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Monthly Archives: January 2012

#MusicMonday: “Trip To Your Heart” – Britney Spears

This is a little embarrassing. Let me try to explain.

I’ve been really into synthesizer pop lately, because Studio Krisis has come into possession of a new synth and it’s not a language I speak fluently.

I am also working my way through roughly 1,700 songs from 2011 that I acquired in December.

Okay, enough excuses: this post is really about a Britney Spears song. I think it is awesome.

There, I’ve said it.

Two weeks ago E and I were lounging in our hotel room in Las Vegas between adventures when this came on my iPod. I looked up from my book. “This is really good,” I said. E nodded behind her book. When the song began to wind down I reached beside me and clicked back to the beginning without looking at the title or artist.

After two listens I picked up my iPod, curious to know who the singer was. It had a sort of UK pop sound to it, but also reminded me of the electric lounge of The Bird and The Bee or even The Cardigans.

Imagine my surprise to discover the singer: Britney Spears.

Let’s be clear here – I love pop music, but I do not like Britney Spears. In fact, 2011’s Femme Fatale is the only LP of hers I even own (mostly because we dance to a couple of the songs in Zumba).

This is mostly because she generally does not sing very well on record, and if you don’t sing well and you don’t write your own songs I don’t really get the point of you existing as an artist. At that point your face is just an ad campaign for someone else’s beats.

“Trip To Your Heart” disproves that theory, to a degree. She sounds lovely on it in a higher register I didn’t even know she had. Sure, she probably has a super-computer’s worth of digital processing tuning her up. She always has that, yet many of her other vocals still sound like hell.

Britney or not, if you like dreamy synth-pop with a good beat, this song is for you.

What I Tweeted, 2012-01-29 Edition

My tweets of the last week:

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What I Tweeted, 2012-01-22 Edition

My tweets of the last week:

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What Happens In Vegas…

Scene: Yesterday at the Las Vegas airport, just after 9am PT.

I am scheduled to rehearse with Arcati Crisis in approximately six hours. E and I have just been deplaned. I texted Gina an update on my flight.

This is our actual text message conversation, unabridged.

Peter:  Our plane is delayed due to a bad smell. Will text you upon arrival. I still might be home in time.

Gina: Bad smell like a rotting carcass, or like an “OMG PLANE CRASH” kind of bad smell?

G: I don’t know what the latter would smell like. Fuel?

P: I suspect a dirty sock has been sucked into the air circulation system. We have been grounded due to a dirty sock.

G: Probably placed there by an angry flight attendant.

P: They keep beckoning the attendants back into the plane for a “sniff test.” I do not think “sniff” is a technical acronym. I believe they are actually testing our safety with their finely trained noses.

G: That’s amazing. “Flight attendants: it is time for you to sniff once again. This is what we’ve been training for all of our lives.”

G: If there was a chemist there, they’d make sure people were wafting.

P: Do you think I should go over and explain wafting to them? They seem very pleasant. Maybe they are lifelong learners who would appreciate the knowledge.

G: Well, I suppose wafting would only be useful if they are looking to stick their noses into bottles or cans of questionable materials. If there is an exhaust pipe somewhere with a dirty sock in it, I guess that counts.

G: It is my opinion that they should have hired people who walk around in lab coats with the airline emblem on them to do the sniffing … to add legitimacy to the whole thing. Nothing says “legitimate” like a lab coat.

P: Maybe they have the lab coats in the overhead bin with the sample oxygen mask. Maybe SNIF stands for “sensing nefarious intrusive fragrances.” They serve many roles, flight attendants.

G: It’s true. Perhaps they just ran out of miniature liquor bottles and they’re trying to come up with how to handle the passengers without them.

An hour passes.

P: Now we cannot reenter the plane to retrieve our luggage. I will be secretly thrilled if the bad smell is actually toxic.

G: Wow, you still haven’t taken off yet? Are they going to put you on another plane?

P: No. We are relocating Arcati Crisis to Las Vegas. We will be staying in the executive suit of The Flamingo. We will be alternates for Donnie & Marie.

G: This all sounds completely reasonable and appropriate.

G: Of course we would be staying at The Flamingo. This would only be more sensical if we were staying in a suite next to a penthouse filled with Elvises.

G: Elvi? I don’t know.

P: Oh, it gets better.

