Saturday, July 31, 2010

New Weekly Feature: Keep on Running

This blog is supposed to be about Queen, fashion/shopping, and running.

I've got the fashion/shopping part covered. Between my daily What I Wore posts, Anthropologie Fitting Room Reviews, Fashion Challenges, and Outfit Polls, I think a good 75% of my non-working/sleeping day is spent shopping, thinking about shopping, or writing about shopping.

The Queen part, I've been pretty good about too. I've stuck to my plan of highlighting a Queen Song of the Week every Friday, detailed meeting Dr. May, wished the boys birthday wishes, and occasionally ranted about various business decisions.

The running part?

Eh - not so much. Sure, I ran some posts called "Running Essentials" but running is a pretty straightforward sport. Once you have a couple of things, you're pretty much good to go. I have a few more that I can write, but that's not enough to properly feature the third component of my blog.

I've also been slagging off a bit in my training. This summer has been the most hot and humid that I can ever remember. The temperature hasn't dipped below 70 degrees (nights included) in weeks and the humidity is frequently about 75%. In the winter, my treadmill is a viable option, but in the summer, it's a recipe for heat stroke: there's no air conditioning in that room and no matter how many fans I set up, I cannot generate enough air circulation to make me not want to die.

This is a bit of a problem, however, since my fellow princesses have convinced me to run my fourth half marathon in October.

Hence, my new weekly feature "Keep on Running", loosely based on Designer Me's Monday Training Posts (click here) and named after a song originally by the Spencer Davis Group that Roger Taylor recorded (and didn't release) during his 1984 Strange Frontier sessions.

Basically I'm going to post my half marathon training plan every week and then I'll say which workouts I successfully completed. If I have a good week and follow the training plan, you will all congratulate me and I'll be happy. If I have a bad week and slag off, you will all yell at me and I'll be publicly embarrassed.

See? Fun for everyone!

To generate my workouts, I use the SmartCoach training program on the Runners World website. You have to be a member of Runners World to use SmartCoach, but membership is free. I plugged in my recent 10K time of 1:05:00, selected a 10 week training program, that I typically run 15-20 miles a week, and that I wanted a moderately hard program.

I'm also going to try to work in yoga at least twice a week. Occasionally, I'll combine shorter runs (like the 2 milers this week) into one longer run.

Now, here comes the fun part: did I stick to my workout schedule for Week 1?

Sunday:          Yoga
Monday:         2 mile easy run
Wednesday:    5 mile tempo run
Thursday:       Yoga
Friday:            2 mile easy run
Saturday:        7 mile long run

What this week has taught me is that not running in the hot/humid weather makes running much more difficult that a tough run in hot/humid weather. Typically your pace slows in the summer, but when you combine that with basically being lazy for an entire month, your pace ends up essentially a crawl. The best thing I can say about my runs this week is that I got through them.

I will say this though: already this feature is having an impact on my training. At about 3 miles in today, I really really wanted to call Husband and make him come get me, but then I thought to myself, "Geesh - I can't run the silly feature for the first time and not have completely made it through all the runs," so I sucked it up and got through 4 more miles. Hopefully this shame will carry me through the next nine weeks until the Diva Half Marathon.

So Week 1 of my Half Marathon Training Program was a success. You can now commence the obligatory congratulatory comments!

I'm off to the Red Sox game now. I'll be back tomorrow with the wrap-up and final outfit in my 18 for 18 Challenge.

Happy Running!

And GO Red Sox!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Queen Song of the Week: New Dark Ages

Since Dr. May got a special Queen Song of the Week in honor of his birthday on July 19 (click here and here), I thought it was only fair that RT got one this week in honor of his birthday on July 26 (click here).

RT's birthday coincidentally falls at the same time as I am finally gathering together all of the CDs by The Cross, his side band. I received Shove It, the band's 1988 release, for my birthday, I won Blue Rock from 1991 in a $15 ebay experiment, and am currently hunting for their 1990 release Mad Bad and Dangerous to Know.

Blue Rock is frequently the topic of hot conversation amongst Queen fans. It's widely praised as the best CD released by The Cross (which honestly isn't saying much as Shove It and Mad Bad and Dangerous to Know are rather dreadful in places) and for many fans, it's one of Roger's best, if not the best, "solo" CD. Here's where the controversy enters: RT didn't write most of the songs on Blue Rock. In 1991, he was dedicating most of his time to Queen and his family (his third child was born that year).

That said, is it fair to consider Blue Rock a RT CD? Without him, The Cross wouldn't exist and his songwriting on Shove It/Mad Bad and Dangerous to Know certainly set the tone for the band's songs. On the other hand, is it really fair to give RT credit when it was his band mates who penned the majority of these songs which are so good?

Then again, there's debate as to whether this album can even be considered a great album. Is the only reason anybody even knows it exists because of RT's affiliation? Would it be great when held up against other great albums? Or is it only great because an album like Shove It, for example, is in comparison so bad.

I'm of the mind that without RT, there is no band called The Cross. And honestly, though he didn't write many of the songs on the album, the band, either consciously or subconsciously, have very similar songwriting styles to his. On a few occasions I had to check the liner notes to see who had written a song and was surprised to find that certain songs were or were not written by RT.

I also don't think the album's low sales have anything to do with whether it's a good album. Blue Rock didn't sell well because it wasn't promoted. The Cross was already frustrated with their record label for failure to promote Mad Bad and Dangerous to Know. Then just as they were determining how to proceed with this release, Freddie Mercury died and RT pulled the album and its single resulting in the extremely limited release that the album had.

