Post NKOTBSB thoughts

To think I almost missed it. I had second thoughts about watching the NKOTBSB concert in Manila, held on June 3 at the MOA Arena (mainly because I couldn’t find someone to watch with and didn’t want to watch alone). Thank goodness my sister finally decided to go, or I would have missed out on a really, really fun and entertaining night.

My head is still in a blur, to be honest so this post’s format is going to be a little lazy. So here are my thoughts on the NKOTBSB concert, in bullet points!

The MOA Arena is a good venue but… A lot of work still needs to be done on getting things organized. There was more than one entrance to the venue but only one was open. The lines were so long, that at one point people were lined up on the street. It was also disorganized inside the arena, especially at the point where they check the tickets before you enter your section. One line literally went in circles, in a corkscrew shape because the ticket holders were left to their own devices in forming the lines.

Also, less than a month into the Arena’s opening, some things already need repair. In the women’s toilets I went to, one faucet was already detached from the sink while another was already clogged.

SM is touting the Arena as world class, but they need to get their act together if they want the venue to deserve the name.

I need to start stalking golf courses – Saturday morning, Brian Littrell and AJ McLean played golf where I live. And I had no clue whatsoever. And I think it’ll take a while for me to get over the fact that I missed them when they were so close. I know it sounds pathetic (it probably IS pathetic) and I think only a diehard fan of any band/singer/athlete will understand how disappointing and heartbreaking this is. They were practically in my backyard! I know for a fact that they were in my street! The street where I live. MY. STREET. BACKSTREET BOYS ON MY STREET. aweursvhoafhweurfgfvnhopqwrhfnsdblauqr!!! So yeah. The next time the Backstreet Boys come over, I’m stalking golf courses.

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It’s true. First love never dies – Cheesy, I know. But I think the tens of thousands of screaming women (because let’s face it, there were very few actual “girls” in the audience) is a testament to that. These boys came into all our lives somewhere between the ages of 10-12 and, as much as we’ve grown, as much as we’ve moved on to other crushes and to relationships with actual boys, as much as we thought we’ve gotten over them we never really did. All it took was the lights turning off to signal the start of the show to reduce us to screaming, giddy, fanatic thirteen year olds again.

Donnie Wahlberg – There can’t be a NKOTBSB post without a section dedicated to Donnie. Before the concert, he was just Mark Wahlberg’s brother, Lipton in Band of Brothers or the guy in Blue Bloods. After the the concert, he is now known as Donnie: the guy with the abs. The guy with the hip cuts. The guy with the guns. The guy who thankfully ripped his shirt off… Mark Wahlberg who?

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I’m sorry, but I don’t get the falsetto – I might get a lot of hate from NKOTB and Jordan Knight fans for this, but I really don’t get it. It sounds… bad.  His normal singing voice is good and I think the falsetto in I’ll be Loving You Forever is tolerable (although it has to be noted that he didn’t even try and made the crowd sing the really high parts). But in Please Don’t Go, Girl it was just… bad, I’m sorry. Outside of the fact that it’s off-putting to hear a 40-something man sing with a prepubescent boy’s voice, it’s just too shrill for my taste. Sorry.

I miss Kevin – And not just because another good looking face on the stage never hurt anyone. I miss his voice and the way his bass just gives their songs an additional layer of depth. I noticed this particularly in As Long as You Love Me. Plus, it never really felt right that someone else sings “Love me mouth to mouth now” in Drowning (although AJ does a good job of it) or his solo in I Want It That Way. So I’m really happy he’s back in the group. I can’t wait to hear their new stuff and see him back on tour with the guys. And yes, I fully expect a final reunion tour with all five of them.

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Those “Philippines” jackets – That was sweet. Most of the time when bands and singers say that “This is the best crowd ever” or, in this case “We saved Manila for last, we planned it that way!” or “This is the best place to end the tour in!” it’s probably a case of them saying what the fans what to hear (not that I fault them for it). But the wearing those jackets was a really sweet gesture. It may have been a PR person’s idea, who knows, but it still comes through as a genuine show of appreciation.

