Archive for March, 2010

St. Patrick’s Day Music Pick!

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 17, 2010 by Jessica Lada

What do you get when you cross a kilt-wearing bagpiper, some traditional Irish songs, Irish dancers, electric guitars, and a crowd full of jumping, screaming fans?  The Dropkick Murphys.  And in their latest CD/DVD LIVE ON LANSDOWNE, BOSTON MA, available today March 16th (just in time for St. Patrick’s day), the band is at their finest.  Studio recordings don’t manage to capture the full spirit of a band such as the Dropkick Murphys.  They feed off the energy in the crowd and pour that raucous enthusiasm into their music.

Their performance last year for St. Patrick’s day was not a performance for band and spectators, but an experience for all.  The fans are just as important in this experience as the band, shouting along the lyrics, clapping, pumping their fists in the air, and crowd surfing.  During their performance of the ever popular “Kiss Me, I’m S&!%faced”, the band even invites the ladies of the audience up onto the stage to sway and sing along.

The album’s 20-song set list (including “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya”, “Fields of Athenry”, “Tessie”, “The Dirty Glass,” and “(F)lannigan’s Ball”) is completely different from DKM’s 2002 album Live On St. Patrick’s Day From Boston MA but follows the same tradition.  This album includes a special guest appearance by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones on DKM’s platinum-selling single “Shipping Up to Boston.”

Tomorrow wraps up DKM’s seven shows in six days at Boston’s House of Blues.  In April they continue their tour in the UK, and then return to the US for the Bonnaroo Festival in Manchester, TN this June and the Vans Warped Tour in August.  If you can’t make it to any of the live dates and will miss out on the fun in person, this album is the next best thing.  This is a group of talented musicians who seamlessly blend Celtic and punk genres and traditions into one of the most unique sounds you’ll ever hear.  Their energy is absolutely infectious.  It isn’t something you can listen to in the background as you wash the dishes and file your toenails.  Live on Lansdowne shoves itself to the forefront and demands not only to be heard but to be experienced.  You’ll want to paint yourself green, shoot some whiskey, and jump around with your fist in the air.

If you’re already a DKM fan, you’ll want this for your collection.  If you aren’t a fan yet, this is the perfect album to get you properly introduced to this group of Celtic punk stars.  Even if you’ve never heard the Dropkick Murphys before, you’ll still find familiar tunes on the album.  You’ll find yourself singing along before the album has played all the way through even once.  Irish or not, do yourself a St. Patty’s day favor and pick up The Dropkick Murphys Live on Lansdowne, Boston, MA , raise a pint, and enjoy.

originally posted at blogcritics.org

Need a Fast Cure for Garlic Breath?

Posted in Stuff with tags , , , , on March 3, 2010 by Jessica Lada

Last night my fiancé and I had a mediocre dinner—one of those frozen chicken parmesan meals.  I could have done much better from scratch, but that’s the price I pay for speed and simplicity.  It’s a curse of being a poor graduate student.  I did manage to make some “homemade” garlic bread, however.  Honey wheat bread + butter (churned by hand) + sea salt + garlic powder = delicious.  Unfortunately, as delicious and wonderful as the garlic bread was, it gave me some killer breath.

It wasn’t just stinky.  It was a full-fledged case of STANK BREATH that, I’m embarrassed to say, my fiancé could smell from several feet away on the couch.

It’s a dilemma any garlic-loving person has probably run into at one time or another.  You eat something with garlic but your date or significant other didn’t join in the garlicky goodness.  Or in my case tonight, he joined in the garlicky goodness, but not quite as enthusiastically as I did.  So what do you do about bad breath?  For garlic and onion on your hands, they make those awesome metal “soap bars” that get rid of the scent like magic.  But I wasn’t inclined to rub one of those on my tongue.  GAH.

Here was my crazily overzealous attempt to solve the problem and eliminate further nose crinkling of my fiancé.

