Friday, December 29, 2006

Might be the Last One

Well, with the year coming fast to a close, this is probably going to be the last movie review to add to my review thread for the year of 2006. Luckily it was a pretty decent movie to close the year out on.

A Scanner Darkly (8/10): I really didn't know what to expect going in to this, but what little I did expect, I definitely didn't get, and that was a good thing. Instead of being a hard sci-fi type of film, this movie dealt more with drugs, the concept of reality, and the darkness that can be found on both the "good" and "bad" sides of any conflict. Admittedly, this is a movie that is hard to get a full experience from in one viewing, so my one time through I no doubt missed a few things. That being said, the underlying themes, as often disconnected as they seem, come together nicely in the end to give the viewer a full picture of what is actually going on in the larger scope of things. The performances from all involved were also quite good, especially Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey, Jr. Even Keanu Reeves was passable.

Hanging Out

Awwww... poor Saddam. After being involved with the brutal killings of so many he now finds himself actually having to pay for what he did. Isn't that a bitch? I'll be happy to see him hanging in the gallows.

In fact, I'm sure a lot of people would. Now if Iraq really wanted to spark their economy, they should have scored a deal with one of the big four networks to make a reality TV show out of Saddam's last few days on this planet. They could do interviews with his family, friends, government officials, and the people responsible for his hanging. Then, when the moment comes, I can guarantee there'd be millions tuning in to watch the Saddam drop, probably more than would watch the ball drop in Times Square on New Years!

But alas, the Iraqis weren't that clever. They'll get there eventually, though. Now one of the more odd things I read about Saddam's scheduled execution is that the Pope is opposing his hanging. I know the Catholic Church doesn't support the death penalty and all that jazz... but come on! It's not like they're hanging a minor blight on society (a la Paris Hilton or Tara Reid), they're hanging a violent dictator that was responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths. Rules are meant to be broken when appropriate. Think about it, who would oppose Saddam's hanging if if the Pope supported it?

So it all comes to an end for the big Hussein in less than 62 hours. Sucks to be him. Now if we could only get all of the US troops out of Iraq. Wasn't one of the reasons that Bush made up to justify our military occupation of the country, after the WMD lie fell through, that Saddam was a Bad Man™? The people in the Iraq area have been fighting for hundreds upon hundreds of years and I think it's pretty arrogant of Bush, especially since none of his advisers believe we should be sending more troops in, to think that we can suddenly make the area a peaceful one.

Anyways, it should be interesting to see how the Iraqis and the middle eastern region react to the execution of Saddam. It'll make the new year fun!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

History of Video Games

Being an avid gamer (I'm currently in love with my Xbox 360 and PSP), it was interesting to read through a history of the gaming console. I stumbled upon it while browsing the wonderful world of the interweb waiting for some searches at work to finish. Being a "second generation" gamer, I missed out on all the initial consoles that were around well before I was born. Seeing some of the classics brings back so many memories of all the different systems I've played in my lifetime.

The first console my family had was an Atari 2600. I distinctly remember playing Combat a ton and being frustrated as hell by the abomination that was E.T. I also played a lot of Colecovision at my neighbor and friend, Karl's, house. There was some castle game and Q-bert that we played a bunch.

After those initial "old" consoles, the next one I had access to was the original NES that I bought after saving up an entire summer's farm chores allowance. It was amazing and our entire family (even my parents) played on that thing so much. No doubt that's why I find myself purchasing the Xbox arcade version of so many classic games.

Later on Karl bought a Sega Genesis while I bought a Super Nintendo. I didn't play the Genesis as much since none of the games Karl had really interested me outside of the oddly appealing Altered Beast. I spent most of my time on the SNES playing Super Baseball 2020 against my brother Randy.

Going for the Nintendo trifecta, my little brother, Ryan, got a Nintendo 64 after a good amount of prodding from his two older brothers. Truth be told, I think we wanted it more than him. I was slowly growing out of my gaming phase so I wasn't as interested in the N64 and didn't play much. I did play a bunch on Karl's Sega Saturn, however. It was pretty neat that my family was a Nintendo family and Karl's was a Sega family -- I got to experience both worlds.

Continuing down his Sega path, Karl purchased a Sega Dreamcast, which I eventually purchased well after he did. We'd play so much Soul Caliber and NFL 2K against each other and I'd always get my ass kicked. We also played a lot of NBA 2K with my team being the Indiana Pacers, his being the LA Lakers, and my brother Randy going with the Utah Jazz. Within my family, however, NFL Blitz was the game of choice along with Marvel vs. Capcom 2.

In my post Dreamcast days I only played computer games for a while. Eventually, however, my video game love returned to me and I threw down on an Xbox, loving every minute I played on it. And from there I migrated to my current darling, the Xbox 360.

Now that I think about it, that's a lot of video game history covered very briefly. I could write for days about the memories I have of playing video games with my family and friends! I wonder how long I'll keep playing? Hopefully until the day arthritis makes me retire my controller.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Pretty Daunting Thought

For Christmas with some of the gift certificates I received, I picked up seasons 4 and 5 of the show 24. I have the first three seasons sitting at home on my DVD rack already. Eventually I'd like to catch up to the current season that is on the air, but as I did some calculations, I realized that it's going to take a lot of effort to get through the five seasons sitting on my shelf right now.

Each season is about 1,000 minutes long, give or take about 50 minutes. So in the first five seasons there is around 5,000 minutes of television on DVD to watch. That's a lot of time. Over 83 hours. Now let's assume I watch about 3 hours a week, which would be about 4 episodes. If I were to stick to that schedule, it would only take me about 28 weeks to get through the first five seasons of 24. That's six months.

And that's only to get through 24. On my shelf I also have to finish the final 5 seasons of X-Files as well as the final 5 seasons of The West Wing. So if those televisions seasons run relatively close to the runtimes of a season of 24, then I have about a year's worth of TV on DVD to watch there as well.

