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To build a little on last year’s first resolution, I hereby resolve to continue making my grammar document, but to also create a new one comparing the spelling differences between The Chicago Manual of Style, The Associated Press Stylebook, The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, and, when those much shorter lists are ready, Merriam-Webster’s.

Full Albums:

  • A$SAP Rocky, Long.Live.A$AP1
  • T.I., Trouble Man: Heavy is the Head2
  • Tyvek, On Triple Beams3
  • Chief Keef, Finally Rich4
  • Big Boi, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
  • Money Making Jam Boys, The Prestige
  • Queens of the Stone Age, Era Vulgaris

Random Excellence:

  • Cut Copy, “Take Me Over”
  • Eddie Money, “Where’s the Party”
  • Koko Taylor, “I’m a Woman”
  • Kendrick Lamar, “HiiiPower”
  • Schoolboy Q, “Raymond 1969”
  • The-Dream, “Veteran”
  • Wale, “Mirrors”

Songs of the Weeks:

  • The Stranglers, “Peaches”
  • Buzzcocks, “Why Can’t I Touch It?”
  • T.I., “Go Get It” and “Ball”
  • Schoolboy Q, “There He Go”

Reviews:

1. Everyone get on the “1Train,” am I right? It’s not just that he already has one of the better albums of the year under his belt, he also just crammed in every rapper who’s had a good two years or so onto one song. But of course, that’s just the tip of this iceberg. If he didn’t talk about Harlem every once in a while, you’d think this’d be one of the better Southern rap albums in a while, too. He’s sipping purp, rhyming right, and hustling the game’s pants off.

2. With the exception of the two songs of the weeks as well as the Cee-Lo and Andre 3000 songs, this is just a terrible album. Seriously, just abysmal. To be fair, though, those two songs of the week are genuinely excellent. More like Trouble Rhymes: Heavy is the Hand.

3. This one was a head turner. I found some songs almost too aggressive, but there were also some songs designed perfectly for rocking doors off of hinges and televisions out of windows. It’s not my favorite album, but it has its moments. It’s sort of like a garage-punk freakotut that I really want to particpate in for maybe 15 minutes at most.

4. Good god, why. I pretty much just winced my way through this album. Barely a thing on there I liked, particularly considering how “Don’t Like” was his, but then the whole G.O.O.D. Music crew came through and did it better. In fact, this album is that shit I don’t like.

Comment:

I’m deep in the midst of a serious session of funemployment. It’s a little weird, because I haven’t had to play this game in probably about two years, but I think my résumé’s in an excellent place. Even better, all of my friends are in the same industry as I am. So that’s actually what’s been the most fun: looking around and realizing I can work for pretty much anyone right now. The options are out there, it’s just up to me to keep pursuing them.

I guess I also have to start looking for an apartment. The roommates and I seem to generally agree that, despite the excellent accoutrements and location, it’s in all of our best interest to move out. We just dislike the way management treats its residents as well as a number of debatably legal and renovation proceedings on some of the other floors.

So when people use the old cliché, “New year, new you,” I guess it applies more to me now than it ever really has.

Full Albums:

  • Big Boi, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors1
  • The-Dream, 1977
  • The Game, Jesus Piece2
  • Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
  • The Replacements, Pleased to Meet Me and Let it Be
  • Jessie Ware, Devotion

Random Excellence:

  • Mayer Hawthorne, “Henny & Gingerale”

Songs of the Weeks:

  • Blood Orange, “Sutphin Avenue”
  • Big Boi, “CPU,” “Shoes for Running,” and “Mama Told Me”
  • The Game, “Jesus Piece”

Reviews:

1. What an album. The diversity of the guests and the quality of his raps are absolutely incredible. During my first listen, I sent nearly every song via Spotify to friends who I thought would appreciate the bumpin’ tracks. The bonus songs are a little weak (good that they’re bonus songs, right?), but there’s a solid chunk of songs that are pretty much pristine. And of course, he’s still putting a spacey, intriguing take on anything from picking up chicks to coming to terms with his pops. It’s been such a delight that I even impulse bought the CD at a Best Buy while getting gifts for the family. Which might not be saying much these days, but I felt like it was the least I could do to support the guy. (And it probably is, considering how most of his revenue most likely comes from tours.)

2. My roommates signed us up for the premium package from Time Warner a while back. That means we seem to have 800 channels at out fingers, but watching any of them is hit or miss because sometimes they’re pay-per-view or a music channel or something just as stupid. It’s the only part of my life that makes me feel like a luddite: I hate turning on the cable because I can never find anything I would ever care about and when I do, the excess of stupid commercials for ITT Tech and The General (all the fucking time, always written terribly) make me want to put the remote through not just our TV but also every TV in the neighborhood.

So at some point I somehow managed to accidentally stumble onto this show on VH1 called Marrying the Game. And here’s The Game mumbling to this A-Type who, honestly, I didn’t find attractive on a number of levels (physically, personality, etc.). But she really just walked all over him during this episode, talking about the counseling sessions and how important it is for him to focus on her more.

Now, I’m not trying to be a misogynist or to call her a bitch, I’m just saying that she seemed to hold all the cards in the relationship. I got the impression it was just a whole bunch of steamrolling on her end. And that really makes a whole bunch of sense when you look at this album, or even the dude’s whole career. He’s obviously had a hard life and his street credit absolutely exists, but there’s just always been something soft about him, like everyone’s waiting to take their turn walking over him.

So he laid down some more soft rhymes about some really hard shit. But I don’t think this album would be any good without his guests–they’re consistently the strongest performers on the dude’s album. And all his homophobic talk didn’t help, either. The album just sounds like the kind of accessory you put on while you’re posturing, not something earned or proven.

Comment:

My iPods died again, so this is mostly based on Last.fm stats, albums I got for Christmas, and weak memories. I think the new generation of iPods just aren’t built as sturdily as the last one was. I used to be able to run two, three years with these things in my hand–sweat all over them–and drop them maybe as often as once a quarter of a year without any ill effects. Now I take them for one run and they stop running. At least I have a warranty on this crap, but I’m going to look into waterproofing options because this is just ridiculous.

Before I went home, I got a raise and a bonus at work. Pretty satisfying, though it was very confusing to find out that the week after Christmas was designated a power-save-mode week two weeks before going back. That basically meant I was able to work from home, but not much was required of me. In fact, all I really did during that time was catch up on some research. Yet, I’d booked a plane two months in advance, fully expecting to have to be back at work. So it was fairly annoying to think that I could’ve had more time with friends and family, if only my company had had a little better planning.

And speaking of family, my grandma had a surgery the day before I left. It was only a minor one and information since has revealed it’s been wildly successful, but it would’ve been nice to see her a little more. Beyond that, the family seems to be doing well, though pops can’t seem to talk about much else besides retiring. We’ll see how it all goes.