And I guess on that note, it’s my turn to show my appreciation. Thank you Jordan, Joey, Donnie (for tearing off your shirt!), Jonathan, Danny, AJ, Brian, Howie and Nick for such a fun night. It was fun to be thirteen again, even for just a few hours.

KTBSPA! If you know what this means, high five, sistah (or brother, I won’t judge)!


 

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An Open Letter to Ovation Productions

Dear Ovation,

First of all, I’d like to thank you for bringing over NKOTBSB for a concert in Manila. I’m a big Backstreet Boys fan, and anyone who brings them to our country can’t be all that bad in my book (even if I don’t really understand some of the people you bring over for concerts).

However, I do still have a few bones to pick with you.

First, the pricing of the regular lower box seats is particularly problematic. At PHP 7,920, they were only PHP 500 cheaper than Lower Box VIP. Probably anyone willing to pay PHP 7920 would be willing to spare the additional 500 bucks or even PHP 1000 (for Patron) for the better seats. Then the jump in the price between the upper and lower box tickets was too big. Upper box tickets cost less than half the lower box tickets at PHP 3,700. With the VIP and lower box tickets so closely priced, wouldn’t it have made sense to lower the price of the LB tickets, so as not to crowd out those who were willing to shell out between PHP 6,000-7,000? The result of this was that these fans had to settle for upper box tickets (therefore crowding out those whose budget was around the PHP4000 mark), and the arena ended up looking like this:

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Pretty full at the top, pretty pathetic at the bottom

And this was already after you did the second thing I want to talk to you about: selling the tickets at half-off. As a diehard fan who bought her ticket early, I think I speak on behalf of the other diehard fans when I say that this is unfair to us. We love these artists so much that we make sure we reserve and purchase seats early, the best ones we can afford, only to find out that we could’ve bought better tickets if only we waited.  It’s frustrating to find out that our VIP tickets are now more expensive than a half-off SVIP seat, or that we just needed to add PHP 800 to the purchase price of your upper box ticket to upgrade it to a half-off VIP seat. It’s heartbreaking to realize that fans who didn’t care enough to buy their tickets early now have better and CHEAPER seats than we do.

To add further insult, you go and oversell the General Admission tickets past capacity, resulting in people sitting on the steps, and standing behind the row of seats. To remedy the situation, you allegedly took the excess General Admission ticket holders and transferred them to Lower Box. LOWER BOX. People who likely paid PHP 500 had better seats than people who paid PHP 3700, and likely better seats than some people who paid the full PHP 7920.

How is that fair? How is that right? How is that not infuriating?

Wouldn’t it have been a fairer to move the rightful lower box ticket holders at the sides further front? Wouldn’t it have been more equitable to move some people from the upper box to lower box and then moved the GA viewers to the upper box seats?

I realize that I need to let this go, that there’s nothing I can do about what happened, despite how angry I am right now. The only thing I can hope for is that you change your tactics the next time so that this won’t happen again. How about pricing your tickets more reasonably the next time, so you won’t have to sell them half-off at the last minute, so that the eager, diehard fans don’t get screwed over? How about selling the right amount of tickets so that, again, the fans don’t get screwed over?

Because while it’s probably all about the money for you, for the fans, it’s about an experience of a lifetime, about dreams coming true, believe it or not. And really, as much as we shouldn’t let you, we can’t help but feel that you ruined it a bit for us.

Respectfully,

Me

PS: Please bring the Backstreet Boys back to the Philippines again. With KEVIN this time.

Hanson live in Manila, pt. 2 (yes, I’m still not over it)

You’d think the mania and the swooning would’ve passed by now, about a week and a half after the concert. But, if anything, things on the fangirl front have gotten worse, actually.

For one, I’ve finally seen the Hanson documentary, Strong Enough to Break, about their struggle in making their album Underneath and the circumstances that finally led to them leaving Island Def Jam to start their own record company (first episode here). Fandom aside, I think it’s worth watching for the insight into the music industry and how ruthless and appallingly money-driven it is. Also, through behind the scenes looks into their recording and writing sessions,  the documentary also further showcases what talented musicians Isaac, Taylor and Zachary are. But of course I knew that already.