And that's also not including some of the other assorted TV on DVD that I've picked up and would like to get through... like the final two seasons of Futurama and the second season of Wonder Showzen and some of the Adult Swim DVD sets and Lost and Grey's Anatomy and a slew of other shows. There's just too much to watch! I might just have to give up going to work and spend 8 hours a day watching DVDs. Seriously.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

No Snow

I don't know about you, but for a born & raised Minnesotan like myself, having Christmas with no snow on the ground leaves me with a horribly empty feeling. As I sit at my parents' house typing this, I'm looking out the south facing windows and all I see is the black and gold of the plowed up corn fields along with the brown of the lawn and the empty gray of the leave-less trees. It's depressing, honestly.

There have been a couple of brown Christmases in my lifetime and each one sticks out in my memory because of the melancholy that the blacks and browns and deadness brought over the holiday moods. The white of the snow covering the ground and the frost glazing over the trees and the miles upon miles of bright landscapes is infinitely more appealing than the dark, grim death that permeates the freezing Minnesota environment when there is no snow around.

A few days ago there was some snowfall that came down and I was hopeful that it'd stay, but by the next morning it had almost all melted away. My parents even made the comment that we should put our presents on top of my car and take a family picture by it since the little bit of snow clinging to the top of it was the only snow in their part of the state.

Maybe the scientists are right and global warming is taking over. It seems like there wasn't a year that would go by in my childhood where we wouldn't already have a plethora of white, wonderful goodness scattered about the yard for snowball fights, snowman building, and sledding. Now it seems like we're lucky if we get any snow by the time December rolls around. We'll probably have our fair share of snow yet this winter, but wouldn't it have been beautiful to have it on Christmas Day? I think it would have.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Donald Trump = My Hero

As much as I hate this guy (he is a total douche bucket), his slamming of Rosie O'Donnel is freakin' sweet. And I hate Rosie even more than I hate Trump.

My 2006 Top 10

In case you didn't see it over at Decoy Music, here is my top 10 CDs of this last year.

10. The Gathering - Home

Home Since their formation in 1989, The Gathering have been undergoing continual change from album to album, shifting directions effortlessly and succeeding in almost every genre they touch. With Home, the band has put out an extremely haunting and melodic album. Running even further away from their metal roots, this release is a calm, goth-tinged, ambient soundscape awash in beautiful female vocals and minimalistic instrumental approaches. If I wasn’t such a whore for heavy music, this would probably be towards the top of my list, without a doubt.

9. In Flames - Come Clarity

Come Clarity After two extremely disappointing releases in Reroute to Remain and Soundtrack to Your Escape, expectations for Come Clarity weren’t exactly sky high. With expectations riding as low as they were, In Flames came together to push the boundaries of the European styled metal genre that they helped pioneer and showed the musical world that they are, indeed, still relevant to today’s heavy music scene. This disc contains some of their best songs to date that will no doubt replace some of those old favorites from Whoracle and Clayman.

8. Twelve Tribes - Midwest Pandemic

Midwest Pandemic Poison the Well may have a new CD coming out next year, but this year Twelve Tribes managed to take their sound, meld it with their own thick guitar approach, and create one of the best classically styled metalcore CDs of this past year. The effortless shifts between blisteringly thick chord progressions and intricate, yet subdued, buildups helped to push this effort beyond the boundaries that confine most modern metalcore bands.

7. Unearth - III: In the Eyes of Fire

III: In the Eyes of Fire Unearth can, apparently, do no wrong by me. The Oncoming Storm was a Herculean metal meets hardcore release and III shows the band tightening the screws and putting on an even more ratcheted up metal onslaught with just enough chugging breakdowns to beat you in the face with. Someone should seriously consider putting warning stickers on anything released by Unearth because they create some extremely sonically heavy music. Punishing isn’t even close to describing the feeling of III.

6. Misery Signals - Mirrors

Mirrors Mirrors has a pummeling wall of sound that, if played at full volume, will knock you flat on your ass. Instead of playing to the metalcore clichés of the day, Misery Signals have decimated the majority of their peers in the ability to create strong, mature, solid metalcore songs. They’ve also crushed any doubts people may have had about their lead singer switch. It’s too bad that every metalcore CD on the shelves isn’t as good as, or even as close to as good as, Mirrors.

5. Isis - In the Absence of Truth

In the Absence of Truth Pushing the boundaries of doom metal even further, Isis has again created a masterpiece. This time they did it by bringing more melody into play and focusing on making solid seven to nine minute pieces of doom goodness. This album, as opposed to their past efforts and the efforts of many of their peers, has a very cohesive and gelled feeling to it. Individually, if the songs are taken on their own, one by one, they all remain great, but this album, when taken in as a whole, is undeniably awe-inspiring.

4. Dead Poetic - Vices

Vices Taking a chance and reinventing yourself is never easy and often times never pays off. Other times it can work out better than you may have ever imagined. Dead Poetic, with Vices, have reinvented themselves in the modern musical arena. No longer content with being a top tier screamo band, they’ve given us a top tier rock album as they morphed into a new skin and a new sound. Not completely alienating their roots, you’ll still hear some of the solid post-hardcore riffs driving their songs, but the overall, reinvented sound is that of a band renewed and refreshed with a brand new take on where they want to go… that is, until they broke up.

3. Katatonia - The Great Cold Distance

The Great Cold Distance Katatonia’s latest follows the trend of their last couple of albums, showing them straying even further into the contemplative, melodic, brooding metal genre. As they move further into that realm, they also show they do it better than any of the other bands currently trying to master the sound. There’s a sense of beautiful tragedy in every song on The Great Cold Distance. The sheer overriding feeling of musical melancholy permeates this disc, and to great effect. Simply put, this could be the soundtrack to your depression… and it’ll somehow get you out.

