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Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy


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Adam Lambert or Adam Levine? A guide to telling the difference

Two tall, good-looking, tattooed, stylish, Jewish-American pop singers with the same first name and same last initial.

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Can’t tell which Adam’s on the left, which one’s on the right? Here’s some help.

Looks like Elvis?

That would be Adam Lambert.

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A collage of Presley / Lambert, Presley / Lambert…
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“Tonight, Elvis is dead… And love is a satire” (Adam Lambert, Ghost Town)

Moves like Jagger?

Then it’s Adam Levine.

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I hear that this guy has got the moves like Jagger

Lead singer of Maroon 5?

That would be Levine.

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Levine front and centre

Lead singer of Queen?

Lambert.

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Keeps hunting for The Voice?

That would be your Adam Levine, long-time judge on NBC’s The Voice.

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Levine doing the judging thing in the big, spinny red chair

Was almost the American Idol (and definitely has the X-Factor)?

It’s Lambert who first gained fame in season 8 of American Idol.

Adam Lambert re-creates his American Idol audition (singing Bohemian Rhapsody, natch)

And is now a judge on X-Factor.

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Was covered on Glee?

Levine. They did versions of “Moves Like Jagger” and “Misery”.

I rather like this Moves Like Jagger / Jumpin Jack Flash mashup

Did covers on Glee?

Lambert, who appeared in a number of season 5 episodes.

Adam Lambert’s last Glee performance

Guess he did just want to be a rock star—he left the show to tour with Queen.

Dates models?

Levine.

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Levine rebounded from his breakup with a model by dating this Victoria Secret model

Is a model?

Lambert.

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Can’t keep his damn shirt on?

If you see abs, that’s Adam Levine.

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One of oh-so-many shirtless Levine photos available on the Google

Won’t take his damn shirt off?

This is about as much as you’ll ever see of Adam Lambert’s chestal area:

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(Yes, I know he’s shirtless in the Welcome to the Show video, but with no more than his upper torso ever in frame, I think my point stands.)

Make lots of noise, kiss lots of boys

So a photo of an Adam and another guy getting cuddly is probably of Lambert…

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(The blonde is a guy…)

But don’t just assume…

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Adam Levine and Blake Shelton bromance

Or kiss lots of girls, if that’s what you’re into

Whereas a photo of an Adam kissing a woman is probably Levine…

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But then again…

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Sexiest man alive, 2013

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Sexiest man alive, 2016

Well…

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BUNDLE LITHO BBB

It’s got to be Jamie from Outlander, right? 🙂

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As played by Sam Heughan


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On the songs in our heads

Do you ever get songs stuck in your head?

So opened a blog post by Deidra Alexander, fiction writer. (I have not read her fiction. I just follow her blog.)

Yes, I do, Deidra. So I expected an amusing accounting of a phenomena I’m quite familiar with.

But then she went to say, “I have a few that I cycle through.” And went on to list exactly… three songs.

Three? Your whole life, just three?

And her main one was “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” by Franki Valli. Two lines of it, to be exact. “I don’t even know the rest of the words,” she writes.

Uh, you’ve had this song stuck in your head off and on for years and you’ve never bothered to hear and learn the rest of it? What? (Tip: Listening to a “stuck” song can actually be a way to get it out of your head.)

Then the other two are:

  • A folk song
  • A children’s show theme song.

I mean… Having such a limited and unappealing internal playlist sounds like a freakin’ nightmare.

Yet, Deidra seems perfectly content with this situation, not describing it at all negatively but just as an amusing little fact of her life.

I have to stop being surprised that people aren’t like me.

Thing is, I know there are people who basically never get songs stuck in their head—I’m married to one of those. But I had just assumed that those who did experienced much as I do: That while it was fairly common to have some song stuck in one’s head, the song in question changed frequently over a life time. Three songs? I’ve surely experienced this phenomenon with hundreds.

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Photo courtesy of www.m3ga.net

Most of these occurrences come and go without making it into my long-term memory. But some I recall because they’re associated with an unusual place or event. When I was in Berlin, U2’s “Zoo Station” rattled around after we visited that very train stop (the U2). On our Napa trip, I kept hearing “California Dreamin’”. When we adopted our cat Mocha, I inherited “Livin’ La Vida Loca” on internal repeat longer than was really pleasant (no matter how cute Ricky Martin is).

“And her skin’s the color mocha…”

Getting a Koodo phone spawned some days of Alanis Morrisette’s “Thank U” becoming my internal soundtrack, though it took me a while to figure out the association. Can you get it? It was this line:

“How’ bout that ever elusive kudo”…

And after 9/11, I was rather haunted by “American Tune”. (And I dreamed I was dying / I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly / And looking back down at me / Smiled reassuringly / And I dreamed I was flying / And high up above my eyes could clearly see / The statue of liberty…)

Sorry to bring down the room.

On a lighter note, spring 2013 was all “Blurred Lines” on repeat, which was so annoying! But that one didn’t relate to any particular event or place. It’s just a super-sticky song. (As is that horrid “We Built This City” song. Ugh!)

Often I don’t know what inspires the song stickiness, though. This week’s song in my head is Adam Lambert’s “For Your Entertainment”, a fave kitchen karaoke (complete with dance steps). Of course, that it’s Lambert is certainly no surprise; but why not a Queen song, since that’s mainly what I’m listening to him sing these days? (Queen + Adam Lambert being back on tour.)

(Speaking of karaoke, now I’m reminded of someone who insisted the only songs she possibly knew well enough to karaoke where ones by Wham! Apart from the very weirdness of only being melodically familiar of a single 80s band (what, no Beatles? No We Will Rock You?), now I wonder: Does this poor person have “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” as their one and only earworm?)

So many questions.

Fortunately, science is on it! You can follow along with the Earworm Project to learn:

  1. What features do typical earworm music tunes have in common?
  2. What do people who frequently experience earworms have in common?
  3. What causes earworms?
  4. What cures earworms?

