Monday, November 30, 2009

The Thought Locker - Post-Thanksgiving-Holiday Sickness Monday Blues Edition

  • You know how people always tell you when you're having a tough time, "Just sleep on it. Everything will look better in the morning." Sometimes that works. Sadly, today it did not.
  • When I woke up at 4 AM from 8 hours of drug induced coma, my first 5 minutes of consciousness included these thoughts, in no particular order - "I should get up right now...if I get up now I'll be a zombie by 2 pm....didn't get the laundry done last night...what the hell am I going to wear I have clean pants or do I have to shave my legs?...crap! Addie's birthday is Thursday and I haven't sent a gift yet...where is that Pottery Barn Kids catalog....ugh, I can't breathe....*cough, cough, cough* now where is the Kleenex....haven't ordered Christmas cards yet...wonder how much I'll have to suck up for rush I really only have 3 weeks until I leave for Christmas?...hmmm, I'm in Irvine Tuesday for a meeting, so I COULD go see the Kings-Ducks game at Honda Center....arrghh that might be pushing still feel like crap....screw it, I'm going back to bed."

  • I wish there was a way to download the feelings you have during the best and worst moments in your life and save them for later. That way, when you're having a pity party along the lines of "I've never felt this sick in my life" you can go back to that previous time, relive the feelings and compare them to what you're experiencing now. It would really help me know whether I'm truly on the brink of death or not that sick and just complaining too much.

  • I just smeared Chap-Stick on my nose. Even with lotion-infused tissue, I still look like Rudolph and I can't stand it. My regular moisturizer isn't helping, so it was time for plan B. No idea if this will actually work or not. Then again, maybe supermodels have been keeping this a secret for years and were just too embarrassed to tell anyone it helps.

  • One unexpected benefit of cold medication containing anti-histamines is the temporary elimination of my oily skin. I normally would have blotted and re-powdered the shiny spots a couple of times by now, but I'm dry as the Sahara.
  • Sometimes there just isn't enough Starbucks in the world to make it better....

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

When most people think of Thanksgiving, similar images come to mind - visiting family, everyone seated around a huge table, an enormous turkey and all the trimmings, and football and parades on TV. For me, the majority of my Thanksgivings the past dozen years or so have always looked very different. Since my family is all back East and flying is expensive, I usually get home for only one winter holiday, and Christmas has always been my choice for obvious reasons.

To compensate, I've done some very creative and different things for Thanksgiving, from potlucks with friends to frisbee and a Thanksgiving spread on the beach in Malibu my first year here in CA. This year, I agreed to help a dear friend. Nadine and her husband were going back to Ohio to spend Thanksgiving with John's family, and she needed someone to watch the house...and be bossed around by one very large and spoiled dog.

Meet Bailey.

You're probably thinking he looks pretty innocent, but he's a 150 pound Great Dane-Mastiff-Pit Bull mix with a jones for doggie treats every 30 minutes and the ability to train people to bend to his every whim. Nadine and John have 2 other dogs, which were staying in the kennel because they're a lot to handle. Bailey is special, because he had a stroke about a year ago and is just now completely getting back to all the things he used to do. Because of that, Nadine preferred not to subject him to the stress of staying away from home, so I got to dog sit. In exchange, Nadine left me a complete turkey dinner in the fridge, and I got to spend 4 days and 3 nights parked in front of John's 62" hi-def TV watching NHL on the Fly and re-runs of cable movies. I think I got the better end of the deal.

Little did I know at the time I accepted the job, but Bailey did not plan on letting me lounge around on the couch. My job, as I quickly discovered, was to wait on HIM.

I arrived Wednesday afternoon after work to get instructions on the care and feeding of Bailey. It seemed pretty simple:
  • Feed him once in the morning when he gets up, and once in the afternoon between 4-5 PM
  • Several scoops of dry dog food in the morning, then the same amount of dry or 1/2 can wet food and half the amount of dry at night
  • Refill water throughout the day as needed
  • Make him go outside and pee before bed
  • Any other time he needs to go out, he'll stand by the back door
  • Small treats whenever during the day
  • One major treat after dinner every night
I had managed to get sick upon my return from Virginia the weekend before, so luckily this didn't seem like much to do. I would have plenty of time to rest and recuperate on the couch. Lots of naps. This is good.