I have also watched their Best of 5 of 5 DVD a few times over the long weekend.

Yeah. It’s bad, I know.

So, this is an attempt to get this Hanson craziness out of my system. This post is a little different from the one I wrote about the concert, where I attempted to keep my emotions in check and be as balanced as possible. For this post, I am going to indulge in a lot little honest to goodness fan-girling via some of my favorite photos from the concert. You have been forewarned.

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 My friends and I think this photo is funny and rather appropriate because it looks like it’s from an apparition of some heavenly being of some sort. Which would be accurate. A heavenly being in very, very tight jeans.

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Guys. Serious question. Is he looking directly into my camera here? I’ve asked this question on Facebook and on Twitter, and no one’s answered it… I wonder why… Hahaha.

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I like this shot for obvious reasons. Hair flip!!

Goodness me, how big Zac has grown. And I don’t mean that in a sleazy way (although I know some girls who mean it in exactly THAT way. Haha!). I’ve seen the videos, the interviews, of course, but it didn’t really dawn on me how tall and bulky he was until I actually saw him in person at the meet & greet. They were actually all taller than I thought they would be, Taylor, especially.

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Let’s show Old Man Hanson some love, shall we?

This was during A Song to Sing, which, as I’ve already mentioned, is one of my favorite song of theirs. It’s just so sad and beautiful and lonely. Isaac sings so beautifully in it, too.

Taylor

I love this set of photos. This was during If Only and Taylor was trying to get the crowd to cheer louder. If you’re so inclined, you could choose to imagine that Taylor is gesturing towards you, beckoning you to come over… Not that I’m inclined to do that… It’s just an idea, you know…

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I will not make the obvious harmonica joke here. I. Am. Better. Than. That. I. Am. Above. That.

I, however, am not above highlighting (again) how tight those jeans are.

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Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh. That smile. *falls over*

Ok. Done. Hopefully, after all that,  (1) the Hanson mania dies down or, at the very least, is kept under control from this point on and (2) y’all haven’t lost all respect for me yet. I’m not always like this, you know. It’s just that that last photo… That hair. That smile. That voice.

Ok. Must. Stop. Now.

Hanson live in Manila: Shout it Out World Tour

Guys, I’m serious. You gotta learn to look past Mmmbop and the fact that one (or two, depending who you ask) of them looked like a girl back then and give Hanson a listen. Because when y’all weren’t paying attention, Isaac, Taylor and Zac grew up and turned Hanson into a legit, straight-up pop-rock band. SERIOUSLY.

I, on the other hand, have been paying attention since their album “This Time Around”. That album, with If Only (and Taylor’s awesome harmonica solo) and quite possibly one of my favorite songs EVER, Runaway Run (which the Rolling Stones reviewer called “amazing”, by the way) sealed my fate as a Hanson fan. And, no, this is not a blind, illogical love like the one I admittedly have for the Backstreet Boys. Hanson actually make good, I daresay some of it even “great”, music.

I reserved and bought tickets the first day they were available to the public, which was way back in November. Apart from the fact that I’ve never seen them perform live (I have no recollection at all of their coming to Manila when I was in college, I blame accounting class), I was also excited because their new album, “Shout it Out” was my favorite of theirs since the aforementioned “This Time Around.”

“Shout it Out”, with “easily one of the best singles of 2010” Thinkin’ ‘Bout Somethin’, is filled with ridiculously catchy, sunny (probably the word used most by critics to describe the songs in the album), bob-your-head-to-the-music and just downright FUN pop-rock songs. Naturally, I expected it to be a fun night and concert.

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And, oh, what a night it was.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I was lucky enough to meet the guys (and lose all my mental faculties over the very brief period) AND that my friend also happened to get the first guitar pick Isaac threw to  the crowd. But I daresay shaking Taylor’s hand (and not fainting on the spot) and getting a souvenir was just the icing on the cake.

