This is a tale about choosing your own adventure and a practical stranger. My friend Dee wanted to have a night out with her friends, and I couldn’t help but throw out this concept of ‘Bandersnatch’. So what did that mean?
In the movie, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, viewers choose their own adventure; twisting and influencing the movie to your own will. So in real life, we were going to mimic the choose your own adventure motif. This night out would be based on last-minute group or personal decisions and see what comes of it.
Real life doesn’t have a return button where we can go back and change decisions. Choices blossom in a linear strand, even though Bandersnatch promised viewers the ability to redo decisions. Unless we’re part of a simulation, there’s no way for us to rewrite what we make of it. We can speculative parallels, but cannot live through those different scenarios.
But enough pop psychology.
We gathered at Dee’s place which was a cozy downtown apartment. Dee’s mesh of friends drank together peacefully. Perhaps it was liquid silver, but I felt like I could talk to anyone in the room. Dee’s low-key romantic interest was there (SPOILER ALERT: he deserves no name in this story). Present was an unorthodox amount of White Claw (not complaining) and the temptation to create our night to our whims and dreams.
Or so you think.
A friend of a friend, let’s call her Jean, had invited herself, tagged along or maybe even just happened to walk into Dee’s apartment and decided to stay. Jean was like an invasive species: she just didn’t fit in with the biome and began damaging the pre-existing structure (yesss spill that B-grade biology).
She was instantly aggressive like a helicopter mother in a parent-teacher conference. Jean told one girl that veggie chips were sodium pipe-bombs and told another girl that she didn’t believe in women’s rights. The sodium comment was uncalled for, but the women’s rights things…I mean, what?
While everyone else was enjoying the time (and was normal), Jean decided to call her boyfriend. Jean and Jean’s Boyfriend apparently had gotten into a fight today. Maybe she had yelled at him for having a sodium-saturated snicky-snack like veggie chips?
While Dee played some bangers, the whole party could hear the shouting from the bathroom. Turns out, Jean and Jean’s Boyfriend got into another fight.
“**** you, and **** your mom too.” Was the only confirmed exact quote I could get this for this blog.
In retaliation, Jean slammed her wine glass against the wall of the bathroom. Not sure how that was revenge against the boyfriend who was in Lakewood. But OK Jean.
I have a tendency to dramatize things because I get easily bored and need to be stimulated like some middle school punk. But I’m serious about this story. Multiple pregame witnesses recall Jean slamming that wine glass against the wall like it owed her money. Not only did she damage property but she left the glass on the floor of the bathroom. Let me add that it was a TILED BATHROOM. Cleaning glass from tile? I’d rather move to a new apartment.
After Dee cleaned up the shrapnel from the bathroom it was time for us to Uber to the bar. Because there were twelve of us, we divided into three teams for an impromptu Amazing Race. The destination: Map Room. My team arrived first and we surrounded the back corner of the bar counter. Everyone joined, all was well, etc. etc.
But perhaps things were too peaceful for Jean. Even though Jean had argued with the Uber driver and argued with the bouncer to Map Room, Jean was hungry for more altercation. She was like a debate student who would do anything to win for her preppy private Ivy League school.
Unbeknownst to anyone, Jean had decided to play conquistador and conquer by approaching a table of people.
“I’m taking this table, we need this table.”
Jean didn’t need to fight for the table for a few reasons. One, there were plenty of tables. Two, we didn’t need a table, we were comfortable at the bar. But the best reason: the people at the table were LEAVING!
But Jean’s nasty attitude had stirred up anger within them. Meanwhile, across at the bar, someone had bought me a gin and tonic. In this emergency situation, I had to buy myself a long island because like a New York socialite I like my drinks sweet. I spun on my shoes and arrived to straighten the situation whilst double-fisting.
Of course, I threw Jean under the bus: I didn’t know her, she wasn’t my friend, and she was wrong and mean. The table of innocent bystanders hadn’t lobbed personal attacks. But Jean had gotten personal right off the bat like Babe Ruth.
“You’re 23 and you need botox.” Jean snapped. Not only was this not true, but this girl was a hundred times more beautiful then Jean’s very tired early 2000s attire.