2. Disarmonia Mundi - Mind Tricks

Mind Tricks Let’s face it people. If you haven’t realized yet that Soilwork’s last CD sucked pretty hard, you’re still living in a dream world. That’s why it came as a shock to see the best Soilwork CD ever released was actually made by Bjorn’s “other” band, Disarmonia Mundi. Being much more visceral and even more melodic (a tagline you probably hear all too often) than Soilwork, this CD exemplifies everything right with the melodic European metal sound. In Flames may have created one of the best European metal CDs of the year, but even they couldn’t top Mind Tricks.

1. Cult of Luna - Somewhere Along the Highway

Somewhere Along the Highway Throughout the year, and in numerous conversations with some of the staff here, I managed to perpetuate a little Isis vs. CoL ongoing debate. From the place CoL is sitting on my list, you can see who won out for me. They created what I can only describe as the single most cohesive and robust doom metal album in ages. The imagery, the musicianship, the signature style, and the expansion into previously untouched territory helped this band create the album of the year, all while holed up in a barn in the middle of nowhere.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

People Suck

I made mention previously of the townspeople who threw their support behind a religious zealot high school teacher instead of the student who exposed him. Now today we have a town who is pissed off at a kid who had his leg shot with a cannon at a high school football game because his getting injured might jeopardize their being able to continue their tradition of firing off the cannon.

How the hell do people end up this insensitive and moronic? They say this is a football town with strong traditions, but I came from a very strong football tradition at St. John's University in St. Cloud, Minnesota and I can guarantee you that if someone was injured because of a tradition, that tradition would get axed or at least severely examined.

The state of mind that some people operate from boggles me. At times I'm ashamed to be in the same country, or even species, as some of these numbskulls.

Birthday Fun

December 11th was my roommate Karl's birthday. In order to celebrate it, we went out the Saturday before hand. There was tons of fun to be had and beer to be drank by all. Instead of trying to recount the night, here's some pictures. Click on them to get bigger versions.

Jared & Kristi Katie & Jared Katie & Kristi Caleb & Karl Rick and Katie

Karl Rick & Kristi Karl Rick & Pretzels

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Random Allies - Thunder Run CD Review

Guys, this is a joke, right? Right? No? Come on, stop messing with me here. How could this be a serious effort? Wait... you really aren't fooling around, are you? This is a serious effort. Wow. That's really too bad. Ummm... so should I send you guys a sympathy card or something? Because this is really bad. Like baby in a blender on puree bad.

There's a lot of music out there. Lots. And tons of it is really good stuff. Looks at the Decoy Top 50 that's going on right now. Seriously, there is some wonderful music out there right now. On the flip side, however, is bad music. And there's also a LOT of bad music out there. Thunder Run is a perfect example of what constitutes bad music.

In their press sheet, the band claim to be influence by Aerosmith, Bon Jovi, ZZ Top, and Green Day (side note on the Green Day reference -- WTF?). Truth be told you can hear a little bit of classic rock worship coming from Random Allies, most notably a Tom Petty swagger and approach, but that's really all the good that can be said.

This release offers up absolutely nothing that hasn't already been done since before your parents were shaggin' away doing the egg fertilizer jig to some Night Ranger or Steve Miller Band. Most of the songs, especially the ballads, are cringe inducing. The lyrics to "Heaven" are the equivalent of having your ears raped by an industrial strength power drill.

The only thing I can see this CD being used for is either a frisbee or a gift to someone you really, really hate. You know that ex-girlfriend who treated you like shit? Send her this CD with a big ol' "Merry Christmas" stamped across the package. That'll teach her.

Candy Flavors

Odd Candy Flavor

I noticed this odd flavor when I was looking through some candy that Kristi brought over to my house to put into a candy basket in our living room (which is currently empty). I ate Jolly Ranchers all through high school and loved sucking on them throughout most of the day. Since we weren't allowed to have gum in 99% of the classes I was in, this was the next best thing for keeping me awake.

I remember buying the gigantic assortment packs that had all the flavors--cherry, orange, grape, apple, and strawberry. Those flavors were perfectly fine and I never found any type of craving to combine any of them into a conglomerated flavor. However, the makers of Jolly Rancher disagreed and have come up with some new flavors, combining the old flavors together. I have no idea what the other flavors are because this was the only one in our candy dish, but from the looks of it, I'm not going to be happy.

Chorange? Seriously. It sounds like an insult I'd hurl at someone in high school. "Yo Billy, putting glue on the teacher's chalk board eraser was so dumb. You were the only one with glue so how did you think you wouldn't get caught? You're such a stupid chorange."

You know what? It flows. I think I'm going to start using chorange as an insult. Chorange. Yep, it's been decided. I now christian "Chorange" as an insult. For now we'll simply define it as being a noun synonymous with insults such as idiot, moron, and dumbass.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Support Freedom of Speech

One of the main forms of media that comes under fire, especially in recent years, in regards to content is comic books. More often than not, because they are often viewed as "children's entertainment", their content is often brought into question and has oft been attempted to be censored. I support the comic book and graphic novel medium for telling stories and I support free speech.

I bring this up because Yet Another Comics Blog is running a drive to help fund the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which has been responsible for fighting censorship wherever it arises in relation to comic books, graphic novels, or the comic art form in general. I have thrown my hat into the ring and donated proudly. I'm not going to tell you what to do with your money, but it's only $25 (which is like a week's worth of lattes) and goes towards a cause that I personally believe in. You may not, but if you do, consider donating.

Evolution Not Scientific? Get Outta Here!

Go read this article from the NY Times and listen to the audio that accompanies it. In an 11th grade, public school class about the constitution of the US, the teacher has been forcing his beliefs upon the students and outright rejecting evolution. Take this excerpt of one of the recordings from class as an example:
If you reject his gift of salvation, then you know where you belong. He did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he’s saying, "Please, accept me, believe." If you reject that, you belong in hell.