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I said I loved Hanson for their music, and last Friday’s concert was validation that my love was not unfounded. From the appropriate first song, Waiting for This to the mathematically-correct A Minute Without You and Taylor’s teasing vocals in Crazy Beautiful, the first half of the concert was a good mix of their lesser-known older stuff and the more upbeat songs in the new album.

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It’s during the first couple of songs in the second half, though, where I, ummmm… how do I say this, went absolutely bat-sh*t crazy had my strongest emotional reactions to the music. Wish That I Was There was an old, sappy, sentimental favorite of mine while the piano-only A Song to Sing is just so damn sad, and both Taylor and Isaac sing on it so beautifully. And they sang these songs back-to-back. So, yes, tears may have run down my cheeks and I may have sung along with one hand in the air and one over my chest.

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I did not have any other extreme emotional reactions after this, errrrm, attack (I’d like to think of it as like an allergic reaction, something I can’t help). The rest of the second half of the concert, I made up for lost cardio time by alternately sweating it out and jumping around to This Time Around, dancing (or, more like my lame-ass version of it: moving my shoulders around) to Penny and Me and Give a Little, then jumping up and down again like a 14-year old on a sugar high to Lost Without Each Other (my favorite from their album “Underneath”) and to Taylor’s sick harmonica solo in If Only.

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Alas, they only had one encore, In the City from “This Time Around”. I was disappointed they didn’t sing at least one more extra song, preferably the aforementioned Runaway Run (although it’s probably a good thing they didn’t as my head would’ve probably exploded within the first few notes of that guitar intro). Plus, In the City wasn’t a particular favorite of mine. I had to admit though, it was fun singing along to Taylor’s “Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me, little pretty?” and answering in my head “HELL, YEAH! I love you!”. Bwahahahaha.

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 Joking aside, yeah, I really do love these guys, and their music. Admittedly, their lyrics sometimes tends toward the saccharine-sweet, but I’m a sucker for that. Lyrics aside, though, they have such a great sound. Fun, summery (another word a lot of reviews used to describe “Shout it Out”), infectious and, I know I already said it, but it really is just great fun. What’s remarkable, too is that the music they’ve been playing is almost entirely written, produced, arranged and performed by just Isaac, Taylor and Zac over the last 15 years.  And isn’t there something in that? Sure they haven’t been as commercially successful as some of their contemporaries, but  that they’ve been around for THIS long (where are The Moffats now, anyway?), relatively scandal and drug/alchocol rehab free, too, I might add, is surely something. And not only are they still around, but the fact that they are also earning the respect of their peers (Taylor is in a band with James Iha, after all), still touring, making good music for a decade and a half could only mean that these guys have got something good going, no?

Which is why, like I said earlier, you guys gotta give them a chance and listen to their stuff. Even if you won’t love it as much as I do, I daresay it’s still much better than 90% of what’s playing on the radio nowadays, and infinitely better than what today’s pipsqueaked teen-aged pop stars are “singing”.

The Setlist: Hanson Shout it Out World Tour Live in Manila

  • Waiting for This from Shout it Out
  • Where’s the Love from Middle of  Nowhere
  • Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’ from Shout it Out
  • Thinking of You from Middle of  Nowhere
  • Minute Without You from Middle of  Nowhere
  • Crazy Beautiful from Underneath
  • Can’t Stop from This Time Around
  • Strong Enough to Break (Acoustic) from Underneath
  • Deeper (Acoustic) from Underneath
  • Wish That I was There (Acoustic) from This Time Around
  • A Song to Sing from This Time Around
  • With You in Your Dreams from Middle of  Nowhere
  • This Time Around from This Time Around
  • And I Waited from Shout it Out
  • Penny & Me from Underneath
  • Give A Little from Shout it Out
  • MmmBop from Middle of  Nowhere
  • Lost Without Each Other from Underneath
  • If Only from This Time Around
  • Encore: In the City from This Time Around

Update: Part Two, where I indulge in a little silly fangirling, is up!

