Friday, December 30, 2005

Emo Band Promo Photo

Yes, I realize this is three posts for me in one day. Yes, I also realize most days I have trouble getting one out with how busy I've been. Lucky for you I've had a somewhat lax day at work and I've felt like writing. This one will be short, though, I promise.

So I've been playing around in Photoshop lately, playing with filters, effects, and actions. In my playing I've found a really great action that lets you turn photos into what looks like comic book art. At it's most basic, using this action is like using the posterize effect, but you have a lot more options for tweaking things (such as the shadowing, the newsprint vs glossy layering, etc.). Below is one of the photos I just "comic book-ed". It's of me and my two brothers sitting on the couch during Christmas. It looks more like the PR pic of an up and coming emo band, if you ask me.

On the Couch

Don't Tell Me How to Use My CDs

There's a couple of reasons I don't buy cds from major labels (or in general). One of those reasons is that I work for an online music magazine, Decoy Music, and receive promotional copies of many of the cds from labels for review purposes since I am in charge of the reviews department at Decoy. For the most part, I get mailed to me most of the music I would want to listen to (as well as a crap-ton of junk from bands that suck more than they know). Sometimes, though, I don't get promos of bands or cds that I really want. It's at this time that I am stuck wondering what to do.

I mostly listen to my music on my work PC, my home PC (it serves as my home stereo), and my portable MP3 player (for when I'm anywhere other than home or work). I like to avoid buying cds from major labels mostly because they just don't get what consumers want. With the whole Sony rootkit fiasco I'm even less inclined to buy cds, especially since I was infected by their rootkit since I bought the Masters of Horror cd.

Now you have Virgin Records dictating to you how you can use their cds. Seriously, this is enough. I rarely buy cds as it is, but with tactics such as this I am now really really rarely going to buy a cd, and if I do it'll probably be from an upstart band just trying to make a few dollars to keep writing music.

Where can I listen to cds if they won't work on a PC and can't be ripped to MP3? Well, my car stereo is about it. So I can listen to a Virgin Records release for the 8 minutes to work and from work and then on the weekends I travel or when I have to make business trips to Iowa. Well, during those times I don't want to because I'm listening to audiobooks.

This is ludicrous and I really hope that people start to examine the cds they buy and put back anything that comes from Sony/BMG or Virgin or any other label that basically says "Screw you!" to their customers. They've lost any future sales they had from me. And they wonder why sales are slumping. It almost makes me feel dirty to simply work in the music sector at all.

Midgets Under the Hood

This week, almost everywhere I’ve driven I’ve felt like I was zooming along in a brand spanking new car. Not because I have a brand spanking new car, but because Alfred, my ’93 Saturn, feels like one.

Up until Tuesday Alfred had not been doing so hot. His front bearings were going so whenever I’d get up over about 50 mph I would be assaulted with a pummeling, pulsating cacophony of sound that made it impossible for me to hear my audiobooks or cd player unless I had the volume as loud as it would go—and that’s pretty loud, especially considering Alfred’s pimped out with a righteously non-factory sound system, complete with ginormous sub and 8 bajillion watt amp.

Needless to say the noise was annoying, but just as annoying was the heavy vibration that accompanied the noise. It felt like an army of midget construction workers with jackhammers were on the other side the gas pedals and were bound and determined to hammer their way through. When I drove up to visit Kristin in St. Cloud (a 2.5 hour drive one way), my feet were in a perpetual state of shuddering for about an hour after I arrived thanks to those damn midgets.

But Tuesday, oh that magical day, Tuesday Alfred was given new life. He had his bearings changed, the midgets fumigated for, and new life injected into him. As I drove him home from the shop I caught myself going 75 on a 55 mph road simply because I was waiting for the noise and vibration as that’s how I’d been gauging my speed lately. It never came and if I wouldn’t have checked my speedometer I probably would have just kept accelerating until everything started blurring into light speed (Saturns are fast like that, you know).

I’m still not used to the smoother driving and find myself weaving in and out of the sparse traffic here in Rochester on my way to and from work. Truth be told, I love pumping the techno (usually BT or Paul Oakenfold) and zooming home after work. I feel like a race car driver… or at least like I’m playing Need for Speed: Underground or something.

So if you happen to get passed by a green Saturn with a St. John’s University sticker in the back window while you’re in Rochester, it’s me. Smile and wave. It’ll make me go faster!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

My Motivation

I've been asked more than a few times by different people why I blog. Truth be told, most of the time I still don't consider myself a "blogger", even though I go by the nickname "Rick the Blogger" with a couple of my friends. It was because of a TV news article they did on me this last year... but anyways that neither here nor there.

Usually when asked that question I try to point out that this blog didn't start as a blog per se. Originally it was only accessible by my family and people that I went to college with. I used it mainly as a way to post about activities at school so that my parents knew what I was doing and some of my friends could know what days I had certain things going on.

Over time it morphed into a way for me to vent about the things that pissed me off in life. I wouldn't really write about anything unless I was really mad. Truth be told, not everything I wrote was whining, complaining, or yelling, but whenever I did write it was because I was upset about something. It was a great outlet for me to air my frustrations somewhat semi-anonymously (this was before I registered my blog at this address, which kind of gives away who I am).

I then let it change even further. I used it as a way to work on keeping my work writing skills sharp. Since I was working as a technical writer, I needed a way to just write about stuff without it being technical so that I could then get more focus when I needed to write in a technical manner.

In recent months, or even year I suppose, I've continued to do it mostly out of habit and because I manage to get some kind of joy out of it. How I get joy out of it, I don't always know, especially since what I write on here sometimes gets me in hot water with people I know, but I do. Still, at times I wonder exactly what it is that drives me to keep writing. Then a couple of weeks ago I received an anonymous email that galvanized exactly why it was that I kept writing--people have made a connection to me. People have gotten to know me in some sort of abstract way through this thing we use daily called the internet. There's a virtual piece of me contained within this blog that somehow people out there have found a connection with.

To a few people I know, this is a relatively scary notion, but to me I find it almost comforting. To know that someone else can connect to what I write validates the time I put into writing, even if it is only being used as an outlet to type away my thoughts so that I don't focus on them anymore. So, here it is, here is one of the reasons I keep writing:
Hi Rick,

I’m a semi-anonymous reader of your Blog. I decided to send you this email directly and not post it on your Blog.

You’ve been on my Favorites list so long I no longer recall exactly when I discovered your journal or how I even found it. For readers, like myself, a Favorite blog can become like a comfortable pair of shoes. You just wear 'em, and wear 'em, and wear 'em, and never even say thanks.

That said, I deciced I should tell you that I enjoy so much what you write, and I like the person who comes through in your writings. Thank you, Rick, for the entertaiment you've brought me in 2005 as well as the motivation. Reading your journal brought me pleasure and entertaiment, and in small ways helped me with my own self improvement initiatives. I'm sure that wasn't your plan, but that's how it worked out. You write in a way that permits others to identify with your experiences. I wish I could write like that. Okay, that's my feedback. You're a good man, Rick. The world needs more guys like you. I'm convinced that a Blogger should become President. I guess that's a suggestion for a post. Imagine. A trusted Blogger becoming President. Not a bad idea. A nerd in the oval office. I'm liking the idea more all the time.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and all that! I'll be anonymous again now.

One of your fans

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Top 10 CDs of 2005

In continuing with the music motif of the last couple of posts, I bring to you my top 10 CDs of 2005. I would have made a larger list (and in fact I had a 64 band list and breakdown) but we were limited to 10 submissions for our top 10 feature at Decoy Music this year. I hope that I can turn you on to a couple of new bands that I thought were simply amazing this year. So, here they are!

10. 10 Years - The Autumn Effect

The Autumn Effect It’s not too often that a band can create a release that is both mainstream friendly and smart. 10 Years have broken out of the underground onto a major label and unleashed a progressive, yet not impenetrable, modern hard rock cd. The songs are all inherently catchy without being cliché, which shows that you can still maintain your integrity even if you do get on a major label.

9. Porcupine Tree - Deadwing

Deadwing Prog is usually something that you love or you don’t. If you don’t, then Porcupine Tree is nothing more than overindulgent songwriters who like to sit around and experiment. If you are a prog fan, then the latest offering from Porcupine Tree will be one of the best cds you’ll listen to all year. This is modern prog done to perfection.

8. The Lost Children of Babylon - The 9/11 Report: The Ultimate Conspiracy

The 9/11 Report: The Ultimate Conspiracy With the war in Iraq and Bush’s constant bungling of governmental affairs, many bands have written songs that poke fun at the situation or try to make people take notice. The Lost Children of Babylon take their hatred for Bush and the current regime to a new level by creating an entire album dedicated to the corruption of our current leaders. Hip hop with a message has never sounded so personal and so in your face. This cd obliterates every other rap and hip hop cd that has come out all year.

