Sunday, February 28, 2010

Running Essentials: L.L. Bean vest

Ooooh I love this vest. Seriously, it might be illegal in some states how much I love this vest.  I first got it for my birthday in June 2008. So into my closet it went for nearly six months while I waited for the temperature to drop enough for me to wear it.

Finally, it did and ohmygosh most amazing article of clothing ever. It's got tons of pockets for my iPhone, tissues, extra gloves, keys, anything. And the fit - oh the fit. I buy this vest in size Medium and it fits me absolutely perfectly - as if the L.L. Bean designers snuck into my room, measured me, and then designed the vest with my measurements in mind. It fits nice and snug but not too tight. I've got plenty of room to breathe and move. It's made of wicking fabric so it pulls the sweat and moisture away from your body while you run and since it is a fleece material, it also keeps me snuggly warm!

Typically I layer this vest over a long sleeved technical t-shirt. If it's raining, I put on my Nike rain windbreaker (similiar here - I got mine off the Dick Sporting Goods clearance rack in January 2008) which provides no warmth but does provide extra protection from the elements.

Over the summer, during my vacation to Alaska, I wore my vest over a tank top for extra core warmth during a mountain hike. See - it's versatile too! (This is just one of three photos of me with animal statutes in Sitka, Alaska - oh I do amuse myself!)

I asked for, and received, a second vest for Christmas this past year (in Tidal Teal - pretty pretty!) then a few weeks later I noticed that the vest was on sale for $22 each! I snagged two more immediately (in Black and Meadow Violet). The next day the price was back up to $39 so somebody running the website must have messed up big time - hehehe not before I got two new vests though!

Of course for serious cold weather running (I'd say anything below freezing), you should definitely invest in a running jacket (mine is similiar to this), but for less frigid days, this vest is absolute perfection!

Happy Running!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Queen Songs of the Week: Drowse, I'm In Love With My Car, and Other Songs in 6/8 Time

Ah did you think I'd forgotten about the Queen Song of the Day? No, no sillies - I could never forget about my Queen boys in Queen.

Occasionally, two of my three latest obsessions converge and create absolute greatness. For example, shopping for running gear. Or running while listening to Queen music. Here, we have what can only be described as the Obsessions Trifecta - Queen related things that can be purchased for use during running. Did your head just explode? Yeah, I thought so.

I go through periods of running with and without music. Sometimes the thought of not taking my iPhone with me is absolutely horrific and just as often the thought of bringing it along makes me ill. After running in silence through the fall of 2009, I started bringing the iPhone with me again around Christmas-time fully stocked with Queen and Roger Taylor solo songs.

As I ran, I began to notice that there were a few songs that naturally seemed to mimic my pace. This is crucial when running - if the tempo of a song is too fast or too slow, your body tries to compensate and you end up going the wrong pace. For an easy run, my recommended pace is about 11:30 per mile. Sure, that seems slow, but the point of an easy run is that it's...well...easy. So I trot off for 5 miles or so at a 11:30 per mile pace and the idea is come race time, I'll be able to run much faster (this does actually work - I ran my last 10K at a pace of about 10:30 per mile and I never do my training runs that fast).

Anyway, I digress. So some of these songs were naturally mimicking my pace. The songs were Drowse and I'm In Love With My Car. They soon became my favorite easy run songs and when I felt myself getting a little carried away with my pace, I'd put one of these two songs on to get myself back on track. In the interest of full disclosure, yes both of these songs are written and sung by RT; however, I felt pretty confident that this wasn't the reason why I so enjoyed running to these songs (because I've got his solo songs on my workout mix and didn't feel the same way about them).

Onto the songs, which are actually both two of my favorite and the impetus for me checking out RT's solo stuff.

Drowse is from the album A Day at the Races, originally released in 1976. RT wrote and sang lead on this song. The lyrics of Drowse are especially strong (especially for RT) as they reflect on youth and better days lost. Dr. May plays the slide guitar but RT tackles the rhythm guitar, drums, and vocals on his own. I especially like the two segments of this song with the first two verses sung in a high falsetto and then a more rock end of the song. Unfortunately, this is not a song that RT performs live (even way back in the day) - I would love to hear his interpretation of this song now (and made a special request that he play it in the question I submitted via the Queen Online website a few weeks ago). *fingers crossed!*

I'm In Love With My Car is from the album A Night at the Opera, originally released in 1975. RT wrote and sang lead on this song which to this day remains a favorite for him to play in concert. Originally when RT pitched this song, Dr. May thought he was joking. RT so much liked this song that he alledgedly threatened to lock himself in a cupboard until Freddie Mercury agreed to make it the B side to Bohemian Rhapsody. This song is a perfect example of RT as a songwriter: growling (almost shouting) vocals mixed with high notes (using both falsetto and his chest voice), great drums (which he manages to play while singing!), and tell-it-like-it-is lyrics ("Told my girl I had to forget her. I'd rather buy me a new carburetor.")