New Albums:

  1. Kendrick Lamaar, Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City
  2. Killer Mike, R.A.P. Music
  3. Schoolboy Q, Habits and Contradictions
  4. Jessie Ware, Devotion
  5. Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
  6. El-P, Cancer for Cure
  7. Gary Clark, Jr., Blak and Blu
  8. Driver Friendly, Bury a Dream
  9. Big Boi, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
  10. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist
  11. Nas, Life is Good
  12. Childish Gambino, Royalty
  13. Escort, Escort
  14. Muse, The 2nd Law
  15. The Darkness, Hot Cakes
  16. Oddisee, People Hear What They See
  17. Big K.R.I.T., Live from the Underground
  18. Black Moth Super Rainbow, Cobra Juicy
  19. Twin Shadow, Confess
  20. Homeboy Sandman, The First of a Living Breed
  21. Rye Rye, Go! Pop! Bang!
  22. Jack Black, Blunderbuss
  23. Santigold, Master of My Make-Believe
  24. Baroness, Yellow & Green
  25. Air, Le Voyage Danse la Lune

Albums that Were New to Me:

  1. Ice Cube, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted
  2. Homeboy Sandman, The Good Sun
  3. Fitz & the Tantrums, Pickin’ up the Pieces
  4. Ice Cube, Death Certificate
  5. Scarface, Mr. Scarface is Back
  6. Ghostface Killah, Bulletproof Wallets
  7. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses
  8. Ohio Players, Fire
  9. Iggy Pop, Lust for Life
  10. Gary Clark, Jr., The Bright Lights EP
  11. Mobb Deep, The Infamous
  12. Gang Starr, Daily Operation
  13. Clutch, Clutch
  14. Andrew W.K., I Get Wet
  15. Baroness, Blue Record
  16. Statik Selektah, Well-Done
  17. Black Sheep, A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
  18. SuperHeavy, SuperHeavy
  19. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
  20. Two Door Cinema Club, Tourist History
  21. Wild Flag, Wild Flag
  22. Tedeschi Trucks Band, Revelator
  23. Pretenders, Learning to Crawl
  24. Travis Barker, Give the Drummer Some
  25. Pete Rock, PeteStrumentals

Best List of “Best of 2012” Lists:

I was actually so overburdened by even seeing headlines for 2012 roundups that I started ignoring them. Luckily, I decided to read the only one here, and it’s fairly all encompassing so I don’t have a problem with having this one as this year’s only best list.

  1. The New Yorker’s “The Hundred Best Lists of All Time.”

Full Albums:

  • Paloma Faith, Fall to Grace1
  • Dam-Funk, Adolescent Funk2
  • Sadat X, Love, Hell, or Right3
  • Wiz Khalifa, O.N.I.F.C.4
  • Future, Pluto5
  • Black Moth Super Rainbow, Cobra Juicy6
  • Driver F, Chase the White Whale7
  • Led Zeppelin, IV8
  • The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main St.
  • The-Dream, Love King [Deluxe Edition]
  • Gary Clark, Jr., Blak and Blu9
  • Metric, Synthetica Deluxe10
  • Wu-Block, Wu-Block11
  • MFSB, The Best of MFSB: Love is the Message12
  • Sky Ferreia, Ghost EP13
  • Soundgarden, King Animal14
  • Ulver, Childhood’s End15
  • The Sheepdogs, The Sheepdogs16
  • Bumpy Knuckles, Ambition17
  • Travis Barker, Give the Drummer Some18
  • The Alchemist, Russian Roulette19
  • Calvin Harris, 18 Months20

Random Excellence:

  • The Secret Machines, “First Wave Intact”
  • Eric Pyrz, “Call on Me”
  • The Clash, “Police on My Back”

Songs of the Weeks:

  • Mylo, “In My Arms”21
  • Driver F, “I Have Better Things to do Tonight Than Die”
  • Wiz Khalifa, “Time”
  • The-Dream, “Body Work/Fuck My Brains Out”

Reviews:

1. She has some pipes, but I don’t think she has the team behind her that she needs. “30 Minute Romance” was really the strong point for me, but I didn’t find myself excited to hear the next song or to go back and replay the album. It almost feels like a lounge act more comfortable singing covers–a serious waste because she can really sing.

2. Boy, oh boy. That title really says it all. I was excited to look this one up because he just did an amazing remix of a Mayer Hawthorne song and his “Amaretto Sunset” is funky as hell, but this whole album’s quite literally stuck in his teenage years. Some songs are excellent, but it’s mostly a lot of repetition and obsession with everything a fourteen-year-old loves. Normally, that’s something you could get away with, but the obsession here dug a little too deep. Which is heartbreaking, because I know he’s a funky dude capable of much funkier things.

3. God, these beats were either excellent or just shy of excellent. I almost wanted to just sit back with the instrumental version, but it’s not like Sadat’s retired or the guest list is terrible or anything. This here’s a funky rap album full of head nodding.

4. Let me settle in for this, because what the fuck, every music reviewer ever? The general consensus on this album seems to be somewhere along the lines of “He’s too high” or “Can you believe this guy only raps about being high and having money? How high can you get?” But let’s take a step back.

Remember when his last album was called…yeah, I’m going to let this one sink in…ROLLING PAPERS? The crap did you thing that was a reference to? An impending divorce? A debatably witty reference to Mick Jagger or–holy crap, this one’s a stretch–how this rapper is picking up momentum, but collecting only lots of rhyme drafts from his journal? Why do you think his face is…here it comes…made of smoke on the cover?

Take it back to the mixtape before that and you have a little piece of magic called Kush & OJ. What are you going to tell me happened there, he misspelled “plush” while he was rapping about how much he likes waking up to orange juice and…sleeping on soft pillows high in the air? Seriously, you can’t write something that blatant off, particularly considering every. single. skit. on the tape. Radio W.E.E.D.? C’mon, son. Reviewing music can’t be your real gig.

So to have his “sophomore album” filled with weed references and wealth is absolutely no surprise to me. In fact, it’s exactly what I’d hoped for, given his well-established record of striving and smoking. I mean, I don’t even smoke, but I’ve always liked how every one of his albums has been edging closer to a the perfect party album. I’m saying it’s not my vice, but it’s an album celebrating a vice that really seems to make people feel good–a feel-good album, if you will. It sounds better than his major label debut and even gets back to his funkier, dankier roots. I mean, no one can escape “Time.”

5. If I had to give this a ranking, I guess it would settle in somewhere around a 5/10. It’s sort of like T-Pain meets every trap song ever, with a confusing lyricist who falls somewhere between singer, rapper, gangster, and gangster of love. It’s almost as if he wanted to be equal parts R. Kelly (ipso facto, greatest featured performer on the album), The-Dream, T-Pain (because Autotune), Drake (without the weepy R&B), and Wacka Flocka (because Lex Luger–style trap beats). And that rating’s because I honestly don’t know whether to go back and listen again or pretend I’ve never heard it before.

