Thursday, March 31, 2005

Browsing Through Old Posts

I'm pretty confident that no one has noticed that I've slowly but surely been putting all of the archives back onto this site. Ever since my host deleted everything prior to November of last year, I've been torn as to if I should put everything back up again, which would take a good chunk of time, or just let it all fade away, never to be read again. I decided against leaving it gone.

The first project I undertook was putting all of my photo albums up online again. Thankfully, after using a wonderful album creation utility, JAlbum, I managed to get all of my pictures back up as well as organizing them in a decent fashion. All of my albums are accessable through the link over on your right (or if you need even more guidance, through this link). Thinking that it was going to be a tremendous pain in the ass to sift through all of my photos on my PC and organize them, I dreaded the task. When I finally settled down into my extremely comfortable faux leather desk chair to get to work, I actually found that it wasn't so bad. Having the chance to look back through all of my photos was actually a ton of fun. There were so many things that I'd forgotten I had pictures of and a lot of things that I didn't remember I did. Seeing how I've changed over time was also quite a hoot, even though I now end up wishing I was still in as good of shape as I was during my sophomore and junior years of college.

Once I managed to get all of my photo albums uploaded, the next task was getting all of the blog archives back. This would be a little big of a chore, and will continue to be a chore until I have all of them finally integrated into the site. As it stands now, I only have the archives from the establishment of this site way back in 2002 up until the end of July in 2003 up, but I'm slowly working on putting them all in there when I get a free moment or two at work and when Blogger decides it actually wants to work, which hasn't been very often as of late.

Reading through my archives as I post them is also a blast. I usually have enough time to read one post while another is publishing thanks to Blogger's extremely slow posting speeds. Two things are very apparent as I go through everything I used to write--I was a terrible writer and I was a lot more opinionated than I am now. In comparison to my current writing style, which I know could still use some work, all of my older posts feel as if they penned by a 16 year old who thought he was the king of the world. Some of them are even a little embarassing to read, especially now that I notice how lame most of the stuff I talked about was. The tendency to to talk about "dorky" subjects abounds, which isn't a bad thing necessarily since I still talk about that same type of stuff, but I always would have to make a self-deprecating remark about it. Every time I see a sentence where I refer to my inherant nerdiness or geekiness, I want to pull my hair out in frustration.

The extreme opinionating tone that I take when talking about anything even remotely political or controversial is also quite maddening. I never used to take the time to examine the facts of a situation and would instead simply lash out or take a stance only on my gut feeling. There are actually a couple of posts that I ran across that I'm not reposting because I no longer feel the way I used to and the justifications I used for what I felt back then were paper thin... if that.

I hope that in going through my archives, I'm learning to recognize what it is that I hate in my writing so that I can avoid it in the future, as well as spice up my style a little in order to keep it from getting too stale, as I often see it doing throughout the archives. One other neat thing about having all of these posts back is that I've noticed I'm getting a ton more search engine hits for interesting and sometimes weird word combinations, and that's totally awesome in my book.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Concert Going Folk

Attending a concert of a well known metal band is always an interesting experience. The sheer amount of different types of people that come out to the show usually blows my mind and I'll sometimes find myself paying less attention to the music and more attention to the people around me. Where else can you find such an eclectic, yet similar, group of people?

After Jared and I had finished out interview with Mudvayne's drummer, Matt, last night headed over to the lines that were forming outside the doors to the Roy Wilkins Auditorium, the venue the concert would be taking place at. Immediately I was assaulted by so many comical characters that I had trouble controlling my laughter. How people can dress and act like they do at heavy metal concerts is beyond me. Not all of the people there are complete and utter laugh-out-loud tools, but the good majority are.

As I was sitting in line, a group of two guys and a girl walked by. One guy was of average build and the girl was a tad bit overweight, but the third really stood out--he was huge, not fat huge, but I could rip you in half with the power in my biceps huge. His hair hung in long locks down to his shoulders and he walked with a permanent grimace on his face. Usually a guy like this is someone who I'd avoid and be deathly afraid of if met in an alley during the late hours of the night, but instead of timidly averting my gaze from him, I chuckled to myself. He was wearing a blazing pink t-shirt that proclaimed "Tough Guys Wear Pink".

Once inside the venue Jared and I moved to the front of the crowd so that we were standing amongst the group of people right up against the front barrier by the stage. We ended up in the second row of people and in the hour's worth of time we waited for the concert to begin, we encountered a good share of interesting folks, including a group of four guys who looked to be in their early thirties and who were so drunk that you wondered how they managed to keep standing.

One of the more talkative guys in the group came up and started talking to Jared and myself. I tried as hard as I could to keep myself competely turned away from him since I had no desire to talk to some old-ass dude who was intent on sharing his knowledge of the "hardcore" music scene by telling me about how one time he got spat on by Rob Zombie's guitarist and that Metallica are the most "hardcore" band he's ever seen. In fact, he proceeded to name a slew of utterly crappy nu-metal and 80's metal bands that he'd seen all the while calling them "hardcore" and claiming that he was a verteran of the music genre. When asked what he thought of Bloodsimple and American Head Charge, two of the opening bands that evening he professed that he'd never heard of them. He was just there to take in the "hardcore" scene. He was later seen being overtaken with his fascination of a balloon he found.

Another of the guys in this group ended up being a real pain in the ass almost the entire show. He was so drunk that he could not stand up on his own and once the crowd started moving forward, he just leaned right up agains Jared and myself. Not wanting to be complete assholes, we kindly asked him to try and stand. I don't think he understood us. Later during the show, we tried to throw him off of us, but the combination of there not really being any room to move up in the front of the crowd and his being built like a linebacker made it next to impossible to really get him far enough from us. Since he was drunk, annoying the hell out of us, and just being a pain to everyone around, another kid along with myself took it upon ourselves to make him understand how much of a jerk he was being. We accomplished this through a series of sucker punches, a few elbows to the face and back, and a good clap on the ears followed by vigorous head shaking to get his attention. Later I also helped to guide a crowd surfer's kicks into the side of his head. I'm not sure if it got through to him or not that we didn't like him, but if it didn't, it wasn't from lack of trying.

Not everyone that I dealt with yesterday was laughable or a waste of perfectly breathable air. I actually met a couple, Zach and Nina, in the throng of people that accumulated at the front of the crowd. They were both quite friendly and thankfully not drunk. I actually ended up talking with both of them quite a bit throughout the show, which I usually don't do. It wasn't always about music either. One of the more interesting topics that I ended up talking about Nina with was what exactly was attractive in a man. According to her guys that are chiseled in muscle just aren't attractive. They can't be fat either, but somewhat thick is nice. Hairy men are bad, especially if they have a slab of carpet found on their chest. Personality and shared interests are a must.

It seems like the more girls I talk to, the more I find out that they actually don't like muscular men. I'm still unconvinced, though, since girls are always found to be drooling over the hot, cut, and well built men that they see. I'm wondering if it's one of those things similar to when guys tell girls that they don't actually like seeing girls make out with each other when deep down, they really do. Girls might actually dig the hunky guys but don't want to offend their boyfriends (or any potential boyfriends) by saying they prefer muscles to the somewhat flabby exterior of who they're currently dating.

While on the topic of girls, there were a couple of girls at the show who thought it was their God-given mission to show their boobs to the bands, and in doing so the entire crowd. Usually I wouldn't complain about girls up on guys shoulders taking their shirts off, but last night the girls who did were, how can I put this somewhat nicely... not thin? Husky? Lacking in the skinny department? Possessing bigger fat pouches on their sides then on their chests? I guess there really isn't a nice way to put it after all. Just so everyone knows, it's not attractive or sexy for fat girls to show off their wholly unimpressive breasts to a rock concert crowd.

I'm not even going to make note of all the annoying little kids that were there because that's become a staple of any show I go to these days. They infest concerts like cockroaches infest a 90 year old wood house in the deep south. They do provide nice targets in the mosh pits, though...

