Sing-Along Study Break

Things have gotten busy for me lately, as evidenced by the fact that it took me two weeks to report on my one day spent in Philadelphia.  The school work at NYU has really picked up!  Since Friday, I’ve had a major presentation and one mid-term, with another test soon to come.  Never mind the fact that I’m already being inundated with e-mails about registering for next semester’s courses and further planning out my course of study.  My time for adventuring and jackassery has been significantly curtailed!

Still, I’m really enjoying the program.  I’ve learned some very interesting and useful things, and I’ve met some great people.  The course work isn’t so daunting, as long as I keep things in perspective.  For example, whenever I felt my eyes crossing as I reviewed the minutiae of First Amendment protections ahead of last night’s exam, I would just take a moment to refocus.  And I find a very simple way to do that is through song.  I don’t know if any of you other students out there agree, but even if this method doesn’t work for you, watching me apply it might have the same effect.

Wish me luck on my second (and likely tougher) mid-term!  And feel free to offer up suggestions for a song to rock out to during finals!

~ T

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Version 3.0

Hello again, readers new and old.  It’s your friendly blogmaster, returned after an extended absence from the interwebs.  We’ve got a lot to catch up on!  I’ll start by explaining exactly why The Honestly Blog has been dormant for so long.

The main reason that I wasn’t blogging this year was because I was spending most of it undertaking a project that I wasn’t comfortable having on the public record.  That project was applying to graduate school.  From Christmastime through the middle of February, I was hitting the books for at least 90 minutes each night, studying for the GREs.  After that, springtime was spent working on application essays, accumulating writing samples, and seeking letters of recommendation.  My applications went out right before Easter, and I am happy to report that it was about a month later that I found out I had been accepted to the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at NYU.  Starting very soon–Tuesday, in fact–I will begin my course of study towards my masters degree in public relations and corporate communications.

The eternal flame of knowledge…or an albino artichoke

Now you might be thinking, “But Tyler, that’s awesome!  You write so well and you’re so engaging and so effortlessly handsome that this program sounds like it’s tailor-made for you.”  (You are thinking that, aren’t you?)  “Why wouldn’t you be shouting that from the digital rooftops?”  Well, you rascally flatterers you, the reason I was keeping this under wraps was because I hadn’t told anyone at work that I was pursuing this.  To be as frank as I can be, this has not been a very good year for me on the job.  2012 has been a year of extreme ups and downs in the office. Our normally slow summer was upended by the much deserved yet unexpected retirement of one of my bosses.  It was only in the last two weeks that we wrapped up the majority of the unfinished business left in her wake, and it was only then that I felt comfortable sharing with my remaining employers that I would be spending my evenings learning how to make myself a more marketable applicant to other businesses.  Since I can only afford to go to school at night if I keep my job during the day, the whole situation has required a level of decorum I usually wouldn’t have to keep.

The air might be cleared now, but that doesn’t mean that I can go back to being a blogging machine.  Given the amount of schoolwork I have coming my way and the rigorous standards of the program (less than 3.0 each term and you’re out on your ass!), I’m afraid that my postings may not be as frequent or as lengthy as in the past.  Couple my course load with the fact that I’m also going to be actively searching for new employment (that retirement doesn’t seem to be yielding any promotions), and you can imagine just how little spare time I  might have.  But I also recognize that the months ahead are going to be very strenuous, and I’m going to need an outlet, a place to turn when I near a burn-out, a way to exercise the wackier parts of my brain, a place where everyone knows my name…wait, scratch that last one…

So my game plan for The Honestly Blog is to write one post each week; a weekly installment of the shenanigans and sass you’ve come to enjoy over these past few years.  I’m hoping to write about a wide variety of things in an array of different styles; maybe have some guest writers; perhaps even experiment with video content.  I hope you’ll continue to drop by.  I’ve also become quite a Twitter fiend this year, so follow my bird to get some giggles on your smart phone in 140 characters or less.

Before I give you the abridged run-down of my 2012 adventures thus far, I have to give a special thank you to my family and friends who persisted in getting me back to writing this blog.  Special shout-outs go to the kickball gang (especially fellow blogger Jill), my bestest best friend and budding blogger herself, Lauren, and no less a cewebrity than the talented J.T. Riley, whose prodigious and enjoyable output can be tracked via his Twitter.  Mille grazie, everyone!

So, what else was I doing while operating in Sith-like secrecy?  Well, the first thing I did after taking the GRE was to get on a plane bound for Austin, TX!  Literally, I went from the test location to the airport.  A handful of Hobos and I went to the liberal center of the Lone Star State to cheer on one of our own, Stacy, while she ran the Austin marathon.  She set a new personal best with her running, and I set a new personal best eating ribs.  Success all around!  Other far-off adventures this year have included a visit to Syracuse and its surroundings to see my pal Stef, an extra-long Fourth of July holiday in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts with most of my cousins, and more trips to the Long Island beaches than I can recall making in previous summers.  There were many more local adventures as well: nights out in Hoboken and Jersey City, and the annual multi-borough epic affair known as Handicapable Ice Cream Day, a weekend whose history would require a posting of its own to fully explain.