6. Whoa. You guys, whoa. It’s like Animal Collective got high with Starfucker and had a whisper-singing contest. I don’t mean that in a bad way–I know Animal Collective isn’t entirely cool anymore–because what I’m saying is that this is a psychedelic indie wierdfest full of new noises and lots of layers. My favorites are “Windshield Smasher,” “Hairspray Heart,” and “Dreamsicle Bomb,” but that doesn’t mean any of those things are right for anybody else.

7. Listened to this album three songs through, added a song to the Songs of the Week section–as per usual.

8. Rolling Stone released a collector’s edition in honor of, well, how important they’ve been to the history of music–or because it was their 40th anniversary. A close friend (for my girlfriend’s eyes: it was my girlfriend’s best friend and current roommate) was traveling and bought this edition thinking it would be a normal Rolling Stone. She was going to just throw it away and was shocked when I volunteered to take it and read every page (PUN!).

Sure, the Zep’s not on Spotify, but, as I explained to that friend, one of the most pivotal moments in my music history was discovering I in my dad’s vinyl collection. At the time I discovered it had been my uncle’s, so I cushioned it in sweaters the next time we traveled to see him so I could return something I was sure was as important to him as it was to me. Some time passed and my dad appeared to have forgotten about that day. Skip some more time and I remember building some LEGO kit in my room when my dad knocked. He sort of mumbled, as if he was embarrassed that he was suggesting it or, more likely, worried that I wouldn’t like it, “Hey, I picked up a CD you might like. Check it out,” while standing in the doorway, arm outreached with I pointing at me.

I told him, “Oh, yeah, I love that album. I listened to it on your turntable before I returned it to Uncle [____].” He smiled, and I played that album like I’d never heard it before.

Reading each article was like seeing the band anew. I didn’t realize they were a lot of the source material for Almost Famous. I had no idea they’d had such serious issues with the media. I had no idea the media (this issue of Rolling Stone, specifically) could beat that rivalry like a dead horse. I had no idea how truly essential Bonzo’s drum beating had been to every Zeppelin song. Well, I had some idea, particularly about “Four Sticks,” but it still made me want to go back and revisit their peak.

9. Here’s a stupid idea: He omitted the “c” and the “e” to symbolize how the entire album is missing something, like how a broken heart yearns for its partner. Yep, that’s a little contrived, but holy crap that guy can sing, play guitar, and generally write the pants off a song. I think “The Life” has been done better on his EPs, but this album’s still a blues barn burner for the ages.

10. I couldn’t hear anything that struck me like their last album’s work. They’re a unique band, but this was not better than their previous one, particularly considering how a lot of the bonus material is acoustic versions from that album.

11. This is probably some of the scariest and oldest rap to come out in the last year. It has feet equally in the early nineties and the Twitter generation and it’s awesome.

12. “Something for Nothing” (trust me, you’ll love it), “Back Stabbers,” and “T.S.O.P.” were delightful, but I had a hard time with this. Despite the musical prowess of this giant producer/session musician/accomplished artist collective, it’s still too close to classical music for me.

13. This was kind of terrible, but at least “Red Lips” is pretty good. I went into it looking for Skylar Grey songs, but she does not seem to be on Spotify besides the songs I already know. Nonetheless, a talented woman perhaps in need of less acoustic sleepers.

14. Who would have ever thought they’d get back together? Who would have ever though it’d be this good? Who would’ve ever thought “Non-State Actor,” “By Crooked Steps,” “Blood on the Valley Floor,” or “Rowing” would restore faith in modern music?

15. I got excited. This was billed as a black metal album. I felt like I was listening to Steppenwolf and a sleeping pill. The only thing black about it was how sad it is was how childhood ends. And metal? I guess that applies if all the strings they play are metal, but this band’s as metal as Nickelback, yo. I definitely came close to tracking them down and trying to book a real metal band for them so they understand how music works–instead of napping.

16. Noooooooope, the only song on here that bested their last album was “Feeling Good,” even if it’s because they’re at least not talking about Facebook anymore.

17. I don’t think the rapping really caught up with the excellent beats. The eponymous jam and “Animalistic” were, far and away, the stand outs that contributed to making this as funky and soul-ridden as necessary to make me want to keep listening to Statik.

18. The only unifying thing here is the drumming. What a bizarre concept, right? From straight-up rap to the kind of rap-rock that made Limp Bizkit famous, it’s weird to see all of these guests in the same place, particularly considering that the drummer became famous in a punk-rock band. But it’s a weirdness that works. Since it’s not really a band coming together to examine their idea of how the world works, there’s a whole lot of depth and ideas here. It’s not all good, but it’s sure as shit not bad.

19. Jesus, speaking of depth; this is like three or four albums’ worth of beats at once. Not all of it’s good, but when The Alchemist shines, he’s deep in the heart of a mothercluckin’ goldmine. There’s absolutely every reason ever to keep listening to his work. The man’s made what I feel are modern classics and is producing music for great artists. He’d be a household name if he finally just partnered up with Action Bronson. Well, Bronsolini’s subjects and lines are a little blue for modern radio, but I’m just saying I think he’d experience the kind of success Ryan Lewis is having with Macklemore. But then again, neither of those two guys are really household names yet either.

20. It’s so confusing to me that this guy went from indie electronica darling to one of the biggest guest singers and producers in modern music. Seriously, whip out “The Girls” in any social situation and people are going to dance despite never hearing it; play his stuff with Rihanna, and you’ll get something between “OMIGAWD WE’RE DANCING TO THIS RIGHT NAOW” and “Oh god, this song again?” And yet, there’s still little gems on this album. “Mansion” and “Here 2 China” are little delights that probably won’t get heard by many despite their excellence.

21. I’ve been sleeping on Mylo for a long time, but I also can’t seem to find a lot of his stuff wherever I need to. Regardless, this came up on a Pandora playlist in the office and I haven’t stopped playing it since.

Comment:

Wow, what a couple of weeks, you guys. I’m under the impression I wasn’t the only one, particularly after  my complete frustration with Friday’s events and the resulting post. I also had my apartment fumigated twice, had to replace an iPod, a lot of friends’ relationships came to an end, and, perhaps more intensely, it’s the holidays (meaning too many events and celebrations and people and a general lack of relaxation).

Much of it I can’t solve, but I know that and will be making no attempt to solve it. After witnessing and experiencing some absolutely abhorrent things in the past couple of weeks, I still feel things are going to get better. It’s because I think I’ve cited the following quote before on this blog, but life is hard and death is easy. We have to fight for so many things to enjoy anything. Just for example, waking up has been one of my least-favorite things since I was conscious, but once I finally do it every single day, I get to experience the greatest things on earth—like my friends, my coworkers, my girlfriend, my family, and people who have said or done things as awesome as all of the people I just listed.

