Exciting variety of adventure: Flat-warming, Rope Swings, Opera, and a Beer Challange (with carrots on top)

Now I feel settled into my new home.  I bought a desk for my room and some extra hanging shelf space I craftily tied to my curtain rod, so everything has a home now.  I’ve also put up pictures so I can stare at the faces of lovely people everyday and remember how my life is awesome.  My third flatmate has moved in, too.  She works full time and is really nice.  She’s going to be easy to live with, I think.  Last weekend we had a proper house-warming party so all our friends here could see our new home.  Maria and I made margarita jello shots that were a hit.  A tad sour- I do recommend sprinkling them with sugar.  Everyone was happy and had a good time.  Thanks to everyone who came and added to the joy.

I live in a quiet area of East Finchley (except when the jolly drunk man upstairs is singing or listening to old music all day) just off the high road.  There’s a lot I want to explore around here.  I live about a 30 minute bus ride from a big park, Hampstead Heath, and a 10 minute walk from the richest road in Europe- Bishop’s Avenue- where they have massive, gorgeous abodes.  I live one tube stop from a nice town called Highgate, which Dilan and I decided to explore the other weekend.  We stumbled upon Highgate Wood, a wooded area of 28 acres with streams, sports areas, and lots of trees!  Also, so many dogs!  Almost everyone we saw had a dog with them.  Yay doggies 🙂  We saw a fox, but now that I’m not in central, I see foxes like, most days.  Foxes love London.  Also, the other night I saw a HEDGEHOG in our yard.  A hedgehog!  The British hedgehog is endangered.  It was so adorable and still.  It was gone when I went to go feed it 😦  So yeah, Highgate Wood is the place everyone around here takes their dogs.  We found a rope swing- so exciting.  It was made so you can actually sit on it like a swing, not just a knot to grab on to.  It swings down a steep hill, so at the climax you’re quite high above the ground.  Very fun.  Will return.

front door of fairy house SAM_2233 SAM_2237 SAM_2239 SAM_2240 Mee in a treee

I forgot to mention: In mid July, we went to a free screening of the opera La Bohème, hosted by the Royal Opera House.  I’ve never been to an opera.  It was in Italian and a very dramatic story.  I liked it more than I thought it would.  It looked pretty and the singing is soothing and enchanting.  It was quite a nice atmosphere- everyone was relaxing, drinking and kicking back on the big concrete slab as if it were a picnic in a field.

This past weekend, I enjoyed a variety of beers at the British Craft Beer Challenge at London Fields Brewery with Maria.  It’s a series of beer festivals, basically, where people vote for their favourite beers in attendance, and this one was Great Britain vs. The Commonwealth.

British Craft Beer Challenge

It was slightly disappointing, to be honest.  We paid a £4 entry fee and did not even get a glass for it.  We got there only a half hour after it started, and some of the best beers that we were most excited to try were already tapped.  They had a day session and didn’t plan well enough to supply for the night session as well.  Planning FAIL.  By the end of the night, almost everything was gone.  Both Maria and I love our American IPAs (num num citrusy hops).  Our favourite beer of the night was Magic Rock’s Cannonball.  Really nice flavour without an overpowering from the bitterness.  Magic Rock makes solid brews in general.  They’re a brewery near Yorkshire.

This Friday, I will be volunteering at the London Craft Beer Festival.  I’ll be sure to report back on my experience there 🙂  The festival is £35 entry (for a glass, lots of beer tastings, and access to all of the beer awesome), and I get a free entry for my time.  Yipeee experience + saving money.

I recently made a recipe that Suri posted over here.  Omg it was delicious. And it’s super nutritious to boot 😀 Everyone: Go make it.  I recommend using a vegetable peeler or a grater.  Slicing carrots into thin strips with a knife is slow and painful.  Don’t be like me and forget that your grater has a function that would probably work just swell.  In the end, I did pretty well with the knife, if I do say so.  Carrot pasta

‘Til next time, web-mates.