You know, if you've never been to a rock or metal concert, you owe it to yourself to go just to see the myriad of weird and sometimes interesting people that frequent them. I know I'm routinely fascinated.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Cardinal Effect - Red Light Carousel CD Review

Relationships often create some rather interesting situations, if not more than a few downright scary ones. When it comes to human experiences, there really isn’t anything else out there that can make you feel just about every existing feeling throughout the entire emotional spectrum. More often than not you’ll find yourself confronted with conflicting and seemingly contradictory feelings simultaneously, and often you won’t know why you are feeling the way that you are. It’s not very easy to explain why you want to throw your significant other down a long flight of stairs while at the same time wanting to rip his or her clothes off before making out like you just got out of prison. Relationships are just odd that way.

The Cardinal Effect’s Red Light Carousel will illicit many of the same quirky emotional combinations of a relationship throughout its 10 track run. In deciding what it feels like to listen to Red Light Carousel, the best comparison that comes to mind is feeling like you’ve been punched in the face by your girlfriend right before she eases the pain she caused, leading you to be angry all the while loving her for being so damn caring.

The first couple of songs start the disc off with a thundering bang. “The Afterparty” and “Fistula” are two crunchy, scream laden, metal tracks that will bludgeon you with the force of a brick thrown at your head… but a brick with a few melodic layers of padding around it to cut down on the damage. After being hit so hard, timidity will slowly overcome you in expectation of an even more thorough beating, which is definitely coming, but won’t happen right away. “Cottonstar” starts off even more intense than the previous tracks, but it slowly morphs into an emotionally charged, melodic metal affair. Confused, you prepare for the next track, expecting the brief respite to be over and the pummeling to continue. Oddly enough, the next two tracks take on a decidedly emocore feel that was hinted at in “Cottonstar”, showcasing the tender, yet aggressive side of the band.

“Press Your Eyes” starts off the second half of the disc with a passionate, melodic embrace—the equivalent of a kiss form your lover that says “I’m sorry for ever hurting you.” After having been both hurt and consoled, your relationship takes on a more mature attitude, much like the three songs leading up to the final track. They are all melodic metal masterpieces punctuated by a periodic scream to show that despite the smooth sailing, everything can’t always go smoothly. On the final track, “Prevention,” the disc reaches its climax with an unleashing of a torrent of pent up rage that has been left to build throughout the last half of the release.

Upon completion of the disc, much like the end of a relationship, you’ll appreciate what has gone before you knowing that all of it might not have been great, but for the most part you know it was a wonderful experience. You also realize that you’d go through it all again and, in fact, you know you want to go through it again because, despite the conflicting and often confusing emotions, the experience was a beautiful thing.

Monday, March 28, 2005

A Quick Smattering of Info

Over on the Photos page, I posted a new gallery. These photos are from a visit to my aunt & uncle's place a couple of weeks back. We went to the science museum and spent the afternoon at their place. It was a nice day to relax and see them since we don't have many opportunities to.

Tomorrow I'm headed to the cities to see Mudvayne, Life of Agony, Bloodsimple, and American Head Charge. I also get to interview Matt of Mudvayne with Jared before the show, so that should be fun.

I spent over four hours at church yesterday for Easter services. It was a good chunk of time, but it didn't seem overly long.

Watching the trailers for Sin City and reading the glowing reviews is making me salivate. I cannot wait to see it this weekend.

It's really nice out today, probably like 60 degrees, so I'm having a hard time concentrating on work.

AudioScrobbler continues to be a fascination of mine lately as I'm obsessed with what everyone is listening to. Sign up and add me (rmgebhardt) as a friend.

I'm over halfway through reading Douglas Adam's Starship Titanic and it's easily as good as any of his Hitchhiker novels.

Apparently some people on the Decoy boards think I might be cute, which always helps the self esteem out a little.

I ate too much candy.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Easter Egg Hunt

About five or so years ago my family went down to Chicago to visit some family friends for Easter. The mother and father of the family we went to visit were friends of my parents and we would get together with them at least once or twice a year. As of about 2 or so years ago we stopped, however, because they split up, the dad married someone half his age, the divorce got really sloppy, one of the kids moved out on his own, and it was just a sticky situation all around. That doesn't really have anything to do with my story, but I always think about it when I think about them. Seeing a family fall apart is one of the more tragic incidents to witness.

As we were down visiting our family friends, it was agreed that we'd do an Easter egg hunt. The Easter eggs would be hard boiled eggs that we would decorate the night before Easter. The mothers got to work boiling two dozen eggs while the dads talked about dad things and the kids sat around watching tv as kids like to do.

Once the eggs were done boiling, everyone was given a couple to paint in whatever manner desired. I can't recall exactly what I drew on mine, but I'm pretty sure it was just some random color combinations because I can't draw for crap. Honestly, my coloring job looked worse than that of my little brother and the youngest kid of the family we were staying with, but I'm not that bitter about my lack of artistic abilities... really, I'm not... stupid hands...

In the morning before all of us kids got up, the parents hid the eggs for us to find. Dads, acting like dads decided to hide the eggs in crazy hard places so that we had to scour the premises for hours to find all of the eggs. Even after the many hours of searching, we only managed to find 23 eggs. Since we'd all tired of looking for eggs and wanted to eat lunch, we appealed to the dads to go find where it was they had hid this egg that not any of us could find. Turns out that they hid it so good they couldn't even find it again.

We all gave up on that last egg and figured it would show up eventually. We ate lunch, enjoyed each other's company, and when it came time my family drove back to Minnesota. Life got back to normal and the memory of the missing egg slipped away.

The next year we went back down to the same family's house to celebrate Easter once again. We colored another two dozen hard boiled eggs. The dads again hid them in the most devious places they could find. The kids searched for the hidden eggs for hours and before lunch the search was again called off. There was a difference this year, however. When we were counting how many eggs we'd found so that the dads would know how many they had yet to find, we tallied up 25 eggs...

Friday, March 25, 2005


I've seen different plug-ins, websites, and services that attempt to track what someone listens to and then displays it on a website or in a signature on a message board or sends the statistics somewhere. I've tried out a couple over the years and none of them have been all that great. I know that everyone and their mother and their sixth cousin twice removed is jumping on the podcasting bandwagon, but I don't really care for iTunes, iPods, or anything iRelated so I tend to shy away from it. Jared pointed me to a very cool alternative, however. It is called AudioScrobbler and I think I have finally found the perfect music tracking interface that I've been looking for.

The AudioScrobbler website has you create an account that will track your listening habits. To have your habits input into their database you simply have to download a plug-in for just about any music playing program that exists, well not every program, but it covers every program you should be using. If you use MusicMatch or RealPlayer or iTunes or something equally as terrible, you're out of luck when it comes to AudioScrobbler. Come to think of it though, I'm glad people using those programs aren't a part of AS's database as I'm sure anyone lame enough to be using them probably also has a terrible taste in music.

Once you create a profile and AS has done a significant amount of tracking it will form your own personal internet radio channel that other people can tune into. I've found this feature to be really awesome when used in tandem with one of the other features of the site--finding other users with similar tastes. As AS analyzes your listening patterns, it will find other users with similar tastes and make them known to you. You can then check out that user's stats and listen to their personal internet radio station. Given enough time and tracking you could create quite the interconnected network of users with similar tastes.

I've only started using it today so I don't have my own personal radio channel formed yet (AS needs to track at least 300 song plays, but they don't have to be unique, there just needs to be 300 of them). I'm using the Winamp plug-in and you don't even know it's running. There is no change to the way that Winamp looks or works other than the initial dialogue box you use to input your username and password. If you would like, however, from the plug-ins menu, you can access the log file of the plug-in's actions. Since it is a relatively simple reporting interface plug-in, the resources it uses is almost nil and the amount of bandwidth it uses is also tiny.