So Nadine and John left, and things were fine with Bailey and I until it was time to go to bed. Nadine let me know he normally comes upstairs and sleeps on the doggie bed next to their bed, where I would be. As I got ready for bed, Bailey parked himself by the window next to the front door...and pouted.

I couldn't get him to come up the stairs on matter how hard I tried. So I left the hall light on and figured he would make his way up eventually. Not a chance. I knew he was looking for Nadine, and I felt inadequate, knowing there was nothing I could do to reassure him and we would just have to make it through the night the best we could.

He started barking every 20-30 minutes until 2 AM. If an ant moved outside, he barked. I know he was thinking that movement had to be the sound of Nadine and John's car. Bailey stayed downstairs. I got no sleep.

The next morning, I came downstairs around 6:30 am and let him out. He seemed happy to get some food, and I gave him a treat, hoping it would cheer him up a little. Then I went to Starbucks for my breakfast sandwich and coffee. I sat down in front of the TV to eat it, and Bailey sat in front of me, staring as I took each bite of my sandwich. I gave him the last bite because I felt guilty. I think he smirked a little.

Then I thought it would be fun to take some pictures to e-mail Nadine, to show we were doing OK. This look pretty much says, "Look lady, you seem nice and all, but you're not my real mom. I'm going to tolerate you because you're feeding me, but we're not best buddies. And please stop coughing on look sick."

A little while later, I'm taking a nap and feel a paw on my arm. Then a nose in my face. Then a howl. I slowly got up from the couch, thinking Bailey needed to go outside. I opened the patio door, and he stood there. I walked outside to see if he would follow me. He sat down facing the fridge, which is next to the door (and the treats are in the fridge). I walk back to the door. "Do you need to go out Bailey?" Silence, chops licked. "Do you want a treat?' Tail wags. I open the fridge door, and produce a treat, which he inhales, barely chewing. I walk away and he follows me. I sit down on the couch, and he sits in front of me. His paw comes up to rest on my arm. I shake his paw. The other paw comes up and I shake that one. Repeat with the first paw, followed up a "woo-woo" howl and a head turn back to the kitchen. I get up, go back to the fridge and produce another treat. BIG MISTAKE. He has now trained me to produce treats on command, which I continue to do every 30 minutes, until Mom and Dad get home.

NOW we are buddies. And I am Bailey's slave. Who says dogs aren't smart.

And my turkey dinner? He got some of that too.... Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Flat Stanley's Visit to JMU

Hello everyone, Stanley here again! Whew!!! What a busy weekend we had in Virginia! I was planning to write to you more often as things were happening, but there just wasn't time. So many people to meet and things to see! So now Meg and I are back in Los Angeles, and I finally have some time to tell you about my trip.

We got up early Friday morning to have breakfast with Mary's grandparents Al and Judy. Then Mary's Mommy Jennifer had to go out and run some errands before we left, so Meg and I stayed behind to visit a little longer. Then we loaded up the car and got on the road to a place called Harrisonburg!

Harrisonburg is home to James Madison University (JMU), where Meg and Jennifer went to college and became friends! They were both in a very big marching band called the Marching Royal Dukes, and they were having a reunion with some of their old band buddies. How fun! Meg and Jennifer had also not seen each other for a very long time, so they spent lots of time in the car talking about who they would see and what everyone was doing.

Harrisonburg is a really pretty place. The fall colors on the trees were beautiful, and Meg said that they're even more amazing along Skyline Drive, a road through the Blue Ridge Mountains nearby. We didn't have time to go there this trip, but maybe I can meet someone in Harrisonburg I can visit that can take me there!

Our first stop was Downtown Harrisonburg.

The area we stopped in is called Court Square, because the county courthouse is right in the middle of the intersecting streets. Harrisonburg is a city located in Rockingham County, which is one of the counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia (Meg said that was my little geography lesson for the day).

But more importantly, Court Square is where we were meeting some of Meg's friends for lunch at a place called Jess' Quick Lunch.

Jess' is famous for the chili dogs, and they're really good...and really cheap! A dog, french fries and a soda was less than $5. MUCH better than that expensive lunch at the airport yesterday! I could have eaten about a dozen of those chili dogs, but it probably would have upset my tummy, so Meg stopped me at two.

