Friday, December 23, 2011

Cate's Top 10 (2011)

It's that time of year when every magazine and website publishes some kind of top 10 list--top 10 books, top 10 movies, top 10 I'm-Stephen-King-and-I-Do-What-I-Want. Since I am woefully behind on the pop culture front (I blame grad school) and don't really believe that it's possible to write a definitive top 10 list--everything is subjective, my friends--my top 10 list for the past year is maybe less current, probably less entertaining, and filled with more personal moments than the average Top 10. Still, I hope you'll bear with me as I take a look back at the year that was.

10) Starting the What We Covet tumblr!

9) Lady Gaga's "Marry the Night." The video may be a little bit insane-o, but hey--that's what we've come to expect from Gaga, yeah? Besides, this song (and in fact all of Born This Way) was the soundtrack to my summer.

8) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. I try not to think of it as the end of an era. Rather, I like to look at it as a step in a journey that I'm happy to take over and over.

6) Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I think I learned more about writing from this 2007 novel than all the books I read in my first two semesters of grad school combined. Plus, it's freaking hilarious.

5) Le Métier de Beauté's Precision Liquid Eyeliner. It has changed my cosmetics life forever.

4) The theyskens' theory wedge that almost made me cry, it's so beautiful.

3) My first trip across the ocean and the time I spent in the Netherlands and Belgium.

2) Late nights with friends (rather than homework).

1) I have a lovely new niece, who is the best thing to enter my life in many moons. Her hair sticks straight up, and she is all the more fabulous for that.

What We Covet will return after the holidays on Monday, January 16th with new posts. In the meantime, we wish you a safe and happy holiday season! And should you feel compelled to share your personal top 10 in the comments, we'd love to read about it!


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"They Sell Their Words, but It's All a Lie"

As we leave "Army Ants" behind on Purple, it's almost a shock to enter the dark world of "Kitchenware & Candybars." Here we find backstabbing, the distorted crunch of multiple guitars competing with each other to bring their vision of misery to us, and a certain (intentional) loss of control in the vocal department. But we also find the frustration present in every other song on the album.
In fact, the pain is so tangible in Scott Weiland's voice during this song that it literally hurts to listen. Yet one can't shy away from it because it is beautiful, even in its misery. According to Below Empty, Details once wrote of this song, it is "a huge, ecstatically bitter song about betrayal," and that assessment is as on-the-nose as they come. It's huge in the sense that there are sweeping guitar chords, a deeply affecting bassline, and even a (lovely) string arrangement. It's ecstatic in the sense that every member of the band throws himself into the task at hand. And it's bitter in the sense that Weiland can barely contain himself as he spits out lines like "Sell me down the river" and "What we wanted is what we wanted."

The back cover of Purple, featuring a line from the bonus track, "My Second Album."

There are sonic echoes of this song on "Adhesive," one of the more drug-addled songs on Tiny Music (which, for the record, is really saying something). And so, as the final track on Purple, it points solidly into STP's future while staying true to the work they did earlier on the album and, indeed, things they accomplished on Core. So for me, that's the key to the genius of "Kitchenware & Candybars."

Fun fact: If you let "Kitchenware & Candybars" run past its apparent ending, you'll come to "My Second Album," a kitschy tune provided by Johnny Mathis enthusiast and lounge act Richard Peterson. I guarantee it'll put a smile on your face.

Thanks for tuning in these past two and a half weeks. I hope you've found these posts about Stone Temple Pilots informative and entertaining!

Image via FeelNumb.


PS All of the images from these posts are from the Purple era (1994). Most of them were found at Below Empty, which is by far the best STP fan site out there. Please, please, please visit them if you're looking for any information about STP; chances are, they can tell you what you want to know!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Why Do We All Have to Look This Way?"

Remember earlier in this series when I mentioned frustration as a watchword for Purple? "Army Ants" is yet another song that proves the point. Here we find the guys letting it all hang out, as it were, and particularly Scott Weiland, who works through his disappointment by asking two main questions: "Why do we all have to look this way?" and "Why do we all have to think this way?" Though he never comes to any conclusions, he certainly points out the things that anger him the most:
You don't look but you kick me. / You can't feel but you hit me. / You can't deal with the way I pray [...]. / I got a heart, I got blood, feel pain.
And there are few things more basic to humanity than a desire to be understood and appreciated, so Weiland's words are understandable, to say the least.

Live onstage at the 1994 VMAs.

Though "Army Ants" initially reads like a holdover from STP's "grunge days" (if they can really be called that)--straight ahead, slightly Nirvana-tinged--it transcends those limitations thanks largely to Eric Kretz's skilled and nuanced drumming, as well as the melodic opening. For many years, this was my least favorite track on the album, but now I find things to love about it. For example, the song opens with a trippy guitar part and transitions quickly into a hard rocking rhythm, echoing the structure of "Interstate Love Song" before it. If I had to compare "Army Ants" directly to another Stone Temple Pilots song, though, I'd actually choose two: "Crackerman" from Core, and "Tumble in the Rough" from Tiny Music. There's an insistent quality about each of those songs, and in fact, the subject matter is similar in each. If nothing else, at least we can say that STP have managed to stay true to their musical and lyrical selves throughout their career.

Fun fact: According to band members, the music for this song was originally formulated by Dean DeLeo when he was in his mid-teens, and when the opportunity arose to use it years later, he took it.

Join us tomorrow for the last installment in this series, which will explore "Kitchenware & Candybars"!

Image via Below Empty.


Monday, December 19, 2011

"Yeah, I Got This Thing That's Comin' Over Me"

Picture it: you're in your 20s, you're fed up with the way you feel, and you just want to get some of that negative energy out of your system. What kind of song would you write? Would it be something dark, or would it be loud, in-your-face rock and roll? If you lean more toward the second option, "'Unglued'" is probably the song for you.

