Monday, September 3, 2012

Arts and Crafts! Pokémon Edition!

So this is how I spent my free time for the last three weeks: making these.

It all started when my girlfriend went out of town during the break between summer term and fall semester. She would be home for over a week, so I thought to myself, "Well, I can manage. I have several friends I can hang out with." And then it escalated when my several friends were also out of town. I needed something to do to occupy myself. I thought to myself,

Well shoot. It might be nice to do something other than accelerate the rotting of my brain on the internet. Maybe something artsy?  When I was in middle school, I'd make those little animals with the opening mouths out of plastic canvas and yarn.  And I bet since I'm older and kind of smarter, I can make whatever I want.  And by that, I mean Pokémon.  And what better variety of Pokémon to make than the Eevee family?  Game plan set.

I consulted the internet to find that the artistic Pokémaniacs are cross-stitchers, not canvas-stitchers.  There are slight differences between the two, patternwise, but I found a collection of patterns for each.  After a trip to Walmart and Hobby Lobby, I got some canvas, a couple of needles, and a rainbow of yarn.  And then I went to work.


Eevee was the prototype.  The very first thing I learned is that these Pokémon were going to be pretty big...

 Life size, baby.

The fancy-pants cross-stitchers called for about 15 different shades of thread per pattern, which is way out of my budget, so I had to improvise.  I bought a pack of brown yarn that cycled between five or so different tones.  It meant planning ahead, knowing that your yarn could spontaneously change color while stitching.  That explains the weird coloring of Eevee's face (I did try to give it little cheeks, which is definitely artistic license).  I also had the idea of making the very last stitches the white highlights in Eevee's eyes, which actually made such a huge difference that I compared it to watching a puppy open its eyes for the first time.  Cait thought it was a silly analogy, until she got to see the difference herself, and then even she thought it was apt.  Take her word for it, since I didn't photograph the process itself.


This is where it got fun. In addition to the brown yarn, I got multi-shaded blue yarn, which Vaporeon very much needed.  I was able to put together Vaporeon fairly easily without having to resort to other crazy color schemes, though I did have the idea to add the brown accents to the fins on its head.  Given the medium, I thought it seemed a little rigid, but it still worked out in the end.  Also, Vaporeon is the only one I made in a single night (finished at about 7:30 am).


Jolteon is where I made a change to my reinterpretation of the cross-stitch patterns.  As a result, the edges are thinner and cleaner.  And great.  I bought a lighter yellow yarn so that I could use it for multiple Pokémon, but I also decided to get a different color yellow so Jolteon could have cool shading (which you can barely notice).  I also remember finding a different pattern for Jolteon, since the first one I found had him look incredibly furious at something.  I would have none of that, so I found a different one where Jolteon posed in a courageous fashion, and I'm so glad I did.


My yarn loot gave me a chance to do some shading on Flareon as well, and it looks much more prominent than it did on Jolteon.  Something else I was introduced to was the hole in the middle, between its left ear, its mane, and its tail.  It was a pain to cut out, but apart from that, it wasn't a big deal.  Flareon is one of my favorite Pokémon overall (let alone the Eevee family), so I found this one especially delightful to make.  The yellow highlights on the fur are my favorite part.


 Espeon was another alternate pattern I pulled from the internet.  However, as soon as I cut the canvas pattern out, I realized that this Espeon was going to be a little small.  I wrote it off by saying that Espeon is a Psychic-type and therefore should have a more slender frame.  With that, I feel like I nailed the shading of the purple.  Espeon was also the first one that Cait got to see me start when she got back.  Funnily enough, I could've just stuck with the original three evolutions of Eevee, and I'd have finished before Cait returned (which was the reason I started this project in the first place).  But I decided to see this through and do all eight.


Umbreon is my other favorite member of the Eevee family, so for this, I bought some black yarn and some not-so-black yarn.  Everything was going smoothly until I found that the pattern called for three different shades of black, which makes close to zero sense outside of an artistic context.  Seriously.  Fortunately, I did have a shade of very dark blue, which, after some deliberation, I used for the shading on the neck and the rear legs.  And it worked!  I did not want to screw up Umbreon at all, which is why it was a tough decision, but it paid off, and Umbreon ended up being one of the coolest-looking ones, in my opinion.  Which is the best opinion.