An aquatic event on this year’s Summer Olympic-themed Handicapable Ice Cream Day

There were sporting events aplenty.  My brother and I sat twenty rows off the floor of the Prudential Center when Blake Griffin and the Clippers came to town to play the Nets, I made numerous trips to both Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, and I even won a few shekels at the Belmont Stakes.  Sadly, my kickball days are over, as my NYU schedule won’t allow enough time for that much drinking athleticism.

There were cultural outings, as well.  For every excellent book I read (Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding being the best among them), I saw a terrible movie (Honestly, Prometheus?).  I saw musicals good (Now. Here. This.), bad (Merrily We Roll Along), and ugly (Leap of Faith).  I made my first trip to the Metropolitan Opera.  I also hit a few concerts, including my favorite one to date: the incomparable, insatiable, insane Scissor Sisters.  Don’t take my word for it; Anderson Cooper was there right next to me.  (No, really, he was.  I got a drink at the bar, turned to walk away, and bam–Silver Fox!)

Scissor Sisters having a kiki at Bowery Ballroom

And if, like me, you’re in your late twenties and actively maintaining a social life, you probably spent your summer going from one wedding to another.  I know I did, and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend those weekends any other way.  Each celebration was special in its own way, and each of them was an absolute blast.  Congratulations again to Christina and Charlie, Matt and Jess, and Kaitlyn and Matt!  May you spend Summer 2013 judging other people’s nuptials against your own.  They’ll be tough to beat.

That about brings you up to speed, faithful readers.  It’s Labor Day weekend now, the unofficial end of summer.  Big changes are about to take shape, and I’m looking forward to them.  Stay tuned.

~ T

On the ‘Net: “Any Which Way” by Scissor Sisters

Greetings, readers.  Let’s brush off the clouds of this moody Monday with something bright and shiny!  Like the new music video for Scissor Sister’s “Any Which Way”, my favorite song off their new album, Night Work.

This video is a big improvement over the one for “Fire With Fire”.  It’s quirky, colorful, and playful.  There’s so much that I’m not sure what to make of: the pyramids of solo cups, the colored body suits, and of course the sushi cannon.  It warrants repeat viewing, but that’s fine by me.  Ana Matronic’s little monologue cracks me up each time.  I want one of those little alarm clocks and the pyromaniac birthday cake helmet that Del Marquis gets to wear.  Also, Jake Shears is ripped.  I feel like I should be doing sit-ups while I watch this.

Enjoy!

~ T

Music: Scissor Sisters – “Night Work”

So, this is my first crack at a proper music review.  In-depth discussion of the nuances of an artist’s latest album has never been a strong suit of mine.  Usually my litmus test for “good” music is whether or not it sticks with me, impresses me, or (most importantly) makes me want to dance.  But the occasion of Scissor Sisters‘ new release, Night Work, has tempted me to make the attempt.

Scissor Sisters (l to r: Babydaddy, Ana Matronic, Jake Shears, Del Marquis)

First off, I should say that Night Work passes my initial standards with flying colors.  The band repeatedly demonstrates their expertise at crafting songs that make you want to move.  The best songs on Night Work don’t have a beat; they have a pulse.  There’s driving percussion and throbbing electronics; but beyond their natural ability to write a catchy hook, there’s a smart nostalgia to Night Work that sucks you in.  Many tracks on the album have a distinctive ’80s sound to them, loaded with synthesizers and dominated by steady bass.  This is not a mistake.  Scissor Sisters’ front-man Jake Shears has discussed how the impetus for Night Work came from immersing himself in the club scene of Berlin and reminiscing how a similarly vibrant scene in New York evaporated decades ago with the rapid onset of the AIDS crisis.  The album is, in a sense, an alternate history; a “what if” had the disco balls at Studio 54 never stopped spinning.  It’s a potent mindset to work in, and it clearly allowed the band to go for broke in the creative process.

The best songs on the album, in my opinion, are the radio-friendly “Fire With Fire”, which sounds like a collaboration between Elton John and Coldplay; “Sex and Violence”, with its oddly juxtaposed uptempo beat and regretful lyrics; and “Any Which Way”, which sounds like the results of a giggly jam session between Freddy Mercury and Chic.  It’s “Funky Town” with some seriously funky lyrics.  It’s ballsy, brazen, and brilliant.  There are even, if I’m not mistaken, some auditory allusions to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”.

