Pawn Shop Blues

Your humble narrator covers the King’s Wool (aka Lana del Rey) track, “Pawn Shop Blues.”

The Bikram Post

I know this isn’t the first time you’ve ever heard of Bikram (and probably isn’t the second or twentieth either); I know everyone who reads this (all two of you) surely has their mind made up already about which side of the fence they’re on when it comes to Bikram Yoga. You either dig the idea of slowly and silently Vogue-ing in the strangest of positions for 90 minutes in a 105 degree room or you don’t. I’m not trying to make believers of anyone.

But (and I know you’re on the verge of confronting me with a, ‘methinks thou doth protest too much’ at this point, but it’s true!) the truth is that I really didn’t intend this blog to be one big collection of YouTube videos, at least not entirely. I wanted it to be a way to kind of… hold myself accountable for a sort of healthy, creative lifestyle through documentation. As far as pursuing creative avenues, I’ll admit I’m slacking. I drew one picture of a wonk-eyed prince (in the style of the great Australian painter, Samuel Condon), and play bad covers on an out-of tune guitar for about an hour every other night. Ooh, I do have one project I’m kind of working on but not in a very disciplined manner at all. But I try not to get down on myself.

From a health perspective, I’m doing alright. I get plenty of (read: so much) sleep; I think I succeed in eating well more often than not (last weekend’s pizza bender notwithstanding); and I get a lot of walking in, between taking What’s-His-Face on daily tours of Belmont and getting to and from the office. But one of the big things I’d wanted to start doing upon moving here was get back into Bikram.

Charlottesville’s a great place for Bikram. That is to say, it has an awesome studio. My good friend and former roommate, Julia, developed such a passion for the practice through them that she became a certified instructor, going on to teach first in Cville and now in the Bronx. Kathy also was a dedicated yogi, completing a 30-day challenge fourth year (and going nearly every day when she was just visiting here, none of which I accompanied her for! So bad!). I had expected that now that I’m a big workin’ girl I wouldn’t run into the biggest obstacle to truly becoming an aficionada I faced as a student: expense. But ay, that $15 an hour gets spread thin every week, and though I went I think three times right when I moved back, after the holidays my good habits were done for.

calonder burns yoga thanksgiving

oh yeah, let’s not forget the calonder-burns family hot yoga session in cary the morning after thanksgiving!

that's right, even the pops-es decided to give it a go with us at the indigo hot yoga studio (http://indigohotyoga.com/).

that’s right, even the pops-es decided to give it a go with us at the indigo hot yoga studio (http://indigohotyoga.com/). also huge lolz to ryan in this picture…

But (and this is back on the subject of our studio here being so rad), good things come to those who make excuses for not going to yoga wait, and Bikram Yoga Cville had a great Valentine’s Day promotion: bring a date, sign up for an unlimited month, and your date gets one free. Or, as I interpreted it: steal your brother’s girlfriend for 90 minutes, and both-a-yas can split the price of one unlimited month, ya dig? So we went, both of us miserably out of practice in a fairly crowded session. The experience took its standard course for me: feel pretty hot, feel a little hotter, feel like I’m starting to tolerate it, get dizzy about halfway through the balance series, regain my composure around Triangle, wish the two-minute savasana would never end, lament my lack of back strength through the entire floor series (meanwhile wishing all the intermittent savasanas would never end), and feel like the limpest dampest rag that’s been wrung out a million times by the end of it. But in a good way, you know?

And now we’re both sitting on half-priced unlimited months! For added incentive, I made it this year’s lenten vow (haha) that I would go to yoga thrice a week (that and something about trying to eat vegan twice a week; totally doable, the only reason I wouldn’t would be laziness-with-a-hint-of-self-sabotage). My body (and miiiiiind) are excited for the new onslaught of exercise (yes, 270 hours a week is now an onslaught).

Oh, and here’s an article I’ve been sitting on for months, waiting to get into Bikram again and write about it! I think it’s actually the reason I wrote this post haha. It’s a piece called I Left the Room (so you don’t have to) from a blog I haven’t properly sat down to peruse called I Do Things So You Don’t Have ToThe author is prone to panic attacks and takes a humorous approach to having one that forced her to– gasp!— leave the room during one particular Bikram session.