Then we grabbed Meg's friend Michelle, who I remembered from her visit to LA with HER STANLEY! Hopefully I get to see him later! Michelle flew from New York City (where she lives) to Richmond, Virginia, which is about 2 hours away. She borrowed a car from her Mom and Dad and drove in for the weekend. So many people from so many places!

Anyway, Meg, Michelle and Jennifer took me "Krogering," which means grocery shopping. It's called that because the store is named Kroger, but when the girls were in college they used to call it Krogering.

We went to pick up sodas and stuff for the weekend, and also to do some shopping for a good cause. The current JMU students were collecting food for the local food bank, so people less fortunate could have a nice Thanksgiving dinner. Wow, that's right...Thanksgiving is next week! I LOVE macaroni and cheese, so we got lots of that, as well as some canned vegetables.

Then we went over to Bridgeforth Stadium, which is on the JMU campus, for band practice. It's been a long time since Meg or any of her friends marched, so they definitely needed it! Don't tell her I said that though...I don't want to hurt her feelings.

Jennifer and Meg were both in the drum line, although for some reason Meg was going to try to toss a flag in the air. I think drums are much cooler, thank you very much!

After we practiced, we had time to watch the REAL Marching Royal Dukes, and I was very impressed! They have over 450 people out on the field, so they're really loud, but the music was really good too! I couldn't wait to see more at the football game tomorrow, but it was getting dark.

Then we went over to the music building to learn a little bit about the history of the band. I also got the see The Sudler Trophy, which is awarded to the best college band in America. JMU didn't win it while Meg was there, but they did it a few years after, and everyone who was part of the band up until that point got a commemorative pin. That's a pretty amazing award since there are lots of bands at colleges everywhere!

That was the end of the first day at JMU, and the girls stayed up REALLY LATE talking, but I went to bed because I knew Saturday would be even busier!

Saturday morning, everyone had to get up early again for MORE practice! They sure do take this band business seriously at JMU. I guess that's why the band is so good. But when I saw this awesome pile of leaves, I just had to jump right in! I've always wanted to jump in a pile of leaves, and it was just as fun as I imagined.

After practice, we took a walk around campus. It's really pretty, and all the buildings in the main part, which is called The Quad, are made of something called Bluestone, which is only found in this area. This building is Wilson Hall, which is the main administrative building on campus, and located right in the center of The Quad. It's the most photographed building on campus, so if you see a postcard of JMU, Wilson Hall is probably on it!.

After lunch, we met back at Bridgeforth Stadium, and I ran into Michelle's Stanley! I was so excited to see him, we thought it would be fun to do a picture together inside the Duke Dog's mouth. Duke Dog is the JMU mascot, and he looks pretty scary, but don't worry...this is only a statute and he doesn't really bite! It's a good thing, otherwise we'd be in BIG trouble.

Then it was time for the football game! It was so sunny and nice out, which made it even more fun to watch.

We sat up in the stands with the band until it was time for everyone to go on the field and do what's called a Half-Time show. It's called that because it happens in the middle of the game, while the players are taking a break.

We could even turn around and watch the game on a big video screen behind us! This could be really useful if you had someone very tall sitting in front of you and blocking your view, but we were lucky so I could see from either direction. I really love football!

So JMU won the game, the band was great, and Meg had fun with all her friends. I was very sad that we had to leave the next morning, but Meg said she would get to come back next year. Maybe I can find a way to visit her again, because JMU certainly was fun!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Flat Stanley Goes to Virginia (and Learns About Flying)

Hi everyone! Today was an incredibly busy day, and Meg and I spent the entire day traveling across the country from Los Angeles to Washington, DC. We're headed to James Madison University, where Meg went to college with Mary's mommy, Jennifer. They are having a little reunion with the Marching Band, and I am very excited to see what that's about. But first, let me tell you everything that happened on the way there!

We had to get up VERY EARLY this morning for our flight out from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The first thing I learned today is that every airport in the world has a 3 letter code. When we checked our suitcase with the airline, they had to put a tag on it with the right code to let the baggage people know where to send it so it would be waiting when we got there. Since we are headed to Washington DC's Dulles International Airport, you'll notice the white tag on our suitcase says IAD.