I'm currently trying to figure out a way to use the RSS feed of your most recently played songs that AS generates and display it on this site. There's a ton of PHP scripts, but my host doesn't have the PHP extensions I need to use them so I'm looking at some of the ASP scripts. There's a whole ton of different scripts to be found on AS's wiki page that you can make use of.

If you're at all interested, my AudioScrobbler page can be found here and my recently played songs RSS feed is here. If you use AudioScrobbler at all or sign up for it, leave your username in the comments so I can add you into my group and see what you listen to.

[update: Apparently AudioScrobbler does work with iTunes]

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Photoshop Conference

Yesterday I spent the entire day at a photoshop conference in Minneapolis. I almost didn't find the convention center it was at, though, thanks to Yahoo's wonderful driving directions. They need to do some updating because it gave me the wrong street name to turn onto so I had to drive around the sprawling lot of hotels and convention centers that are littered around the Mall of America until I finally found it.

Since I've never had any formal training on how to use photoshop, I figured it was time I actually went somewhere to have an actual teacher show me how to do stuff. I did end up learning a lot during the conference's 5 sessions, but how much of it I'll actually remember is yet to be found out. You could tell that this conference was mainly for people in the advertising and print business since a lot of the examples, especially the color correcting and color sampling ones, were geared towards becoming print standard compliant. That's all fine and good if you're in the print industry, but all of the photoshop work that I do is for web design, page mock-ups, and digital photography.

Not everything was geared towards the print industry, and even some of the examples that were I could see ways that they could be applied to the web world or to digital photography in general. What was most applicable for me were some of the examples on techniques for selection methods. The stupid magic wand tool in photoshop is a joke for cutting out images, but I've never known a better way to do it. I now know a much better way using color channels and thresholds to get a much more defined (and halo-less) cutout.

It's always great to see someone actually going through the steps to performing a certain action, especially with a program as complicated as photoshop, as opposed to reading the steps in a book or tutorial. Now remembering everything, especially some of the more complicated routines that we were taught, is a real pain. Thankfully, our instructor put all of his notes up on the web in PDF format so that we can revisit them down the road. In case you want to see some of the stuff we went over, you can visit our instructor's site here.

It's a lot different reading through a tutorial after you've seen someone doing it instead of just looking at a tutorial and trying to simulate it yourself. One thing I did notice about the examples that were used, and the examples that are ususally used in classes, is how obvious they are. For example, the example that was given for using the color thresholds to make a more precise cutout consisted of two yellow flowers againt blue sky. It would have been better if maybe the photo used wasn't so obvious. Use a picture of a kid taken against a bustling city environment or something. Most photos that I'm going to be working with won't be as perfect as a bright flower against a uniform background.

Anyways, I'm anxious to tool around with photoshop on some of my mom's professional digital pics at home and see what I can do. No doubt it'll be much, much harder than our instructor made everything out to be, but the only way I'm going to get a lot better is by practice, and I need a lot of practice as evidenced by the craptacular banner at the top of the page I put together before I went to the conference.

The Crap I Instant Message

Johnny: You know what you should do? You should post the copeland review on Decoy.
Me: it isn't out until next week, tho....
Me: .....but if you want, sure
Johnny: its out this week
Johnny: march 22
Me: you sure? weird. on amazon it said the 29th, so that's when i earmarked it in my inbox. stupid amazon
Johnny: ya, its the 22
Me: but.... why would Amazon lie to me? doesn't she love me any more? Why, Amazon, WHY?
Johnny: kick her to the curb
Me: If only it were that easy. i still have credit to use in her....
Johnny: she's just playin ya man
Me: *sniff* you think so?
Johnny: i know so
Me: I really thought she might be the one, you know. With her constant discounts, tipjar feature, and stocking everything I could ever need.....
Me: I just don't know if I'll ever find anyone else that has all of those things.
Johnny: someday...when you least expect it
Me: Yeah, I suppose you're right. And besides, that Barnes & Noble website was looking kinda hot the last time I saw her
Johnny: and she's good in bed i hear
Me: well, as long as she hasn't gotten around too much
Johnny: well, i hear she's kinda dirty tho

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Daisy Kutter Contest Winner

Well this is the second time I've had to write this out because Blogger sucks more than an army of black holes all sucking in unison with as much sucking power as they can possibly use... on steroids... and with the help of a neighboring army of black holes sucking along with them... on even more steroids... and possessing special, magical super-suck powers. Yeah, Blogger sucks more than that.

Anyhow, the winner of the Daisy Kutter contest is Colleen MacIsaac. Congratulations!

In my last post I did a big analysis that was partially tongue-in-cheek and partially serious and I thought it was neat, but Blogger screwed me and I don't feel like writing it again, so here's a pie chart of how the votes broke down (click on the image for a larger version):

Monday, March 21, 2005

Over It - Silverstrand CD Review

Pop punk, in the minds of many music critics, is one of the throwaway genres—a genre filled with easily digestible, and even more easily forgotten, bands. The majority of the time, this actually is probably the best way to classify the genre. Simply look at some of the best sellers in the genre over the last few years—Good Charlotte, Simple Plan, New Found Glory, and Bowling for Soup to name a few—and you’ll immediately notice that there is very little substance to be found in the trendsetters of this genre. Occasionally, however, you might find a band or release that transcends the default sucktitude and trappings of this genre, but it doesn’t happen very often. Over It try extremely hard to rise above the tripe that passes as music in the pop punk genre, but unfortunately they only half succeed in their efforts.

In comparison to the aforementioned bands, Over It are musical gods, but that’s not saying much, now is it? Instead of creating saccharine sweet, tooth decaying crap, Over It have actually managed to pull off a decently mature pop punk sound. It should be noted, though, that when I say mature, I’m only talking within the confines of the pop punk musical subdivision. If we were comparing Over It to some of the non-throwaway genres out there, they’d be taking a beating that not even the most masochistic among us would want to watch, so for their sake let’s only examine this cd in the isolation of the pop punk genre.

There are definitely a decent share of weak moments to be found on this release, a few examples being the hopelessly lame intro song, the unnecessary and stupid as all hell background keys on “Chef Yan,” and the sometimes cheesy lyrics (complete with “Oooohhhs” to fill some of the spaces in the songs). Yes, I do know that Over It’s lyrics are actually much more mature than what comes from the majority of their peers, but it’s still a little hard to take anything the band has to say too seriously. Beyond these weaknesses, however, you will find some gargantuan hooks that will reel you in with every listen and a good share of vocals so melodic and sing-a-long-ish that you’ll be humming right along in no time, if not outright singing along with them. The cynic in response might ask, “So what? Even the crappy pop punk bands have big hooks and melodic vocals.”

The difference, and this is the difference that keeps Over It out of the pop punk cesspool, so it’s important, is that the hooks and vocals on Silverstrand are not simply manufactured, slapped together junk—the content of this disc actually feels like it was put together by a band that knows how to write a song. It might not be noticeable upon first listen, but Over It can write catchy songs all on their own, unlike some other similar bands, and they can do it with minimal amounts of cliché usage. This is what separates them from the rest of the garbage being put out by their peers.

Silverstrand is not a perfect cd, though—not by a long shot. It’s also not a perfect pop punk cd, but right now it’s probably the best you’re going to find coming out of this genre. So if you crave something poppy, something punky, and not full of suck, then this release is definitely the way to go.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

I Totally Killed the Odds!

On February 17th Microsoft recalled all of the power cords for Xboxes that were manufactured before October 23, 2003 as every 1 in 10,000 cords has been found to cause the Xbox it is hooked up to to start on fire or have an electronic breakdown within the unit. You can read Microsoft's press release here.

I didn't know about this recall until I received a letter in the mail last week from Microsoft telling me that I needed to replace my power cord. I was really busy at work last week so I never called, but I planned on doing it this week sometime. Friday, after my brothers woke up, I found out about a birthday present that I didn't necessarily want.