A quick excerpt:

Oh, wait. That all happened to me. But come on. It’s still funny. You have to laugh, right? Anyway, it’s been quite a while since my ol’ friend panic attack paid a visit. But the day I signed up for my first Bikram yoga class, I had a feeling we might be meeting again.

You see, my young friends, the panic attacks were always triggered by heat and humidity and the feeling that you can’t breathe because there’s no air when it’s hot and you gasp and hyperventilate and OF COURSE there’s plenty of air but that doesn’t stop your brain from telling your body YEE-HAW! It’s fight-or-flight time, and you ain’t got no one to fight and there ain’t nowhere to fly.

And it goes on as such. Do give it a look:

"i left the room (so you don't have to)"

“i left the room (so you don’t have to)”

Oh and what the hell, I guess I’ll wish all you sappy fools a Happy Valentine’s Day as well. My date’s cashed out early, but sleep actually doesn’t sound too bad right now at all.

my snuggy valentine

my snuggy valentine

but don’t change a hair for me, not if you care for me, stay little valentine, stay…

“You mean that’s not just from a Kanye song?!”

One year ago: Valentine’s Cookies (ooh I miss these girls! I didn’t get to tell them goodbye:(…)
Two years ago: Tureya Ashram

This Week in Links: February 3-February 9

But first!

新年快乐! happy chinese new year!

新年快乐! happy chinese new year!

I’m sure you’ve heard: it’s the year of the Snake. So if you were born in 1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, or 2001, hooray, it’s your year, but I regret to inform you that this is actually an unlucky truth. You should wear something red every day this year to keep away the evil spirits and misfortune. If you’re interested in more information about this year of the snake, click here. (And yes, I know that New Year’s Day is actually tomorrow, but it’s already tomorrow in China, which means its already horrifyingly polluted air has been doubled in potency from the smoke of a myriad firecrakers that have already been set off. Again, on account of the spirits.)

Moving on. Dear Old Dad’s responsible for my first link: the page for a Discovery Channel series titled Africa, a video from which he shared with my brothers and me at the start of the week. The treacherous tale of a quarter-sized baby turtle fighting desperately to overcome the deadly obstacles he faces is both scary and sad, but as Dad pointed out– a testament that we can never, never, QUIT! (That’s his favorite quote.)

"baby turtle battles ghost crab"

“baby turtle battles ghost crab”

http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/africa/videos/baby-turtle-battles-ghost-crab.htm

In a similar vein, my new favorite “About Us” page from a UK animal charity (I’ll remind you I have to look at these for work, and that I don’t make a hobby of scouring the web for UK animal charities.):

royal veterinary college act about ushttp://www.rvc.ac.uk/act/about-us

Because I’m a Canada-phile, and because even as a big fan of old Honest Abe, I have to say I’m all for it.

canada bids its penny goodbye; should the us?

canada bids its penny goodbye; should the us?

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/02/04/171069240/canada-bids-its-penny-goodbye-should-the-u-s

My parents and I were revisiting that ancient “Did Gaga rip Madonna off with “Born this Way“?” debate last week and Dad made the accurate assertion that they do sound an awful lot alike. I tried to remember Gaga’s quote about the chord progression being a standard disco progression that’s been used over the past fifty years; she’s not a plagiarist, she’s “smart.” (I’m paraphrasing as the verbatim quote contains a few more expletives than I feel comfortable using in this forum, but feel free to read it in its entirety here.) Dad’s next question was, “Well then why aren’t there more that sound the same?”

He was probably referring to songs sounding the same as those exact two songs, but nevertheless I found this website posted by a friend on Facebook to be relevant. It’s compiled a whole collection of songs that have very similar riffs, chord progressions, or vocal arrangements and allows you to listen to them side by side. Many of them will have you wondering how you never noticed before (and yes, Gaga and Madonna made the list.)

sound just like radiohead beatleshttp://www.soundsjustlike.com

Another fun, interactive site sent to me by a coworker pits you against a computer set to either novice or vetaran in a very entertaining game of rock-paper-scissors. You can see how the computer learns how the moves work and then tries to anticipate your moves. Pretty interesting. And I’m still in such teacher-mode, I always find myself thinking, “Oh that could turn into some sort of English game!” or “Oh the kids would love that!” This was one of those moments.

