Category Archives: Entertainment

Am I Free or am I Tied Up?

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Miike Snow

Lately I’ve been listening to Miike Snow, a fantastic Swedish idie pop group, on almost constant repeat. Their fantastic blending of deep lyrics, beautiful vocals, and upbeat production never ceases to mesmerize me. I feel as if the lyrics to their single, Animal, perfectly encapsulates my week too… somehow.

Enjoy!

Funk Blaster

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Funk Blaster

The idea of Friday Refrain is to quickly post a new song, encapsulating something interesting and different in brief. I shamelessly borrowed this idea from Poetic Parfait, and her great Tuesday Tunes.

So, without further ado, I introduce Funk Blaster, by Koan Sound! This EP is an amazing mix of funk, dubstep, and electronica without any one genre being too strong. While listening to it in my room, my mom walked in – who usually hates heavy music – and she started dancing along to it. It’s just that… interesting.

Check it out!

Extreme Vengeance – An Oldboy Review

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Oldboy Review
Image from thefilmist.wordpress.com

Conventional knowledge holds that “revenge is a dish best served cold.” Why this is true is never fully explained, and I’m not sure if I agree with the thought. What’s the rational? Is revenge best cold due to the fact that the perpetrator of said revenge has ample opportunity to obsess over the harm done to them, while slowly nursing their wounds? Is it the idea that if you delay vengeance, the pain slowly becomes a part of you making it that much more cathartic when you do finally manage to serve your dish – so to speak.

These explanations seem to come up short for me. For instance, if you spend your life raising the idea of exacting revenge, what do you do when you finally achieve your goal? Who do you become after everything is accomplished? What is Inigo Montoya’s purpose in life after he screams “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die!” one last time before vanquishing the six fingered man?

Oldboy Review
Photo credit at remycarreiro.com

These are the types of questions that keep me up. I would feel worried asking myself this, except for the fact that everything I have asked has been explored in unparalleled strokes of cold artisitic genius by Park Chan-wook in his masterpiece of a film, Oldboy. The film follows the exploits of Oh Dae-Su, a man imprisoned for fifteen years without explanation and then suddenly released, and his quest for understanding and revenge.

Trying to write an accurate Oldboy review without ruining any of the suspense or turns the movie takes is a difficult task. It is surely a movie about revenge, as is evident from the fact that the movie is the second installment in the thematically linked Vengeance Trilogy; however, whose revenge we are watching unfurl, and why anything happens the way it does, is not always completely apparent. In keeping with this ambiguity, the film is extremely graphic.

Usually I am able to watch films without flinching – not so for Oldboy. There were several times throughout the film – and still, now, after having seen it untold times – in which I will squirm. What separates this movie from common pulp is that none of the violence is gratuitous. Everything you see, although you will earnestly wish it never flashed before your eyes, has value. It demonstrates the extremes people will go to in the effort to correct wrongs they think have been done to them.

Oldboy Review
Photo credit from blog.thephoenix.com

Oldboy isn’t simply a gory movie focused around revenge. It is also a deep psychological study of how easy it is for people to lose sight of their own humanity if they are pushed far enough. Throughout the film, without spoiling anything, there is a strong motif of the battle between the inner monster lurking in all people and their desire to suppress it. By the end of this film, you will fully understand that struggle.

There are really no heroes or villains in this movie. By the time the credits roll, the only real emotion one could possible have for any of the character’s is sympathy. They were all so wrapped up in their own destruction, that it became impossible for them to escape.Rating: Extremely worthwhile. Watch it on the first chance you get. Be warned, though, this movie is not for the weak stomached.

Favorite quotation out of context: “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone.”

14 Quick Lessons from Bonnaroo

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For the past two weeks I have been road tripping from my home in New Jersey t0 Chicago, then to Bonnaroo in Tennessee with some great friends. Although I am not yet back from my epic Bonnaroo road trip, I feel the need to write this post before some of the Bonnaroo lessons I learned completely vanish. Not all of these lessons are completely related to Bonnaroo, and they aren’t in any particular order, but here they are none-the-less (this will be in no way an exhaustive list)!