7. Sikh - Sikh

Sikh Not to be confused with the more well known band Sikth, Sikh are an interesting metal band. They are equal parts One Minute Silence, Soulfly, and System of a Down. There are many tribal inflected songs intertwined with ratatat vocals as well as more pummeling metal tracks with a crazy edge.

6. Oceansize - Everyone into Position

Everyone into Position Oceansize have created one heck of a behemoth of an album with Everyone in Position. Long songs, creative musicianship, and a sound that envelops the listener are all traits that Oceansize have in aplomb. There is no denying the power that this album possesses. This is great music all around.

5. A Wilhelm Scream - Ruiner

Ruiner You want a cd that’s energetic? A cd that’s punk (not nu-punk)? A cd that you can sing along to as well as mosh out too? A cd that has absolutely no weak songs or filler tracks? I know I’d kill for that kind of cd, and this year I didn’t even have to kill anyone to get it since A Wilhelm Scream created that type of cd quite easily with Ruiner. Punk cd of the year!

4. Cog - The New Normal

The New Normal When I first listened to Cog I really didn’t know how good they were. They seemed like a much more melodic and bold version of Tool, but as time went on I realized that they were so much more than just a Tool clone. Some may take this next statement as blasphemy, but Cog is easily a step or two ahead of Tool when it comes to creating songs that utilize the band members’ talents with their instruments, while not being self indulgent, self important, and generally masturbatory. On The New Normal you get songs, actual songs, which are amazing. The end.

3. The Agony Scene - The Darkest Red

The Darkest Red Michael Williams, how the hell do you do that with your voice? Are you actually a demon possessed? You can easily pick out a song by The Agony Scene simply by the vocals. Not to say that the rest of the band is untalented, because they are far from it (and I wouldn’t let a band into my top ten that wasn’t talented all around). It’s just that Michael’s voice is what really makes this band. His bloodcurdling screams combined with his mastery of melody manage to create a vocal onslaught that I don’t think any other metal band can match.

2. As I Lay Dying - Shadows Are Security

Shadows Are Security On this release you will find what is easily the greatest metalcore song of the last 3 years in “Confined”. This song alone makes this cd a top 10 contender. Thankfully the rest of the cd is nearly as amazing. As I Lay Dying has created the most accessible and downright lethal metalcore cd to be unleashed in the last 5 years. If this cd doesn’t work as a gateway drug to get kids listening to quality metal and metalcore, nothing will.

1. Deadlock - Earth.Revolt

Earth.Revolt I don’t know what to say about this cd other than it is brutally beautiful. Every up and coming black metal, death metal, metalcore, melodic metal, goth metal, prog metal, and even grindcore band should listen to this cd before they even start to think about churning out yet another run of the mill pile of crap waste of plastic. With Earth.Revolt you are presented with a disc that covers all of the aforementioned bases and covers them perfectly. If you like heavy music at all, you NEED to hear this cd. You will not regret it.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Mon Frere - Real Vampires CD Review

Call me vain, call me sexist, call me a pig, call whatever you want, but I’ll go out on a limb and say that bands who manage to have hot, female lead singers usually find a way to separate themselves from the rest of their peers, simply because they have that hot female lead that can turn the head of horny little 15 year olds at concerts. Trust me, it works.

Mon Frere’s Nouela Johnston might not be the hottest girl around, but her voice sure as hell is. It’s her vocals, dancing over the dark synth dance punk background of the rest of the band that makes you want to listen to Real Vampires over and over again unlike, say, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Nouela kills Karen O). Not too dissimilar from Karen O, Nouela has a very natural ebb and flow, but it feels much more matched to this style of music.

This style consists of a healthy electronic framework—the keys are definitely a main focus on this EP—complemented by a very angular, thick, and punchy dose of guitar, well paced drums, and even a few hand claps. At under 14 minutes in length, though, you seriously don’t get enough material to satiate your Mon Frere cravings (trust me, you’ll get them once you put this disc in), but that’s why there’s the repeat button on your cd player. Use it!

I dare you pick up this EP, set aside 14 minutes of your time, listen to it, and then walk away never thinking about this band again. It won’t happen… one of the prime reasons being the chorus in “Up Circle” where Nouela croons "It's all double dutch". (Trust me, when it's sung it sounds way cooler than you simply reading it.) These songs are fun! The band is fun! The entire EP is fun! Wait... it's a little dark every now and again, but it's mostly fun. So there. Just go buy the damn thing, ok?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Dear Whoever - Sound the Trumpet CD Review

When I was younger I used to play Super Street Fighter II all the time. Anyone who wanted to take me on, I’d challenge them to an afternoon of getting smacked down, because I had a strategy that I thought was unbeatable. As Chung-Li or E. Honda I could dominate just about anyone using E. Honda’s hundred hand slap or Chung-Li’s lightning kick. Whenever someone got close to me, I'd do those moves over and over. It was easy to do (all I had to do was jam on the punch or kick buttons), and it would work over and over again. That is, until whoever I was playing against figured me out. I didn't have any other power moves or strategies to use. It was at this point that I was screwed since I never planned ahead. I was content to keep doing the same thing over and over.

Much like my Street Fighter II battling tactics, rock and metal bands are simply all too content to keep hundred hand slapping with rehashed, retread, and regurgitated sing/scream emo crap. Sure, Hawthorne Heights and Silverstein and The Goodwill and Senses Fail have all sold very well, but that doesn’t mean that every band that sounds like them will do equally as well. No, this genre has reached the point of diminishing returns where it might not even be possible for a label to break even when signing a new “screamo” band to their roster.

But here we are yet again with Broken Line Records throwing out a blatant, albeit slightly heavier and rougher, copy of Hawthorne Heights at us. I’m sorry, but your thousandth screamo lightning kick is no match for the long distance fireball throwing techniques of kung-fu master Ryu, which I’ve finally learned in order to counter your boring, cheap, and overused tactics. You can't keep winning without evolving your approach.

What’s unfortunate is Dear Whoever probably don’t even realize that they’re nothing more than a copy of a copy of a copy... of a copy. Through all the copycatting that has permeated this genre, there is rarely a band or release that holds any real emotion, integrity, or aggression—it’s all become so fake, cliched, and fashion-centric.

Dear Whoever’s Sound the Trumpet is yet another release in a long line of releases that will have its 5 minutes in the sun before fading away into the cold, empty darkness of musical obscurity. How much do you want to bet that after their tour to support this effort we won’t hear much from Dear Whoever ever again? I’d have to say it’s a pretty safe bet.

Merry Christmas

It has all led up to this. All the shopping, all the gift wrapping, all the decorating, all the cooking, all the preparation, and all of everything else you did to prepare for the 25th of December. It's finally here and, frankly, it feels like it got here faster than ever.

Oddly, at least for a Minnesotan, the temperature is above freezing right now, there's mostly snirt (snowy dirt) scattered around, and you can see pieces of grass here and there. Isn't it supposed to be freezing out with feet upon feet of snow piled in the yard? I know that part of the reason Christmas felt like it got here so fast is that it never quite seemed like full on winter yet.

Regardless of what Mother Nature decided to do for the month of December, Christmas is here. I'm at home spending it with my family (right now waiting for everyone to wake up). My brothers probably won't get up until noon if we let them sleep!

We'll go to church this morning to celebrate. We'll return home to eat lunch (which I don't think I need since I ate so much last night). Then we'll open our presents... which used to be my favorite part of Christmas, but now I really don't want too much, so presents aren't as integral to the holiday season as they were in my childhood and teen years. Oddly, though, I still love to get presents for people. I just don't like receiving them.

In the spirit of the holidays, try to do something nice for someone. Go out of your way a little bit to help someone out. Give a hand with the cooking or cleaning. Pitch in when there's something to do. Be a dear and think about other people first. Just simply try to be considerate of others. Sometimes it's hard to do and might involve doing things you usually wouldn't, but suck it up and do it without fussing. You can be a jerk the rest of the year if you want, just be nice today :-)

So Merry Christmas to you all out there. Let's hope your day goes wonderfully and that when it comes time to lay yourself down to sleep tonight, you can look back and know that it was a good day.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Stop Leaving

The hardest thing about leaving college was leaving almost everyone I had gotten to know and care about to go to where my job took me, which happened to be Rochester.  My friends, acquaintances, athletic teammates, and classmates had to go where they felt their lives took them as well, which for most was NOT Rochester.

Two years later I feel as isolated as ever.  Every month there’s this feeling that I’m falling further and further from the friends I’ve already made and the new friends I’m making I’m never quite as close to.  A good friend moves away one week.  Another gets engaged the next (virtually eliminating any remaining autonomy he/she had).  One then tells me he might be moving away.  Yet another gets a job offer from somewhere else and takes it.

As I lie in bed at night, in the cold of the basement of the house I live, more often than not my mind replay memories on the blank, white slate that is my ceiling.  The memories slowly fade from their HD DVD glory into grainy, used VHS territory, sometimes forever ruining something I thought would last forever.