P: There are paramedics with a stretcher waiting in the jetway. Except, everyone from the flight is seated out here at the gate.

G: I am guessing they found an alien life form in there. You might actually be living out Terror at 30,000 Feet … but … at sea level and not trapped in a plane … and without William Shatner. So, not nearly as dynamic or exciting.

G: It occurs to me that the presence of William Shatner in any form at this point would improve your situation.

Several minutes later…

P: They just took a single large bag out of the plane on the stretcher.

G: Oh my god. There is a human head in it, isn’t there?!?

P: Or a small E.B.E.

[That’s Extraterrestrial Biological Entity, for those of you who did not watch The X-Files.]

G: I think this entire conversation will be making it’s way onto my blog.

P: Yes, mine too. Clearly.

G: So, rehearsal’s off, then?

Epilogue, three hours later … around when rehearsal was set to begin.

G: Have you made your way onto a plane yet.

P: No.

G: Oy. Did you find out any fabulous details about the Mysterious Odor?

P: No further information. I was told by an airline rep that I was “very nice,” so clearly they are trying to cover something up.

G: Intrigue!

P: This is an actual message I just heard on the overhead: “We want to let you know this flight does not have running water, which means you will not have coffee service, or be able to flush the toilets.”

P: Then, after a brief pause: “We jut want to clarify – you will be able to use the toilets, but will be unable to flush them or wash your hands.”

G: Wow… just wow. Purell for all!

E and I touched down in Philly just after 10pm. Our plane smelled lovely and did have running water.

Leaving Las Vegas

Circus Circus

I did not have many must-do items on our itinerary. Just one, really.

Circus Circus.

I am a huge fan of Hunter S. Thompson and Gonzo Journalism, and one of my favorite books is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Many of the locations from the book have since been demolished or converted into something new, yet two significant ones remained: The Flamingo and Circus Circus.

As luck would have it, we were staying at The Flamingo – the scene of Thompson’s freak-out trip and his attorney’s accosting of a hapless maid turned informer. I gleefully read these passages to E, who shook her head in a mixture of bemusement and disgust.

The other intact monument to the book is Circus Circus, a casino complete with its own trapeze act and merry-go-round bar. Since the casino is farther north on the strip, it wasn’t somewhere we would idly walk past. We had to plan a day around it.

We finally arrived on day four of five, fresh from our arial adventures atop the Stratosphere. Circus Circus looked exactly how I pictured it – a low dilapidated facade dominated by an eery neon clown.

Circus Circus is now a children’s amusement park.

I don’t know what else to say, really. The merry-go-round bar that Thompson mercilessly ejected his attorney from now serves pretzels and sorbet, and the acrobat show is a purely family-friendly affair with no rabid wolverines in sight.

I thought the Circus Circus revelation was pretty much the final nail in the coffin of this trip for me. It represents the ultimate disappointment of Las Vegas. Everything here is an illusion or a faded recollection. Everything needs the night air and a neon facade to brighten the corners of an otherwise dismal and callous place.

(Then my travel companions brought a bottle of champagne on a roller coaster and we had a major dance party to an 80s cover band, which helped reduce the Circus Circus disappointment to merely an amusing sidebar to the best day of our trip.)

(I still don’t like it here.)


A Taste of Vegas @ Mesa Grill

The food of Las Vegas is at once awful and awesome, sometimes within the same meal. It is an unhealthy mecca of artery-busting delights.

Yesterday I had the best bite of food I have ever bitten in my life. It was the Rough Cut Tuna Nachos at Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill.

I don’t know if I can properly describe the experience to you. The rarest of rare tuna that almost melted on my tongue, dotted with capers and drizzled with reductions of chilis, avocados, and mangos, served on bite-sized puffed corn chips.

I thoughtlessly stuffed my first serving into my mouth and then halted, closing my eyes and sighing deeply as the flavor of it seeped into my tastebuds.

After that, my eating was much more measured. Each chip had to be perfectly arrayed with the correct blend of flavors, less I wind up with a sub-optimal bite of food. Each time I involuntarily closed my eyes once the taste hit my tongue. The experience was downright sensual.

The dish was $16, and included enough raw cubes of tuna for two. I would have gladly swiped my credit card for a $16 charge for every bite.

We will be going back to Mesa Grill.

