7 Things I’m Totally Obsessed with This Month (June 2017 Edition)

These are thoughts, the artwork, the news stories, the tools, the food, the conversations, and whatever else we just can't get out of our heads this month.  

The Song: “Another Girl, Another Planet” by The Only Ones

This tune is forty-years old, and I've known it for at least twenty. But, my goodness, in the last two weeks I've probably listened to it seventy-five times. 

I actually don't know why it started. I must have stumbled across something as I tripped down the internet rabbit hole, and I was reminded that I sorta knew it/sorta liked it, but had previously always thought it was a little more generic than many of its contemporaneous new wave, power pop-y songs from the likes of The Buzzcocks or The Jam or Wreckless Eric.

But, I was wrong. This one's a true gem, and a great reminder of tight musicianship of some of this late 70s punk rock-influenced music that we think of as scrappy, messy, and snotty. I spent at least an hour last week on my birthday drinking a beer trying to nail that intro riff and the guitar solo that happens around 1:45. I got 90% of the way. 

The song is almost certainly about heroin. Lyrics like “you get under my skin” and “space travels in my blood” and “I won't need rehabilitating,” make it pretty obvious. Perhaps knowing that makes the experience richer, but, like Lou Reed's “Perfect Day,” I think it still works as a particularly nice love song rather than an ode to the morphine molecule. 

And, damn, is it catchy. 

The Make-Yourself-Feel-Better Aid: The Tiger Tail Massage Stick – $29.95

My preferred form of exercise, other than an epic weekend hike in the mountains, is to ride 40-70 (or 100, when I can carve out the time) miles on a road bike. And, as I'm getting a little older, I'm finding it a bit harder to recover from sitting on an unforgiving carbon fiber frame and a tiny little seat for a hours at a time. Particularly, as last season started to slow in October and November, I found myself starting to become quite stiff off the bike: my hamstrings, my calves, and the bottoms of my feet. Over the winter, it never really went away, and continued to get worse this spring. Not a deal breaker, but certainly slowed me down in everything from waking up to walking to the mailbox.

I tried stretching, a large foam roller, learning some yoga poses, and standing on and rubbing my legs against tennis balls. And then I stumbled across a Tiger Tail in the REI impulse buy section, and…for some reason, it just spoke to me. I asked the guy if I could return it, and he said “It's REI. You can return anything.” So, I took it home.

And literally, after one eight-minute session of lying on my back and working this thing hard on myself, all that drama and soreness I'd been dealing with for half a year just went away. I'm totally sold.

I actually keep going back to it and thinking I need to use it daily to care for it, but I find I'm still loose. Five minutes, two-three times a week, and my legs and feet feel ten years younger. It's fantastic. 

The TV Show: “Better Call Saul”

I know I'm not the first person to say this, but I suspect this one will end up being better than “Breaking Bad” Probably my favorite show on TV right now.

Als0 – shoutouts to both “Big Little Lies” and “The Handmaid's Tale,” which both having perfected the mini-series format. (Though I just learned there will apparently be a second season of Handmaid's. I'm glad I didn't know until I finished it.)

The “Treat”: Sparkling Water

I know it's silly, but I literally look forward to that time of day when I get to drink club soda. When you work from home, it's important to have a way to transition out of the work day and into the rest of the evening without changing locations. 

I could do that with a beer, but some cold water with bubbles in it works almost as well, without any calories or fuzziness in the brain. I've stopped drinking sugar-y sodas altogether (save for a rare Mexican Coke with some tacos), and I've realized that what I liked about soft drinks in the first place wasn't the sugar, but the fizziness. And now that it's hot out, nothing cools me down as well.

I know all the cool Instagram kids are into flavored La Croix, but for me, just regular water+CO2 seltzer works just fine. I'm already getting excited for 5:30. 

The Idea That: The MP3 is Officially Dead

According to its creators, the format that revolutionized music during our lifetime is over. According to this piece on NPR, 

The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits, a division of the state-funded German research institution that bankrolled the MP3's development in the late '80s, recently announced that its “licensing program for certain MP3 related patents and software of Technicolor and Fraunhofer IIS has been terminated.” Bernhard Grill, director of that Fraunhofer division and one of the principals in the development of the MP3, told NPR over email that another audio format, AAC — or “Advanced Audio Coding,” which his organization also helped create — is now the “de facto standard for music download and videos on mobile phones.” He said AAC is “more efficient than MP3 and offers a lot more functionality.”

 I suspect we'll continue to call an audio file that lives on our computer an MP3 regardless of its format, at least for a while. It just makes more sense than saying “I have that song as a download.” 

The Book: “Here I Am” by Jonathan Safran Foer

This came out in the fall, and I received as a Christmas gift, but just recently got around to reading it. It's one of those books where I actually don't resonate with any of the characters on a personal level, and that possibly makes it better:but I'm so utterly compelled and drawn-in by the craft of the writing that I'm completely hooked. 

I actually haven't even finished this year (currently about 70%) of the way through, but I find myself wanting to get up earlier so I have time to read it before I have to get started working. However it ends up, I won't forget having spent time with it. 

The Flashback: A Man Chats with His Parents About the “Parental Advisory: Explicit Content Label

I'm sure everyone of us who came of age in the 90s has a memory just like this one. For me, it was a comedy record by Dennis Leary and some Jay and Silent Bob comic books. But I loved the idea of Rick Paulas revisiting their household experience around the Nine Inch Nails album “The Downward Spiral” (I had this album too, but I recall it coming as an actual sticker attached to a cardboard sleeve rather than being printed on the CD booklet itself. Rick must have not been so lucky, because, c'mon – like the rest of us reasonable twelve-year-olds, he would have removed it.)

Mostly, it's a thoughtful testament about  how differently parents and their children relate when 13 and then at 33. I never actually liked that NIN album when I was younger – though I certainly pretended to and soaked up all the 90s adolescent social cache that came along with having it. I have very distinct memories of recording it to cassette so I could listen to it  on Walkman in the summer of 1995 while mowing my neighbors lawn for $8 as I saved up for my first electric guitar. I'm going to track it down and listen as I cut my own grass. Because even though I can now buy whatever I want and have a lawn to call my own, I still feel as excited about summer (and perhaps about buying a new electric guitar) as that 13-year-old kid.