One intriguing finding:

We’re working with the hypothesis that people are getting earworms to either match or change their current state of arousal—or a combination of the two.” She adds, “Maybe you’re feeling sluggish but need to take your child to a dance class, so it could be that an earworm pops into your hear that’s very upbeat, to help you along. Or working in reverse, can earworms act to calm you down?” It would explain why we sometimes get earworms even when we haven’t been listening to music at all, or why people who spend a great deal of time in nature often report beginning to hear every sound—wind blowing, leaves rustling, water rippling—as music, which their brain spontaneously plays over and over. Just as important, it would help explain why our brains often seem to linger on music that we don’t particularly care for.

From Anatomy of an ear worm

Playlist of ear worms referenced in this post (including Deidra’s big opportunity to hear the rest of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” but excluding “We Built This City”, because I’m not a sadist).


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Is it live or is it Internet?

My “big plan” for the Friday of the long weekend was to watch the webcast of the opening show of Queen + Adam Lambert’s tour, performed as part of the Rock in “Rio” festival in Lisbon. So it was a bit dismaying when, on Wednesday or so, the webcast company announced that, “at the band’s request”, they would no longer be showing it.

Someone contacted Brian May about it on Twitter. And he actually answered.

Only to come back with:

So then the Glambert hunt was on to find some way to watch Portuguese broadcast TV from the Internet.

The “best” source finally found was a bit of Trojan horse one that kept trying to lure you in with “free” logins and “mandatory” Flash upgrades that actually installed malware on your computer. But with the installation of a browser ad blocker + being very careful not to click anything other than maximize video button, we were in!

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Of course, it wasn’t the full-fidelity video or sound we would have had with the official webcast, but it was still a professional recording of the whole show, not just some fan’s Periscope.

So it’s really too bad the concert itself sucked.

I kid! The show was terrific, as though they’d hadn’t taken nearly a year-long break from performing together. They added a bunch of new songs (truly new to many of the Glamberts): The Hero. Hammer to Fall, Stone Cold Crazy, The Game. They had some new props. And Adam had six costume changes, all of which featured very tight pants.

six-outfits

I do wonder at the promoter’s logic here as well. Surely the number of people who’d decide that, having seen the webcast, they don’t need to an actual show would be outweighed by the number who do see it and decide it’s awesome enough that they want to be there themselves? Certainly that’s been the history of this band (all of which I was there for—watching from my living room):

A great webcast might be the closest to live you can get—but it ain’t live. It’s just not the same as being there.

Ah well. At least I got to see it, since I’m not flying off to Europe for this set of shows. And there is hope that a better-quality version will see the light of day eventually (as the promoter has also been diligent about getting any YouTubes of the Portuguese broadcast taken down). Queen Official did release this one high-quality track from the show today. Enjoy.

Queen + Adam Lambert: I Want to Break Free, Rock in Rio Lisbao


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Berlin, mon amour

Tuesday morning. It’s cold. It’s raining. The museum lineup has slowed to a crawl, as groups of school children gained entry ahead of us. Jean has lapsed into a grumpy silence. My mood is darkening accordingly.

“Good Lord,” I think. “This is going to be a long week.”


Why visit Berlin? Well, weird as it seems, it really was a vacation built around an Adam Lambert concert. We’d been thinking of heading back to Europe in the spring anyway. He was touring there then; I’d been wanting to see Lambert in concert for a while. So we used his tour itinerary for vacation planning.

Amsterdam had been the likely prospect, but the date wasn’t ideal—a bit early in April, and conflicting with a local show we had tickets to. Then more dates were added. “Hey look,” I told Jean. “He’s playing Berlin.”

“Well, I’ve always wanted to visit Berlin,” Jean said as he hurried off to work.

That afternoon I emailed him. “I bought Adam Lambert concert tickets!

“For Berlin!”

And five months later, we were off.


For whatever reason, I did a lot of fretting before this vacation. At various times, I worried about:

  • The low dollar. [But it had started swinging upward again well before we left, taking the steam out of that worry.]
  • That our Tep wireless device wouldn’t arrive in time. [It did.]
  • That it would rain constantly. [Actuality: Three of the seven days, it did rain regularly, but never constantly. Basically, we had four days of sun and three days of partial sun.]
  • Terrorism. That would be right after the Brussels airport bombing—the very airport we were transferring through on the way back. But I eventually got hold of myself and realized that fear was somewhat irrational, and replaced it with a fear of:
  • The Brussels airport not being ready for us to transfer through—But then I looked it up two weeks before, and it was ready, so then it was just
  • That security would be a nightmare. [Which it wasn’t really. Just that the extra checking delayed our departing flight somewhat.]

I could continue on this vein for a while. Will we get good seats on the plane? Have I done enough Berlin research? Should I get the Museumcard or the Citypass or the Berlinpass? Should I be booking a Parliament tour ahead of time? You get the idea.

Still, up to that Tuesday morning, it really seemed all that worrying had been silly. The flight over—and I never say this about transatlantic flights—seemed to go by really fast. Jet lag makes everything a bit challenging the first day, but we still managed to get our transit pass, then (eventually) find the bus to the train station, from where we (rather easily) found our hotel.

And our hotel was nicer than I had been expecting, and in our slightly sleepy state, we agreed to a room upgrade. I don’t know quite what the difference was, but if that’s why we got such a big bathroom counter, that was appreciated. (I don’t travel light in terms of cosmetics.) And the bed was quite comfortable.

It was a nice day, so after wrestling our wireless device into submission (after a shaky start, it ultimately worked really well for us), we got out into the city a bit. Our first Berlin meal, at a random but very busy pub across from a popular market, was delicious: Gorgonzola and spinach ravioli for me; Hungarian goulash for Jean. We saw the Berlin Wall remnants, with plans to go back for a proper visit, and that night had an incredibly long, restorative sleep.