Regardless of how one feels about the album as a whole, it's generally accepted that New Dark Ages, the second track on the album, is one of the strongest songs that RT has ever wrote. So in honor of RT's 61st birthday, New Dark Ages is this week's Queen Song of the Week.

New Dark Ages was written by Roger Taylor. It was released as a single only in Germany in 1991 and did not chart.

The story goes that RT originally proposed the song to Queen during the Innuendo sessions in 1991. Upon reading the lyrics, bassist John Deacon basically threatened to quit the band if Freddie were made to sing the song. The lyrics are available here - I don't think I need to elaborate on why they may have upset John. Rather than press the issue, RT took the track to his band mates in The Cross and they recorded the song.

Not having ever spoke to RT or John personally, I obviously can't say whether this story is totally true. But I will say that it is a rumor that has floated around for some time and was confirmed by someone who I consider a very reliable source (who wouldn't have said something unless he felt convinced of it's accuracy). On his Soapbox, however, Dr. May has stated that he doesn't recall RT bringing this song to the band. I'm not aware of RT ever making a public comment about it so we'll likely never have the full story on the song's origins.

The song itself is great and treads the fine line between being a regular commercially popular song and a "Roger" song. I consider a "Roger" song one that no one else on the planet could have gotten away with writing - whether due to the lyrics or some studio sound effects or, in some cases, a combination of both. Sometimes, the song turns out to be a disaster and sometimes it's comes together beautifully. In this case, it's the latter. And frankly, I can't say I'm sorry that Queen didn't record it because RT's voice really adds a lot to the song.

Happy Listening!

And Happy Birthday RT!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Happy Birthday Roger Taylor!

Today is Roger Taylor's 61st Birthday! Happy Birthday, Roger!

I'm pretty sure that everyone knows that RT is my favorite member of Queen (although after Friday night, Dr. May has certainly upped the ante and is giving RT a run for his money!). RT is the reason why I'm a Queen fan and since branching out to his solo stuff I've really come to appreciate that as well.

Husband always says that it looks like RT takes himself so seriously because he doesn't smile on any of his album photos. I've tried telling Husband that RT is, in fact, a bit of a goof, but he doesn't believe me. So in celebration of RT's birthday (and to prove Husband wrong), here are some pictures of RT being goofy!

This one was published in Mick Rock's book and is from the early to mid-1970s

The writing on this photo says its from 1993, but that doesn't seem right to me. I'd say this is from the mid-1980s. In any event, is this a photo that RT should have used as an album cover, Husband?

Or perhaps this photo, taken during the video shoot for I'm Going Slightly Mad.

And who can forget this one from I Want to Break Free?

Or here (RT's on the right) with Freddie Mercury (center) on the set of Freddie's solo song The Great Pretender.

Should we be concerned that our boy likes dressing in drag so much (and for that matter that he looks so darn good as a woman)? Here's another more recent one:

Supposedly this is RT on the right. I truly don't see it, but a very reliable source claims it to be true. I do always say that RT went through a rather dodgy looking period in the mid-90s when this picture was taken.

Sometimes his costume is slightly less elaborate though:

But our boy just doesn't have fun on video shoots and at costume parties, I'm not quite sure what he's doing here, but Dr. May certainly seems amused.

 And RT is an animal lover too - I wonder what Dr. May would have to say about this one?

I tried to avoid photographs when RT was obviously intoxicated, but this one is just too funny to not post:

Happy Birthday Roger! Don't celebrate too much!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Meeting Dr. Brian May

I could sit here and try to think of a catchy title for this post, but no matter what I come up with, it won't convey the absolute amazingness that was last evening: I met Dr. Brian May!

Husband and I got up early. I took the day off, but he had work to do so we drove into NYC at 7am so he could work out of his firm's Times Square office. I dropped my stuff off and ventured out to Rockefeller Plaza for my first Anthropologie visit of the day. While there, I spotted two lovelies that I thought would be just perfect to wear that evening: the Artist's Pallette Necklace and the Bright Bulb Posts.

In my What to Wear to Meet Brian May poll, Jenny from notjustaprettyface suggested a big statement necklace to make a conservative dress more "rock star meeting" appropriate. I thought that was a great idea and these two pieces definitely fit the bill!

While out shopping, I got caught in the rain...twice. Oh my gosh - I was so worried about my bangs! I brought make-up and a new outfit to change into, but my hair had been given the task of looking adorable all by itself all day without any performance enhancing substances! Luckily the heavy rain started right as I was outside Banana Republic so I ducked inside. The second time I was a block away from my second Anthropologie of the day. Phew! Crisis averted!

Soon it was time to get ready at Husband's office. What dress won the poll?
Well it was a close race between the Swirling Villages, Surplice Dress from Anthropologie and the Silk Dress with Ruffle V-Neck from Ann Taylor Loft. In the end, two things made the decision for me: first, that the skirt on this dress is much fuller and I knew that I'd need to squat down to take a photo with a seated Dr. May and second, once I realized that the Swirling Villages, Surplice Dress had actually villages on it (and the book signing was for A Village Lost & Found), it made me a little self-conscious so I was much more comfortable in this dress!

We got to the Metropolitan Museum of Art early. I had been so worried about not getting a cab and it's a good thing too: between the rain and the fact that people uptown can apparently afford cabs (as opposed to the students from my old stomping ground at NYU!), it took us a while! Forgive me for not smiling in the above picture - I was seriously trying to get a cab!