First, I brushed my teeth thoroughly with Crest Citrus Splash Whitening PLUS Scope.  I brushed my teeth, gums, tongue, under my tongue, and even the roof of my  mouth.  Then I used ACT Restoring Mouthwash.  The electric blue foam it makes when you swish it around always seems a little strange, but the stuff works well.  Then, just in case I didn’t get all the garlic off my lips, I used Bath and Body Works Mentha Lip Balm Stick.  It’s one of my favorites for everyday lip moisture because it isn’t glossy at all.  (Safe for dude use!)  And then to top it all off, I drank a shot of Hiram Walker 90 proof Peppermint Schnapps*.   Prost! Bottoms up, down the hatch.

It’s important to understand I didn’t really expect any of this to work.  Usually I brush my teeth and the garlic stank breath returns almost immediately.  I mainly intended my overzealous garlic solution to entertain my fiancé.  But surprisingly, it completely eliminated any trace of stank breath.  We did a sniff test several times and even a kiss test.  In the following six hours, the garlic didn’t come back.

I don’t suggest you start chugging mint schnapps next time you eat something with garlic, but if you forget about your hot date until after you’ve snarfed a pita filled with shish taouk and toum (marinated grilled chicken skewers with garlic paste) and you need a quick fix, you might try the toothpaste-mouthwash-lip balm-schnapps* combo.

*If you’re twenty-one.  Don’t drink and drive.  That’s way worse than stank breath.

–originally posted at blogcritics.org

Book Review: Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on March 2, 2010 by Jessica Lada

Brandon Sanderson goes beyond the horn-rimmed glasses into the heart of evil and shows of his storytelling chops while he’s at it.

Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson is a new twist on the young adult fantasy genre. Instead of integrating magical elements into a modern story world, the book is written to inform us that our modern world (and even our history) is an illusion that librarians WANT us to believe. It’s written as a first-person autobiographical account, supposedly disguised as a fictional novel by Brandon Sanderson so that the librarians don’t notice and ban it from the shelves. At first I thought the gimmick was cheesy, but it definitely grew on me. The first-person writer bit is risky and could have flopped badly, but Sanderson nails it with his voice, characters, and setting.

According to Alcatraz Smedry, the Librarians want to rewrite history and the world according to their own design. So nearly everything we know in the “Hushlands” has been manufactured by them. Alcatraz, thirteen-year-old hero and self proclaimed not-very-good person, has lived in a series of foster homes. He has a Talent (with a capital T) for breaking things, so he doesn’t stay in one place for very long. When it comes time to claim his inheritance, the librarians beat it to him. Now, along with Grandpa Smedry, cousins Sing and Quentin, and a snarky teenage she-knight, Alcatraz must break into the Librarian’ stronghold: the downtown library. Alcatraz has to master his occulator lenses (each set does a different magic-ish thing) on the fly and rescue his inheritance from the evil Librarians.

At first, Sanderson’s writing seems sporadic and random—like it was written by a thirteen year old boy. But his technique is a little bit of genius, and as a fellow writer I had to pause to admire it. He’ll finish off a chapter with a massive cliffhanger and then completely stop the story to talk about how bad it is for a writer to leave his readers hanging like that. But he does it anyway, because he isn’t a very good writer. Yeah right. Just like Alcatraz isn’t a very good person. He’s only the hero of the story, after all, and Sanderson is just the author of a completely enthralling novel. The random things eventually click and the frayed edges come together to complete the tapestry.

In addition to the Alcatraz series, Sanderson also has the Mistborn trilogy (described on his website as “a hybrid fantasy, heist story, kung fu epic”), several standalone books, and he has also been chosen to finish Robert Jordan’s series The Wheel of Time (after Jordan’s death in 2007).

If the Weasley clan is your favorite part of the Harry Potter series, you need to pick up Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians. Its dominant asset is humor, but Sanderson never shortchange the conflict, action, or tension. Three books are already out, and there are two more in the works. By the looks of it, Sanderson’s imagination isn’t going to run out of quirky ideas anytime soon.

–originally published on blogcritics.org