And I know this sounds crazy after the comment’s first paragraph, but I have a list of a couple of reasons outside of those people I’ve just listed that are exactly why I’m going to be fine. These songs, despite absolutely not hearing them for the first time, still give me the goose bumps. Whether it’s because the song’s emotions tug on my heartstrings or it’s because it reminds me of an absolutely beautiful moment in my past, these are five artworks that feel like punches to the gut, making me more aware of how pristine these three to eight minutes of my life are:

Led Zeppelin, “When the Levee Breaks”; David Bowie, “Heroes”; Jessie Ware, “Taking in Water”; Pretty much any artist with a guitar, “Traveling Riverside Blues”; and The Rolling Stones, “Ventilator Blues.”

I found out about today’s slaughter when we were eating lunch in the office.

The tone immediately went from, “Can you believe we got a free, delicious meal? We should totally eat there forever” to “Those kids that survived will never be the same.” “Where were you when 9/11 happened?” “Remember Columbine?” “It’s teachers and kids; those kids will never feel safe in school again.” “Who thinks it’s okay to kill kids?”

Just months earlier, there’d been a similar tragedy in a theater involving a machine gun and a man without the right thought process. And the tweets, Facebook posts, news updates, revealing pictures on Tumblr, and sad feelings started outpouring.

But nothing changed.

All we got was another guy with a machine gun and more bullshit social media. We had town hall questions central to the presidential election. We had whole communities lose a generation. And we got some fucking tweets.

So I thought I was going to be prepared for that. Maybe I’d be up to learning more details. Maybe I’d be ready to learn just how many people died this time. But as I tried to go about my day as if nothing had happened–I don’t deal with senseless murder well and tend to try to distract myself with happier things–I still found the Facebook posts and tweets seeping through those attempts. So I started reading some of it. I found myself willing to rally behind a lot of the “Fuck the NRA” ideas or “When kids die, that should be enough–at the very least–to ban automatic weapons” concepts, but when the more “heartfelt” comments started creeping in was when I lost my mind.

It was the all-caps-lock-outrage posts about the kids dying. It was the idea that you have to hug your family now. Now you have to hug your family–because family’s never been important before. But the posts that pissed me off most were the posts about people’s hearts going out to Connecticut.

What is your heart, a boomerang? My god, you’re a real hero here. You sent your heart and your prayers to Connecticut? And it came back? That’s really far, I bet the postage was expensive. You’ve sacrificed a lot with your heart donation.

So I tweeted the only thing I’ve said about it all day on any social platform (besides what I’m typing): “I’m not reading any of your gun-related social media posts and breaking news updates until you call your Senator or your Rep.” Because nothing else solves this. Everyone is sad about it, but digging deeper into the details of who this man was (is?) or how he came to the decision to bring a gun into a school doesn’t fucking solve anything. No one cares if you’re sad about it, because we’re sad about it, too. You’re not the first person to have emotions, just the first person to tell us all about it.

And that’s when I totally checked out of social media (as well as television and news sites) for the day. I already know what happened. Here’s your archetype: Lonely person feels lonely. Without using the proper psychiatric jargon, a screw got too loose and made that person feel like their potential had gone unrecognized. That person came to the conclusion that people will notice them when they achieve revenge on _____ group of people or ensure humanity understands their greatness by killing _____ group of people and living to tell the tale.

I don’t want to know. There are too many absolutely beautiful things and people in this world for me to focus on someone who needed help, slipped through the cracks, and did something absolutely abhorrent. To get back to one of the lunch questions, this is a human who missed out on the counseling that would have helped them understand society’s rules–specifically, the rule that we don’t kill (or touch) kids. There were signs, but something went wrong and this person was set free in a society that did not subscribe to the same rules they did.

But more importantly, it’s your job as a member of that very society to understand that what we’re doing right now is missing the main two issues: mental health and gun reform. Fucking Christ, what animal needs to be hunted with an automatic machine gun besides the most dangerous game. Yes, I’m saying we can have automatic guns in the military for freedom or whatever, but what zombie horde (OF CHILDREN) are you fighting off that you need a machine gun? But even before that, let’s talk about basic healthcare. I’m not entirely sure we need to have a mental screening before gun purchase so much as we need a healthcare system that can carry the load of a mentally unwell person desperately in need of help.

Maybe you’ve had the flu. Maybe you’ve had, I don’t know, blood poisoning or ringworms or something. Try this on for size instead: the entire chemistry in your fucking brain is off. There’s no “Hey, guy, check out this quick-fix penicillin. Boom, polio over” or what have you. What you have is a history of, shit, to quote an excellent movie and its title, violence. Sometimes violent people do violent things. But there are people who can help those very people or come very close.

And until either you or those specially trained people are helping them, shut the fuck up about how you much you care. Seriously, put up or shut up. Yep–in this case, specifically–either drive to Connecticut to help grieving parents get to and from funerals, hearings, ceremonial events or fucking call someone in Congress. Your social moment did nothing. I literally could not give two more shits about how angry you are because I’m just as angry. Don’t share another goddamn link about who this murderer was or where things went wrong because we have all already heard the story. The glorification just escalates the next one.

At the most basic level of American politics, maybe your congressperson of choice is firmly for or against reform. But there’s a tide here. Your call lets them know they’re in the right or wrong–they can either change sides or bolster the thousands. Unless you’re protesting with signs, email campaigns, letter writing, pitching in in CT, etc., those people making the laws don’t know what’s happening or they’re being paid too much to ignore the repetitive news coverage–and those are the people making changes, not the twenty-second literacy test where Facebook asks you “What’s on your mind?”

I used to rent Bond movies on Saturdays. It probably started with Goldeneye because I couldn’t get over how much fun I’d just had. Famke Janssen sexy gun shooting! Hawaiian shirts in tropical places! Aston Martin versus bikes! Pretty much everything a kid needs to throw that shit in the VCR all over again. So I slowly worked my way through all the Bond movies, watching them all twice–Twice, Dad! Go rent it again!–until I finally understood the subtleties of things like “Pussy Galore” or “being Scottish.”

So of course I wanted to see Skyfall, the 50th Anniversary Bond, if at least just once. It’s this new James Bond who’s edgy and different and blond and surrounded by a lot of the same characters as always and also still named James Bond. They’ve made a lot of really solid decisions, though. There seems to be a conscious effort to update for the Jason Bourne set. Indeed, Q’s role is to hand out a gun, a radio tracker, and advice about how the kids are usin’ the ‘puters these days, you goddamned relic.