Think back to a memory you love, one from many years ago. Now try to remember all of the details, every last one of them.  It’s too hard.  Day in and day out I’m creating more and more memories, but at the same time I’m sacrificing the quality and vibrancy of the old.  Without the familiarity of the people from the memories being close and fresh, I start to wonder if, at times, I make up some of my memories because I’ve forgotten what actually happened.

I want the people of my memories to be here with me again.  I don’t want them in Iowa or Virginia or California.  I don’t want them married off into a dungeon of exclusivity.  I don’t want them so caught up in their jobs that they can’t get away.  I want them to be next to me again, refreshing the memories of old, reliving the care free life of college classes, parties, and constant contact.  

The memories are good, but I know they’ll fade.  There’re only so many times you can watch a VHS tape before it wears out.  And with very few quality movies to take the place of the old, I’m afraid of ending up with a very boring movie library.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


...will probably be the death of me, or least a source of much unneeded weight gain and sugar intake. When I get really busy and stressed out I always turn to food, even when I'm not even remotely close to being hungry. Today has been one of those days.

With clients incessantly hounding me to get things done before they all take off for vacation, I've been under the gun to finish up a bunch of documents and this has led to my consuming of way too many Peanut Butter Hershey Kisses, M&M's, and mini Snickers... along with a bowl of Spaghetti-O's for lunch and a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats for a sorta healthy afternoon snack.

Yeah, with the holidays looming and work kicking me squarely in my ass (I had to end up working on one of my planned vacation days--maybe I'll tell the story later), I've been able to only focus on writing work documents and not fun, little personal blurbs like I would like to.

In lieu of my witty banter (or my poor imitation of it), check out Decoy Music's Top 20 feature that just went up this week. Go find some good music to listen to!

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Big Empty

Cowboys. Aliens. Blue suitcases and bowling balls. Strange things are happening out in the middle of nowhere. The tagline says it all really. This is not your average movie, and you won’t find anything like it at your local uber-cinema—maybe at an indy theater in a big city, but not really anywhere else. It might seem like it, but I wouldn’t exactly call this an anti-Hollywood picture, but it’s about as far as you can get from your big budget explode-o-rama’s, poop-piss-boob comedies, saccharine sweet melodramas, and horribly cheesy romantiflicks.

This unbelievably overlooked movie from 2003 can be picked up at just about any used dvd store, Hollywood video, or online for less than a 10-spot and it’s worth every penny. For being a movie that was made on a shoestring budget, it somehow stars a lot of current big names, such as Jon Favreau, Joey Lauren Adams, Sean Bean, and Kelsey Grammer. All of them turn in great performances, which is saying a lot, since three out of those four actors I can hardly stomach 90% of the time. Bean, on the other hand, is great in just about every movie he stars in, this being yet another.

So what the hell is The Big Empty about? Frankly, it’s hard to explain. At its core it’s about a down and out actor couriering a suitcase to the desert for an unreasonably large amount of cash so that he can pay off his credit card debt. From reading that, you’d think this movie would be more boring you’re your monotone college calculus professor. It’s not.

The reason it’s not is the myriad cast of characters. For example, the guy who hires John (Favreau) to courier the suitcase has been keeping tabs on John’s masturbatory patterns and his other varied uses for Vaseline. The man he’s supposed to deliver the case to isn’t just anybody either—he’s a pissed off cowboy trucker who is believed to be a serial killer in a neighboring state.

Not only are those two characters off the wall, so are all of the people that John encounters. There’s Randy, a guy who can’t let go of his ex-girlfriend so he continually kidnaps her and threatens to kill anyone that gets close to Ruthie (his ex). At one point John even has a stand-off with Randy, where John wields a gun with no bullets and Randy makes threats with a chainsaw, all the while with his ex tied up in the back of an open semi-trailer. Another interesting character is the dimwitted local who wears a hat with name on it (and doesn’t ever remember he does) and obsesses over how the government is building a bullet-train to shuttle people through the desert so they don’t find the aliens that are camping out there. These are only a small sampling of the zany cast! There are some people even more out of this world.

And speaking of aliens… it wouldn’t be that far fetched to think that John somehow ended up in an alien colony instead of a crazy, little town in the desert. Each scene is more surreal than the last and every new character a little more out there then the one before.

What makes the movie, as you may have been able to guess, are the characters and how different each of them are. The plot of the movie is interesting, but really this movie is a vehicle for the varied types of insanity put on display by the cast.

It’s almost Christmas time, so give yourself a cheap, little treat by picking up this criminally underappreciated movie. Don’t give any thought to the criticisms that some of the other critics out there have leveled against this movie. It really is a treat and well worth the $8 it’ll probably cost.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Two Different Kinds of Busy

This week, so far, has been phenomenally not awesome… mostly because of work. I don’t really want to say too much about it, but I can say that I’ve been stuck putting in longer than normal hours once again, as well as spending an inordinate amount of time dealing with people and issues that I think are just plain dumb.

Having said that, the weekend couldn’t get here soon enough. I want nothing more than to just forget about work for a few days and focus on doing other things, like hanging out with my family, being Santa for one of my friend’s Christmas parties, and going to visit Kristin in St. Cloud.

It’ll be a busy weekend (and couple of days after the weekend since I’m taking Tuesday and Wednesday off to visit Kristin), but busy in a good way. I would much rather be trying to adjust my schedule to do things I enjoy (like watching movies, going out to eat, playing video games, and reading) rather than things I don’t (like dealing with clients, rewriting documents, and playing the corporate games).

Unfortunately the weekend isn’t here yet and my work schedule isn’t really going to let up on me too soon, so my presence on the internet will remain somewhat muted.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Buying and Selling

It's getting close to that wonderful day of gift giving, that day where just about everyone in this undeniably materialistic country gives away and receives tons and tons of presents, that day where you get to hoard away all of your loot from your siblings a few scant hours after waking from a restless sleep wondering what you'd get... a day call Christmas.

I know that some of you might still be looking for stuff to get your friends, family, significant others, and other people you like to buy stuff for. Well, do I have a great idea for you! I would suggest you check out my auctions over on Yahoo Auctions.

I've switched over to using Yahoo because it's completely and totally free to list auctions which is way way way way way way way better then Ebay, who thinks it is their right to keep about half of your auction's value for themselves. Yahoo's auctions might not get the same exposure, but I'm willing to try out any competitor to Ebay.

Also, with it being close to Christmas, if anyone out there has the urge to buy me something, please puruse my wish list that I've set up on Amazon. And if you want to get at it in the future I put a link to it over on the right labeled "Buy Me Stuff". As much as I love giving gifts, it's fun to get them too.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Someone Else's Toothpaste

When I was in college, three and a half out of my four and a half years there was spent living with roommates.  My junior year, however, I had apartmentmates, but no roommates.  It was seriously pretty frickin’ rad having my own room and bathroom.  Basically it was like having a really really small apartment all to myself.

In this mini apartment, how I lived was completely up to me.  What I put in my room was up to me.  How often I cleaned was up to me.  Everything was decided by me.  I had my own personal domain and I loved it.

I put the books I wanted onto my bookshelf.  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy never looked quite at like it did by my bed next to The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe.  My cd rack contained only what I wanted to listen to which was at the time, unfortunately, a lot of crap, such as early Limp Bizkit and Nickelback cds.  I know, I cringe thinking about it myself.

Everything was exactly how I wanted it and I figured it couldn’t get any better.  Then tonight as I was getting out of the shower it really hit me that I’m ready to move on from the solitary home life I have, a living arrangement where everything is decided by me.  It’s run its course and I’m ready to have someone else contributing to my living quarters.

I stood there in the shower drying off looking at my sink, with the myriad of things I have stacked around it—my toothbrush, hair gel, mouthwash, healing lotion, eye drops, and other assorted bathroom goods—and I had the most overwhelming urge to have something there that wasn’t mine.  I wanted someone else’s hand lotion to be there, or to have contact solution resting in the corner.  

I want to look into the shower and see not only my shampoo, but a bottle of conditioner that I’ll never use, but I’ll have to make room for.  I want to open up the fridge and see a bunch of vegetables that I think are gross sitting in front of my string cheese and Red Bull.  I want movies that I’d never even imagine buying interspersed on my dvd rack.

When I look at my nightstand-ish area of the railing in my room I keep imagining how nice it would be to have a jewelry holder next to where I set my wallet and palm pilot.  And under my bed… it wouldn’t just be spindles of cds full of random crap I burned but maybe a box or two of someone else’s stuff that is as equally ignored.

I don’t want everything to be just mine any more.  I desire signs of life other than mine to be present in my dwelling place.  Bring on someone else’s dirty laundry!  I can take it.  Heck, I want another person’s mess around.  Being surrounded by only my crap is starting to wear just a little thin.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Lucid - Digging Through CD Review

In today’s musical arena, especially when it comes to popular music genres, it’s pretty much impossible to find a band that is actually doing something original. Instead every new band that comes around is broken down into the different influences they play to. The vocals sound like band X, the rhythm section sounds like band Y, the guitars sound like that guy from band Z, and so on.