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Moving and Movie Stars (I saw them)

I have been super busy the last few weeks because I’ve been in transition between houses. I moved out of my student halls, hopped between friends’ and partner’s spare beds for a week, and then settled into my new abode- a flat in North London, in an area much quieter than central. 🙂 Still settling in, really, getting supplies, getting things set up. This was the third place Maria and I looked at, and after looking at two more, we decided our own pretty little 3-bedroom flat on the Northern Line of the tube was the best fit. It’s exciting, but a lot of work. First time organizing my own utilities, woo! We’re really happy to have our own place. We found a third roommate through Facebook, and she seems great so far–she moves in in a week. It’ll be neat having a new life around. I’m a bit ashamed to say I’m my father’s daughter: I put a simple DIY bookcase together and couldn’t properly get the screws in all the way. I guess I didn’t inherit his carpentry skills!

Shout out to those who put me up for my week without a home and all those who offered. Really good to know I’ve got good peoples here.

A couple weeks ago, Dilan, Maria, and I made it out to London Film and Comic Con in Earl’s Court (yes, another ComicCon. London’s full of ’em.). It was on a terribly blazing, stuffy day, and people were queuing around the ENTIRE building when we got there *and* still when we left. Naturally, as there was no way in hell we were waiting in that queue, we slipped in the front doors instead. Score one for us. This con was quite different from the previous ones because there were tons of film and TV stars there. Many actors from Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and Doctor Who, to name the main ones. I saw Hodor!!! Hodor. and Bran, and Cersei, and Pod. The men in the R2D2 and Darth Vader suits were there. So many cool actors. We really just stared at them and geeked out. The one I’m sad I didn’t catch was Summer Glau.

Welp, I should get back to research. I’m feeling the pressure build for my dissertation. I now have 2 months left before it’s due, so really one month left to write a draft. Eek! Cue stress, procrastination, and late nights full of tea. Wish me luck.

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Mini Holiday: A Concert in Greenwich and a Wild Ride to Alton Towers

Last weekend, I took a little time off from business.  Friday evening, Dilan and I took a leisurely bus ride down to Greenwich for a concert at the O2 Arena.  Greenwich is a beautiful town in Southwest London that holds the National Maritime Museum, The Royal Observatory, a Naval College, the University of Greenwich (which you’ll have seen in Thor) and, most famously, the Prime Meridian.  It kind of feels like it’s by the sea, but it’s just on the Thames.  Instead of visiting the lovely touristy things I mentioned and have visited before, we enjoyed some local craft beer from the Meantime brewery at the Greenwich Union, Meantime’s first pub.  Meantime’s I.P.A. is fantastic!  Not bitter, but quite fruity and floral.  Then we made our way to the O2 to see Chicago-based band Umphrey’s McGee!!!  It was a *great* show.  I’ve seen them twice in the states, but this was a quite different experience.  They’re clearly not as popular in the UK as they are at home because there were maybe 100 people there!  We walked right up to the stage as soon as we got there.  Every person there was happy to be there and really enjoying their self.  The sound was great, it was an intimate venue with happy, dancing fans, and Umphrey’s killed it.  They played their new music in the first half, with their signature long jams in the middle of songs, and they played covers in the second half.  I wasn’t sure the covers would be as good as hearing their own music, but Oh Man!  They played Cheap Sunglasses, Hot for Teacher, Shine on You Crazy Diamond (amazing), some Jimi Hendrix, and a smattering of other great rocks sounds.

They’re such a dynamic band, I thought they did each song justice.  That sure shows talent!  Anyways, I think Dilan left the concert with a new favourite band. 😀