Once at the Met, we located the lecture hall and then wandered around a bit. I knew that just sitting there would make me nervous so I tried to distract myself.
Practicing my "posing" one last time in the Egyptian room.
 Would you like a piece of my pecan pie? PE-can pie!

Dear Anthro,
Please make the pattern of this chair into a skirt. That is all.
Love, Kathleen

Then, at last, it was time. If we didn't go in, we were in danger of missing the presentation. We got special 3D glasses which kept me amused for the final few minutes. Husband and I took a picture together but he won't let me post it!

The lecture was really amazing. I've seen stereoscopic photographs before, but I've never been able to properly see the 3D image. In order for us to understand what they were talking about, they showed the photographs on a large screen using a projector. Since the photographs are of a village, several times I felt like I wanted to just crawl into the picture and lay down in the grass!

Dr. May was a great speaker and really made an effort to include Ms. Vidal in the lecture. On one occasion, an audience question was whether the time period in which the photos were taken (1850s) has some profound affect on him since many Queen songs have a bit of that old-fashioned sound to them. Dr. May gave a short answer and then said, "What do you think, Elena?" as if she had any grand insight into what he had written his songs about! It was rather funny to watch her reaction!

After audience questions, it was time to filter into the Museum Store for the signing. By the time we got in line, it wrapped around the store. Dr. May had said at the start of the lecture that both his daughter Emily and Queen's longtime manager Jim Beach were in attendance so we tried to find them while we were waiting. We found Emily (more on that later), but not Jim Beach. Too bad because a picture with him would have been an unexpected surprise!

The line moved rather quickly. I had thought we'd be there all night, but the Museum staff was taking over duties like handing him the book and telling him the person's name. Husband kept walking to the front to do surveillance and figure out what would be appropriate (I was still worried that I wouldn't get the picture that I wanted!) Dr. May was spending a fair amount of time with everyone though so that was encouraging and then finally about twenty minutes in, Husband reported that a middle aged gentleman had practically crawled into Dr. May's lap for a photo. "Great," I announced, "I'm a young girl. He definitely won't mind if I do that!"

While we waited, I chatted with the girl ahead of me and the man behind me. Both had only found out about the signing in the past few days! The girl had driven down from Buffalo and said that she had brought a Queen CD with her in case he would sign that. I told her that I, too, had a CD: Back to the Light. I didn't know if he was signing memorabilia though. The man behind us told us that he had seen Queen in concert during the News of the World tour in 1977. He was 11 years old and it was his first concert. I was glad for the company in line. Husband was there and was a tremendously good sport about the whole thing, but it was nice to have other big Queen fans there to keep me from completely freaking out!

Then we got closer. At one point, a few people in front of us stepped to the side and THERE HE WAS! The girl in front of us and I both squealed simultaneously at the sight of him. Luckily, that was my first and only fan girl squeal of the night. We both pulled out our CDs and asked the Museum staff if he was signing other things. "You can ask him," she told us, "He's been very nice about signing things."

At this point, Emily May, who had been sitting behind Dr. May the entire time, realized that the girl in front of us was alone. She walked around the table and offered to take the picture. So I'm standing there, collecting my nerves, telling the Museum staff my name for the autograph, and trying not to throw up and all of a sudden I look over and there's Husband chatting up Emily May! I suspected that he might chat with Ms. Vidal, but his daughter? Husband, let the record reflect that if you want to divorce me and marry Emily May so we can kind of jointly both be Dr. May's son-in-law, I'm totally on board with that!

I was next. At this point, I'm a little perturbed. I appreciated the staff lady taking my book and telling him my name (because otherwise, who knows what name I would have blurted out), but she kept insisting that after the photo, you go around behind Ms. Vidal back to the front of the table to chat. Well after my photo was taken, I felt like she was trying to move me around and if I had gone around the back, she would have brought in the next I stayed put...right next to Dr. May. I feel so bad because I didn't even look at Ms. Vidal, but I wasn't going to mess up this opportunity.

As he was signing my book, he said, "Nice to meet you, Kathleen." He looked up and smiled and I said, "I want to get a picture too." So I squatted down and we kind of fumbled over who was going to put their arm over the other persons. We both looked at each other and giggled a bit. I swear - he giggled. It was a total moment. And then the picture was taken. Husband had figured out a way to set the camera on a speed setting so we got FIVE pictures! The fourth is the best: we're both smiling and his eyes look so warm! This is right before the last picture in which he has pursed lips as he's asking, "Did you get it?"

Then the Museum staff made her salary for the night: she reminded me that I had brought Back to the Light for him to sign and HE DID! Then I handed him my card. I had wanted to give him a belated birthday card, but also a card to write all the things that I would have said if I had unlimited time and wasn't a bundle of nerves. Here I am explaining that to him. Look at how attentively he's listening to me! And he's holding my card! When I told him I was nervous, he went, "Oh no," and reached up to touch my elbow. That's when I died!

Afterwards, we went to dinner at our favorite NYC restaurant, Becco's. I was so pleased with the evening: an interesting lecture, two signed items, and six great pictures! Dr. May has a reputation for being one of the nicest celebrities ever and I totally understand why. Even Husband said a few times afterwards how impressed he was with him. He was genuinely interested in what people had to say and took time to speak with every single person!