Then we had to go through a security process, with metal detectors and X-rays and all kinds of cool stuff to look inside the little suitcase we were taking on the plane. I wanted to take pictures of that, but Meg said the airport people get very upset because security checks are very serious and you have to pay attention. I want to make sure I get to Virginia, so I did what Meg told me.

Once we got through security, it was time for breakfast. Luckily, they have a Starbucks store here at the airport so Meg could get her favorite coffee like she does every morning. But they didn't have her regular breakfast sandwich, so we found a different one with egg and bacon on yummy sourdough bread. It cost $13, which sounded like a lot of money to me. Meg explained that food is very expensive at the airport because you don't have a lot of options and they can pretty much charge whatever they want. At least the sandwich was good, and we were sure hungry!

Then we went to the gate and waited until they were ready to board the flight.

When they were ready to load the plane, the nice people at Southwest put up signs so we would know which line to wait in. We were in A, which boards first, because Meg travels a lot and the people at Southwest like to let their best customers get on the plane first.

Once we were on the plane, the flight attendant encouraged us to read the safety instructions for the plane, so we would know what to do in case of an emergency. Our plane was a Boeing 737, so they have instructions for this specific plane and put the number on the cover to make sure you have the right ones.

There are a lot of things to know about planes, so I liked that they included pictures. I think I understand it, but I sure hope nothing bad happens during the flight because that would be scary. Meg said we would be fine and I believed her. After all, she travels a lot so she should know.

Once the flight got underway, the nice Southwest people came by and gave us all kinds of snacks so we wouldn't be hungry during our trip! I can get used to this flying thing!! The Chips Ahoy cookies were my favorite.

After a few hours, we arrived at a place Meg called Chicago, which is a large city in the state of Illinois. Chicago is so big, it needs more than one airport to get people there, and the one where we landed is called Midway.

Meg explained that we were not going to stay here long, because we still had to get to Washington and we were just stopping for a break here. Another plane was going to take us the rest of the way. But I had enough time to have a little fun here in Chicago.

Soon it was time to go to the gate to get on our next plane. Boy, am I glad to be traveling with someone as experienced as Meg! There sure is a lot involved in this flying thing.

I do hope the weather is nicer in Virginia than it is here, because from what I know about marching bands, they don't like to get wet.

One the second leg of our trip, Meg was really tired and decided to take a nap.

I was way too excited to sleep, so I decided to look out at the clouds since we had a window seat this time.

Finally, we arrived in Washington, DC., the nation's capitol. Our suitcase was waiting for us just like Meg said, so those magic airport codes really do work!

Then Meg made a phone call to Mary's grandparents, who live near the airport. They came and picked us up, because we are staying with them tonight and driving the rest of the way to JMU tomorrow. While we were waiting for Mary's mommy Jennifer to arrive, we went to dinner. Boy, was I hungry after such a long day, and I like seafood!

After a big dinner of crab cakes, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw and hush puppies, I could barely keep my eyes open! Time for bed. Tomorrow....JMU!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Flat Stanley Learns To Be A Good Sport

Hey everyone, Stanley here! I feel like every time I turn around, Meg and I are going to ANOTHER hockey game! But this is what life with Meg is like, and while I'm her guest I have to go with the flow.

Tonight was one of our most fun hockey games because I got to meet another one of Meg's friends! This is Tammy, and she and Meg work together at Progressive. And apparently Tammy likes hockey too!

I was a little confused about Tammy though, because she was the only person sitting with us that wasn't wearing a Kings jersey. Her outfit matched the other team! We don't like them, because we want the Kings to win, so I asked Meg why Tammy got to wear the other team's shirt at a Kings game.

Meg explained that Tammy grew up outside of California, near the city where this other team was from. She watched them since she was a little girl, so even though she lives in LA now, she still likes to support her hometown team. Meg also said that part of being friends with someone is understanding that they don't always like the same things you do, but you should respect their opinion anyway because differences are what make people interesting. I can certainly relate to that, being flat and all. I'm different than lots of people!

When the game was over, Tammy was happy because her team won, which meant Meg was a little sad for the Kings. But Meg also congratulated Tammy on her team winning, because she explained that part of playing a game means you have to be a good sport when someone beats you fair and square.

