Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Beastles

Who would have ever thought that by remixing The Beatles and The Beastie Boys together into a new beast would turn out to actually be good? I sure didn't. I found out about The Beastles remix songs reading Darren's site the other day. Curiously I downloaded one of the songs and listened to it only to realize I wanted to listen to another one... and then another and another until I downloaded them all.

I've never been a huge Beatles fan and have only been a casual Beastie Boys fan, but the sythesizing of these two totally disparate bands together intrigued me. I've often liked remixes because it gives other artists (or the original, in some cases) a change to reinterpret a song the way he or she thinks it should sound. In many cases the remix can eclipse the original or become a wonderful version of an already great song.

I suppose those reasons are the same reasons why I enjoy cover songs. Seeing how a particular band handles another artist's song, adding their own particular style, leads to many wonderful permutations on a similar starting point. Right now I've really come to enjoy A Perfect Circle's cover of John Lennon's "Imagine". APC put their own dark spin on Lennon's bittersweet song. If APC had simply played the song as close to the original as possible, it wouldn't have worked, but since they took the song and molded their sound around it, a hit was made.

Now the Beastles are in no way a hit, but are instead a nice, little diversion--a quirky "what if" of music. I really applaud this guy for putting the remixes together and I hope he goes somewhere in the music industry as he has some pretty decent remixing skills, but the songs themseleves never rose above "huh, that was neat and catchy" to the "wow, this is at least as good as the original" level, but I suppose it would be pretty tough for someone to construct remixes of songs by such classic bands that could eclipse their source material.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Christmas with Kristin

This last weekend I was up to St. Cloud to visit Kristin and help her move out of her apartment back to her parents' house since she'll be in Costa Rica and Nicaragua next semester. While I was up there we celebrated our Christmas together. I was actually very surprised at what she got me this year. I had no clue as to what she was going to get me, so it was really awesome getting a few things I never would have thought to receive.

First, she got me one of those Asian mister/humidifier/lamp things that you have probably seen in a local mall kiosk somewhere. I've always been mystified by them when we'd make our mall crawls together. Seeing how enamored I was with them, Kristin picked me up a beautiful blue one just like the picture below (except blue, of course). I think I spent an entire night at her parents' house playing around with the mist and light patterns. Right now I have it put up next to a reading lamp at home so that I can enjoy it while sitting down to watch tv, eat, or read.

The second thing she got me was the Batman movie on DVD. It was kind of fitting since I had gotten her the Superman movies on her birthday. I'm actually glad she didn't get me the Batman movie boxed set since Batman & Robin was one of the most atrocious comic book inspired films to tarnish the big screen. Batman and Batman Returns were both good. Batman Forever was watchable. Batman Begins looks friggin' awesome.

For my final gift, Kristin managed to find a book that combined my love of philosophy and our mutual obsession with the Simpsons in The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh of Homer. I'll be interested to see how the myriad of philosophers contained in the book are integrated into the workings of various episodes of the Simpsons. I'll have a book report ready for you when you get back from Central America, Kristin :-)

All in all, I was extremely happy with the wonderful gifts from my sweet, sweet girlfriend and they'll help me to make it through the four months she'll be gone. Merry Christmas and thank you a ton, Kristin!

That Poker Addiction

I think just about everyone and their mom knows that poker has gotten huge over the last year or two, especially the game of Texas Hold 'em. I am one of those thronging masses now addicted to the game. I've played the ocassional tournament with the guys from college and watched the world series of poker a few times (as well as rolled my eyes at the celebrity version of this show). I like playing it, and I don't get to as much as I'd like to.

Well, that is until I picked up the World Championship Poker game for Xbox this weekend. I haven't played the single player version of the game yet, but I've put in a good little chunk of time playing it on Live against other players and I must say it is a great time.

I thought for sure that I'd run into a bunch of douchebombers like most online games are full of, but so far I've only played against decent people that actually know how to play poker. There haven't been any lameass kids playing that simply go all-in on every hand or raise the bet considerably without seeing the flop just to be annoying. No, pretty much everyone has been a good and decent player.

Playing poker in a setting where you're not face to face with your opponents could be a drawback, and I thought it might really detract from the game, but since you can chat away with the other players using the mic that comes with Live, it makes it seem more personal, even when your opponents might be states away.

The pace of most games is pretty quick as well. You aren't usually stuck sitting and waiting for someone to decide if they should check or bet. Since you aren't staring down your competition, there's no real need to drag out the betting (and if you do, it's a good way to get kicked from a room).

There's also an overall leaderboard that keeps track of your poker playing record, as well as a personal leaderboard where you can check your standings just against your friends which is always fun for bragging rights.

Now there are a couple of downsides to the game. First, the player models, while customizable, are pretty ugly for being on the Xbox. Second, the Optimatch server browser will sometimes list games that have already started as open, which can get annoying when you run into a couple of those closed games in a row when trying to get in. Lastly, I wish there were more players playing this game online, but as it is there is usually at least 15-20 tables open at any time to get in on and if you create your own, you should get enough players to trickle in within a few minutes.

All in all, for $20 or less this game is likely to tide over any poker player and is a blast playing online. It gets my recommendation! If you want to add me as a friend or message me to play anything over Live, my gamertag is rmgebhardt. Now click the image below, buy this game, and come play!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Chaos Theory Might Have Merit

Sometimes it is truly amazing how one tiny little thing can change the entire course of your day, and even your entire mood. Heck, one little thing can not only change everything about your day, but about the days of those around you. And I'm talking about something truly tiny, like a 2 minute unimportant phone call or something--nothing that would usually make any type of difference in the day.

Something little like that, however, when interacting with a cesspool of emotions that are related in some small part to one little facet of the event, can modify the outlook on the day completely. Little things, sometimes they seem to have a bigger effect than some of the big things that should outweigh it. You can get caught on one little emotion that creeps to the surface, not let go, and before you know it you're staring at a tree instead of looking at the majestical forest around you.

I used to think that these feelings stemming from stupid, little things didn't have merit. I used to think that they were just knee-jerk reactions to a fierce emotion that came on strong, much like you'd pull back from a hot stove when you touch it before you even know it's hot. I don't quite think that way anymore. Instead, I see those feelings that arise from seemingly inconsequential events as a red flag being waved. There's something there deep inside you that's being set off that needs to be let out and addressed. No doubt it's been penned up so long and walled in so hard that a pin prick to the right area is going to let it fly out, probably with a lot of force.

So when that torrential flood of emotion overcomes you after a little, tiny event, you will probably be the only person that is able to understand why you feel that way at that time. Everyone else will no doubt think you're overreacting. Heck, I often think that about people when they get super emotional about something little... until I try really hard to put myself in their shoes and look at all of the details that might have contributed to that moment. Only then can I really attempt to relate and help someone out with what they are feeling.

It's this lack of "putting on the other person's shoes" that, I believe, leads to a lot of today's misunderstandings, arguments, and problems. When someone asks you to do something ludicrous for them, it is a lot easier to shrug it off and say that they're overreacting than it is to really look at why he or she might want you to do it and realize that maybe it's the right thing to do.

"It's the little things that kill." --Bush

Friday, December 17, 2004

Comics Pre-Ordered in December

I'm always interested in what my fellow comics bloggers buy, and many even detail what they buy each week, but since I preorder all of my stuff from Discount Comic Book Service, I only get my comics once a month and I only have to order them once a month. Because of that I don't get to write down my week to week buys, and to appease the one or two comics bloggers that might come here (and as a reminder of what I ordered), the following is what is included in my December 2004 Previews order:
  • Conan 13
  • Damn Nation 1
  • Batman 637
  • Batman War Games Vol. I
  • Superman 214
  • Action Comics 824
  • Adventures of Superman 637
  • Superman Strength 2
  • Superman/Batman 18
  • JLA Classified 4
  • Manhunter 7
  • Outsiders 21
  • Seven Soldiers 0
  • Solo 3
  • Ex Machina 8
  • Intimates 4
  • Twilight Experiment 1
  • Angeltown 4
  • Losers 21
  • Trigger 3
  • Detonator 4
  • Walking Dead 17
  • Hunter/Killer 1
  • Excalibur 10
  • Cable/Deadpool 12
  • Exiles 59
  • Nightcrawler 6
  • X-Men Unlimited 7
  • New X-Men 10
  • Spectacular Spider-Man 25
  • District X 10
  • Wolverine 25
  • Marvel Team-Up 5
  • Supreme Power 15
  • Doctor Spectrum 6
  • GI Joe Master & Apprentice vol. II 1
  • GI Joe Reloaded 12
  • Defex 4
  • Breakdown 4
  • Infantry 3
  • Little Star 1
  • Warcraft manga vol. I
Now that I look it over again, that is a lot of comics to order. Good thing 8 of those titles are mini's or are ending soon so I can trim down my list a little.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

In an attempt to make my 80 minutes of daily commute time more interesting and productive, I've signed up with, and online audiobook service (if you haven't signed up and would like to, please use "rmgebhardt" as the referrer as I get free stuff for sending you their way--thanks!).