I consider myself a Christian, to a point. I don't like the idea of organized religion as it is more often used as a tool for exclusion and judgment, as well as reinforcing closed mindedness, rather than as a place for community and fostering enlightened thought. What this guy is saying is downright offensive to me. In a public school environment, a teacher should not even imagine forcing his beliefs on his students. But not the case here.

What is more disturbing than the force feeding of dogmatic beliefs upon the students of that class is the amount of backlash the student who recorded the conversations has received. The community and fellow classmates of Matthew LaClair. Instead of acknowledging the wrongdoing of the teacher, David Paszkiewicz, people have been sending Matthew death threats, criticizing his recording of class, and have been defending Paszkiewicz.

I can tell you one thing, I would hate to live in that community. I can almost feel the stubborn, closed minded aura of oppression emanating from the Kearny, New Jersey. It is sickening and very disheartening to know that in our nation, supposedly one of the more progressive in the world, there are still so many ignorant people in it.

Recent Movies

I saw a couple more movies that I thought I'd toss on the thread.

School of Rock (6/10): Jack Black, I now firmly believe, works best in a supporting role as opposed to a leading role. In High Fidelity he was hilarious. In King Kong and Orange County he was pretty atrocious. Here, in School of Rock, he's merely ok. The movie felt like it was simply a vehicle for him to do his crazy "doodley dooto schmichticky walloo" make up crap and words on the spot schtick. I'm sure I'm not exactly the target demographic for this type of movie, which I realize, and even so it did have a few moments that were chuckle worthy. Overall, it's a movie that requires you to turn your brain off, give in to Black's patented combination of quirky improvisation and bad acting, and just watch.

Good Night, and Good Luck (9/10): Truthfully, I thought this film would be ok and nothing more. After seeing it, I can't help but be thankful that my preconceptions of the movie were extremely off target. What was most striking about the film was the relevancy of the material. If you substitute the word "communist" with "terrorist" and McCarthy with Bush (and his regime), you have a very potent similarity to today's political environment in the United States. The acting was also superb. George Clooney and David Strathairn was spot on. The only drawback that I felt was present in the movie was that the subplot involving Patricia Clarkson's and Robert Downey Jr.'s characters felt tacked on and superfluous. Beyond that, Good Night, and Good Luck was a masterpiece.

Friday, December 15, 2006

And It Never Stops Growing

Last night as I was putting away some of the cluttered junk that I had sitting around my room, I found myself adding another book to my "to read" shelf and two movies to my "to watch" rack. As I looked at both of them, I got to wondering when I'm actually going to get to all of them.

In college I had no trouble finding enough time to read and watch items that interested me. Class was 2 to 4 hours a day. My on campus job was 2 or 3 hours a day. Sports took up about an hour or two. Homework was another few hours. That equaled out to about eight hours total (on a long day). Figure in the fact that I didn't have commutes and regularly could get by on about 5 or 6 hours of sleep, there was a plethora of time in the day to play Xbox, read out in the sun, and have movie marathons.

When I lived in Rochester working for the small software company I was at, I only put in about 7 or 8 total hours of work a day and then hit the gym before going home. I could still get by on about 6 or so hours of sleep. So I only lost an hour or two a day in comparison to college. I still had tons of extra time, especially considering how ungodly boring Rochester was.

Now, living in St. Louis Park, which is a few miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis, I find myself with less time than ever for books and movies. There are a lot of reasons for this, not all of them bad, but it has led to an accumulation of things I "need" to get to, but don't have the time to.

As it is, I'm at a more demanding job that takes 40 hours a week, at the least, out of my life. Then I have my bus rides to and from work. Then there's the gym, which is more packed than the one I was at in Rochester. And now, I seem to be getting into old geezer territory as I need 7 hours... or sometimes even 8, a night to feel like I can get through the day fully rested.

Also, throw in the fact that I go to activities in Minneapolis when I can, such as concerts, plays, T-Wolves games, Twins games, happy hours, and whatever else comes around, some nights I don't have any "spare" time. I'm not complaining about getting to do all kinds of fun stuff as it keeps boredom from creeping up on me, but my bookshelves and DVD racks are crying out in neglect.

Which brings me to an interesting crossroads. I'm making the decision today to limit the amount of things, hopefully severely enough, that I put on my shelves until I do some hard core catching up. I am also making the decision to attempt to do more reading than I have been in the past. I miss it. I know this is getting close to the end of the year and this sounds suspiciously like a new year's resolution, but I hope it's not because we all know how well people actually stick to new year's resolutions. I'm going to try. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Low Calorie Lunch

I have a really bad habit of eating like crap. My diet is seriously terrible. Hot pockets, chimichongas, pizza, ramen, microwave dinners... all staples of my usual diet. I somehow manage to not get ridiculously fat by forcing myself to hit the gym as often as possible to work off the overload of fatty calories that my diet consists of.

When I'm at work, I'm a little bit better when it comes to eating. I try to keep my office stocked with only healthy items so that I don't really have a choice for unhealthy foods when noon rolls around, but I sometimes succumb to my cravings and hit up the Jimmy John's or Burger King in our building. For the most part, though, my work file cabinet has a healthy supply of soups, some Easy Mac (when I have cheese cravings), and Pop Secret's premium mostly fat free popcorn.

Most popcorn isn't too good for you, but this stuff surprisingly is. An entire popped bag has less than 150 calories, few of them being from fat, and has a decent amount of fiber to keep you regular and stuff. The best part about it, though, is that an entire bag of popcorn sure fills you up. I may still crave chocolate or greasy food after my popcorn fix, but I lack the room to fit any of that in my stomach.

The next best thing besides the health benefit, is that this popcorn sounds like a firefight from a big budget Hollywood flick when it's popping. I used to buy generic popcorn, but the kernels popping sounded pretty limp. Pop Secret kernels must be made partially of gunpowder. I'm tempted to take cover behind a file cabinet every so often when I get distracted and forget I threw a bag in the microwave. With its opening volley my inattentive mind thinks the crazy lady from the end of the hall finally snapped and decided to shoot up the office.

