Uke Can Do It!

Last night I went to see Twenty One Pilots, and I didn’t realize that a financially careless decision at the merch booth would begin a new, burning passion.  I had been scoping out their tour merch online before the show, deciding what I would snap up when I got there; it saves a lot of time knowing what will be there and how much money you’re going to need. I saw a few shirts I liked, and then a beautiful, pricey ukelele. I debated for over a week whether or not I would pick one up at the show ($125 is a lot to spend on tour merch) but ultimately I needed to own one. It’s such a cool little instrument, customized to be a 21p tour exclusive.

 

tumblr_o8w2ebLeI81qemeego1_1280.jpg
His name is Josh Dun and he is a perfect instrument.

I brought it home, opened it up, and it was love at first proper strum. Ukelele is not an exact science: it’s a feeling. I know I’ve only been playing for a day so I sound ridiculous, but an instrument has never been so easy to pick up; it’s the perfect size and for someone who knows basic music theory from years of piano, clarinet, and singing, it isn’t hard to remember chords and rhythms. Uke is what I always wanted playing guitar or bass to be like: natural and fun and just a little bit of challenge. I can tell I’m going to be playing this thing every day for a long, long time.

I’ve been in a creative funk for awhile, so I think going back to my roots and making music is just what I need to keep myself sane and motivated. At some point, I might start posting stuff to a YouTube account to share with you all. I’m excited to see how this goes!

All my love,

Katherine Wheel

Am I “adulting”?!

So I’ve spent a lot of time stewing in self-pity and letting my post-grad life slip away from me. The days have turned into weeks and then months, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. I need to make some positive changes in my life. I applied for a handful of full-time assistant manager positions at local retailers I like and am hoping for some interviews soon! I thought for sure I would be getting out of retail by now, but the fact is I’m really good at customer service and there always seem to be open management positions. A full-time job, even if it’s not in what I’ve considered a professional industry, is something to be very proud of. Also, the stores I’ve applied to are not very strict about appearance regulations which is something I really dig. I need to hold onto some of my youthful desires after all.

Admittedly, a lot of this motivation comes from my realization that I never actually got the raise I was promised when I got promoted at my job, so I’ve been doing a lot more work for the same amount of money the 14 year old carriage boys make. It’s a little ridiculous. Regardless of how I got to this point, I’m really happy to finally make some moves in the right direction. I’m seeking jobs with better compensation and benefits, especially since I’m going to need my own insurance in a few years. These are the considerations I need to make if I’m going to be a successful adult, right?

image
I have to maintain my glamour punk aesthetic!

I could probably settle and stay at the supermarket. There might be a management position opening up there and I think I would be a fine candidate for the job; I know that the stress would probably kill me. I’ve been trying to get out of the checkout department practically since I started at the store and they won’t let me switch because I’m too damn good at customer service. I think this means they’d trust me to manage checkout at some point. I guess I don’t want to feel stuck in a job that was intended to just be a way to get myself through grad school. I want to move on, and grow, and be happier in my job.

At any rate, I think I’m starting to get my shit together. I might even retake my permit test in the next week or so, since I need to get back behind the wheel. If I want to be an adult I need to be able to drive, even though I’m afraid to. I need to do a lot of things I’m afraid to. And I’m taking those steps today.

All my love,

Katherine Wheel

Boston Calling VII: The Festival in Review

13305114_893803307409312_4668615397651500821_o
For those unaware, blue and red are mainstage and green is the new comedy/local act stage.

This past weekend was Boston Calling VII; for those unaware, it’s the newest, greatest summer music festival in New England. Since 2013 this diverse event has taken up residence in City Hall Plaza in Boston during Memorial Day Weekend and then again on a varying weekend in September.With a music lineup curated by Aaron Dessner of the National, there is rarely an act who disappoints. Beyond the performances at the festival, there’s always a variety of sponsors touting games, raffles,and free swag. And who could forget the amazing food and drink vendors they bring in. Regular offerings include Arancini Bros from Brooklyn, NY (love you guys!), Tasty Burger, Sam Adams, and Wicked Wines; there’s also a rotating roster of excellent local and national vendors including Roxy’s Grilled Cheese, Bon Me, Chicken and Rice Guys, and Wagamama. You will NOT go hungry at this festival.  And planet/animal conscious fans, don’t worry. There are always vegetarian and vegan offerings!