Before I started looking at audiobook options, I didn't realize they were so expensive. They can cost anywhere from $20 to $70. Ouch. I thought to myself that there was no way in hell I could justify spending that much money per book, but then I saw that Audible had a subscription plan. For $20 a month you could download two audiobooks, regardless of their price. Considering that most books were $20 or more each, this seemed like a good deal. To sweeten the pot, they offered to give you a free 128 MB MP3 player if you sign up and stay a member for a year.

A year is a long time to commit to something like this, but after I learned that you will always have access to all of the books you buy, and that you can burn them to cds as well, I figured I could get 24 audiobooks and even if I didn't listen to them all while I was a subscriber, I could back the up onto cd and listen to them later down the line.

The MP3 player they sent is nothing fancy. It's actually very rudimentary, but it does the job of holding my audiobooks and nothing else very well. Audible's DRM, which isn't too intrusive, will only let you put one book at a time on the player, but this isn't really a problem since some books can take up to 80 megs of space (so fitting two books on the player at a time would be impossible anyhow).

The first two books I downloaded were I, Robot by Isaac Asimov and Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. Using Audible's website in conjunction with their downloaded software for my audiobook management, getting my books from the intenet to my MP3 player was very painless and user friendly. The only problem I had was that on my first attempt to dowload Ender's Game I couldn't get it to actually download it. Turns out that the server was overloaded with download requests at the time, and I was easily able to download it a little later that night.

All in all, so far I like Audible's service and software, and their price is very hard to beat. I only wish they had a slightly wider selection of books, but I'm sure they'll expand it greater in the future and I shouldn't have trouble finding at least 24 books that I've been meaning to read and haven't! So if you're looking for a good place to get audiobooks, I'll tell you to go to Audible!

EA Kills Competition

I'm betting just about everyone who owns a playstation, xbox, gamecube, computer, or even portable game systems has probably played a sports game or two. Maybe sports games are even your favorite type of game. The only sports games I've liked playing have been football and NBA basketball. Every couple of years I'll pick up the newest version of an NBA or NFL game to whet my sporting appetite. This year was my sports game buying year so I picked up ESPN's NFL Football for Xbox. I was totally floored by how good the game was and it blew away Madden, which I had played in Best Buy and other places when I needed to waste time. I'd never been a huge fan of the Madden games, but most years they were the only thing on the market of quality.

Not this year. ESPN's game was stunning and Madden got its ass handed to it. I had actually planned on possibly buying the new version of ESPN every year if it was going to be as good, year in and year out, as it was this year... that is until EA and the NFL ruined all hope for competition in the football video game market.

For more than 300 million dollars EA bought the exclusive rights to the NFL and NFLPA for video game usage. This means that EA is the only company who will be able to create and sell video games using the NFL and its players. This is sick. ESPN shows them that they aren't the shit, like they thought they were, so instead of trying to make a better game they just kill off all competition. Wow. Yet another reason to hate EA.

I am just floored by this for two reasons. Reason 1: I won't have a new football game to play for quite a few years since I refuse to buy anything from EA anymore. Reason 2: The NFL is shooting itself in the foot. They might be getting 300 million dollars now, but who's to say that they couldn't have made even more by possibly charging more to both Take Two Interactive and EA and letting their competition drive prices up? I guess they didn't think they could.

*Sigh* Looks like I'll just have to focus on playing basketball video games for my sports fix now instead of football. Oh, by the way, if you want to sign and online petition against this business deal, go here. I really doubt it will do anything, but you might as well do it if you have a few seconds to spare.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Site Redesign

Since I was getting sick of how my site was looking using one of Blogger's default templates, I decided to use a new template for my comic review site, Behind the Times. It's another template that has blue as its main color... I guess I really like that color. Check it out if you want. There's a few things I want to change with it, but for the most part I think I like the way it's set up.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Reflux - The Illusion of Democracy CD Review

Back when I was reviewing Blessed by a Broken Heart, I made the comment that the metalcore genre needs to evolve if it doesn’t want to become nothing more than another “has-been” genre that simply acts as a graveyard for bands that are behind the times. After writing that review, I received The Illusion of Democracy by Reflux. The timing couldn’t have been any more perfect because Reflux is a band that’s evolving metalcore and taking it to another creative level.

At its core, Reflux are a metalcore band, but they have seamlessly fused pieces of other genres to the metalcore framework to create an altogether new beast. Their style of metalcore is extremely precise, at times taking cues from the technical metal genre, a la Meshuggah. There is also a very strong underlying space rock/indie rock flavor to some of their music. To make things even more interesting, there are a couple of songs on here that sound like what I’d imagine a metalcore jam band must sound like. Throughout all of this, Reflux will pound the shit out of you with their bludgeoning and powerful playing, as well as scream your ears off with their more intelligent than your average band anti-establishment lyrics.

Seeing as how more than a couple metalcore/hardcore bands have gone the space rock route (Codeseven and Cave In are two great examples), I wouldn’t be surprised to see Reflux going the same direction in a couple of years as they have the playing prowess to do so much more than stick to only the metalcore genre. Don’t take this statement the wrong way—Reflux is very well suited to playing in the metalcore genre, but they have so much talent that exploring other avenues might be an interesting endeavor. That being said, Reflux are easily the most talented metalcore band playing right now, as well as simultaneously being a wonderfully unique musical animal.

It is going to be extremely tough for any new metalcore band, or existing band for that matter, to present a cd that will eclipse the audible masterpiece that The Illusion of Democracy is. Buy this cd as soon as you can! It comes with my highest recommendations.

*this review also published on Decoy Music

Walmart SO Sucks

Ok, so for anyone who knows me it's not a new thought that I detest Walmart. I never go there unless I absolutely have to. Well, on one of those absolutely have to trips I made yesterday I saw they had some photo printers on clearance. Well, I've been looking to possibly get one of those since I only have a digital camera and would like to sometimes have prints made from my photos. Seeing that they had a Sony photo printer for 50% off, I bought it.

After buying it I did some research online and found that it would cost about $0.90 per picture that gets printed with this photo printer, and that's not taking into account the $100 the printer itself cost. To me, that seemed a little pricey for each print, even though I had the convenience of making my own prints whenever I so chose to. After looking around, I found Snapfish, which will print digital pictures into prints for $0.19 a print (plus like $2 or $3 shipping per batch of photos). I also saw that Target will make prints from your digital pictures for less than doing it myself, but much more expensive than Snapfish. After doing this research, I decided that the benefits of having my own personal print maker didn't offset the price of making them, so I decided to take back the printer today, which is only one day after I purchased it.

I went into Walmart, gave the cashier my receipt and the items and told her I'd like a return. So far only about a minute has passed between me entering the door of the store and her giving me my refund--a nice, quick customer service experience I thought. Then she said she had to have someone from electronics look it over. I told her it hadn't been open and I only just got it here yesterday, but she insisted on having an electronics worker look it over. Why? The box hadn't been opened and you could clearly see this.

So I figured I'd let her have someone look at it so I could get my friggin' money and get back to work. So I waited... and waited... and waited. She called electronics like every 3 minutes but no one came. I told her that it hadn't been opened so she shouldn't need anyone to look it over. No, someone definitely needed to look it over.

Since the electronics guy was taking forever to get there, she pushed my stuff aside and proceeded to help about 8 people that were in line. Finally, after 35 minutes of standing there, trying not to jump over the counter and strangle the hell out of the cashier with tape from the tape dispensor on the right of the scanning wand and slightly behind some gift cards--the electronics person arrives. He apologizes for the wait, looks at the box, checks it over quickly, and says it's just fine. Yep, I already knew that it was just fine... BECAUSE I HAD NEVER OPENED IT FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY. YOU JUST WASTED OVER HALF OF THE LUNCH BREAK I HADN'T EVEN PLANNED ON TAKING. I HOPE YOU DIE. I HOPE YOU DIE TERRIBLY. IF YOU DON'T, I HOPE YOU WORK AT WALMART FOR THE REST OF YOUR FRIGGIN' LIFE AND HATE EVERY LAST SECOND OF IT YOU STUPID CRAP EATING IMBECILE!

*Sigh* Ok, now that I've gotten that out there, I can go back to work and not think solely about killing someone.

Monday, December 13, 2004

A Softer World

As I was stumbling through the internet today, I ran across the comic strip A Softer World. I have been slowly reading the archives because this is easily one of the most darkly funny strips on the 'net today (other than Red Meat, of course). Give it a look if you're bored and it's too freaking cold out to go for a walk, like it is here in Minnesota today.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Logos from Old Version of Site

As I was photoshopping the Alien Loves Predator cartoon that I put up in my last post, I got to thinking about all of the logos that I used to photoshop together for the old version of my site from like a year or two ago. I went looking back through them this morning and realized that some of them really sucked, but other ones were ok. My photoshop skills back then were pretty minimal and I only knew a few different techniques to use, but I always enjoyed playing around in it.

Since I wasn't feeling so well today, dealing with a headache and some slight nausea, I grabbed all the logos on my hard drive and put them into a photo album to view here. I'm also going to be putting all of the photos I used to have up on my site into photo albums so they're a lot easier to view. I have two other ones up. One is of the damage to our basement from the flood rains here and the other is of my picture from our family's vaction to South Dakota this last summer here.