Popcorn. It's the meal of champions... and people who can't control their cravings so they need to jam their bellies full of something to fill 'em up.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Peanuts and Marvel Comics

I stumbled across this page on the wonderful world of the internet today. It depicts what would happen if you mixed together Peanuts characters and Marvel superheroes. Interesting waste of time for a few minutes. And I'm too lazy to type anything interesting right now, so links is about all you're going to get for a little while. Sorry.

It's Here!

The project that has been dominating so much of my free time the last couple of week's has finally come to fruition. Decoy Music's Top 50 of 2006 feature is now live and I hope anyone reading this will give it a quick look, at the least. There is a ton of music covered as each staff member did their own Top 10 list (mine is right here) and we're unveiling the overall top 50 over the course of the next couple of weeks. It should be a fun time and offer up plenty of topics for discussion for any music lover. Check it out!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Ahhh... Weekend

It's only a couple of hours from happening--the weekend! Every week I find myself longing for the weekend to get here, mostly because of the days that I get to do what the heck ever I want to without having to work about work tasks and other crap. When the weekend finally gets here, however, I find myself feeling a little guilty.

In anticipating the weekend so strongly, I sludge through my days at work, not truly enjoying them. I slog through my nightly tasks like going to the gym, Thursday night poker, and watching TV. This week most of my time at night has been taken up with putting together the gigantic year end top 50 spectacle that will be unveiled next week over at Decoy Music, so my anticipation has been even more heightened than usual, and here on Friday, my guilt for just sliding through the last five days also runs a little higher.

Personally, I hate wasting time at all. It's usually my goal to make the most of any spare time I have, so when I find myself frustrated by the boredom of some of my menial tasks at work or by my indecision when it comes to deciding what I want to do for an evening or my lack of motivation to really dig into something like the top 50 feature. Honestly, I've been a little more apathetic than I'd like lately, but I think it's just a phase. With Christmas coming up, it's hard to focus on the right now without thinking about the time off and fun activities associated with the holidays.

So it's Friday. In a couple of hours I'm going to go to the gym and I'm going to enjoy it, dammit! And then I'll make some supper and I'm going to relish in doing it, dammit! And then I'll play some Gears of War with Jared and it'll be glorious, dammit! And then I'll head off to bed and it'll be phenomenal, dammit!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

That Guy...

In my office there are about 200 people. I know about 10 of them. I actually speak to about 3 of them, and that's not that often. The majority of my interaction with people in my office comes as I'm walking from my office to other areas of the office to perform certain tasks, such as refilling my coffee, taking a whiz, going for a Diet Coke, hitting up the printer, or running to get any leftover food from catered meetings.

In these short interactions, usually there is just enough time to say hi as we walk past each other or nod in acknowledgment of each other. Rarely do I ever have a chance to talk for more than a minuscule 30 second time frame, so most of the conversations don't ever go beyond:


"Hey, how are ya?"

"Good, yourself?"

"Just fine."

"Ok, catch you later."


And that's it. Interaction over. Quick, painless, and not awkward at all. I know it doesn't exactly help me to get to know my co-workers here, but that's something I'm willing to deal with. I'm sure I'm mostly an enigma to the people who work in my area and such, but I don't have a problem with it.

But there is one guy who is bound and determined to indulge in the most cliche-ridden, socially shudder inducing, mind-numbing small talk conversations. Today, for example, I was getting my daily Diet Coke from the pop machine as he was microwaving something in the same kitchen area. I hear from the side of me:

"How's it going?"

"Good. You?"

"Great. "


"...We're almost there, you know."


"It's Thursday, which means we're almost to Friday."

"Yeah, that's right. Cool."

"Nothing like a Friday, is there?"


At that point I headed back to my office. Every time I'm around this guy, it's the same types of conversations. I want to be pissed off and not talk to him or be snide or show my utter disdain for small talk in some rude way, but I can't. You know why? He's just too damn nice of a guy. Seriously, he's a shining example of what the office nice guy should be like.

So what do I do? Part of me wants to be a total dick, but the other part of me really respects the guy for being so nice. Such a tough call...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

We Eat Less Cheeseburgers

So according to the United Health Foundation, Minnesota is the healthiest state in the United States. How rocking is that? I'd figure that with the frigid winter months that we have to suffer through, our laziness and penchant for staying indoors to watch television and order pizza would at least push us to the middle of the pack. Apparently there are more people than I thought in this frozen wasteland that get bored after work and go to the gym to pass the cold, winter hours away.

Now how can you really decide which state is the healthiest? According to the study, they took into account factors such as "prevalence of obesity, smoking, infectious disease, cardiovascular deaths, infant mortality, child poverty, immunization rates, workplace deaths and auto deaths." Most of those seem to be good indicators as to whether people are healthy or not, but some I question.

How does workplace deaths and auto deaths factor into overall health ratings? Unless you're working for the CDC or at a hospital, I'm sure most workplace deaths occur because of something totally beyond the dying person's control. The same goes for auto deaths. Are people getting so sick that it impairs their driving, causing them to kill themselves and others in auto wrecks? I don't know how either of these factors could be counted in a study such as this.

Whatever, though. Minnesota is the healthiest state, so suck it Iowa.

Coolzey - He Did CD Review

Modern science will tell you that, despite what you may have been told in high school or by your parents, time travel is possible. That is, if you can wrap your head around the quantum physics involved… and if you can somehow overcome the niggling little problem that we don’t have any idea how to act upon the quantum theories as currently laid out. Still, it’s theoretically possible. I know that time travel probably won’t happen in any of our lifetimes, or probably ever, but that’s why we have CDs like He Did by Coolzey.