Here are my signed book and CD. I told Husband that if RT wants to continue being my favorite member of Queen, he needs to write a book and get over to the U.S. pronto because as of last night, I am officially a little in love with Brian May!

Thanks to everyone who humored me over the past few weeks. To say I was excited is certainly an understatement. I'm thrilled to death that I've met a member of my favorite band! I started to tear up after we left the Museum Store just because in my wildest dreams, I couldn't have imagined him being as nice as he was. He really is a wonderful and talented man.

As I mentioned I hit up two Anthropologies during the day on Friday so to make up for all the Queen talk recently, I'll post a bunch of fitting room reviews next week!

All I can say now is: 1 member of Queen down, 2 to go!

That means you, RT!

Book Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

This book was recommended to me by a reader as a possible beach read. When I walked into the bookstore two days before we left for our vacation it happened to be the first book I saw so I grabbed it. Then earlier this week I was having an extensive conversation with someone about a boy with a dragon tattoo and I realized, "Whoops - I wanted to do a book review."

So here is my book review on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson.

I was about halfway through this book before I realized that it is the first book in a series of three. It seems the books aren't connected in any way other than the two main characters, Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. I was glad to see that there were additional books because: 1) Mikael and Lisbeth don't even meet until more than halfway through this first book and 2) this book ends rather abruptly after it ties up the loose ends of the mystery that the pair are solving. Knowing that there are two more books to look forward to is definitely a good thing (although also a sad thing - author Steig Larsson wrote the three books, delivered them to his publisher and then died shortly thereafter so they are releasing the three books in quick succession).

I liked this book nearly immediately. The chapters bounce back and forth between following Mikael and Lisbeth so the reader can slowly piece together information about their lives without getting sick of them. The story revolves around Henrik Vagner, an aging businessman who hires Mikael to solve the mystery of his niece's disappearance some 40 years ago.

When I'm reading a book, I like to imagine what the main characters look like. It helps me personify them more. Usually this image changes in my mind as I make my way through the book, but sometimes I am able to identify a specific person of whom a character reminds me.

Here's the description of the first time we meet Henrik Vagner, "He looked surprisingly vigorous for eighty-two: a wiry body with a rugged, weather-beaten face and thick grey hair combined straight back. He wore nearly pressed dark trousers, a white shirt, and a well-worn brown casual jacket. He had a narrow moustache and thin steel-rimmed glasses." (p. 85)

In this case, here is what I'm absolutely convinced Henrik Vagner looks like:
It's RT! Now granted, RT's about twenty years younger (more so when this picture was taken) than Henrik and I wouldn't necessarily call his body "wiry" these days, but otherwise, it's a perfect match.

And to prove that I'm not just being silly, here's a picture of the actor who played Henrik Vagner in the 2009 Swedish adaptation of the book:

Yeah, I thought you'd agree. You're forgiven for doubting me.

So there you go, my review!

What? You want more?

Really? It's not enough to tell you that one of the main characters made me think of a member of Queen. Ugh - alright then.

Maybe I'm a dork but there's a whole culture of Russian literature that I really like. I adored Crime & Punishment. I've read Anna Karenina (twice). Mr. Larsson was Scandinavian, but elements of this book fell into the same category as the aforementioned Russian novels. For example, he alternates calling characters by their first and last names based on the context and the character speaking. I can't tell you how many times I had to reread portions of Crime & Punishment before I figured out that Raskolnikov, Rodion, and Rodya were the same person. So in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, sometimes it's Lisbeth and other times Salander, sometimes Mikael and sometimes Blomkvist - luckily, unlike Dostoevsky Larsson doesn't also give the characters random nicknames that readers are left to suss out for themselves.

Another element which reminded me of the Russian novels which I adore is the dialogue. There's lots of dialogue in this book. I like that. Nothing bores me more than pages and pages of description about what a certain archway in a particular garden looks like - BORING! This book moves quickly and Larsson gives just enough information so that the reader is coming to the same conclusion as the characters at about the same time. That makes me feel smart and I like feeling smart when I'm reading (because otherwise, why would I bother reading? I'd just do what I really want to do which is sit mindless in front of the television watching reruns of Family Guy. Seriously.) And, unlike the Russian writers, Larsson rarely launches into a three page string of one sentence statements with nary a clue as to which character is speaking - again, much appreciated and makes me feel smart.

The plot is a straight-up mystery. There was a crime (or was there?) and Henrik Vagner would like Mikael Blomkvist to figure out the perpetrator. Through a series of not so random events, Mikael eventually hires Lisbeth Salander to assist him in solving the crime. Initially the crime itself is straight-forward enough. Henrik's niece Harriet disappeared forty years ago. Henrik suspects that she was murdered by someone in the family and wants Mikael to discover who. Right around the time Mikael and Lisbeth finally meet up, clues begin to link Harriet's disappearance to something much more large scale and by the end of the book - HOLY CRAP, I'm sleeping with the lights on tonight! It gets dark and it gets dark fast.

Throughout the book, readers get glimpses into Mikael and Lisbeth's personal lives, but they are just that: glimpses. As I read the last page, I didn't feel like I really know Mikael or Lisbeth at all. I knew I liked them both, particularly Lisbeth who comes across as a sort of kick-ass, feminist, regular person/super hero hybrid. If you've read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (one of my favorite books), she was very Howard Roark-esque: she does her thing and could really care less what anyone thinks of her.

Henrik, on the other hand, not so much. Throughout the whole book, he comes across as this kindly old man but by the end, I was mad at him.