What’s left of “The Wall”


So I think the troubles started Monday. But not dramatically so. Yes, we tried booking some sites online, and just ended up confused, which wasn’t a great start to a day. And yes, many museums were closed that day.

But it was also nice and sunny out, so a good day to visit several outdoor sites, which we did. We saw:

  • The Bradenburg Gates
  • The Holocaust Memorial
  • The Topographie des Terrors site
  • The Berlin Wall memorial

All of which I found at least somewhat interesting, and some fascinating. And I’ll be writing more about them later.

But the problem for Jean—along with the fact that was a rather depressing series of historical events we were revisiting this day—was that he didn’t find much of this picture-worthy. And taking photos is a big part of what he enjoys doing on vacation.

brandenburg

As Jean didn’t take a picture of the Bradenburg Gate, here’s one by Terrance Spencer, a member of Adam Lambert’s band, taken the week we were there. Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BEv9FomIMmB/?taken-by=terrancespencer&hl=en

It also didn’t help that our second Berlin dinner wasn’t as successful as the first. Having failed to get into the Italian restaurant we were aiming for, the alternative we selected was just so-so. (Though I think the lamb I had was better than Jean’s chicken.)

So Tuesday’s mediocre breakfast, rainy morning, and 45-minute wait to get into a museum did nothing improve to the situation.


Fortunately, when we got into the Pergamon, we found that it actually was a pretty darn good museum, with picture-worthy exhibits! I was quite relieved to finally see Jean pull out his camera and start snapping away. And the companion museum we visited in the afternoon—no lineup here—was even better: the Neues Museum.

Museum Island resident

One of the statues on “Museum Island”, where both the Pergamon and Neues Museums are located

And then the day cleared up, weather-wise. And that night we did get ourselves into that Italian restaurant we’d aimed for on Monday, and we had a wonderful meal there, with great wine.

However, it’s just a fact that Berlin is a less photographer-friendly city than many we’ve visited, given how much was destroyed in the wars and how much is currently under construction, So it just wasn’t destined to be Jean’s favourite. But he stopped letting that affect his mood, and for the rest of the vacation was his usual cheery self and generally great travel partner.

Meanwhile I was perfectly happy just stuffing historical and archaeological facts into my head (though I think many of them have just spilled back out…), and envisioning past times so very different from the vibrant and free city in front of me now.

And the week went by really fast… 🙂

(More to come.)


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Adam Lambert live in Berlin

Dig if you will the picture…

A steamy, packed room of 1500 people pressed close together, singing, dancing, screaming. Stripping down as it gets hotter. On stage, an unbearably handsome singer, framed by two gorgeous dancers, playing music with an insistent, irresistible dance beat. Effortlessly hitting notes that don’t seem humanely possible, moving sensually, singing lyrics of want and desire. Keep me on a leash tonight. Lay me down in darkness. My one and own, I want to get you alone.

Sexiest. Concert. Ever.

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Standing rooms shows… I didn’t even know they were still a thing until this Adam Lambert Original High tour. For some reason he did no Canadian dates, and every venue I considered travelling to was no assigned seating / standing room. I hadn’t been to that type of show in decades.

It’s not my favourite thing, I gotta say. If the entry is well-managed and the fans reasonable, they can be alright, even fun. But if not, they are squishy, scary, unpleasant nightmare.

So when VIP “early entry” tickets when on sale, I was willing to quadruple my concert ticket costs for a chance to be among the first group to get in without having to wait in line.

The slightly nerve-wracking thing is you don’t get details of how exactly that’s going to work until you get an email “24 to 48 hours before your event”. It did nothing for my stress level that said email actually arrived more like 23 hours before my event.


VIPing: What we had to do was rudely walk past the people who’d been lining up all day, and head into the box office area ahead of them. There we were divided into two groups: Those who increased their ticket costs even more, such that they could also meet Adam Lambert before the show (those ladies were giddy), and those of us who just didn’t want to wait in line.

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One of the Berlin meet and greeters with some dude

As that group went off for their pictures, we were allowed to enter the venue—warned to not run, push, or pass one another. “There’s no need anyway,” the coordinator said. “Because you’re all going to be in the front row.”

Uh? It actually hadn’t dawned on me to that point that we were small enough in number that indeed, we would be in the front row. (There were more “meet and greet” people, actually, and some of them ended up in the second row!)

But for me (and Jean), there was to be no visual obstruction whatsoever all night long. And we had a barrier to lean on. And it was less hot because of the lack of sticky bodies in front of us. It was awesome!

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Crappy phone picture of me in the front row


The opening act, who started promptly at 8:00, were a German band named Eveline, led by an attractive blonde woman singer. They were pretty good—pop, dance style, good singer. She did all her speaking in German, and all her singing in English.

They finished around 8:30, and then we had a wait somewhere in neighbourhood of 45, 50 minutes, which got kind of long, really.

But right from the opening chords, all was forgiven.


For the benefit of those not steeped in all things Lambert:

  • Yes, he has a full band—guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums. And two dancers / backup singers. And a pretty awesome light show.
  • Though he does a few covers, the focus is squarely on “his” music, from his three albums.
  • The show is in three parts: The “darker” songs, the ballads, and the dance party. He wears a different outfit for each.

This tour’s been going on for a while now, so the band was tight. They seemed to really be having a good time this night—it was all very high energy, and the pacing seemed perfect. I honestly enjoyed the whole show, but I’ll note some particular highlights.

As I’ve already said, I had a great, close view of the stage all night, but I wasn’t right in the centre. Fortunately, Adam was kind of enough to regularly stroll (or dance) over to my end of the stage and stand right in front of me. He first did so at the beginning of Ghost Town. Lordy, he’s attractive in person. Every time he came near I was particularly mesmerized by those gorgeous, greenish eyes.

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Instagram photo by Franke G., https://www.instagram.com/xx_frauke_xx/, taken at the Berlin show


For the purposes of maybe getting surprised, or at least avoiding disappointment, I had somewhat backed off on paying as much attention to Adam’s shows that preceded my own. However, I still caught the fact that in Hamburg, the show two days before Berlin, they had omitted the medley that included the song Runnin’.