The shortest song on Purple by a 20-second margin ("Vasoline" is the only other song that clocks in under three minutes), "'Unglued'" begins with an off-kilter guitar and some pounding drums. It's not an overly complicated song, but this is not really a time for layered proficiency. This is a time for letting it all go.

Just, you know, shootin' pool with Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards down at the rock star clubhouse.

Anyone who has ever seen STP live (or seen footage of one of their shows) knows that Scott Weiland is inordinately fond of spinning and undulating across the stage during songs, and whenever I hear "'Unglued,'" I think of his serpentine ways. And maybe that's what he means when he sings, "I got this thing that's comin' over me"--an irresistible urge to shake what his mama gave him. Wouldn't you like to join in?

Fun fact: Robert DeLeo once expressed reservations about how Nirvana-like "'Unglued'" sounds. But--at least in the context of Purple, and to this listener's ears--it's pure Stone Temple Pilots.

Tomorrow we'll explore "Army Ants"!

Image via Below Empty.


Friday, December 16, 2011

"Her Dizzy Head Is Conscience-Laden"

Tell me the truth: is there any song better suited to a long drive on a dark night of the soul than "Big Empty"? From the opening notes--both bass and guitar--to the heart-rending way Scott Weiland delivers the classic line, "Too much trippin' and my soul's worn thin," "Big Empty" is the epitome of lonely roads-angst. Of particular note is the repeated bridge line "Conversations kill," which is so true on so many levels, particularly when you consider that, at the time, Weiland was in the throes of his first experience with addiction and trying desperately to hide it from everyone around him: discussing it would have injured him, indeed.

Scott Weiland, the man behind the voice.

One of the best things about this song, aside from the lyrics, is the way the four members of the band work so hard to give each other space. Dean DeLeo's guitar never outshines Robert DeLeo's bass, and Eric Kretz's drum work rolls along in the background, definitely there but sharing the song. Meanwhile, up front, Weiland's vocals are restrained, though he perhaps retains too much of the grunge influence on the chorus. All in all, this song just WORKS, and I have a feeling it will be a staple on radio stations for years to come.

Fun fact: although it was woefully misused, "Big Empty" was written for The Crow, that legendary 1994 film starring Brandon Lee, and was the first of STP's work employed in such a manner.

On Monday, we'll explore the energy-filled three and a half minutes that make up "'Unglued'"!

Image via Below Empty.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

"Couldn't Hide; Write a Wave, Ride a Lie"

Few songs in the history of Stone Temple Pilots resonate with me as much as "Silvergun Superman." I can't put my finger on the basic thing that attracts me to the song, though I suspect it may be the sheer volume of it all--it's the perfect song to turn up in the car when you need to get your anger out. Plus, it has a totally killer guitar solo that I adore.

The brothers DeLeo: Robert on the left, Dean on the right.

I once heard Dean DeLeo's guitar work described as muscular, and in fact, I think "Silvergun Superman" is one of the best cases for EVERYONE'S work to be considered muscular. There is so much angst in this song, but that negative energy is channeled into something beautifully layered and super-skilled. Many of STP's influences are on display here, from arena rock to the Beatles. And the controlled chaos toward the end of the track gives me something to aspire to as a writer.

Fun fact: in a huge departure from his usually duties in the band, Dean DeLeo played the drum solo at the end of this song!

Join us tomorrow for an analysis of "Big Empty."
Image via Below Empty.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"And the Price She Paid"

Some critic once described "Sour Girl," from STP's album No. 4, as Beatles-esque. But if ever there was a time when Stone Temple Pilots truly paid homage to the Beatles, it was here in "Pretty Penny." When I listen to it, I think of "Love You To," "Ticket to Ride," "Norwegian Wood," and maybe even "Eleanor Rigby." That's the first thing "Pretty Penny" has going for it. But there's something better and deeper going on here, as well.

If you listen to songs for their musical structure rather than their sound alone, you'll notice something pretty interesting here: Dean DeLeo not only infused clear Beatles-type flourishes, but he also gave the song a structure that closely follows that of "Ticket to Ride." (Indeed, the multi-bridge structure echoes two other tracks from the '60s--"You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin'" and "Good Vibrations.") However, the most surprising thing about "Pretty Penny," ultimately, is the fact that it was recorded on an eight-track device (according to multiple interviews given by band members), and yet there is as much depth to this song as any other on the album.

Left to right: Eric Kretz, Robert DeLeo, Dean DeLeo, and Scott Weiland.

Another aspect of the song worth noting is its lyrics, which seem to have been influenced by John Steinbeck's 1947 novella The Pearl. Of course, this is based on my vague memory of that work--which I read about, oh, a decade ago and *cough* hated. The point, though, is that Weiland is a multi-faceted guy, the kind who doesn't mind dropping a literary reference from time to time. And that, ladies and gents, is a sure way to this girl's heart.

Fun fact: on STP's greatest hits DVD (featured as part of the Thank You two-disc package), there is a "bootleg" video of the band recording a take of "Pretty Penny." At the very end, the camera zooms in on Robert DeLeo's face, and you can tell he knows that they've stumbled upon something really special. He was totally right.

Tomorrow we'll explore the anger-driven hard rock of "Silvergun Superman"!

Image via Below Empty.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"You Know I'd Beg for You"

I have a confession to make: I am not always as gung ho about STP's output as I claim to be.

As a matter of fact, there are three songs in their repertoire that I rarely allow myself to hear. One is "Huckleberry Crumble" from Stone Temple Pilots (I hate the title and think Scott Weiland sounds ridiculous), "Days of the Week" from Shangri-La Dee Da (which is so NOT-STP-esque that I can't even handle it), and "Still Remains," the track that follows "Interstate Love Song" on Purple.