 

  1. My first stop on the way to Bonnaroo was Pittsburg, PA. I was partially amazed by how beautiful PittsburgBeautiful Pittsburgwas…what really surprised me, however, was that according to a waiter we had (before he began to make fun of us for our lack of geography knowledge) the city considered itself part of the Mid-West.
  2. The North East is extremely unfriendly compared to the rest of the country – amazingly so. I’ve always considered myself a friendly person, if a little reticent about being outgoing, but no matter how friendly I may be it can’t compete with Mid-Western or Southern hospitality. Seriously, those people are so friendly it put me slightly on edge…
  3. Having said number 2, I have never felt more welcomed anywhere – in a general sense – than I did at Bonnaroo. Although the festival has 80,000+ people attending, most likely all for very different goals, everyone was unified in the ideal of being friendly and welcoming. It didn’t matter if you were volunteering or just there for a get-away, or if you’re a hardcore Phish-head; no, the only thing that mattered was your general disposition. Simply put, the number of Bonnaroovians I saw – and experienced – carrying around super soakers in the middle of the day to help cool people off was astounding… and fully appreciated.
  4. Going along with this, water is awesome. I generally only drink water throughout the day anyway, but I never realized how great it was until I was in the middle of Tennessee at 2pm.
  5. Technology is overrated. Seriously. The four days at Bonnaroo when I had nothing to worry about – no working phone or computer or e-mail – were some of the least stressful and enjoyable of my life. If it wasn’t for this blog I might become a Luddite.
  6. Always make sure to prepare! Prior to Bonnaroo I did very little research of my own about what to experience, and instead relied on a friend to advise us about what to buy…luckily, he knew what he was talking about! We almost didn’t bother buying a canopy before we arrived, which would have been a huge mistake. Shade quickly became my best friend.
  7. It always pays to try something new and look from a fresh perspective. In general, I can be a semi to complete germaphobe, not to mention being freaked out by insects and spiders. Not anymore! I got real dirty at Bonnaroo, as did everyone else – it’s inescapable. You know what, though? I’m completely fine. I was stained by dirt and dust, Bonnaroo Gateand survived; I had insects crawling all over me and slept in a flooded tent one night and survived. Hell, I thrived. I now know that, although I generally prefer a life of comfort, I can put up with using port-a-potties for four days and be fine with it. This might be one of the most important lessons for me since, in two months, I am heading out to Eastern Turkey for nine months and I have no idea what my living situations will be like; however, I am sure I will manage to thrive there too.
  8. There is a real, intrinsic, desire in people to see the things they love succeed. Radiohead may be my favorite band – and the band I was most excited to see at Bonnaroo – but Phantogram was by far the most emotional show for me. I first saw them perform at Rutgers over two years ago, where they played to maybe around 200 people. Seeing them now at Bonnaroo, performing for thousands, was a truly wonderful thing to see.
  9. Completely unrelated to anything else, but Indianapolis has surprisingly good hipster-Cajun food.
  10. If you’re ever in Nashville, make sure to go to Sam’s Sushi Bar. Although he flipped me off when we first came in – he notoriously hates new customers and large parties, both categories we unfortunately fit into – he slowly warmed up to us and decided to serve us. The food was amazing, and came in huge portions. Sam was also incredibly friendly once he realized we had no evil ulterior motives…or something… He also gave us the valuable life lesson of not starting bar brawls in Nashville since, apparently, everyone carries guns with them.
  11. It is always worth it to pay it forward. By making sure you help others when you are capable, you create good feelings which well may work it’s way back to you. If not, at least you help to increase everyone’s net happiness.
  12. Radiohead continues to put on the best light shows I have ever seen.
  13. Beef jerky is the food of the gods and should be treated as such. It is also great for camping, where it will give you plenty of energy and will not go bad.
  14. Festivals are a great experience, and I thoroughly encourage everyone to go to at least one. Seeing so many disparate people managing to work together to create something amazing – basically a wonderland – is inspiring and gives me plenty of hope for the future.
There are probably a lot more Bonnaroo lessons I’ve learned, experiences I’ve gained or stories I have to share. Unfortunately, I can’t really think of anything else right now – and this list is pretty large as it is. Although reading this might not be worthwhile, Bonnaroo itself absolutely was.
Bonnaroo Lessons
Centeroo

Last Life in the Universe

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In September I am heading to Turkey to teach English for nine months. Before then, my girlfriend – Jen – and I have been trying to get through a huge, and growing, bucket list of activities we have. The activities range from the mundane – getting lahmacun, a type of Turkish food – to the intense – visiting Australia. Yesterday, we managed to watch a movie on our list, Last Life in the Universe.