I’d definitely recommend picking up (or downloading) Night Work, particularly if you’re looking for some good gym or party music.  Word is that Scissor Sisters also put on a hell of a show.  They’ll be making an appearance in New York on August 24th at Terminal 5.  Tickets go on sale July 9.

Below, I’ve embedded the music video for “Fire With Fire”, which was clearly made for mainstream airplay.

Here’s the video for “Kiss You Off” from their sophomore album, Ta-Da!.  Much more unique.

~ T

Benny and the Jets?

Hey, sports fans!  How ’bout that US soccer team?  Our dauntless squad of sporting pseudo-celebrities continue their unlikely climb up the World Cup bracket, having defeated Algeria yesterday, 1 – 0.  This means that the Americans will play Ghana on Saturday, and that for at least three more days, people in the United States will pretend they understand, enjoy, and care about soccer.

I kid, I kid.  Some of my best friends are soccer players.  I have nothing but respect for the tremendous stresses they put on their bodies, and the relentless effort with which they play.  But, come on, let’s face it: when it comes to the World Cup, America has always been the red-headed stepchild of the competition.  We’re the people who were so arrogant and xenophobic that we had to make up two entirely new sports (warped and bastardized adaptations of existing games, to be sure) just to keep the world’s most popular and most practical game from taking root here in this, our nation, unique among all others.  But once every four years, we kick the doors open to whatever international venue FIFA has chosen and swagger in like we’ve been a part of it since the Aztecs were playing for beating human hearts instead of a garish golden trophy.  It’s so shallow, so disingenuous, so…American.

But, seriously, I wish Team USA the best.  I mean, it’s hard not to cheer on these guys.  Strictly by virtue of being the American soccer team, they’re underdogs.  Who doesn’t want to root for the underdog?  Plus, when you have squad members like Benny Feilhaber putting videos like the one embedded below on YouTube for the world to see, how could you not want to see them succeed?

Can I just say…honestly, Benny Feilhaber?  It’s not enough that you’re good enough at soccer to earn a place on the national squad which competes in the world’s most elite competition, but you have to be humorous and self-effacing as well?  Is it really necessary for you to be a better lip-syncher than any contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race, what with your funny faces and diva gesticulations and punning literal dance moves?    Must you have a perfectly shaped dome, a strong and confident chin, rakish facial hair that I’m sure requires little or no maintenance (it just grows in cool that way), pouty lips that frame a dental hygienist’s wet dream, and those steel cobalt eyes that are simultaneously so cold and so warm, so hard and so soft, which slowly and inexorably draw me in, more effective than any state fair hypnotist’s pocket watch could ever hope to be, and delicately yet insistently command me to surrender control to you, Benny Feilhaber?  Why must you toy with us mere mortals on this earthly realm, Benny Feilhaber?  Do you understand the paradox your very existence suggests?  Tell me, Benny Feilhaber, is it fair?

I submit that it is not.

~ T

Do It, Rockapella!

You don’t often get many chances to revisit your childhood, or rather to have it revisit you.  I was lucky enough to have one such experience this weekend.  On Saturday night, I saw Rockapella in concert, and I was suddenly in third grade again.

Granted, the members have changed and aged, but they still make that incredible sound.  When they closed the show with that most recognizable of theme songs, I cheered loudly from my seat.  Oh, Carmen San Diego, what joy you gave me: the interesting geographic trivia, the life-or-death final round, and the sassy Chief, played by the late Lynne Thigpen.

Rockapella today: (l to r) Baldi, Thatcher, Dorian, Brown, and Leonard
Rockapella today: (l to r) Baldi, Thatcher, Dorian, Brown, and Leonard

For an intermissionless hour and fifteen minutes, the five a capella pros showed off their strengths as individuals and as a group.  Vocal percussionist Jeff Thatcher had a few impressive solos.  Bass George Baldi indulged his inner soprano, much to everyone’s amusement.  John K. Brown used his unusual Cartlon Banks-ish charm to great effect on his Motown solos.  New member Scott Dorian made an impression in what was only his second performance with the group.  And lead man Scott Leonard still hit those high notes despite having broken his wrist and seven ribs last month when he was putting up Christmas lights.  Together, these guys do create a wonderful sound.  It’s best served when they sing the boy group standards of the ’50s and ’60s, and while their original work is specifically written to suit their talents, it’s significantly less memorable.

The most memorable thing about the performance were the two thirty-something tourist gals sitting next to us, who couldn’t fit their bags from FAO Schwartz and Bloomingdale’s under their seats, and who wore–and ate–candy necklaces from Dylan’s Candy Bar throughout the performance.  Sidelong glances were just as entertaining as what was happening on stage.

Until next time, gumshoes…

~ T