will never forget the biggest injustice in Project Runway history either! Mondo forever!

"First act by Republicans: repeal Project Runway decision. Unseat Gretchen, restore Mondo."
  • 2010 US Winter Olympian John Daly said "That was the most amazing thing of my life. Walking into the ceremony was unbelievable and something I'll never forget. When the torch was lit, it was official. I spent the last few weeks saying I was an Olympian." I'm sure you'll never forget you are  an Olympian much as I will never forget that I am not an Olympian.
  • Chilean President, Sebastián Piñera, said to Luis Urzúa, the 33rd miner to be retrieved from the collapsed mine, "You're not the same after this and neither are we. We will never forget this." Subsequent interviews with various miners have brought similar promises of never forgetting being trapped in a fucking mine 700 metres/2,300 feet underground for 69 fucking days.
Another day, another rescue operation

I've been to countless concerts in my life and while a song may seem amazing while you see and hear them, the memories often fade away until sometimes you're not sure if you ever heard a song live at all. This is not the case the first time Supergrass played my favourite song, In It For The Money live. I had lobbied for it for years and had given up hope so when it finally happened at their fourth to last ever show, my mouth was a agape, my eyes filled with tears, my mind blown. I can still relive every moment of that realisation like it just happened. It is something I will never forget. It means something to describe it that way as on paper it appears pretty unmemorable. "They played your favourite song. Great." No, it was more than that, hence I stress that I will remember.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Gamer appreciation

This could have been me

With the festive season upon us it has become apparent that I will be receiving a Nintendo Wii from Jesus for Christmas. I am incredibly excited about this prospect but also a little concerned.

I'm certainly no hardcore gamer who spends 17 hours a day playing World of Warcraft. In fact, I don't really know much about any of these new, cool games at all and am likely to say something as laughable to a gamer as referring to "Jerry from The Beatles" would be to a music fan. My gaming experience is mostly grounded in childhood on Atari and original Nintendo. Asteroids and Mario are my friends. This might suggest I have left this life behind me for all the consoles that have come since, but that is far from the truth. The fact that Super Mario Bros 1, 2 and 3 are being released in a special anniversary edition shows that the nostalgia for these games goes a long way and I am right there ready to play them all over again. Oh, how I can't wait to uproot a giant radish in Super Mario  2!

It really was the biggest and most exciting Mario Bros adventure to date!

Just a few years ago I salivated over until I got a Game Boy Advance which came with Super Mario 3 and a fully illustrated guide on how to conquer the game. I finished the game in my youth without any such aid, but once I was older I welcomed the guide to get me through the things that age and a lack of patience were holding me back from. The Legend of Zelda was another game which I persevered with and conquered. After clearing the entire game, I went through again and mapped out ever maze noting each room's prizes and enemies for easier game play in future. I transferred my findings tidily to graph paper, the process taking me a week to complete. I loaned the maps to a friend along with the game, the whereabouts of which remain unknown, something which makes my stomach turn to this very day.

So as this new Wii calls out to me along with a brand new edition of Mario, I worry about my future. Sure, the Wii will be great for exercise with Boxing and Tennis on Wii Sports, but I can't exactly take Mario lightly. I have a reputation to uphold. I will beat that game, oh yes I will. I will get Rock Band too and unlike when I've played it other people's homes where I can barely finish a song on Easy, at home I will eventually beat Expert level on all my favourite songs. I must.

Whenever I see someone in this shirt, I want to shake their hand in camaraderie. I'd have one of my own if they came in girl sizes.

Addiction to video games is most often frowned upon for it's utter uselessness and waste of time. As addicted as I can get and with what little I have to show for afterward, I don't entirely disagree. But there is some credit due to the gamer which they never receive from anyone outside of their gamer nerd peer group. There is a real commitment involved in completing these games. A real determination along with strategy and deep thinking are often involved to get to the end (at least there was until you could Google your way out of any gaming pickle.) When I was stuck on Bart Vs The Space Mutants, I thought about it in my private moments until the solution came to me in a dream. When I woke up, I tried what I dreamt and it worked.

The level I was stuck on in 'Bart Vs The Space Mutants'. It must have been the exceptional graphics that held my attention.