These hockey games sure are teaching me a lot. I asked Meg when the next one is, because I like learning new things. She explained we were going to learn a lot of new things this coming weekend, because we were going on a trip to Virginia. Boy, Meg sure leads a busy life! I'd better get some rest, because the next time I get to write something, I'll be talking to you from another state!

The Beasts from the East: Kings vs Flyers

When people ask me why I got interested in hockey, I usually give some predictable answer about the exciting pace of the game, the good looking players, etc. But the reason I forget to mention, that is probably the one that keeps me so interested in spite of the constant ups and downs of my team, is hockey people. As a group, you won't find smarter, more interesting, passionate, loyal, and open-hearted folks on earth. The longer I'm around hockey and the more hockey people I meet, the more I know I'll love this game forever.

So it makes sense that one of my very best friends from work is also a hockey fan!

My regular readers have heard me talk about Tammy Good before, mostly in the context of music since she's my regular concert buddy. But she is also a former athlete and passionate fan of all things Philadelphia, since she grew up in good old Lancaster County, PA. Hence, she is a Flyers fan. So on the occasion of the Flyers visit to Staples Center, she donned her Rick Tocchet jersey and joined Nadine and I for the game.

I gotta give Tammy credit. She was emphatic in cheering for her boys, but in a totally respectful way recognizing she was sitting in a Kings season ticket section. And since she's the one person besides Nadine I know that has a million crazy stories about meeting famous people in everyday situations, they had a great time chatting throughout the game. I don't think I could have shut them up if I tried. Tammy, you will be invited're like a regular now!

And it was an even better night for Tammy because the Flyers handed the Kings a 3-2 loss. We weren't terrible, but we didn't have our game plan together at all, and we pretty much handed Philly the game. Drew gave it a valiant effort with a great slap shot to bring the Kings within 1 goal of a tie, but we just couldn't get it done.

"We didn't show up to play, and that's why we lost the game,'' Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "The first two periods, we weren't too solid. It wasn't like we were playing that bad. We just let them have three easy goals. We can't have that. We talk, and watch video on our D zone all the time, and when we make little mistakes like that, it's tough and we've got to learn from it.''
(quote courtesy of the LA Kings Official Website)

How can he be so cute and so wise at the same time? It's a mystery. But speaking of cute boys, let's see what Tammy's Flyers had to offer, shall we?

OK, Dan Carcillo is looking a little scuzzier that the last time I saw him. The move from Phoenix looks like it was rough on him.... The term "rode hard and put away wet" comes to mind.

Whoa...who is this? Prehistoric hockey man? Not a good look.

And Scotty Hartnell, the freak of hair nature. I never dreamed a MAN could put me to shame in the uncontrollable hair department, but I concede defeat to Scotty. There isn't enough hair product on the planet to control that!

Finding a good looking guy in Philly's line-up is kind of like bargain shopping at T.J. Maxx. You know the really great deal on the Michael Kors silk blouse is in there somewhere, but you have to sort through a lot of really bad polyester to find it. But when you find it....MAGIC!

Thus, I give you the magic that is Mike Richards. O.M.G. I'm speechless.

And this time we got a two-for-one special in the hot men department, courtesy of London, Ontario's own Jeff Carter. Drew is from London too. There must be something in the water there that produces these amazing, gorgeous hockey men.

Jeff is one tall drink of water. Tammy was mesmerized. I have a picture of her getting a great shot of his butt, but some things weren't made for the blogosphere and should be kept between friends.

Next up for the Kings will be the visiting Calgary Flames on Saturday, 11/21. It will be the first home game of the season I'm missing, since I will be back in Virginia at JMU Alumni Band weekend. I just hope the Kings don't play better without me around, because I'll get all superstitious about that.

Until next time, GO KINGS GO!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Battle Studies: My Album Review

After listening to the new John Mayer album constantly since it arrived on my doorstep, I've come to the conclusion that Battle Studies is a terrible title. A better one would be "The Curious Case of John Mayer." Why? Because in the constant duality that is John's universe, somehow this album manages to take a step forward (musically) and a step backwards (thematically) at the same time. Leave it to John to perform that feat and still have me end up thinking, "Damn, but the bastard is talented."

