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.