This one time, I… Grew a mustache

Ever since I first viewed the phrase on a souvenir t-shirt in the Wisconsin Dells at a young age, one personal mantra – that I’d “try anything once” – has stuck with me. The mantra has resulted in experiences of varying degrees of success. [On a scale of 1-10: a night out at the race track (1), dating a woman (1.5), working as a magician’s assistant for a week (5), eating a fried cheese curd (10).] But no matter what the rating, each experience certainly taught me something new and did not result in life-threatening circumstances (with the possible exception of the excessive fumes and nightly crashes at the Lake Geneva race track).

Therefore, in the spirit of lifelong learning [all the rage in these recession-riddled days, I hear], arrives the latest installment of this blog: “This one time, I…” Here, I will recount something I did during that past week/month/unspecified period of time I’d never done before. With pictures. First-hand accounts. Maybe even video or animated GIFs (you could be so lucky). Finally, for you Thievy McMusicPirates out there, there will be themed music mixes. It will be fun, I promise: TAKE THE CANDY. So, without further ado…

I grew a mustache.

Well, to be completely accurate, I trimmed my existing facial hair (which tends to be quite bountiful) into a mustache. It was something that always seemed like a good idea at the time, but alas, I lacked the bravery to walk about town sprouting a cookieduster. A flavor saver. A mouth brow. Until recently.

The product of a curious Friday night trim session resulted in a weekend-long case study into the discrimination faced by sporters of the pushbroom.
The product of a curious Friday night trim session resulted in a weekend-long case study into the discrimination faced by sporters of the pushbroom.

As I stared back in the mirror at what I’d done, I wondered if friends would treat me the same. If passers-by on the street would gawk. If my family would still love me. With a deep sigh, I turned away from the mirror and headed out the door to face the world I expected to shun me and my facial transgression.

As it turned out, besides a startled baby and an overly-friendly bear bartender, my mustache did not result in any unusual treatment. In fact, I could feel peoples’ eyes look at me with a fresh curiosity, a stirring interest. Historically, commanding officers of the military; like General Lew Wallace; strangely appealing pop stars of the ’70s and ’80s; including Freddie Mercury and Frank Zappa; and eccentric filmmakers enjoyed a certain air of reverie surrounding their ‘stache-wearing ways. And the Mario Bros. had a pretty phenomenal run. Perhaps, based on the results of this study, it could be argued that the well-documented cultural enchantment with the mustache lives on to the present day. Therefore (this is the thesis):

Operation StacheGrow: A success. But would I do it again?
Operation StacheGrow = A success.

But, would I do it again, you ask? I can’t say I’d be in the quickest of hurries. In the end, my Diet Coke still tasted the same, the CTA was still dirty and the music in Boystown remained ear-bustingly loud. Despite the undeniable cult following my ‘stache enjoyed during its 2.5 days of existence, I still felt one pair of overly-large, “ironically-hip” glasses away from looking 100 percent creeptastic.

What I don't want to look like in fifteen years.
What I don't want to look like in fifteen years.

I’ll certainly keep it in mind if I ever become a pop star in need of a PR booster, a la John Oates’ “Ride the Mustache/J-Stache” campaign and its blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed and video series. Apparently Oates, er, J-Stache wants to “tame Leslie Feist’s shrew.” Which level of this statement do you find to be creepiest?

All told, I think this experiment has stirred a rediscovered admiration of the mustache to me. As the great lesbian philosopher Sheryl Concrowcious once said, “if it makes you happy, it can’t be so bad.” Despite carrying stigma in certain sub-communities, it has served as a symbol of manhood, virility and fuzziness for centuries – the first mustache – worn by a Scythian horseman – was documented in 300 BC. That’s before Jesus, therefore I believe it deserves our respect, honor and possibly its own religion. Or, at the very least, a photo montage. Below are a few of my favorite ‘staches through history, in addition to a little mini-mix for your ears (you know, the things on your face located directly to the left and right of your muzzy).