While I was at the Quest Thursday night, my brothers were playing DDR2 on the Xbox when all of the sudden there was a snap, the smell of burning PC board, and smoke pouring out of the sides of my Xbox. Apparently, I was one of the lucky winners in Microsoft's "Who Wants a Burning Xbox?" contest.

As I was reading up on the terms of the power cord replacement recall MS has going on, they only cover the cords and anything that happens to your Xbox while using the old cord would only be covered under the original warranty, which is 90 days, which also expired like more than 2 years ago. Either I or my mom is going to call the 800 number in the letter and tell them that we were one of the lucky people to have their Xbox blow up thanks to their faulty cord. I doubt they'll replace it, so I'll have to end up buying a new Xbox with my birthday money. Lame.

You know, I've never won in the lottery. I've never won anything I've signed up for or had my names picked in drawings (except for my high school after prom party, but there just about everyone won something so I don't count that). I have never been one to beat the odds... until now when I'm one of the lucky 1 in 10,000 to have an Xbox start on fire thanks to the power cord. It was funny when I first found out because, hey, I just found out about this problem a few days ago and then I totally kill the odds and have it happen to me. Then I realize I'm going to have to spend $100+ to replace an Xbox that burnt up because of someone else's mistake. Now I'm just pissed.

So if anyone wants to help me finance my replacement Xbox, please click on the Amazon box at the right of the page and donate. Heck, if you donate like $5 or more and email me about it, I'll send you some cds, books, video games, or comics in the mail for free because I'm just that nice of a guy (and I'm sick of listing stuff on ebay and just want to get rid of it). So... won't you please help me out?

Oh, and I'll announce the Daisy Kutter contest winner early this week after I tally the votes and randomly pick the winner. Thanks for everyone's participation!

Friday, March 18, 2005


Yes, today is my birthday. I have finally hit the ripe, old age of 24. I have never really been a fan of celebrating my birthday. I do, however, love celebrating other people's birthdays. Mainly, I don't like focusing on mine because I just don't like being that center of attention for the day. It's not that I hate being the center of attention, because I do, but I like it to be for something other than the artificialness of the attention you get on your birthday. If I win a pick-up basketball game for the team I'm playing on, I don't mind being the center of attention. If I complete a project ahead of schedule and do it well, I'll gladly be the focus of the office. If I just got back from a trip somewhere, everyone come ask me about it. A birthday, though, I don't see as a reason for me to be remembered by people. It just happens to be the day of the year I was born on.

I used to love birthdays when I was younger, as do all kids I imagine, because of the presents. Grow another year older--get things! It was such a great concept, but then I got into college and it wasn't a big deal any more. Sure, people would still want to get me things for my birthday, especially my parents and grandparents, because they wanted to remember me on my birthday. I didn't mind still getting presents. Really, who's going to complain if another person gets you something? What I didn't like were the instances where people would ask me, "So what do you want for your birthday?" The answer for me was always the same--nothing. I was simply happy enough to be alive for another year and to be around people I cared about.

This year, however, I have a different request for my birthday. What I want is for people to do something nice today. Big or small, for someone you know or someone you don't, if you get the chance to do something nice, do it. I've found it's so easy to be negative and selfish that sometimes I forget to be nice. At times I'll be so self-absorbed that other people don't even factor into my worldview and I hate that part of me.

So just for me, do something nice today. Tell a co-worker how much you appreciate what they're doing. Give your girlfriend a hug. Give a homeless man a few dollars. Buy the office donuts. Say thank you. Cook something for your family. Tell a friend how much his or her friendship actually means to you. I don't care what it is, and I don't care if you actually do anything or not, but I want everyone to know that this is all I want for my birthday. I don't want dvd's or video games or clothes or gadgets or any other random material things. All I want is people doing something sweet for someone other than themselves. That's what will make my day, not presents. Try to make the world a joyful place to live in instead of the hell it so often feels like.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

A Few Quick Things

Tonight I'm heading to Minneapolis after work to see Atreyu, Unearth, Scars of Tomorrow, and Walls of Jericho. I hate Atreyu, but Unearth released one of the best metal cds of last year so I can't wait to see them.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I hope everyone has a wonderful day, even if you're not Irish.

I couldn't sleep last night. All I did was toss and turn, throw my blankets on and off, sweat and freeze, and manage to not get any shut-eye. I even took some nighttime cold medicine to try and knock me out.

It's supposed to snow a lot tonight. That's not cool because I have to drive back from the cities after the show and I hate driving in snow.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Keep it on the DL, though, as I don't like big deals being made about my birthday. They're very personal days to me. I like to enjoy them with a small amount of people.

I'm writing requirements at work. It's the first time I've ever done them. It's an interesting task

My cat, Stitch, is the best pet ever. I didn't think I could ever love an animal, but I think I might love him... in that totally platonic, owner to pet way (just in case your mind is in the gutter).

I really miss Kristin. It's been really hard for me with her being in Central America since the beginning of the year, and knowing that she won't get back until mid-May is hard to swallow right now.

I'm going to die someday. That's a scary thought.

I have a great family and I am very thankful for them, even if I don't say it as often as I should.

Ok, I'm done now. You can go about your regular business.

Killwhitneydead - So Pretty, So Plastic CD Review

After reading up on their bio, Killwhitneydead are an interesting band to say the least. They hail from Flagstaff, Arizona, which is not really a place you’d think would generate a grind/death metal band bent on purveying their hatred for mankind across the vast wastelands of this world. Ok, so the philosophy they live by isn’t anything new, and I know that just about every death metal and grind band out there talks about “hate”, “disgust”, and other such dark topics, but Killwhitneydead have the walk as well as the talk. So far they’ve managed to have their performances banned in just about every town in Arizona, had various run-in’s with the law, and a couple of members of the band have even served jail time. With the street cred to back them up, how does their latest cd stack up musically?

So Pretty, So Plastic manages to mix together a healthy amount of death metal growls, Slayer-esque thrashing, crunching breakdowns, and plenty of movie samples. To many that sounds like a wonderful combination, but this mixture doesn’t always work in their favor. Often times the overabundance of movie clips really takes away from the songs. They have a pretty capable vocalist, so why add all of the clips? Do they really like the movies or quotes that much? Even if they are madly in love with the sources they sample, it would be much more effective to work the themes or quotes themselves into the song’s vocals.

Now the vocals themselves range from Zao inspired growls to out and out pain filled screams. There is a distinct dissonance between the vocals and the sound clips, which gets very annoying very fast, and you will quickly start wishing for more vocals and less pre-recorded trash. One odd anomaly on this release is the song “Put Your Mouth Where the Money Is…” in which the vocals mysteriously take on a 80’s hair metal style. It’s hard to determine if they were doing this as a joke or if it was simply an experiment gone awry, but whichever way you look at it, the vocals on this song are terrible and they should have either changed them or left this song on the cutting room floor.

Musically, these guys can shred with the best of them. When the songs aren’t pummeling you with heavy breakdowns, you’ll be treated to astute guitar thrashing that will have you imagining some of the heavy metal glory days. The confidence that is exuded throughout the cd definitely works in the band’s favor as the songs feel intense, in your face, and a little bit dirty. There’s also a strong air of defiance in their style of breakdown laden death metal that many people may find attractive, but their musical attitude alone isn’t enough to compensate for the already mentioned downfalls.

With some restructuring in the vocal department, a removal of the sampling, and a little less jail time, Killwhitneydead could put together a brutal death metalcore record, but as it is right now So Pretty, So Plastic isn’t enough to put them into the upper echelon of the metal world. It would definitely be a treat to come back in a couple of years to find these guys ripping it up with the best of them, but it’ll take some work on their part to do it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

I'll Never Think of Donald the Same Way Again

I never, ever would have thought that I'd see reference to a duck, the Dutch, homosexuality, and necrophelia all in the same sentence. I could maybe see the last three going together, but the addition of a duck is what really threw me. Thanks to Daypop's top 40, I stumbled onto this article talking about the odd sexual behavior of ducks, mainly homosexuality, rape, and necrophelia. Check out the opening quote of the article
The strange case of the homosexual necrophiliac duck pushed out the boundaries of knowledge in a rather improbable way when it was recorded by Dutch researcher Kees Moeliker.
In my studies of sociobiology, I'd read a lot of research on the proliferation of homosexual tendencies in certain animals. I'd also read about some cases of rape being an acceptable form of reproduction, but I never ran across a study that found an animal to be necrophilic. Necrophilia doesn't serve any type of positive advantage for reproduction so why hasn't it slowly evolved out of the duck population? There must be some positive to it for it to still be present, right?