Leafeon is the first of the two Eevee evolutions from the fourth generation of Pokémon, and I'm sad to say that I have never actually raised one in the games, so I don't have that much of a connection to it as I do to the previous six.  Nonetheless, it completes the set.  The pictures I've seen of Leafeon have a yellowish body, but I made the choice to give it a tan body.  It took a lot more work (remember that multi-shaded brown yarn?) than had I used single-shaded yellowish yarn, but the end result was awesome, especially the tapering between the tan and the green.  The veins in the leafy tail also ended up looking great.  If I only had the money to spring for a DS and a copy of Pokémon Diamond, I would raise one, for sure.  It looks so cool!


The last one!  My biggest concern going into Glaceon was that it would look too much like Vaporeon. Fortunately, in addition to the multi-shaded blue yarn, I got a roll of very light blue yarn, which ended up being the basis for Glaceon.  I also had trouble picking out a shade of blue for its locks.  I almost went with a bluish-purple, but in the end I stuck with a dark blue.  I think it ended up pretty different from Vaporeon, or about as different as ice is from water...

And now the project is done!  If you feel so inclined to download a full-size picture of them all, use this link.

Don't hurry, give it time / Things are the way they have to be

Monday, April 23, 2012


Ah, Record Store Day. A holiday that encourages me to make a visit to the local music store and purge my wallet from the root of all evil. Also a day to pay respects to the industry that labors very hard to preserve an aspect of culture that is atrophying before the behemoth that is online MP3 stores. I spent the day hitting up the four Graywhale stores in the Salt Lake area, and this is my story:


The newest addition to the Graywhale family (at the expense of the Orem Graywhale that was conveniently located), I wasn't sure what to think about the place. I mean, it killed my baby. However, I discovered that the Orem legacy lives on in Sandy (only because I recognized the ultra-obscure CDs in the used indie section from Orem that have no hope of getting purchased).

Me and my bestie/photographer, Cait

Since this was our first trip, I was not shy about throwing down plentiful cash for music I wanted. As was expected, I bought the most CDs at this location. They were
  • Built to Spill - There Is Nothing Wrong with Love
  • Built to Spill - The Normal Years
  • Built to Spill - Ancient Melodies of the Future (hey, they had the CDs, and I bought them)
  • Sound Team - Work
  • Garden State Soundtrack (purchased for Cait)
  • Sonic Youth - Dirty
  • Yo La Tengo - Painful
Me and Ben, Sandy's resident Graywhale employee


I've been to this Graywhale before, mainly for the Black Friday Sale of 2011. Since it was almost literally down the street from the Sandy Graywhale, it was quite easy to find. They had reorganized the CD shelves since the last time I'd been there; I would never have thought of that.

I still managed to find the hipster music section pretty quickly.

On the other hand, Bichón! headed straight to the Duncan Sheik albums.

This store didn't have as much of an immediately desirable selection, but the prices here were very reasonable. Like, a dollar a CD reasonable. My booty at West Jordan:

  • Screaming Trees - Sweet Oblivion
  • Vanilla Ice - The Best of Vanilla Ice (for two dollars? A steal!)
  • ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - Source Tags and Codes
  • Miles Davis - Kind of Blue
  • U2 - The Unforgettable Fire
  • Gang Gang Dance - Hillulah

My picture with Chase, the guy who rung me up
Of course, we couldn't say no to a stop at Asian City across the street, nor could I resist a $5 bamboo sword...


This Graywhale was truly interesting. It was smack dab in the middle of a strip mall, and curled up outside were three hipsters (or homeless people; I can never tell the difference). Luckily, the interior was all too familiar, with the concrete floor, cinder block walls, and various references to underground things that you have a 15% chance of catching.
"By buying used music? Heck, I was gonna do it anyway!"

Monitor This! teaches kids what new music to get, with an innuendo for a name.

Sadly, I already had a lot of that music, or simply didn't care to get it. So instead I picked up a couple of CDs...just a couple. :-(
  • Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror
  • Don Caballero - Punkgasm (in my defense, their music is usually instrumental, so no suggestive lyrics)

This is Ben, Taylorsville Graywhale's manager (his name was pretty easy to remember)

University of Utah

As you can see from the picture, Record Store Day is a thing at this Graywhale. They had all kinds of local bands playing all day long. I could tell this trip was going to be special.

Contemplating my wares

Meanwhile, Bichón! showed off his diversity by browsing the metal section. Opeth, anyone?

