Honeycomb Hideout: Flowers, Chocolates, Pandemics, and Situationships

Welcome back to the Honeycomb Hideout!

 I know it’s been awhile but between holidays and the end of the world I was a little preoccupied. However I am back and better than ever (or at least my false sense of confidence allows me to believe that). 

I feel like I picked the best time because this Sunday is Valentine’s day, and with this holiday approaching, I think it’s best to talk about how to approach this holiday as we still face the challenges of Covid-19. 

Valentines is the perfect chance to enjoy the holiday with that special someone in your life, with indoor dining being reopened in the city (at 25% capacity) you can have that romantic night out that most of us have been missing over the last year. I’d personally recommend celebrating Valentine’s on Friday or Saturday to somewhat avoid the chance of not being able to get reservations at a restaurant.

There are, however, many options you have to give that special someone in your life an experience they won’t forget from the comfort of your own home. Many restaurants are still offering Valentine’s Day specials for carryout so you can make a romantic, candle-lit dinner at home. Have a movie night with boxed wine or whatever you know your significant other likes. Just putting in effort is what matters! Don’t let a pandemic make you believe that you don’t have to try this holiday.

Now let me address everyone out there who is in what we call a “situationship.” You know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re not technically dating, yet you spend four out of seven nights a week at their house, you go to dinner together and you cuddle up on the couch. You’ve never defined what the relationship is, and now we are reaching the biggest romantic holiday of the year. This may make it tricky knowing what to do this upcoming weekend. 

Do you make the push to spend time with them? Do you go on like it’s nothing and just let the situationship stay the way it is? It all comes down to your own personal decision. 

I think you can go one of two ways. If this has been going on for at least three months, you have the right to ask yourself where this is going. Just know that it’s very possible you’ll hear something you won’t like. The alternative to this situation is to just say nothing because you personally don’t want it to go further or you enjoy the worry-free grey area you’re in.

Finally, there is the group of people who are single for valentines day and for that my advice is one thing. Self love. I know it sounds cliché but in all seriousness, self love is important. 

Think of it as the foundation for a house. If it isn’t solid, how do you expect it to support the weight of the rest of the house you build on top of it? Solidify the relationships that benefit you now, which include the one with yourself, your family and your friends. So however you spend this upcoming weekend just be safe, wash your hands, wear your mask, and remember on Monday all of that candy will be 50% off. 


PS: A friend of mine wanted me to talk to me about her idea of a perfect Valentine’s day being a single vaccinated woman in the midst of a pandemic. For my friend FHP (Fed Hill Princess) her ideal Valentine’s Day would take place at One Star, getting yelled at by the bartenders, hitting on a six only to be turned down. She then buys them a Twisted Tea and the situation changes. From there she would pull out her laminated vaccine card to show that she is 100% Covid immune. She’d end the night by finding someone to leave with, only to ultimately be disappointed. 

But in her own words, “Nothing can disappoint me more than 2020.”

The Color Theory: Color of Attraction

Photo: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting

Love is in the air – well, more like the coronavirus. But as we all know, Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Whether you’re single or in a committed relationship, if you despise intimacy or longing for it, you just can’t seem to hide away from the love.

Universally, the color red is commonly associated with this holiday or with the idea of being intimate. This had me wonder: Why?

Thulasie Manoharan of Her Culture says, “For so long, the color red was said to represent the blood red of the beating heart, and that heart was the ultimate symbol of love” – all from the beginning popularity of Valentine’s Day in the 16th Century. Like I said in a previous post, there is a story or a certain meaning behind colors and patterns. To extend this, symbolic figures and objects influences the way we think about self-perception.

Gabrielle K. Lehmann, author of Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Red on Perceived Attractiveness, also suggests that cultural association and social learning is responsible for this phenomenon. We are all accustomed to the association of the color red with attractiveness and intimacy due to cultural ideas passed down many generations. We keep this ideology just for the sake of symbolism.

Photo: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting

Why Red?