And that’s where they came off a little heavy-handed. This is the new Bond in a new era fighting new adversaries, despite owning a murder rate on par with Pol Pot and a body that’s somehow actually 50, even though this is supposed to be the prequel. It seems to be the cap on a prequel trilogy where we get things back that made the old Bond Bond: a male M and a Moneypenny, and nary a question of loyalty. The work of all three new Bond movies only worked to embed us back in the old story arc and reveal that the young rogue we come to love in the next 20 movies is confusingly old, weathered, and supposedly now not just mourning his parents (still, forever) but also the lady M.

Which makes me wonder: How much of Skyfall is a rewards-based system where the joys come from catching references? Knowing why he’d reveal the Aston? Who Moneypenny even is? Is Javier Bardem just a smart Jaws? Because the rewards we usually see involve following all the clues just as closely as Bond (hot babes) until he unravels the scheme (hot babes’ clothing) just in time to save the entire world. But this movie’s villain’s evil plan, spawned by revenge, is to get agents killed until he can kill M. Which one of his henchmen does. Yep, not only does Bond not stop him but the man doesn’t even achieve his fiendish plot on his own.

So what is this brave new era of Bond we’re stepping into? Obviously, the references to the progression of social media and secrecy will continue to be a theme, but hopefully the idea that James is close to retirement will slowly fade to the background as he carries on with his job. In fact, I would prefer an older Bond; who really trusts the new recruits, freshly minted with minor computer skills in Langley, to travel around the world while foiling conspiracy theories that took years to put into place? I want the haggard old guy who looks like he ran to every meeting he’s ever had while carrying two Heckler & Koch MP5s and a scotch. That’s the guy I ask, “Hey, do me a favor and take out a multinational terrorist cell only using a helicopter and this unreasonably gorgeous woman.”

Also, who really gives a crap if he’s had some parent issues? I think completely leveling his childhood home should be reason enough to let that be just another one of the little Bond details, like how Bond got married once, that we let add to his character instead of demanding it drag him down.

But enough of that noise, I have a Bond movie to go see again.

Let’s get this out of the way right from the start: I’m talking about prostitutes, women of the night, whores. But that’s the point; prostitutes are people too, despite easy jokes that they’re dead inside. So let’s also talk about what they’re not: gardening implements.

And it’s high time we drew a line in the sand. Hoes and hoeing are gardening devices and activities while, for the sake of clarity at the very minimum, prostitutes should be labeled hos or pursuing a career hoing. It looks a little weird, like an underperforming hose or a shy host, but consider this: whore. No one in their life has ever correctly spelled it whoere, unless that’s another one of those bizarre British alternates that has yet to add a little colour to my understanding of the English language. Just like how bangers ‘n’ mash stands for sausage and potatoes, remove the whore letters and you have ‘ho’ at the very most—never a spud.

Which also brings us to the more earthly aspects of the subject. Things like trowels, rakes, and hoes are all gardening tools used explicitly to reshape or cultivate earth. It’s a human–earth interaction where the earth is prepared for fertilization or planting. The earth comes out on top (pun intended). Sex workers are people, not utilities or tools used to alter non-human objects. It’s supposedly the oldest career in existence and it has almost always taken place between two humans. From my understanding of the profession, fertilization has nearly nothing to do with its impetus.

I can’t pretend splitting the spelling in two won’t wreak havoc on our preconceived usage. For example, when Ice Cube literally spells it out “H-O-E” on “Who’s the Mack?” from his incredible AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, we’ll be undercutting a very important song that debates the idea of the pimp-and-flat-bladed-gardening-aid relationship in many aspects of our society. That’s something we’ll have to be willing to sacrifice. Dictionaries are built on catalogs of published examples of the correct usage. It’s why stupid things like LOL and irregardless have definitions, despite being considered improper words—they have a proven meaning that needs to be expressed for people who don’t understand.

So the next time you’re online and attempting to insinuate that the neighbors’ daughter dresses like she accepts money for illicit acts performed with one or many of her limbs, please call her a ho. If you say out loud that that same girl is dressed like a ho tonight, the homophone still applies, but you’re clearly not implying her boots are metallic and her posture is as wooden as her clothing. Did you spot a friend in a skimpy outfit downtown, leaning into car windows? Please announce on Twitter that you suspect that person is hoing. Or if you have to stage an intervention for a male friend that has been sleeping around in a manner reminiscent of a gigolo, please, don’t forget to call him a man ho, even though man whore rolls off the tongue much more effectively (pun not intended). You need your friends to know they’re not tools.

Most importantly, don’t let hookers do your yard work—they already have a job.

Full Albums:

  • Coheed and Cambria, The Afterman: Ascension1
  • Electric Six, Absolute Pleasure2
  • Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream3
  • Muse, The 2nd Law4
  • Driver Friendly, Bury a Dream and Chase the White Whale5
  • Freddie Gibbs, Baby Face Killa6
  • Homeboy Sandman, First of a Living Breed7
  • Scarface, Mr. Scarface is Back8
  • Geto Boys, We Can’t Be Stopped9
  • Steel Panther, Balls Out
  • Death Grips, The Money Store10
  • Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 111
  • Electric Guest, Mondo12
  • Alabama Shakes, Boys & Girls13
  • Masta Ace, Disposable Arts and MA_DOOM: Son of Yvonne14
  • The xx, Coexist15
  • Brother Ali, Us16
  • Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, m.A.A.d City17
  • Star Slinger, Volume 118
  • Flying Lotus, Cosmogramma19
  • How to Dress Well, Total Loss20
  • Jessie Ware, Devotion21
  • Purity Ring, Shrines22
  • Tame Impala, Lonerism23
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist24

Random Excellence:

  • Asher Roth, “Charlie Chaplin”
  • Bloc Party, “Banquet”
  • The Clash, “Complete Control”
  • Ghostface Killah, “Wu Banga”
  • Katy Perry, “Hummingbird Heartbeat”
  • Kings of Leon, “Crawl”
  • Left Lane Cruiser, “Crackalacka”
  • M.I.A., “20 Dollar”
  • Mos Def, “Hip Hop”
  • PackFM, “Happy Days”
  • Raphael Saadiq, “Stone Rollin'”
  • The-Dream, “Veteran”
  • Wale, “Let It Loose”25

Songs of the Weeks:

  • Ghost Town DJs, “My Boo (Hitman’s Club Remix)”
  • Queens of the Stone Age, “Misfit Love”
  • Junior Senior, “Move Your Feet”26
  • Mayer Hawthorne, “Can’t Stop (Dam Funk Remix feat. Snoop Dogg)”
  • New Found Glory, “Ballad for the Lost Romantics”27
  • The Police, “Voices Inside My Head”

Reviews:

1. In high school (when they broke into the consciousness of what seems to be most people with “Favor House Atlantic” and its awesome video) it was considered uncool to listen to this band, partly because of the vocalist’s high voice, the science-fiction subject matter, and prog-rock nature of it all that wasn’t supposed to be as cool as Britney Spears or what have you. Yet the older I get, the catchier they get, particularly since holy shit who cares if I like awesome guitar licks besides me? And how dare they write a story arching over multiple albums that I kind  of wish they’d printed as a couple of stories because that’d be easier for my personal consumption? It’s not like I can’t listen to both strong female vocalists over a piano and a strong male vocalist over some tasty metal riffs. Which is to say, this is an enjoyable album sure to get only more enjoyable; my personal favorite riffestival is “The Afterman.”