You never hear the sound of a band described as if it had not existed prior to creation of band any more. The reason for this is the multitude of bands, like Lucid, that keep popping up more than zits on a teenager with a pepperoni pizza obsession. Lucid are competent musicians that can write decent songs, but they’re content to just play to their influences instead of trying to push the envelope. They want to play it safe or are simply comfortable playing what they know, I’m not quite sure, but doing that isn’t going to get them recognized unless they are very, very lucky or know the right people.

The songs on Digging Through are all listenable, but far from original. The vocals are a huge Tool rip-off. Sure, the guy can’t really help it that his voice sounds just like Maynard, but the way that he uses his voice is exactly like Maynard did in Tool’s early and middle of the road years. Now if you’re a Tool or A Perfect Circle slut, then this is obviously a good thing, but for everyone else, they’ll just think to themselves, “Jeez, another band aping Tool. When is this going to end?”

The music Tool-ish, just like the vocals, but not nearly as progressive. All of the songs are in the 3:30 to 4:30 time range, which leaves little time for self indulgent noodling, which is good, but it also leads to this cd feeling very bland. The entire band know how to make acceptable songs, but the simplicity that runs through some of the songs makes the entire effort feel underdeveloped, but then again these guys are dealing with the addition of new members to their band as well as trying to put together an independently released debut, so maybe give them the benefit of the doubt.

If the more esoteric Tool clones (and Tool themselves) are a little too much for you to swallow, Lucid might be able to work for you. Given some time to mature, some introspection, and some development time given to their songwriting process, Lucid could probably put out a disc that would fit in along with the big boys, but for right now Digging Through is stuck in the competent independent debut category.

Kick Ass Work Names

Karl: I think we'll have to have meetings
Rick: Agreed
Rick: Organized by Stanley Lubesalot
Karl: We'll have to conference in Lenny Analstar
Rick: But we'll make Frank Lee Doinnowork an optional attendee. I know how much he hates meetings
Karl: It is hard to get a hold of him
Rick: These are going to be great meetings

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

X-Men 3 Needs to Get Here Now

So I’m a little bit of a comic book nerd.  You can’t work in the software industry and not have at least one geeky trait.  Knowing that, and knowing that I love the X-Men (if you didn’t know that before, now you do), you should be able to deduce that I have been looking forward to the 26th of May in the year 2006 quite heavily.  The reason for this—X-Men 3.

Finally, after some leaked internet photos and lots of speculation of how the movie was going to pan out, we’re treated to an actual preview of the movie.  

My initial thoughts are that it looks ok, but not spectacular.  X-Men 2 was pretty phenomenally awesome and it is still the defining comic book movie in my mind.  This one looks like it may be attempting to be a little too ambitious as well as trying to be too epic.  Some parts of the preview make me wonder if the writing/directing team aren’t going to try to cash in on the “big battle” syndrome that’s been plaguing Hollywood ever since Braveheart.

It’s hard to pull off the big battle scenes and few movies have done it well.  The Lord of the Rings did it well.  Star Wars Episode III did it well (I know, I feel dirty saying anything positive about that movie too).  Troy did it well.  War of the Worlds did it well.  Gladiator did it well.

On the other hand, Chronicles of Naria looks like they won’t do it right.  Pearl Harbor did it bad.  The Matrix Revolutions did it not so great.  The Last Samurai didn’t do it very well.  Star Wars Episode II did it quite crappily.  Windtalkers did it atrociously.  The Patriot did it very averagely.  Kingdom of Heaven did it semi-decent.

And X3 looks like it might fall more into the second category as opposed to the first.  I’ll remain optimistic, but I’ll temper my expectations for the action scenes.

As for the new characters, Beast looks passable but Angel looks kind of cheesy.  Of course, it’ll be easier to do Beast well as opposed to Angel, but I’d rather they have left both of them out of the upcoming movie.  There’s already two characters covered in blue make-up (Nightcrawler and Mystique), do we really need a third?

I’m still looking forward to it like you wouldn’t believe, but I’ll also be trying to keep my high hopes in check.

Thoughts About Planes

Planes aren’t so bad really… when they’re taxiing on the runway.  When they’re in the air, they are a very scary place for this simple midwestern boy.  
Oddly the two parts of flying that most people don’t like—the takeoff and landing—were the two parts of the trip that were the least stressful, relatively speaking.  Sure, there was a lot of stress crammed into those few minutes of each, but the stretching anxiety that was present the entire time the plane was in the air was almost worse… no, it actually was worse.

I’ve never liked heights.  I like having my feet firmly planted on something that isn’t going to suddenly disappear from underneath them or plummet thousands of feet to my most certain death or dismemberment.  When I was younger the ferris wheel used to creep me out more than zombies, the boogey man, and having to shower after gym class all combined together.

Being so high in the air was an amazing experience for most, but for me all I could think about was how many of my bones would be shattered when my pudgy body hit the ground after the seat I was in fell from the apex of the ferris wheel’s motion.  Usually I guessed 14… maybe more if I landed on my stomach (that would crack a lot of ribs).

With flying it’s supposed to be different.  It’s the safest form of travel according to most studies (although I think they forgot to look at walking as a viable travel method because I know that is way safer).  Throw all the statistics at me you want that shows how many less accidents there are with flight in comparison to driving and I’ll throw the one stat back at you that really scares me—the percentage of deaths in a plane accident in comparison to a car crash.

It’s almost a given that at some point you’ll get into a fender bender. No biggie.  It’s also a given that you probably won’t be in a plane crash.  Cool.  What sucks, though, is that if you do get into a plane crash you’re basically corpsified.  There are very few injuries in plane crashes—it’s usually just massive amounts of death, dying, painful death, and death by fireball or explosion.  Get into a car crash and you might break a bone or something at most a lot of the time.

So anyways, I didn’t like flying for two reasons: if the plane were to crash, my funeral would be a lot sooner than the May 12th, 2084 date I had planned and I hate heights.

Well, those two along with not knowing if the pilot was totally sauced while he was flying or not.  

Saturday, December 03, 2005


I made it back ok, even after a couple of flight delays for de-icing and such. It wasn't all that utterly terrible, but it would not be my preferred method of travel. I don't like being so far from the ground. Ok, time to decompress and just enjoy the weekend. More thoughts on planes to come later... hopefully.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I'm Leaving, On a Jet Plane

Well, my flight leaves from Rochester here this morning at 11:30 am. I'm just getting myself packed up now as I wanted to put off doing it until the absolute last minute possible. I hope Wilton, Conneticut isn't too boring and I hope my meetings are actually worthwhile, but I have a nagging feeling this is all just going to be one big waste of my time, especially since I won't have time to actually go out and do anything while in Wilton.

I'll be back late Friday night, but if I get bored or meetings get too utterly ridiculous for me to care about, expect some very frustrated and venomous posts to trickle in... unless they take away internet access during the meetings. That would suck a ton.

Wish me luck, this is my first ever plane ride. Kind of sad that I'm 24 and never been on a plane, huh? It's kind of weird losing my flight virginity so late in life, but I'll finally be taking that step. I'm out!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Since it was pointed out to me that my last post was a little depressing, I found something fun (as well as freakin' hilarious) for you. Check out this World of Warcraft video. Go ahead, download it, unzip it, and watch it.

If you've never played video games, it will be moderately funny.

If you've played some video games but never online or fantasy games, it'll be pretty funny.

If you've played a lot of video games but never any MMORPGs, it'll be awesomely funny.

If you've played a lot of video games, including MMORPGs but not World of Warcraft, you will urinate yourself while literally laughing out loud.

If you've played a ton of World of Warcraft... well, be prepared for your head to explode from the comedic genius of the video.

I fell into the third category and I seriously could not keep myself from laughing here at work. My coworkers were probably wondering what the hell was wrong with me considering I haven't been the most fun person to deal with at work lately with all of the stress I've been under. Considering that I have to fly to Conneticut tomorrow for three days, I'm still the only BA on my team which means I have no help and a deadline that is basically today (since it is Friday but I'll be out on business the next three days), I'm not getting enough sleep, I'm not getting enough exercise, my social life is pretty anemic (partially because of lack of time for it and partially because I'm so focused on certain other projects right now), and I'm just a big ball of negative energy I needed something really funny to brighten up my day and fortunately this did it. So enjoy. I hope it is as theraputic for you as it is for me.