Discussion questions: Have you ever worn a mustache? Do you know someone who has? Do you plan to some day? Would you describe yourself as a Geraldo Rivera fan?

MUSTACHE MIX-A-LOT – A tribute to Nose Neighbors and Those Who Pull Them Off:

Download: Hall & Oates ‘Private Eyes’ (mp3)
Download: Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head ‘Beard Lust’ (mp3)
Download: SSION ‘Street Jizz’ (mp3)
Download: Islands ‘Creeper’ (mp3)
Download: Queen ‘Good Company’ (mp3)
Download: Patrick Wolf ‘The Hairy Song’ (mp3)

Or, download the whole mix.

FuManchu

fridakahlo mario

john-waters

john-oates

Love is..

wepod

They say that love is kind. Love is patient. Love is all you need.

I think those are all too convenient. At least for today’s world.

Yesterday, while riding the train to my heartless, passionless job that pays my rent (but not much else), I had to smile when I witnessed the display of true, unbridled love: Sharing a pair of iPod earphones with your lover.

There they sat, hand in hand, taking turns choosing their next song and holding the communal iPod. wePod. usPod. ourPod.

No quibbles, no fights – here’s a couple that can agree on a playlist. Sure, it’s likely a premise filled with the occasional sacrifices, but isn’t that indicative of any relationship dynamic?  <Really, Feist again, baby? … Choose your battles, choose your battles…>

Now, if only Apple comes out with a contraption fit for the three-eared, socially-aware, American Apparel-clothed family of the future. And then this couple’s adorable baby could have joined in on the fun.

**Cue Audience Participation** What music would you listen with your S.O. and baby on your wePod (via a three-pronged earphone set-up)? Do you even like children? Would you adopt an Asian baby? Do you ride public transit? Do you know someone who does?

MY FUTURISTIC, FAMILY-FRIENDLY 3-EARPHONED WEPOD PLAYLIST (IN THE MAKING):
Download: Loney, Dear ‘Everything Turns to You’ (mp3)
Download: Yeah Yeah Yeahs ‘Hysteric (Acoustic)’ (mp3)
Download: Tori Amos ‘Welcome to England’ (mp3)

And I’m back…

Greetings!

I have emerged from a long cocoon-like hiatus via my final semester of university classes with this butterfly of a posting. Since we last talked, I officially am authorized by the state of Wisconsin to be a journalist and mass communicator, so with summer on the horizon, I felt it was my duty to renew my dedication to this blog’s banter.

My other new distinction is that of college-educated waiter, allowing for more free time to post to this page. A lot of things have gone down in the past few months since I last published content, so rest assured that: a) I have a lot on my mind, and b) I warned you. If you’re not ready for honest, satirical, dark and zany commentary on the world around us, I’d probably skip past this page. If you’re ready, however, let’s party.

During my time away, I couldn’t help but notice that there are a lot of people out there somehow finding this page. March 2008 brought nearly 800 readers here, despite new content, and the months that have followed have shown similar growth. Though it is slightly depressing to realize that more people read this blog when I don’t write anything new on it, I will simply ignore the fact and chalk it up to the google bots of the interwebs simply getting better at indexing noteworthy quips on current events. Or maybe it was all just coincidence.

At any rate, I thought that I would share the top ten search engine terms that y’all have used to find me in the past three months. Rest assured that this blog will remain dedicated to these terms and issues, as the readers have clearly spoken. (See, the web does support democratic ideals!) Here is what America wants to see:

    1. Dolly Parton
    2. Heidi Klum

    3. Feist: The Reminder

    4. Jessica Ellen Stasinowsky

    5. Valerie Parashumti

    6. Heidi Klum + Victoria’s Secret

    7. Lawrence King

    8. Miss Puerto Rico

    9. Couples kissing

    10. Victoria’s Secret models

On that note:

Dolly Parton reading

Dolly Parton can read — and pursue lawsuits with boogeymen like Howard Stern, too!