I have long remarked that my commitment to video games is actually a mark of my good character. Surely my perseverance is commendable? I can only ponder what greatness I could have achieved in life had I parlayed this deep thought, problem solving skill and determination to something more useful. At the very least a career in which I could have afforded Wii the day it came out.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Vegas Baby - Why I'm embarrassed to say I'm going there

I just returned from one of my twice yearly trips to Las Vegas but please, just calm down.  I hate that I can't just say that I'm going there and be done with it before whomever I tell gets the chance to say "All-RIGHT!", "You're so lucky!" or a sickly "Oooh! *wink wink*." Without a thought, I find myself saying, "I'm going to Vegas for work, but I hate it there." It's all those debauched expectations of Vegas that have forced me to say this, lest I immediately have to bring them down from their bogus high after they've expressed unwarranted delight.

I have travelled extensively and no place on earth has a more immediate and consistent reaction than Las Vegas. Whatever our differences are, apparently we are all supposed to come together in Sin City for over indulgence and the wasting of money. Perhaps there's a  booth marked "Brain Check" at Primm, Nevada, just after you cross the border when driving in from LA, but I must have missed it because I am never unaware of the failings of this town.

For the middle aged suburbanite, I suppose I can understand the appeal. They don't get out much and when they do, there isn't a lot for them to do. The closest thing to Las Vegas is their local sports bar, and so these people come in droves where they can drink, gamble and stay up late which they would never otherwise get to do. Fine. I get that.

Faux opulence at every turn, yet no-one bothers to dress up for it which kinda defeats the purpose.

But when it comes to people around my age, living in a big city, I simply don't understand it. What is there to do in Las Vegas? Gamble, drink, eat, go to clubs. All of those things except gambling can be done in Los Angeles without tourists with polo shirts tucked into their khakis at every turn. The other big demographic are frat boys and douchebags and the girls who want to date them. Once again, in Vegas you can do things you can do at home but with a higher price and the addition of morons.

Cutting loose in Vegas like you can only do there.

While in the company of some of the most miserable and annoying people America has to offer, you can walk around and suck on a giant margarita. Perhaps the giant cup and straw is a badge of honour. I am a party animal. I am going to drink this ridiculous amount of weak alcohol and follow it up with five more. I know how to have a good time. Envy me. Garish and weak, I'd rather drink at a bar near my home that's off the radar of the pig people. Plus me being drunk and belligerent around stupid people could get me into trouble.

A slideshow of some of the many things Vegas boasts. (*Note* I have nothing against old people, but they do make up a large portion of your Vegas party cohorts.)

Of course there's still the gambling. Unless you live near an Indian Reservation, Nevada or Atlantic City, gambling is otherwise not available to you, but again, I don't need to tell you that Vegas was built on losers. Any time you spend at a slot machine or table you are again surrounded by desperation and depression as people pump away their life savings so the next biggest casino in town can be built and they walk away wondering if they'll be able to pay their health insurance bill this month. And again with the ugly t-shirts, khakis and obesity.  There is some relief on the casino floor as a waif-ish, scantily clad, overly tanned cocktail waitress will come by to offer you a free, weak drink. Her humiliating "sexy" outfit and depressed expression she wears as she walks away from you reminds you of what this hell hole does to people who actually live there.

"Did you want dignity with that White Russian?"

I am not made of stone. Of course the strip is dazzling and unlike any place on earth. There was a time many moons ago where upon first arrival in Vegas I'd be giddy with excitement and think I wanted to move there. Like clockwork, on every occasion after almost exactly 24 hours of this feeling, I couldn't wait to leave. Everything looks so amazing from a distance, so like a mirage, you walk and walk trying to get there. When you get there, oops, there are just a bunch a slot machines. Further you trudge, Paris is right there! But again, you go in and it's just more slots.

The good old days

Going out to eat is something I enjoy and the dining in Vegas, previously wretched, has greatly improved. Still, most restaurants have lines to get in and are ridiculously expensive. One would think that Vegas could at least come through for me as a night owl. Again, no. Apparently if you want to go out and get crazy, you better start early because most of the restaurants close at 10pm. One time we ended up eating at the only place that was open because apparently 10:30 was too late to be starting our big night out. When we finally did hit the town, not much was going on. There was no perpetual party, but rather we'd have to seek out an activity much like we'd do back at home and most bars closing just one hour later than at home.

The bad new days

The other end of me having to hear others get needlessly excited about me going to Vegas is being told that others are going there with the expectation that I am supposed to give one of the responses I outlined earlier. If you utter the phrase, "I'm going to Vegas, Baby!" it will be met with a sullen expression and a groan. Apparently I am supposed to be automatically impressed. No, while I have no doubt reasonable people can have fun there, I am not wowed by a mecca for the culturally oppressed. That is not, and should not be a given. The notion that it is Disneyland for adults is a fallacy so I would simply appreciate otherwise sane people not assuming that without question, hardcore partying is totally what's going to happen.  Las Vegas is definitely worth seeing once, but if you tell me you're going, please don't call me "baby".