There’s no reason to expect him to play Runnin’. It was never a single—heck, it was never even a regular album track, but just a bonus on the deluxe edition of his second album. Nevertheless, it’s such a fantastic song, it’s been discovered, just racking up the YouTube views, despite its not obviously not having a proper video accompaniment.

So I was very relieved that it made its return to the set in Berlin.

Runnin’/Chokehold/Sleepwalker live in Berlin (video)

Lucy, by contrast, is not one of my favourite Adam Lambert song, Brian May (Queen)’s presence on guitar notwithstanding. It’s the lyrics I don’t care for, mainly, as they come across as bit male judgmental about the titular Lucy. (Now, I’m no way suggesting that Adam is sexist. Only that this song is. A bit.)

As done live, though, it was saved for me by the dance moves. No, not Adam’s, but Holly Hyman’s, whose interpretation read, to me, as really powerful and defiant. She actually made me like the song for the first time. Which is cool.

Lucy live in Berlin

And at the end of it, Adam did this, while standing right in front of me.

GIF LUCY B Berlin maggy97 lilybop

Adam is not overly chatty in concert, preferring to letting his singing do the talking. Still, we got a “Hello Berlin” pretty early on, following the tidbit I didn’t know, that he had lived in Berlin for three months. “It wasn’t long, but it gave me a taste.

“And it tasted nasty.”

In the ballad portion of the evening, we got the longest talking sequence. Adam’s message here is that we should try focusing more on our commonalities than differences. “There’s one thing that everyone in this audience all has in common.” Pause. “ME!” Hee!


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Photo by Anja Josef Salvat, https://www.instagram.com/anijsf/

Now seems a good time to address what you might be wondering: Given our excellent sight lines, why am I cribbing pictures from other folks instead of featuring wonderful, original Jean photography?

That would be because security took away our camera. Which was very frustrating, as there had been no advance warning that a small camera would be an issue. Even more frustrating? They didn’t seem to take away anybody else’s camera! (Do Germans just like to pick on Canadians?) As my budget cell phone was useless for taking photos, we have none. Which still irritates me every time I think about it.

adam-beauty

Another beautiful Berlin photo by Franke G., who clearly didn’t get her camera confiscated

That said… When you are attending the Sexiest Concert Ever with your sweetie, it’s actually not a terrible thing that his hands and face are free… To fondle something other than a camera…


Ahem. Now back to our regularly scheduled program. Adam’s vocals are a thing of wonder: this is not a singer who backs away from the high notes while live. And no auto-tune, either.And the terrific The Original High was quite the showcase for that. He Sings So High in this song.

The big note at the 3:00 minute mark of this video

I also found out later we were very lucky to have David Bowie’s Let’s Dance included in the set, as that’s another number they haven’t been doing so much lately. It was a terrific version. That then led into the super-hot trio of dance songs, “Lay Me Down”, “Shady”, and “Fever”. We especially enjoyed dancer Terrance Spencer’s moves during this sequence.

The audience by now was a sweaty, frenzied mess, but the band wasn’t done with us. They launched into “If I Had You,”—not the weird, reggae version presented earlier on the tour, but the irresistible original. The entire place was hopping to it in unison! So fun!

The encore was Trespassing, which happens to be a favourite of both mine and Jean’s. And got some more talking, including Adam presenting his lucky glitter mushroom (???).

mushrooms

“Want to hear some Queen?” he asked, and on the affirmative, we got some “Another One Bites the Dust”. And a crazy-notes Adam Lambert singalong. (“Some of you are acting too cool to sing. I see you!”) And he concluded with more “Trespassing.”

And what did Jean think? Jean… Actually had a really good time! He’s a people watcher, and he found Adam’s audience mix fascinating. He enjoyed watching me and the other adult woman around regress into teenagers. And he got into it. He danced a bit. He snapped his fingers. He pretended to sing so Adam wouldn’t pick on him.

(But for the record, he still prefers the Queen + Adam Lambert show, because that’s more his music. And also, we had seats for that one.)


Set list:

Anger / Darkness

  1. Evil in the Night
  2. For Your Entertainment
  3. Ghost Town
  4. Welcome to the Show
  5. Runnin’
  6. Chokehold
  7. Sleepwalker
  8. Underground
  9. Rumors
  10. Lucy

Love and longing

  1. After Hours
  2. Mad World
  3. Whataya Want from Me
  4. Another Lonely Night

Party!

  1. The Light
  2. The Original High
  3. Never Close Our Eyes
  4. Let’s Dance
  5. Lay Me Down
  6. Shady
  7. Fever
  8. If I Had You
  9. Trespassing
  10. Another One Bites the Dust
  11. Trespassing (Reprise)

Ratings

Show: A+

I can’t think of a way they could have improved it.

Audience: A

Included a number of uber-fans I actually recognized from their tweets and blogs. And whether uber or not, it was very striking how everyone could and did sing along, with every song, not just “the hits.” They basically screamed instead of clapped to show appreciation. Lively, lively. Only lose + due to some veteran meet and greeters who (I heard) were overly stoic in the front row, which is just a waste. (This did not seem a problem with our VIP half.)

VIP experience: A

Very well-organized check-in and admission procedure, and made this such a great experience for me. Even the included merchandise was better than I expected: Quite a nice poster, and I hadn’t realized it would be signed! (Not that we need two, but…)

They only lose their + for the latish email that basically had the wrong time: It said to be there for 7:00, which made no sense, since that was general admission time. Fortunately, everyone figured that out and was there for the actual required time, between 6:15 and 6:30. Still…

Venue – Huxleys Neue Welt: D.