The band. Left to right: Dean DeLeo, Scott Weiland, Robert DeLeo, and Eric Kretz.

Weiland's vocals are uneven, and ultimately, it's like any other overwrought love song out there. However, I can't fault STP for this tune. After all, they were bound to record an ode to their loved ones eventually.

The good news is that there is a certain melodic sensibility that saves "Still Remains" from itself--take away the lyrics, and it's not so bad. It's also in an important place on the album: if it wasn't a buffer in between "Interstate Love Song" and "Pretty Penny," we might not be able to appreciate those songs as much, because they wouldn't have proper bookends.

Fun fact: there are no fun facts about this song.

Come back tomorrow and join me as I take a look at "Pretty Penny"!

Image via Below Empty.


Monday, December 12, 2011

"All of These Things You Said to Me"

The other day, while doing research for this series, I re-watched the music video for "Interstate Love Song," and one of the notes I made read thus: "I don't know who this asshat with the nose is, but apparently he's been kicked out of his home?" (For those of you who have never seen it, here's the context.)

The bad news is that I still don't understand why the dude with the nose was in the video. The good news is that it doesn't really matter, because, as it turns out, "Interstate Love Song" transcends the limitations of its music video, and how. To me, this is the crux of STP's career: it's the song during which the listener begins to realize that these guys really know their shit.

A still from the video for "Interstate Love Song," featuring Scott Weiland with Robert DeLeo in the background.

Let's ignore the lyrics for a minute (for crying out loud, Scott, what is a hand in rusted shame?) and skip straight to the music. EVERYTHING about this song is right--it has hooks galore, stellar work on every instrument, crisp sounds, and an immediately recognizable bluesy opening that transitions smoothly into a straight-ahead embodiment of everything that was good about alternative rock music of the 1990s.

Beyond that, the chorus is one of the most sing-along-able out there, and everyone can relate to the words coming out of Weiland's mouth: "Only yesterday you lied." Whether it's a friend, lover, or relative behind the prevarication, we have all been there, and so one of the many reasons the song resonates so well is because it provides a type of therapy for us. After all, isn't catharsis one of the main reasons we interact with art?

On the technical side of things, although Weiland would go on to experiment with other interesting vocal styles, both for STP's third album, Tiny Music...Songs from the Vatican Gift Shop and his first solo album, 12 Bar Blues, he wouldn't sound as good as he did on "Interstate Love Song" until 1999's aptly-titled No. 4 came along. And as for the rest of the band, they followed a similar path by exploring different musical styles, but they were at their best here until "Seven Caged Tigers" came along on Tiny Music. (In my opinion, the only other song on Purple that rivals "Interstate Love Song" for tightly-wrapped proficiency is "Pretty Penny.")

Fun fact: remember that time Chuck Klosterman said STP was unoriginal? He also wrote once that,
On occasion, rock pundits will begrudgingly admit that "Interstate Love Song" was among the better rock songs of the 1990s. These pundits are wrong. "Interstate Love Song" was the best song of the 1990s. It's better than "Smells like Teen Spirit," "You Oughta Know," and even "Ice Ice Baby."
 Well. Isn't that an interesting turn of events?

Come back tomorrow to read all about the perks and pitfalls of writing songs about your wife (or maybe your girlfriend?), as embodied by "Still Remains."

Image via Below Empty.


PS As for that article cited above, I cannot find a link to it on the Internet. What I can tell you, however, is that it's called "Temple of the Dog" and was an entry in Klosterman's column Rant and Roll Over in Spin (the very same publication in which he denounced STP as unoriginal, no less). It appeared years ago, when I ripped it out of the magazine and stuffed it into a notebook for future reference. Based on the evidence (Klosterman cites Weiland's drug arrest of 17 May 2003), I'd guess it ran sometime that summer.

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Pins in Me, in Me; You Kill Me"

Theoretically, at the time of its release, "Lounge Fly" was not "STP-esque"--up until then, including on the first two tracks of Purple, the band was lumped into the grunge category with Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Nirvana, and their mortal enemies Pearl Jam. In practice, though, "Lounge Fly" is, in fact, the song that disproves that theory. Not only does it depart from the grunge sound, but it also sets the stage for experimentation later on the album AND acts a harbinger of things to come later (for example, the psychedelic stylings of Tiny Music and some monstrously loud work on No. 4).

One of the things that most strikes me about "Lounge Fly" every time I hear it is the drumming. Allegedly, Eric Kretz ended up in the band after Robert DeLeo and Scott Weiland saw him playing in another band and were amazed at how loud he was. When I saw STP in concert in 2008, I knew exactly what they meant--dude is thunderous, to say the least. And nowhere is his might as obvious on Purple as it is here: he pounds out every beat with purpose and precision, and the end result is a primal mix that makes you want to turn it up to eleven.

Eric Kretz, whose drumming so dominates this song.

As for the lyrics, Weiland gives a quick, dirty delivery in the verses. There are a few songs that encapsulate certain emotions for me. For example, "Wichita Lineman" evokes the exquisite pain of a long-distance relationship. "Time of the Season" is the perfect example of what happens when you put lust before everything else. And "Lounge Fly" is a quintessential self-doubt tune, because Weiland puts it all out there early on when he sings, "I think I'm free, but the dogs, they won't release me." The chorus is also affecting, and the way Weiland tells us that "I can't give what I take away" drives home the point of the song: this is a young man stuck in a whirlwind of emotion. (Remember what I said about frustration being the watchword for Purple?)

Fun fact: pretty much everyone who grew up in the '90s will recognize at least part of this song--the opening loop was used as the MTV News Break theme song for years.

Come back on Monday to read about "Interstate Love Song," one of STP's most enduring hits!