This six song EP functions as a window into hip hop’s past, all the way back to the late 80’s and early 90’s when you could hear The Beastie Boys and Biz Markie on the then fledgling MTV cable channel and your school dance was just starting to spin those “hip hop” and “rap” songs to dance along to. He Did might not be the most original EP in the world, but it shows Coolzey continuing to indulge in his love of hip hop’s roots, much like on his last record, Asktoopid.

As enjoyable as it is to hear something that hearkens back to the days when hip hop was just becoming popular, it also shows how dated this sound is. For example, the track “He Did” comes off much like a Beastie Boys b-side. The beats, the lyrical delivery, and the vibe of the song convey a little too much Beastie Boys Check Your Head era worship. The following track, “Mentality”, is a decent mid tempo track, but the clichéd scratching distortion of the word “mentality” feels extremely forced.

Speaking of feeling forced, the song “Funny Rappaz” is downright cringe-worthy. Coolzey’s rant, traded back and forth with guest Animosity, on how he’s not telling other rappers how to be, but letting them know they are simply “funny rappaz” that can’t keep up to him, might not have been the best choice for a cut to include on this effort… or ever, for that matter. Maybe he thought he needed to put something out there to show he has some attitude, but he doesn't exactly have enough street cred being an Iowa based with little mainstream, or even underground, hip hop exposure.

It’s nice to be able to hear someone still making music that will get you to tilt your head sideways and look off into the distance awash in nostalgia, but that can only get you so far. There’s promise to be heard in the banjo-tinged “Trees and Dirt”, which also puts some soul on display, but if that potential isn’t tapped into and exploited, Coolzey is never going to make it out of the Iowan countryside.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Go Drink a Beer

Today was a momentous day in United States history. The 5th of December... what does it symbolize to you? Someone's birthday, the day before hump day, just another Tuesday, an anniversary, or maybe just a boring day? If this day previously had no meaning to you, it should now. You see, in the year 1933 the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution was enacted. This amendment repealed the oft derided 18th Amendment.

Why is that important? Because it allowed United States citizens, such as you and I, to legally drink again. Yes, my friends, it has been 73 years since prohibition in the US was repealed on this very day. I would advise you to indulge your right to enjoy a cold, alcohol tinged beverage this evening to remember that if you were living here 74 years ago, you wouldn't be able to have that beer in your hand.

Celebrate the day that allowed Americans to get drunk again. We wouldn't be able to do nearly as many stupid things as we do without the 21st Amendment. See, the government does do the right thing every now and again!

Movies Movies Movies

So, here's a couple more movies I watched. Full thread here.

The Jerk (5.5/10): I know, I know, everyone says this is a classic and is Steve Martin's best work and is hilarious and should be seen by everyone. Well, besides having a few great scenes and a couple of memorable lines, the rest of the movie just wasn't all that awesome. Maybe it is because I am the next generation looking back on one of the last generation's cult favorites, but as a comedy it was a little too slow and as a simple drama it wasn't very interesting. I would suggest having one of your friends who probably loves this movie to death quote some of the key lines to you instead of watching the whole movie. Or if you do have time, I suppose you could watch it as it is a classic, but don't get your hopes too high.

Deja Vu (3/10): Don't worry, I knew what I was getting into before I went to this movie. With it being a Jerry Bruckheimer movie, you can't expect too much, especially when it comes to having a plot that makes sense. My first beef with this movie is actually Denzel Washington. Does he ever change his character type? He's the exact same character in just about every movie he is in. Look at Man on Fire and Inside Job and Out of Time and Training Day and just about any other action movie he is in. It's lazy acting if you ask me. My second beef with the movie is the lame goose of a plot device in the time machine that lets the team solving the crime see into the past and then, with a little more juice, lets them send notes and people into the past. Lastly, there are way too many small details that are just annoying. For example, in one scene a woman is doused in some type of accelerate (probably gasoline or kerosene). When she is saved from an explosion the flames are all around her, but she doesn't start on fire. It's the small details like that which can kill an otherwise dumb, but enjoyable, movie.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Flaming Tsunamis - Fear Everything CD Review

Right from the get go, this band didn’t seem to fit the mold that so many of the releases that circle around in today's musical arena so easily do. With a name like The Flaming Tsunamis you expect something off the wall (which they definitely are), but you don’t know what exactly. Are they some weird progressive pop-punk band? Or maybe a light-hearted metalcore band? Then there’s the CD cover which seems to convey the band wanting to make a political statement to the world, but are they going for the “drugs are rad” vibe or is this a metaphor for the state of affairs in our country? Actually, when you're actually listening to Fear Everything, it'll leave you even more puzzled than you were just thinking about them because you can take all of your pre-conceived notions about what this band might sound like and throw them out the door. This is jazz-ska-punk-dance-metalcore, ladies and gentlemen.

The sheer amount of diversity found throughout this effort can easily leave a listener’s head spinning. Take, for example, the song “Corpse Disposal for Dummies”. It starts off with a mix of punk guitars, snarly ranting vocals, and a peppy horn section. Within 45 seconds time the song shifts gears into a jazz breakout accompanied by repeated female spoken word vocals that then shift into a hand clap fronted, Red Hot Chili Peppers influenced, reggae rock flow that later gets layered over by some hard rock guitars at the two minute mark. The remainder of the song is a total mash up of metal chords, horns, yelling, and lyrics about, well, corpses.

Using that song as a blueprint for the rest of the CD might be a little misleading as the song is easily the most genre mashed of the disc, but the remainder isn’t too much less tame. The bottle of Ritalin on the cover might actually be a warning label to anyone wanting to listen to the CD in that by listening to this CD you will probably be counteracting the affects of any downers you’re currently on. Or else you'll want to take some to keep your head from spinning off of your shoulders. Everything on Fear Everything simply screams energy at you. There is no calm during this storm. From the opening of “The Ritalin Conspiracy” to the end of “Shit Piss Die”, the band is operating at a billion RPM. Well, except for about a minute at the end of “The Great Red Cross Robbery” when they throw in a smooth jazz outro and the quirky “Weaug, Teaug, Peaug”.