Heidi Klum shopping for produce

Mama Klum shopping for produce with baby Seals — I wonder how she feels about the Lifetime takeover of ProRun?

Leslie Feist’s recent performance on the Colbert Report

And I couldn’t help but include this photo, from the crowning moment of my life to this point:

Me with Nick Verreos!

Yes, that is me standing with Nick Verreos, of ProRun fame, circa mid-April. Rumor has it that Uncle Nick may be coming back for a future all-stars edition of the show (shame to OK! Magazine for claiming that Santino Rice won PR S2.. how could anyone forget fabo Chloe Dao’s victory?)… Anyhoo, contact me privately for any goss that may or may not have been discussed.

So, stay tuned for more washed-up musician/actresses, long-legged supermodels, indie musicians featured in Apple ads, raging lesbians, cases for queer activism, beauty queens, reality TV stars and much, much more. Happy summer!

2007’s best beats

Although this is not an explicitly music-focused blog, given the blogosphere’s obsession with year-end “best-of” lists, I felt it would be appropriate to try it on for size for this blog. Music has always had a major presence in my life, from singing self-created ballads to myself softly while wandering through the woodsy area behind my childhood home to prancing along State Street to a beat emanating from my iPod today.

This is a sampling of the many albums, songs, concerts and videos that, in my opinion, stood above the rest over the course of the past 365 days. The MP3 downloads that are included are meant for non-commercial purposes. If you like what you hear, I hope that you will consider going out to your music dealer of choice (or online to the iTunes music store) and supporting these artists’ fine work. (Or check out elbo.ws to dig around for more free downloads).

2007’s Top Albums

Feist’s “The Reminder.”

1. Feist “The Reminder”
This album is masterful. Canadian singer-songwriter Leslie Feist has an incredible voice that can speak to any emotion imaginable, and the music on this album paints a picture that is at once bold and nuanced. Beyond the standout single “1234,” which has unfortunately been bastardized (and even mocked) by the iPod television ad, every track on this album carries significance from the chill-inducing, flawless notes on “The Park” to the upbeat, organic energy of “Sea Lion Woman.” If you don’t already own this album, check it out immediately.

2. M.I.A. “Kala”
Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam’s much hyped follow-up to 2005’s Arular has matched and surpassed all expectations. This album has managed to bottle M.I.A.’s signature raw, unhinged energy with tracks that have become immediate club anthems for scenesters the world over. “Paper Planes” has become a particularly notable track, becoming a point of controversy following MTV’s decision to censor the sound of gunshots and many obligatories from their airing of the single’s video.

3. Jens Lekman “Night Falls Over Kortedala”
The bloggers are all over this one, and though I was skeptical at first, from first listen I was an instant convert. With his third major release, Swede Jens Lekman has crafted an intricate and witty album that is beyond comparison to other artists, with his use of complex and varying sampling, strings, guitar and other instrumentation to accompany his distinctive voice. “Friday Nights at the Drive-In Bingo” is doused in a flavor that seems to have come direct from the 1950s, while “Your Arms Around Me” carries a sweetly ironic air.

4. The Arcade Fire “Neon Bible”
This Montreal band have been considered by many to be something of a Canadian Beatles since their release of 2004’s exhilarating Funeral, and much like M.I.A., this album faced a great deal of pre-release hype that it has more than lived up to. This is epic music in the style of some of the greatest rock bands of all time, and the best is clearly yet to come for the Fire. Simply a flawless album — from the driving opening notes of “Black Mirror” to the desperate, organ-fueled crescendo of “My Body is a Cage.”

