Amplified Journeys and I Like B-Sides Music Web Sites

Two interesting web sites that I recently came across – one I've tried, one I haven't. 

Amplified Journeys from Harmon/Kardon puts together a mix of songs for you based on a road trip that you enter.  It finds songs relevant to the places you're coming from, going to and traveling through.  I tried a few simple searches and it met with my satisfaction, but personally, I'd rather put together my own mix and use their list for ideas and suggestions rather than just go with it wholesale just from them.  Where's the fun in that?

The second one I haven't tried yet, but seems like a neat idea: I Like B-Sides allows you to upload your entire iTunes file (won't that take foreever if you have a lot of songs) and then it analyzes your collection and finds lesser known songs and artists that it thinks you may like.  If anyone gives this a shot, I'd love to hear how it goes.

xkcd Web Comic

I recently stumbled across the web comic xkcd after a random post on today.  I immediately got sucked in and found some favorites:

Listen to yourself

Harrison Ford's Worst Improvised Movie Lines

x Girls y Cups (what happens in a "1 girls, 7 cups" video???)

Scantron (We've all wondered what would happen…)

East vs. West


Flow Chart Explanation… in a Flow Chart

I Know You're Listening

Guide to Converting to Metric

I'm An Idiot

Two Things for the Foodies Out there, and One for the Music Fans

Three web sites that I recently learned about and wanted to share:

Livekick – First for the music fans… I'm always on the lookout for ways to track when your favorite artists are coming to town for a show, and this is another site that has joined the fray that already has Tourfilter, Sonic Living and others.

Drink A Better Brew – Pretty aggressive concept here.  Not only are they putting on beer and food pairing dinners that the public can join in, but if you can get 10 friends together, they will bring the party to your house.  Kinda like one of those Tupperware/jewelery/kitchen stuff/naughty things-type parties that the gals usually have, but geared towards beer geeks.

Foodzie – A shopping site for foodies.  Nothing is cheap, but there's some interesting things on there.  If someone tries Q tonic water, let me know if it is really worth almost $60/case!

In the meantime, hopefully I can find someplace to buy aged provolone.  I tried it for the first time this weekend and it is the first time I've had a cheese that is actually tangy in a good way.   Very rich, flavorfull and this biting tang at the end that made it almost refreshing.

Confessions of a Frequent Traveler

Because of my job, I find myself on planes on a fairly regular basis – I'm no road warrior, but I travel enough to rack up some frequent flyer miles that I can actually put to use. 

One of my dirty little secrets though is that I don't like to do work on a plane.  Sure, I'll review a presentation or read through something and make a few notes, but when I'm crammed into a plane seat, I really don't feel like doing much more than reading. 

Usually I'll read a book I've brought along, or if it is a longer flight, a stack of magazines I've been meaning to catch up on.   However, every once in a while, when I want a laugh, I pick up the ubiquitous SkyMall catalog.   There always seem to be waves of product categories that crop up from time to time.  A few years ago it was devices for catching/killing bugs – there were vacuums, vacuum attachments, guns that shot nets, electronic devices, etc. etc.  Back in 2006, it was hot dog cookers.

Just when I thought I was alone in enjoying the silliness of the Skymall Catalog, along comes this great blog featuring face-offs of the stupidest SkyMall items.  I'm not sure if the dayclock should have beat the large travel pillow though.  I've never seen anyone actually USE the large travel pillow even though I've seen it in several catalogs and have personally thought that it seems to make sense.  I'd never use it though – I'm afraid that the person next to me would punch me in the throat for just considering blowing it up, which is pretty much what I would to do to anyone who pulled out a large pool toy-like device and started blowing it up for five minutes on a plane. 

Web Sites to Make You Giggle Like A Little Schoolgirl

Here are a few web sites that I've recently come across that everyone should immediately go visit, right after you finishing reading all MY blog posts:

Second Rate Snacks – This appeals to my serious foodie side and my fun-loving making-fun of everyday things side.  The site is surprisingly thorough in their reviews and they are all well-written, but with fun, snarky comments peppered throughout.

Tripcart Road Trip Planner – I haven't done an actual road trip with it yet, but I tested it in the usual way I test any travel web site… see what it says about a local city that I know a lot about and it did a good job.

Garfield Minus Garfield – Take out the main character and you have a comic strip full of ennui and dispair that will make you laugh.  Almost assuredly more than the original strip.

Married to the Sea – For those with twisted senses of humor, here is a collection of old – some VERY old – clip art paired with hilarious new captions.  Great for those who enjoy My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable and Get Your War On.

Bacon Today – Last but not least, a web site for keeping up on all your bacon news!!!  Special bonus irony points: the entire site is covered in diet ads.

A Guide to (Chinese) Democracy

In case you haven't heard, the new Guns N' Roses album, Chinese Democracy, came out this past weekend.  I really didn't think it was going to ever happen – even when I had the CD case in my hand, I was half expecting to get to the car and find nothing in it but a note that said "ha ha! Gotcha!" 

So after seventeen years (or is it fifteen or thirteen?), everyone else is going to be picking apart the album song by song, and I'm content to let them do that.  Instead, let me offer up a listener's guide that will help prep you for your listen:

1) Sorry to disappoint, but this just isn't classic Guns n' Roses.  Got it?  The album is NOT going to be Appetite for Destruction Part 2.  (though "Bigger Appetite" would have been an awesome name for it)

2) If you want to hear retro music, then listen to something that came out then.   Rose has been sitting in a studio full of computers and post-post-modern guitarists for the past decade.  The stuff isn't gonna sound like Los Angeles, circa 1986

3) It is never, ever going to be as good as you want it to be

4) No album is ever going to be as good as it should be after 10+ years of tinkering with it

5) Songs from Use Your Illusion I & II to listen to in preparation of the new album: "Breakdown" "Locomotive" "Estranged" "Garden of Eden" "Coma" "Civil War" "You Could Be Mine" and of course, "My World."  That will pretty much put you in the right mindset.

5) Give it time.  With all those instruments and over a decade of writing and re-writing, the album is going to be like an oyster: a bit of work to get inside, but worth it… if you like oysters.

As far as what I think, I've listened to it in its entirety twice so far, and while it doesn't have that immediate energy and throat-grabbing sound of "classic" GnR, this does NOT mean it is a bad album.  There is some good stuff on there, and not just the easy ones to point out, like the rockers "Chinese Democracy" and "Shacklers Revenge."   I'm on my third go around now, and instead of being sick of listening to it, I'm finding more and more to like.

No, its not Appetite For Destruction, but I think that another AFD is nearly impossible – that was a drug- and alcohol-fueled ball of energy that was on the verge of running off the tracks, which was pretty much the point.  It was a reflection of a particular time and place in the band's life and in culture in general.  

Maybe Chinese Democracy is the same, with its electronic loops and editing.  Or maybe that's what Rose wanted, and after 17 years of culture moving faster and faster, he just couldn't keep up any more and this is the best he can do.  Maybe if we can do the next one in, say, two years, it'll get only better.