I suppose that by having sex with dead ducks, a male is getting some practice in for the real thing, but that might be stretching it. Maybe when ducks have sex the female lies there like she's asleep and the necrophilic ducks have sex with dead ducks because they think of them as sleeping females. I don't really know how ducks have sex, so I'm not sure if this is even close to how things really are.

So why do ducks have sex with dead ducks? I'm drawing a blank here.

Happy 16th Birthday Ryan!

So it's my little brother's birthday today. He's turning 16 which means he'll be able to drive now. It's a scary thought, but I think he's had plenty of driving experience on his four wheeler to at least kind of get the feel for what controlling a vehicle is like. I remember when I first got my liscence, I was always afraid to ride with any of the town kids and always insisted that I drive because a lot of the townies didn't know how to handle a vehicle. I'd been driving tractors, lawn mowers, and trucks out on the farm for years so I think that helped prepare me for handling a car.

I also feel really old now that Ryan is 16. I was looking through some old photo albums while I was lifting the other night (my weights are surrounded by stuff that got stored in the addition after our basement flooded) and it was really heartwarming to look back and see Ryan all little and Randy just getting into the double digits. I was about as old as Ryan is now in most of those pictures, if not a tad bit younger. Now I'm almost 24, Randy'll be 21 soon, and little Ryan is 16. What happened to the days when we were all little, cute, and carefree?

I wish that I could go back and revisit the days when I was 16... well, some of it I guess. I'd hate to go through high school again, but just being young, dumb, free spirited would be a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle that I've been caught up in as of late. Life always gets in the way of truly living.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


If you've ever read any of the archives I've recently posted, then you'll know I used to be obsessed with Dance Dance Revolution (DDR). In college we'd throw DDR parties all the time and I'd play it daily. I was an addict. After I graduated from college, I didn't have access to playing it any more, which wasn't all that bad, but I eventually missed it a lot. Thankfully, and Xbox version of the game was finally released, which I picked up right away.

My brother, Ryan, and I would play it all the time as he slowly tried to get as good as I was. Over time, he eventually became the master, even managing to beat Max 300 on the hardest setting, a feat I know I will never accomplish. Once he had mastered DDR, we kept playing, but eventually we didn't get around to it as often as we'd have liked. It eventually got to the point where we didn't play it a whole lot so we let my other brother, Randy, take it to college with him.

Again, the longet the game was gone, the more that craving started creeping up in the back of my mind. I wanted to dance again, to stomp on the floor performing my own personal rain dance in time with the magical arrows laid out before me on the flickering tv god. With my brother's return home for his spring break, also came the return of DDR, and on top of its return Randy also picked up DDR 2 for mine and Ryan's birthdays (on the 18th and 16th of March, respectively). Let's just say it feels like the second coming having a whole new game to master.

There are a ton more songs on DDR2, a ton more game modes, and a difficulty level that even taxes my brother's abilities. I can see days and days ahead of us, stomping to the new j-pop, eurotechno, and trip-hop contained in this game.

There is one drawback, however. When we had the Xbox set up before it was in our basement so the pads were on a carpeted floor. Now that the Xbox is upstairs hooked up to the big screen tv, the pads have to be set up on the hardwood floor. I've already noticed that the lower portion of my calves get sore after repeated playing on such a hard surface. I don't know if that's just because I'm getting back into the swing of playing DDR or if it's the hard surface. Hopefully it's just my getting reacquainted with the game because I definitely don't want to stop playing because of an injury any time soon!

Monday, March 14, 2005

How Do You Cope?

One of my friends recently lost his unborn baby. Initially, I thought "Man, that really sucks and I hope they get through this tough time." After a considerable amount of further thinking, I realize I cannot even begin to fathom what it must be like to lose a child, a child that hasn't even been born yet even. I've never had a kid myself or worked on making one for that matter, but I've always dreamed of the day when I'd have kids of my own. I figure I'll make a good enough father and raising kids has to be at least a little fun, right? It can't all be dirty diapers, teenage tantrums, spastic outbursts, and the living hell that some parents make it out to be, right?

As I was conversing with a co-worker, we were talking about how the death of a child is so much different than the death of anyone else that a person might know. With a child, the parents have so many hopes, dreams, and plans for their little one. The parents see their child or children as the embodiment of their future, or at least this is how I'm imagining parents would think. I should note that all of this talk about kids and whatnot is simply my attempt to put myself in the shoes of a parent because I have no freakin' clue what it must actually be like to be a parent. Anyways, with the death of say a parent or friend or someone else that you know, it's not as big of a hit as a child. Sure, losing a parent or a sibling might rival losing a child, but it's not nearly as severe.

When you lose a parent or grandparent, I think you know, subconsciously at least, that they couldn't live forever and that their time would eventually have to come. Death is something you anticipated for them and maybe started to prepare yourself for. I know I'm definitely not ready for my parents to go any time soon, if ever, but I realize that barring my untimely demise it's going to happen. I believe this makes it a little easier to cope.

Losing a sibling is hard as well, but depending upon how well you got along with that sibling, it might be really easy or really hard to get over their death. Personally, I would have a hell of a time dealing with one of my siblings dying. I'm the oldest kid in our family, so in my mind I always figure I'll be the first one to croak. You never know how it'll work out in the end, but I always feel like it'll be me. If either of my brothers did go before me, I would take it hard, but I don't think it would be an insurmountable thing to eventually cope with it.

Now with a child, however, I would have one hell of a hard time getting over. So often you hear parents say that a parent should never outlive their child and I think that is true. It's the natural order of things for parents to die before their children. It shouldn't even enter in to a parent's head that their child is going to pass on (unless, of course, there are extenuating circumstances such as disease, deformity, or other things of that nature). Parents also invest so much emotionally into their children that overcoming the loss of a child might simply be too exhausting emotionally. If the culmination of my dreams were to suddenly be taken away from me, I'd be a wreck.

I'm not trying to say that it's easier to deal with some deaths and hard to deal with others because, frankly, I have a hard time dealing with death period, but the loss of a child I think is particularly hard to recover from. I pray that I will never have to go through it because I don't know if I'd be strong enough to take it.

Final Four Time

March Madness begins on Thursday and yet again I haven't researched the teams in the tournament enough. Every year, I always tell myself that I should watch more college basketball since the NBA keeps getting more and more lame each year, but without cable or satellite it's so hard to get any games to watch. I could keep up by reading all the results and rankings on or something, but I usually find I don't have the time to do that while I'm at a computer hooked up to the internet. At work I'm usually working or doing something semi-work related. When I'm at home, I don't like using a computer any more than I have to since I'm behind one for 8 hours a day. This leaves very little time for browsing through college basketball news. Besides, it's not the scores I so much care about, it's being able to watch the games.

I am happy to see that both Minnesota and Iowa State made it in, and with decent rankings too (8 and 9 respectively). It's too bad that they have to play each other in the first round and even worse that whoever wins will probably get destroyed by North Carolina in the second round (and any one who thinks NC will lose to the play-in team is an idiot). I put my bracket together earlier this morning and after I'd finished, I realized something odd--in my final four, I don't have a single #1 seed making it. For me it'll be Oklahoma St., Gonzaga, Conneticut, and Kentucky. Now I'll have to keep my fingers crossed, as I do each year, that I managed to pick at least a few teams right--enough to win some money at least.