We got the last tube home, and woke up at 5 am to catch a train to the giant amusement park Alton Towers with Suri, Cara, Maria, Irina, and her friend from home, Julia.  None of us had slept enough, but some tea and adrenaline got us through the day.  Luckily, it was a nice, sunny day.  Alton Towers is a great park, and really big!  It has the world’s roller coaster with the most loops- 14!  The Smiler.  Have a look here if you want to perk up some envy.  The Smiler was a favourite among us, and clearly the park’s major attraction.  It was by far the best decorated ride down to the black and yellow stripey gloves worn by the operators.  It had a sort of crazed-happy-psychosis theme with a catchy tune I (thankfully) can’t remember anymore.  What really stood out about Alton Towers being different from any park I’ve been to in the States was the expanse of gardens, proper manicured, tall, winding gardens, smack in the middle.  Continuing with the foliage theme, the rides were impressively well hidden within the trees.  When we first walked in the park, we asked, “Where are all the roller coasters?” because we actually couldn’t see any.  I’m used to spotting Busch Gardens from a few miles away, but we couldn’t see the coasters until we walked up to them.  We managed about 6 coasters and a surprising subterranean, sci-fi themed ride.  Worn out, with our thrill-desires well satisfied, we journeyed back to London.  It was a long day.

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Looking for a new home

This past week, aside from getting into gear with researching books for my dissertation, I’ve focused a lot of my time searching for new accommodation.  My contract for my studio in the student halls runs out 12 July at 10am.  We had the option to extend our contract, but it’s too expensive!  I need to move somewhere cheaper to stay within my budget.  It has been incredibly convenient, comfortable, and nice living in Central London.  I’ve been a 10 minute walk from classes, the student bar, the library, and work at the other library.  Soon I will have to do as most Londoners do, and use public transport all the time.   I’ll likely buy a monthly Travelcard, which will give me unlimited travel on bus, train, and tube within London (within the zones for which I buy it) at anytime.  That way, I won’t feel constrained.  If you travel most days of the week, a Travelcard is really worth it.  Right now, because I walk 90% of the places I go, paying for transport seems expensive, an extra cost.  Once I need it to go most anywhere, it will feel like a necessary expense.  I look forward to that.

This is my first time looking for my own place.  Thus far in my life my housing has been organised through academic institutions or family.  Now, I get to do an adult thing and find it on my own!  It’s a bit stressful because of security worries, the fact that it’s a big expense, and where I live for the next six months will have a big impact on my daily life.  But, I like seeing new areas of London and learning the process of finding housing.  I look forward to living in a new area to get to know it and have access to different places than I’ve had.  Change is scary, but I like it.  It’s exciting.  So far, Maria and I have visited one flat and one house that I found through EasyRoommate and SpareRoom, respectively.  Our first visit was wholly unimpressive.  It was not terrible, but there was no living room and not even a kitchen table.  Nowhere to eat!  In a house with friends, you need a table to meet at.  The house we saw today, if all the renovations are made that the landlord presented, is quite promising.  I just hope the room I like doesn’t get nicked before we decide!

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Fair Nottingham

As mentioned in my previous post, I got the great opportunity to get out of London and visit the smaller, more scenic town of fair Nottingham- (it’s unofficial nickname, of course. At least it should be).  Yes, yes, that is the home of Robin Hood.  It is also the home of the alleged oldest pub in England, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, pub and inn, propped against the rocks below Nottingham Castle.  (This is starting to sound like a old English tale, isn’t it?).  The inn was established in 1189 AD.

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I tried a couple beers from Nottingham brewery’s in the quarters of the pub.  One was a an extra pale ale from Nottingham Brewery recommended by a local, who I had a nice chat with.   It felt quite old with exposed dirt wall, old stone, low ceilings, and narrow staircases.

Nottingham Castle

Nottingham CastleSAM_2139


Castle...rly Rock??

Castle…rly Rock??

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Me and Monsieur Hood.

Me and Monsieur Hood.

Of course, all these touristy bits I fit in after my commitments concluded.  The whole reason I was able to go to Nottingham was to be a delegate for Birkbeck, along with four other students, at the annual NUS LGBT Conference. I spent most of my weekend in Nottingham voting on policy and listening to debates.  It was interesting and, as usual, inspiring.  I’ve been missing the activist spirit.