As a corollary to this finding, is it sad that it took a video of some goofball playing a video game cheer me up?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Things I Hate

--People who go around asking people for the answers to questions that could easily be answered with a little work (for example, asking me what a sentence in a document means when it is explained in the next paragraph--all they had to do was read).
--iPods. They're so overpriced in comparison to other equivalent mp3 players. That and iTunes is such a crappy media player.
--Really cold days when there's no snow. What's the point of having cold weather if there's no snow?
--Loading time between levels on video games. We have kick ass graphics, sound, and cinematics, but why the hell are the load times so long still?
--Working as much as we do in the US. Why do we have to give up 8+ hours of every day doing something we don't want to do? How the hell did that happen?
--Women comedians. They just aren't as funny as male stand-ups.
--Vegetables served raw. They're just so icky if they're not cooked (other than carrots which are icky cooked).
--All the music that is on the radio here in Rochester (and in general). It's all so soulless.
--Most of the time lately, myself.
--Planes, but I'll be forced to deal with them come Wednesday. Frankly, I used to be afraid of them, but now I just hate them.
--How you say things that you know you really need to say, but you know right after you say them that it would have been 10 times better if you would have just shut the hell up and dealt with the internal stife.
--Being grown up. It's no fun wondering where the hell your life is going, why it has no clear direction, and when it'll be when you get what you want.
--The Christmas holiday season. I used to love it, and I still do some of the time, but now I just want it all to be over. There's too much stress to be someone you're really not.
--Most of the time lately, the decisions I make and the life I lead.
--Mike Vanderjagt for kicking so many damn field goals tonight which made me lose my fantasy football game, potentially knocking me out of the playoffs for this season.
--The past. It ruins the present and taints the future.
--George Bush. But that's nothing very original, now is it?
--Having to sleep at all. I don't do much of it as it is, but still I'd rather not do it at all.
--The lack of time I have for writing.
--The lack of time I have for exercising.
--Having to be patient. Screw that, I want what I want and deserve right now.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Turkey Day

Ahh, Thanksgiving... the laziest of all holidays, at least for me and my family. We don't travel anywhere, we do make a nice Thanksgiving lunch (but don't go overboard on it), we sit and watch football if there's no good movies playing, we nap, and we let ourselves relax.

It's really nice to be able to simply spend one holiday not worrying about anything. There's no being fake, trying to keep up appearances around relatives. You don't have to perform any unneeded cleaning, even though we ended up cleaning out our lazy susan this morning as we were looking for turkey cooking items. Heck, I haven't even bothered showering yet. I'm still lounging here in front of my laptop in the living room in flannels, Scooby Doo slippers, and an old SJU basketball t-shirt.

Soon enough we'll be gorging ourselves on food, watching football, and indulging in weeks or months of pent up slothness. Then tomorrow... we shop!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Always a Groomsman, Never a Groom

As I was watching Scrubs tonight, it happened to be the episode where Carla agrees to marry Turk.  The end scene so perfectly illustrated exactly how I’ve been feeling over the last six months to a year.

At the beginning of the scene Turk comes running through the park to a bench where Carla was sitting and waiting for him. Turk, as is tradition, gets down on one knee to propose.  As he does, Carla initially says no, as that had been the running gag of the episode, but quickly lets a wry smile come across her face as she says yes.

After she says yes, the two of them embrace as the camera pulls back.  Entering the scene is JD, Turk’s best friend, with sparklers in each hand, running around the joyous couple, living vicariously in the aura of their good fortune.

It’s JD that I find myself most identifying with.  In the past year or so it seems like just about everyone I know is either married, engaged, or pretty damn close to getting engaged.  Heck, one of my friends and coworkers just got engaged himself a couple of weeks ago, much to my surprise.  

Being almost 25, having friends in the same age range and somewhat older, and living in a very conservative area, this is definitely the age at which most people are getting married.  Since I’m not, I’ve felt a lot like JD—surrounded by other’s good fortune and basking in the glow of their joys.

There’s definitely a lot of pressure with just about everyone in my circle of friends being hitched, getting hitched, or being practically hitched, that sometimes I feel like I’m the odd man out.  At times, this is actually the case.

With most of my friends being married, there obviously comes compromises in the scope of those friendships. No longer am I always the first choice to go do things with.  Time spent with “the gang” is less and less as the other half requires more and more of their attention.  I’m not criticizing that at all as I’m sure I’ll be the same way, but sometimes it’s hard to be the one left in the cold, all alone, while your friends are off with their families.

In dealing with these changing priorities in friendships, I have become deeper in touch with myself.  I no longer feel afraid to be by myself, alone with only my company to keep my occupied.  Sure, I still would rather be with people most of the time, but I’m also more comfortable in my own skin.  The only problem with that is I’ve come to the realization that a lot of the time I’d like to trade in this skin for someone else’s.  

Rotting My Teeth

It’s been almost three years since I’ve been to a dentist.  It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, but when I actually thought about it, sure enough, it’s been almost that long.  I guess I really haven’t noticed because my mouth hasn’t experienced any unbearable, prolonged pain in the last three years.  That’s good, don’t get me wrong, but I probably should have visited the dentist at least once in that time if not at least just for a regular cleaning.

Thoughts of dentistry have recently arisen in my thoughts with the onset of the availability of free pop at work.  No longer do we have to buy every can or 20 oz. or liter or whatever that we want, but instead we can just mosey on over to the fridge and grab a can of our favorite refreshment at no charge to me. Of course energy drinks aren’t stocked, but I’ll gladly give up drinking my daily Monster in favor of having a free Diet Coke or two.

With all of this free pop, I can feel my teeth already starting to scream out at me that I’m doing them wrong.  The elevated influx of cola acids is definitely not going to strengthen my tooth enamel, but will obviously do the opposite.  Considering I’ve never had a cavity, I’m not as leery as someone whose mouth is a gold repository might be, but I’m still concerned that now my teeth might be a little more susceptible to harm.

Armed with that knowledge and concern, common sense would see me making an appointment with a local dentist, one which ironically has an office right next door to where I work.  Common sense would be wrong.  I don’t like dentists.  

Every time I go to the dentist, I start out with my mouth feeling fine and by the time he’s done it’s in total agony from all of the pushing, prodding, pulling, and pinching that his assistants do to the insides of my mouth in the name of cleanliness.  And for the next couple of days, my jaw will feel like I started a fight with ultimate fighter and decided not to defend myself.

On top of the addition of pop (free pop!) to the office, one of my co-workers has always had a candy dish in her office and I’ve found myself visiting that a lot lately as well, which is doubly bad since it hurts my teeth and contributes to my lack of physical fitness.  I need to be especially careful with what I eat now because it’s winter time and since I don’t have a gym membership yet, I don’t have many options for exercise other than running, which I refuse to do when it’s glass cutter nipples cold out.

I guess I could suck it up and just go next door and visit the dentist, but I just wish they could clean my teeth and look around without being so obnoxious about it and letting me leave in a buttload of pain.  Hasn’t technology made it possible to do a good teeth cleaning without it feeling like some form of ancient Mongolian jaw torture?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Will There Really Be Shortages?

So tomorrow is the big day--the Xbox 360 will be dropping into stores for all the people in the US to go buy. They've been saying for weeks now that they're already sold out because of all the pre-orders and such, but I think that there will still be at least a few to pick up at Target or Shopko or whereever you might go to pick one up. Everyone thinks of going to their local Gamestop or Best Buy to buy video game hardware, but department stores and such will also be carrying them.

I remember all the hulabaloo when the PSP was coming out and all the online gaming sites and such said that there wouldn't be enough to go around because there were so many pre-orders and so many people would want to buy them, but the day it came out there were tons to be had at department stores (and even Best Buys) all over the place. I bet it'll be the same with the 360... or at least I hope so because I didn't pre-order one and I don't plan on standing in line for one.

I'll show up at Target tomorrow morning on my way into work and if they have 360's for sale still, I'll buy one. If they don't I'll stop by Gamestop and see if they have any. If not, I'll just wait until there are more available. I'm not that geeky that I need a 360 right away tomorrow. Heck, I'm not even going to buy any 360 games initially. I just can't justify spending $50 - $60 on a game and I have a few Xbox games I need to finish yet.

So... in conclusion, I want a 360, hopefully there will be some available tomorrow, and I plan on using it more for it's other neat capabilities than just gaming initially. The end.

[Update: I guess there really are shortages. Every store here in Rochester was sold out by 8 or 9 am and probably won't be getting any more units in for at least a couple weeks. And, no, I didn't get one. Oh well.]

Friday, November 18, 2005

Humans Make Decent Aliens

I’m kind of a big sci-fi fan. I’ll watch any sci-fi that’s on tv… most of the time and any big budget sci-fi movie that comes out, I’ll give it a watch. That being said, I bought the Earth 2 DVD set because I remembered the show being interesting back when it was originally aired in the 90’s during my early teen years. After watching it again, I realize that it was more the concept that interested me than it was the actual show because after about the first half of the series run, the show went downhill somewhat quickly.

The concept of a group of humans being the aliens on a foreign planet is something that really interested me, which is also what prompted me to throw down the $40 to buy the set to re-watch the episodes. How many sci-fi shows come along that have concepts that actually sound interesting? Not too often. Heck, I’d usually kill just to get more sci-fi on television period, so when a concept tickles my fancy I’m all over it.