I found the best piece of free software for making photo albums of digital pictures is Jalbum, a free Java based creation tool. It's very customizable, but it can also be a little user unfriendly to people who aren't super comfortable using computers.

When I get a chance to update my site's template, I'm going to put a permalink over on the right to a page listing all of my photo albums so for my family, friends, and random visitors that want to get to my photos can.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Alien Loves Predator Contest Entry

I really enjoy reading Alien Loves Predator. Who would have thought that an alien and a predator living in New York trying to live a normal life could be so funny? Anyhow, the creator had a contest where readers were supposed to come up with the dialogue for a strip. I thought this would be the perfect time to give doing an online strip a try. This could be my trial run. If you think it's funny, please encourage me. If you don't, make sure you tell me so that I don't waste my time writing an online strip that'll suck. Ok, here it is:

Evanescence - Anywhere but Home CD Review

So, after a band has one hit cd with a couple of popular songs on it, instead of releasing a new cd they release a live album? That’s apparently the route Evanescence sees as best. I really can’t see the point of releasing this cd at all because, for the most part, it is just Fallen in a different order, mixed a little rougher, and containing some sparse crowd interaction.

The disc starts off with Evanescence playing some of their heavier tunes to get the crowd into it, and then they start to slow it down with some of their slower moving rock songs, which segues nicely into a two song ballad break that includes their hit “My Immortal”. After mellowing out, they bust into their biggest hit, “Bring Me to Life”. The only difference here is that instead of the vocals of the 12 Stones guy, their guitarist does it, but not quite as good. He does a passable job emulating the original vocals, but it just doesn’t sound the same, especially since he whispers some of the previously screamed passages. Cue a couple more rocking tunes to close out the show and then it’s all over. Well, there’s also a new studio track at the end, “Missing”, another ballad in the vein of “My Immortal” and “Breath No More”. It’s a very throwaway tune that was probably a B-side from the last album that they tossed on here to give it some modicum of added value.

I should also note that this disc comes with a dvd of their live performance. It also has their music videos on it, so if you haven’t seen them or their live show and care to, maybe this cd/dvd combo pack is worth the purchase for you.

So again I ask, what was the point of releasing this cd? Wait, hold on a second, I think I might have it—money. Since Evanescence broke it big, why not cash in on their popularity by recycling the same songs that have already been released but in a live form? It’s a lot easier to simply record a concert and clean it up a little in the mixing room as opposed to writing an entire new album. Anyways, I guess if you really like Evanescence or haven’t picked up Fallen, then this might be an ok purchase. No, never mind, it’s really not. Just pass on this one.

1.75 out of 5

*also published at Decoy Music

The Chocolate Factory!

Ok, I'm salivating in front of my monitor right now over the trailer for the new Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie. It's by Tim Burton and stars Johnny Depp and Christopher Lee. The trailer has me hooked an anxiously awaiting this movie's arrival. Go watch it, NOW.

Watching it brings back so many memories about the first Willie Wonka movie. I don't know how many times I watched it when I was a kid, but it must number in the hundreds. It was such a surreal movie for a child to watch and because it was, I loved every moment of it. Often times I'd find myself wishing over and over again that real life would be just like it was inside the chocolate factory.

Not only was this one of my favorite movies when I was little, but most of my classmates were just as obsessed with the movie. I'm not sure if every school around was like mine, but it was uncanny how loved this movie was by just about every kid my age (at that time I was probably 10-16). Sometimes I wonder if there was some type of subliminal messaging in the movie that hooked kids in and kept them coming back for repeated views, and after repeated views wanting to go buy the Willie Wonka candy. I loved chomping on everlasting gobstoppers, even though they weren't everlasting.

I watched Willie Wonka a year or two ago completely expecting to hate it because that's what has often happened when I've watched a movie or tv show I thoroughly enjoyed when I was younger, but Willie Wonka held up and I think I appreciate it even a little more now. The whole over-the-top and fantastical approach of the story is mesmerizing. The only other movie that I can think of that held up as well in my post high school viewing as it did when I was a kid is the Transformers movie.

So, yeah, in conclusion I cannot frickin' wait to see the new Willie Wonka movie!

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Cell Phone Stupidity

I've always hated it when people jabber away on their cell phones while driving and I know that they're probably part of the reason why a lot of accidents happen. Instead of focusing on the road, a driver is more concerned about holding that phone up to their, adjusting it to hear better, and keeping track of their conversation than the road. Just to be clear, if someone has a headpiece on and is making phone calls in their car, I really don't have a big problem with it. Since their hands aren't fumbling with their phone they can at least dedicate a little more focus to their driving.

Anyhow, this is all just a lead up to an accident I witnessed on my drive home from work last night. I was driving home on a moderately busy 4 lane highway (HWY 14 for anyone in the Rochester area). I was in the left lane as I had just finished passing a car, but before I could get back into the left lane so the douchebomber riding my ass could pass me, he zooms into the right lane and flies by me.

Now I was traveling along at about 75 mph, so he was cruising pretty fast and as he went by I glanced over and saw his head moving all over as he held up his cell phone to his head. Up ahead was a stoplight and it was red. Mr. "I'm talking on my phone so I don't need to pay attention to my driving" must not have noticed that because he slammed into the rear end of a car that was stopped at the stoplight. The car he hit was a newer Saturn and he was driving what looked to be a Ford F150. Needless to say, he kind of messed up the Saturn pretty good.

As I was at the stoplight waiting for it to turn green I saw a girl get out of the driver side of the Saturn and another girl get out of the passenger side. They were ok, which was good. The passenger side girl ran over to give the driver side girl a hug. Now the jerkoff driving the truck gets out. He's off his cell phone now, although it wouldn't have surprised me to much to see him get out while still jabbering away.

So what does he do once he gets out of his vehicle? Does he apologize? Does he try to console the two girls? Does he attempt to exchange insurance information? Nope, he starts screaming at the two girls and waving his hands violently. He's obvioulsy uber-pissed, probably because he had to end his phone call. He was the one completely at fault and he's bitching out these two girls he just rammed into the back of. The audacity of this guy simply amazed me. While he was proceding to scream at them, the light turned green so I drove off and missed the resolution of the situation, although I'm assuming it didn't go well.

It's people like this that make me want to drive even less. Who knows if I could get broadsided by some dingleberry trying to eat a big mac while playing with his palm pilot or some idiot reading the newspaper while driving (I've seen both, as well as many other crazy things on my daily commute). Damn you, stupid ass drivers. DAMN YOU ALL!

Dimebag Darrell Murdered

I can't believe it. Read the story here for yourself. A fan walked onstage during Damageplan's opening song and shot Darrell "five or six times". Then he opened fire on the crowd killing even more people before being shot himself. I can't believe something like this could happen and it makes me wonder about the venue security.

I often attend punk, hardcore, metal, and rock concerts in the cities so it's a little eerie reading about something like this happening, especially since I know that security at one of the main venues I go to, The Quest Club, is pretty lax. It's actually pretty rare that I'll be checked for anything as I walk in. Their security measures consist of having a really big guy take your tickets and look at you grumpily. No pat-down, no searches, no nothing really. I can only remember one show where I was actually patted down and that was only because it was a sold out show to a very prolific band (I think it was Staind & P.O.D. back when they were both in their heyday).

Something like this could easily happen where I go, yet I never really think about it. What would I do if someone started shooting off rounds into the crowd of a couple hundred people that are usually there? If I'm there with Kristin, we're usually in the middle of the crowd so we'd be closer to the exit, but when I'm there with Jared we usually plow our way up to the front. If anything, I know I'll be a little more protective of Kristin when we go see Hoobastank in a couple weeks.

Another thought that crossed my mind as I read this was that there is no absolutely no chance of Pantera ever coming back together. They were one of the most influential bands during my formulative middle and high school years. Pantera and White Zombie solidified my interest in heavy music and quelled my thirst for a type of music I could really latch on to. Before I happened upon Pantera's Far Beyond Driven and White Zombie's La Sexorcisto I was listening to everything under the sun. I had cds by Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Brooks & Dunn, MC Hammer, and just about everything else you could imagine, but none of them really struck a chord. When I heard the blistering power chords and intense shredding of Pantera, though, I felt a connection.

I never got to see Pantera live, or Damageplan for that matter. I've always kind of hoped that I'd get to see Pantera someday if they did a reunion tour, like just about every other popular band does, but now I just feel sad this morning. I didn't know Darrell. I didn't know anyone else who was killed. I wasn't there. Yet Darrell, along with Vinnie Paul, Rex, and Phil, influenced my like very few people in the entertainment industry could. It's sad to hear of something like this happening and I suppose it's very appropriate that it's a dark, overcast day out because that's how I feel right now. Rest in peace, Darrell.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

3 Pill Morning -- Clarity CD Review

Rap rock was one of those genres that was really hot for a while at the end of the 90’s and then collapsed in on itself extremely quickly. Once the rap rock bubble burst, it seemed like there was a pox upon the genre that kept new bands away, which at the time was probably a good thing. Since most of the bands that proliferated in the rap rock scene were pretty bad, it’s understandable that no band would want to enter a genre with such a negative stigma attached to it. Slowly, however, some bands stuck with the genre and a few new ones cropped up here and there again. The genre is far from seeing the massive expansion it had in the late 90’s, but there are more and more bands trying it out, including 3 Pill Morning.