Actually I was mad at Roger. I tend project anger like that. I'll have a dream where Husband does something to upset me and I wake up mad at him. So here, I had no Henrik to be mad at and Husband really hadn't done anything wrong this time, so my anger ended up directed at Roger.

All I can say is, "Not cool, Roger. Not cool."

I'd definitely recommend this book and I plan on picking up the second book in the series The Girl Who Played With Fire and eventually the third book The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. I'm not sure when I'll get a chance to read them as I'm not planning any more vacations, but who knows, I might even be tempted to read these books while not on vacation.

I know, right? I must really like a book when I start making crazy statements like that!

Happy Reading!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Queen Song of the Week: Too Much Love Will Kill You

I've gone on (and on) about RT's solo work, but while he was the first member of Queen to launch a solo career, he's not the only member. Both Dr. May and Freddie Mercury had solo projects of their own so in honor of Dr. May's birthday, which was on Monday (click here), I'm featuring one of his solo songs as the Queen Song of the Week.

Dr. May has released two full solo studio albums: Back to the Light in 1993 and Another World in 1998. He's also released a live album Live at Brixton Academy in 1994, the Star Fleet Project album in 1983, and the soundtrack to the movie Furia in 2000. I'd polled some other Queen/Brian May fans and the general consensus was that Back to the Light was the album to which I should listen first.

With this in mind, I requested and received Back to the Light for my birthday last month. Abbie and Izzy (the dogs) were sweet enough to buy me the CD and I was excited to listen to it. So Husband and I played my new CD for the first time on the way to the MMRF race. I wrote down our initial reaction because I thought it was rather funny. I was slightly worried when I wasn't crazy about the album, but have since discovered that it takes most people 2-3 tries to appreciate.

Here's a quick synopsis of our conversation during the album:

The Dark (an instrumental intro to the album)
Husband (Erroneously thinking we're listening to Taylor Hawkins & the Coattail Riders' self titled first album). Wow, he's taking this Queen thing a little seriously. Why is there an overture that sounds like Queen?
Me: Brian May likes overtures. He wrote them for a few Queen albums.
Husband: Oh this is Brian May? Weird.

Back to the Light
Husband: Wow, he's really straining to reach those notes, isn't he?
Me: I think you have to consider Brian May's solo work to be a trade-off of sorts as contrasted with Roger Taylor. With RT, you get a great voice but the songs aren't written/arranged as well, but with Dr. May, you get better written/arranged songs and a weaker voice.

Love Token
Me: Did RT write these lyrics? They are straight up 100% literal and absolutely not what I'd expect from Dr. May.

I'm Scared
Husband: Did he just say "scaredy cat?"
Me: (Checks the liner notes) Yup

Last Horizon
Me: This reminds me of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure!
Husband: Wyld Stallyns!

Let Your Heart Rule Your Head
Husband: I like this song.
Me: Yeah, Dr. May does well with the random folky, bluesy genre (see '39 here)

Overall Impressions
Me: I'll give it another listen. I didn't like Electric Fire the first time I heard it and now it's my favorite RT solo album. Dr. May at least deserves the same consideration that RT got.
Husband: Brian May really is a "guitar virtuoso". The guitar solos were all amazing, but there were too many. I guess that's what you get with a Brian May album though...

But, readers, I did listen to the album again. Several more times in fact and it really is a great album! It takes some getting used to Dr. May on lead vocals for every song and I'll be honest, his voice is nowhere near as good as Freddie's or even RT's, but he does sing well!

The highlights of the album for me are Back to the Light (which remained stuck in my head for the first week after Husband and I first listened to the album) and Resurrection (featuring the late drummer Cozy Powell and probably written an octave too high for Dr. May's comfort zone, but nevertheless has a great riff and beat!)

This week's Queen Song of the Week is the first song on Back to the Light that really grabbed me. I will admit, however, that I had already heard the song prior to getting Dr. May's album so it still took me a few listens to really appreciate.

Too Much Love Will Kill You was written by Dr. May, Frank Musker, and Elizabeth Lamers. It was released as a single in the U.K. in 1992 where it spent 9 weeks on the charts, peaking at #5.

Queen recorded a second version of the song with Freddie Mercury on vocals (click here). That version appeared on Queen's 1995 album Made in Heaven. It was released as a single in 1996 and peaked at #15 on the U.K. charts.

A topic of discussion amongst Queen fans has long been whether Dr. May's version or Freddie's version is better. Personally, I prefer Dr. May's version: it's much more emotional whereas Freddie's version is better on a technical level and Freddie's version gives the song a bit too morbid of a twist for my liking (especially considering the song appeared on the album released four years after Mercury's death...from AIDS).

Now for anyone interested in checking out a Queen member's solo career, I'm always going to recommend starting with RT's solo stuff. But once you've acquired all seven of his solo/The Cross albums, definitely consider branching out to Dr. May's solo material. I plan on getting Another World, his second solo album, next and when I do, I'll review it for you all!

Happy Listening!

Happy Belated Birthday, Dr. May! I'll see you later today!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Meeting Brian May: What Should I Wear? (A Princess of Taylor Poll)

Currently, Dr. Brian May, best known as the guitarist in Queen, is touring the U.S. on a book tour and signing for his stereoscopic book "A Village Lost and Found" (click here). Last weekend, he was in Ohio, this weekend he's in NYC, and next week he's in Philadelphia. Anyone who has even come across my blog in passing over the past few weeks knows that this Friday I will be heading to NYC for a lecture and book signing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (click here to purchase tickets). I'm going to meet Dr. May. There's no maybe about it - I'm going to his book signing and though I've never been to a proper book signing, one thing I do know is that the attendee gets to meet the author.