13323222_10154163737327359_8249380728321422205_o
I had already stuffed my face with the buccatini fritti arancino before I could snap a photo. Look at these delicious balls of joy.

If you’re willing to splurge for VIP 3-day passes (my mom and I did for the second time), you’ll be in for some excellent perks. This year’s meals were catered by Citizen’s Public House (a more upscale offering from the folks who brought you Tasty Burger) There were both meat and vegetarian options at each meal, and one meal was more delicious than the next. I enjoyed avocado cucumber sushi, panko breaded mac and cheese, barbecue pork belly, and a mini meatball sub. They also had three kinds of cupcakes! Other offerings up there included free sodas and seltzers from festival sponsor Polar (a local company whom I’ve been in a love affair with for YEARS), samples of some savory KIND bars, Terra chips from Jet Blue, and Dunkin Donuts coffee. This is a far cry from the first time I bought VIP tickets and all we got were some chips and salsa catered by Hard Rock Cafe. Other VIP perks include a nice shaded area within City Hall Plaza, a platform between the two stages for a better view (this is also for ADA access!),chairs and couches, a bar for VIPS only (cash bar, but still) and private port-a-potties. If you can get these tickets at early bird prices, it’s easily worth the extra splurge, especially if the bands are lackluster or the weather is bad. I don’t know how these perks will vary or improve at the new venue (more on that shortly), but I hope it remains comparable.

This May’s affair is flipping the script by being the last Boston Calling held in City Hall Plaza, and the first to not be followed up by a September event. The BC team will be focusing their energy on planning next year’s festival at the Harvard Athletic Quad in Allston rather than coming back in September as expected. This is part of a plan to expand the festival to include more comedic offerings as well as a film festival component curated by Natalie Portman (WHAT?!) and art installations. As a four-time attendee of the event, and someone who greatly looked forward to being able to attend another September festival now that I am permanently home from college, this cancellation has been a huge blow. I’m sure that next May will not disappoint, but I can’t help but that the attempts to expand and further diversify the event will diminish what made it so special in the first place. While it will still be taking place in the city, it won’t be in the heart of things. It won’t be all about the music and the experience. I know plenty of people will think I’m just being salty, but I don’t see the appeal of comedians and films at a MUSIC festival. For me, it’s a weekend that’s all about music, food, and fun. I don’t know that the expansion will lend itself to that.

13244867_10154165298222359_6694430278638921369_n
My classy festival style from Saturday

Now on to the actual event review. This year’s festival was…of a very mixed quality.
Friday night was easily the best lineup of the three days. Lisa Hannigan and Aaron Dessner started out the fest with some mellow rocking vibes, the perfect tunes for dinner time. Sufjan Stevens brought what could only be described as a psychedelic art-rock performance (and wacky wavy inflatable arm flailing tube men). I had not listened to Stevens before I saw him, but it did nothing to dampen his contagious energy and electric performance. He was followed up by vocal powerhouse Sia and her outstanding crew of dancers. I know my mom wasn’t as enamored with this performance as I was, but I walked into it knowing the dancers would be doing the real crowd engagement for Sia; if you’re unfamiliar, she obscures her face, typically with a large wig or costume piece, and more or less stands there and sings for her whole set. It may not be your cup of tea, but I enjoyed it. The crowd definitely ate it up too!

Day two was easily the weakest of the three lineups, in my opinion. Maybe it was the heat draining the energy from both the crowd and the performers, but I have never felt less hyped up at a show before. The bands (for the most part) barely engaged with the crowd. It’s one thing if you know a band well and they don’t say anything for their whole set, but if it’s a festival where you might know half of the bands, it’s boring when they don’t even say,”hey” (I’m looking at you, Miike Snow. You guys sucked). Headliner Robyn put on a bizzare, experimental performance that I didn’t bother staying for the entirety of. From what I’ve heard, neither did she; she left the stage twenty minutes early even after the crowd clamored for an encore. I don’t know what she was expecting as the headliner of a music festival on the hottest day of the year thus far; you can’t come up on stage and try something completely out of left field and expect the crowd to know how to engage with it. Some highlights of the day were the Vaccines, BORNS, and Odezsa. Honestly, I think they should have made Odezsa the Saturday headliner since they were much more engaging and overall fun.