For an independent release, Clarity is a nicely put together cd. The mixing sounds very professional, even better than some of the major label releases I’ve heard this year. The songs, which are really what this review is about, are pretty basic rap rock songs that feel formulaic and owe a lot to 3 Pill Morning’s influences. Two bands come to mind right away when listening to Clarity and they are Darwin’s Waiting Room and 38th Parallel. 3 Pill Morning definitely play very similarly to both bands, and at times they even sound strikingly similar to both.

This uncanny resemblance to other bands really detracts from the uniqueness of this cd, which any new band looking to establish itself needs, but then you have to remember this is their independent debut. Given some time to develop, I think it would be quite possible for these guys to develop into a good rock band with hip hop influences. If they focus more on the rap nature of some of their songs, however, they could easily travel down the road of many past acts that tried their hand at the same thing and failed.

If you enjoy the independent music scene, then definitely give these guys a listen because I think it might be possible for you to be hearing 3 Pill Morning on a larger scale than just independently released cds in the future.

3 stars out of 5

*this review was also published at Decoy Music.

Stephen King

You know, I've never quite understood everyone's fascination and awe over everything that King writes. I've read a few of his books (It, Misery, and Dolores Clairborne) and each one left me with the feeling of "Meh, that was ok, but did it really need to be that long?" I just don't get it, I suppose. While browsing around the internet, trying to keep my mind from exploding while working on the latest manual I'm writing for work, I found this site that sums up all of King's works perfectly:
It was a nice day...........................AND THEN EVIL CAME!

Expanding upon the above site's condensation of all of King's works, I actually think that his books fall into one of two categories. The first is basically what is stated above, something weird or evil happens and people have to deal with it or overcome it. The other category seems to be along the lines of "something mystical happens and we all learn to love life". This can be seen is books such as The Green Mile or The Shawshank Redemption. Outside of these two categories, however, King hasn't really done anything.

It's because of this inability to deviate from an established formula that I refuse to read any more of his books. Just reading the summaries of many of his other books, you can see how they'd fit into the mold of one of the two categories above. The horror craving populace eat up everything he writes, however. I suppose it's because they know exactly what they're getting when they buy one of his books. It's a safe bet to buy the latest Dark Tower book because you know it'll be exploring "King territory", or in other words generic horror fiction that follows a set writing style, King's writing style. Uggh... like I said, I don't get why he's so highly regarded.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

There Go His Testicles

Yesterday as I went to sleep, it seemed a little more lonely than usual. My feet just seemed to be a little colder than they usually were. I didn't think I'd miss my kittie, Stitch, as much as I did. Yesterday while I was at work my dad took him in to have his manhood removed, his claws taken out, and to have his required shots. In doing all of that he has to stay with the vet for a couple of days.

As I thought about Stitch going in to get all of this done, I started pondering what it must be like to be him. Imagine for a minute that your guardians pack you up, take you to a strange place, and leave you there with someone you've never seen before. Around you there are other humans, some of them are sick, others are bandaged up, and yet others are kenneled up there looking confused. Why are you there? What could possibly be the reason that your guardians brought you there.

While you watch your guardians leave, you're herded into a cage and put in a back room filled with loads of shiny tools and a while operating table in the middle of the room. You can feel the panic rising inside of you. "What purpose does all of this have?" you wonder as one of the doctors there picks you up and quickly gives you a shot above your neck. Before you have time to lash out, you slowly fade away into a deep, drug-induced sleep.

When you awaken you feel a sharp pain in your finger and a dull ache in your crotch. As you reach your hands up to your face you see that they are covered in bandages. Flexing them, it is easily noticeable that something is missing from each finger. Upon closer analysis you can feel that all of your fingernails have been ripped out! Why? Why would someone do that to you.

Already enraged, you glance down at your crotch and feel the area where your testicles used to be only to feel empty space. They're gone! They're gone! The doctors have stolen your reproductive organs from you. Whatever are you going to do without them? How are you ever going to get a girlfriend if you can't ever bring her children? Oh God, your life is such a mess now.

Imagine the confusion, the rage, and the sadness at waking up to find your testicles and claws missing. I can't imagine what my little Stitch must be going through and I hope I never do. The poor guy is definitely going to get spoiled when he gets back home because I would never wish such a punishment upon anyone. I know that we had to have it done as he was scratching up our furniture and starting to spritz areas of the house to mark his mating territory, but I still feel terrible about having to do such a thing to the poor, little guy.

Monday, December 06, 2004

2 Years Ago Today...

...I was lucky enough to have a girl take a chance on me. She gave me a shot at being able to treat her right and be a good boyfriend. So far, I must be doing ok since she's still sticking with me! Personally, I couldn't have asked for a better girlfriend and am extremely happy to have had these last two years with Kristin. Happy anniversary, honey! It's been two unbelievably spectacular years. Now I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that there'll be at least a few more to celebrate :-) Thanks for taking that chance on me, Kristin. I don't know what I'd do without you.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Irony Blows My Mind

Friday I had to make a quick office supply run for the company to Staples since we were out of, well, staples. Actually, it was a specific style of staple that we were out of. We had plenty of normal staples and friggin huge 8 foot long staples, but we didn't have anything in between for 30-60 page documents. Since I had a 40-ish page document to staple together, I needed a staple size in between the two we had. The little ones just didn't go all the way through and the long ones went through... and then came back out the top which wasn't so cool.

When I got to Staples, I walked back to the stapler aisle and saw the boxes of staples along the bottom shelf. As I was scanning for the size staples we needed for the office, I found where they should have been, but there weren't any boxes of staples there. I asked one of the workers for help and apparently Staples was completely out of staples.

Staples was out of staples. Say it with me. Staples was out of staples. If that doesn't make you chuckle at least a little then you're not nearly as easily amused as me... and that's just too bad for you.

Friday, December 03, 2004

The Computer Cheats!

We have a bunch of handheld video games lying around our house and in our vehicles. There's Uno, poker, blackjack, Sorry, checkers, chess, and more. Each works very nicely as a way to pass the time when we're bored. Ocassionally, however, I wonder if the computer cheats in order to win, especially on games like poker, blackjack, and other card games. You don't know for sure how the programmed AI of the game works in deciding what cards go to whom. Maybe it's not random (well, it can't be truly random, unless the video game is using quantum computing, but that's another topic) at all. Sadly, I have found out firsthand that sometimes, yes, the computer does cheat.

We have a video blackjack handheld game in one of our bathrooms at home (lovingly referred to as the man's bathroom) to keep us entertained while we're grunting out some dookie. It resembles actual blackjack very closely. You can double-down, split pairs, buy insurance, and the computer even shuffles the deck after so many hands to ensure that card counting won't help too much.

Sadly, the whole shuffling aspect of the game is a sham. Let me tell you how I found out. As I was playing, it came time for the deck to be shuffled, so the little "shuffle" indicator came on and the game paused for a second while it supposedly shuffled the cards. As I was playing after the shuffle, one of my hands was a pair of queens. Oddly enough the computer's hand also had a queen showing. Being the crappy blackjack player I am, I split my queens. In one of the splits I had another queen dealt to me. Now how often is it that all four of the queens will come out on one hand? Not too often, but I went with it and one on one of my splits. A couple of hands later (remember, there has been no shuffling done between the four queens hand and the hand I now have) I am dealt a hand of 17 consisting of a seven and A QUEEN! All four of the queens had already come out so where did this one come from?

As I did a little more research on the game, I found that the card dealing mechanism didn't adhere to an actual deck at all (I thought maybe it was trying to simulate a multideck game of blackjack, but it always shuffled after about 30 cards, which would make sense for a regular 52 card game of blackjack). Instead the computer would throw out whatever card it's random card generator would pick at the time.

I have a hard time looking at this game the same way I used to, let alone trying to play it. I've been betrayed. It lied to me--over and over again nonetheless! How can I possibly go back to something that deceitful? I just can't. I'm sorry bathroom blackjack handheld game, but our time together is over. I hope you learn to change your ways, but I somehow doubt it. This is goodbye. Don't wait around for me because I won't be coming back to play.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Ryan's Other Project

I figured since I put up the latest project I helped Ryan out with, I might as well put up his other project that I helped with. This project was making a cd cover and insert about Chemistry. It was kind of fun to do. Anyhow, here are the cd inserts Ryan and I came up with. Click on the images for larger versions.


As I was looking through some morning news, this article really struck me. A rare Hawiian bird may now be completely extinct as the last captive male has died and the remaining two known birds haven't been seen in over a year. Probably 90% of the population or more will not even know about this and I'm guessing that the majority of the people who do catch this piece of news won't be phased by it. I, on the other hand, am very troubled by it.