Thanks, but no thanks.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The emptiness of an atheist

When confronted with the idea of not believing in God, many people are quick to convey the emptiness they see without the promise of heaven after they die. They express a sorrow for atheists who they see as having a bleak existence ahead of them.

While I understand where people are coming from with this need for more, once I solidly found myself without a belief in God and subsequently an afterlife, the lack of heaven has not for a moment left me feeling empty. Deep thoughts about heaven only strengthened my firm feeling that it would be utterly boring and while I enjoy the company of my friends and family here on Earth, without the clock ticking and eternity before us, discussions about everything from the Dodgers 2011 prospects to what we'll do with our lives would be without purpose because there is ALWAYS next year. Always. If there is more to heaven, it is more than I can fathom within the parameters of what I know, so as I'm not able to comprehend anything better, there's no unfilled void when believing my death is the very end of me.

Having said that, the lack of God does still leave a hole that cannot be filled. The hole is from the lack of Hell. I'm comfortable without thinking I'll live on in some form, happily and eternally, but I crave the knowledge that every asshole who never got their comeuppance while on Earth with suffer the consequences the second they die.

This scenario works for me

Hell serves to pick up the pieces after God dropped the ball and allowed so many horrible people to prosper at the expense of the poor, or commit atrocities on the innocent. Where God failed to guide people to goodness, Hell is the solution and it will last FOREVER. When infuriated by the likes of Augusto Pinochet who died under house arrest awaiting trial for hundreds of charges of human rights violations, one can only default to Hell to provide the comfort that he is receiving his deserved punishment. As an atheist, once realising that this is never going to happen, then yes, a great emptiness is felt when realising Pinochet, Hitler, Bernie Madoff, Rush Limbaugh, Van Toffler, Bud Selig, Dick Cheney, Stephanie MeyerCarlos Santana and that sonovabitch that cut you off and nearly hit you that time can grin in their graves for all eternity.

MTV President Van Toffler (centre) and why not, he can take Diddy with him.

Adolf Hitler

Right wing radio liar Rush Limbaugh

Carlos Santana with 8 Grammys too many

Hell on earth does exist at various music festivals around the world.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fresheners indeed

"Can we get an air freshener for the bathroom?" I would ask my mother whenever we encountered them. The promise of filling the smallest room in the house with a cheerful bouquet or a wander through a rainforest as shown on TV had convinced me this was a requirement for any civilised home. It is not that I was particularly sensitive to toilet fumes, but of course I was attracted to the notion of nice ones.

"No, I don't like them. They smell like the toilet," was my mother's immediate (and final) response each time I asked.

From this, a life of olfactory espionage was borne. While in supermarket aisles I would surreptitiously sniff nozzles and when that failed to admit me into its world, I would steal a puff of heaven when no-one was looking. As I drunk in the promised smell, I did not smell toilet. I chalked that assessment up to my mother's well-documented neurosis.

I dreamed of becoming an adult. I would have my own bathroom, do my own shopping and have the freedom to buy the air freshening spray of my dreams. I would finally have an indoor country garden of my own without the slightest knowledge of botany.  

When that time eventually came, on my very first shopping trip buying items to furnish my first apartment, a toilet spray made the cart. I was filled with a sense of victory over my mother each time I sprayed it, but surprisingly, this feeling was short lived. I went from feeling that I had scentually arrived, to slowly becoming aware of the evacuation smell encroaching on my imaginary lavender bush. Before I knew it, disgust had set in. What started as a stroll through a country garden became regarded as a walk through a garden of fecal flowers. I concluded it was simply that particular spray and another variety would satisfy my nasal cravings.

From then on, a parade of sprays would march through my home and each time, their story would have the same arc. Even after adopting an industrial raspberry scent I found at work, delicious raspberries soon became raspberries and shit. I came to realise that while the usual odours, though unpleasant, would evapourate within fifteen minutes or so, the addition of the spray meant that the shit + rain, shit + roses, shit + rainbows smell would linger for more like forty-five. I decided this to be worse than shit + nothing.

Meadows and Rain. They left out " and shit".