Last Life in the Universe

I have been told multiple times that the best stories are always those that, although not necessarily the most engaging at the moment, can be dwelled while always providing new insights. I do not want to make a blanket generalization, but I feel as if this type of cinema is extremely common in Asia. My favorite film Oldboy, for example, is Korean; I have stayed up to dawn multiple nights after seeing that movie with friends discussing all of it’s intricacies.

Although Last Life in the Universe was not immediately engaging, and indeed did drag a little at times, I can not stop thinking about its overall message. The movie centers around Kenji, a Japanese ex-pat living in Bangkok, who is half-heartedly suicidal and Noi, a Thai woman who witnesses her sister die. The two characters eventually become involved, and the movie follows the development of Kenji’s emotional condition.

The way the relationship develops and is portrayed is beautiful and artistic; however, that is not the element of the movie that really captured my interest. Instead, what I fell in love with was Kenji’s tired suicide attempts. It is established in the first scene of the movie that Kenji is not truly suicidal, but instead just tired of the annoyances of the modern world. With this in mind, the suicide attempts reminded me of the French saying l’appel du vide, which translates as ‘the call of the void.’

L’appel du vide corresponds to those feelings that, I hope I’m not alone in saying, we all experience when looking from a great height or being on a bridge. It is the subtle feeling of being interested in jumping – not because we are upset, but rather because it is the unconscious longing to see what would happen. Kenji embodies this perfectly. He is alone and out of place in Bangkok, and as such, is drawn to the ideas of the sharp contrast that suicide provides.

The movie is much more than just this, and a sharp line of dark subtle humor manages to run throughout, while simultaneously being played off with much more light-hearted elements. Overall, Last Life in the Universe is beautiful and is continuing to reverberate through my mind over a day later. This movie, I say, is worthwhile.

Huoratron – The Ideal Music for Your Torture Dungeon

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How often have you been sitting in your torture shed – or, if you are particularly affluent, your torture dungeon – just to think: “Well, sure, this dungeon is pretty good, but I just feel like it’s missing a little something. It’s missing a soundtrack to match exactly what is going on here.” And sure, you’ve probably thought of all the typical soundtracks, such as playing Epic Sax Man on loop for eternity, but that just doesn’t quite fit…

Sure, maybe there’s nothing as existentially terrifying as hearing this over and over and over, but, I don’t know, it just doesn’t suit the chains and saws the way you would want it to, does it? “So, what else can I use?” you think loudly to yourself. “I’ve already considered Nine Inch Nails, Korn, and Nickelback but none of them has that certain something – that pizzazz – that you know you need to help separate your dungeon from all the others popping up on your block.”

Well, luckily for you – and all of us, really – I have the music suggestion that will undeniably separate your 5-star dungeon from everyone elses. Huoratron. Say it with me, now, Huor-a-tron. Very good.

“But, who is Huoratron?” you might ask. Great question! He’s the newest, coolest, grittiest and most badass electronic artist I’ve ever heard; however, to say that he is electronic wouldn’t be fair to him. Huoratron is special. It takes a special type of man to start of his career by creating music through two gameboys plugged into a mixer. He really should be given his own genre…something like Huor-step, or Huor-core. It’s hard to illustrate exactly what his music sounds like without listening to it – it is almost beyond words.

Unfortunately, two of his songs from his new album, Cryptocracy, that are most fitting for use in your dungeon are not yet on YouTube: the songs are called “Dungeons and Dungeons” and “Sea of Meat.” In light of this, I fully recommend buying his album here.  There is really no time to waste. Your dungeon must be improved.

If, however, my review doesn’t quite convince, then by all means watch the video to his single – Cryptocracy.

It’ll work doubly well if your victim…I mean, guest…is also epileptic. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.

However, if your torture dungeon is less about the torture and more about master-slave relationships, I also fully recommend “Male Bonding.” Just something about the sharp electronic soundscapes and the rough beats just yells sex dungeon to me. I hope you agree…

Doesn’t that song just remind you of your full-body leather gimp suit in your closet, and your door-frame hand cuffs?