Image via Below Empty.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

"Think I'd Be Safer All Alone"

The egregious spelling error in the title notwithstanding, "Vasoline" is a pretty boss song, and the perfect choice for following up "Meatplow." Not only is the tone of the song different--more meditatively baffled by life than obviously angry--but the actual musicianship is different. Dean and Robert DeLeo's guitar work here provides a sense of things to come in STP's future as well as looking back on an important influence: punk rock, but it never really crosses into grunge territory, and thank God. Eric Kretz percusses like a madman, which gives us a sense of his true abilities (something upon which he'll build later on the album). And then there's Scott Weiland.

A still from the video for "Vasoline." Scott Weiland is on the lawn; other band members are on the columns.

On the vocal front, things get interesting. We learn here that Weiland has finally settled into a style that makes sense for him, rather than trying to shoehorn his voice into the grunge norm (which is part of what led to the band garnering comparisons to Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam in the first place--neither of which is particularly accurate, if you take into account their entire body of work). The clearer approach he takes here is one that comes up time and again throughout the course of Purple, particularly on "Interstate Love Song," "Pretty Penny," and "Big Empty": just do what comes naturally and don't get too overwrought.

All in all, "Vasoline" provides a refreshing glimpse into the possibilities of Stone Temple Pilots as a viable and vital musical entity. And from here on out, things start looking mighty bright for the gentlemen who started out as Mighty Joe Young.

Fun fact: the music video for this song comes in three different versions--X, Y, and Z--which each contain the same basic images but rearranges them. The more motivated among you may have fun searching for and comparing the videos to each other on YouTube.

Come back tomorrow to read about "Lounge Fly," the song that indicated a sea change in STP's output.

Image via


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"Fine Place for a Day Full of Breakdowns"

Purple opens with “Meatplow,” which itself begins with four heavy, intimidating notes belted out by the DeLeo brothers. Those four notes could be a throwback to Beethoven’s fifth symphony and that infamous “fate knocking on your door” opening. They could be a musical interpretation of angry screaming, a response to the critical mistreatment of the band up to that point. Or they could simply be Robert and Dean’s way of showing off. Whichever explanation you prefer, the sound will grab you by the throat and pull you into STP’s world.

Stone Temple Pilots. Left to right: Robert DeLeo, Scott Weiland, Dean DeLeo, and Eric Kretz.

It's not just about the music, though. The lyrical content is also worth addressing. It's a well-known fact that Scott Weiland is one emotional dude. Each of STP's albums has a very clear theme, apparently based on how Weiland feels during the songwriting process. If the thread carrying through Core is apathy, the thread through Tiny Music drugs, the thread through No. 4 divorce, the thread through Shangri-la Dee Da recovery, and the thread through STP putting the pieces back together, then the thread through Purple is frustration. 

So Purple starts with a declaration of that frustration, when Weiland sings in "Meatplow,"

Fine place for a day full of breakdowns. / Takes more than a meltdown to show us how. / Throw a tack on the road, / Stop the meatplow; / Got a bullet but it ain't mine.
This sets the stage for an album-long manifesto against backstabbing, sniping, criticism, and--in some ways--self-doubt. Yet, as you'll see later, Weiland doesn't necessarily follow his own advice. Still, it's worth keeping "Meatplow" in mind when we move forward on the album.

Fun Fact: I love Stone Temple Pilots, but they don't love my car. I once (accidentally) rear-ended a woman to the strains of "Sour Girl." And just days before my junior year of college began, I was pulled over by a county sheriff's deputy to--you guessed it--"Meatplow."

Tune in tomorrow for a review of "Vasoline"!

Image via


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Purple: An Introduction

Because it's been so long since I did any music blogging, I've decided to share with you something that I truly covet--Stone Temple Pilots--in a twelve-part series on their second album, Purple. Today, you get part one: the introduction. Over the course of the next two and a half weeks, you'll get reviews of the songs.


In Defense of Stone Temple Pilots
Or, Why Purple Is One of the Greatest Albums of All Time

Critics hate Stone Temple Pilots.

It's true. Chuck Klosterman once wrote of a band called the Bravery, "Like Stone Temple Pilots [...] before them, the Bravery serve as cultural shorthand: If someone wants to take a stand against inauthentic, unoriginal rock'n'roll, they can simply say, 'I hate the Bravery.'" Rolling Stone and Spin seem to agree, on an institutional level--neither Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" (published in 2003), that magazine's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" (published in 2011), nor Spin's "100 Greatest Albums 1985-Now" (published in 2005) include any of STP's work. And while I understand that such lists may be highly political, subjective, or slaves to the whims of those who compile such lists, there is a very big part of me that refuses to believe that a prolific, talented band such as STP hasn't produced any material worthy of charting in any of these scenarios.

I'm not saying that they're the best band ever; that's definitely the Beatles, no contest. But I feel confident in asserting that STP certainly is not the worst, either (I am looking in your direction, Blink-182). And I'm going to use their second studio album, Purple, to prove it to you.

Front cover artwork for Purple.

A few items of business before we launch into an in-depth review of the album:

1) I am not qualified to judge the actual musical quality of any of these songs. I only have my instincts to guide me, but I feel that they are good ones.

2) Personally, my favorite STP album is No. 4. I do, however, realize that Purple may just be a better album (either way, I stand behind all of their albums, even--dare I say it?--their most recent); this is why I'm campaigning for the inclusion of Purple on "Greatests" lists.

3) As much as it amuses me, "My Second Album" is not a legitimate part of Purple (it's not even a Stone Temple Pilots song), so I won't review it here.

4) Any lyrics cited in posts will be a combination of the printed lyrics in Purple's liner notes--which are sometimes either incomplete or slightly inaccurate--and what one actually hears on the album.

5) So we're all on the same page, you'll find a list of tracks/writing credits and band personnel below. Information here is based on the album's liner notes.