Yet even after this extensive research and a long stretch without artificial nature, I was tempted to try a variety that merely deodourised. No smell, just plucking bowel gas from the air and concealing it in the droplets. I was hopeful, much like a battered wife returning to her aggressor, but the scene played out as it always did. The "This is great! This is it!" honeymoon period quickly followed by, "I'm going to be sick if I have to endure this vile smell for a moment longer. Oh god! It's wafting into the living room!" Apparently shit + clouds has a greater ability to network with the other rooms in the apartment than anything the human body produces alone.

This product attempts to mask the smell before it's even made by being sprayed into the toilet water before it is defiled.

I had finally given up, but the can remained atop the cistern, apparently just to invite trouble. A friend made a brief bathroom visit, only to freshen up. The smell of her jeans bothered her after a long flight and she sought something to mask it, she chose not to bother me for body spray or perfume. She came out, dragging the smell of the toilet spray all over the apartment. Even without it being methane infused, all on its own, I could barely contain my gag reflex. Soon after, four of us piled into the car - five if you count the ubiquitous air freshener smell - and I attempted to find the courage to eat dinner in what felt like a freshly christened bathroom wherever I went.

It was at this moment I had to grudgingly concede. My mother was right. They do all smell like the toilet.  

Probably the only real solution.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Phantom feelings

Neurosis about germs is something that has run in my family for at least the last three generations and is a problem I have worked hard to shake. While a certain amount of germ awareness is healthy for the prevention of illness, some measures are taken merely to avoid the mental horrors one is plagued with if contact is made with a supposed contaminant.

My mother's fear that sock and underwear germs somehow stick to the washing machine and contaminate other clothes is bordering on insanity. Were this fantasy actually true, there is still no risk of illness should foot sweat be transferred to one's shoulder. I am yet to hear a case of "athletes abs" transferred from a freshly laundered t-shirt.

As silly as this sounds and while I don't share that particular fear, I have something similar. Should I come into contact with something that disgusts me, I tend to "feel it" on the place it came into contact with for quite some time. For instance, the time I shook hands with the rubber gloved hand of a janitor, even after good go-over with hand sanitizer and eventually water, I could "feel" where his hand met mine for a good half an hour and didn't want to touch the steering wheel. Similar feelings occur even if the hand is clean, but the shaker is sporting a cloth band-aid. The feeling will linger only on the spot on my finger that came into contact with it.

Dirty hands WITH a band-aid. Send help.

The lasting impressions aren't always for bad things. If someone with clean but extremely dry hands reaches out for a greeting, that will last too. If someone I don't really know that well gives me a friendly kiss on the cheek, if it is wet, I can "feel" it long after it has dried. I've never known what to make of this peculiar linger. Just when I checked all the boxes and thought I qualified as sane, I realised I'd forgotten about my phantom feelings. These germs have a presence and demand my attention. I am an attentive, though not welcoming, host.

Perhaps the strangest thing is that this phenomenon works through inanimate objects. Every pair of shoes I own seem to have these powers to the point that you'd thing they were all crafted with special sensors, but in fact, they are usually about as cheap as they come and void of customisation. Should I step in something like wet bread, I will "feel" it through my shoe for quite some time. One should feel comfort and security that their trusty shoe has taken the blow of the horror that is wet bread, dog faeces, or a stream of human urine if you're strolling around London late at night, but alas, my shoes take on the same, lasting impression my skin does. The icky-ness runs up my leg and into my head, though on deeper thought, it is obviously running head to shoe. My clothing also carries germ memories, like when a man who obviously failed to wash his hands after touching his penis to pee makes contact. A pat on the back might as well be a stabbing.

Holed up in bed. Covered in remnants of touches.

I was inspired to write this blog after this horrifying story of a man spraying people with a semen filled water bottle was brought to my attention. I daresay that if I were a victim, I would continue to "feel" that for upwards of a year until which time, skin replacement would be considered.

Watch to the end. It almost sounds like the attacker has the anchor's blessing.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

How to enjoy Coke

Ever since I was a teenager, I have shunned trends, logos and labels. For some odd reason, there was a period of a few years where this belief did not translate to my love of Coke. I believed that as Coke was something I loved and cherished and they had a beautiful logo, it made sense to wear a Coke t-shirt. Eventually, I couldn't reconcile this with my anti-corporate sentiments, so I rid myself of the Coke clothing. What I could not rid myself of though was my love for the product and nor did I want to.

While I make it a point not to keep Coke stocked in my house, I do indulge myself often enough outside the home. I have indulged myself enough over the years to know all the best ways to enjoy it and also the ways not to. I know the Coca-Cola Company is an evil, multi-national corporation so at first I hesitated about writing something that promotes their product. But for many of us, with all our good intentions and deeds, we can't help but like Coke, so for us, I have written this guide. Hopefully I have written enough truths so that the Coca-Cola Company will not find this to be kind of promotion they are looking for.