This song is also a great reflection of the fact that RT's voice remains in top form to this day. This version of the song is from the Queen Rock Montreal Blu Ray filmed in 1981. This version is from the Queen + Paul Rodgers 2008 tour. Recorded 27 years apart and RT's voice still sounds just like it did when he first recorded the song in 1976. (And for anyone interested in bloopers - check out this version. Poor RT forgets the words and Freddie Mercury has to help him out.)

Back to the trifecta...

I did a little bit of research and discovered that they are both written in 6/8 time. Now I know absolutely nothing about music, but I have at times in my life had flashes of musical brilliance regarding beat. I subconsciously pick up on things like whether the song's time is unusual or different when most people just listen to the song itself. 6/8 time is relatively unusual for a rock band to use, but, for some reason, it really worked for Queen and quite a few of their songs were written in 6/8 time. So armed with this information, I can now shop for more Queen songs written in 6/8 time that I can use for running!

Other 6/8 Queen songs:
A Winter's Tale
Somebody to Love
We are the Champions (I refuse to link this. You've all heard it.)
Millionaire Waltz (some portions)

I own some of these but am very much looking forward to purchasing the rest. The obsessions trifecta indeed!

Happy Listening!
Happy Running!
Happy Shopping!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Happy Birthday Alan Rickman!

Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely adore Alan Rickman. Well today is his 64th birthday!

Nearly everyone has seen Die Hard and the Harry Potter movies (he played Hans Gruber and Professor Severus Snape, respectively), but if you're interested in checking out some of my favorite less popular movies here's a short list:

Galaxy Quest (Alexander Dane/Dr. Lazarus) - absolutely hysterical parody of sci-fi conventions

Something the Lord Made (Dr. Alfred Blalock) - true story about the first attempt at open heart surgery and the underlying racial tension

The Search for John Gissing (John Gissing) - Alan as a grumpy and devious, but likeable man about to lose his job (but not if he can help it); a real dark comedy

Snow Cake (Alex) - I spent years trying to track this movie down (it had a very limited DVD release in the U.S.); it's a sweet story about friendship and loneliness

And everyone be sure to go see Alan Rickman in theaters on March 5 when Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland is released (he plays the Caterpillar).

Happy Birthday, Alan Rickman!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Queen font announcement

I have procured the Queen font. This is very cool and I'm sure it will bring me a tremendous amount of amusement! I have also figured out how to transfer said font onto my computer and from there into my blog which makes me basically a genius. 

You can download it here.

Queen Song of the Week: Seven Seas of Rhye

This week's song is Seven Seas of Rhye, written by Freddie Mercury. This song appeared in full on the band's second album Queen II; however, a short snippet was included on the band's debut album Queen (the song wasn't finished in time to end up on that album).  This song is considered Queen's first hit: it reached #10 on the U.K. charts in 1974.

Seven Seas of Rhye begins with an amazing piano part played by Mercury. The rest of the band join in with a great guitar riff and awesome drum intro and the song transforms into a mellodic yet hard rocking piece. Mercury's lyrics are straight-up fantasy based on a mythical world he and his sister had created as children. True to Queen form, Dr. May and RT provide some great background harmonies and, when listening alone in my car, I particularily enjoy attempting to recreate Mercury's blistering high note ("Belong to you forever!") (in retrospect, that could be RT - in any event, it's freakin' high!) The only negative about this song is that it is relatively short (less than 3 minutes), but nonetheless worth checking out.

Happy Listening!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Running Essentials: CW-X tights

I've written about cold weather running before. In New England, I have to deal with it starting in November and lasting through March. Typically a regular running pant is enough, but on those super frigid freezing days, I get out my CW-X tights. A salesman at my local running store first showed me these tights in fall of 2008. He assured me that they were absolutely amazing, that he could run in temperatures below 0 and be totally comfortable, that the "Support Web" bands would keep my muscles fresh and stabilized, and then at the end of my run, the tights would balance my checkbook.

Well, he didn't say that last part, but he might as well have. I just smiled and nodded at him and told him, "Maybe next year." I walked out of the store laughing to myself, "Over $100 for running tights? He has got to be insane." That year winter came along and I froze my way through training for a half marathon. By the spring thaw, I eyed the CW-X tights again. This time I found them on sale at my favorite running gear website and I had a 20% off coupon. I figured, "What the heck," and submitted my order.