I've always liked this Graywhale because it was built in an old house close to the U campus. They replaced everything with shelves upon shelves of CDs, and it's a truly unique experience to shop there. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a whole lot of albums to buy, but I did score a couple of rare discs.
  • Sonic Youth - SYR4: Goodbye 20th Century
  • Sonic Youth - SYR6: Koncertas Stan Brakhage Prisiminimui
They were two more additions to that set of experimental Sonic Youth collection I started way back when! Even John, the Graywhale cashier, acknowledged that this was a good find, as it came from the private collection of the manager. Yeah, it'll be super-experimental and not...well, catchy, per se...but Sonic Youth is full of very talented musicians, and even their weird stuff is appealing to me.

It was actually an extra shelf to store all the extra electronic music, and name??

This is John. We're pals.

So that was my Record Store Day. Seventeen discs of new music to dump into my library, and a beautiful day spent in my choice environment. I was once given the advice to find a passion in life and to cultivate it. Check that box.

My CDs. My wardrobe can be explained because this photo was taken on Monochrome Monday. But that's a story for another post.

You've got a vision / You're on a mission

Friday, March 9, 2012

Things I Hate!

Blogs are about opinions. Since I don't have to worry about journalism syndicates or publishing companies getting a stick in their craw from what I write on the Internet, I'll complain about those things that rub me wrong. I'm not going to apologize for anything that might cause anyone else to experience hatred. Also, I'm not going to explain my reasoning for why I hate these things. I'll leave it up to your imagination.
  • Icicles
  • Rakes
  • Dog whistles
  • The Oort Cloud
  • Reverse dives
  • Burlap
  • Hand mirrors
  • Songs in G major
  • Sebum
  • Cubic zirconium
  • Necromancy
  • The Alaskan time zone
  • Rules
  • Viscosity
  • Homographic homomorphic autantonyms
  • Search results
  • Seminars
  • Rolling a 2 on a six-sided die
  • Even Tuesdays
  • Extrapolation
  • Near misses
  • Excess varnish
  • Nested dream sequences
  • Moody babies
  • Half-empty bowls of pea soup
  • Numbskulls
  • Slag
  • Moroseness
  • Jerry Woodstein
  • Medicinal cake batter
  • Torque
  • Sepulveda
  • What should be
  • Cataclysms
  • The opposite of time
  • Bipedal horses
  • Open curly braces
  • Non-empty bowls of pea soup
  • Effort
  • Calcification
  • Transcontinental bickering
  • Dates that don't exist
  • Has-beens
  • Still-ares
  • The Quaker Oats man's shoes
  • Slow-motion sitting
  • Words with a suspicious amount of vowels
  • Caution
  • Pogonophobic authority figures
  • Distinctive features
(Since this is the Internet, I feel obligated to note that yes, I am joking. Except for torque, which I honestly hate.)

Deep down, you know it's evil / You've always known

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What is happiness?

Sadly, I don't have a lengthy treatise on the topic of the title of this post. Instead, I show you the closest thing to happiness ever projected to motion picture:

This video has pulled me from the abyss of despair and has bestowed light where all but darkness dwelt. This, my friends, is happiness distilled. And I pass it on to you. May you all have a fantastic day.

Edit: So I don't get my pants sued off or something, credit goes to YouTube for this movie.

Don't ever think you're the only one / When times are tough in your new age

Monday, January 9, 2012

Graywhale Raid, 1/6/12

My good friend David and I went on a man-date on Friday and hit up one of our favorite hangout locations: Graywhale Entertainment, located at University Mall in Orem (whatever you do, don't accidentally tell an Oremite that the mall's in Provo, even though everyone knows which university it's named after) (not the one in Orem). I've talked about record stores in Albuquerque in a previous post, but the truth is that Utah has a much more vibrant music scene, and that's reflected in the physical media available in stores. As such, Graywhale has an enormous selection, and with frequent trading in of music, even monthly visits can lead to finding a gem of a CD.

We tried something we'd never actually tried before, since we had the time. We brought our own headphones and splitter from home, grabbed about 20 CDs we were willing to try out, and we previewed all of them together. Granted, we didn't have anywhere near the 20 hours or so that it would take to listen to them all, but we got a good idea of the first seven tracks of each album, and that's usually plenty to figure out whether or not each is worth buying. I was in a fairly extravagant mood, so I got six CDs, which I'll describe below.