Friday, March 11, 2005


As I usually do after working out, I went into my room to grab some clothes and a towel. In order to get to my clothes in my closet, I closed the door to my room, as I normally would. Little did I know that by closing my door, I was trapping myself in my room.

My room is in the basement of my house and the only way in or out of my room is the door. In an emergency I could probably fit out of the little window that is at the top of west wall, but it'd be a tight squeeze. Well when I closed my door, apparently something in the doorknob mechanism broke so that the bar that slides back and forth into the wall, making it so your door stays shut when it's shut, was stuck in the out position holding my door closed. I had no way to get out and I wasn't going to take apart my window and crawl out through there into the snow and stuff that had accumulated in the window well.

Being the quick thinker I am, I used my cell phone to call my house... that I was in... yeah, it felt weird doing it too. Thank God my little brother wasn't on the phone like he is 90% of the time. It's seriously gotten to the point that whenever I want to use the phone or I know someone is going to call, I have to track him down in the house and tell him to get off. I'm starting to wonder how much of a hold his girlfriend has over him.

Anyways, I called and my dad picked up. When I told him it was me, he was a little confused, as I figured he would be. I told him about my situation so he came down to try and help me get out. First he tried the door from his side, but turning the knob didn't move the bar at all. Something was busted on the inside so he got his tools and removed the doorknob. Now you'd think it would be a simple maneuver to just stick a screwdriver, or even your fingers for that matter, into the space where the doorknob used to be and pry the bar out. No way. This thing was jammed in there like nobody's business. There was only one way to get me out--take the door off of its hinges.

The only problem with that plan is the hinges were on my side of the door and I really didn't have any tools just sitting around in my room. Luckily I found a pocketknife that I used to pry two of the three bolts out of the hinges with. The final bolt was not going to come out, no matter what I tried. My dad then sent my brother with a hammer and hole punch outside to bring them to my window so I could pound that sucker out of there. After I did, you'd think the door would just come right out. Well, it didn't.

The way the hinges worked, the part on the door and the part on the wall overlapped, making it so that they couldn't slide by each other very easily. By this time about a half hour or so and I was pretty rank from not having showered yet. Since I wanted out and there didn't seem to be any other option, my dad gentley kicked the door into my room, freeing me from my prison.

Looking back, I wish I would have waited to close my door until this morning after my shower. No one would have been home and I could have called in to work and told them I was locked in my room and couldn't come in. Then again, I'd eventually have to go to the bathroom...

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Clarity Process - Killing the Presedent CD Review

What really stands out about Clarity Process’s latest album, Killing the Precedent, is that it doesn’t feel like all of the other albums being put out. There’s no screaming, there’s no pounding breakdowns, there’s no catchy hooks, and there’s also nothing wrong with that. It’s quite refreshing to listen to a collection of songs not overcome by the trappings that ensnare so many modern bands trying to be the next big thing. Each and every song on this disc is an amazing piece of work, showcasing the abounding talent that this band possesses.

It would be easy to simply classify Clarity Process as another post-hardcore band, but they possess so much more than the average post-hardcore band, most notably the technical prowess of the guitar work. The complicated and intricate pieces put on display throughout this release make recent post-hardcore efforts look juvenile in comparison. When not showcasing their ability to pull off engaging riffing, you’ll be treated to a distorted, thick guitar sound that serves to give each song body and form.

As for the rhythm section of the band, they don’t just hang out in the background doing nothing while the guitarist and vocalist go to work. No, instead to each song they add a fullness and thickness that perfectly complements the intricacies of the guitar work. In addition to a more than competent rhythm section, the slight use of keyboards on a few of the songs really adds an extra layer to the band. The keys are not very prevalent and never take center stage, but you can easily feel the positive addition that they have made to the band.

Lastly, we come to the vocals. No longer will you hear needless screams, as was evident on their previous release. They have been replaced with a healthy dose of commanding, melodic vocals, showing that there is more to making an emotional song than simply screaming really loudly. The vocals are not excessively melodic, however, as Steve’s voice possesses a hearty, meaty sound that gives them a grittier sound than most. Occasionally, he uses his voice to yell out the lyrics, but it’s not very often that this happens. When it does, however, it adds to the mix quite well.

In combining all of the aforementioned elements, Clarity Process create an album that is urging listeners to pay attention to each song. The abundance of talent being displayed throughout this album is amazing, and you owe it to yourself to at least give this disc a chance. More likely than not, you will be drawn in for repeated listens by what you hear.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Contest Time!

Everyone likes winning things, right? Well now is your chance to win the Daisy Kutter trade (pictured above). I've recently become a big fan of Viper Comics and I have both the tpb of Daisy Kutter as well as the original issues of the mini series, so I figured I'd give away the trade to see if I can't get anyone else interested in Viper's offerings. You can read my review of Daisy Kutter here if you're wondering what it's about. It's a great story, trust me. So here's how you can win

Email me the answer to the following question before March 18th (my email address is rmgebhardt AT gmail DOT com):
Outside of the big four publishers (Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image) , which independent comic publisher is putting out the best material right now?
I've been trying hard to check out more indie titles, so hopefully your recommendations will give me some guidance as to where I should spend my money (and win you something)! The winner will be chosen randomly and once the contest is over I'll post a breakdown of what publishers got the most votes. Thanks for your participation!

Smart Kid

Elementary, middle, and most of high school was hellish for me. I'm sure everyone feels that way, even the popular kids, but in my attempt to win at the "who's got it worse" game, I will assert that I was one of the worst off kids in early high school. End of story.

There were many factors that led to my being a social pariah, a couple that I couldn't really help. God had decided to curse me with child leprosy, or more modernly known as acne. I had it pretty bad and not just on my face. I would also get big, honkin' zits on my chest and back. It was like I perpetually had chicken pox, except you could squeeze each pox and you'd get a nice, juicy present.

Besides have acne, I was the class nerd. I did my homework and I did it well. I rarely got anything wrong on tests or quizzes. I would ask questions during class (which was always a big no-no). I also never studied, which pissed every other kid off because they'd work hard and not do as well. I was eventually nicknamed "Sponge" because of my ability to just soak up what we did in class. Oh, just so you know, it wasn't one of those cute nicknames, it was a pejorative term.

I was also overweight up until about 10th grade, which everyone knows doesn't help your social standing in high school. You got a fat joke to tell me, I heard it. You know a fat kid name, I was called it. It was terrible. Thank God for cross country and track, as that one-two punch leaned me up real quick.

Finally, I lived on a farm, which you wouldn't think would necessarily be a bad thing, but since we raised hogs on our farm, there were many insults about bestiality and doing the nasty with the pigs thrown my way.

So, anyhow, where I am I going with this? Well, it's all a lead up to the cartoon below that captures perfectly what I always wanted to do to all of those popular kids. Oh, how I hated them and wished all the worst on them. If it wouldn't have been for the good morals my parents instilled in me, who knows if I would have turned out like the kid below or not.

Thanks, Mike, for finding drawing these images.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Starbucks Theme Song

Good God, why? Please, someone tell me how this happened. Who in their right mind approved the funding of creating this utter tripe? Listen for yourself to the atrocious Starbucks theme song, which apes "We Built this City" by Starship, arguably one of the worst songs ever recorded in the history of rock music... right up there with anything by Styx or Journey.

I was simply appalled as I listened through it. The lyrics are hideous, but what corporate theme song has good lyrics? The music is a crappy copy of a crappy song. The singing isn't really that great. The sound clip about 3/4 of the way through the song, though, that's that clincher. Un-frickin-believable in it's cheesy badness.

In listening to the Starbucks theme song, I was reminded of the KPMG theme song I heard a little while back. After searching, I found it online to listen to here. It is also quite atrocious, and oddly has three remixes--the jungle mix, the hard rock mix, and the teutonic master mix. If you can listen to them all, and then listen to yet ANOTHER KPMG corporate song, entitled "Power of One" and found here (with a remixed children's choir version here), and not want to lose your hearing forever, then you are a better person than I.