Oh my gosh! The first time I wore these tights, I felt like maybe I should seek out my local running store salesman and apologize to him because honestly and truly these tights are amazing! I ordered them in black/grey, size Large. Now, they are tights so they are...well...tight. CW-X should make shapewear for work because these babies suck you in! I usually pull on a second pair of pants or a running skirt for modesty purposes.

The pants are lined with a nice warm fleece-like material which keeps me warm in super cold and super wet temperatures. I've worn these tights on 8 mile runs in pouring freezing rain without an issue. They are a bit short on me (I'm 5'8") so I usually wear some higher socks as opposed to my usual no-shows. That keeps my bare ankles covered and warm. The "Support Web" is really neat too - my legs feel less fatigued on runs when I've worn my tights and I'm less sore the next day. There's a key pocket in the waistband and a drawstring (as if I'd want to make these babies any tighter!)

When I bought these, I ended up paying about $75 for them, but honestly they are worth the full retail price of $110. If you live in New England (or Antarctica, same difference) and run in the winter, you need these tights!

Happy Running!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Queen Song of the Week: '39

One of the really unusual things about Queen is that despite having who many would consider the greatest frontman of all time, they recorded several songs where other band members took over on lead vocals. Throughout the 1970s, RT sang most of the songs that he wrote, but Dr. May sang far less of his compositions (likely because he wrote many more songs than RT did!)

This week, the Queen Song of the Week is '39 from A Night at the Opera, written and sung by Dr. May. '39 was chronologically Queen's 39th song and was released as a B side to You're My Best Friend in 1975.

I will admit I heard this song many times, usually in the background to real life, and never thought twice about it. Then I saw this particular video. Because Dr. May sings this song, Queen has been able to replicate it relatively accurately in concert since it was written. The band would come to the front of the stage, gather around a few microphones and sing together while Dr. May sat and played guitar. This video really caught my attention because it taps into the sad (even haunting) mood of the song by linking together live performances spanning 30 years. That means, performances with Freddie Mercury and more recently performances without him. Really beautifully done. Also take note of RT's ridiculously high notes (I'd say singing but it is really more of a shriek, isn't it?) at both the beginning and the bridge of the song. At the very end of the video, poor RT throw his tambourine into the air, but doesn't catch it, so it hits him in the face. Adorable!

To hear a genuine live version of '39 (unfortunately with no video) sung by Freddie Mercury and including live falsetto by RT, check out this version from the Queen: Live Killers album. I remember once reading an article where RT commented that people thought that his falsetto had been overdubbed in the studio so for one entire tour, he went ahead and sang all the high parts to show that he really could hit all those notes. Unfortunately I can't find the article right now, but the search continues!

Dr. May wrote this song about a man who goes into space to search for a better world. When he returns, he discovers that time has passed for him much more slowly than it did on Earth and now he's approximately the same age as his grandchildren. Twilight Zone buffs (like me) will appreciate this storyline which is rather similiar to one of my favorite episodes. Perhaps that's why I have a particular appreciation of this song.

According to the band, the musical arrangement of this song is a bit of a "sci-fi folk song" (I can't recall if RT or Dr. May said that, but it's from Classic Albums: A Night at the Opera - Part 1 available here or the entire documentary for sale here). Regardless of who said it, the description is absolutely perfect. Dr. May's guitar is the focal instrument with RT playing only the bass drum and tambourine and John Deacon playing minimal bass. This allows additional emphasis on the harmonies which are absolutely stunning, especially in the last two repeats of the chorus.

Despite the song not being released as a single and not being a typical "Queen" song, it is very much a fan favorite at concerts with Dr. May encouraging the crowd to sing along. It's really amazing to watch the videos of live performances where Dr. May stops singing but the crowd continues on without him. What a great atmosphere!

Happy Listening!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Queen Song of the Week: Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy

This week I've picked another song that is very distintive of Queen's "sound" but yet also completely different from anything else going on in music at the time (or even now): Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy from A Day at the Races, written by Freddie Mercury and Dr. May.

This song is pure camp (hence the photo). It is a catchy melody with fun lyrics, great harmonies (especially at the end - the "there he goes again. It's my good old fashioned lover boy" part might be my favorite portion of any Queen song ever recorded!), and proof that this was not a band that took itself at all seriously (I would again reference the photo but sadly I think that all four members probably thought they looked seriously hot in this photo - oh the 70s!)

This song is the only Queen song to feature a non-member on lead vocals (remember Under Pressure is billed as Queen and David Bowie and everything with Paul Rodgers was released under Queen + Paul Rodgers). Mike Stone, the band's producer, takes over the lead vocals for two lines of the song ("Hey, boy, where'd ya get it from? Hey, boy, where did you go?"). In concert, RT sang these two lines. The song was played in concert through the 1970s, often as a medley with Killer Queen.

Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy was the band's fourth single off A Day at the Races. It peaked at #17 on the charts and was recently covered by Jason Mraz on the CD Killer Queen: A Tribute to Queen (His cover is considered one of the few passable ones on the CD).

Happy Listening!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Into the Blogosphere

The point of this blog is not to talk about my job. In fact, I go out of my way to not talk about my job. Earlier today, I mentioned a stressful few days that I had in store and how I wished it was Tuesday afternoon. Well, part of that stress was because in my area of law, clients don't always take my advice. I can go through every detail with them a dozen times and make my recommendation, but at the end of the day, our course of action is their call. I have to go along with it.

In this particular situation, I have a client who I was terribly afraid would not take my advice. I've met with this client several times, but still wasn't sure until this afternoon what the client was going to decide.

Today my client decided to follow my recommendation. My client signed all the necessary documents to do what I had suggested.

Are you ever in a situation where you get exactly what you want and still feel like crap?

I did the right thing. I know I did the right thing. I had confirmed it with three other people in my office, including my boss. But the right thing isn't always the easy thing and I have a feeling that the emotional drain that I feel today is going to pale in comparison to how I'm going to feel on Tuesday when we finally get in front of the judge.

After my meeting with my client, I went for coffee with a co-worker. Then I went to Anthropologie to try on some pretty things. It made me feel better momentarily and the fact that it did ultimately made me feel worse. My life is so easy that a pretty blouse can bring me out of the funk that I was in all day today. I wish I could say the same for my client...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Broadway Bound?

So I came across this article today. Apparently Duncan Sheik (who to this day the mere mention of his name gets his annoying catchy one hit song stuck in my head - "And I am barely breathing. I can't find the air...") and a writer for the television show Big Love (which I do watch and enjoy) are teaming up to write a musical based on the movie "American Psycho."

I'll repeat that: a musical based on the movie "American Psycho"

Now, don't get me wrong, I love me some Christian Bale as much as the next girl, but even I cannot deny his absolute creepiness in that movie. I mean, have you seen it?!?!!? He drops a chainsaw down the stairs after a girl. A chainsaw!

Where am I going with this, you ask?

Oh, readers, don't you know me by now?

To Queen, of course. 

Several years ago, Dr. May, RT and Ben Elton co-created a musical based on Queen's music. We Will Rock You has been playing for seven years, primarily in London but occasionally elsewhere throughout Europe and one brief stint in Las Vegas. (And potentially soon at the high school where my mother teaches as I demanded that she request the rights to perform it! I will be in charge of publicity, i.e. convincing RT and Dr. May to show up on opening night as they frequently do abroad.)

I've not seen it, but it looks freakin' awesome (I mean it's a Queen musical. That in and of itself is amazing!)

Why have I not seen it? Well, because We Will Rock You has not yet come to Broadway.

Just last month, Dr. May addressed the issue on his website (Thu 21 Jan 10, Queen and America). Basically he says: "No, no we haven't forgotten about the U.S., but we're so much more popular elsewhere. And what if the show gets bad reviews - you Americans don't like us as much as the English did so we wouldn't be able to survive them." I'm paraphrasing, obviously. Dr. May is very diplomatic as he explains that Queen won't bring We Will Rock You to Broadway because it might not be a success because Americans don't like Queen as much as the rest of the world does.

Here's where I disagree.

To say that Americans don't like Queen is garbage. In December 2009, Billboard (the American publication) released the top selling albums of the decade (2000-2009), Queen: Greatest Hits is number 6 on the list. Not convinced? We Will Rock You (the song) was recently named the most-played song at NFL, NHL, and MLB games last season (2009).

So to say Americans don't appreciate Queen is a bit of a cop-out, don't you think Dr. May? We seem to appreciate you an awful lot given that you've basically ignored us for the last twenty-odd years. Imagine if you actually paid attention to us! Mamma Mia is a tremendously successful musical based on the music of ABBA. Using your logic, Americans must love ABBA. The truth is that most Americans, myself included, probably know a few songs. That doesn't mean I still can't enjoy the musical (or in my case, the movie based on the musical).

I daresay that Americans have a much stronger affinity for Queen as a band than we do for ABBA. If you stand behind your show, you should bring it to America. Give us the chance to show you that we Americans appreciate Queen. You're right - most Americans probably don't know the Queen catalog backwards and forwards like I do, but they never will until you start actually marketing over here!

Um, and one last thing, Dr. May: American Psycho: The Musical is potentially coming to Broadway. I think us Americans might be ready for We Will Rock You.