Tracks (Writing Credits)
1) "Meatplow" (D. DeLeo, R. DeLeo)
2) "Vasoline" (D. DeLeo, R. DeLeo, E. Kretz. S. Weiland)
3) "Lounge Fly" (R. DeLeo)
4) "Interstate Love Song" (R. DeLeo)
5) "Still Remains" (D. DeLeo, R. DeLeo)
6) "Pretty Penny" (D. DeLeo)
7) "Silvergun Superman" (D. DeLeo, R. DeLeo)
8) "Big Empty" (D. DeLeo)
9) "'Unglued'" (R. DeLeo, S. Weiland)
10) "Army Ants" (D. DeLeo)
11) "Kitchenware & Candybars" (R. DeLeo)

All lyrics by S. Weiland

Scott Weiland, vocals, guitar ("Silvergun Superman), and percussion ("Pretty Penny")
Dean DeLeo, electric and acoustic guitar, percussion ("Pretty Penny"), and drum solo ("Silvergun Superman")
Robert DeLeo, bass, guitar ("Vasoline," "Lounge Fly," "Pretty Penny," "Silvergun Superman," and "Kitchenware & Candybars"), and percussion ("Pretty Penny")
Eric Kretz, drums and percussion ("Vasoline," "Lounge Fly," "Pretty Penny," and "Big Empty")
Brendan O'Brien, producer, percussion ("Meatplow," "Interstate Love Song," "Silvergun Superman," "'Unglued,'" and "Kitchenware & Candybars"), guitar ("Kitchenware & Candybars"), and mellotron ("Army Ants")
Paul Leary, guitar (end solo on "Lounge Fly")

So if you're at all interested in hearing what I have to say about each of these songs, please come back tomorrow to read the first installment--an analysis of "Meatplow"--and ten more days after that for my thoughts on the other tracks.

Image via Fotolog.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Cate's Fantasy Christmas Wishlist 2011

Christmas Fantasy Wishlist 2011

You know, after all the excitement of assembling our Holiday Gift Guide, I couldn't resist compiling a wishlist for myself. This year, my most outrageous choices include a Dodge Charger, a pair of Alexander McQueen heels, Frank Gehry Orchid earrings from Tiffany, and a sun-kissed David Hockney painting. Other, more down-to-earth choices include a black and silver Rebecca Minkoff M.A.C., Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb fragrance, cute mini nail polishes from Le Métier de Beauté, and the Tom Ford coffee table book. The pink Christmas tree is optional! 

All images via Polyvore.


Friday, December 2, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide 2011, Part 20: A Gift to the World

I very firmly believe in giving back, and I feel it's necessary to put our best foot forward at all times, especially in the cold winter months when life can be especially hard on the needy, and donate whatever we can, be it time or money. With that in mind, I encourage you to find a local or national charity whose mission you can support.

One of my personal favorites is the National Center for Family Literacy, an organization that targets illiteracy at both the child and adult levels. As most of you know, reading is near and dear to my heart, and it pains me to encounter someone who lacks even basic reading skills. 

According to their website, "The family literacy approach harnesses the strength of parent-child bonds to help those who are most at risk of failing economically, emotionally and socially. We build success by strengthening their confidence, increasing their ability and broadening their outlook." Right now, most of us could use a leg up, but then again, most of us can read. For those who can't, the world can be a dangerous place, so it is especially important to help correct that problem.

I hope that you'll consider sending at least a little bit of money somewhere--if not to NCFL, then to your own favorite cause, be it a soup kitchen, your local fire department, an aid group such as the Salvation Army, or someplace else entirely. (If you're looking for more ideas, consider taking a look at the White Envelope Project, a non-profit that can help you connect with a charity that suits you.)

Check out, the National Center for Family Literacy's official website.

Image via the NCFL.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide 2011, Part 19: The Night Owl

In some parts of the world, a gift card for Cook Out would be the best gift ever for a night owl. But not everyone has access to Cook Out, and I don't think they have gift cards.

So instead, I offer up a device made to help the late-night worker stay up and alert: the Teavana Perfect Tea maker.

This nifty thing allows you to throw in loose tea and boiling water to steep. You can watch your leaves float around all nifty-like, and then, when it's done, you sit it on top of your mug and watch the tea drain into it. It's safe and easy, unlike when I make tea and scald myself.*

I know this is why God invented tea bags, but your night owl friend is going to spend a lot of time drinking tea, and eventually he or she will figure out that tea made from loose tea tastes better. This is what I am told, at any rate. And don't you want your pal to think of you fondly when the fancy loose tea comes out?

Buy through Teavana for $19.95.

Image via Teavana.

Happy Holidays!


*It should be noted that I will scald myself in even the safest of situations, including with one of these.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide, 2011, Part 18: The Resident Nerd

For those of you who missed Maureen's post on Brandon Bird awhile back, allow me to illuminate you: he is a very talented painter who deals in unusual and kitschy images, often of celebrities or characters in unusual situations. For example:

Yes, ladies and gents, that's Batman taking a stroll with some of the wonderful people of Law and Order. If there's a nerd in your life who happens to have a soft spot for the Dark Knight and Jerry Orbach's later work, this is definitely the item you need to give that nerd. Trust me; it will be a big hit.

Buy through Brandon Bird; prices vary. 

Image via Brandon Bird.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide 2011, Part 17: The Hunter

Honestly, I don't know a whole lot about hunting, but I do know that there are times when you can hunt and times when you can't. I also know that there are critters you can hunt and critters that you can't.

So what better for your sad, off-season hunter than a nice video game to help recreate the experience?

Cabela's Big Game Hunter 2012 could be just the thing. This edition comes with the Top Shot Elite accessory, for maximum realism! It may not be a great game--I certainly have no idea--but your hunter friend has been too busy training dogs and cleaning guns and sharpening knives to care about what makes a good game.