PS: They also serve Cosmopolitan‘s #1 Must-Drink cocktail: The Cactus Pear Margarita, as pictured above. It was every bit as good of a bright pink drink as that distinction implies (and I don’t even like tequila).

PPS: Actually, we didn’t have a single thing that was less than amazing in the entire meal. Highly recommended.

Vegas is for the birds

girls at your door

The Las Vegas strip is a relative joy to walk, day or night. Both sides of the street are a wide promenade of adult playground lined with fake classical sculpture, walk-up bars, and slot machines as close to the sidewalk as legally allowed. The sidewalk is filled with milling drunks, bachelorettes, and people dressed as Mickey Mouse and Sponge Bob while double-fisting 40s.

(There is no open container law in Las Vegas. Or, rather, if there is a law, it is one that allows open containers. The next casino over sells drinks in massive containers shaped like miniature Eiffel Towers.)

(There is a strong possibility you will see a picture of me wielding one in the near future.)

Every ten feet of promenade there are hucksters. At first I assumed they must be trying to pull people into different casinos or parties. No. There are 100-foot-tall billboards of Celine Dion for that.

They are hucking girls. Girls delivered right to your room. That is the gist I have been able to discern without actually taking one of their flyers.

That doesn’t surprise or offend me in the least. The disturbing part is the manner of hucking. I do not think they can actually say anything about the girls or what the girls are legally allowed to do with you in the state of Nevada. As a result, the group of silent hucksters are uniformed in neon-colored shirts crammed with text explaining their service model.

Even more prominent, they whip their fistfuls of flyers to and fro, creating a viscerally disturbing smacking sound. Like some pornographic echolocation, they begin to aim the smacking at you from a distance of about ten feet, and if you make even the slightest visual acknowledgement of their existence they will know. Even a sidelong glance at the color of their neon shirt.

Then they are upon you.

The closest I have come to pumping money (or anything else) into their business model was when a particular copse of the silent, smacking hucksters was accompanied by a sole verbalizing huckster.

He was hucking their neon shirts in every possible color.

high hot pressure

The airplane was a pressure-cooker.

I felt like some sort of crock pot meal in my window seat, gradually stripping off layers of clothing and carry-ons and pressing my arms against the cool metal of the seat dividers. My window onto to the southern sun with was hot to the touch, even with the plastic shade snapped shut. The radiating heat made me feel as though I would brown beneath my v-neck t-shirt.

Our flight was absolutely full with an interesting cross-section of people. Golfers, gamblers, bachelorette parties. A cheerful murmur rose from the collective when we first boarded. Now it was much quieter. Everyone was wilting and dozing.

I hadn’t said anything to E, as she was deep in conversation about javascript with the web developer seated beside her. I let my head nod to one side, half exhausted, half in a meditative trance.

Eventually, E turned to me and said, “it is too warm in here.”

“Yes, I know,” I replied, roused. “Feel my window. It’s hot.”

“I’d rather not. I’m already quite warm.”

“You can have my blower, if you need it,” I said, gesturing up to the tiny air-expelling port in the ceiling above us. I could not feel the slightest drift of the breeze it was supposedly blowing onto my face.

“I already took it.”

“While I was asleep?” I exclaimed.

“Yes.” Well, that would explain why I could not feel the breeze.

“What if I needed that air?”

“Clearly you didn’t.”

We’ve been very aligned this entire time. In Philadelphia, plenty of disagreements – all trivial, mind you, but differences of opinion. Outside of it, we react to all things as one. Things that would fall below most people’s threshold of notice, like poorly phrased directional signage or a particularly cool piece of luggage in a crowd. It’s as if our minds are tethered together, having the same reactions at the same time. One massive game of Jinx! You Owe Me a Coke, except for we do not drink soda.

The last 45 minutes of the flight were a sheer test of endurance. I was so hot I thought I might explode in a seizure of thrashing and cursing. I decided I had to accept the heat rather than resist it. I cracked my plastic window frame an inch and pressed my eye up to the crevice, watching the mountains below us turn from black to brown to sandy foothills until my face couldn’t beat the warmth any longer.

We were relieved to step off of the plane, and were greeted with slot machines all of ten feet from our gate exit.

“Play a slot?” I asked E. “They’re pennies.”


“Me neither.” I replied.