Day three was INCREDIBLE. Despite the cold weather, the acts were red hot. Even artists like Vince Staples, whom I would probably never listen to on my own, were highly fun to watch. Some of my personal favorites of the day were the Front Bottoms, Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires, Janelle Monae, Haim, and Elle King. That’s most of the main stage lineup, if you’re keeping track. And that’s both wonderful and sucky; the beginning and end of the festival were excellent, but the middle was pretty lackluster. Maybe this is just because I didn’t know many of the artists on Saturday, or maybe it’s a general mistake in the creation of the lineup. I have faith that Aaron Dessner will do better next May; he has a pretty excellent track record for putting together good festivals.

I’m looking forward to next year, and I hope I run into some of you there!

All my love,
Katherine Wheel.

 

Riot Games at PAX East: A Riftwalk review

Let me preface this by saying I am the n00biest n00b to ever play League of Legends. I’ve been trying not to get into it for years, partly because people I greatly dislike play the game, and partly out of laziness. I have a bit of an addictive personality, so once I find a game I enjoy I will play that game incessantly. I can tell right now that League is going to be no exception. If you care to add me, my summoner name is KatMaestrale. Once I get a better handle on things, lets play together! I currently main as Lux.

This weekend I attended PAX East, and one of the first things that caught my eye was the League of Legends Riftwalk. The line was enormous, even before 10 am on the first day of the convention, so naturally I had to see what it was for myself. On Saturday morning, I got in line as soon as the horror in media panel with Chris Straub was over and made a beeline for the Riot Games section of the convention center. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was in for a two hour wait for the experience. Luckily, Riot Games planned ahead and created the Minimap app, an app that allowed you to complete a “quest” while in line for a chance to win some swag, as well something to sync with the wristband needed to experience the Riftwalk. I did not end up winning any swag from the app, but I did make a few new friends to play League with, and I met some wonderful people in line. If there’s one impression this left on me this weekend, it’s that gamers can often be some of the nicest people out there. I think we as a culture get too hung up on trolls and forget there’s dozens of really kind and cool people out there.

After my two hour wait, I finally got into the Riftwalk. It was a beautiful and atmospheric interactive art exhibit showcasing the growth of LoL over the years, including some really cool artwork you could “take home” with the aid of your wristband. There were also a few photo ops which were super cool and really fun to do. It explains why the wait for Riftwalk is so long as well. For the first photo, you had the chance to choose between a few different weapons. I chose Fishbones and held that heavy son-of-a-gun with pride. Unfortunately for me, this picture, the one I wanted the most, didn’t show up on my Minimap app, nor in my email as promised. Naturally, I took to the twittersphere to complain, and I was greeted warmly by Rioter Janelle Jiminez. She pointed me in the direction of the Riot info desk, who graciously allowed me to have a second shot at getting my coveted picture without having to wait in another 2 hour line. Unfortunately, the pictures STILL didn’t make it my way, but I did get another chance to walk around the Riftwalk. It was a different experience since the giant Thresh puppet wasn’t there at the time I was readmitted, but still a really good time. I felt really lucky to get to have another go at the fun photo ops.  Thank you again to the Rioters for being so accommodating and pleasant.

And for those of you Pinny Arcade collectors out there, I got an exclusive Teemo pin for my troubles. It’s adorable, and easily my favorite pin because I earned it, goddamn it! And now, for your nerdy pleasure, here are some pictures of my journey through the Riftwalk!

1f7229da64dae729867cef3595974499.jpg
Thresh came for my soul that day.

All my love,

Katherine Wheel

Updates and the like

Sorry for my blogging hiatus; it was unexpected and entirely unpleasant, and that’s all I care to share about it.Good things seem to be on the horizon though! I’m finally getting trained to work the service desk at my job, which I’m told will be less stressful than supervising checkout. I’m a little worried because I am terrible at dealing with high stress customers, but I’m hoping that with a few days of training I’ll be good to go. I just need to learn how to do Moneygram and lottery sales, which is not anything overly strenuous. And I’m being trained by this really sweet old lady who works the desk every morning and is an expert at it, so bonus!