Buy through GameStop for $59.99-79.99, depending on game system.

Image via GameStop.


Monday, November 28, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide 2011, Part 16: The Quirky Friend

Sometimes the person you have the most trouble buying a gift for is the quirky friend in your crew. Since I have several of those, I have to dig extra deep on occasion. However, all is not lost. Archie McPhee has a nice array of unusual items suited to different personalities. But if you can't make a decision after nosing around the site, you could always pick up a surprise bag:

The bag could contain any of a number of items from the Archie McPhee inventory, and so it is guaranteed to provide hours of entertainment. Plus the staff guarantees "a strange and wonderful assortment of McPhee trinkets and goodies that any person with a refined taste for kitsch will enjoy." If you're lucky, maybe the recipient will even let you in on the fun!

Image via Archie McPhee.


Friday, November 25, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide 2011, Part 15: The Decorator

Everyone needs at least one nice vase, but we shouldn't be forced to pay through the nose for the privilege, particularly if we are trying to give a vase as a gift. So if you know a person who needs a place to display the lovely flower arrangement he or she has made for the holidays, why not go with one of these lovely mercury glass vases from West Elm?

These will serve you well beyond the holiday season, also, as their mirrored surfaces will blend in with any type of decor. And at these prices, you can afford to give an entire set to your aesthetically-inclined acquaintances!

Image via West Elm.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide 2011, Part 14: The Injury-Prone

You may feel free to read that as "The Maureen." As Cate and my former roommate Holly can tell you, I get hurt a lot. And when I've cut my foot open while shaving my legs or had my toes gouged open by sharp dog claws, there is nothing I like better than an entertaining adhesive bandage.

Sometimes when you misjudge how close your thumb is to a table saw, it really does look like a crime scene, right? Give a thoughtful stocking-stuffer to the unlucky carpenter in your life!

Or if you have a friend you don't particularly like, give them a box of pirate bandages, adorned with the skull and crossbones. They will have no choice but to contemplate their own mortality as they dress their wounds.

And, of course, there is no minor cut or scrape that bacon won't improve.

Not to mention, all these bandages come with a free prize, for extra pain-fighting power!

Each the bandages above can be purchased through Archie McPhee for a mere $4.95!

Images via Archie McPhee.


PS Today is Thanksgiving in the United States! We all have a lot to be thankful for. I am thankful for honey buns, my family, electricity, and needle threaders. I hope you have a good one!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide 2011, Part 13: The Traveler

If you know someone who is always on the go and has as many travel bags as necessary but needs a special, personalized touch, why not spring for personalized luggage tags?

Truly, nothing is better than being able to readily identify your luggage at the baggage carousel in an airport. So give the gift of identification today and save your jet-setting friends from grabbing the wrong bag!

Image via Neiman Marcus.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide 2011, Part 12: The Teacher

Chances are there is a stressed, broke teacher in your life. If you invite this teacher over for dinner regularly, you are a saint, but you need to get to the root of the problem. That teacher isn't broke just because teachers aren't paid well. That teacher is broke because students don't know to bring pencils to school.

So now is when you do your part to save the economy.

Buy your teacher friend a pencil vending machine. For a mere twenty-five cents, students can purchase their own gosh-darned pencils, and soon the person in charge will be raking in the cash and resting easy.

Image via U.S. School Supply.


Monday, November 21, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide 2011, Part 11: The Bookworm

For some avid readers, the way a book looks and is made can be as important as the contents of the tome itself. So why not supply your beloved bibliophile with a volume that offers directions on how to make your own books?

Making Handmade Books offers a wide array of projects and images that are sure to fascinate anyone interested in bookbinding and keep someone occupied during the long winter nights!

Image via John Neal, Bookseller.


Friday, November 18, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide 2011, Part 10: The Teenager

One of the things I most wanted when I was growing up was an en suite bathroom. I never got one, but according to many films, the majority of teenagers have them. So why not help your teenager decorate said bathroom and teach him or her at the same time with a funky educational shower curtain, such as my personal favorite, a map of the world?

Of course, since political boundaries sometimes change, perhaps you'd do better with something a little more localized, such as a map of the transit system in your city? Here's one for the MBTA subway stops in Boston:

Or, if your teenager is anything like me, he or she will probably need a great deal of help with the periodic table, so you can always pick up a colorful depiction of the elements:

No matter which you choose, it's sure to brighten up a shower. And your teenager might even learn something along the way!

Buy the world through Bed Bath and Beyond for $19.99.

Buy the Boston transit map through Bed Bath and Beyond for $29.99.

Buy the periodic table through Uncommon Goods for $30.00.

Images via Bed Bath and Beyond and Uncommon Goods.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide 2011, Part 9: The Nature Lover

I watch a lot of HGTV, and I know for a fact that some people are really into landscaping and curb appeal. I also know that I am not and that I would fail miserably if I tried to landscape something.

But I know some folks who still might appreciate even my attempts to understand their hobby when I buy them a tree.

Like a nice Golden Jubilee peach! Honestly, I don't know if these peaches are delicious or not. I do know that some people in my life like both peaches and trees. You must know someone like that, too. So why not purchase a nice fruit tree for your grandmother or uncle or distant cousin this Christmas?

And if you don't want to give your friend or relative a peach tree for some odd, odd reason, there are many more options.

Image via Arbor Day Foundation.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide 2011, Part 8: The Listener

Although I personally love my iPod and have many friends who feel the same about theirs, some people in the world still swear by their vinyl records, and in fact many bands still offer vinyl versions of their latest albums. If you know one of those people, and if you have the means, why not give them a lovely turntable as a gift this year?

It's made of wood and glass, and it is sure to compliment any minimalist or naturalistic decorating scheme. And since it's handmade, each turntable is unique. What could be better than that?