Huoratron’s music really is something unique. I just can’t get enough of his glitchy sounds, rough beats, and extremely intense – though very sparse – vocal samples. His music is dark and gritty and is a nice contrast to all the other bro-step artists out there. He does Finland proud.

Favorite quote from his music: “Choke!”

Trip-hop: Great or Greatest Genre

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I’m a big fan of dreams, and dreaming is definitely one of my favorite past-times. For a long time I used to keep a quasi-dream journal when I was younger, and I still remember some of my most vivid dreams all the way from elementary school – they really stuck with me, even though they had no reason to do so. There is just something about dreaming – it’s ethereal nature, sudden shifts, and the double-edged sword of extreme wish fulfillment and absolute terror – that inspires so much…

Just like this song:

Although not soley trip-hop, although what trip-hop truly is is up to debate anyway, this song captures both what is amazing about dreams and the genre. The sampled computer generated vocals, strong beats, and switching melodies are so beautifully enchanting and mesmerizing, they can only be compared to dreaming; which, as it happens, works out perfectly since Paprika (a must see movie too, by the way) is all about the intersection of waking and dreaming life anyway.

Trip-hop can do more than just function as the soundtrack for a fantastic movie. Whenever I feel contemplative and emotional, but in a way I cannot truly comprehend, I know DJ Shadow fits the mood perfectly. This song, Midnight in a Perfect World, for instance conjures up feelings and emotions I can’t describe. Unlike Afterhours, which makes me just want to fuck and rage, this song’s emotional response is deeper… it just makes me feel human.

I could go on and on, listing songs and how they make me feel and the reasons why trip-hop is my favorite genre even though I listen to it no where nearly as much as I do to other types of music. Really, just like dreaming, or really anything else for that matter, trip-hop is something that needs to be experienced to enjoy. So, I would recommend to everyone to just sit down, share this post with as many people as you know, and enjoy whatever emotions and dreams trip-hop elicits from you.

Also, I’ve realized that up until now there has not been much ‘trip’ in my trip-hop examples. This song will rectify that.

Afterhours

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“Do you want to see my tits?” is probably something every girl wonders at some point when talking to a guy, probably, I blanketly assume.

With Deadmau5 you don’t need to wonder; he definitely does. Actually, listening to his album Afterhours by Melleefresh vs Deadmau5, it’s easy to believe that the only things either of them care about are tits…and fucking…and grimy grimy house music. And, you know what, that is completely a-okay.

Actually, it is way better than a-okay. It is fantastic – amazingly, disgustingly, epically good. If you were to press me on why this album is so great, though, I would be at a loss of words to explain it to you. So, please, bear with me as I try to explain what it is about this album that makes it impossible for me to stop listening to it. Even now, as I write this post in my office cubical, just thinking of the album is causing me to hum it obnoxiously to myself. To fully understand, check out the video below.

Do you understand why I am addicted to it a little more now? There is something almost hypnotically engrossing about the filthy (in the best possible way) sludgy beats, the highly processed female vocals, and of course the super explicit lyrics. The fact that Melleefresh also did voice acting for Star Wars: Ewoks only sweetens the deal – how can you not love someone whose career spans both Star Wars and progressive-house music, perhaps two of the best things ever?

All effective music should also evoke some emotional response. In terms of this album, I cannot help but picture myself dancing balls-out (literally) in a dank divey club – the best sort of club. Can’t you just picture the sordid atmosphere with traces of mist from the fog machines still floating in the air? Or finely dressed women dancing on couches for no reason? This song, and album by extension, captures that feeling of wanton abandon and sleaze perfectly.

When my friend Ryan first played this album for me I remarked about how it made me want to fuck the first thing I saw – in that case, my desk. I stand by that statement, and Ryan – not surprisingly for anyone who knows us – agreed with me wholeheartedly; although, to be fair, it is a fairly erotic desk. Apparently when Ryan first played this album for his girlfriend, her first response was to say she wanted to fuck to it too. There is just something about this that so successfully taps into people’s psyches that we all react the same way.

Or, maybe we’re all just horny stupid college seniors…nah, it’s definitely because its Deadmau5 and Melleefresh.

So, in short, this album is heavily recommended if you like: nauseatingly dirty house beats, explicitly sexual female vocals, moaning, sex, filth, clubs, Ewoks, and Deadmau5. Not a bad list, huh?