Apart from my camera problems, I later read on Twitter that this place didn’t have a scanner for electronic tickets! Meaning that anyone with those (like me) had to get out of the line they had likely been standing in for hours to go to an office and switch their eTicket for a “real” ticket. What the…? I also heard they weren’t very good at managing the general admission entry, which can be nightmarish, and I saw the security was really aggressive about removing items like balloons and glow sticks—even though fans had asked in advance and been assured those were fine!

So, I’d definitely see Adam Lambert in concert again, but never at Huxleys.

Links

My compiled Original High Berlin YouTube playlist

Berlin concert roundup

Full show audio:

A footnote about my feet

So before I knew I’d have VIP, I was trying to figure out how to improve my chances of actually seeing something at this show despite being short, and finally concluded that only shoes with wedge heels would work. So I got these:

wedge

Which added, like, 3 inches to my height. Not realizing I’d be ending up in the front row, I wore them.

So I can tell you that for 5.5 hours of straight standing, those suckers were surprisingly comfortable. And though not needed in the front row, they were kind of handy for looking over people’s head at the merchandise table after.

However… During the short walk to the train station, my feet basically had a nervous breakdown. I felt like I would die if I didn’t get off  my feet. Thankfully, the train station wasn’t far, it had a bench, and I was able to find a seat on the train. So I survived the journey back to the hotel room.

So if you try the wedge shoe approach to seeing something at standing room concerts, remember: To survive, you will have to get off your feet every five hours or so. You’re welcome.

 


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Songs of 2015

That I can rather easily put together a list of recent songs that I liked is certainly a change from my usual of being steeped in the music of the past. I can, of course, attribute much of this to one Adam Mitchell Lambert, my current celebrity crush, who also happens to be quite generous about recommending the work of his fellow musicians.

It’s also been bolstered by increased use of streaming services, along with Google Music’s habit of making entire albums of new music free or 0.99 to download. (This week: The new Pentatonix Deluxe Edition, free to own! I’m quite liking it so far.) Music radio, on the other hand, continues to have no influence on me, as I never listen to it.

Two songs, one title

Ghost Town – Adam Lambert

Ghosttown – Madonna

We all knew Adam Lambert’s “Ghost Town” was going to be here, so might as well get it out of the way. A catchy song that is musically and lyrically off-beat enough to stand up to multiple (and I do mean multiple) listenings. But it’s only recently I actually listened to other “Ghosttown” song—the one by Madonna. It’s quite good as well! And completely different.

Hello – Adele

Hello – Hedley

Saying you don’t like Adele is like saying you don’t like The Beatles: It doesn’t make you as cool as you think, and you’re just lying to yourself anyway. What I find amazing is that it seemed after only one listen, I knew all the lyrics already. How is that even possible?

And also, no one much comments on the slightly disturbing aspects of what Adele is doing in this song, eh?

As for Hedley: Hello! This is rock! Hedley is current and successful and they make rock music not pop music and that’s a reason to love them right there. Always like Jason Hoggard’s voice, too.

The Idols

carly-rae-jepsen-names-new-album-emotionOne category, two non-winning yet ultimately successful alumni from American or Canadian Idol, so let’s add another: Carly Rae Jepsen.

Carly Rae made many “Best of” lists this year, and I agree; her new album is terrific. But there is a certain mystification that it hasn’t sold better. (Could it be inept management? The CD is often out of stock at Amazon, which just seems odd.)

At any rate, the single, “Run Away with Me” is just incredibly infectious.

And although I seem to be the only one, I just adore the blatant come-on of “I Didn’t Just Come Here to Dance” – Do you know what I mean? You know what I mean. If you just give me a chance, you’ll see what I see.

And speaking of horny women

Selena Gomez all grew up this year with the slinky “Good for You” and its yowza video. Leave this dress a mess on the floor, indeed.

Selena Gomez – Good for You official video

tove-lo-talking-bodyAnd then we had Tove Lo, following up “Habits” with “Talking Body”.

And if you’re talking body, you’ve got a perfect one, so put it on me.
Swear it won’t take you long. (!)
If you love me right, we fuck for life… On and on and on

Why so subtle, Tove?

Little Big Town’s singer so wanted this guy, she developed a “Girl Crush” on his girlfriend. Pretty good for a country song.

The Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack was hella better than the movie (not that’s it’s much of a bar), a nice collection of smooth, sexy songs. My tops from it are Beyonce’s “Haunted” and Ellie Goulding’s big hit, “Love Me Like You Do”.

And while it’s more quirky and lively than the above, one can’t miss Janelle Monae’s repeated request for her baby to “bend over” and “Let me see you do the yoga” in the wonderful “Yoga”.

Janelle Monáe, Jidenna – Yoga

What does this say about me?

That I like so many, uh, passionate songs? Not going there, but did feel that Alessia Cara was describing me in her big introvert anthem, “Here”, about how horrible it is to be at a party with a bunch of people you don’t really know.

French kiss

Bilingualism can be handy, because some French artists are great. And to widen their appeal, some of them sing in English also.

When on The Daily Show, Trevor Noah described France’s Christine and the Queens as “weird. But good. Good weird!” That’s about right. They are actually good; can’t help it if they’re tilted.

Christine and the Queens – Tilted

(Also check out “Paradis Perdus”, a take on “Heartless”.)

Quebec’s Coeur de Pirate also put out a really good album this year, with more English than French songs. I like several (such as “Carry on”), and I guess “Crier tout bas” is the single.

And le groupe Swing released a new album this year as well, with “La Folie” having some success in French Canada.

Who rule the world? [Girls, girls]

taylor-swift_mNot sure if you’ve noticed yet, but this a very female-dominated list. And until Adele came along, no one was more dominant than Taylor Swift, whose 2014 1989 I finally acquired this year, partly on the strength of the 2015 single, “Style”.

I also like Ryan Adams’ take on this album. (Here’s his version of “Style”, for example.) Although the original is still better.

But a few other guys not named Adam also put out some interesting music.

I know nothing at all about Lost Frequencies and their song “Are You With Me”, except that I adored from the first time I heard and still do, every time since.