But I’ve gotta tell you, being an adult is really exhausting. I’ve decided to stop being a lazy fuck and actually come in early when I’m needed. It’s not like when I was just a regular cashier and they could call any number of kids anymore; I keep the front end operational when a manager can’t be there. Even if I feel overworked sometimes, the bottom line is I’m not typically working more than 25 hours a week. That’s chump change compared to what my brother works, and what any full-timer works. My shifts aren’t even usually longer than six and a half hours, which is pretty fair. It’s six and a half hours of running across the checkout, helping my cashiers with difficult customers and day to day mishaps. As irritating as it can be, and as sore as my feet are after a shift, I’m glad I work where I do. I figure now that I’m getting experience as a higher-up, I have more opportunities for better jobs further along the line. All I know is that I’m glad this is my stepping stone job and not some hellhole like Market Basket.

In other life updates, I’m planning on being a defiant child and finally getting my first tattoo.  The plan is to get the words, “In Venere Veritas”in a very clean, classic font on my left forearm, right below my elbow crease. If I can handle getting something that small, I’m planning on getting a few more tattoos that are more visually intricate. I’d need to collaborate with a really skilled artist for that though, and that will be EXPENSIVE. I hate thinking about money, and how in a few months when I don’t return to grad school I’m going to have to pay my student loans. I would prefer to do ANYTHING but pay my student loan right now. I can barely maintain living at my parents house with the money I currently make; I can’t imagine giving Uncle Sam a couple hundred dollars a month on top of that.
Does anyone else look at their bank statements and weep?

All my love,
Katherine Wheel

REVIEW:Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Today I’m going to debut a new segment to the blog: reviews! I’m going to be tagging these posts as “Kat Thoughts” for your convenience (and so you can skip them if you’re not into reviews). Be forewarned that there will be some spoilers below the cut. -KW

Continue reading “REVIEW:Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”

The art of the mix CD

Not to brag, but I am an expert at crafting mixes for my friends and loved ones. If you ask me to make you a playlist or burn you a CD, I will dedicate an entire afternoon to painstakingly selecting the tracks and assigning them an order. If I’m burning a CD, I also make sure to decorate the jewel case with a track listing and sometimes even album art if I have lots of time on my hands.

If that sounds excessive to you, you have a few things to learn about making mixes. Let me fill you in on my tried and true technique to make a playlist your friend will love!

The first thing to consider when you’re making a mix for someone is their taste in music. It might be tempting to put together a mix with all of your favorite songs on it, but it’s a bit of a waste if you’re more into indie folk music and your friend prefers synth pop. To be safe, I usually ask my friends what vibe they have in mind for the playlist. For example, I introduced my boyfriend to the Cure and Depeche Mode, and he was looking for a mix with more of their style music. So what did I start the playlist off with? Depeche Mode and the Cure (duh).

Once you have a solid foundation for the playlist, it’s time to branch out into things you think your friend will also enjoy. This is usually the part where I swim in a sea of panic. What if you pick that one song they associate with their sleazy ex, Brad? What if your choice is just entirely off base? I waste a lot of time worrying about these things when I’m picking out tracks. But at the end of the day, it’s just a collection of songs you put together for someone you care about. Even if it isn’t 100 percent what they had in mind, it’s something you’ve crafted with love and dedication. If they don’t appreciate it, take your mad mix-making skills elsewhere!

Here comes the most important part: ordering the tracks! I don’t think there’s really a wrong way to go about this, but I have a few tips for making the playlist flow as smoothly as possible. I like to sandwich the songs I know my friend will like around the ones I’m taking a guess on. From there, I try and fit my selections after songs that have similar lyrical content or sounds. For instance, let’s say I had put “Leave a Trace” by CHVRCHES as my first track. I would follow that up with something else with a wintry synth sound, maybe “Love My Way” by the Psychedelic Furs or “Not In Love” by Crystal Castles. Again, this is just my way of going about things, and I don’t know if it really makes sense written out.
At any rate, now you have all my tips, tricks, and suggestions for crafting a playlist your friends and loved ones are guaranteed to enjoy! I have a 100 percent success rate after all ;).

As an added treat, here’s a playlist of some of my favorite tracks. Enjoy!

All my love,

Katherine Wheel