Just the thought of an entire species of bird ceasing to exist is kind of mind boggling. For us Minnesotans, I try to think of what it would be like to no longer have Cardinals or Blue Jays any more. Imagine never being able to see a live blue jay ever again--another one will never exist. The only way you'd ever be able to see one is on a discovery channel tv show or in pictures from a book or magazine.

In the grand scheme of things, every species will no doubt become extinct and fade into the abyss of time, but being present at the time of species passing into that abyss is, well, chilling. For me, it kind of hammers home the point that someday I, myself, will be for all intents and purposes extinct. As time slowly crawls on, I will whither, rot, decay, and be sucked into the all encompassing void of "the past".

Think about some of the people you've know who have died. I often think about my grandfather, my great grandmother, and my good friend Mike who have all passed on. I remember them, but slowly some of my memories fade. Other people remember them too, but what happens when all of us that remember them also die? There's really no one left to remember them and they'll simply be relegated to a name on a tombstone, much like I myself one day will be. People will remember me for a time but they will die and time will march on. Eventually I will be forgotten. Eventually I will be completely extinct because no one will remember me.

The Po'ouli bird is now extinct and as time goes on it will be nothing more than a note in a history book. Everyone will have forgotten all about it and the Po'ouli will no longer exist. It's a bleak thought to know that time, that bastard, will suck all of us into its void of nothingness and non-existence as it slowly does the only thing it knows how to do--move onward. There's nothing that can be done to counteract time, though, which is almost as bad as knowing about what it is going to do to you.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Listen to the Voice...

So my little brother, Ryan, had to do a project for his English high school class based upon a quote of his choosing. I don't know what the point of the assignment was or anything, but he came to me to help him put together a neat composite in photoshop for him. Always looking for an excuse to play around with graphics, I agreed to help. Below is what I put together in a few minutes as Ryan told me what he wanted to do. He gave the orders and I clicked the mouse to make it happen! Anyhow, here's his project (click on the image for a slightly larger version).

Rudolph vs. Rude Dog

Beth: good thing I have Rudulph
Beth: dolph
Rick: ....yes.... uhh... lucky you
Beth: or.. Rudolf
Rick: or Roodolph
Beth: ROO Dog
Rick: Rude Dog
Rick: remember him?
Beth: yeah
Beth: those t-shirts
Beth: never had one
Rick: I wonder who would win in a fight between rude dog and rudolph.....
Beth: ?
Rick: I think Rude Dog would win because he had those bitchin' shades. With them he'd be able to counteract rudolph's blinding nose.
Beth: BUT.. rudolph could do dive bombs
Beth: because he can FLY
Rick: good point....
Beth: like Crouching Dragon
Rick: Hidden Rudolph

Now, On a Positive Note

Since yesterday I focused on one of the assholes in my life, I thought today I would focus on one of the special people of my life--Kristin. While I was up visiting her and her family this last weekend, I had the pleasure of getting to decorate her house with Christmas ornaments. In the past I've done Christmas decorating with my family at my house on and off, but finally getting to do some decorating with Kristin on our third Christmas together was really fun for me.

Sorting though her family's ornaments and seeing the neat things that her family had to put up reminded me of all of my family's Christmas ornaments that we weren't going to be putting up this year. After the holidays last year my mom went out and bought a gigantic 9 or 10 foot tall pre-lighted Christmas tree to put in our addition. When she bought this tree she also bought a bunch of specific ornaments that were to go with the tree. Since our old tree was then being retired, all of the Christmas ornaments we usually put up had nowhere to go, which is sad for me.

Thankfully, I had Kristin's tree to help decorate, and decorate we did! To remember the experience, Kristin's mom happily snapped the photo below. It will always help me to remember the first Christmas where Kristin and I decorated for the holidays together. Being able to remember this positive memory will hopefully help me to forget the hate that my uncle showed for us over the same holiday period. Thanks for a fun day of decorating, Kristin! I loved it.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Thanksgiving = Hate?

I would have never imagined that a holiday such as Thanksgiving, a holiday focused on being thankful, could be turned into a day of pain, hurt, sadness, and uncaring. This year, thanks to the assclown that I have for an uncle, our Thanksgiving evening was turned into a nightmare after it started out as a wonderful, peaceful time for my family to spend with one another.

Before we started eating a spectacular meal of macaroni & cheese, crescent rolls, pickles, and strawberry pretzel desert, my uncle Dave on my mom's side thought he should call us. Before he called, my brothers, my parents, and myself were all having a great time snacking, talking, and simply enjoying each other's company and the calm of the holiday. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it gets hard to find time to simply just sit and be in someone's company for an extended amount of time, and because of this we were all treasuring the moment.

As we were enjoying the evening, my uncle Dave on my mom's side thought he should call. No, wait, actually he informed us he was told to call my mother by my grandmother. When my grandma actually arrived at our place we found out that, no, actually my grandma had requested that they come down to visit with my family sometime because there have been some extended family troubles as of late. Instead of doing that, he twisted her words into a freshly formed lie and claimed that my grandma told him to call.

Now I don't really know much about what was said between my mother and my uncle on the phone, but I had to deal with the aftermath--a mother in tears wondering how her brother could be such a hateful, uncaring person. It took all of my self-restraint not to get on the phone and tell my uncle what a rotten piece of shit he was for doing something so spiteful and malicious on a holiday supposedly based upon caring and giving thanks. Apparently to him thanksgiving translates into "I'll Make My Relatives Day Really Shitty"-giving.

From what my mother and father told me, my uncle also singled me out as being a terrible person who has done nothing but cause strife for our family. By causing strife, I'm assuming he means "pointing out the truth about his character, which he doesn't like so he'll throw a hissy fit about it". I know there's a lot of details being left out here, but the main thing is, I was completely appalled at what my uncle did. If he really had the urge to be a complete jerkface to my mother, couldn't he have at least maybe waited until the holiday was over? No, of course not, because that might actually be considerate.

What also gets me is that he feels the need to slam me and put me down to other members of my family, but he lacks the cahones to actually speak to me. Am I really that intimidating? Possibly, but I doubt it. What I think it is, is that he just wants someone to talk smack about without actually having to talk to him.

To complicate matters, my uncle is my Godparent... well, at least he used to be. I've stopped thinking of him in that light. You don't talk shit about your Godson and tell your relatives that you never want to see him again. No, my uncle in no longer a Godparent to me. He's simply a judgmental ass who makes his judgments based only on assumptions, half-truths, and his own biases without taking into account how it affects anyone outside of himself.

I really hate knowing that I'm related to someone who is like this, and who is setting a horrible example for his own children, but it's one of the cards I've been dealt. Seeing how this card really has no place in my hand, I choose to discard it. Maybe I'll pick up something better the next time it's my turn to draw.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Xbox Games that Suck

As I've been going through the vast quantities of junk that I have in order to weed out what I don't need so I can sell it, I found a few Xbox games that I'll be tossing up on ebay because they pretty much sucked.

Gunmetal: This is a really crappy wannabe mech style game. The graphics are pretty subpar for the Xbox and the missions that I played were all quite boring. Many of them simply consisted of "Go to point A, kill something, go to point B, kill something, you win." The missions weren't that fun either, partly because all the enemies were pretty similar (and dumb) and the mech you controlled wasn't all that cool. You only had a few different weapons at your disposal and a couple were only useful against certain targets so it mostly came down to using your default weapons to shoot at things. Boring.

Spawn: I'm a Spawn fan so I was hoping the game would be at least passably fun, but I didn't have my hopes set too high since most licensed games tend to suck a lot, with this being one of those games. The fighting is very repetitive and there isn't too much in the way of different enemies to fight. There's also a good chunk of jumping puzzles which I absolutely hate. Any game that has jumping puzzles in it is bound to get a thumbs down from me. The graphics were only ok and the sound was pretty average as well.

Genma Onimusha: From all of the good reviews that this game got, I was expecting it to be a lot better than it was. First of all, the controls for this game are atrocious! I was consistently frustrated by them and it took me right out of the game. As for the gameplay itself, it's basically Resident Evil except with swords and demons instead of guns and zombies. The save system is also terrible because the length between save points is large and at times you confront a boss right before a save point so if you die you have to start way back before the boss. It would make more sense to have the save point right before the boss so that way you can just restart at the boss instead of way back before it.

Maximum Chase: The driving portions of this game are decently fun, but it's the rail shooter levels that are boring and lame. I actually had a good time on the driving levels, but every time I hit a rail shooter level I wanted to shut the game off or just go do the previous driving level over. The flow of the game is totally killed every time a rail mission comes up. The reason the rail shooter levels suck so much is that some are inordinately hard and some are just annoying because the field of view is constantly shifting making it a real chore to shoot at anything.

Thursday, November 25, 2004


I hope that you are all enjoying a wonderful thanksgiving. We had lunch with my extended family on the Gebhardt side and now for the rest of the day it's just my brothers and parents hanging out before my grandma from the Meyer side comes over to visit for supper. Thanksgiving for the last few years has just been my direct family staying at home and being together, but this year we decided to go to the Gebhardt thanksgiving lunch. I always look forward to just being with my family for an entire day, but whatever.