Mighty Aphrodite

Amazing. Fantastic. Spectacular. Fabulous. Fun. Awesome… I’ve ran out of words, actually.

I, for one, did not expect that Kylie Minogue’s Aphrodite concert at the Araneta Coliseum to be THAT good. I’ve seen some of her concerts on TV before and they were all spectacles: elaborate sets, more costume changes than Kate Middleton on her Canada tour and a bevy of gyrating dancers. But even all that didn’t prepare me for all this:

Kylie on full-on GODDESS mode

complete with:

A chariot pulled by half-naked men

...and a golden horse in case her chariot pullers get tired

And while I suppose I should’ve expected them to milk the Greek mythology references for all its worth, these, I did not see coming:

20-foot men in, well, shiny underwear, gyrating like there was no tomorrow...

...and regular sized men (and women) hanging from ropes twenty feet in the air a la Cirque du Soleil

I wasn’t surprised, though, by Kylie’s spectacular costumes, and how absolutely awesome she looked in them, even in

... a dress and Louboutins that look like they were made from those adhesive wrappers used to cover notebooks

or an outfit that makes her look like she crashed into those stalls in Greenhills jewelry

And while some artists use the bells and whistles of a production as an excuse to not belt it out as much as they did on a recorded track (or worse, as an excuse to lip synch the entire time), Kylie was the exact opposite. As far as I could tell she was singing live the entire time (feel free to correct me on this) and even belted out high notes I haven’t heard on her album tracks. And she danced, too. All that, while having to avoid stepping on her train/tripping on her heels/poking her dancers’ eyes out with her headdress/collapsing under the weight of a gazillion pearls. No wonder she beat breast cancer.

But of course, even with all the spectacle, the experience is still mainly about the music. And, really, even without all that jazz, Kylie’s songs, in themselves, already make you want to akwardly shift our shoulders from left to right dance and have the time of your life with your girls and/or gays. From the opener, Aphrodite, to a sexier (who would’ve thought that was even possible?) rearrangement of Slow, my sister’s personal favorite Better the Devil You Know, the now-infamous All the Lovers (see why here) and even the special Philippine addition of the 80’s cheese-fest Especially for You, the music was pure pop, girly fun.

Which is exactly what we came for. And want more of.

A goodbye as glittery and fabulous as the show itself.

So please come back, Kylie! We can’t wait to have you back, even without your scantily-clad, über-flexible dancers. No, really…

Three hours, Five Months and One Rainy Night

Plus about five or six years.

That’s how long I’ve loved John Mayer’s music. It was a gradual progression from interest (Back to You and the rest of Room for Squares), to like (Split Screen Sadness and Heavier Things) to love (Slow Dancing in a Burning Room and Continuum). And things came to a head for me in March of this year, when rumors started swirling that John Mayer was coming to Manila in May. I went on full stalker mode, constantly visiting his tour page for official confirmation, Googling “John Mayer in Manila” to make sure I got the latest news.

Finally, the date was set, and ticket prices publicized. The rates were exorbitant, but I didn’t care. The first day tickets became available, a friend and I left work early and drove all the way from Makati to Tomas Morato, where the Channel V offices were. We endured THREE HOURS of Channel V’s inept inefficiencies to finally purchase our tickets for the May 16 concert. I was technically supposed to be in South Africa on that date, but again, I didn’t care, I’ll figure it out. Come hell or high water, I was not going to miss this.

So I was actually quite relieved when the concert was postponed, as it saved me the hassle of explaining to my boss that I needed to be back home merely two weeks into my new job to watch a concert. And, as it turned out, it wasn’t that long of a wait, as I had adjusting to a new country, the World Cup, and two new jobs to distract me in between.