2. These dudes always strike me as a little odd. They’re right on the edge of balls-out metal while singing about the importance of dancing like they’re broadcasting live from a disco in the seventies. Sure, you could call that the format for rock, but something about it is still a little left of center. But you can tell they sure as hell put on an enjoyable show. The vocalist is hilarious, the riffs are catchy, and they know how to command an audience. This is the sum of their whole that might be better than even their studio-recorded work–a rare feat.

3. This is probably the best R&B album I’ve heard since some guy named Terius Nash put out an album. It’s catchy as all  hell and he’s modernized modern R&B guitar, as far as I can tell.  Pretty much amazing the entire way through, though I sometimes have qualms about “Pussy is Mine.” First of all, yes, that’s the title and the chorus–that’s the major qualm there. They also set it up like the engineer doesn’t realize Miguel’s sitting in the studio singing by himself, even though it’s the engineer’s job to know exactly fucking that. Even Miguel ends the song with a, to paraphrase, “OMGLOL, WE WUR REKORDING? JKJK DON’T ALBUMIZE THAT BAI” despite the synthesizer flares toward the end of the song and perfect transitions between surrounding songs. Sure, Miguel; I go into recording studios to sing songs I want no one to hear, too. But let me be clear: this song’s the only one that makes me hesitant on this album. He’s weaved some pretty amazing references throughout songs like “Candles in the Sun” and the eponymous track while still creating jaw-droppingly good hip shakers like “Use Me” and “The Thrill.” Which is to say that I’ll be able to get over my qualms very easily as I continue to listen the crap outta this mutha.

4. I neither had any idea this was out until I started seeing reviews for it nor understood all the disappointing reviews. I think they all want them to just make Absolution again, though that surprises me more because if they’ve been listening for so long, they’d know all Muse ever does is try to make something bigger than their last album. Maybe “Save Me” sounded a little too much like Porcupine Trees for my liking and it’s weird to listen to dubstep from the kings of Radiohead with distortion pedals and face-melting riffs, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good.

5. Gotta review the oeuvre after the hometown heroes get signed to a new record label.

6. Thank goodness he can still rap because the choruses are almost annoying sometimes. But still, “Bout it Bout it,” “Stay Down,” “My N*gga,” and “Breaking Bad” are pretty phenomenal. It’s all pretty great, but those are the highlights for me.

7. My theory is that he performs best when he’s on an LP. Chimera and Subject: Matter were alright, but this and The Good Sun have tasty nuggets everywhere. From Spanish-accented beats like “Cedar and Sedgwick” to singing choruses like his nickname should be Chamillionaire on “For the Kids,” he has a diverse and dense album. However, none of the highlights on it fly any higher than “Whatchu Want from Me?”

8. What a relief. Nothing but classics, complete with shout-outs to AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. What more could I want except more?

9. Please refer to the above, perhaps with the exception of the Ice Cube thing.

10. This was a little intense for me. I kept expecting it to coalesce into something more presentable. I mean, it’s a punk/rap album designed specifically not to do that, and I think that’s why I found myself resisting. “Hustle Bones” and “I’ve Seen Footage” were their most enjoyable tracks. It reminds me of how most current art seems to be a rejection of modern art in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. The ideal was to admire the beautiful, but now most art seems to be a tongue-in-cheek rejection of it that even makes Duchamp’s Fountain look super sexy. Then again, things are super fucked up so let’s fuck things up.

11. I didn’t get the sense that this was the same kind of concept album as The Cool or that he had any of the same characters he’s been rapping about for years, but that’s probably for the best. I seriously can’t understand why he can’t get beats that can parallel his rhymes (Pete Rock know) or why his rhymes always seem to near the whine levels of Drake. Except instead of being sad about how hard it is being popular, he always has the weight of the entire rap game, if not the entire world, on his shoulders. But “Lamborghini Angels” and “Put Em Up” are still the album’s highlights.

12. “The Bait” and “Waves” are passable.

13. It sounds like Kings of Leon and The Allman Brothers had a slower-paced baby. Which is sometimes good and sometimes awesome, particularly on “Hold On,” “Hang Loose,” and “Be Mine.”

14. The latter’s a solid album full of songs that sound like they’d be right at home in the early nineties. The former’s a concept album that seems to resemble life more than anything else. Where Masta Ace’s bleak outlook resulted in a girlfriend’s death and graduation to a somewhat dim future, it seems Kendrick Lamar’s album ended with a little bit more hope–but more on that later. This is a really dark album where it seems like Ace would’ve done better to pretend to be inside his local boxing gym rather than a college upstate. The few people who might not have done him wrong seem to be his girlfriend and his roommate. But he doles out punches as necessary. I particularly love how he has an “Alphabets” song. It seems to be the universal challenge that only excellent rappers appoint themselves.

15. My favorite song was “Tides,” though I’m not sure this album had the same powerhouses as the first album (“Intro,” “Heart Skipped a Beat,” and “Crystalized”).

16. “Bad Mufucker Pt. II” was way past the point when I realized I’d been missing out on this guy for a while, but easily the album’s climax. He built up to it with “Tight Rope” and “Babygirl,” then came down from it on the highs of “Slippin’ Away.” It’s the kind of classic beats with excellent rapping that reminds  me of another awesome white dude name Action Bronson. Well, the latter talks more about sex and food, but they’re both crazy talented and funky.

17. This is a big album packed into eleven songs. Not only has he crafted a big, eleven-song narrative but it also seems he’s created the first Christian rap album that no one wants to pee all over as if he’d started a band and named it Creed. Because that’s what happens, right? He accepts Our (?) Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in his life and stops gangbanging, or is it just me? I mean, it’s best to escape from one gang with a more socially acceptable gang if you ask me. After all the singles, EPs, and guest spots, people definitely expected something big, but I don’t know if anyone was ready for this. Concept albums, skits, guest spots, and so on have been out for years, but there’s a serious chance no one’s used them as cohesively as this before. At this point, I’m starting to feel like I’m just paraphrasing Big Ghost, but I also don’t think anyone’s going to be able to agree about it. I feel like it’s probably the lightning rod between top forty and hip hop heads. The people who want lyrics will keep coming back to this and the people who want non-stop top-40 hits already don’t give a fuck and/or already let hip hop die.

18. It’s almost entirely dancy. Like, right on the edge of wanting to get out of my seat to dance, only to realize the beat just changed. I could probably dance a lot to “Mornin’,” “Bumpkin,” and “Gimme,” though.