God, after listening to all of these, I think I need to go vomit... nope, I know I need to, be right back...

*runs to bathroom*
*locks door and puts up toilet seat*
*gets on knees*
*wipes off mouth*
*flushes toilet*
*returns to computer*

Ahh, I feel so much better now.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Photos Now Online

Ever since my host canceled my account and deleted everything back around Christmas time, I haven't had the chance to get any of my photos back online. I finally took some time this weekend to put all of my digital pictures into albums and uploaded them for all to see. As you may have noticed, I put a link to my photos page over on the right. If you didn't, just click here for the photos page. There's a ton out there so if you ever get bored, just browse around.

Another thing I'm going to be doing periodically is re-posting old entries that were deleted when my hosting was canceled. I'm going to repost them with the datestamps originally on them, so they won't appear on the front page at all (and those of you keeping up with my site via RSS, you might see new posts WAY to the back of my feed, if they show up at all). It's interesting to see how terrible of a writer I used to be, and probably still are depending upon who you ask. So, enjoy the pictures and feel free to browse the archives if you like.

Best Trailer Ever

I'm pretty sure that the new trailer for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy found here is one of the best I've seen in a very long time. Any trailer that shamelessly makes fun of what a trailer is and still comes away making me want to see the movie is a good one. Check it out.

Watching the various trailers for THGTTG movie and reading about the speculation online, I find myself thinking back quite fondly to when I first read it, along with the myriad of sequels that came with it. Up until that point, I never really read comedic novels. Everything for me was sci-fi, fantasy, or assigned schoolwork (which definitely wasn't comedic) and I figured that THGTTG would be an interesting sci-fi novel with some comedic leanings so I dove in... and didn't stop until I'd read all of Adam's Hitchhiker novels. His style of writing actually made me chuckle heartily quite often while reading. It was the first time a book made me laugh. I'm talking about real books here, not the ones with the pictures and the superheroes and the thought bubbles that I usually read.

In seeing the trailers, I also wished I had enough time to go back and read all of the Hitchhiker novels again, but I just can't find the time. When I finished college, I thought for sure I'd have way more free time because all I had to do was work from 8-4 and then the rest of the day would be my happy fun time. Sadly, I had more free time in college when I had classes, homework, and work study. As it is now, I have so many other things that I end up doing, my free time ends up getting scrunched way down.

I have to factor in 70 minutes of drive time everyday. I have the time I spend working at Decoy. I've been working on a comic book script. We've been working on re-carpeting our house. I've been trying my hardest to keep in contact with Kristin when I can. It's really hard being apart from her, but I try to let her know I'm always thinking about her through emails, ocassional phone calls, mailing her art projects and letters, and doing whatever I can to let her know that I miss her and haven't forgotten about her. It just seems like I have so much to do all of the time, but then again when I do get free time I usually don't know what to do with it. I'm sure this is all part of that magical transition that everyone goes through when they enter adulthood, but that doesn't change the fact that it leaves me feeling lost, confused, and hollow at times. The older I get, the less answers I have. In their place I end up formulating more questions which I can't seem to resolve.

Maybe a trip to the restaurant at the end of the universe would help clear my mind...

Friday, March 04, 2005

Norma Jean - O God, The Aftermath CD Review

Back when Solid State was starting to become an established label, you knew that anything they put out was going to be heavy and intense, that was their calling card. I would routinely buy each new Solid State release that came out, knowing exactly what I was going to get, and I rarely found myself disappointed. Over the last couple of years, however, Solid State has gone through some changes as to what types of music they put out. No longer was each new release a blistering metalcore or hardcore disc, but instead there was more variety. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but no longer could you count on every release to be what you expected it to be. Interspersed between releases from The Chariot, Haste the Day, and Zao were much mellower affairs from bands such as Beloved, Underoath, and Dead Poetic. Suddenly a line had been drawn in the Solid State camp between the emocore half and the metalcore half. Almost in reverence to the “old” Solid State, Norma Jean throw themselves right back atop the Solid State metalcore camp, with their extremely polished, if somewhat pretentious, disc O God, The Aftermath.

Since their last release, Norma Jean have taken on a new vocalist—Corey Putnam, formerly of Eso-Charis, and in doing so have managed to cause quite the controversy amongst their hardcore fans. With Josh Scogin leaving the band to play with The Chariot, Putnam had some big shoes to fill. Many people picked up The Chariot’s debut cd in the hopes of hearing a continuation of what Norma Jean had created on Bless the Martyr, Kiss the Child, but beyond the vocals and some chaotic moments it wasn’t the same. Given that The Chariot didn’t turn out to be the Norma Jean, Jr. that many had hoped, the newly fronted incarnation of Norma Jean had the tremendous task of picking up where their debut left off.

Anyone who was a big fan of Bless the Martyr shouldn’t have a hard time getting into O God, The Aftermath. Sonically, there has been some growth to the band, but there isn’t a huge change in style that will outright alienate longtime fans. The vocals, while not the same as Scogin’s, are definitely better than they were expected to be. Many thought Putman would pale in comparison to Scogin, but on this release he established that he can rip out a growling roar with the best of them. By the time this disc runs its course you’ll wonder how it is his vocal chords have managed to survive. One mildly interesting thing of note is Putnam’s infrequent attempts at singing, albeit not singing in the traditional sense, but taking his growl and injecting it with just enough melody to make some unique and gritty passages, often reminding me of Phil Anselmno’s more aggressive moments.

As it is, this disc is a competent metalcore release, but it lacks the punch and edge of Bless the Martyr. Looking at this cd in a musical vacuum, it would be exemplary in almost every aspect, but given that metalcore is so saturated right now with so many bands that sound unbelievably similar to Norma Jean, this cd has a hard time standing above the crowd. Metalcore fans will enjoy it, but anyone expecting greatness will be quite disappointed.

Halo 2 Sucks?

When it comes to the single player game, yeah, it kind of does. I just finished playing it last night (I know, I'm a little behind the rest of the world) and upon completion of the game, I think I was more frustrated with it than almost any other game I've played in recent memory. You've probably read reviews up the wazoo for this game all over the internet so I'm going to focus on what not many of them have--the story, and more specifically, the end of the story (if you can call it an end).

So as you are playing through the game, you will get your chance to play as both Master Chief and the Covenant's Aribiter. There's really no discernable difference between the two, which is unfortunate. They both have the same health/shield configuration, can only carry two guns, can only carry the same amount of grenades, and has every other attribute the same... besides what the hand holding the onscreen gun looks like.

There are two plots going on throughout the game--one involving the Master Chief and one invovling the Arbiter. The Master Chief is trying to stop a newly found Halo from being detonated, which would kill all life in a gigantic sector of space (yawn, heard this before). The Arbiter, since suffering defeat at the Master Chief's hands has been humiliated... but lucky for him, the elders of their race lets him come back as their uber-warrior. What a wonderful reward for failure! His main job is to secure all of the items needed to detonate Halo starting their "great journey."

So you play as both characters, going about blowing many things up. The Master Chief, towards the end of the game, is phased out of the story, which I found odd. After completing a submission, you'll complete the game as the Arbiter. While fighting to detonate Halo, the Arbiter uncovers a conspiracy in the Covenant ranks and has to battle a subrace of his people (called Brutes). He also realizes that detonating Halo would be a bad thing, so he eventually stops it from happening. Now this is where the story gets friggin' retarded.

So the Halo ring, which was already in countdown to explode, has its countdown stopped. The universe is saved... or is it? Apparently if a Halo ring is activated and then deactivated, it turns on a crap ton of other Halo rings that can be remote detonated from one location. This location is called The Ark. Fortunately, Master Chief is on his way there. As you see Master Chief's ship jumping into the sector where the Ark is, you hear his superiors, who are in the middle of a battle with Covenant forces, ask him what he's doing there. His response: "I'm here to finish the job." Roll credits.