5. Chris Garneau “Music For Tourists”
American “Baroque pop” artist Chris Garneau’s Music For Tourists is the only debut album to make this list, and for good reason. Garneau’s whispering, piano-infused style has been described as the quirky gay male equivalent to Regina Spektor, but his talent goes far beyond that. This album is darkly whimsical and introspective, with each note being delivered with equal parts of pain, regret and longing. The single “Relief” is one of my all-time favorite compositions of all time, and I consisently take new things away from the album each time I listen to it — which is almost always from beginning to end.

6. St. Vincent “Marry Me”
7. Daft Punk “Alive 2007”
8. Tori Amos “American Doll Posse”
9. Patrick Wolf “The Magic Position”
10. Justice “Cross”

2007’s Top Songs

M.I.A. roxx.

1. M.I.A. “Paper Planes” [download]
2. The Arcade Fire “Keep the Car Running” [download]
3. Feist “I Feel It All” [download]
4. Chris Garneau “Relief” [download]
5. Architecture in Helsinki “Heart it Races” [download]
6. Patrick Wolf “Bluebells” [download]
7. Jens Lekman “Your Arms Around Me” [download]
8. Tegan and Sara “The Con”
9. Kanye West “Stronger”
10. Rufus Wainwright “Going to a Town”
11. The National “Fake Empire”
12. St. Vincent “Paris is Burning”
13. Stars “In Our Bedroom After the War”
14. Justice “Phantom, Pt. 1”
15. Tori Amos “Big Wheel”
16. Menomena “Muscle ‘N Flo”
17. Yelle “Je Veux Te Voir” [download]
18. Bishop Allen “Click Click Click”
19. Kate Nash “Foundations” [download]
20. Patty Griffin “Getting Ready”
21. Beirut “Nantes”
22. Air “Once Upon a Time”
23. Bon Iver “Skinny Love”
24. Britney Spears “Gimme More”
25. Roisin Murphy “Overpowered”

2007’s Top Live Shows

Tori Amos rocking it.

1. Tori Amos, 11/3/07, at the Riverside Theatre (Milwaukee)
The haters will hate, but Miss Diva-Turned-Mommy still puts on an incredible show, and it didn’t hurt that this particular show, my third time seeing Amos live, took place on my birthday. Highlights of the show included moving performances of “Winter,” “Code Red,” “Little Earthquakes” and “Siren,” in addition to this precious blooper during an attempt at playing “Strange.” The show could not top Tori’s performance at the Vic Theatre in Chicago the following week, but it was still pretty damn amazing. And yes, I cried.

2. Feist, 11/16/07, at the Orpheum Theatre (Madison)
Even though Leslie had injured her leg a few days prior at another stop, and was relegated to sitting throughout the show (after tentatively stepping onto the stage with the use of a cane), this show was still electrifying for the sold-out audience at the Orpheum. I spent about half of the concert standing in the front, and then later retreated to the balcony to grab a seat for the conclusion, and from both vantage points, the experience was still incredible. She rocked out “Sea Lion Woman,” giving that song a new life that it doesn’t necessarily have on the album, and also included her acclaimed hits, such as “1234” and “Mushaboom.”

3. Chris Garneau, 5/26/07, at Cafe Montmartre (Madison)
Anyone who can silence a Madison bar for an hourlong piano with string trio set deserves some sort of honor, and that’s exactly what Garneau did at this show. Playing several songs from his debut album, Garneau demanded the audience’s attention with his heart-on-sleeve performance, showing an adorable degree of shy humbleness, particularly when he made a mistake during an unplanned encore to “Halloween.” Another highlight, captured by this YouTube clip, was a heralding performance of “Not Nice.”

4. Leslie and the LY’s, 9/8/07, at the Union Terrace (Madison)
5. Girl Talk, 3/24/07, at Club 770 (Madison)

2007’s Best Videos

1. Architecture in Helsinki “Heart it Races”
2. Feist “1234”
3. Patrick Wolf “The Magic Position”
4. Justice “D.A.N.C.E.”
5. Arcade Fire “No Cars Go”