What sucks about sci-fi shows, though, are all of the concepts that get used and re-used and re-re-used, sometimes within the same series. This happened to Earth 2 in the second half of its run. For example, I recently watched an episode where nightmares that are being had by numerous crew members are used as a MacGuffin to further the plot onward. This isn’t exactly something new, but I was willing to let it go… then they used the exact same concept in a subsequent episode. There was not even a 5 episode gap between the two. It’s like the writers weren’t even trying.

The alien species to be found on the planet were initially very interesting, but the further into the series you get the more the writers try to explain them and their nature, and the explanations given for many things are often quite eye-rollingly bad. For instance, the planet they’re living on is said to be a living being which has teleportation holes in the ground that act as a “circulation” system. These teleportation ducts are powered by spiders that possess two different energy charges, one for each end of the circulation tunnel… yeah, I’m not making this up, which is not good if you’re trying to write a good, serious sci-fi show.

Another thing is that whenever a hard to explain topic is broached, they don’t actually attempt to explain it… they just chalk it up to the planet or the Terrians (the aliens) operating on a strong metaphysical plane. A strong metaphysical plane? Seriously? That’s not an explanation, that’s an appeal to a gigantic, generalized conceptual notion that actually creates more ambiguity.

One other annoyance is that for supposedly being the first group of settlers sent to this new planet, they sure run across a lot of other humans—penal colonists, space hippie radicals, and other people that had been secretly sent there for some reason or another. It kind of takes away from the whole feeling that this group is all alone on a new planet, cut off from all other human contact.

It’s really unfortunate that this series had to go downhill so quickly after the initial 10 or so episodes. There were so many things that could be done with the conceptual framework they had to work within, but the writers were too lazy or coached to heavily by tv execs or just didn’t know how to do sci-fi. I suppose it might have worked better in today’s environment where meta-arcs are not frowned upon, whereas in the 90’s the networks wanted every episode to be as close to stand alone as possible, but if they had the same writers I think the same problems would persist.

Anyways, if you’re hard up for some sci-fi, this is not a bad DVD set to buy, but it’s nothing groundbreaking or too deep. Basically I’d recommend it to sci-fi fans that don’t take their sci-fi too seriously.

Lazy Start to the Weekend

It's Friday. The weekend is here. I'm almost done with work and I'll have the rest of the day to myself with no worries about having to be up for work tomorrow. It's the day of the week that most people just can't wait for. The day that your weekend starts. So... what do I have on tap for the night?

For the most part, nothing. I might hang out with some friends from the news station when they get off work late tonight, but up until then my schedule is completely open. Now the task is to figure out something to do.

--First I might take a quick 20 minute power nap to refresh myself.
--Since it's not totally freezing out, I'll probably go for a run.
--After that if I still feel ambitious, possibly do a little lifting.
--Shower and get into some comfortable clothes.
--Watch an episode or two of Scrubs.
--Have some supper, most likely a warmed up steak from last night.
--Play some Doom III.
--Do some reading (of the book variety and the comic book variety).
--Lounge and space out.
--Either go out or if I don't feel like it, head off to bed for an early night.
--The end.

How's your Friday stacking up?

Boy Sets Fire - Before the Eulogy CD Review

There are both good things and bad things about having a band you dig get popular in their scene. A few of the good things are that they get more exposure, they get on better tours, and they often get to release more than one cd (with better budgets, the more popular they get). On the other hand, when bands start moving up the ranks they’ll get accused of “selling out” if their sound ever changes, they are more likely to collapse in upon themselves, and labels will try to cash in on their success by releasing utterly horrible rarities compilations.

What we have here presented before us is one of those utterly terrible rarities compilations. Boy Sets Fire were pioneers of the hardcore scene and were also one of the more politically aware bands in the scene. As they became more popular, their sound shifted to encompass more melody and maturity, which led to many fans’ disappointment, but if you really think about it and give their newer material a genuine listen, it feels like a natural progression for the band. In the hopes of appealing to those fans that missed the edgier version of BSF, along with the BSF completists, Eulogy has put together a disc full of demos and early rarities, most of which should have remained in the deep, dank closet that they were no doubt dredged up from.

Most people, oddly enough, don’t realize that when a band starts out, they’re a hell of a lot less talented than later on in their career. Usually a band’s first demos or EP’s are pretty rough and not exactly the best representation of the band or what came later on in their career. The first seven tracks on this cd are very early and REALLY rough demos of BSF songs. The recording quality on most of these sounds worse than a cassette tape that has been copied from a copy that was copied from a copy that was copied from a copy that was copied from a mangled original that was recorded off of the radio. Seriously, these songs are hard on the ears, even the ears of the biggest BSF fans.

Tracks 8 and 9 are from the Consider 7” and sound just as terrible as the demos, which means you’ll be trying to rip your ears from the sides of your head as the disc is spinning. Once you finally get to track 10, if your ears are still attached to your head, you’ll notice a distinct change in the recording quality. Tracks 10 through 14 are from BSF’s Chrysalis EP and are actually pretty ace. These songs are very aggressive and sound like they could have easily been recorded at the same time as After the Eulogy. These four tracks are probably the best songs on this release and they showcase the reason why Victory eventually signed them—they do melodic hardcore with an attitude extremely well, all the while making it also easily digestable.

Tracks 15 and 16 come from the Suckerpunch Training EP. These are also two very solid tracks, showing off some of the mellower elements that would later be showcased on Tomorrow Come Today. It’s too bad, however, that the last four tracks are more assorted demos. Thankfully the recording quality is a slight bit better than the demos at the beginning of the album, but the songs still aren’t all that great and definitely lack the maturity that BSF’s later works had. Sure, you can tell it’s Boy Sets Fire, but these songs are far from being of the same quality of anything else that BSF, or almost any other average melodic hardcore band, recorded.

It’s too bad that this compilation had to be of such low quality because I’m sure there are a lot of BSF fans that would kill for any new material for them, and what they get here are about six good songs and fourteen average to below average songs with atrocious recording quality. It’s really not worth it to buy this disc, even if you are a big BSF fan. Go listen to After the Eulogy a few more times instead, you’ll be less disappointed and have $12 you can spend on something else that deserves your hard earned money.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Game Number Two

The outcome for this week's game wasn't quite as good as last week's. All around I think our team didn't play as well. As the final buzzer rang, the score read 56-37. Not a good score if you ask me, especially since we were on the losing end. It didn't help that we let ourselves dig a hole in the first half by getting down 30-22.

I had a pretty off game myself. A few turnovers, only a couple rebounds, an assist or two, and 6 points doesn't do much to help win a game. Yeah, I realize a game can't be won by a single person, but I always like to make a solid contribution to the team. The game started it's scoring with a 3 pointer by me, but after that I was pretty damn quiet in the scoring category. I couldn't have bought a bucket if I wanted to.

So we're sitting at 1-1 right now, and we won't have a game next week because it's the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Maybe by then I'll have my game somewhat pulled together. After tonight's I stayed for another half hour or so to work on my shot, my dribbling, and doing some sprints. Sure, you can't get better only working a half hour at a time, but I really don't have many options since I don't have a membership to a gym and it's a little bit too cold out to use the outdoor courts. At least I've got something to do. That's what matters most to me.

One Drawback of the Xbox 360

Yes, I will be one of those uber nerds that goes out and buys an Xbox 360 when it comes out on the 22nd. No, I didn't pre-order it and no, I don't plan on waiting in line for one. I plan on going to Best Buy or Target and if they have one, I'll but it. If they're sold out, well, I can wait. No big deal. I don't really plan on buying any 360 games initially anyways because I don't want to pay $50 or $60 per game right off the bat, I'll have already thrown down $400 for the console itself, and I have plenty of Xbox games to play.

So I had a plan--buy a 360 when one's available (hopefully on the 22nd), play the games I already have, give my Xbox to my mom & brother, and everything would be peachy. I was a little bit wrong in thinking I'd get to play all of my current games on the 360, though. The 360 was said to be able to play Xbox games, but apparently it will only play certain ones. They had made note that some games would not work on the 360, but I didn't know they meant around 300 games.

Looking at that list, I came up with 23 games that I won't be able to play on the 360 initially (I'm going to hope that they release ongoing patches to make more games work). Those games are:

*Burnout 3: Takedown
*Crazy Taxi 3
*Dance Dance Revolution
*Dead to Rights
*Deus Ex: Invisible War
*Full Spectrum Warrior
*Guilty Gear X2
*Mad Dash Racing
*Midnight Club II
*Midtown Madness 3
*NBA Street Vol. 2
*Need for Speed Underground
*Second Sight
*Sega GT Online
*Simpsons: Road Rage
*Splinter Cell
*Star Wars: Battlefront
*Unreal Championship
*X2: Wolverine's Revenge
*X-Men Legends
*X-Men: Next Dimension

I can't believe I won't be able to play all of those games. That's over half of all the games I own. Some of these I haven't even started yet but picked them up because Gamestop had a buy 2 get 1 free deal or something. I've been looking forward to playing Deus Ex, Dead to Rights, and Full Spectrum Warrior but won't have the chance.