19. I know I’m supposed to like this…but I do not.

20. There’s some absolutely lovely R&B on here, particularly considering how white this dude is. I’m talking full-on hipster, which is why Pitchfork seems to love him way more than me. Where Miguel went for the flashy synthesizers and the explicit talk, he went for the metaphors and the light layers. But then again, Pitchfork and I agree that Miguel is pretty friggin’ great, so maybe this is worth another look besides just “Running Back” and “& It Was U.”

21. There’s a six-song streak of nothing but pure excellence between the second and seventh songs where my jaw would drop because every single song was better than the last. I mean, you could give this lady the instruction booklet for a blender and she could probably sing some gorgeous songs about heart (-shaped-vegetable) break and loss (of solid states). It’s a beautiful synthesis of lovely music and even lovelier singing.

22. Bizarrely enough, this was almost too electronic for me. Sort of right on the edge of too mellow and too quiet, though “Amenamy” and “Loftcries” had just the right kind of balance that I liked. I feel like I need to go back to see if I’m listening wrong or something.

23. Though I loved “Elephant” and “Feels like We Only Go Backwards,” I feel like Innerspeaker is the superior album. I’ll probably end up listening to both a bit, though.

24. There are just so many things going on. Not only does he explicitly address what a terrible state the business side of the music industry is in, but he raps about how strange it is to be white while rapping or a difficult love affair with Air Jordans. Each song’s a little vignette with an extremely cool and refreshing perspective; “Same Love” is probably the first rap song I’ve heard complaining about rap without being as sad about it as Lupe can be. Then “Thrift Store” is just the jam of the month (or three). For a first album, this dude came out swinging with all the right punches.

25. I still can’t get how much it sounds like The Neptunes forgot to go back and edit in Wale’s name in the chorus.

26. This was the jam in high school, and nothing was more exciting than remembering it in the last week–well, maybe the only thing more exciting was remembering how great the music video is.

27. Still with the high school thing: I’ve always felt this song’s sing-along at the end outweighs the pop-punk riffs, though it seems no one agrees with me. So here’s to us fools that have no meaning. I tip my glass to you.

Comment:

Two iPods died on me since my last twim, so I’m not really sure if I’ve really got every album and random piece of excellence here. Other exciting, but more certain, things since we last talked include seeing Action Bronson live at an event where Paul Banks chipped away high school me’s love Interpol with terrible, terrible music. Bronson even rhymed while walking through the crowd, so that kind of makes up for it. Well, that and how awesome The Alchemist is both on the ones and twos and while flippin’ luxurious tracks for people’s raps. My hope is that this uptick in excellent beats on many fronts is an indication that both the iPod situation will settle (good lookin’ out, Best Buy warranty program) and that it’s only onward and upward in ye olde 2k12 quest for the illest records.

I’ll be needing them as my weight training program continues. Though that sounds really impressive when I leave it all vague like that, it mostly just means I started doing squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. And to undercut that even further, it mostly just means being sore for most of my life. But my ability, like my beats, have been improving and I think that’s all I can do right now: just keep pushing it along.

Stay real and let’s hope they didn’t forget about Dre.

Despite being spread out across England, Spain, and two states in America, my family and I managed to meet in the Oslo airport on Saturday about a month ago. Once everyone was gathered, though, we were immediately lost. I’m usually the navigator, but I wasn’t really feeling cognizant since Norway is six hours ahead of NYC (I effectively pulled an all nighter by not catching any sleep on the plane).

But it turned out fine. We pulled into the town that we share our surname with around 6 pm or so. Yet, it’s hard to call where we stayed a town so much as a set of three farms on a fjord. As far as we could tell, it’s not even really part of the two towns that bookended the fjord. It seems like all that matters is the name of your county and they’ll figure out how to get there from that. No one ever really explained that.

Our hosts were a man name Lars and his wife, Gurid  (pronounced goo-rid). I actually asked my dad a couple times during the trip how to say her name out loud (when she wasn’t around) and he mostly ended with something kind of like “girding.” They explained how theirs is the only one of the three still in operation, though all three had been in operation (and profitable) up until the mid-nineties or so. They also mentioned that it’d be hard to find any cops unless you’re in the city, but every inch of Norway is covered by helicopter for medical emergencies.

They seemed absolutely delighted by this, and when we had a late-evening tea with them the night before I had to depart, the shared the same pride in their healthcare system. Lars mentioned how his son had been sick as a child and Norwegian doctors couldn’t figure out what the problem was. They were told to see specialists in either Sweden or England. They chose England, where their son was cured, and didn’t pay a cent. Their taxes are extremely high, but they’re more than willing to pay knowing full well that it’s saved their son and will save someone else. Pretty great.

As long as we’re talking politics, they were a little shocked by the Tea Party. We all expressed our mutual confusion since you can’t elect people into the government who don’t want government. Why would you want to get rid of “Obamacare” but want more Medicaid? But I mentioned that sometimes generations are remembered for the loudest groups, even though they’re the smallest. The stereotype is that everyone in the sixties was a hippie. Everyone in the seventies loved disco. But talk to people who lived through it, and it’s just another one of many, many things that happened, but not everyone signed on.

So maybe we assuaged their fears that America is gorging itself on hot dogs, praying in schools all day, and playing baseball in meth labs or something. Which brings up another shocking point: Norwegian food has been shockingly Americanized. We had an incredibly difficult time finding a restaurant with a menu replete with Norwegian specialties. Sure, some places had salmon plates or elk burgers, but everything else was pizza and hamburgers. I mean, right across the street from Oslo City Hall had tourist places, pubs (pub food), fancy restaurants (Italian, Indian, and Chinese), and a 7-Eleven with bacon-wrapped hot dogs for 20 Kronor.

Which is pretty much the cheapest thing I saw the entire time. There might’ve been a candy bar that topped out at 15 Kronor, but I probably didn’t see anything under 30 Kronor until my fourth day there–that’s $5. For something like gum or soda. Apparently, minimum wage is $20/hour there, so that kind of makes a little more sense, but it still felt like gut punches every time a bill came.

In fact, we bought two Oslo City Passes thinking we’d save money and have guaranteed parking. It turned out that parking was only in certain areas and we couldn’t find any of the areas, despite asking twice and being given a map. Also, there don’t seem to be any parking spaces available in downtown Oslo unless they’re inside parking garages. Which are also roughly $90 per day; more expensive than New York City parking and O-Town’s probably half the size. But the passes proved a wise investment in the long run. On the first day we rode the museum ferry for free and visited three museums. The next day was a marathon with four museum visits on their Culture Night, when some museums are open as late as midnight. The passes even covered our ride to and from Lars’ driveway outside Oslo (where he let us park our car) that day.