Image via Anthropologie.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide 2011, Part 7: The Cultured Gentleperson

Now, today, everyone is struggling, and that means that even your classiest, most cultured friend might not be able to make it to the dress circle at the theater. Your friend may even be stuck in the balcony. What to do? You can't afford season tickets for the orchestra section, but you do want to acknowledge the conundrum.

Why, you buy your friend a pair of opera glasses, of course! With a pair of brass opera glasses, your friend will be able to see the stage anywhere in the theater, and the riffraff won't have a chance to think that they are among friends and peers. Just a thrifty gentleman or lady trying to enjoy a play.

Perhaps your friend will even have you along one evening. You may need to purchase your own pair.


Monday, November 14, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide 2011, Part 6: The Foodie

Food is delicious. We all know this. But some people don't enjoy food alone. For many, presentation is half the point of a nice meal. So why not pick up a few nice dishes to enhance the experience for the foodie in your life? I like these glazed black pieces, myself:

Just think of how well a nice slice of lasagna or quiche would stand out against the glossy surface of these places, or how lovely a nice miso soup would look in the bowl. I'm sure your friendly neighborhood foodie would find many more combinations!

Image via Crate and Barrel.


Friday, November 11, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide 2011, Part 5: The Fashionista

My friend Lisa, whom I met in college, has recently taken up jewelry making, and I have to say that she's pretty good at it. She's chosen the name Senba Designs for her work, and each of her pieces is made by hand. For a good example of her handiwork, look at these lovely earrings:

Lisa uses only sterling silver and gold-filled wire in the hooks, thereby making her designs safe for those of us who have allergies or sensitivities to other metals. Additionally, she tells me that
Earlier this year, I realized how harmful conventional jewelry can be for both people and the environment, from the pollution involved in mining for metal to gemstone cutting in sweatshop conditions. That's why I use either paper and plastic that I come across in daily life to fold into origami or buy from sustainable sources, and I only use fair trade gemstones.
Truly, what could make a better gift for the fashionista in your life than a pretty, environmentally-friendly piece of jewelry? Plus Lisa's products are suitable for special occasions or everyday wear, which means that you can add them to any holiday outfit you're putting together.

For more information, contact Lisa via e-mail at or visit the Senba Designs Facebook page here.

Image via Senba Designs.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide 2011, Part 4: The Gamer

The fact of the matter is, if you have a friend who is a gamer, your friend will probably find ways to finance the habit without your help. A GameStop gift card might not go amiss.

But gift cards are impersonal. They say, "I know this one thing about you. Make sure you have a couple extra dollars. I'm going to pay for most of your next game."

There are some gifts, however, that say, "I know this one thing about you, and I did a little research, and because you probably have very specific tastes I'm getting you this instead of a game or something."

This joystick can help your gamer friend recreate the experience of playing Atari or arcade games from the comfort of a cheap Wal-Mart office chair! How cool is that? It's really cool. Trust me.

The joystick is also hackable, if your gamer friend is into adding buttons. Me, I'd just leave it be and play with the one button it has. But it gives your gamer friend options--button options, game options, USB port options!

One could also ask one's gamer friend what would be best. But Pac-Man is a ton of fun.

Image via ThinkGeek.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide 2011, Part 3: The Moviegoer

When it comes to films, few are more visually arresting than musicals. You know the kind--Technicolor extravaganzas with fanciful costumes and intricate choreography. And any aficionado of the genre would be happy to have the Fox-MGM Hollywood Musicals Collection, a 61-disc set including such mainstays as A Chorus Line, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Oklahoma!, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, among many others:

Even the packaging is splashy, like any good musical should be! But the contents are what really shine. Every era is represented, from the classics to modern hits, and such stars as Dick van Dyke, Deborah Kerr, Beverley D'Angelo, Natalie Wood, and Elvis Presley make appearances in the films contained within this exciting box. Pick one up for the film fanatic in your life and snuggle up for hours of entertainment together!

Image via Barnes and Noble.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide 2011, Part 2: The Comic Fan

Whatever your definition of "comic book," we can all agree that sequential art is a big deal. On the Internet, webcomics flourish. In small independent comic shops, superheroes often reign, but Yorick Brown and Morpheus hang around as well.

But today's comics and graphic novels are not limited to sci-fi and fantasy. People tell all kinds of stories with pictures, including historical biographies.

Maus: A Survivor's Tale is the story of Art Spiegelman's relationship with his father Vladek, a survivor of the Holocaust, and of Vladek Spiegelman's life, including his experience during Hitler's reign.

The characters of Maus are depicted as animals. Different groups are different species--Jews are mice, Germans are cats, and Americans are dogs, for example. This could be a bit misleading, but I assure you, anthropomorphic animals do not a children's book make. Maus is a look at the experience of a real person in the real world, with metaphors.

Maus might just be perfect for the friend in your life who loves comics. Most comic readers I know aren't hopelessly narrow-minded when they choose what they consume, but they may need a little urging to set aside Superman and The Sandman* for something like this. They could end up better for it.

Buy Maus: A Survivor's Tale through Barnes & Noble for $18.56.

Image via Barnes & Noble.


*Actually, I tend to think you can expect more from those who read DC's Vertigo imprint than you can from people who only ever read superhero comics. My observations are not scientific. Also, you all know how I feel about Neil Gaiman.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The What We Covet Holiday Gift Guide 2011, Part 1: The History Buff

It's that time again, and so for the second year in a row, we're bringing you the What We Covet Gift Guide! Cate will post on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the next four weeks, and Maureen will post on Tuesdays and Thursdays during that time. Enjoy!


Last year, I wrote about a revolutionary war thing. Moving forward in American history, I've found something for the Civil War fanatic in your life: a guided tour of the Antietam battlefield. 