October 1 came around, and the first thought in my head when I woke up was “Crap, it’s raining!” Throughout the day, I was hoping and praying that the rain would let up, but it didn’t. It was pouring hard on our way to MOA, and I actually even called Channel V to double check if the concert was pushing through, or if, at the very least, there was a change in venue. It was so bad, that we decided to buy ourselves some raincoats from SM department store, where the salespeople didn’t know what hit them. There was such a clamor for raincoats that they had to take out all their stock, that raincoats were actually being snatched from the salesman’s hands as his was bringing them out from storage.

Chaos over raincoats

Armed with our industrial-strength kapote, we proceeded to the venue and to our seats. With the rain, wet seats, and the tight legroom in between rows (they made economy class legroom seem like first class!), it wasn’t looking like it was going to be a comfortable night. Overall, there was a feeling of “John Mayer better make all this trouble worth it”.

I’ve read mixed reviews on his concert, ranging from the inane and downright stupid to the valid (“He didn’t really establish a rapport with the crowd”). It is my opinion that if you’re a mere casual fan (you know the singles, but never really listened to the albums), then you were probably disappointed by the setlist and the concert as a whole. Sure, there was Your Body is a Wonderland, No Such Thing and Gravity, but he didn’t play a lot of the songs the more mainstream audience loves and would recognize (Back to You, Love Song for No One, Dreaming with a Broken Heart, etc.).

But if you were hard-core, die-hard fan, then, apart from maybe a few more songs (but don’t we all feel the same way after every concert?) and better weather, there really was nothing more you could ask for. If you were there for his guitar playing, then you would definitely have had your fill.  John Mayer, pop-rock roots notwithstanding, proved that night (and many other nights, for sure) why he is being touted by some as the heir apparent to Eric Clapton. While I wasn’t able to keep track of all the solos, his ukulele vs saxophone showdown of sorts in Do You Know Me? particularly stands out (I’ll stop here. I’ll leave the praise/critique of JM’s guitar playing to those who know what they’re talking about. I can’t even tell the difference between a Stratocaster and a Starcaster.).

If you were like me, though, and you were there for the songs, then it’ll just be a matter of taste. Personally, apart from the unfortunate exclusion of the tonally upbeat but lyrically heartbreaking Split Screen Sadness, I was satisfied. I’ve always found it remarkable how JM’s songs are always about something everyone has gone through but in a totally real, non-sappy, non-cheesy way. He writes about heartbreak so well (surprisingly enough, given his douche-y history with women), but never with the oh-woe-is-me-I-can’t-live-without-you sentimentality most songs come with. He perfectly captures the confusion, the conflicting feelings that love and life come along with: the torture of pining for someone you’ve broken up with, the awkwardness and nervousness of dating, the satisfaction in and concurrent loneliness of being single, the inherent stubbornness that keeps us in relationships that we know are doomed anyway and our almost sadistic ability to hurt the people we love.

Which is why, it wasn’t Your Body is a Wonderland (uggggh, puh-lease.) that had me shrieking my head off and shedding some tears (yes, I’m pathetic. I know.). It was the opening guitar riff to Slow Dancing in a Burning Room, the bridge to Heartbreak Warfare and the bass line to his encore, Edge of Desire that got the tears flowing. To say that I love these songs is an understatement. There was a point where I just had these three on repeat on my iPod and ONLY these three. To hear them live, and that close was just overwhelming for me.

The night was almost perfect (although, I almost had a meltdown when I thought he wasn’t going to perform Edge of Desire). Apart from the aforementioned exclusion of one of my favorite JM songs, my only other grievance was about the asshats  up front who refused to lower their umbrellas, obstructing everyone who wasn’t seated in row B’s view (and yes, that was me who started one round of the “Umbrellas down!” chant). Except at the point where it was at pouring the hardest (and it wasn’t actually that hard even at that point) I didn’t actually mind the rain, it gave the whole concert a sort of mystical, magical feel to it.

When I’m covered in rain, rain, rain…

So, the three-hour wait for tickets, the actual ticket price, the five-month wait, the rain. It was worth it, for the most part. Now if he had only sung Covered In Rain

PS: I don’t know why my pictures are coming up blurry. Might be because of the resizing when they get uploaded. I swear my pictures are better than this.