Lost Frequencies – Are You With Me

Also great fun was Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk”. Watch me, baby, don’t stop! And Duran Duran (remember them?) put out a rather good album called Paper Gods. The single (I’m just learning) is “Pressure Off”. (I also liked “Sunset Garage”.)

And Zhu’s “Faded” highlighted his unusual voice.

And speaking of unusual voices

Elle King was one of those cheap albums I acquired this year. Her voice has been described as Joplin-esque. “Ex’s and Oh’s” was her big song. Also check out “America’s Sweetheart”.

Remixes!

Aka how to get The Who on this list, as a rather excellent Lovelife Remix of “Love Reign O’er Me’ came out this year.

And to bring this full circle, I also enjoyed many remixes and mashups of Adam’s “Ghost Town”. In the “remixed live” category, Queen + Adam Lambert gave it a rock edge. In the non-live category, tt was nicely combined with Bieber’s “What Do You Mean”: What do Ghosts Mean? and even more successfully with “Prayer in C” by Robin Shulz and Lilly Wood & The Prick: Prayer in Ghost Town. But my favorite was the “Ghost Body” mashup of Talking Body with Ghost Town, with Tove’s blatant come-on met with Adam’s “Meh. My heart is a ghost town.”

Tove Lo vs. Adam Lambert – Ghost Body (Mixed Mashup)

(By the way, Tove and Adam do actually sing a duet called “Rumors” on his album.)

The songs

  • Ghost Town – Adam Lambert
  • Ghosttown – Madonna
  • Hello – Adele
  • Hello – Hedley
  • Run Away with Me – Carly Rae Jepsen
  • I Didn’t Just Come Here to Dance – Carly Rae Jepsen
  • Good for You – Selena Gomez –
  • Talking Body – Tove Lo
  • Girl Crush – Little Big Town
  • Haunted – Beyonce
  • Love Me Like You Do – Ellie Goulding
  • Yoga – Janelle Monae, Jidenna
  • Here – Alessia Cara
  • Style – Taylor Swift
  • Style – Ryan Adams
  • Tilted – Christine and the Queens
  • Paradis Perdus – Christine and the Queens
  • Carry on – Coeur de Pirate
  • Crier tout bas – Coeur de Pirate
  • La Folie – Swing
  • Lost Frequencies – Are You With Me
  • Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
  • Pressure Off – Duran Duran
  • Sunset Garage – Duran Duran
  • Faded (Big Gigantic Remix) – Zhu
  • Ex’s & Oh’s – Elle King
  • America’s Sweetheart – Elle King
  • Love Reign O’er Me (Lovelife Remix) – The Who
  • Ghost Town – Queen + Adam Lambert
  • What do Ghosts Mean? – Adam Lambert and Justin Bieber
  • Prayer in Ghost Town – Adam Lambert, Robin Shulz, and Lilly & The Prick
  • Ghost Body (Mixed Mashup) – Adam Lambert and Tove Lo

YouTube playlist of everything

Spotify playlist of most things (email people, you have to look at this post in a browser to get the Spotify playlist. And to see the embedded YouTube videos, for that matter):

The albums

  1. The Original High – Adam Lambert
  2. E.M.O.T.I.O.N – Carly Rae Jepsen
  3. Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack – Various
  4. Swing. – (le groupe) Swing
  5. 1989 – Ryan Adams
  6. Paper Gods – Duran Duran
  7. Roses – Coeur de Pirate
  8. Pentatonix – Pentatonix


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Sonos your kitchen

Although the best music setup in the house is the surround sound system in the TV room, the room in which I listen to music most often is the kitchen. I do so while cooking, while cleaning, and even occasionally while eating.

4

The music setup in the kitchen was as follows: an audio receiver, a CD player, and iPod dock / headphone jack (for my tablet) connected to two small speakers. All wired; no remote control access. Sound quality was OK, and I was sufficiently accustomed to docking my iPod (classic; no bluetooth, no wifi) or connecting my tablet via headphone jack that it didn’t seem especially inconvenient.

But the whole system was at the back at the kitchen, and I mostly worked at the front. Apart from the fact that it was a bit annoying to have to stop cooking and walk over to change the volume or song selection, I often just couldn’t hear the music properly once the fans and frying got going.

A first-world problem for sure. Nevertheless, for Christmas I requested some way to get my music playing closer to where I was cooking.

Much research ensued, and wireless seemed the way to go. But wireless meant somehow still playing my iTunes library despite my not owning any “modern” iDevices. And that certainly suggested Sonos as one option.

What is Sonos?

Sonos TV commercial

Essentially, Sonos is a family of wireless speakers and components that are all controlled by an app that runs on Android, iOs, and Windows. The key marketing features are:

  1. Easy setup. “It just works.”
  2. Access to “all the music in the world”: your owned music, streamed music, online radio—all available through one interface, combined in whatever way you choose.
  3. Full-house control; that is, ability to play different (or the exact same) queues of music in any room in the house that has a Sonos-connected speaker.

The main downside? Price. But, we figured that we could start with just one speaker—the new Play 5—for the kitchen. Then if we liked the Sonos app, expand from there.

The setup

The Sonos Play:5 just sat around in its box for about 2 weeks before we got the courage to try to set it up. (Yes, I opened my Christmas present early. Not like it was a surprise.)

And it started out well. Getting the Play 5 onto our wifi network was simple. Downloading the app on tablet and PCs—no problem. Linking in my Google Play, SoundCloud, LastFM, Spotify accounts (note that you need a paid account)—also a breeze.

The problem was the iTunes playlist, because I had a somewhat non-standard setup: music files on a NAS (network attached storage), iTunes music library (playlist data) on PC.

To get the thing working, Sonos needed two connection points: one to the music directory on the NAS, another to then PC iTunes library location. Retrospectively, that seems obvious, and in fact it wasn’t hard to do.

computer-repair

But figuring out that’s all we had to do required a lot of experimentation, caused a few tears, and took the better part of an afternoon. (And yes, I did read the documentation!)