In a way, 2006's Continuum almost set John up for failure this time around. That album was so strong, top to bottom, that it had to be hard to envision a follow-up that could top it. And in fairness, I don't think John really tried to accomplish that. I think he set out to make a good set of pop songs that most people would like listening to, and in that respect he succeeded. But for hard-core Mayer fans like myself, the stakes are higher, and for that reason this album left me happy, but not completely satisfied.

Long time Mayer followers are well aware our muse has a split personality - half lovelorn balladeer and ladies man, half second-coming of Clapton-guitar God stature shredder. Part of the greatness of Continuum was it's ability to merge the two sides so seamlessly they seemed made to be together. In the case of Battle Studies, much of the music is stunningly beautiful, but the heartbreak feels forced and too overwrought to be sincere. Make no mistake about it - no one crafts more intelligent and insightful lyrics than John Mayer, and the ladies (present company included) that swooned over phrases like "I'll never let your head hit the bed without my hand behind it" will find plenty to like here. Whether the emotion is real or contrived is the question.

Musically, the guitar is still the center of the party, although the sounds are more varied on this record than anything John has used before. His past efforts have included a very distinctive Stratocaster sound which is sadly missing on this record. Yet the choices are unique and beautiful across the board, and I'm liking this slightly different side of my favorite guitarist. Keyboards are also much more prevalent in the mixes this time around, and although not credited in the liner notes, there are additional backing vocals that do a nice job rounding out the sound.

With that little summary in mind, here is my track-by-track review of John's latest effort.


Track 1: Heartbreak Warfare
This is one of the songs on the album that feels the most immediately radio friendly. The music is so catchy, I wish the theme was more upbeat. Although this IS a clear winner in the creative lyrics sweepstakes. Anyone who can work in the lines "Red wine and Ambien/You're talking shit again" to a song has some serious lyric writing chops. The synthed-up intro hooks you and doesn't let go, so in the end it gets a thumbs up, and provides a solid start for this record.

Track 2: All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye
For me, the vocal harmonies in the chorus are the big draw of this song. They're simply gorgeous, and when I close my eyes it sounds almost reminiscent of The Beach Boys. "I love you more than songs can say" is the kind of lyric that hooked legions of fans in the Room For Squares era. Overall though, the thematic tone of the song is a serious downer.

Track 3: Half of My Heart
I was prepared not to like this track just because of Taylor Swift's involvement. Not that I don't like her, but because the whole concept of having her guest on the album just seemed too gimmicky, and maybe even beneath John's talent level. But I like it, the lyrics are tongue-in-cheek romantically ("Half of my heart is the part of a man who's never truly loved anything"), and it's gonna be an instant hit. This track was made for radio. Taylor really just comes in dominantly at the end, but if you listen closely you can hear her singing along with the entire chorus.

Track 4: Who Says
John debuted this little ditty at the "Secret Show" I saw at the Troubadour back in August , and based on this recording it was pretty much finished by the time I heard it performed. He tweeted at the show that he was finishing the lyrics in the bathroom, but I'd have to dig up the bootleg recording I made of it at the show to tell you for sure. Musically, it feels like a reworked version of Stop This Train from Continuum, but I suspect the lyrics most honestly reflect John's current romantic notions ("I don't remember you looking any better/Then again I don't remember you"). Cheeky and cute, it would be a radio hit except for the references to getting stoned. Always the rebel....

Track 5: Perfectly Lonely
This track features a more bluesy sound reminiscent of Continuum. Come to think of it, this song would have fit in perfectly on the last album. The chorus is catchy, and features more nice vocal harmonies. This has potential to turn into a great concert singalong at shows this winter..."I'm perfectly lonely....yeah."

Track 6: Assassin
It took me a while to get into this track, because there's a lot going on. The obvious grab is the storytelling nature of the lyrics, which cast John as a stealthy Lothario leaving a trail of broken hearts in his wake, until he meets his match in female form ("I'm an Assassin and I had a job to do/Little did I know, that girl was an Assassin too"). Combined with the music, the song feels like a smoky bar tryst on a foggy night by a river somewhere. Then the guitar solo hits, the underlying groove picks up, and I picture John soloing the shit out of this in concert. And dammit, it whole thing just works. The Assassin hit his mark. I'm toast.