Wolf Parade: At Mount Zoomer
I got Wolf Parade's first album, Apologies to the Queen Mary, back in 2007 after I heard good stuff about it on the Web. I thought it was okay stuff, but I lost interest in it with time. David found their follow-up album in the used section and thought we should try it out. I'm glad he did. This time around they're a lot peppier, with some very decent keyboard jams. The track "California Dreamer" is a keeper in my book. I'll probably be listening to it a year from now, which is saying a lot, given the size of my music library. Would I recommend it to others? Sure I would! It's dang catchy stuff.

Edit: Listen to "California Dreamer" here:

Mute Math: Odd Soul
I actually found this album right before we checked out, and since we didn't have time to preview it, I made a rash decision and impulse-bought it.

I still think Mute Math's eponymous album is truly fantastic. It's got some sweet guitar/keytar work, and their drummer Darren King (no name bias, I promise) plays like a freaking shotgun blast. The follow-up album Armistice wasn't as impressive to me. There wasn't quite as much emotion, but the last track "Burden" was promising; I saw that they could draw just a little from their New Orleans roots and get some jazzy/bluesy stuff flowing in their music. And luckily, Odd Soul isn't just an ironic name. There is a lot of soul in this album, and they're not afraid of bringing up Jesus in their lyrics, just like the Earthsuit days. I was impressed. Would I recommend it? Probably more than any other album I bought on this raid.

Screaming Trees: Dust
This is a '90s Washington band that David was already sort of familiar with before I wanted to give it a spin. Fun fact: I don't have an older brother, so MTV was never really on in my house growing up. Thus, I never really got to go through a grunge phase. I have some respect for the movement, but it doesn't truly appeal to me. Screaming Trees isn't truly grunge, but you can tell where their influences also came from Washington and may or may not have been fronted by Kurt Cobain. Still, it's not balls-to-the-wall noise, but with just enough crunch for it to be interesting. I also picked up some Christian elements, yet not as obnoxious as, say, Creed. I liked it enough to throw down five bucks for it. Would I recommend it? If grunge is your thing, you could probably listen to it on a slow day to relax.

Sonic Youth: Andre Sider af Sonic Youth
A staple of the '80s underground scene, Sonic Youth is still cranking out music even though the second half of the band name is now a misnomer. They were pretty abrasive back in the day, but once they joined a record label, they had to cut down on the weird stuff. In the end, they just let it out through a different channel. They've been releasing the Sonic Youth Recordings (SYR) independently, and they contain some very out-there stuff. I already own the fourth entry, and so I decided to start collecting them. And what do you know? Another one just popped up at Graywhale. We previewed it, and it turned out to be a 57-minute live noise session in Denmark. David shrugged, but I bought it more as a collector's item. I just listened to it, and well, it's noise, but interesting noise, at least. Would I recommend it? Heh heh, probably not.

My Bloody Valentine: Isn't Anything
After hearing that their album Loveless was one of the best of the '90s, I went ahead and got it. Now I know what shoegazer music is. I'd heard the term used to describe music that is so complex that guitarists and such are constantly looking down at their instruments to make sure they play it right, and the result is a wall of sound. It was fascinating. And so I found this album, again, after we did all our previewing, and I also impulse-bought it. This album is not nearly as hazy; you can actually understand the lyrics on this one! Nevertheless, the wall of sound is still present. I still think that Loveless is the better album, but I think Isn't Anything was a pretty good impulse buy. Would I recommend it? If you're more of a fan of melodies and such, I don't think I would. But if the presentation of the music itself is something you pay attention to, go ahead and give it a shot.

The Stone Roses: Second Coming
Another one of those bands whose name I only heard in passing, The Stone Roses came up this last summer when a coworker was quizzing me on bands with lead singers named Ian. Sadly, I had no clue who Ian Brown was, but I do now! And I gave this album a try to see what they're all about. The first track was almost 12 minutes long and very ambient, so we skipped ahead and got an earful of electric guitar. Then it was blues. Then it was straight-forward rock. Then more blues. Then some country-esque stuff. Then more blues. It was pretty diverse, and it was only two bucks. Sold. Would I recommend it? I thought it was pretty good. If you don't mind listening to a bunch of white guys playing a black guy's genre, here's the go-ahead.

In conclusion, I had a good day at Graywhale. Good thing, too, because the Orem Graywhale is moving to Sandy. What the heck. That means that I probably won't get to go nearly as often as I'd like. It's a bit frustrating, but they'll still get my business as long as I'm in Utah.

When the skies come crashing on the world you had / Just hold tight, in no time we can get it back