rock-paper-scissors: you vs. the computer

rock-paper-scissors: you vs. the computer

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/science/rock-paper-scissors.html

On a completely unrelated note (but keeping with the theme of a three-way battle, I suppose. Although rock-paper-scissors is still only two-way so nevermind.), another New York Times article comparing the strong central government (but weak civil society) of China against the weak central government (but strong civil society) present in India. It discusses the pros and cons and implications of both scenarios and then, for good measure, holds them up to Egypt, in which both the government and civil society are weak. I just thought it was an interesting perspective on the comparisons and assumptions that are constantly being made about the world’s two largest nations.

india vs. china vs. egypthttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/06/opinion/friedman-india-vs-china-vs-egypt.html?src=recg&_r=0

And to end on a light note, a point of attraction for any Archer fans (or… really any women/gay men I would imagine. I mean, look at that bone structure…):

real models for archer characters

i was always under the impression that aside from h. jon benjamin the characters were modeled somewhat after their voice actors but i guess not.

http://www.vulture.com/2013/02/archer-characters-real-life-models.html

One year ago: Recipes” Update
Three years ago: Funtime!

The XX Lose Their Virginia-ty, Solar Bear Dominates Para Coffee, and… Something About Jeff Mangum

Perhaps you’ll judge by the fact that I’m posting that I figured out my incompatibility issues. (With technology, not men.) If anyone else ever runs into the issue of not being able to run or edit your .MTS video files from certain HD recording devices (in my case, a newer Sony CyberShot camera) on your Mac, I found this program (“ClipWrap” by Divergent Media) super helpful. That being said I’m only going to actually include videos of Solar Bear because a) there’s already plenty of good XX stuff out there and I’m scared of violating anymore copyright since my account already has a strike and b) we weren’t allowed taking photos or videos of any sort at Jeff Mangum.

street art a few blocks from the national

street art a few blocks from the national

polka dot street art richmondstreet art richmond

Anyway so yeah, last Tuesday Ryan and I saddled up when I got off work, drove to Richmond, got dinner with my friend Andrew, and met up with Ryan’s friend Chandler at the National. I’ll admit I was only even inspired to find out who the opener was that very morning at work, and so spent a good chunk of the day listening to the variety of Austra (pronounced “Ow”-stra rather than “Aw”-stra, apparently) offerings on YouTube. Though only days previous I’d made a mental curmudgeon-y note that it irked me when people and media try to call an artist “the New [insert other artist here]” I couldn’t help instantly drawing comparisons between Katie Stelmanis’ voice and that of my girl Florence Welch. Which I know is a bold remark to make indeed. But see for yourself:

The video I took of Austra did have Katie wishing her bass player sweet birthday wishes but again, cutting my losses.

katie stelmanis austra

austra katie stelmanis

Our late arrival and dinner meant we only caught about a song-and-a-half of Austra’s set, but I wasn’t too troubled by it. We grabbed a beer and settled into what we thought was a prime spot closer to the back, but whence we had a really good view. Unfortunately it doubled as the peanut gallery because there was a group of girls that apparently mistook the National for wherever it is they’d normally be getting trashed and catching up on every detail of the last seven months of their lives at the top of their lungs on a Tuesday night, but even this could diminish the greatness of an evening with the XX only so slightly.

the xx richmond

Chandler made the point that guitarist Romy and bassist Oliver are most definitely the face of the band, but that their producer/percussionist could certainly be seen as the glue that holds the group together (and his production might even be to thank for their sudden stardom). He’s even performed under the moniker “Jamie xx” for the past few years, and in other news you have him to [at least partially] thank for that Drake/Rihanna masterpiece. Anyway the whole show was rather exciting for me but I especially loved watching Jamie circulate amongst his array of instruments, at times using a brush on a cymbal with one hand while playing his drum machine with the other.

the xx richmond blue

the xx lights richmond

Oh, and if you’re wondering about the title of the post, after opening with “Angels” off their new album Coexist Oliver informed the crowd that not only was it their first show in Richmond, it was their first in Virginia. And I love the cheesiest of puns and the rest is history.