Having so many disparate elements blended together can lead to some phenomenally creative moments, but there is also the risk of having that concoction self destruct under the weight of trying to do too much at one time. Similar to the mythological Atlas, The Flaming Tsunamis manage to hold the weight of all of their influences on their shoulders quite well. How many bands have a hard time creating one or two decent songs in a single genre, let along create an entire album of quality music? If you asked me, probably 95% of bands in modern music. Now how many bands can successfully meld ska, metal, jazz, punk, hardcore, reggae, and even some latin flavor into twelve tracks of audible bliss? Right now there's only one. I’ll give you two guesses as to what that band’s name is.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

My First Ever Shooting

In comparison to New York, Chicago, Detroit, and many of the other big metro environments in the US, Minneapolis is not really known for having a ton of violent crime. Statistically in the Minneapolis metro area it has been on the rise, but we're far from the levels of many other cities in my mind.

Which leads me in to last night. I met up with some of the members of my work team that were in from out of town last night to have dinner at Fire Lake Restaurant. My manager and myself had drinks for a while and were later met by the partner that was leading our project for dinner. We ate and were later joined by another member of our team for post-meal drinks. It was all very fun and relaxing.

On our way out as I was headed home and everyone else was headed to their hotel rooms, we stepped outside of the restaurant only to see a group of squad cars surrounding two buses across the road from us. Two more police cars zoomed in while we were standing there while one that was there took off at top speed.

We had no clue what was going on and I was cold so I walked back to my car and didn't think anything of it. That is until this morning when one of my team members asked if I had seen the news. The ruckus that we watched the night before was the aftermath of a shooting that left one person in critical condition. Crazy, huh?

So on second thought, maybe violent crime in Minneapolis is a little more pervasive than originally thought. *Shrug* I still would rather be here than in some other big city.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I Remember When Toys Were Cheap

It's getting close to being Christmas time. Heck, it's less than a month's time away. And with Christmas comes Christmas shopping. I usually like to have all of my Xmas shopping done before Thanksgiving hits. If I don't have everyone's gifts bought and wrapped up by the time I'm eating turkey and passing out while watching football I get a little antsy.

I have a good chunk of my shopping done this year, but not all of it. Since I don't like battling the pre-Christmas rush crowds at the malls and such when I'm just window shopping a lot of the time, I've switched over to browsing and other online sites to look for things that might make good gifts.

Today I was looking at some of the Lego kits that they had on Amazon when I ran across this $160 Lego Star Wars Star Destroyer kit monstrosity. Who in their right mind is going to spend $160 on a gigantic Lego toy for their kid? I remember getting big ass buckets of Legos when I was young and they were like $20 for a couple billion of them. Sure, sometimes we might have got Megablocks instead of Legos, but they were basically the same thing.

Nowadays toys are ridiculously expensive. I can't imagine having a kid clamoring for stupid expensive toys for the month or two before Christmas. I'd probably go insane (and broke)! When did we need to spoil kids so badly? I was fine playing with wooden guns out on the farm that we made out of pieces of 2x4's in the farm's shop. Kids need more imagination and less instant gratification.

HR = Incompetence

Last month was our open enrollment month for benefits at work. I had no real changes to make to my benefits except for one--I was going to enroll in our legal services benefit for next year. I've been thinking of buying a house and real estate legal services are covered in our company's legal services benefit. For only about $180 on the year, I'll have access to all the legal services I need, which is way cheaper than if I went out and had to find a lawyer to work with for setting up a mortgage and preparing housing purchase documents.

Oddly, the sheer amount of time I had to waste to get into the benefit at work was ridiculous. I was first informed by the HR department that the legal benefits were not available to opt into on the benefits interface that we used on our company intranet. I'd have to go through the actual legal services website and sign up. No problem, right?

I ended up searching through the legal benefits website for about an hour going through just about every page that was ever created on it and found no way to sign up for the services. I eventually found a cryptically worded form that sounded like it might be used for signing up, so I filled it out and submitted it. This form, indeed, was used for signing up, but upon submitting it, I was presented with a page that told me they were glad I was trying to sign up for the service, but I needed to do it through my company.

So I called our company's local HR team to get this figured out. I asked for cost, if it was pre- or post-tax, and where it was exactly I needed to sign up. They told me they had no idea and forwarded me on to the national HR team. The national HR team then informed me they did not have the information and I needed to find it out from the legal services site.

At this point, I decided to take a day off from pursuing this because I was about to murder someone in a blind rage. The next day I told the national HR team that I did go through the site of our legal services benefit provider only to be directed back to my employer. I left a message telling the person I was contacting to call me at home as I was out of the office for the day.

So what does she do? She calls my office and leaves a voice mail. At this point, I decided that it must be a prerequisite for working in HR that your IQ must be lower than 80. I called the lady who incompetently couldn't call me at the right number and asked her to get this figured out. She informed me that she wasn't paying attention when directing me in what to do and let me know that the benefit was available on our HR intranet website. And because I had been told the wrong information, she told me she would in turn take time out of her day to show me how to sign up for the benefit. How nice of her, eh? Seriously, she screwed up and shouldn't think twice about helping, but instead she tried to make me feel guilty for wasting her time that she could have probably been better spending playing Spider Solitaire on her computer or chewing gum and seeing how big of a bubble she could blow.

Thankfully, I finally got everything ironed out. Now I just need to wait for my benefits package confirmation to see if everything went through correctly. If not, the entire HR department should expect to catch hell like they've never caught it before.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Black Friday

Almost all of my friends avoid shopping in any capacity on the day after Thanksgiving, and for good reason -- it's a mad house trying to shop anywhere on that fabled Friday of each year. And then there are the people like myself that make each year's black Friday something to look forward to. Just like the last 6 or 7 years, I was up bright and early in line outside of Best Buy waiting to get some of that doorbusting goodness.