Red is considered as the “most attractive color”, for both heterosexual men and women, according to studies concluded by students at the University of Rochester. While some may still argue this claim, recent studies still remain inconclusive.

In contrast, recent studies suggest that wearing red may boost confidence and self-love. Back in 2017, Anne Berthold, contributing author of The Effect of Red Color on Perceived Self-Attractiveness, told PsyPost: “People can feel (or perceive themselves) more attractive when putting on red clothes. Statistically, according to our studies, the color red simply attracts attention.” Generally, red is widely considered a color to be eye-popping and attention-grabbing for the majority of the American public.

So to get into the “holiday spirit”, simply wear red. Whether it be those snazzy pants that has been sitting in your closet all throughout 2020, this is a perfect time to wear it. Whether you are going out on a date, or just reciprocating self-love, flaunt your style! Incorporate some red into your wardrobe!

Here are some ideas to inspire you for your upcoming Valentine’s Day date:

Photo: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting
Photo: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting
Photo: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting
Photo: Maria Orlova – Pexels

Jeff Dominguez is the Communications Director for The Sting and writes The Color Theory, an influential fashion column.

Friday Groove: OK Human – Weezer

California-based rock band Weezer was originally slated to release their fifteenth studio album Van Weezer in May 2020 to line up with the “Hella Mega Tour” they had planned with Green Day and Fall Out Boy. But, like most things in the year 2020 (and now 2021 for that matter), the plans were put on hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now as a member of the Weezer Fan Club, I, along with many others, received a cryptic email in mid-January asking me to fill out a bunch of captchas and other questions, and if I did, I would get a prize. Some of the people who filled it out received floppy disks in the mail. I received nothing, but hey, that’s the way it goes right?

On January 18, the band announced that another album OK Human would be released the following week, and that Van Weezer, now their 16th effort, would be released in May. 

The band said that OK Human would be unlike anything they had done before. There would be a 38-piece orchestra playing with the band, no electric guitars and no click track during the recording process (for the non-musicians, a click track is used to keep tempo constant during a recording). 

And truthfully, it is completely unlike any other Weezer album, so if you’re looking for tracks like “Buddy Holly” or “The Good Life,” this is not your record.

But, if you’re willing to try something new, come aboard.

OK Human harkens back to a simpler time of recording, when everything was analog. The sound is organic, and while it maintains the standard of being a Weezer record, it feels like you’re listening to classical music at the same time. Every track flows right into the next without a break. What’s beautiful is it doesn’t sound overly polished either. 

In a way, it feels like Weezer hired Roy Wood (of Electric Light Orchestra fame) as a consultant or producer or something. The orchestral arrangements in the first two ELO records, and in OK Human, seem remarkably similar, although don’t think that Weezer just tried to rip-off ELO. This record is different in a lot of ways. More than anything it just feels like the band wants to branch out into different genres and expand the scope of what they can do. 

My favorite tracks on this one include the upbeat album-opener “All My Favorite Songs,” “Here Comes the Rain” and “La Brea Tar Pits.”

OK Human is overall a great record from a band that has been able to do everything from rock to pop to Lil’ Wayne to metal and now to classical. I’m beyond excited to see where they go next.

Tony Sheaffer is editor-in-chief for The Sting and writes Friday Groove, a weekly music column.

The Color Theory: Embrace Your Culture for Black History

Photo: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting

As we all know, February is Black History Month. With racial injustice being brought to national attention within the past year, this time around feels a lot more important compared to recent years.

Said best by N’dea Yancey-Bragg of USA Today, “Black History Month recognizes the contributions African-Americans have made to this country throughout time. Specifically this year, on a national scale, we reflect on the continued struggle of racial injustice.”

For those interested, how did we get here?

Early Beginnings

The story of Black History Month dates back to 1915, almost fifty years after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery. The founding fathers of this celebration, Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland, were dedicated to promote accomplishments made by African-Americans. They wanted these newly profound leaders to embrace their culture, while being put on a higher pedestal for the whole world to see. 