I will still probably pick up a 360. This won't change things, but it sure does leave me feeling like that promise of backwards compatibility is pretty hollow. I'll have to either sell a bunch of these games, hold on to them in the hopes that someday they'll be playable, or give them to someone with an Xbox. Lame.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Please Don't Crash

Remember the first part of Final Destination where, as the kids get on the plane to fly to France (or wherever they’re going), one of the kids has a premonition that the plane is going to explode?  He gets off along with some of his classmates, who are pretty damn pissed at him, but while they’re bickering the plane they were on, which had just taken off, explodes.  Remember?

I do.  Whenever I think about flying, I remember that scene as well as Die Hard 2, the events of 9/11, and every plane crash that the news has covered and I’ve watched.  I think about the episode of The Twilight Zone when the gremlin was messing with the wing of the plane.  I think about the potentiality for errors when creating and maintaining the planes of our national airlines.  I think about the survival odds of a plane crash.  And then I freak out.

And right now I’m freaking out just a little bit.  I’ve never actually been on a plane in my entire life.  That’s right, in my 24+ years of life I have never been on a plane.  I’ve known that with my line of work I would probably have to fly somewhere sometime, but I kind of just ignored that thought.  Well, time has come for me to lose my flying virginity.

I have meetings with a client in Connecticut on the 1st and 2nd of December and will be flying out there the night of the 30th.  I know you’re all thinking, “Stop being such a pansy-ass wuss, flying is the safest form of travel there is today.”  I realize this.  Really, I do, but it’s the survival percentage of plane crashes that gets to me.  In stark opposition to, say, car crashes the fatality rate of a plane crash is pretty damn close to 100% for the big airliners where you have a pretty decent chance of surviving a car crash.  

I also have issues of trust when it comes to flying.  The reason I like driving or riding in a car with someone I know is that I am responsible for my safety (or the person I know is).  I have the ability to attempt to avoid accidents.  I can also choose who I ride with if I don’t want to drive so that I can ride with someone I trust.  I don’t know plane pilots.  For all I know they could be drunk circus clowns that eat kittens for breakfast and build voodoo dolls of their least favorite NASCAR drivers.  I’ve never had a chance to talk to them in person.

So I have about 15 days until I have to confront one of my biggest fears.  I’m going to try to ignore the fact that I have no choice and will be flying up until the point where I have to start packing for the trip.  Man wasn’t meant to fly, you know.  That’s why we don’t have wings… or rocket feet.

Monday, November 14, 2005

No Diving!

Don't Dive

I saw this urinal in a Davanni's in St. Paul when I was up for the Johnnie/Tommie football game this past weekend. Oh, for those who don't know, the Johnnie/Tommie game is the MIAC division III equivalent of Iowa/Iowa State--the private college MIAC division rivalry to end all rivalries. It's been going on for what seems like forever and every year it is the most attended game of the year, only ocassionaly being outattended by Homecoming.

Anyhow, back to the urinal. The sticker was put on so perfectly that it actually looked like it was manufactured with it on there. On top of that, I was partially amazed and partially glad that the staff at Davanni's was cool enough to leave it on there instead of taking it off. I'm sure there's been plenty of people other than me that have had a good chuckle over it, and I'm also sure that there's probably been other crazy people like me who have taken a picture of it.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Best Christmas Present Ever

Sometimes you run across certain things that you know would just be perfect for someone as a Christmas present. Maybe you see the perfect snowman centerpiece for your grandmother, or the next great powertool for your dad, or that extremely tasteful picture of yourself in the nude for your next door neighbor. You know what I'm talking about.

Well, while wasting time browsing the internet this morning in an attempt to keep my mind from turning into work related mush, I found the perfect Christmas present that you could give to anyone you know -- five pounds of silly putty.

I used to play with this stuff all the time at my grandma and grandpa's place when I was a kid. There was just so much you could do with it. Stretch it out and press it against a newspaper to get the mirror image of something and then you could distort it to your heart's delight. When you get sick of that, you could roll it into a ball and bounce it off the walls. If that starts to lack fun, roll it out into a long, hot dog shaped cord and use it to whip your siblings. Once the novelty of that wears off, or once your siblings run away crying, you can... uhh... start all over again!

Now remember, I was having all this fun with a little nugget of silly putty. Imagine all the fun you could have with FIVE POUNDS of it. You could copy an entire newspaper and still have room to spare. You could make a ball big enough to break through walls instead of bouncing off of them. And you could probably break your siblings' legs with a five pound cord.

So if you can't think of something to get someone for Christmas, just go get them a big ol' piece of silly putty. They'll love you forever. I mean, come on, look at it!!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I Hate Myself

As I was out for my evening run (to help stave off the fatness that has started growing throughout my lazy ass body), I got to thinking about why I exercise.  It’s gotten to be so much of a regular thing I wonder why I keep up with it.  Some days… well, a lot of days, I really don’t feel like going for a run or lifting or anything else physical, but I still do it.

And I do it because when I look in the mirror in the mornings, I hate what I see.  Now I can already hear a bunch of you thinking, “You really need to learn to like yourself.  It’s not healthy to dislike how you look.  That isn’t a good thing.”  To you naysayers, I say you are wrong.

When I think about it, if I were to look at myself in the mirror and love what I see, where would the motivation to better myself be?  Sure, I might still want to improve my looks a little or keep myself looking like I currently do, but there wouldn’t be that drive to strive for more, to dig deep and run that extra mile, to do that extra set of push ups, or to actually get off your ass to exercise in the first place.

I know that if I liked how I looked I’d be way too complacent in my exercise schedule.  It’s the hate that drives me.  It’s looking in the mirror and seeing that I don’t have a six pack any more.  It’s catching a glance of ass and thinking it’s too round and jiggly.  It’s touching my arms and feeling that they’re not rock hard.  These things make me angry and my anger fuels the fire of self improvement.

The only problem that I’ve experienced lately is that I have the fire.  I have the hate.  I just don’t have the fortitude to do anything about it.  To say that my life has been a jumbled up ball of stress would be like saying Carrot Top is only kind of annoying or that Tara Reid is only a little bit of a whore.  As I try to deal with that stress, I often find that I let myself fume and/or sulk instead of applying the stresses of my life to pushing myself even harder.

Along with the above problem, I also find that I eat a heck of a lot more when I get stressed out.  It’s always been that way for me.  Finals week in college I could always expect to put on about 5-10 pounds because I’d dive into my studies so hard that I’d not exercise and then the added stress would lead me to constantly eat and eat and eat and eat… and then eat some more.

With basketball starting this week, I’m trying to make an active effort to be even better about exercising and trying to eat normal portions of good food.  The hate that I feel for my looks has grown and grown over the last few weeks and it’s starting to reach a point where I won’t even want to look in the mirror any more.  

It’s time to run that extra mile, put down that bag of jalapeño chips, and let the hate fuel me.  It’s time to look good again.  It’s time for me to get motivated and give the finger to the fat that so expertly infests my body.  It’s on.

Game Number One

And the season has started!  My winter basketball league is now underway. Our first game was last night and we closely pulled out a win.  The final score was 38-37 and it could have gone either way at the end.  Thankfully we managed to hold off a late surge from the opposing team.

Just by watching, you’d be able to tell that we’re all pretty rusty.  Shots were off, dribbling was sometimes sloppy, and our team dynamics definitely were not in sync, but part of the reason for that is we’ve never played together as a team before.  We’ve all played in the past, just not as a team.

Anyways, the first 5 minutes of the game were really rough.  I think there was a total of 3 points scored in that amount of time.  Things eventually got rolling, however, and we came into halftime with a 20-16 lead.  We had a strong showing coming out of halftime and put ourselves up by 6 when there was under a minute left to go.  A combination of our sloppy offense (I was responsible for one turnover) and a couple of good shots from the opponents let them slide back into the game.  It also didn’t help that we couldn’t make a free throw to save our lives.

In the end, though, we still won.  38 was a pretty low score, though.  Even high school girls basketball games sometimes score higher.  Personally I had an ok game.  There’s definitely room for improvement as I had a couple of turnovers and some dumb fouls, but I was surprised by the parts of my game that were still there.  I had 9 points, which isn’t exactly lighting up the scorebook, but if not for a couple of offensive rebounds and a steal, I’d have only had 3.  

I fired up 3 shots from behind the arc and hit 1.  Not terrible, but I should be hitting 2 out of every 3.  One basket I got from a steal that I took in for a layup.  The other four points came from two offensive rebounds I put back.  The odd part about that is I’m not even close to being the tallest guy on our team and the guys on the other team were at least as tall as me.  A little bit of luck to be in the right place at the right time always helps.