Thankfully the situation deescalated. I didn’t see Jean for the rest of the night. My close friend Dee’s low-key romantic situation ghosted her that night at Dive Bar (it was shocking at the time, but we were at Dive Bar…). So Dee and I got pizza while she sat shellshocked about what had happened.
“Do you think he would have ghosted you if we hadn’t gone to Dive Bar?” I asked, dabbing the pizza with grease as if that was truly going to the calorie difference I needed for this pizza to become healthy.
We don’t often think about how small choices played out. Maybe if Jean hadn’t been such a glass-slamming, name-calling (enter word of choice here), she would have made new friends. Maybe if she had separated her anger from her boyfriend and strangers, she would have enjoyed the night out.
But our own choices: of double fisting a gin and tonic with a long island, my friend Miranda’s decision to talk to some random guy, Dee’s decision to pursue this (enter another explicative here), going to Map Room, going to Dive Bar, getting pizza…these all made a single strand. It’s like one carpet fiber from a whole list of possibilities.
The following morning was Bandersnatch Brunch. It was there that we got the hot gossip on what had happened to Jean. Jean had gone over to Jean’s Boyfriend’s house, punched a window, kicked down a door, got the cops called on her and needed stitches.
We also found out she worked at a TOP BANK IN THE CITY. Let’s just say the ‘young professional’ that she is on Linked In was nowhere to be found.
More recently we found out Jean had left Cleveland. And no matter where she is, I hope she’s learning to Bandersnatch with less authoritarianism. Cause who cares what small decisions you make at the end of a night out. The big decisions about one’s person are much more important.
I’ve been a storyteller since I could talk in sentence structure. Stories came from experiences I whipped into vignettes, sometimes raw and other-times embellished. Soon in early elementary I began creating fictional tales like little candy pieces. I read stories, wrote stores, listened for stories, everything back then and now, comes with a story.
Don’t ask me for the exact day, but I do remember the exact moment I went vegetarian. Actually, I first went vegan (a very tough three months for poor old Matt Hribar). But for eight years I went along with cutting out meat. It was easy: I despised seafood and didn’t really eat pork or red meat. In fact all I was cutting out was chicken, some lunchmeat and the occasional hot dog.
Do I love animals? Yes! Did I do it to be trendy? No, even though I am trendy. I honestly went vegan/vegetarian because we watched a documentary called Forks and Knives in movie class. And I thought, why not try it? It was a social experiment. I didn’t know how long it would last, but it soon was like an allergy. You get used to it after a while, except you don’t have to sit at the lonely peanut free table in the school cafeteria.
My sister has been a vegetarian most of her life, but she was the picture-perfect vegetarian: thin, luscious, sunkissed and thin (oh wait, I said thin twice). My sister could hold a pineapple and cry ‘meat is murder’ and you’d expect it from her. That’s just her vibe.
On the other hand, my vibe is more: alternative lumberjack who enjoys food (animals included). It was kind of funny when people found out I was vegetarian, they’d clutch their pearls as if I was a walking conundrum. These shocked humans would be flabbergasted due to the husk of my bones, the frame of my muscles and the ginger coloration of my beard. “You’re a vegetarian?” was usually the comeback response: disbelief, confusion, surprise. The kind of surprise you had when finding out the quiet shy girl was a serial dater or when the geeky looking kid was a champion athlete.
Flash forward 8 years and suddenly my social experiment wasn’t exactly seeing eye to eye with the immediate future I was hoping to create. I had always been healthy, but two minor paradoxes had evolved into worry: was I doing all that I could to be healthy? Suddenly my simple salads and ‘moderation estimation’ wasn’t going to cut it.
I had always looked out for my body but now it was time to get serious. I rewrote my workout plan, upping the workouts to six a week and around two hours each. I changed my diet plan which becoming harder and stricter. I downloaded an app to track calories to really put on the pressure. But more importantly I questioned whether or not I should introduce chicken.