Photo: Matheus Viana – Pexels

Before 1976, Black History Month was “Black History Week” – formerly known as National Negro History Week, residing between Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays (who were important advocates of black lives).

Rising philosophers and leaders in the civil rights movement (such as Malcolm X, John Lewis, James Meredith, and Martin Luther King Jr.) brought awareness of the Black identity. Thus, evolving “Negro History Week” into the modern Black History Month.

Photo: Jeff Dominguez – The Sting

Today’s Impact

As said in my previous post, we started this whole pandemic with lots of uncertainty. But there seems to be a forecast of hope on the horizon. With heartbreaking events, such as the death of George Floyd and many other countless names, became eye-opening for our nation. This year’s celebration, the on-going focus is heavily reflective of last summer’s Black Lives Matter Movement.

Although some may argue, just this year alone, this particular “reflection” is overly emphasized. Somebody once told me recently, “Well, why are people finally recognizing our struggles now? Why are people finally bringing up this issue after so many decades of pain?”

I hear you, my friend. But recognizing this issue now is better than never. We were bound to face the issues of police brutality, racism in the workplace, ignorance, and every injustice the black community has dealt with throughout the history of this country.

Nichelle Smith of USA Today agrees, “The short answer: Forward. Through still-difficult times to the other, better side. There’s no going back to a “normal” that never worked well for Black people anyway.” 

Everyone has been through a lot this past year. What’s keeping us alive is for us to keep progressing and pushing forward as individuals.

Current Sting President and Editor-at-Large, Leonard Robinson, also agrees to my philosophical advice as said in his last post: “The big thing that happened? Humanity got better at simply…being alive”. To put it in perspective, every day (hopefully), we are becoming more tolerant to our neighbors.

Photo: Scott Olson – Getty Images (via NPR)

The Colors: Symbolize Through Wear

With this celebration going on now, and still in a worldwide pandemic, the most common way to express your heritage and “blackness” is to dress up for the culture.

Dressing in a way can be considered as a reflection of one’s cultural values and morals. Think of it symbolically: there’s a story or meaning behind certain colors and patterns.

The colors red, black, and green have always been associated with African-descent and used as the colorway for Black History Month – inspired from the iconic, Pan-American Flag (or known as the Black Liberation Flag). Said by NPR editor, Leah Donnella: “Red stood for blood — both the blood shed by Africans who died in their fight for liberation, and the shared blood of the African people. Black represented, well, black people. And green was a symbol of growth and the natural fertility of Africa.”

I’m not saying you should wear red, black, and/or green to support this national celebration – but only my suggestion. You could go even further into embracing your culture by wearing traditional wear, such as head wraps and fine prints.

Jeff Dominguez is the Communications Director for The Sting and writes The Color Theory, an influential fashion column.

Friday Groove: My New Year’s Resolution

Photo: Blocks

Towards the latter half of 2020, I found myself in a bit of a rut. 

Now I’m not referring to the routine I’ve had since last March, where I wake up, shower, make a pot of coffee and watch reruns of Cheers for eight or nine hours while I get work done. I’m referring to the same 10 or 20 albums I would shuffle through when I wasn’t watching 80’s sitcoms.

See, one of the downsides of not being able to shop for records as frequently is I fell out of practice of finding something new to listen to on the daily. And while I certainly have my favorites I like to keep in the rotation, I pride myself on being able to mix things up pretty often. That wasn’t happening anymore.

I knew I had to break the monotony… and fast.

While many have New Year’s resolutions to eat better, exercise more or lose weight, my New Year’s resolution this year was a bit different. I decided that I would listen to a different album, in its entirety, every day for the whole year.

In an era where music is defined by streams and playlists, it seems like listening to an entire album is something of a lost art. Oftentimes, I’ve found that the single an artist puts out isn’t even the best track on the album that follows. One song doesn’t tell the whole story, but an album does.