Birkbeck paid for our accommodation in the halls of residence at University of Nottingham, Jubilee campus, where the conference was held, our train tickets, and our conference entrance, which included full meals. It was very nice.  Because of my involvement in the conference, I’m now more involved in decisions regarding the two LGBTQ groups at Birkbeck- Birkbeck Pride and the LGBT+ campaign- and I’m very pleased to be.

Out the window of my room at University of Nottingham, Jubilee Campus.

Out the window of my room at University of Nottingham, Jubilee Campus.

 

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Night tour of Jubilee Campus.

Night tour of Jubilee Campus.

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Trapped???  In or out?  Some of this campus has a very sci-fi feel at night...

Trapped??? In or out? Some of this campus has a very sci-fi feel at night…


Aluminum tubes!!

Aluminum tubes!!


This is the largest snail I've seen in the wild life.  Snails are smart to hid their grossness in cool shells.

This is the largest snail I’ve seen in the wild life. Snails are smart to hid their grossness in cool shells.


The sky may be burning.

The sky may be burning.

While I had a break in Conference Sunday morning, I hoofed it to Wollaton Hall, a thirty minute walk from campus.  It’s a pretty old house-place situated atop a hill in a vast park of wide open green spaces.

Wollaton Hall.  Bruce Wayne's accomodation (see: Batman Begins).

Wollaton Hall. Bruce Wayne’s accomodation (see: Batman Begins).

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There is a Natural History Museum taking up most of the rooms inside.

There is a Natural History Museum taking up most of the rooms inside.


The Willoughby family lived here.

The Willoughby family lived here.

Na na na na na na na na…..

BATMAN!

BATMAN!


Just the backyard, NBD.

Just the backyard, NBD.

Hope you’ve enjoyed your little visit into Nottingham!

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Return of the Sara

I’m baaack!  I had a posting hiatus due to academic priorities (1 month oops).  I have not done a lot in the past few weeks because I hunkered down to work on two term papers and my dissertation proposal.  I did, however, manage a Birkbeck-funded trip to Nottingham for the NUS LGBT Conference before diving into my proposal.  I will tell you all about that in another post.
My first paper, for Equality and the Law, was on accessing gender through the protected category of sex under UK and EU Equality Law.  I argued that the law conflates sex and gender irresponsibly, but that it’s rootedness in a binary system of sex/gender is more harmful and misrepresentative of human identities and thus experiences.
My second paper, for Queer Histories Queer Cultures, discussed the consistency of discourse on AIDS and sexuality in the UK newspapers surrounding Freddie Mercury’s illness and death.  I think it was quite good.  I now have a needless amount of knowledge about Freddie Mercury’s life.  In the near future, I hope to put that to use in a blog post.  To access this knowledge, however, I was finally motivated to get my reader’s pass for the national library of Great Britain- the British Library- which happens to be a 10 minute walk from my flat.

I feel like a proper researcher now that I can use the British Library.  They have ALL THE BOOKS.  But, me being me, doing my obscure research, I already found a number of books that they *don’t* have.  So contrary to my prior belief, they only have nearly ALL THE BOOKS.  You can’t take books out of the British Library- you must access them in the Reading Rooms.  That’s a shame for a couple reasons.  1- They’re the only library near me with the entire collection of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics, so I can’t lounge around the park with Sandman unless I buy them.  2- I like to hoard books (admitting my problem).  I check them out from the library and keep them as long as possible, until I’m forced to return them to get a new book or am completely finished with them.  I suppose this second reason is a mixed blessing.  I don’t get my fulfill of hoarding fascinating books, but I am forced to minimize my hoarding to other libraries…:P Another mixed blessing is the inconvenience and motivation of having to get up and go to the library and plan to research during their opening hours.

The British Library also hosts cool events.  In the near future, I’ll be attending their “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK” exhibit.  Recently, Neil Gaiman and Tori Amos came to chat with the curators on stage a the Library.  It is a very nice place.  Even if you are not a registered reader, you can attend events or bask in the lovely stone courtyard partitioned off from the busy bustle of Euston Road.

Never fear, I will post again soon.  Farewell, for a moment.