I talked to friends (some more qualified then others), I looked at possible vegetarian diet plans for building muscle while shedding a bit of my blubber…but nothing seemed as good as adding chicken back to my diet. Chicken, on it’s own, can be a superfood: high protein, little to no fat or carbs (when cooked lean). And that’s a GEM for my diet plan. So why not introduce it?
But I was scared, after all eight years was a long time! Longer than a lot of marriages, longer than the time you might spend at FOUR jobs (these days, am I right millennials?). Did I want to throw away all that time devoted to my social experiment turned lifestyle? But I was finally at an impasse: with an end goal of wanting to loose a bit of my dad so I could become a daddy, it was time to add chicken.
But I passed up every natural opportunity. “Try this chicken nugget”, “Try this chicken soup”. Like a sinner down the road from the church, I was not ready to change my ways. Instead, I needed a sign from a higher being.
And that sign happened today.
Upon visiting Costco, my sister, mother, nieces and I dined like kings upon the delicious Monday afternoon stock of samples. There was pretzel chips, some kind of peanut bar, even coconut water (sidebar: coconut water is GROSS but it was a FREE sample, so yes I had some).
We arrived at what appeared to be a veggie burger sample. Here’s the reasons I thought it was a veggie burger:
I approached the lady who was handing out the samples and said AND I QUOTE:
“Oh a veggie burger!”
And I swear on my life and the life of my future children, the sample lady said:
“Take it for a spin!”
Now, did she say ‘take this veggie burger for a spin’? No but there was an implication of the affirmation that it was a veggie burger. After all, if I had asked, ‘oh is this your cat’ and you said, ‘why yes’ even though you had your child with you…I mean, it kind of looks worse on you for agreeing that your child is a cat.
So I did take this burger ‘for a spin’. Only for my mother to say, ‘wait, is this a chicken burger?’ and for the sample lady to say ‘yes, with kale and mozzarella’.
I felt my body lurch as if a ship which had pulled out the brakes. I couldn’t even register the taste anymore, my taste buds having retreated to the underbelly of my tongue. But…but…she said TAKE IT FOR A SPIN!?
So yes, I do believe that this was a sign that it was indeed time to start eating chicken. And yes, I did enjoy two other samples of chicken (although the breaded chicken was terrible, I just want lean chicken for the protein). No worries, the buck stops at chicken (although maybe down the line I’ll include turkey. Day by day).
As for what’s next…well, I’m not trying to be the hot model, but just a better version of myself. And if that means evolving like a Pokemon from ‘vegetarianism’ to ‘pollo vegetarianism’, then so be it. With that out of the way, anyone got some healthy chicken recipes to share?
#10. "Wings" - chrome sparks
This trippy little number seriously gives you some massive wings. Songs like these prove the magic and beauty of electronic music with multiple arpeggios dancing to delight to from pure heaven.
#9. "We KEEP on running" - what so not / toto
Okay, I'll be honest. Would never have guessed TOTO to be on this list ever, but they're feature makes the electronic rock sound absolutely explosive. I feel the energy, the emotion and lowkey want to get down. What So Not takes the credit, it's his musicianship which takes the cake on this dessert.
#8. "June" - florence and the machine
High As Hope marked a minimalist direction for Florence and company, and this album opener really only has one weakness: the fact that it's not a five minute epic like the rest of F&TM's songs! Between the crescendo, the beautiful lyrics and that ending build-up of drums and her cry of 'you're so high'...well, it makes me want it to be June all the time.
#7. "Time is up" - poppy / DIPLO
I'm not really looking forward to the robotic rising, but this song actually makes me feel more okay about the automaton takeover. Diplo's production mimics Daft Punk but had a bit more future 80s in there, while Poppy's Deadpan truly works. The breakdown (or is it more, breakup?) with the clock really sells the temporality that the time of human is coming with apocalyptic beats.
6. "UNDERWATER" - RUFUS DU SOL
From the first second to the finale, I indeed feel that I am surrounded by water. The haunting children's choir alongside the sharp blade-like synth work really take this track to feel like you're drowning, if not from the concept but from the immense sound.