Coke in a can

Coke in a can used to be the most commonly found and best method for obtaining Coke on the go. It serves its purpose well, with the aluminium holding and conducting coldness well and keeping the contents refreshing and cold for a decent amount of time. On an average day, I would say I drink at moderate speed and at this rate, by the time I reach the last fifth of the can after consistent gulps, it is just starting to warm up and lose its magic. A fast drinker who can slam a can down in under three minutes is guaranteed satisfaction for the duration of the can.

Coke in a plastic bottle (large)

We usually meet our 1.25 and 2 litre bottle friends at parties or when pizzas are ordered. Cups are required and if we are lucky, ice is also supplied. While from a cup with no ice is not an ideal way to ingest Coke, in group situations, it is the only reasonable thing to do. If the party is any good, you are too distracted by conversation to really put too many expectations on your Coke. When enjoyed with pizza, it works as a fabulous companion, so as long as it is reasonably cold, it doesn't matter where it came from. In all situations, glasses are always preferable to plastic cups for serving.

Coke in a plastic bottle (small/buddies)

I really resent that in Australia, Coca-Cola opted to name the smaller, on-the-go bottles of Coke the "buddy" because Coke in this form is no friend of mine. The plastic bottle is the enemy of maintaining Coke. When you have a beverage that can only be enjoyed in a very small temperature range and only with adequate carbonation, after which point the beverage becomes undrinkable, the plastic bottle foils both of these needs. The plastic fails to maintain coldness and as a result, whatever carbonation is left is not enjoyed. What should be light, cool bursts of refreshment on your tongue and throat end up being hot bombs that sear on their way down. The experience is vastly different from other, colder methods of delivery. From the first sip, straight out of the fridge, this kind is already not good enough.

While visiting Europe recently, I found that plastic bottled Coke was prevalent while cans were scarce. This is a sad state of affairs for those who crave a good Coke and think they can just wander into any store to get their fix. 

A further enemy of this method is its cap. Unlike a can or a glass bottle, with a metal cap, the plastic bottle comes with a cap that can be screwed back on. So not only is this Coke inferior from its first sip, but as it steadily gets worse, everything is set up to prolong this pathetic experience. Unlike with cans and glass bottles, the fact that they are open and un-sealable demands that we drink it in a timely fashion. With the screw back on cap, we find ourselves mindlessly sipping hot, brown, flat crap hours after it was first opened simply because it's still in our possession. It is a far cry from how Coke started out.

Does the improved grip make it harder to throw this rotten incarnation away?

Coke in a glass bottle

Mexican Coke is revered for having real cane sugar instead of corn syrup. Mmmm.

This form of Coke is not often found, but when it is, it's a true delight. The glass keeps the drink adequately cold and the bottle itself in its beauty, does indeed enhance the experience, whether or not it should. My only complaint about the glass bottle is that I find slurping through the narrow neck leads to a lot of carbonation destruction which doesn't occur with a can. With a can, the opening allows the drink to flood in and what wont make it, gently falls back. With a bottle, particularly the glass, I find my lips completely covering the opening and during the transference of the liquid, my upper lip gets sucked into the bottle. This exchange seems to cause some stress on the Coke and some bubbles are killed in the battle over my upper lip. This process also slows the consumption, bringing us dangerously close to warm and un-carbonated: a place we don't want to be.

Coke from a fountain

This blog does not endorse the consumption of Diet Coke as pictured. Pepsi is preferred to this undrinkable swill.

Growing up, the Coke you got from fountains at fast food joints was questionable. The young palette untrained, it could only go by what it saw going into the cup and that was a stream of brown and stream of clear. The Coke was being watered down before our eyes! The humanity! As a Coke enthusiast, I eventually learned that no, this was not a Coke travesty but in fact Coke in its purest form and just as God intended it to be. Coke doesn't get any fresher than Coke at the fountain. The syrup is in one chamber, the cold soda water in another. When the trigger is pulled, they meet at the right proportions and poured over ice, magic is made and the ice keeps it at it's optimum for the longest of any other method. The more ice, the better, unless you take too long to drink it and it all melts, thus watering down your drink.

As a child I would often ask for no ice, thinking I had won. I would get that ENTIRE CUP filled with Coke. Ha! But I was yet to learn of quality over quantity. A large amount of un-chilled Coke simply wont cut it today.