But alas, I’ve been listening to complete albums since I’ve been listening to music. My real intention with this resolution is discovering new (to me) music and rediscovering music that I hadn’t heard in some time. 

So on January 1, I started combing through my thousands of CD’s and vinyl records and pulling out anything I hadn’t listened to since at least the early days of the pandemic, and in some cases, long before that. After the first week, I posted what I had listened to on Facebook, both to have my friends keep tabs on me, and to chronicle what all I had listened to.

Now here we are, roughly a month in, and I have to say, this has been the most fun resolution I’ve ever made. Not only am I listening to different music everyday, but I’m learning more and more about the music as I read the liner notes for these albums (another thing you don’t get with streaming). 

But perhaps the best part of all this is the discussion I have with friends about what I’ve been listening to. Through sharing this resolution with others, I’ve found even more songs and albums to listen to, and learned even more about the music along the way. Some have even taken what I’ve listened to as recommendations, so they’ll have something new to try too.

I think at some point, whether now or a little ways down the road, everyone should try something like this. Maybe if you just listen to singles and playlists, listen to a whole album. If you do listen to whole albums, try something that might be a little outside your comfort zone. Even if you don’t have access to physical media, branch out and listen to something new. 

You’ll be glad you did.

Tony Sheaffer is editor-in-chief for The Sting and writes Friday Groove, a weekly music column.

Friday Groove: Top 10 Albums of 2020

When I used to work at Record and Tape Traders, it was a lot easier to keep track of new releases. After all, if I wasn’t the one organizing them on Thursday after closing, I was the one selling them upon opening Friday. This year has been so long and ridiculous, I almost forgot that some of my favorite records of the year actually came out this year. That being said, over the last week I’ve revisited some of my favorite albums of 2020, and I’m going to offer you my top 10. Give them a shot if you need something to listen to over the winter break.

Fair warning: Taylor Swift’s Folklore is not on this list. The lyrics were okay, but the album overall wasn’t very good. She surprise-dropped another album this morning, evermore. I’ll give it a listen at some point, but I’m not expecting much.

10. The Network – Money Money 2020 Part II: We Told Ya So!

Are they a secret side-project of pop-punk band Green Day? The answer is most likely, yes. We were first introduced to The Network in 2003 when they released Money Money 2020, a decent new wave record that was a stark contrast to pretty much anything Green Day had done up to that point. After a 17-year hiatus, The Network seems to believe that the year 2020 lived up to their expectations. Part II is actually a pretty good record, with a similar sound to the original. If you’re a fan of New Wave, you’ll probably enjoy this. Unlike the original, the tracks on this LP seem to have a greater political message behind them, which may harken more toward Green Day’s American Idiot.

Tame Impala - The Slow Rush.png

9. Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

Musical savant Kevin Parker is back at it again. The Australian multi-instrumentalist and record producer tackles a host of issues, from his tumultuous relationship with his father on “Posthumous Forgiveness” to feelings of being trapped in a rut on “One More Year.” “Lost in Yesterday.” a song about being addicted to nostalgia, really hits home for me. While Parker writes and records all the material himself, he has touring musicians perform with him on the road. Last year, Tame Impala headlined Coachella, perhaps signaling to Parker that his solo-project had finally made it.

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8. HAIM – Women in Music, Pt. III

I think the word that best describes HAIM’s third record is “exploratory.” It’s similar to their first two efforts in two regards: harmonizing vocals and heavy guitars. Other than that, HAIM is setting out to explore new territory. Some tracks feel like synth-pop. Others, like “Up From A Dream,” almost remind me of David Bowie’s last record. The guitar playing on “The Steps” almost reminds me of late-Beatles or early- solo George Harrison. It might be a little different, but overall, it’s a good record.