#5. "DEEP END" - LYKKE LI
Trap music has moved from rap to the realms of pop, but it's artists like Lykke Li which can use their sad girl persona to make a trap pop bop. It's the kind of song I can play in the late night car ride, or in the backyard pool party. It's a song that makes me feel as wild as the teenager I was or was not or even a person in their mid twenties. Don't forget that catchy chorus, this was one of my songs of the summer due to its atmospheric high.
#4. "DIE HAPPY" - METRIC
There is something both familiar and new within Metric's "Die Happy" off their amazing 'Art of Doubt' album. Like the album title suggests, the imagery provokes the unknown. Lines like 'still drinking that kool-aid like it's free' pokes out the feature which manifested itself so much in the last few years; the imbibe of the dangerous to our own unknown. Fascinating. Besides, the pre-chorus, chorus, post-chorus punch will leave you flat on the floor.
#3. "WHEN THE NIGHT IS OVER" - LORD HURON
Timeless and fresh, new and old, leather and lace...Lord Huron plays on the juxtapositions through this folk ballad. It's punchy enough to make you emotional, tangy enough for a sultry dance and deep enough to contemplate the sadness within. "I hear the river say your name,
By the stars above, I know we were in love..." may come across cheesy to you (not me!), but when delivered in this song really set up a visual tale worthy of the folk-western band.
#2. "CHURCH" - ALISON WONDERLAND
In the era of #MeToo and the continuing discussions of sexual assault and abuse, this song runs almost parallel by tackling the subject of feeling worthless by a man who ought to 'treat me like church'. Alison Wonderland says she's not religious, but thought about the comparison of treating her worth like a holy temple. You have to wonder how many people have a similar statement for those that don't treat them as sacred; or even worse, those who are treated more poorly. If one is not being treated like a church, then what are they? A building? A house? A highway? A doormat? The choices are endless. But for Alison Wonderland, her feelings of hopelessness transform into a demand that she deserves more than a second-rate bargain. And it's done in a catchy trap pop bop way.
#1. "SCREWED" - JANELLE MONAE FEAT. ZOE KRAVITZ
This song is everything, like an everything bagel. It's pop, it's funk, it's R&B, it's electronic. Janelle sings, she raps, she states, she hums. The fervor or Dirty Computer comes to a very confidant tounge-and-cheek with the establishment. It's practically the song pointing at the adversary and saying, "If you're going to do what you want, I'm going to do what you want". Janelle's dirty future is painted with oppression, but this songs as revolution through sexual blossom. I've been playing this throughout the year and everyone who heard it found something to grab onto it. Whether it's the sexual nature, the melody or simply the state of the world, this song takes the cake on my 2018.
Yesterday on Matt's Gamut I played through my top twenty songs with American themes, and here's the final result!
Summer is finally here, and that means strong yet light cocktails are the way to go! And while I was dog sitting for my friend, I happened to cook up one heck of an early summer delight!
Weekend at Michelle's
Served over ice.
*2 shots of Triple Sec
*1 shot of Gin (if you don't like gin, just use three shots of triple sec, or otherwise just do a splash of gin!)
*Fresh lime juice
*Watermelon Cucumber Juice (if you think the cucumber is too much, feel free to use watermelon juice! But the cucumber gets washed out by the stronger flavors but manages to leave behind quite the refreshing aftertaste.
Garnish with a lime, no need to mix or shake!
I'm not a huge gin fan, but I think this is a perfect drink! The orange, watermelon and lime (and even a little bit of the cucumber) blend very well. Enjoy this drink on the porch and drink quickly so the ice doesn't melt!
Janelle Monae has served up one of the best albums of the year and so far her competition isn’t even close.
Served with visual accompaniment (a la Beyonce mode), Dirty Computer puts Cyndi Mayweather’s story on halt to check in on ‘Jane’, specifically more so Janelle Monae. It’s her most personal record yet even if she’s aided with the futuristic, robotic shimmer which she’s carried throughout her singing career. But gone are the full-blown characters, we’re now in the future through Janelle Monae’s life.