*An important note about Coke with ice: While chilled Coke is only enhanced with ice, warm Coke is another horrible matter entirely. Often at a restaurant you will order a Coke, they will place a warm can on your table and a glass filled with ice. I always head into this situation with hope, but the result is always the same: warm liquids melt ice. What results is Coke that is fast watered down. With the Coke so many more degrees warmer than then ice, this happens instantly. I also believe this mismatch of temperature causes a sort of fright to the Coke, subsequently, on impact with the ice, the bubbles are scared right out of there and you will find not only is your Coke watered down, but also flat. You will, however, find this miserable beverage cold if nothing else.

Frozen Coke

The mention of frozen Coke may be controversial. Some Coke enthusiasts may find its inclusion as much of an abomination as the mention of Good Charlotte in a conversation about punk. With my preferences set long ago, the appearance of Frozen Coke was not even on my radar. I tried it one day while hanging out with my friend who was working at a gas station who informed me that he couldn't give me anything for free except the Frozen Coke. Being a teenager and poor, I took the offer because it was free, but a new Coke experience revealed itself to me.

Given that Coke is such a precarious drink, always on the brink of being awful, Frozen Coke appears doomed from the offset as carbonation simply cannot exist under these frozen conditions. And yet, something about the sharp crystals of ice seem to perform the same task as carbonation. While not the same, this is still effective. The other benefits of this style is dipping the straw down to the bottom where the syrup is slowly pooling. It's like you are getting the pure Coke syrup as it has separated from most of the water. Frozen Coke is a journey with  straw movements and time giving you a range of goodness. It is only once too much ice has melted into any remaining syrup that what's left becomes undrinkable, but I am usually almost done by then. Frozen Coke is a well priced and often overlooked treat for the Coke fan. I also find them incredibly satisfying when hungover. 


Of course taste is in the tongue of the drinker, so you may disagree with some of what I have said based on your own preference. There are a few nutters who simply love flat Coke. I feel that I like Coke the way it was intended, as shown in all advertising: ice cold and carbonated. Bikinis, Santa and rollerblades may come and go, but those two things remain constant.  It is on this preference that I have based my research. I hope it gave you something to think about when you next enjoy a Coke.

Um, it actually depletes whatever hydration you did have, but whatever.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Deconstructing the loss of Supergrass

Please turn on your speakers

Just two months ago I had no plans, nor did I expect to be in Paris two months later, but when musical tragedy struck, I found myself making the pilgrimage. On a day that began with rejoicing as I was about to hit the road from LA to San Francisco to see Faith No More reformed, a mere five minutes before I walked out to the car, I was presented with the news that my beloved Supergrass had just announced their break-up.

This was entirely unexpected. Just the day before, returning from yet another road trip, with the shuffling iPod on a real Supergrass kick, Tasha and I basked in the comfort we had in Supergrass. We relished their camaraderie and their stability. It was so reassuring to know that something so great was always going to be there. I kid you not, this was the day before the news broke. 

It was Tasha who broke it to me and understood the irony given our recent conversation. I shouted "WHAT?!" I froze. Tasha gave me a hug. My husband Gregg looked at me with sadness and a fear for my sanity. Then a few tears rolled my cheek. These would be nothing for what was to come.

But within a moment of complete and utter loss, I was given a reprieve. While the band's statement read like an obituary, the closing paragraph talked of farewell shows. My face lit up as much as it could under the circumstances and Gregg's carried a wince as he could see our bank account draining before his eyes. Much like in that mythical tale where followers of Jesus went from "He's dead!" to "He's here for forty more days!" I suddenly had Supergrass back from death for four more shows.

After some scrambling and planning, I found myself headed to Glasgow, Manchester, London and Paris to say goodbye. The first three shows were met with varying degrees of emotion. But the flood that would come in Paris was more than I had anticipated. Of course losing a favourite band is sad, but really, to be crying before the show starts? When you look at the ticket? When the retrospective videos play? I was completely bawling and couldn't be stopped. I cried straight through for the first four songs and totalling it up over the night, probably at least half of the entire set. Rocking out to "Richard III" would turn to tears as I realised I would never hear it live again. Who knew it was possible to cry during their anthem for teenage recklessness, "Caught By The Fuzz"? The notion from most parents, teachers and bosses over the years suggest we enjoy ourselves within reason and otherwise lean towards of a life of stability and sensibility, so crying so much over the break-up of a band started to feel plain wrong.