Kind of an amazing feat, considering how most cultural highlights seem to shut down by six. Malls and eateries seem to stay open until about ten, but forget Sunday. When we mentioned that even the beggars weren’t on the streets on Sunday, Lars joked, “Even beggars need rest!”

Don’t get me wrong, Lars has clearly done well for himself, what with his house in Oslo and farm out in the countryside, but this reminds me of a story of Norwegian work ethic my dad told me. The entire Oslo office in his company seems to lose its staff about every three years because they all quit. Now, they have an American manager who will sometimes ask for extra effort or for people to stay late. Something like, maybe an extra hour the night before a huge pitch to ensure nothing goes wrong the day of. People say no to him all the time. Everyone’s in at 9:30, takes an hour-long lunch break, and is out at 4:30 on the dot. They have supposedly incredibly powerful laws that say that’s exactly what they’re entitled to for a full-time salary. I think it’s probably because I worked in retail where staying late meant more pay and that projects weren’t always finished unless I stayed late, but I still stay late pretty regularly in spite of my salary. I just have work to do, so I stay until it’s done. My dad said the same thing about his job and it’s obviously the same case with the American manager. My only conclusion is that even if minimum wage takes care of everyone, Americans have to work their asses off to earn their salary. Or that’s just what I tell myself to keep pretending we can be the greatest country in the world forever. If that’s still our thing.

But speaking of country, I should detail this place a little for you. Oslo’s the biggest city in Norway. Something like 5 million people or so live and work there six days a week and then don’t leave their house on Sunday. Maybe for church. Drive for an hour and you’ve been in the countryside for 45 minutes. Depending upon your direction, you’ll also be at the place where we stayed. On the other hand, drive for an hour from downtown Houston and you’ll be in the suburbs. Take a train from Grand Central for an hour (not including the time it takes to get to Grand Central) and maybe you’ll be somewhere just outside of Brooklyn or in the Suburbs. Jesus, drive from the Financial District to Central Park, and depending upon your route, you might not make it in an hour. At any rate, it’s three farms, two of which have only a barn and a house. The main one had a barn, a main house, and two guest houses. We stayed in one of the guest houses and met the family who rents the other guest house. Everyone said people had been living in the area since the 1100s (Viking time), but the barn’s foundation was the oldest at somewhere around early 1800. All of the houses have windows facing the fjord, and walking down to it is maybe a five-minute walk. We took a rowboat out to fish in it, but didn’t catch anything. People we talked to also sadly mentioned that Utoya Island, of the 2011 slaughter by some deranged asshole, is almost directly across the fjord. We spent most breakfast time not facing that window.

We spent most of our time in the area looking for family members’ graves. We were a little shocked to discover that the government removes tombstones after 60 years. Sure, maybe everyone’s stopped mourning, and the families and churches have maintained records…but no one told us what happens to the bodies. We told Lars and Gurid that some cemeteries in America are as old as America. They also didn’t tell us why the government didn’t just clear more land and bury bodies there. Seriously, the only thing bordering the two churches we visited were lots and lots of trees. One was kind of close to a ski jump, so maybe they’re trying to prevent zombie-related jumping deaths. Nope, that can’t be it.

Speaking of which, Norway really seems to love the great outdoors. I can only imagine that’s one of the reasons the labor laws are so protective. You can legally walk through any forest you like, but are banned from passing through fields (probably to keep people from stealing crops, ruining crops, being mistaken for deer and shot). Skiing is huge and, from what I could gather, ski jumping seems to have been perfected there. But that confuses me quite a bit. My mom asked me if I thought people were more overweight there than in New York and I wasn’t sure. I honestly feel like the ratio of obese people to skinny people was pretty much the same, and probably because everyone there seems to eat nothing but the aforementioned burgers and pizza.

Mom also asked me another question that really stood out for me. After visiting my sister while she studied in Copenhagen, I’d come to assume that Norwegians were just as Amazonian and ridiculously attractive. Yet when my mom asked me if Norwegian women were attractive, I told her they were probably about average, though when those stereotypically Scandinavian women with blonde hair did show their face, it was stunning. A rare occasion, though.

All told, as many expectations were met as broken, though. Everyone we talked to was nice, helpful, and probably as excited by Vikings as we are. Our hosts even went out of their way to look up some of our family history for us, which might not have helped too much considering how there’s a very good chance that some of the people living on the farms ended up just taking the name of the farm. But even if we didn’t get all the things we were looking for, we still had too much fun. Dad said on the first day, “We can do whatever you want; it’s vacation.” So for my sister that mostly meant having at least one ice cream per day, despite temperatures of roughly 60 and below. All told, it was an eye-opening trip full of incredible highlights, and it’s always a joy to be around my family when we do amazing things like that.

Itinerary Summary, in brief:

  • Saturday: Landings, waiting, long drive out to the countryside because of untranslatable Google Maps directions to actual signs, long talk while settling in (when I should have napped), expensive dinner (mom got an elk burger!)
  • Sunday: Slept in pretty late, guided tour of one of the other houses on the farm before the renters went back to Oslo, drive down to the largest ski jump in the world, drive in to Oslo, walk on the top of opera, walk to and around fort, heartbreaking realization that nearly everything is closed on Sunday, settling for dinner at a (delicious) pizza place called Mamma Rosa’s
  • Monday: Country drive searching for family gravestones including a Viking ruin, drive up the hill behind the farms to fossil town
  • Tuesday: Cobalt processing plant, Hedeland Glass Factory vist (which was mostly closing for the day, but still neat), picked up and read about 90% of The Hunger Games
  • Wednesday: Finished The Hunger Games and sister started it, train into Oslo after parking in Lars’ driveway, City Hall tour (absolutely incredible; home of the Nobel Prize ceremony), Resistance Museum, coffee and brownie at Akers Brygge (the mall), walk into town, rain, bookstore, terrible search for a dinner place until we found an American-style pub called Gatsby’s
  • Thursday: Terrible parking attempt and surrender to the same parking garage we used on Sunday; museum boat to Viking house, Folk Museum, Kon-Tiki Museum, and back; dinner at Deli de Luca where I decided to try their iskaffe only to find out it’s pretty much the most delicious coffee milkshake (is=ice cream kaffe=coffee) ever invented; Operahusset (the national opera house) mistake where we found out the lady sold us tickets for the show a week from that Thursday; sister finishes The Hunger Games
  • Friday: Park at Lars’, train in, bonus iskaffe while browsing for Norwegian gifts my girlfriend would like, Internet connection again at Operahusset (the only place I could find free Wi-Fi) while my sister took a tour of the dye shop with people who seemed to kind of wanted to hire her if she lived there, Catching Fire purchase, four museums
  • Saturday: Fishing attempt, waffles–oh my god, the waffles in this country–with Lars and Gurid, Catching Fire completion
  • Sunday: House prep and drive out to the airport for me, driving off to Western Norway for the family