Janelle came out as pansexual, and the album and visual accompaniment displays her sexuality. But it is not Janelle’s sexual orientation which is spellbinding. It is the intimacy, the desire, the action of her sexual soul which is the most intense. ‘Make Me Feel’, ‘I Got That Juice’, ‘Crazy, Classic Life’, ‘Screwed’, ‘Pynk’ and ‘I Like That’ all detail intense affection, sexual confidence, sexual craving, animalistic desire, soft sensuality and sexual pride. These are all traits that are empowering, no matter the sexuality of who is behind them.
On ‘Crazy Classic Life’, Janelle paints out her desire to, well, have a ‘crazy, classic life’ (I know, kill me for being obvious). But the outro paints a picture of how as a black woman, she will be viewed at differently for her experiences versus a white boy. Me and you was friends, but to them, we the opposite/ the same mistake, I’m in jail, you on top of s—-. It reminds me of ‘kids being kids’, yet black kids are systematically blamed more for their crimes. And in these moments, you find yourself thinking more of the present then of Janelle’s future.
#5: the nights
Released as a double single with 'The Days", The Nights brings me back to my days in college, specifically with my fraternity. This song is quick but gets to the point rather fast with poignant lyrics, folktroncia and buttery beat drops.
#4: liar liar
It's hard to rank the songs off of True, Avicii's debut album which came in 2013. But this stands out for three reasons: the beautiful piano / screechy synth line in the chorus, the delicious binaries of the verses and chorus, and that epic bridge melody (lyrically: Well, we are, who we are, when we're all going under/ When the past with the last and will last until we're under)
#3: you make me
The chorus on this number really gets me going! The falsetto which comes in over a building crescendo of plucks...it's like Wake Me Up but on steroids, with 20% less guitar and 20% more EDM. I also love the ambiguity of the lyrics. You make me... what? You make me something, anything, this, that? Kind of beautiful if you think about it.
#2: dear boy
An eight minute banger with Mø which comes off grandiose but really delivers smart lyrics revolving around a married couple who are looking to find the spark which ignited them in the first place. The lyrics are on point, Mø serves the perfect vocals and the breakdown is beautiful.
#1: pure grinding
Talk about the song of a century regarding the 'grind' to get money! While Dear Boy is a mega-long dance number, this track is trap and hip, with pitch and small crystalline-like beats. I fell in love with this song when I first heard it, and can't deny it's my number one song now.
Lord Huron - Vide Noir
In French, Vide Noir translates to ‘black void’, a perfect summary of the third album by the wild-western fantasy meets indie band group. A couple of the tracks appear aggressive, while most mourn the loss of a woman who appears to have chosen the black void of some sort of addiction rather then the embrace of her love. The opening, Lost in Space and Time, sets this journey towards finding this ‘emerald star’. And while we see some character development, I would enjoyed a bit more detail on the world that Lord Huron has created. Who is their main character? What is the world around him like? Perhaps the point of the album is to detail that after a breakup with such an adored one, everything is dark and empty.
J. Cole - K.O.D.
I hopped into a truck with my friend Christian and we had a hour to kill for a ride. “Have you heard the new J. Cole album?” He asked, it only being a day after the album had dropped. I said no and he proceeded to play the entire album through. I like J. Cole, having been fans of his earlier work, if not appreciating it. But I was happy to hear that instead of some downtrodden material, J. Cole had come full aggressive, with loud music constructed in multi-dimensions and lyrics covering addiction, heartbreak and even an outro that on the surface is a diss, but comes across as a greater message for any musician. In fact, the outro brings up a great question about black entertainers with white audiences: They wanna be black and think your song is how it feels. Talk about a different sort of addiction.
Kimbra - Primal Heart
I enjoyed Kimbra’s third studio album, although it didn’t have the full fledged punch of her second album, The Golden Hour. I wonder if this is due to Primal Heart’s nature to lean towards commercial pop. A release like this could have done her wonders in 2014 following the success of ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’, but this feels like a continuation off previous material then anything else. There are some excellent songs (The Good War, Like They Do on the TV, Lightyears, ) songs you definitely should consider adding to your playlists. Maybe this album will grow on me, but something is leaving me waiting for her next album cycle.
I keep saying "I write" but don't share anything. So here we go, let's share.