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Sweets and Mind Treats

Someone got spoiled with American treats :P….
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Yes, it’s meeee!  Whoppers are so much better than Maltesers- their UK wannabe.  They’ve got denser and more malty filling and less oddly sweet chocolate.  You see I couldn’t wait for that Tootsie Roll to pose for the picture…I snacked on it in class :S
Last night was my first summer class.  This class is essentially a dissertation workshop.  Quite nice to have a led workshop for guidance.  Although, I’m afraid, workshops are never as helpful as I want them to be.  I find I usually leave with a new nugget of knowledge or two, but very little for the hour to 2 hours I spend in them.  Especially with something like a dissertation, workshops are most helpful if you’re prepared, if you’ve got material to work with.  Being the needless procrastinator I am, and having my second essay due next Wednesday, my dissertation has not been touched.  Once I’m free to research for it, believe me, I’ll dive in.  I can’t wait.  My topic is THE COOLEST.  In class, the lecturer kept emphasizing, “Make sure you pick something you’re genuinely interested in and really want to research.”  I beamed every time she said that, my head exploding with excitement for my topic.  What is this mind-exploding topic?  Ok I’ll tell you.  Here’s the vague idea:  Post-humanism. Cyborgs. and Gendered Subjectivities.  I know it sounds awesome.  Post-humanism is a wacky new field of theory that challenges the idea of *human.*  It pushes boundaries and gives a whole new perspective.  I wanted something new and different, something that would challenge my thinking.  Thus, Post-humanism arose.
Back to the point of my procrastination… Ehhh we can talk about that later.

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FOODFOODFOOD

Asparagus wrapped in BOAR BACON (so good) over brown rice.

Asparagus wrapped in BOAR BACON (so good) over brown rice

Wild boar bacon acquired from Borough Market.  Will eat again.

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and again.

 

Cookie D'Oreos

Cookie D’Oreos

Quesadilla

Quesadilla

BAKED MAC N' CHEESE

BAKED MAC N’ CHEESE

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Creamy Gnocchi with Rocket and Sweetcorn

Spicy Rice Casserole

Spicy Rice Casserole

Ovocado.

Ovocado.

Tomato, Mozzarella, and basil salad.

Tomato, Mozzarella, and basil salad

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Update: The Best Ribs Ever, Chocolate, A Foreign Film, and A Ghost Tour

It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I can never remember what I’ve done.  Let’s see…

Dilan and I went to Duke’s Brew and Que  which was so delicious and reminded me of home.  A good barbecue is very American to me, and a restaurant with country vibes and delicious ribs always reminds of family dinners out.  I got probably the most amazing pork ribs I’ve ever had.  They melted in my mouth and were full of flavour nmmmmmm.  Duke’s also sports a wide selection of brews from the London brewery Beavertown, as its original brewpub. I started out with a Mikkeller Single Hop Amarillo IPA.  Delicious!  The man behind Mikkeller has a twin brother who runs a phantom brewery in Brooklyn, NY funnily called Evil Twin.  As per the suggested beer pairing for my meal, I seconded with Beavertown’s 8-Ball Rye IPA.  Also a nice choice, but definitely more bitter than the Mikkeller.  After dinner we wandered into an awesome playground called “Snake Town.”  Lots of fun jumping around on that.  Then we walked home all along the Reagent’s Canal, petting houseboat kitties and spying into the canal-side bars.  We popped up around from the canal walk in Angel Islington and decided to walk the last stretch home.

The day following, I went to the Chocolate Festival with Suri.  It was delicious.  We bought the middle grade “Taster” ticket and it was very worth our money.  As soon as we got there, we sat down for our one hour guided tasting session of about 14 Italian Chocolate.  We had no idea what sort of tasting session this was going to be because of the Festival’s very much lack of informative advertising.  Our luck was on when we booked our tickets, because the 1pm Italians chocolates was a very nice and tasty session.  We got to try gianduja- as Suri said, “what Nutella aspires to be and miserably falls short.”  Really, if you think Nutella is amazing, try a spoonful of the pure hazelnut glory of gianduja, and you will realize you’ve been fooled into low standards.  I’m sure it got Suri excited to go to Italy. I want to go just for their food.  Ok the architecture and history too I guess.  But yes, Chocolate– We also got to taste seven kinds of brownies on the “Brownie Trail,” endless free samples of chocolates, a free swig of Chocolate Bailey’s, and a free Prosecco.  Not bad.  We bought a handful of mini chocolate bars that were delightful (I polished them off in a swoop yesterday).  I remembered to capture a picture after they were gone, so here are some pretty little wrappers:

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There’s a Rococo store within walking distance from me =D There will be more of these…

A very Chocolate day.  Some day, I want to go to a chocolate spa.  That sounds like Heaven.

The Tuesday before the Chocolate Festival was Free Cone Day at Ben and Jerry’s.  I met up with some friends in Leicester Square to solicit free ice cream.  And that was the place to go.  There was not one but THREE places within the square to queue for ice cream.  So, we figured, might as well go to two of them and make the most of it!  I got S’mores and Baked Alaska.  Baked Alaska is UBER sweet– sweet vanilla with white chocolate (aka sugar) and marshmallow creme (aka MORE SUGAR).

That week I also worked on and submitted my first few applications for jobs in London.  I’m hoping to get a job working at a University in London.  I applied for a few Programme Administrator positions which would be ideal- organising, in charge, and I get to look at modules again! haha.  No word yet.

This week I watched Eyes Wide Open at a viewing night hosted by Birkbeck Pride.  It was good.  It’s about a orthodox Jewish man in Jerusalem who takes a man under his wing as his apprentice at his butcher shop, and falls in love with him.  This man is very devout to his faith, and has a family, so it shows the struggle he has with his own feelings and of trying to integrate such a life into an orthodox community.  The cinematography was spot on.  Much more show than tell, this is a minimalist film.  Certainly worth a watch.

I also went on a walking Ghost Tour in the City of London led by a friendly neighbor who likes to lead tours with his handy tour books.  We began and ended at Blackfriar’s.  I can’t say too many times how much I love walking in London and how great it is to walk in.  Even people who have lived here there whole life comment that they find new nooks and crannies all the time.  The City especially- it very much keeps the tiny alley, winding streets feel from Medieval London.  And sometimes, in the City, you get that run up against the biggest, most modern and officey buildings.  It is a contrast to experience.
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Blackfriars Pub. The image of the Blackfriar in his Domican Robe is perched on the crest of this wayward looking building.


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The alley where Sweeney Todd roamed…


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Lovely old pub filled with dark woodwork and Samuel Smith’s beer.

 

Other than that, it’s essay time!  I’ve got two essays due over the next three weeks, and my summer class starting, so I’ve really got to crack down and get this research done.  Then, I can start on my dissertation!  I am really looking forward to that =D

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I just…I… (news on my favourite band!)

I’M SO HAPPY!  I came across this article and literally had to take a deep breath and read the second sentence again.  It is true: Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriquez-Lopez are together again.  I cried when I read an article about the break-up of their band, The Mars Volta, and I teared up when I read that these two crazies are hitchin’ up once more.  (so very different tears).  To put the cherry on top, the other two band members of their new band Antemasque have previously worked with The Mars Volta so you know they’re good and you know they got spirit (one many readers may recognize: Red Hot Chili Pepper’s bassist and rascal in Back to the Future II and III, Flea).  I may never get to see The Mars Volta live, but I might get a chance to see Antemasque AND I DON’T CARE IF I STARVE I WILL TAKE IT.

Listen to their FIRST single…

and if you like it you can buy it on iTunes.

They’ve put up a handful of videos to the internet of their music-making process which any fan will appreciate.  I like watching them in their natural element…the Wild Cedric jokes in a sassy accent as the crouching Omar slithers the tracks together…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Byas0ZobruE

I know most readers won’t give a damn about this music, but The Mars Volta is my favourite band, so, as an obliging citizen of the world, I felt I had to share their endeavors and my overexcitement!!

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