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7. Run the Jewels – RTJ4

Hip-hop duo Run the Jewels’ fourth record was released less than a month after the killing of George Floyd sparked protests across the United States and the world. Self-admittedly, I’m not always the biggest fan of rap, but this album struck a chord with me. The messaging, along with a host of venerable beats and sounds from the rap music of yesteryear is what really makes this effort unique. Joshua Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and gospel singer Mavis Staples are featured on “pulling the pin.” Although it may sound like an unusual pairing, the two really make the track pop.

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6. Jason Isbell – Reunions

Jason Isbell unpacks so much in his latest record. The former Muscle Shoals studio musician continues to reflect on those he’s loved and lost, and his struggle for sobriety, now almost a decade ago. “Only Children” dives into his regret that his parents, mainly his mother, never had a chance to experience coming of age properly, since they had him so young. While he expresses feelings of regret on a few songs, he’s hopeful for the future. Isbell tells us in “It Gets Easier” that things were difficult for him, but they certainly got better, even though things may never be easy.

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5. The Weeknd – After Hours

The Weeknd is really one of the only modern-day R&B artists I thoroughly enjoy. After Hours gives us a bit more of an 80’s synth sound, but I’m all here for it. I listened to the single, “Blinding Lights” on repeat for a solid hour of my five-hour drive to Cooperstown, NY back in March. I was lucky that the entire album was released the following week for my listening pleasure. “Scared to Live” might be the most upbeat track on the album, but it still has some dark undertones. Overall, very fitting for what this year became.


4. The Struts – Strange Days

The Struts were the only big name I had the chance to see in concert this year. Their third record, Strange Days, will serve as a bit of a time-capsule in the years to come. Recorded over 10 days during quarantine, the album is quite intimate with a huge sound. It perfectly captures the experience of living through 2020. “Science fiction I believe, has become reality,” really just couldn’t be more fitting. 

Machine Gun Kelly - Tickets to My Downfall.png

3. Machine Gun Kelly – Tickets to My Downfall

Tickets to My Downfall is my favorite pop-punk album in years. Featuring the drum power and production of Blink-182’s Travis Barker, MGK takes a break from the rap music he’s usually known for. It’s loud. It’s bombastic. It’s the perfect album to listen to at full-volume with the windows down. “title track” is a great, blustering opening to the album, beginning with acoustic guitar and vocals, then ripping into Barker’s verbose drumming. “concert for aliens” seems to call back to the sound of Blink’s 1998 effort Enema of the State. This record fits right in with the pop-punk albums of the early 2000’s perfectly.

A man leans over a jukebox while a couple dances beside him

2. Bob Dylan – Rough and Rowdy Ways

Bob Dylan has the unique distinction of being the first to release a top-40 record in every decade since the 1960’s. His latest, Rough and Rowdy Ways, doesn’t miss a beat. Dylan is as honest as he’s always been. It’s a meditation of who we are and where we’ve been as a society. He likens himself to Anne Frank, Indiana Jones and the Rolling Stones, proclaiming the he too, “[has] multitudes.” He remembers blues musician Jimmy Reed in “Goodbye Jimmy Reed,” a thumping blues track that just might be my favorite on the record. Rough and Rowdy Ways ends with the 17-minute “Murder Most Foul,” magnum opus about President John F. Kennedy’s death, and all the things the slain president never had the chance to witness

A photo of Springsteen's face with him standing in the snow
  1. Bruce Springsteen – Letter to You

My favorite album of the year was also my favorite Springsteen album since 1978’s Darkness on the Edge of Town. It’s brutally honest, focusing on the intricacies of life and death in a way only The Boss could aptly do. Three tracks on the album predate Springsteen’s 1973 debut, but they still fit in with the songs he’s written over the last few years. Springsteen and the E Street Band recorded the album at his New Jersey farm last November, long before the pandemic threw a wrench in many artist’s recording plans. If you’re interested in learning more about the recording and stories behind this album, Springsteen released a documentary on Apple TV+. Here’s to hoping we’ll get to see them out on the road in 2021.

Tony Sheaffer is managing editor for The Sting and writes Friday Groove, a weekly music column.