Track 7: Crossroads
This cover of the Robert Johnson blues classic is interesting as a stand-alone piece, but it's inclusion on this album left me scratching my head. Where the Jimi Hendrix Bold As Love cover fit Continuum perfectly thematically and musically, this song accomplishes neither. The deconstructed, synthed out guitar sound is a brave and interesting choice, but John has covered this song so many times in concert SO MUCH BETTER. It feels like something thrown in at the last minute to satisfy the hard core guitar folks that are gonna buy this record hoping for another John Mayer Trio project. Either that, or Steve Jordan and John were sitting in the studio sequencing the record and said, "Man, this album is a needs some energy" and decided the toss this in to bring the excitement level up a little.

Track 8: War of my Life
If Crossroads left me scratching my head, this song didn't restore my faith that things would get sunnier. Thematically, this song is a huge downer, and the music doesn't contribute anything interesting. Determined to give it a chance, I listened to this song over and over to make sure I wasn't missing some hint of buried genius. I wasn't. By far, the low point of the record and the one true throw-away song on this album.

Track 9: Edge of Desire
This is romance as only John Mayer can do it - conflicted and passionate but not syrupy ("Don't say a word, just come over and lie here with me"). "I want you so bad I'll go back on the things I believe" is my favorite lyric on the entire record, and the music has the potential to be big and anthemic played live. Or it could be stripped down, played acoustically, and rip your heart out. This is why I love John.

Track 10: Do You Know Me
This track is simple, beautiful, and meditative. The guitar arpeggios flowing under the chorus are the musical high point of the album for me, and the lyrics are like a little poem set to music. The entire feeling is like a beautiful dream, and I love it more than I probably should. It's music for cuddling in front of a fire on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Track 11: Friends, Lovers or Nothing
Another radio friendly pop song, without too many bells and whistles and just the right amount of guitar. And damn you John, it's catchy and the lyrics are honest with a touch of well placed humor ("You whisper 'come on over' 'cause you're two drinks in) It's as upbeat as anything else on the record, and feels like the right place to end thematically.


The bottom line is that once again, John Mayer proves he's the king of mid-tempo, well-crafted pop songs. Battle Studies isn't the best album John has made, but it's still worth the investment, even if you're not an ardent fan. And his current reputation with the ladies aside, the likelihood is that the longest love affair John will ever have will be with his guitar. I, for one, like it and hope it stays that way.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Flat Stanley Explores How People Live in LA

Whenever I visit a new place, I think it's always interesting to see how people live. LA is a very unique place, with it's own kind of style. For example, houses seem to have a lot of windows, probably because the weather is so nice all the time and it's nice to have the sunshine come in all year long.

Some houses here are even built of unusual things, like these glass blocks.

And some people build houses in strange places like hill tops, so they have a nice view of everything.

And then there are places like Meg lives, in really tall buildings like the ones in downtown Los Angeles.

Meg's building is 18 stories tall, but it's not even close to being the tallest building in the city. We can even see some that are twice as big right from the courtyard where Meg lives.

Because these buildings are so tall, you have to use elevators a lot. Meg's building has 3 elevators, and this fancy panel that tells you what floor each one is on at any time. Then you know how long you have to wait for the next one! That's a pretty cool system!

Meg lives on the 5th floor, so luckily we don't have very far to go.

There are other things that are special about living in a really tall building and sharing space with lots of other people. One is how you get your mail. Since so many people live here, you can't have a mailbox out on the street like a normal house. Otherwise, the sidewalk would be full of mailboxes and no one could walk anywhere! So Meg gets her mail from this little locked box in the wall down in the lobby. If anything is too big to fit in the box, the people that work at the front door leave her a message so she can come pick it up from them.

And one thing that's really different is doing laundry! All the washers and dryers are in one big room in the basement, so you have to share with everyone else.

And you also have to pay for every load you wash and dry. Each machine has this little card reader attached, and it works like a credit card you recharge with money. That certainly makes things a little more complicated.

The only bad thing about living in such a big place is not having a back yard. It's a shame to have such nice weather, but no grass to play on! Maybe I can talk Meg into moving down to the beach...