WHAT THE HELL???? What gives? That's not an ending. This isn't a frickin' 1960's serial movie where you can just tune in next week to see what happens. I played many hours to get to the end of this game expecting maybe, you know, a proper ending. Instead, you get no resolution whatsoever. Everything you did in this game is pretty much for naught because you don't know if it really had any impact on the whole scheme of things. For all I know, the Master Chief chokes on a granola bar while trying to get to the Ark and a drunken Covenant stumbles onto the lever that blows the hell out of the entire universe. Good God, Bungie, you totally blew it.

Save yourself a lot of disappointment and only play the multiplayer portion of Halo 2. At least that's good and you don't need story or closure. Halo 2's ending is easily the worst ending (if you can call it that) I've ever seen. It would have been better if, when you stopped Halo from blowing, the credits simply started to roll. At least then you'd know there was an end to the story. Screw you, Hal0 2, you weren't worth the $50.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Stay and Sleep

At exactly 6:45 am this morning my alarm started to blare, signaling it was time for me to haul myself out of bed and get ready for the day. Every morning is usually the same for during the work week--get up, take my vitamins, brush my teeth, shower, get dressed, then drive to work. I rarely differ from this pattern, and I followed it perfectly this morning, but I knew that right after I woke up something was different.

I felt different, like getting up was a mistake. No, maybe not a mistake, but more of a letdown. When my alarm had woken me up, I was in the middle of a wonderful, beautiful dream. It was one of those dreams that makes a person smile in their sleep and giggle with their eyes closed. Everything was perfect in that dream. Everything was exactly how I would love for it to be. The best part, though, was that I didn't know it was a dream. While I was asleep, my dream was my reality.

By waking up, my perfect world was shattered and destroyed. Almost as quickly as I woke up I started to forget what my dream was about, but even as I started to forget I held the emotions generated by it close to my heart. Coldly and cruelly, however, I came to the realization that I couldn't cling to my dreams--I had to face the day. I had to face the fact that right now I'm living a life that isn't perfect. I'm living a life where I am constantly confused, depressed, lonely, longing, and lost. As much as I want to shape this life into a dream, I can't.

I try to keep my hopes up that everything will always swing the right way, but not everything can go your way. Don't get me wrong, once I shed the protective shell of childhood, I knew that life wouldn't be easy. I've often just went with the flow and let life do as it will because I knew if I tried to shape it too much, I would become too restricted by constantly trying to control things. I didn't want to be a control freak and I never had anything in my life that I really needed to do. I was content with doing whatever came my way.

Over the last year or two, though, I've developed one of the first real needs in my life. At first I thought it was merely a childish wanting for something that I thought would be cool, much like I would want new comic books or the lastest electronic gadget. Unlike those wants, this want, this need, never went away. It's still with me now and I know, well I pray that I know, that what I long for I will eventually have, but that doesn't change the fact that at the moment I crave it so, and with that craving comes many bouts with depression and anger when I cannot have it. Personally, I've always hated the feeling of wanting because I would rather fulfill someone else's needs before my own, but for some reason this is different.

Getting back to the dream that I had. When I was dreaming, I had that sense of fulfillment that all of my wants and needs, especially the one need I have in my life right now, were taken care of. Upon waking up, that sense of fulfillment was snatched away from me and I suddenly became awash in terror and dread and hopelessness. Not really a good way to start off the morning, was it? It's because of this that I often prefer nightmares to good dreams, because upon waking I'll feel relieved instead of depressed.

For once, and I feel weird saying it, I was thankful for the numbing power of writing release notes at work this morning because it helped to wash away how my day started. I still feel that longing, much like I do every day, but when you have things to keep your mind off of it, it's a lot easier to deal.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Crap People Watch

I don't have cable. It doesn't bother me. I haven't had cable since college and I haven't missed it one bit. Ok, well, maybe a bit. I always enjoyed watching The Daily Show on Comedy Central and I also liked watching the Timberwolves play on Fox Sports, but other than that, there wasn't a whole lot I cared to watch.

The only channels I have access to are the basic ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX channels as well as two public television channels for a total of six channels. Now, you'd think that I might be able to find something I can at least tolerate watching on one of these six channels, but no matter what night of the week it is, there isn't a damn thing on that interests me... except for Tuesdays.

For one hour every week, I make sure that I am in front of my television. Amidst the sea of worthless faux-reality shows, CSI: Every City in the US, Law & Order: We Now Have One More Spin-off than CSI, boring hour long dramas, and shoddily written comedies there are two shows that shine through--Scrubs and Committed.

I have been watching Scrubs since its inception back when it was on in the Thursday night tv block that included Friends and ER and each episode is just as good as the last, which is to say each one is light years ahead of whatever else is on tv. The cast of characters is very fleshed out, with each character possessing a unique and quirky personality (even the minor characters have their traits that are instantly recognizable). The interactions between characters not only flows, but is funny as all get out. Looking past the biting humor and interesting character flaws/traits of each person, there is also a deeper theme running through each episode, what I like to refer to as the "life lesson of the night."

There's plenty of situational humor, lots of quick comical flashbacks that play on common phrases that are used, unbelievably interesting character interactions, and comical conflict aplenty, but underneath all of these attributes of the show, there is always a strong thematic rope that ties the entire episode together. Through comedy many serious situations and everyday life experiences are examined, often very intelligently and without the neat "the show is over so everything is ok again" wrapup that so many comedies make use of. Do yourself a favor and sit down on a Tuesday and watch this show--I know you'll enjoy it... unless of course you are a heartless, unfunny bastard that eats dead babies for breakfast and killed your parents just to hear them scream. Yeah, if you're like that you probably won't enjoy the show.

Committed is a new show this year and it's still growing. The first couple of episodes had their moments, but I thought that the show might end up not being able to work in the long run. Slowly, though, the show has been improving greatly mainly because the actress that plays the lead character, Marni, is so easily likeable. That and I think her care-free, happy, help everyone attitude reminds me a little of Kristin. Some of the punchlines to jokes feel forced and some of the comedic situations don't feel altogether natural, but I think given time this show will develop into a great comedy. Even if it doesn't, I'll probably keep watching it simply because it's on after Scrubs.

So, there you have it. The two shows I actually watch on tv. Lord knows what I'll do if they're ever canceled. I suppose I could give the American version of The Office a chance when it starts later this month. Watching an hour and a half of tv in a week, though? That might be pushing it for me.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Keeping Secrets

My brother showed me this site today, which I found somewhat interesting. People mail in their secrets on a postcard to the address at this site and then the secrets are scanned and put up. It seems like an interesting concept and I found a lot of the secrets posted funny, although a few were scary too. In reading this site, I reflected for a moment on the concept of secrecy and how it operates in my life.

Personally I detest secrets, but I also realize that just about everyone has them. I have my own secrets that I don't tell people, usually because it doesn't apply to them at all or it's about them and I don't want them to know. I never try to purposely withhold something from someone if I feel they should know simply because I am one of the few idealists left in the world that believes honesty is the best policy. I've managed to get myself into a fair amount of trouble in the past by always trying to tell the truth, but I maintain that I believe it is the best course of action for most situations. This may also stem from my neo-Kantian philosophical views, but that's a story for another post.

Even though I realize that people have secrets and that some people feel the need to keep them no matter what, I often get mad or feel like I'm somehow not good enough to know something when someone won't tell me something. Whenever I am purposely left in the dark, I often become furious with the person leaving me in the dark.

I am also a firm believer that everyone needs some type of confidant in their life to tell all of their secrets too. I know that I wouldn't be able to function a lot of the time if I didn't have someone that I could open up to and let out what I have kept way down inside of me, the things that no one else knows, and all of my secrets.

So... where I was going with any of this, I really don't know, but the concept of secrecy really intrigues me, especially the need that some people have to exercise complete secrecy of certain things from everyone. Maybe I should send off a postcard with a secret on it to the above mentioned website and see how it makes me feel...