Using Sonos: The things I fretted about vs. the reality

Ahead of time, I was a little concerned (and obviously only in between bigger worries about climate change and world peace and such) about the following regarding use of this system.

Fret: Would I have to start my PC, and maybe even iTunes, just to play my music in the kitchen?

Reality: No, not with my music setup. Sonos copies in the iTunes playlist data, so neither iTunes nor the PC have to be running. It’s just the NAS that has to be on for the music files to be accessible. And the NAS  was already programmed to start when we got home from work and to be on all day on weekends. (It’s handy to be married to a handy husband.)

Fret: How can my Android tablet possibly control my iTunes playlist on a NAS it doesn’t even know about?

Reality: If you’re using Sonos, that “just works”. (The non-Sonos’ed can try the Retune app. Pretty cool! But iTunes does have to be running for that one.)

Fret: Would I still be able to use the Musixmatch lyrics app? (Because I kind of love that app.)

Reality: Yes. While Musicxmatch isn’t fully integrated into the Sonos app, it does work quite well in “Listening” mode.

Spotify Lyrics display

The rather esoteric lyrics to Queen’s “Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke”

Fret: Can I continue playing a music list where I last left off? (This matters to me. Don’t judge.)

Reality: Sonos absolutely, by default, picks up where you left off.

Fret: Will it play our local CBC radio station? Can you program it to start and stop automatically at a certain time? (Otherwise, we won’t be able to expand Sonos to our bedroom. CBC is our alarm clock.)

Reality: Yes, local CBC radio is one of the ba-jillion radio stations included. And yes, Sonos has timer functionality.

Fret: When you change your iTunes playlists, how much of a pain is it to get the update into Sonos?

Reality: Haven’t actually done that yet, but appears to be a single-click process you can perform on PC or tablet (allowing time for it to re-scan the files).

Fret: Does it keep track of play counts and dates?

Reality: No, it does not. This is the one disappointing item.

In iTunes I created “smart” playlists with criteria such as “High-rated songs I haven’t played in the last six months” and “Songs I’ve played fewer than two times each”. And I use those playlists a lot to avoid “I’m sick of this song!” syndrome.

But Sonos has nothing like that built in. However, it does integrate with Last.fm, which does keep track of what I’ve played, on both iTunes / iPod and Sonos. And research indicates there might be some geeky, scripty ways to make use of that data. I will be looking into that more later.

last.fm

Sonos playlist data for the week, courtesy Last.fm. (I’m sure you’re all shocked about Top artist.)

Features I didn’t even realize I wanted, but turns out I do

10kindsoflonely_art-500x500This one seems dumb, but I’m a bit obsessive about album art, and I loved seeing some of that blown up in size on my 12.2 inch tablet when I’d previously only viewed it as a thumbnail.

More significantly, the much more dynamic (compared with iPod) song queue is fun! For example, I can:

  • Start with an iTunes playlist and add songs from Spotify or Soundcloud (or whatever)
  • Combine various playlists into one queue
  • See what songs are coming up, and edit the list if I want—without affecting the original playlists
  • Decide I want to, say, switch to a podcast now, listen to that, then automatically return to my same spot in the music queue
  • Save my current queue as a Sonos playlist for later reuse

But it’s a speaker. How does it sound?

Kids, this speaker sounds so good, I’d like to marry it and have its babies. 🙂


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About my last post

I’ve admittedly had some relapses in my “ignore the election” resolve, but the previous post was actually written before said resolution. I sent it as a letter to the editor, but it appears it’s been rejected. As I actually spent a lot of time writing that sucker (takes so much longer to write less!), I just wanted it published somewhere!

(And by the way, Braid used the exact same line to avoid an all-candidates debate on Science held at University of Waterloo.)

Still, sorry for adding to the discussion of topic that I know Canadians are tired of, and non-Canadian don’t give a fig about. (But just for the record, progressive Canadians: Please do get out and vote!)

And frankly, though voiced in a bit of jokey way in my “shit’s making me crazy” post, it’s pathetically absolutely true that my mental health degrades when I pay too much attention to politics. It literally sucks the joy out of my life. And I can’t write about something without thinking about it.

So it’s time this blog got back to the admittedly trivial topics that actually make me happy to ponder.

Starting with a poll in which none of the results could be depressing.


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Rock in Rio in my pyjamas

I’m not really a music festival person.

I don’t mind the smaller ones, where you can arrive at a particular time to see an act you’re interested in, then leave. But those big ones where you’re supposed to stay there all day, at the mercy of the elements… Not really my thing.

Would I have wanted to be at Woodstock? Of course not! Rain, insufficient food, inadequate toilets, overcrowded, bad drugs everywhere… Plus, the inadequate sound system coupled with the overcrowding meant that most attendees couldn’t even see or hear the amazing performances.

Crowd at Woodstock

Woodstock festival crowd

Live Aid? Well it was certainly better organized, and they got great weather. All acts I loved, too. Still, that seems like a hell of long day to be standing there in the heat, watching one 20-minute performance on stage, one 20-minute performance “by satellite, from Philadelphia.”

Live Aid crowd

Just the photo of this massive Live Aid crowd kind of gives me hives…

But the beauty of a really big festival is you don’t have to suffer through that to see it. Woodstock became a movie. Live Aid was shown on TV.

And man, can that reach boost careers. Woodstock, the movie, made The Who superstars in the States. Everyone who performed at Live Aid subsequently sold more records. And for Queen, the incredible response to their stunning performance possibly saved the band from breakup; it most certainly re-energized their career.

The footage that made The Who rock Gods in America

But that’s all ancient history. I had no idea, really, whether current artists benefit in the same way from playing big festivals. Logically, some must have had an earth-shattering performance at Coachella or Glastonbury or South by Southwest that changed everything for them. I just can’t name a single one of them. I generally don’t watch festivals broadcasts anymore.