From Supergrass' last ever show in Paris, June 11, 2010. Photo by Rod

What was it about Supergrass that made me react this way? My reaction forced me to look back and examine this. I had to come up with something fast as the ability to get immediate and effective psychological care in Paris with a language barrier seemed unlikely.

With very particular musical tastes firmly in place by my early 20s, at the age of 24 and with the other two bands I had obsessed over now obsolete, I sought out new (and by new I mean old that I hadn't heard before) music, but I expected nothing to take me over as Faith No More and Mr Bungle had done. Those days were behind me and so I began to settle into a more sensible life. I had travelled extensively to see multiple shows of both those bands, but I was sure that was over.

After expressing a vague interest in Supergrass to Gregg, odd since I had abhorred the whole Britpop scene in the 90s on my principle against fads, he presented me with their first album I Should Coco on my 25h birthday. From the first half a minute of the opening track, I'd Like To Know my eyes bugged out over the goodness of what I was hearing. They almost fell right out of my head as the quality continued for the next three songs and into their most famous hit, Alright. By the album's end, I was giddy and maybe frothing at the mouth a little, now sorry I had to go out for my birthday lunch rather than keep spinning this new-found treasure. Once home again, that is precisely what happened. I struggled to contain myself, but after a week of waiting, enough was enough and I went out to buy the next addition.

"I Should Coco" (1995)

The thing that had piqued my interest in the first place was a review of Supergrass' fourth album which stated that unlike most bands who got worse with each album, they actually got better. I had long complained of the same problem which is what led to my curiosity. Supergrass', In It For The Money proved there was really something to that reviewer's assessment for indeed, though I thought I had only just found a masterpiece, this second instalment blew off my toenails, my socks having gone the week before. My toenails are really ugly, so it was for the best.

For me, In It For The Money is a perfect album from start to finish, containing a hefty chunk of fan favourites and no filler. My favourite track was, back when I first heard it and remains seven years later, the opening and title track. There's something deeply stirring about the opening organ note that is held, building tension before the foreboding guitar notes start to trickle in. The intense feelings this song brought me then, maintains its same power all this while later.

"In It For The Money" (1997)

After bringing my eventual favourite album into my life, I barely managed seven days of restraint before getting their third album Supergrass (commonly referred to as 'The X-Ray Album' for its cover), and made it through seven more before getting the fourth and most recent to that date, Life On Other Planets.

Over the coming months, armed with all that was available, I found myself listening to Supergrass 80% of time. On the odd chance I'd listen to something else, it almost felt as though I just listened to other stuff just because I felt I should. My longing for Supergrass was unquenchable and since they weren't heroin, it seemed pointless not to indulge. 

So back to the question, what was it about them that gripped me like they did? One thing very important to me with music is that it be sincere. This quest has long been debated. Should we just accept the art for what it is or should it matter where it came from? While I know this pursuit can be futile, if all the planets align, I believe it can really enhance the experience. When something connects with your heart, it's all the more meaningful if what you thought you heard was real and not a complete and utter fraud that just sounded good. In Supergrass, I swore I could hear the sincerity I sought. I swore I could hear heart in the vocals, sweat in the drums, soul in the bass and magic in the keys. With these powers combined, a listener like me could sail in with some tears. When music clicks with you, a sort of relationship is formed. In the case of Supergrass, it isn't really in the lyrics, it's in the vibe. They're the friend that knows the right things to say to make me feel good. With friends it's a look or a gesture, with music it's emotion and energy. Both transcend words.

Upon finally seeing Supergrass live, from what I could see, their expressions, their intensity, their connection with each other on stage, I felt as though my hopes were being met so from that day onward, my devotion went full speed ahead. But that's the broken down and analysed version. In the moment, there was a lot of screaming, dancing, jumping, and couple of tears. I wasn't playing psychologist for band dynamics, I was just having the time of my fucking life and it was all courtesy of Supergrass and their amazing live show. As much as I had loved other bands before, they blew only my mind and my guts. No band before had hit the trifecta of mind, guts and heart. Through their live show, Supergrass showed they had it all for me.

Poster from my first ever Supergrass shows in 2003. I got tickets for both. I immediately knew I would need to see both and I was sorry I didn't go down to Anaheim too.

Whiling away the time between tours and albums over the next few years on websites and message boards, the attentive Supergrass fans were one day delighted to find that keyboardist Rob had started blogging and those of us who cottoned onto it were regular readers. He wasn't giving us Supergrass updates, but he was incredibly dry and funny and so a new little group of friends was formed, including Rob himself. Stemming from this, I would eventually meet Rob in person while in England and he would go on to recommend me to the rest of the band and the management after I volunteered to look after their woefully neglected MySpace page. I got the job.