Thanksgiving is always an odd time. During this day I am constantly thinking about how much better I have it than so many other people. It puts a lot of the problems I have into perspective and helps me to realize some of my selfish habits that I would like to change. In the past many of my selfish habits revolved around my want for material things. With the day after thanksgiving being one of the largest shopping days of the year, if not the largest I'm often overcome with my consumeristic nature. For the last four or five years my brothers and I have went to Best Buy at like 4 in the morning on the day after thanksgiving to load up on good deals. This year, I really have no desire to do that. In fact, I have no real desires for material things at all this year. I find I feel almost anti-consumerism.

I've realized that material things don't mean as much as I used to think they did. Sure it was nice to be going out to buy new technological gadgets, video games, movies, and whatever else was appealing, but this year I just don't want any of that stuff. I have a good enough life. I have more than so many people. I have more than I need in most cases, so why do I need more stuff?

This anti-"stuff" sentiment has been ingrained into my heart for a few months now, probably since our basement was flooded. Knowing that we could have lost everything that we had in our basement made me rethink my views on all of the stuff I own. Frankly, I don't need all the junk I have to live a good life and since then I've actually gone through a lot of my crap and have been selling many of the things I don't use on ebay and getting together a pile of clothes and things to give to charity. Why should I hoarde so much for myself when there's so many people just scraping to get by? What makes me so special that I should have so many things that I don't even use and other people don't even have the things they need? Nothing. I'm no better than the next guy, so why not spread the wealth of what I have to those that need it?

Oddly enough, even though I feel I have overcome my consumeristic nature, I still feel a longing for something. I was hoping that once I overcame my longing for "things" that I wouldn't have that aching need anymore, but somehow it's still with me. What is it that I want now? If you know, please tell me because I'm having a hard time figuring out what it is myself.

Even though I am filled with a new sense of longing, I am still thankful for so many things. I have a job, a roof over my head, food on my plate, a great family to live with, and an extrordinary girlfriend. What more could anyone ask for? I have it so unbelievably good that I should have no right to complain about anything. I'm not scraping by just trying to find enough money to eat. I'm not without a home. I'm healthy and not fighting to stay alive. I have it good.

If I have it so good, though, then why do I feel like I want something more?

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Artest, I Sympathize

No doubt anyone who follows the NBA (or news in general) has heard about or seen the fight that went down between Ron Artest & company and the Piston fans. If you haven't seen it, here's a torrent of the video for your downloading pleasure.

Of course what Artest, O'Neal, and Jackson did was wrong, dumb, childish, and unsportsmanlike, but I can't help not sympathizing with them at least a little bit. Today's sports fans are getting worse and worse in terms of civility towards the players on the court. Wait, I should clarify, when I say "today's sports fans" I mean the subset of fans that think it is their duty to harass, heckle, and annoy the players they came to watch.

It's amazing that a fan would do something so ridiculous. What made him think it was a good idea to throw a beer on a player from the opposing team? What was the rationale that he used to justify doing something like that? When you go to see a movie, you don't throw your drink on the screen if you don't like the movie. When you go to an art exibit, you don't toss your slurpee on the tapestries on display. When you go to a high school volleyball game, you don't toss a hotdog at the girl who's serving. Why should it be any different for watching a basketball game? They're all forms of entertainment that someone pays to watch.

What paying to watch a basketball game doesn't give you is the right to treat who you're watching like crap. They're out there performing their job (a highly overpaid job, yes, but a job nonetheless). Their job is to entertain you. Now how would that fan like it if someone who he was working for didn't like his work so they verbally berrated him or threw a drink on him? I'm betting he'd be thinking, "What the hell? Why did I just get crap thrown on me? That isn't right or acceptable." That same person, however, has no trouble going to a game and lobbing beer on someone they must have thought wasn't doing their job as best they could.

The more and more I think about it, I sympathize more with Artest & company than I do the crappy ass fans who think they can do whatever the hell they want to simply because they paid for a ticket. People don't verbally degrade you and throw shit at you when you're doing your job Mr. Beer Thrower, so grow up and show the same respect to athletes you came to watch for your entertainment. If you dislike them so much, then don't buy tickets to their games. Stupid ass fans.......

Bunnies are so Cute

On my way home from work yesterday I did something terrible, but I couldn't avoid it. I did something gross that I wish wouldn't have happened. I did everything in my power to try to make the best of the situation, but the fates were aligned against me. Last night as I was driving home I killed a bunny.

I know, I know, I'm a totally horrible person and I was saddened the entire rest of the ride home, but that darn little rabbit came shooting out of nowhere. It's about six o'clock so it's dark out, and I'm driving home on my usual route when out of the corner of my eye I see a little, white animal darting out of the ditch. Trying to swere around to miss what I then noticed was a bunny rabbit, I almost avoided him but then I heard and felt the "thunk" from my rear passenger side tire. I had just mushed up a rabbit onto the road.

A lot of people I know would probably say "so what?" but for me I felt really bad for the little guy. Who knows what he was doing running out across the road. What if he was being chased by a fox, running for his life. The only thing on his mind at the time was how he was going to get away from the fox so that he didn't get eaten when all of the sudden BAM! his life is over. He was so busy avoiding that fox that in the process of trying to save his life, he lost it.

Or maybe he was actually dared by his little bunny friends to jump out in front of my car. "Hey, Brad, I bet you could totally run across the road in front of this car, dude. In fact, I'll bet you two carrots and half a head of cabbage that you can do it," said Brad the bunny's troublemaking friend. Not wanting to turn down a dare and look like a wimp, Brad runs out in front of my car only to be splattered on the pavement.

Or what if it was a mother out trying to find one of her lost children? Frightened, wondering where her little baby is she saw the car coming down the road and maybe glanced over to see her son in the opposite ditch. Knowing that he wouldn't know to not run across the road, she bounds over towards him, hoping to get there in time to keep him out of danger. Unfortunately, she doesn't make it and now her children are left to fend for themselves here at the beginning of a cold Minnesota winter.

I felt really, really bad for that hypothetical little baby bunny and his siblings. How would they survive without their mommy? They had depended upon her for guidance, protection, and food. With her gone, those little baby bunnies were more than likely condemned to a slow, cold death or a very hard and trying life over the winter.

Also imagine the trauma they must have faced as they found their mother in pieces at the side of the road, especially for the little bunny she was trying to save. He saw her body decimated by my car's tire. Seeing the cornerstone of your life so suddenly destroyed in front of you... I feel terrible just thinking about it.

For the last 20 minutes of my drive home, these thoughts haunted me. Now that I think about it, I must either really love animals or else I get really, really bored during my commuting. I think it's more than likely a healthy combination of the two.

That poor bunny............

Monday, November 22, 2004

Caught a Couple of Movies

Over the weekend I went up to visit Kristin and try to make her feel a little better since she's been fighting bronchitis. I think I succeeded, but you'd have to ask her to make sure :-) Anyhow, while I was up there we managed to catch a few movies. I really hadn't seen too many movies in a while so it was good to catch a couple.

We saw The Bourne Supremacy on Friday night at the cheap seats. I really liked Bourne Identity so I had high hopes for this one... which were kind of met. The story was a lot like the original, but with a couple of added twists. There was some super-spy action, some double-crossing, some mystery, and a big ass car chase at the end.

Then there was also the horrible camera work. Every fight, chunks of the car chase, and even some shots that weren't even action oriented seemed to be shot by some random guy who just figured out how to use his home video camera. It felt almost like they took the movie and ran it through a "Blair Witch" filter in order to make it so that the camera never stood still. Part of me wanted to get up during the middle of the movie and tell whoever was shaking the camera to knock it the heck off!

Sigh... beyond that frustrating aspect, I thought the movie was pretty good and it kept my attention for the full two hours it ran.

On Sunday we finally went to see the Incredibles. I'd been wanting to see this movie for a long time simply because the combination of superheroes, Pixar, and comedy seemed like it couldn't fail and it didn't... for the most part. The opening short was cute, so it started on a very positive note. The first half of the actual movie, however, was pretty slow and even a little boring. I thought for sure that I was in for a gigantic letdown, but fortunately the second half of the movie was much, MUCH better than the first. The best moments in the movie came when the Incredible family was working as a superhero team. Many of the family moments and Mr. Incredible's longing for superhero life moments and superheroes as everyday Joes moments and any other moments not involving the superhero team, I guess, just fell flat.

Lastly, we watched The Other Sister on TBS Saturday night. I was somewhat torn with this movie. It was obviously manipulating its viewers emotions by the way it was plotted and the interaction of the characters, yet I still enjoyed it despite knowing I was being manipulated. The Other Sister is a story of two mentally handicapped young adults falling in love with each other and the struggles that would be confronted in such a situation.

I was actually intrigued throughout the movie to see how the writers scripted the reactions of the two mentally handicapped characters to every day types of relationship problems that we face. It was interesting to see the difference (and similarity) of how situations were handled. Anyhow, I thought it was a pretty decent movie.