So why Rock in Rio? Because—you guessed it—the headiners were Queen + Adam Lambert. That the performance start time was just after 11:30 pm and that they played for over two hours was no deterrent. Pyjamas on, Internet feed sent to the big-ass TV connected to the surround-sound system, husband conveniently out of town and therefore not bothered by the noise—I was good to go.

Background on Rock in Rio: Queen more or less established this festival 30 years ago, with (yet another) iconic performance. The band had never played South America before, and were stunned that the ginormous crowd (something like 85,000 people) knew all the words. Even to less popular songs like “Love of my Life”.

Queen performing “Love of My Life” at Rock in Rio in 1985

Rock in Rio crowd

And… The modern Rock in Rio crowd. Imagine trying to get to the bathroom!

This was Adam Lambert’s first time in South America, and only his second festival performance ever. At pre-performance press conference, he was typically humble and respectful of Queen’s legacy, but also confident he was up to the challenge. Brian May agreed that not only did Freddie and Adam both have extraordinary vocal abilities, they both have an inherent ability to really connect with an audience.

The confidence and praise were borne out. The show was so worth staying up for. While the fan-made YouTube videos of various Q + AL concerts are plentiful and often of surprisingly good quality, they just can’t match what professional camera operators with full stage access, plugged into the actual sound system, can provide. The audio and video quality were terrific. I had no streaming issues whatsoever (other than having to get off my butt every 15 minutes or so to move the mouse so the computer didn’t go to sleep. Hadn’t thought to change those settings ahead of time.)

Some highlights were, of course, the usual ones you get any of these Q + AL shows: the getting on your bikes and riding during “Fat Bottomed Girls”; the camping it up during “Killer Queen”; the welling up after Freddie’s appearance in “Love of My Life”; reveling in the father / son drum battle; floating on the beauty of “Who Wants to Live Forever”; fist pumping to “I Want It All”; clapping along with “Radio Gaga¨ (yes, even in my TV room); drooling over the five costume changes (super-tight pants a key feature of each outfit).

Adam camping it up during “Killer Queen”. This never gets old!

Other pleasures were specific to this show:

  • The teasing handling of singalong at the start of “Don’t Stop Me Now”.
  • The incredibly professional handling of the audio problems at the start of “Save Me”,
  • Roger taking lead on “A Kind of Magic” instead of his usual “Those Were the Days”.
  • The sheer size of the crowd clapping to “Radio Gaga”, and Adam jumping in amongst them anyway, security guys scrambling behind him.

The full Radio Gaga

And, and, most definitely, the performance of Adam’s single, “Ghost Town”.

Ghost Town, live with Queen

That a song  Adam co-wrote was included in the set and didn’t seem a poor cousin to the Queen classics, but truly was one of the highlights, is amazing. A good song is a good song. And I love this rock version of it.

And an interesting lesson in how modern artists do get a boost from festival appearances that are broadcast worldwide, even if the likes of me aren’t aware of it. The playing of “Ghost Town” seemed to be the major news items to come out of Q + AL’s appearance there. Adam’s followers on every social media have notably increased. And the original song–which has been out since April–has reached new highs on the charts not only in Brazil, but also in the US, Canada, and worldwide.

Bring on that Adam Lambert North American tour, baby.

(Umm, but with an emphasis on indoor performances, please! 🙂

Related links

Video of the entire Rock in Rio performance

Handy YouTube playlist of the whole concert, but broken up by song, so you can pick and choose: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLVB1hnGUslGuRyj9FT6AZ_WA2pztBwMPA

An article on “Ghost Town”’s chart boost from Rock in Rio: Adam Lambert enters Billboard’s Pop Songs Top 20


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Hey Google: Once may be good, but twice isn’t necessarily better

The iTunes playlists that Google automatically backs up to their cloud get hopeless cluttered with multiple versions of each song, til you reach the maximum size of 1000 songs. You can manually remove duplicates — one by one, folks! — but others crop up in their place.

It’s irritating. You can’t add any more songs to those playlist. When you play them, they repeat songs despite the “No repeat” setting. And downloading a playlist takes way more space and time than it should.

Duplicate songs screenshot

How a 75-song playlist looks when bloated to 1000 via repeats. Google must think I really want my Afternoon Tea.

I searched for solutions, but all I’ve found is this Python script from GitHub. And to run it, you just need to install an API. And to run that, you just need to set up a WebClient. And to do that, you just need a Computer Science degree.

So I’m just going to live with the duplicate problem. Those aren’t my “real” playlists anyway–they’re just a backup. A free backup, at that. So it’s a little buggy. So be it.

Google music services: Take two.

I don’t know if you’ve tried to play a YouTube playlist in Chrome recently, but this week, I did. I found a nice 56-song playlist of live performances, started it off at song 1, and figured I’d have a good set of tunes going for a few hours while I worked away.

Only it kept repeating songs, sometimes just one, sometimes a loop of two or three. It took me a while to figure out that this happened whenever an ad played–every three songs or so. It seemed to then go back in the playlist instead of forward.

I could “reset” the playlist to the right song manually, but after the sixth or seventh time of doing that when all I wanted was a steady flow of tunes, I was getting really cranky.

YouTube playlist - Adam Lamber live

This “no repeat” YouTube playlist wasn’t so much playing that way

I actually got to wondering if YouTube had a paid, ad-free version I could get instead. I was about ready to plunk my money down.

However, Google was not ready to take it. While they plan to launch subscription YouTube someday, it ain’t available yet.

But Google did help me out. Through their search engine I came across this solution:

  1. Use Firefox, not Chrome
  2. Add in the most wondrous (and free, no restart required) Firefox extension, Adblock Plus

After that, not only did the song repeating stop, so did all the ads! Woo hoo!

I’m sure many of you are like, “Duh!”, because you’ve been blocking browser ads for years, but if I’ve helped even one person not hear a song more times than they’d like (“these are my problems, my first-world problems”), my work here is done.