For those of you who don't know, the net result of the battle at Antietam Creek (near Sharpsburg, Maryland) was that it went down as the bloodiest single day in American military history, with combined Union and Confederate casualties totaling over 23,000. Gettysburg, about 50 miles away in Pennsylvania, may get more play as the bloodiest overall battle (at least 46,000 casualties), but Antietam paved the way for important historical events such as the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.

If you're within striking distance of Sharpsburg, why not take your loved one who happens to enjoy historical excursions out to the battlefield for a guided tour? The National Park Service recommends contacting the Antietam Battlefield Guides, who offer basic tour packages starting at 2.5 hours; longer tours can be booked, as well. 

Having been to Antietam myself many years ago, I can personally guarantee that the experience will be moving and fascinating, even if you do not take a guided tour. The grounds are beautiful and peaceful, standing in sharp contrast to the bloody history in the soil.

Reserve a tour of Antietam through the Antietam Museum Store; packages start at $75.00.

Image (taken by famed Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner) via SimonSez.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Sleep to Dream

If there's one thing I absolutely have to have, it's a good night's sleep. Sometimes this requires a little bit of help, such as the extra bit of darkness afforded by a good sleep mask. Mine usually come from the drugstore, where they retail for about eight dollars. But those models are functional, not cute. Here's one that's both:

The thing I like most about it is that it combines my two favorite things: sleep and trash romance novels! All kidding aside, how fun is this? And the seller has many more available, both in the TRN motif and general patterned styles. If you need one of these like I do, take a look through the shop!

Image via Etsy.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Floppius Discus

If you were born after, say, 1994, don't pay this post any mind. You won't understand why I like this little spiral-bound journal so much.

It's made out of a 5.25-inch floppy disk! I can't say I really long for the days of the floppy disk. There are times when I fondly recall how handy they were. Once, Santa Claus stuffed my stocking with a super handy case for 3.5-inch floppies. It got a lot of use until I got my first flash drive.

I like this little notebook. This way I could use a floppy disk to keep track of things I write, just like I did in the fifth grade! Of course I primarily used 3.5-inch floppies. Not the point. This is a little more obscure. Kids these days won't have the first idea what it is. I recognize that I am coming dangerously close to sounding like a hipster. At least I don't wear skinny jeans.

Image via Etsy.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wings of Gold

Because I'm not much of a bracelet person, I tend to forget that other people wear them and might like to see them on this blog. So today, I'm going to rectify this by sharing a nice delicate bracelet with you:

What appeals to me about this bracelet is its versatility: equal parts Egyptian, Deco, and contemporary, it could pair well with a variety of outfits. I'd like to see it with a long-sleeved LBD, personally. How would you wear it?

Image via Etsy.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Commemorating Untrue Events

I don't actually shop Etsy very often. This is mostly because I like to buy myself nice things but know I shouldn't, and I like to support small business and know I should. See the dilemma?

I don't even have favorite Etsy shops, because I know I could ruin myself financially. But there is fun in browsing. So much fun.

"What is this?" you ask. "A painting of a dinosaur attacking a home with a splendid garage?"

Yes. It is that. But it is also the image associated with a listing for a painting of a dinosaur attacking your house. I assume this means you send the artist a picture of your house, choose your dinosaur, and end up with an oil painting of a dinosaur attacking your house.

And that's wonderful.

Buy through Phebe79's Etsy shop for $240.

Image via Etsy.


Monday, October 31, 2011

Fanning Out

I love a good handbag. If I didn't, I wouldn't devote an entire category to them. And what's better than a special, handmade bag few other people will have? For example, there's this lovely model, made by Jess Switaj at Etsy:

I have to admit that I didn't find this one on my own--Etsy featured it on their Facebook page about two weeks ago. But the second I spotted it in my feed, I knew I had to share it with my audience, as well. It's the perfect accent for a prom dress or winter formal outfit. Plus, Switaj offers it in many colors and even allows for customization at no extra cost. So if you're looking for a bag in shades that suit you, check Jess out today!

Image via Etsy.


PS It's Etsy week here at What We Covet! Because we've found so many spectacular things over Etsy way recently, we wanted to share them with the world, so each entry will cover something we truly love from the crafty ladies and gents there. Enjoy!

Friday, October 28, 2011

My Pink and Black Suede Shoes

Generally speaking, I'm not too fond of Mary Jane-style shoes, but I do love a good, inappropriate heel from time to time, so here's a lovely pair from Vince Camuto:

I can't imagine a single place that might be the right venue for these shoes. But I don't care, because they are fabulous--not only on the page, but also in real life. If you're willing to go out on a style limb (which I occasionally am) and risk the perils of suede shoes (which I am not for meteorological reasons), you should check these out. Perhaps you can pair them with a jewel-toned dress for the holidays?

Image via Nordstrom.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dance with Death

Now, as Halloween approaches, I have a couple of things to admit to you.

First, I'm not sure I'm even going to dress up, even though I totally want to.

Second, I love earrings. I love them a lot. I don't know what Cate thinks of my earring habit, but I know my friend Claire is pretty okay with it.

Though I won't buy more earrings right now (I have quite enough earbobs. Really, I do. Really. I do, don't I?), I had to go looking and see what is available this Halloween. Maybe something would strike my fancy and inspire a costume for me, or maybe I would find something I could just covet.

After searching and searching and determining that all the spider earrings were a bad idea because if they were mine I would inevitably freak out about a spider in my hair and get blood everywhere, I decided that these would suffice:

They're so cute! Dancing skeletons! They aren't terrifying, but they get across many of my thoughts about Halloween perfectly. PARTY ON, DUDES.

Well, maybe they're terrifying if you decide that this is the skeleton of Snow White's evil step-mother who was forced to dance in red-hot shoes until she died. But you don't have to decide that.

By through Claire's for $6.00.

Images via Claire's.

May all your bags be filled with candy!