Well, let’s hope that the rest of the year gets better as we get going.  I know I have a lot of improving that I want to do and I’d like to get up into averaging double digit scoring every game.  I also wish that gym memberships around here weren’t so damn expensive so I could practice somewhere other than the outdoor court at the park in our subdivision.  It’s going to be snowed over pretty soon…  

What really matters is that I finally got back to playing some competitive sports here in Rochester.  Softball this last summer, basketball now, and hopefully volleyball in the winter/spring.  Man, I love sports.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

It's the Ads!

I’m a bit of a nerd and dork at heart.  Right now I’m watching Earth 2 in my spare time (an underground sci-fi favorite), playing Doom III on Xbox, and every night before I go to bed I read a few comic books.  I sound more like a college or high school kid instead of the grown-up mid-20’s business person that I am.

Every month I throw down around $75 on comics.  Sometimes more, sometimes less.  I’ve recently started moving more to reading original graphic novels and indie comics as opposed to comics that come from Marvel, the #1 comics publisher in the game right now, which I used to get most of my comics from. Part of me is doing this because I get a real kick out of the varied types of stories that indie publishers put out.  Another part is that I enjoy having an entire story in one volume instead of waiting for multiple issues to get the entire thing.  Lastly, I’m giving up on a lot of mainstream comics because of the ads.

That’s right, it’s the ads.  They’re getting to the point where they’re just utterly obnoxious and there are more pages of ads then story in your average Marvel comic.  David Hine points out in this month’s iteration of his Yakkity Yak column.  For a regular 22 page story, there is 27 pages of ads.  That’s just not acceptable.  And it’s also pretty damn hard to ignore.

I hate reading current Marvel comics because the flow is so scattershot and you’re constantly being bombarded with ads that it’s pretty hard to stay into the story.  At times it feels like you bought a catalog that has a small story in it to make your browsing for stuff “fun”.  

What’s really attractive about Image and many of the smaller indie publishers is that they have the story printed on 22 or so straight pages and then have advertisements at the end of the comic.  This way the story flows like the writers and artists intended and a reader feels like they’re getting a full story without having to suffer through ad after ad just to get to the next page of the story.

So in the end, I guess what I’m trying to say is that advertisements are fine and I know they are essential to keeping the price of comics reasonable, but it’s unacceptable to have more pages of ads than story, and to have stories so broken up by ads that they’re almost unreadable.  And Marvel wonders why people are switching over to reading trade paperbacks instead of the monthlies… they don’t have to deal with all the damn ads.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Shenoah - Bleeding in the Red CD Review

Upon initially listening to this five song EP, Bleeding in the Red you might not notice it, but Shenoah manage to cover a lot of rock and metal bases. I’m sure instead, when you first listen to this EP, you’ll probably let your ears go lax, focus on whatever thing you’re doing while listening to it, and inadvertently play these guys off as another wannabe radio friendly metal band. Don’t. Actually listen to them and you’ll find a band that could potentially go in any one of bunch of different directions.

Truth be told the first song is pretty basic. It follows your melodic radio rock template, but in the middle of it, to give the listener something a little different and slightly out of left field, the vocals change from singing to spoken word (much in the vein of MewithoutYou). It’s a bit jarring and doesn’t exactly feel like it fits, but at least they’re trying to do something different, unlike most of their peer group.

“Bullets and Numbers” and “Ashes to Ashes”, crazily enough, have an interesting Spineshank tone to them. Not the speedy, uptempo Spineshank that you’ll initially think of mind you, but instead the more slowed down, yet aggressive Spineshank that only showed up on a couple of songs on each of their releases. The songs have both energy and melody, combined in a natural manner, which comes in stark contrast to the majority of the bands in today’s melodic metal scene. Come to think of it, “Ashes to Ashes” would probably tear up on the radio if given the chance since it’s just that damn catchy and well crafted.

“Scent of a Dead Rose” is easily the most aggressive song on this release with its crunchy and punchy guitars and guttural screams. There’s still plenty of melody in the choruses, which is not a bad thing as a straight up, full on scream fest would feel pretty damn out of place on this record.

The final song “Telephone Bruises” has a punky pace, some hardcore inspired gang vocals, more screams, a lot of melodic vocals, and thick yet smooth guitars. This is the most diverse song of the disc and serves as the perfect closer to the EP. Basically it rolls together all of the elements that were on display throughout the first four songs and crams them into four minutes.

I’d be hard pressed to say that Shenoah are going to break the melodic nu-metal genre wide open again, but I’d also be speaking a complete fallacy if I told you that this isn’t one hell of a fun EP to listen to. In fact, it does exactly what an EP is supposed to do—it makes you want to hear more.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Working Remotely

Everyone hates to go in to work, unless you're one of the very few people who love their job, in which case you must be either a professional athlete or porn star (watch as my site hits now go through the roof just for mentioning porn). I know I usually dread having to make my way into the office every day of the week, even though it's only an 8 minute drive.

I would much rather still be on the college style of schedule. Only a couple of hours of set class time (these could be my client meetings and conference calls) and then the rest of the time is yours to use however you see fit, as long as you get your crap done. I really enjoyed that freedom and I wish I still had it.

With a job such as mine where most of what I do is not something that has to be done from the hours of 8 to 5, I would love to be able to just work whenever I want and from whereever I want. I love being able to just go to Panera or Caribou, order coffee, and work in an environment filled with people. Then I have other days where I'd like to work completely alone in the comfort of my basement with either death metal or punk blaring.

The office, in my opinion, is becoming an outdated concept. It is still needed for some things, such as meetings and team projects, but for the day to day stuff I really don't have a reason I need to be chained to my cubicle. Hell, I'd like to travel across the midwest and work from a new location every day. Can you imagine how awesome that would be? With internet hotspots just about everywhere it's not like this would be impossible.

I wonder what most managers would think of that idea--of working remotely from different locations. I wouldn't think it would matter as long as the employee still got what they needed to have done done, but I'm also guessing it's too progressive of an idea for most managers to actually contemplate, especially if they don't truly trust that said employee will be capable of getting their workload finished. It's a thought, though, one that hopefully I might actually be able to make a reality some day.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Alien Ant Farm Sucks. This is Truth.

I always get a big kick out of message board antics, especially since I'm a moderator and admin for Decoy's message board. There are always those people who use message boards to blindly perpetuate their point of view without even examining it, like the religious or political zealots that do nothing more than spew their opinions out at the viewing masses and put down anyone who has a sane and rational point of view.

I've found that over time, as I've moderated a music message board, that instead of religious and political zealots, you get the indie/obscure zealot and the mainstream zealot. They are two very distinct types of people that will clash at every turn, like two beta fish in the same bowl.

The first, the indie/obscure zealot thinks that anything that is even moderately popular is not good. It can't be good because the uneducated masses enjoy it and the indie zealot has such impeccable taste in comparison to the masses that it is then wrong to like music that is popular. I tend to tolerate these types of people more than the mainstream zealots because, for the most part, what is mainstream is usually watered down, manufactured donkey poop, but at times there is some good stuff that is popular.

The second, the mainstream zealot, is usually the most annoying persona on a music message board. They are the ones who openly digest all of the crap that is fed to them on the radio without exploring other musical sources. They're the Clear Channel zombies that buy into the ideas that are forced down their throats.

Since we're a rock/indie/punk/metal based music site, this means that we usually get the radio rock mainstream zealots. You know the type, the backwater hick who cranks Nickelback, Limp Bizkit, and Kid Rock from the factory speakers of their 1987 Ford F150. Either that or upper class, spoiled brats who think they've got the best taste in the known world if they pick up the latest feature band at Hot Topic because, man, that store is just so edgy.

Recently on Decoy we posted a track from the latest Alien Ant Farm cd. Needless to say, it was pretty bad. If you've never heard of them, let's just say that Alien Ant Farm are cut from the same cookie cutter mold as 9 out of every 10 bands on modern rock radio--rock just hard enough so that your grandparents will think you're a rebel, but catchy enough to be able to be listened to by your Abercrombie friends as you drive to the mall.

When we posted that track, most of the regulars on the site gave their thoughts on the song, which ranged from "this is pretty bad" to "oh my God, I'd rather listen to a cat hacking up a hairball". Lo and behold, though, eventually some Alien Ant Farm zealots found out we were ripping up their idols, and that could not stand.

So they started posting about how Alien Ant Farm is one of the most talented bands out there which, I can guarantee you, is undeniably false. They even got their undies in so much of a bunch that they started a thread on their fan board about how Decoy and, more specifically, yours truly had no taste in music, as well as just straight up insulting me because they lack the intelligence to actual tell anyone why Alien Ant Farm is supposedly so good.

I sure got a good laugh out of how much they got so uptight as soon as their favorite band of the moment got insulted, or more accurately, got adequately described. So, in conclusion, some people are just really, really dumb and will defend even the stupidest crap at times... like that sorry excuse for a band Alien Ant Farm.