Not surprisingly, considering that they only have two albums and after watching their 45-50 minute live sets at Glastonbury and with the BBC Philharmonic (that second one’s really worth a listen, they sound great with the extra orchestration), their set was on the short side but with visualizations, crowd involvement, and of course a spot-on performance on their part that made it totally worth it. So I’ll close this portion with a segment of their Glastonbury show (with– surprise– Florence Welch!), and the video for “Islands” off their self-titled album, because it’s my opinion that everyone needs to see it.

xx richmond

So Solar Bear. I’ll paint you a picture of the rainiest of Charlottesville nights, where Ryan Calonder, Shivesh Puri, and whoever was checking their sound occupied the deserted loft of a local coffee shop. Shivesh manned a MacBook and a drum machine of his own, his acoustic guitar waiting patiently in the corner; Ryan had his new electric ukulele plugged in, its acoustic counterpart and a trumpet also at the ready. They’ve done small shows as “Solar Bear” a number of times, none of which I was able to see until this one. And on account of the rain, it was looking like it might turn into a private show for me until an assortment of adoring fans poured up the stairs at 7:15. In honor of the show we’d seen the night before they opened with an XX-inspired piece they’d put together that day (I believe). Ryan played an instrumental Beach House cover solo, then they rejoined to do one of Ryan’s originals, “Vagabond.” This was the highlight of the show for me; I’d heard the song before but never with their chilling harmonies. Oh and the lighting was really terrible… this videos are for listening to, not watching.

To reference the strike on my YouTube account yet again, I learned today that for the moment I’m not allowed uploading videos longer than 15 minutes :-/. So I had to cut out some stuff and break it into two videos. Shivesh played a number of solo pieces as well, despite what the videos might indicate (sorry!) and all-in-all I was well impressed with the way the two collaborated. Here’s Ryan doing his jam, “Summertime Girl” (I think is the name) and the two of them performing one of Shivesh’s originals.

Jeff Mangum!

There’s so much I want to say but this lavender tea is taking its toll and, not entirely unprecedentedly, this has gotten long. I think this more-or-less sums it up:

actually i WANTED a gif from earlier in the episode where april is surprised that he doesn't know her favorite band is neutral milk hotel and andy gets mad that mouse rat isn't her favorite band but, beggars can't be choosers. also thanks to this inspiration ryan rocked his mouse rat shirt at the concert, which i think was really an underappreciated touch.

actually i WANTED a gif from earlier in the episode where april is surprised that he doesn’t know her favorite band is neutral milk hotel and andy gets mad that mouse rat isn’t her favorite band but, beggars can’t be choosers. also thanks to this inspiration ryan rocked his mouse rat shirt at the concert, which i think was really an underappreciated touch.

A few months ago my friend Ben and I made an arrangement that he’d reserve his extra ticket to the show for me if I provided sleeping quarters for him and a few of his ‘idiot friends.’ I said he had me at ‘idiots,’ and so the idiot troupe piled into a car in DC post-Superbowl on Sunday to earn themselves a day of wine-tasting and gallivanting whilst I was slaving away in the office. Before long we’d enjoyed some of their souvenir wine, had a fantastic meal at Monsoon Siam (my first Thai meal since leaving Thailand, I realized!), grabbed a drink at the Box, and had headed round the corner to the Jefferson. It was my first show in the intimate venue (only opened after I graduated!) and I have to say I loved it. The sloped floors meant there wasn’t a bad “seat” in the house, the acoustics were good, and something about the place just lent itself to lots of crowd interactions with Mr Mangum himself. (He promised to sign someone’s album, he offered someone a prize when they correctly guessed “Oh Sister” was his next song… basically he was just great. He looked like a homeless person, but he was great.) I’ll admit to crossing my fingers for french horns and musical saws on stage, but there was something beautiful and simple about him commanding the stage with just a guitar. (Well, four guitars through which he rotated. And luckily! Because a string broke on one in the middle of one song.)

Again, no recording was allowed, but here’s a video of him playing at the Occupy movement in 2011 (at some point someone asks him to play Dylan and he says, “Dylan?! Haha, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but I only know four chords…” or something to that effect, and it tickled me greatly):

Oh and I felt very drawn to one of the posters but we were in a rush to get out. Thanks Rob for hooking me up!

neutral milk hotel poster

This Week in Links: January 27-February 2

And wow, I think I officially have the lamest blog because in two weeks all I’ve had to write about were my favorite things I found on the internet. No, that’s a lie, Ryan and I went to see the xx on Tuesday and I watched him perform with Solar Bear the next day, but technical difficulties are preventing me posting about that. Why, oh why, in this day and age, would your standard HD video format on a camera be Mac incompatible? And why can’t I find a way to convert it to a format that either iMovie or FCP will import, and that is smaller than 15 gigs? (Why can’t we take cocktails to go? So many questions.)