My sentiments that spurred me to offer to do the MySpace page.

From the group of regular readers and commenters, Stephanie stood out to me and apparently, I to her. After stalking out each others' MySpace pages, we began corresponding on our shared love of Supergrass, but eventually our bond surpassed that interest into a million other things. Sharing an understanding with someone about something that means so much to you is a fabulous way to connect with them and for the socially retarded among us, we really need stuff like that to start us out. Thanks to Supergrass, I would find one of my best friends in the whole world.

By the time their sixth album was released, my commitment to the band and my love of their music had grown exponentially, now in cahoots with Stephanie and our friend Kate, seeing just one show was not an option. We spurred each other on. I had already flown to Phoenix and San Francisco to see them on their tour for their fifth album, Road To Rouen, so I had to do at least as much this time around. The latest effort, Diamond Hoo Ha again hearkened back to that first review that sparked my interest. Indeed this album, was as good as anything previous, which in their case, is a very high bar. Supergrass continued to deliver and subsequently, I continued to adore them. But now with my role as MySpace page manager, I was in a position to meet the band in circumstances other than waiting out the back door of a venue.

"Diamond Hoo Ha" (2008)

This prospect was as scary as it was exciting. For all I had loved about them, I was aware that much of it was potentially a figment of my imagination and they might not quite be all I had made them out to be. The dangers of getting too close were suddenly apparent. But like a tech geek to an Apple store, I could not stay away. Stephanie and I watched them open for the Foo Fighters in Seattle and then headed backstage to see what we would find. Stephanie had propped them up in much the same way I had, so at least I'd have someone to commiserate with if it didn't all work out. My stomach was in knots. I was potentially about to destroy something I held so dear. Don't go. Ignorance is bliss. Ignorance is bliss. Ignorance is bliss...aaaaand we're going in....

While, I might have been able to leave happy with a polite, "Thanks for doing our MySpace page!", I ended up with so much more. I already knew Rob somewhat and indeed, he was lovely and quietly hilarious in person, but in talking with the others, any remaining fears I had were quickly quelled. They were exactly everything I had propped them up to be creatively and also really sweet and sincere. On that very first night I found myself in a conversation with Gaz, the guitarist and vocalist, in which we somehow ended up talking about the time when Steven Spielberg wanted to do a Monkees style show around Supergrass but they turned the offer down. I had known about this, but of course never talked to anyone in the band about it. One might assume that after all these years, and with the band's popularity having waned, that such a decision might be filled with remorse. Instead, I could see the a light in his eyes as he excitedly told me how they were just really more interested in making their second album (which was eleven years old by the time this conversation took place) to waste time making a TV show. He spoke of how important it was for them to be doing stuff to be proud of and in this brief chat, all I had thought I heard in the music was proven correct. This wasn't an interview nor were my list of dreams for the band submitted for fulfillment at the door before my entrance. No, through this casual conversation, and various others with bassist Mick and drummer Danny over the course of the next couple of years, would solidify that what I heard on the albums, the heart, the soul and the humour were all completely real. An even deeper bond with the music was forged once I realised that all I had felt and gathered from the music was true.

Over the next few years, more adventures would follow. Through good timing, I would see them in Australia and in England and end up dressed us as a Mrs Santa dancing on stage for a song during their Christmas show. Rob, after stumbling on my secret blog would provide me with the encouragement to pursue writing. I definitely ended up with more than I bargained for. But adventures and perks aside, what Supergrass gave me with their music is unlike anything I had ever experienced and something I feel I am unlikely to experience again. Music that made my heart buzz (and other parts of my body feel good too), music that made me laugh, cry and feel a general sense of glowing isn't commonly found. The music could do all this and not lose its power in the 7 years I have known it. The high standard that had always been paved the way for an exciting future, making it a continual source of something to look forward to. Now it is gone. So, with such a loss, all I could do was bawl my eyes out.

 There's me on the right dancing at Supergrass' Christmas Show in London in 2008

Supergrass made incredible decisions musically, decisions that would impact and enhance my life, being a consistent and reliable source for joy, which is why their break-up had such an impact on me. I can only trust that judgement when it comes to their sad decision to end it and be thankful that they left me with such a beautiful and unblemished legacy. Mick, Gaz, Rob and Danny: thank-you.