A signed book is fine, but my big hope for the book signing is a photograph. I think it would be awesome to use for my blog banner, the redesign of which my sister has temporarily put on hold in anticipation of this photo being taken.

Though I'll be the first to admit that Dr. May isn't my favorite member of Queen (that honor will always go to my dear RT), I've really come to appreciate him recently. His devotion to his Save Me campaign has really impressed me - so often celebrities talk about a cause, but rarely do they take action. And since RT seems to have some sort of an aversion to the U.S., John Deacon is totally out of the public eye, and Freddie Mercury is dead, this is likely my only chance to meet a member of my favorite band.

In short, this is a big deal.

I've identified four potential dresses to wear to meet Dr. May on Friday. I've listed Pros and Cons for each dress. These Pros/Cons won't be a definitive list, but just a jumping off point. By Thursday, I'll have a winner identified and then hopefully on Saturday, I'll be posting a glorious picture of myself with Dr. May.

To the dresses!

Option 1: Secret Treasure Dress, Anthropologie
Pros: Cotton, comfortable, pockets, complies with Kendi's challenge (click here)
Cons: Too bright? Wrinkles easily.

Option 2: Silk Dress with Ruffle V-Neck, Ann Taylor Loft
Pros: Brown (which my mom claims will make people, i.e. Dr. May, trust me), from my blog's namesake
Cons: No pockets. Wrinkles easily?

Option 3: Banana Republic Dress
Pros: Pretty coral color, nice pattern
Cons: No pockets. Very form fitting (i.e. minimal eating that day...which is probably a good thing!).

Option 4: Swirling Villages, Surplice Dress, Anthropologie
Pros: Pockets, complies with Kendi's challenge
Cons: Comfortable to sit in? Wrinkles easily.

So everyone please vote by Thursday. EDIT (thanks to Lisa's comment for reminding me) - I have the option of changing somewhere before the signing so I won't have to wear my outfit around the City all day beforehand! So keep that in mind when voting!

Usually I ask for advice from readers with a general opinion that I'm hoping to confirm, but not this time. I have no clue what to do so this decision is basically going to be up to you so don't fail me now!

Thanks to everyone for voting! Hopefully on Saturday I'll post a picture of the winning dress WITH BRIAN MAY!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Happy Birthday Brian May!

Happy 63rd Birthday, Dr. May!

Dr. May has kept busy in recent years. In addition to his continued work with Queen (and with stereoscopic photographs and black holes and badgers, see here), Dr. May has found time to record two solo albums (available here and here).

He's also written two books (see here and here), but those deal with stereoscopic photographs and black holes.

Be sure to check back on Friday because in honor of Dr. May's birthday, this week's Queen Song of the Week will be a song from his first solo album Back to the Light.

Here's a picture of Dr. May this past weekend at the National Stereoscopic Association's Convention in Ohio. After the presentation, the NSA surprised Dr. May with a Red Special birthday cake. Of course, all photos were taken with a stereoscopic camera! (Click here to visit Dr. May's website and view all the photos).

Happy Birthday Dr. May (I'll see you on Friday in NYC, dear!)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Queen Song of the Week: Say It's Not True

In 2005, Dr. May and RT teamed up with Paul Rodgers (of Bad Company and Free) for a world tour. In 2008, they released a brand spankin' new studio album The Cosmos Rocks. While the Queen + Paul Rodgers tours in 2005 and 2008 were well received by fans, the album is considered by many to be a disaster of gargantuan proportions. Personally, I don't own it and I've only heard a few songs off it so I'll reserve judgment. The studio version of Say It's Not True appears on The Cosmos Rocks.

The version of Say It's Not True that's on The Cosmos Rocks is nice enough; however, my favorite version of the song is this one which is available on Queen: Return of the Champions, a live album from 2005.

What's the difference?

The studio version of the song from 2008 features RT, Dr. May, and Paul Rodgers sharing lead vocals: they each sing a verse. The live version from Return of the Champions features RT on lead vocals for the entire song. The latter version is also acoustic and more poignant than the former version which gets really heavy at the end. Lyrically, this is one of RT's strongest songs. Like in Man on Fire (reviewed here), he uses a metaphor and I really wish he'd attempt this more often because he truly excels at it. The tune of the song can be a bit monotonous, but I think RT does a good job of alternating the end notes to mix it up a bit. RT appears to enjoy singing this one live too because he sang it solo at the Band du Lac concert (see here for his performance and see here to purchase the Blu Ray).

RT originally wrote the song for Nelson Mandela's 46664 campaign against HIV/AIDS so obviously the subject matter is something near and dear to his heart. I think the tone of the song is better suited to his voice and he hits some rather lovely high notes in the live version of the song. You can also see he's getting a bit emotional at the last line ("Could be happening to you. Could be happening to me.")

In one of Husband's frequent rants about how he thinks RT takes himself so seriously, I tried to tell Husband that RT actually does some serious charitable work and isn't just all talk (or all lyrics, as the case may be). In response, Husband spat out, "Who does he think he is? Nelson Mandela?" To which I squealed, "Yes! He works with Nelson Mandela's 46664 campaign!"