[UPDATE: I forgot that we also watched Matilda while we were cooking on Saturday (Kristin made some awesome homemade spaghetti). For being a little kids movie, I found it very charming and quite enjoyable. The main reason it was so fun was that the characters were all interesting. Matilda herself was a little cutie and you couldn't help but like her. The evil headmistress of the school was so over-the-top evil that it was a perfect mirror for Matilda's sweet character. Danny de Vito played a hilarious crook come father of Matilda and many of the scenes involving him were my favorites of the movie. Basically if it wasn't for the extremely interesting characters, this movie would have been pretty lackluster.]

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Stick Me Back in a Tractor

Oddly enough as I've been driving to and from work I've been longing to be back out in the fields doing some of the farm work I've done in the past. From the driver's seat of my car I see so many of my neighbors (I live in a farming community) out in the fields harvesting, plowing, ripping, applying fertilizer, or whatever needs to be done in a particular field. I used to dread doing farm work, but now that I'm no longer forced to do it, I feel a little bit of longing in the back of my heart for the job of my father.

I'm not going to complain too much about my job. It provides me with a steady paycheck, good benefits, nice co-workers, and a job I can handle. Still, though, I sometimes wish it were possible to just take a month or so off and go work as a farmer again.

Now I never really had the chance to do many of the interesting jobs during harvest, and I don't know if I'd really enjoy them a ton more than the tasks I did have, but I miss them. Before I'd be bored out of my mind spending 8 hours chopping stalks or plowing a field, but now there are times during the day that I would kill to have that amount of time to just sit and think.

There's also a special feeling I get while working in the fields. Instead of working with a cold, impersonal computer, I get the chance to be surrounded by plants, animals, and life. The connection you get with nature by being in the middle of it, even if it is only a gigantic field of corn, is something that cannot be matched inside of an office.

Maybe someday I can retire and live the farming life again. I've always thought about it and it's always seemed like an interesting path to take. I have a while before I reach that point in my life, so there's no real reason to attempt to figure out my retirement plans now, but it still seems like it might be fun.

Sometimes You Just Need a Little Help

Being brought up as a male in a very traditional nuclear family, I was never encouraged to show my emotions. I was never encouraged to hide them either, but for most of high school and a good portion of college that's what I did. I filled the masculine stereotype of the typical male--never show your emotions unless it is anger or happiness. Sadness, fear, longing, insecurity, and even strong feelings of love were to always be kept inside. I would tell myself, "Rick, you're a man and you can deal with these weak human emotions. You don't need to express them." Sadly, I had myself convinced for so long that this was the way I was supposed to handle them.

In my senior year of college, however, I met a very special girl (you know who you are!) and as I got to know her and grew closer and closer to her, I began to open up. Slowly but surely the barriers I had constructed around my heart and around all of those "un-masculine" emotions started to wear away. I had finally learned that it was ok to feel, and express, the full range of human emotion. For me, it was such an odd, yet liberating, feeling to be able to express what I had kept hidden for so long and not be judged or viewed as "not being a man".

Even more recently I began to experience many of these feelings all at once--fear, sadness, joy, love, longing, hope, doubt, and many others. Never before had I been awash in so many different feelings that I thought it would tear me apart. Constantly I was torn between so many conflicting emotions that I had no clue what I was supposed to do. How was I to reconcile everything that was brewing inside of me?

Thankfully, that special girl was still there for me as she always has been. I was able to pour out everything I was feeling to her. I felt at ease laying my heart out on the table in front of her. I allowed myself to cry like I never had before. One of my biggest fears in life was appearing weak, and I always saw crying as a form of weakness, so keeping the tears locked up was something I saw as essential. Because of this preconceived notion about crying, I would never let myself do it--never would I let my guard down. I couldn't because then I would be weak.

It took a very special woman, and almost two years of being close to me, for me to finally realize that by crying, by opening up myself, by showing what's behind all of my barriers, that I wasn't weak, I was simply human. As much as I wanted to be the strongest and most secure person I could be, I still had weaknesses. One of the greatest feelings in the world is finally making the realization that even though you have weaknesses, it is still possible to be loved.

It's taken me over 23 years to be comfortable enough to open up to my parents, the people who gave me life, and tell them how I actually feel, it's taken me 20 to be able to relate emotionally with my brother, and it's taken me almost 2 to be completely open and at ease with my emotions around that special girl that started this whole process.

So what's the point of this outpouring of personal realization? Why did I feel the urge to sit and type about this? Simply put, my heart just wanted to say thank you to that special girl. She's helped me to blossom emotionally, and I can't imagine a more wonderful person to be able to express my emotions with. Thank you, Kristin.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Top 15 CD's of 2004

Yes, I do realize that it's not even December yet, but over at Decoy the staff have been asked to get their top discs of the year list together for our year end special. Usually I'd be a little pissed about not waiting out the rest of the year and jumping the gun, but after I looked at the release schedule for the genres of music that I listen to and listened to a lot of the pre-release demos available to me, I couldn't find anything coming out in the last month and a half of this year that would have a chance of making my top 15. If there is some magical cd that manages to capture my ear, I'll just include it in next year's list. So without further adieu, here are the top 15 CD's of the year (according to me) in no particular order:

  • Dead Poetic – New Medicines I’ve had a hard time keeping this cd out of my stereo. I can’t explain it, but somehow Dead Poetic have crafted the perfect blend of smooth emo and jagged, screaming rock that keeps me captivated every time I spin this disc.
  • 36 Crazyfists – A Snowcapped Romance A lot of people might have knocked this cd because 36CF seemingly played it safe by streamlining their sound, but in doing so they created one of the most accessible and listenable metal discs of the year. There is not a single song on this cd that drags, which is a great accomplishment in my book.
  • Isis – Panopticon This is easily the most epic cd I have heard in years, if not ever. The layers of each song, built upon each other, create such a wonderfully beautiful tapestry of new school doom metal that you won’t be able to turn this cd off until it’s over, at which point you’ll probably just listen to it again!
  • Emery – The Weak’s End This cd felt so genuine and so heartfelt that it captured my ears upon my first listen. Every song is filled with hope and a passion for love. Simply a beautiful, yet bittersweet album.
  • Machine Head – Through the Ashes of Empires Come on now, everyone was expecting this to suck at least as bad as Supercharger, but instead these guys blew me away with their return to their roots in crafting one heck of a brutal metal album.
  • Unearth – The Oncoming Storm Speaking of brutal albums, Unearth released what is, in my eyes, the heaviest album of the year with The Oncoming Storm. All the way through this is one unrelenting album that will pummel the crap out of you.
  • 4Lyn – Take It as a Compliment I’m pretty sure that there aren’t many of you out there who have had the chance to listen to these guys, which is unfortunate, because they’ve made a very unique cd where they were able to synthesize nu-metal, garage rock, and hardcore into a cohesive cd that will blow your mind if given the chance.
  • Further Seems Forever – Hide Nothing Upon first listen, I was unimpressed by this disc, but then I happened upon some rough times and during them this cd connected with me so perfectly that I turned to it almost exclusively for a while to soothe my mind, and it was during this time that I realized what a truly beautiful disc it actually was.
  • Alexisonfire – Watchout! Alexisonfire’s last cd didn’t impress me at all so it really blew me out of the water when I heard Watchout! Alexisonfire matured a ton between releases and this cd manages to mix plenty of melody into their already established emocore style to create a very enjoyable and slick disc.
  • Flaw – Endangered Species Go ahead and laugh at me all you want for choosing this cd, but I’ll stand behind it 100% as one catchy nu-metal album. This made it into my top 15 list simply on the merits that I listened to it a freaking ton! I’m still trying to pry it out of my car stereo, but so far no luck.
  • Codeseven – Dancing Echoes/Dead Sounds It seems like most music critics agree that this is simply a phenomenal piece of musical art. I can't agree with them more. This is space-rock done perfectly. Buy it now!
  • Demon Hunter – Summer of Darkness For being a quasi-side-project Demon Hunter blow away their modern metal peers. On this disc they manage to take each metal cliché, exploit it, and then play off of it to make a wonderful, yet familiar album.
  • Silent Drive – Love is Worth It Of all the cds I listened to this year, Silent Drive win the award for being the most dynamic. This cd was a joy to listen to because of all of the different rock styles that they managed to cram together on this disc. This is a great and truly diverse disc.
  • Strata – Strata For authentic, emotional hard rock look no further than Strata’s self-titled major label debut. The heartfelt lyrics and mature musicianship lend this cd to being one that will tug on your emotions while still remaining a firmly rocking affair.
  • The.Switch – Beautiful This band, hailing from the Czech Republic, are probably a new name to 99.9% of you reading this, but if you can grab their disc from, you’ll be in for a treat. Imagine the Deftones mixed with Candiria and Tool and you’ll get a small inkling of how good this band is.
So there it is, my top 15 of 2004. Hopefully I've turned you on to a few bands that you might have missed.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Must... Find... Brains...