Seriously though, if y’all have any insight into my barely-comprehensibly-alluded-to predicament please feel free to share.

So yeah, back to my exciting internet finds.

First and second up: On the very exciting subjects of work and retirement. The “secrets” in the first article are pretty self-evident, actually, but it’s a short and easy read; Daddy sent me the second and while I’m not quite in the “abiding by them” phase it does lay out some sensible rules to make sure we’re not all working til we’re 90. (I just shuddered pretty violently.)

secrets of america's happiest companieshttp://www.fastcompany.com/3004595/secrets-americas-happiest-companies

10 commandments of retirement planninhttp://money.msn.com/retirement-plan/10-commandments-of-retirement-planning#scptid

Many of you may have already seen that our dear little hamlet of Charlottesville got a shout out in this Huffington Post  list of ‘the country’s most restaurant-crazy cities.’

huffington post the country's most restaurant-crazy citieshttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/25/best-restaurant-cities_n_2545499.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false#slide=2022808

Emilie sent me this beautiful, wonderful, linguistically fantastic collection of foreign words with no English equivalent. Why don’t we have a word for the sense upon meeting someone that you’re going to fall in love?! (And in how many languages is there a word for it?)

14 wonderful words with no english equivalenthttp://theweek.com/article/index/238751/14-wonderful-words-with-no-english-equivalent

And from that I found this one about twelve states that only almost were. (No, Puerto Rico is not on there.)

12 proposed us states that didn't make the cuthttp://www.mentalfloss.com/article/12641/12-proposed-us-states-didnt-make-cut

I’m not a very political person and I wouldn’t generally have my blog go in that direction but I figured this Mother Jones article would appeal to all my wacky liberal friends, anyway: (Bonus: at the end it, as expected, devolves into a good old-fashioned gun debate!)

10 pro-gun myths shot downhttp://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/01/pro-gun-myths-fact-check

And guys, you thought Ollie was cute in a duvet:

ollie in bedollie in blanket

Doesn’t it just make you think, “Oooh, now if he were only in something a bit more… bespoke. I bet he’d sure be handsome…”?

Turns out you’re right. He’d be super handsome. It’s making me wonder if I didn’t have one of those sober, midday blackouts I’ve been having lately and sneak him into the Young Men’s Shop Downtown and have a photo-shoot. Thanks, Uncle Gary, for sharing the page that linked to this most amazing of Tumblrs starring Ollie’s doggy doppelgänger: “Menswear Dog.”

mensweardoghttp://mensweardog.tumblr.com/

Yes, it’s got me pretty convinced that for being a “Thai street-dog mutt” (as I always tell people when they invariably ask. That or “Thai domestic fox,” because as David and I know, he looks like a medium-sized dog… but he’s a frickin’ huge fox.) he’s definitely got some Shiba Inu in him. And yes, I made a priority of subscribing to his Instagram as well.

Oh and today’s a good day for a Song of the Day. Phil and I were checking out The Nick Kroll Show (painfully funny, I thought) the other night and a trailer for Colin Farrell’s upcoming movie Dead Man Down came on (confession: I found it so ridiculous as to have assumed it was a Nick Kroll sketch when it started). By the end of the trailer, and with the knowledge that it’s being done by the director of the Swedish Girl With the DragonTattoo (It’ll be his first Hollywood foray, which I’m interested in because his GWTDT was very noticeably not Hollywood, sometimes in a good way, sometimes not.), I was actually kind of won over on the movie. But the most noteworthy part of it, for me, was this excellent cover of the Pink Floyd classic, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” done by a gal named Kendra Morris. While my favorite experience with “SOYCD” covers still has to be standing transfixed while Umphrey’s McGee did their awe-striking cover of the tune at All Good 2009, Kendra truly does it justice as well. See for yourself:

One year ago: The Story of a Passport
Two years ago: The Long Ride from Kolkata to Kodaikanal