I decided to feature Say It's Not True today because Sunday July 18 is Mandela Day 2010, a global initiative proposed by 46664 and the Nelson Mandela Foundation as a day to honour and celebrate Nelson Mandela and his legacy. Nelson Mandela Day includes a series of events involving interactive art, entertainment, music, film, educational outreach and community service with the hope of inspiring people around the globe to embrace their individual power to make an imprint and help change the world around them for the better. (This is taken straight from the 46664 website which I've linked at the bottom of the post).

RT wrote this song for Mandela Day in 2005. He and Dr. May then rerecorded it with Paul Rodgers for The Cosmos Rocks, but made the song available for free download on the 46664 website. Eventually they decided to release the song as a single and donate all the profits to 46664.

RT and Dr. May's work with 46664 isn't their first foray into charitable work. Following Freddie Mercury's death in 1991, they (along with John Deacon, long time Queen manager Jim Beach, and Freddie Mercury's long time friend Mary Austin) established the Mercury Phoenix Trust as a vehicle to distribute the money raised during the 1992 Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert (see here to purchase and here to view the most famous bit, George Michael singing Somebody to Love). The Trust has continued to raise money over the past two decades and has a number of projects currently in the works. In 1995, RT, Dr. May, and John Deacon donated profits from the studio album Made in Heaven to the Trust.

For more information about the Mercury Phoenix Trust, visit their official web page here.

For more information about Nelson Mandela's 46664 Campaign, visit the official web page here.

Happy Listening!

And Happy Mandela Day 2010!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Queen Anniversary: 25 Years Since Live Aid

Confession - I just woke up. It's 11:45 EST and I've had a long 24 hours. Our flight left Cabo San Lucas at 3pm EST (1pm Cabo time). Our second flight from Atlanta was supposed to take off at 9:30pm. Then it was 10:45pm. Then 11:15pm. Then 12:15am. I think we finally took off sometime around 12:30am. We landed around  3:15am, got our bags, waited for our ride and arrived home around 4am. Oh my gosh am I glad I didn't have to go to into work today - even now I'm so tired I can barely see straight! Husband has already loaded pictures onto the computer so I'm hoping to pick out some nice ones to post later tonight so watch out for that.

But in the meantime, it was brought to my attention that today is the 25th Anniversary of Live Aid.  Of course, most people know that Live Aid was an international concert organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. The concert was actually a pair of concerts: one at Wembley Stadium in London and one at John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, PA. The concerts were also broad casted live on television across the world.

Queen was invited to play at the Wembley Stadium concert. They accepted and 25 years ago today, gave what is considered by many the greatest live show ever. Seriously, if you haven't ever seen Queen's Live Aid show, you are doing yourself a disservice.

The band only had approximately 20 minutes on stage so they selected a mix of their most popular hits: Bohemian Rhapsody, We Will Rock You, We Are the Champions, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Hammer to Fall, and Radio Ga Ga. Just to watch the crowd of 75,000 (all of whom weren't even necessarily Queen fans) clap along to Radio Ga Ga demonstrates what a tremendous hold Freddie Mercury had over all audiences. Truly amazing!

I'll hopefully be back later, much more rested, fed, and less cranky with some photos. We had an amazing time and I'm sad to be home, but glad that this weekend my family is in town and then next weekend is Dr. May's book signing!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Product Review: Dr. Scholl's Bliss Sandal (from CSN Stores)

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was offered a $40 gift certificate by Caitlin at CSN Stores in order to write a product review.

Hm, so you want me to shop and then write about it? I already do that. And I don't even have to spend any of my own money? Where do I sign up?

I looked around the CSN Stores website to find something to buy with my $40 gift certificate. Immediately, it occurred to me that I should take this opportunity to make one last attempt to find some comfortable and supportive summer sandals for our vacation to Mexico. I've purchased and liked the Dr. Scholl's brand of shoes before so I zeroed in on their Bliss Sandals. They were cute, with a cork base and cushioned insole, and, best of all, pink suede! Priced at $29.95 and free ground shipping - bingo!

I placed my order on a Wednesday morning and around dinner time, received an email that my order had shipped. Wow - that was fast! I always get so annoyed when it takes a company days to put my order together so this was a pleasant treat! The shoes arrived exactly one week later - I had been tracking them online and there appeared to have been some sort of hold-up in Missouri. My hope was that they'd arrive with time to spare before vacation and they certainly did.

I was excited to see the shoes in person - they look just like the picture on the website. The suede is a pretty baby pink color. The shoe looked a little narrow which worried me, but luckily I had sized up and a 9.5 fit perfectly. The cork sole is rather comfortable. I remember my mom having wood soled Dr. Scholl's sandals when I was little and I always thought they must be so uncomfortable. She wore them for years though so I guess they weren't. There feels like there is just enough support in the arch and foot bed that I'll be able to walk around in these while on vacation. I'll probably wear them for a day of light walking first or perhaps even test drive them before I leave, but in any event I think they'll work out nicely. My one regret is that I didn't order a second pair since I had another $10 on my gift certificate! Oh well!

The experience of ordering from CSN Stores was fine. I'd definitely consider ordering from them again. And the sandals are definitely keepers - I'm glad i got them in time for vacation!

Queen Song of the Week: See What a Fool I've Been

See What a Fool I've Been was written by Dr. May. It was the B-side to the single Seven Seas of Rhye, which was the band's first hit peaking at #10 on the U.K. charts. The song didn't appear on any of Queen's studio albums until a 1991 Hollywood Records reissue of Queen II which included the track.