Sausage pizza. You'd think it couldn't hurt you. You probably think it's just a harmless food. Well, you're totally wrong. Sausage pizza is a definite threat to the top of your palette if you eat it right after it comes out of the oven. As yummy as it might taste, the searing heat exuded by the tomato sauce will easily scald the skin on the top of your mouth causing you to run around the kitchen waving your hand in front of your mouth (like that's going to do any good) looking for something cool to drink to sooth your burning mouth. Of course, by the time you find anything to drink, the pizza sauce has already had plenty of time to burn all of the skin in your mouth leaving you scraping it off with your tongue for the next 20 minutes.

Since my mouth is completely burnt from that damn pizza, I couldn't really drink too much coffee this morning because it burns my mouth when I drink it and when it gets cool enough to not hurt my mouth it's too cold to taste good. So I'm pretty much screwed for my usual ingestion of caffeine for the morning. I did bring a diet cola in to attempt to offset the missing coffee caffeine, but I don't think it'll help.

Now compound my lack of caffeine with not really being able to sleep last night and you have a recipe for instant zombie. I don't know why I couldn't sleep last night, but for some reason when I closed my eyes I simply continued to lie there with my eyes closed instead of being whisked off to a magical land of midgets and dragons.

So being as tired and unenergized as I am, all I can think about is somehow getting caffeine into my system, and barring that, I can turn to my co-workers brains. There's got to be caffeine in the human brain, right? Mmm..... must eat brains......

CO-WORKER: So have you finished the help text yet?

ME: Help... text.... need.... brains....

CO-WORKER: Well, yes, it was a little rudimentary and could use some fleshing out.

ME: Fleshing.... out..... yummy..... flesh.... breakfast.....

CO-WORKER: Umm.... why are you reaching for my face? Is there some jelly from my donut still on me?

ME: Jelly..... donut..... brains....

CO-WORKER: Oh my God! Stop it, my face! That hurts! I think this breaks one of our company policies!


ME: *Crunch crunch* Yummy...... brains..... taste..... like..... meatloaf.....

Hmmm..... ok, maybe I'm not quite that zombie-ish this morning, but I sure do feel like I'm dragging and can't get energized. It sure doesn't help that it's overcast and dark out, either.

Monday, November 15, 2004

This World is Absurd

Really, there are so many times that I wonder how certain things in this world can happen. Why do good things happen to bad people and the converse of that are often on my mind. I worked hard in college. I was one of those few kids that would take a Friday night to go hang out in a study lounge to contemplate the readings of Camus and do my discrete math assignments instead of getting plowed beyond comprehension and trying to hook up with random chicks. Yeah, I was that guy--the nerd, the dork, the "studious one". I really, really tried in college and it paid off, I thought, in that I graduated with two BA's, one in computer science and one in philosophy, and had a cumulative GPA of 3.6 something. Personally, I was pretty proud of myself and what I learned at St. John's University.

After doing as well as I did at school, I had hoped it would translate over to success in the real world as well. As you know, I am getting close to finishing up my first year as a tech writer for Kingland Systems in Rochester, and I thought that I was doing pretty good. I was on par, salary wise, with some of the people I graduated with and was doing better than some others, but then I learned about one of my college classmates and the job he has.

First, let me tell you a little about this mysterious guy from college. He was that guy that spent more time in the weight room than in class and even more time partying and trying to find easy chicks. He was prone to doing really stupid stuff and getting horribly tanked for just about any reason. The list of some of the stupid stuff that he did is pretty darn long. One drunken night he and some friends took all of the furniture from our dorm lounge and tossed it to the street three stories below. On another drunken escapade he thought it was a genius idea to simply kick apart the doors to the stalls in our dorm bathroom. On another ocassion, he put some mice in his neighbors room.

This kid was simply amazing in the ways that he lived up to every stereotype of the big, dumb, partying college kid. Even on the night before our graduation he exercised his stupidity and made my coffee cup look smarter than him. It was our senior party and we were all out at the bar. Oddly enough, party dude wasn't all that drunk, but that didn't stop him from stealing the car of a pizza delivery man "just because". He wasn't allowed to walk at graduation and I'm not sure if the owner of the vehicle pressed charges or not, but any way you look at it, this was a stupid thing to do by a guy who was known for doing stupid stuff.

Now, it's about a year and a half after he's graduated and I fully expected to hear that he was working at Kmart or McDonalds, but instead I find out he's selling mortgages to people and raking in a six figure salary. How the hell does something like that happen? He's easily making double, if not maybe triple, what I am and he was a total screw up in college. All he did was party, act dumb, and made school out to be a joke. I worked my ass off, actually learned stuff, and I'm the one who came out on the short end of the stick.

Really, when I think about it, I wonder what the hell is actually up with this world. Sometimes I wonder if God has it out for me. Maybe I'm his pet joke that he can always turn to for a laugh. I can see it now, after a long hard day of watching over the atrocities of the middle east, God plants his gaze on the midwest and focuses on a lowly character... me. He sees the ironies of his life and the frustrations he is confronted with and chuckles. "What a funny, little human," He thinks to Himself, "but at least he's fun to smite when I'm bored!"

Friday, November 12, 2004

Just Had To Put My Mind To It

Apparently my rededication to working out is paying off a little. I'm almost down to 180 lbs. now. I've been hovering at about 182 the last couple days, but any way you look at it, I've made some good progress from about 2 weeks ago when I was pushing 195. I was so sick of feeling lazy, feeling fat, and feeling unattractive that I had to do something about it... so I did.

I've been trying to put in a few miles running at night as well as some lifting to build muscle while I burn off all that icky fat. I managed to get most of my strength back pretty quickly (I've been away from lifting on and off for a month or two since our basement flooded). I can bench 200+ lbs. again. Curling over 100 when I want to lift heavy. I've been getting in a couple hundred sit-ups when I can. Now I'm not saying this to brag or anything. I'm just starting to actually feel good about myself again. The key word is starting, though. I still think I can get in much better shape and I plan on trying to. It is nice to see more muscle definition, though, instead of simply knowing it's burried somewhere under a layer of padding.

Today I even braved the outdoors and went for a 2.5 mile outdoor run. Usually once the temp drops below 60 degrees I stick to running indoors, but today was just too nice of a day to waste away on a treadmill or stairclimber. I did get some sore lungs (they're not very good in the cold), but damn if it didn't feel refreshing to get outside and just be in the sun. It's been so dreary and bleak here in southern Minnesota for the last couple of weeks that the sun felt like it jump started my entire system. All of you that live where it stays warm all year round, consider yourselves lucky. As much as I love snow and cold and winter, I think I only need a month or two of it a year.

Expanding Outside of the Bubble

Well, I tried something new last night--fencing. I figured it was about time I tried something new. I felt like I might have been getting stuck in a rut and with the cold weather fast approaching, I wanted something to do other than sit at home, read, watch movies, and play video games. I know that would have been the dream life if you would have asked me what I wanted to do when I was 12, but now I just need some other things to do.

So how did it go? Well, considering I've never done any fencing before and only watched bits of it on the Olympics, I needed to learn the basics which was pretty much what was went over last night. I learned the rules, the different styles of fencing, the gear, the stance, the movement, how to hold a foil, and some basic foil movement.

After just this initial lesson, I can see that fencing is a lot more of a precision and finess sport than I thought. I've never been particularly good at extremely precise sports as I usually just take the brute force approach to most sports. It'll be different to focus on small things instead of just trying to be the strongest/fastest/most athletic person doing it.

All in all I think it is an interesting sport and I'll have to stick with it for a while to see if I can pick up the techniques that I'll need to actually be a functional fencer! Besides, I need something to fill that sports void that has formed in my life since college ended. Winter volleyball leagues in Rochester have already started, so that's out (unless anyone knows a team that could use an extra player or sub). Basketball leagues are started and I haven't played in a while so I'd probably be one of the bench star wonders. There isn't much for ultimate frisbee here in the winter, so that's out. Looks like it'll be fencing, weight lifting, and running for the winter for me!

Thursday, November 11, 2004


I've been really moody lately so things that usually wouldn't affect the jaded tough guy that I usually am have been making a profound effect upon me. Maybe it's because I'm pondering things a lot more now. Maybe I'm unsure of things in my life and because of that, I reflect more upon what is around me. Maybe I'm just in a phase. Who really knows?

Well, as I was checking some of the message boards I usually visit, I found a link to this video by A Perfect Circle. The song is their cover of "Imagine" by John Lennon, while the video is simply stock footage of the evils of this world. I often don't think about things outside of my little personal bubble, but when I do, I realize that this world is one heck of a scary place.

I cannot imagine being homeless. I cannot imagine being malnourished. I cannot imagine holding a gun and shooting another human being. I cannot imagine being shot. I cannot imagine being abused. I lead a very normal and very well off life in comparison to so many of the people in this world. I feel selfish for complaining about some of the things that I do when such atrocities are happening around the world this very minute.

I find myself very distraught over the state of this planet and the human race as a whole. I want to help, but I don't know where to start. I'm afraid to try to help on my own. I want to do something, but I think I need a helping hand to hold me through because I just don't feel strong enough on my own. Maybe I'm just making a big deal out of some odd inner turmoil I felt after watching a music video. That's probably it......

Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today...

Imagine there's no countries,
It isn't hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace...

Imagine no possesions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us,
And the world will live as one.

--John Lennon