Can I make a confession?

There are three songs left in the set list from the 1975 Christmas Eve show at the Hammersmith Odeon. And before I decided to feature them as Queen Songs of the Week, I'd never heard them. It is even more egregious that I'd never listened to this song before since I'd previously used it as a post title (see here). I know guys, I'm a horrible Queen fan. I apologize.

See What a Fool I've Been is a straight up blues song. On first listen I actually liked it a lot which doesn't always happen with Queen songs (I've written previously about how many of their songs take a few listens before I warm to them). The song has a few mini guitar solos by Dr. May and a strong rhythm section performed by RT and John Deacon. Because the song didn't appear on the original release of Queen II, unfortunately there's no write up about it on Bechstein Debauchery, my go-to website for information on more obscure Queen tracks. That said, I don't have much else to say about the song, but hopefully you'll give it a listen - I'm glad I did!

Happy Listening!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Product Review: Clarisonic Mia

So as I mentioned previously, Husband got me a Clarisonic Mia for my birthday. I've wanted one for a while: between QVC and other bloggers, it seemed like every time I turned around, there it was, assuring me that it would make my skin cleaner and clearer than it's ever been.

The original sized Clarisonic is close to $200 (available here). Now, I may seem like a bit of a compulsive shopper, but $200 is one heck of an experiment. I don't even know if I like this contraption! So when I saw the Clarisonic Mia, priced at around $150, but eligible for a 20% off coupon at Skinstore (click here), it seemed much more reasonable.

I've never really had what you would call "problem skin". I occasionally get a pimple here and there, but nothing ever really that serious...until last year. All of a sudden, my cheeks were covered with little red marks. It wasn't acne per se, but it was annoying. I changed cleansers to the philosophy line (available here) and saw tremendous improvement, but the faint marks were still there.

Finally, I reasoned that the issue was my makeup. I'm a makeup fiend and wear it every day. If I wasn't taking it off completely, I decided, my skin was never really "clean" and it made sense that I'd have some irritation and redness. In my mind, the Clarisonic Mia would solve that problem.

Okay, so immediately after opening the box, I tore into my new skincare acquisition. Luckily, I read the instructions first: charge for 24 hours before first use. ARG! The charger plugs into the wall and then magnetizes to the unit. It buzzes to indicate that the connection is good and then a light blinks until the unit is fully charged. According to the manual, a charge is good for 20 uses.

Exactly 24 hours later, I grabbed my Clarisonic Mia and trotted into the bathroom. There are two options for use: either rub cleanser directly onto your face or apply cleanser to the brush and apply to your face that way. I prefer rubbing the cleanser on my face myself. When I apply cleanser to the brush, it gets rather runny and concentrates in certain areas of my face (i.e. there's tons of cleanser on my forehead since you use the unit there first, but then not much cleanser on my chin since that's last). The cleanser also ran down my face into my eyes, which was rather unpleasant, when I applied it to the brush first.

Using the Clarisonic Mia is ridiculously easy. You press the large button on the handle of the unit and it turns on for 60 seconds. During that time, you start with your forehead and drag the unit across your face. I've been using it around my chin/jawline as well just because I had experienced some redness/bumps there. I've found that there is plenty of time to clean my entire face and then go back over my face a second time before the unit automatically turns off. There's a plastic cover to keep the brush clean and the unit is waterproof so you can use it in the shower or bath.

As I write this, I've been using my Clarisonic Mia every night for the past two weeks. I've noticed a bit of improvement in my skin. The redness is almost entirely gone and my face is much smoother. I love the way my face feels too, especially right after I use the Clarisonic Mia.

The company recommends changing brushes every three months. A set of two brushes is about $40. The unit comes with "sensitive" brushes, but there are also "regular" and "delicate" brushes available.

I'm glad I decided to try the Clarisonic Mia and I'm definitely a convert!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Queen Song of the Week: White Queen (As It Began)

White Queen (As It Began) was written by Dr. May and appeared on the band's 1974 album Queen II.

This is one of those Queen songs that some fans are just absolutely crazy about. Ask them to name their top five Queen songs and this song is in that list. They like it that much. Me? It's a good song. I don't dislike it as much as I dislike Tie Your Mother Down, for example, but it's not one of my favorites. However, we're going through the set list from Queen's 1975 Christmas Eve show at the Hammersmith Odeon and this song was on the set list so here ya go!

Here's a quote from Dr. May himself, from his official website back in 2004: I wrote this at College, where I led a relatively sheltered life, even though the University on the whole was a pretty rampant pace! I had been reading The White Goddess by Robert Graves, which explored the role of the idealised Virgin/Mother/Queen/ figure in art through history, and the name for our group, decided just around that time, fitted in with this perfectly - which was one of the reasons I was convinced to go with the name. The personal side is bound up with a girl (of course!) whom I saw every day at College, and was to me the ultimate goddess. It's incredible in retrospect, but because I held her in such awe, in three years I never had the courage to speak to tell her, or even speak to her. The song found its way on to tape much later, on our second album.

In another quote, Dr. May lists White Queen as one of four or five songs he'd most like to be remembered by.  The song does include rather lovely harmonies and some of the drums are pretty spectacular. It is a rather slow tempo compared to most other Queen songs so perhaps that throws me a bit. I'm used to Freddie et al rocking out whereas this is a bit more sentimental. The volume does increase significantly at the end and I really do like that part. Hm perhaps I like this song more than I originally thought!

Happy Listening!