Most years there is one big item that someone in my family needs to get for some reason or another on black Friday, with this year being no different. My little brother, Ryan, needed to get a laptop for college so. He may have needed something, but I really didn't. That sure didn't stop me from getting up at 2:15 am and driving to the Rochester Best Buy with my other brother Randy, my mom, and my cousin.

When we arrived at Best Buy around 3:10 am (it's a 45 minute drive from my parents' house to Rochester) there was already hundreds of people standing in line. The night before, luckily, my other brother Ryan (who needed the laptop) came with one of his friends to came out at around 9:00 pm. Even being there 8 hours before the store opened, he was about 75th in line. People were lining up around 1:00 pm on Thursday. Crazy!

So I waited two hours to get in, spending part of the time talking with my brother Ryan and his friend at the front of the line about the people who were driving by the night before to heckle them, claiming they had no life. Think about it, though. The people driving around at 2:00 am heckling people in line to shop must equally need lives if they have nothing else to do. The rest of the time was spend listening to my trusty MP3 player and being thankful that it was above freezing this year, as opposed to last year when it was ridonkulously freezing out.

Since I was there so early, I needed to justify to myself the lack of sleep, the time spent in line, and the drive into Rochester. So... I bought a TV. Right now my place only has one communal television so we sometimes end up wanting to use it at the same time and someone has to go to their room to do whatever they wanted to do. Not any more! I purchased a 32" LCD widescreen HDTV doorbuster special. Oh yeah! Check out its hotness:

It's really pretty. I think it'll make a great TV. I've already spent time watching football on it while one of my roommates played Xbox 360 on the other television. I'm still amazed at how clear the new LCDs are, even when displaying a standard analog cable signal.

Oh, and I also picked up Table Tennis for 360. So far, it's worth every penny of the $18.99 I spent on it. Go grab yourself a copy and come play me on Xbox Live. I'm not that good... yet!

All in all, it was a very successful black Friday shopping experience yet again. If you've never done it, you should try it out next year. Or not. You might not be as deranged as I am. But hey, shoppings fun, isn't it?

More Movie Action!

I caught a couple of movies lately that should be added to the thread.

Waiting (8/10): I know that not many people will enjoy this movie since it is basically a very low budget, potty humor, stupid type of comedy, but Ryan Reynolds is just too hilarious. Combine that with the "penis showing game" and some pretty decently funny dialog and you have the ingredients for a cult classic comedy. Being that I've probably watching this movie 5 or 6 times now and haven't gotten sick of it says something. Watch it for the dumb humor. Watch it for Reynolds. Watch it if you've ever worked at a restaurant. Then you'll really enjoy it.

Casino Royale (9/10): Before seeing this movie, I considered Pierce Brosnan the epitome of James Bond. He was sly, sexy, smart, witty, and able to be violent when he needed to be. Seeing the trailers for Casino Royale had me fearing for the Bond property as I didn't think Daniel Craig could be a good James Bond. He'd been great in every movie I'd seen him in, but I couldn't picture him as Bond. Then I saw Casino Royale. I now wholeheartedly endorse his portrayal of Bond. Hearkening back to the Sean Connery days of Bond, we see Craig portraying a Bond that is ruthless, brutal, and even a little sloppy. Heck, he even shows some emotional attachment (which plays a definite role in the plot). To top off Craig's performance, the story was involving with only a little bit of a lull in the latter third of the movie. That and there were some great action set pieces. Do yourself a favor and toss out your preconceptions about Bond and just go see this.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Turkey Day

Go eat too much and pass out from a food overdose while watching football. That's my plan!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Radio Rebellion Tour 2006

Does it strike anyone else as horribly ironic that for a tour labeled the Radio Rebellion Tour, which would seem to imply a showcase of bands that are "underground", would have some pretty high profile sponsors in Nike, Hot Topic, and Hurley (among many others)? I know being confronted by the Nike logo throughout the venue was a little bit weird. Regardless of this fact and the lame name of the tour, the crowd was actually presented with a very solid package… well, except for the opener.

Bless the Fall started off the show in quite the underwhelming fashion. There was not a damn thing unique or redeeming about this band. They’re the epitome of fashionable mallcore metalcore garbage. There are five guys, all in girl pants and trendy band shirts, sporting their pasty white looks and 120 lbs of size to the crowd while squirting out boring, unoriginal breakdowns interspersed with lame melodic vocals and clichéd back up screams. Oh, and don't forget they use a keyboard for like two songs and try to pull off a couple of interesting riffs but fail miserably in sounding talented at all. Is it wrong for me to point out that I feel sad for this band?

What makes Bless the Fall even more sad looking is being followed by the metalcore juggernaut of Misery Signals. Truth be told, the thick, meaty, wall of sound found on Mirrors didn’t translate to the live environment perfectly, but damn if they still sound crushing. Playing a healthy combination of fan favorites from Of Malice and the Magnum Heart and the new album, the crowd wasn’t given too much time to rest, but there were a few times where the band wandered into the more introspective portions of their songs, which was good to see. Other bands would be tempted to cut out anything lacking intensity in order to keep the crowd churning, but Misery Signals played to their full range.

In breaking from the metalcore vibe the show had going, Fear Before the March of Flames hit the stage breaking right into some of their new material. I will say this for the band, even though I am not their biggest fan, I found their set to be quite good. In fact, in comparison to the last time I saw them, which was about two years ago, the band has come a long, long way. Instead of thrashing away on stage just making noise, they have managed to pull together actual songs and play them live to great effect. You have to give a band credit when they come around and improve as much as FBTMOF has.

With the three opening bands out of the way, you could feel the audience salivating for Between the Buried and Me, and for good reason, as you don’t often have a band of their caliber coming through town. Once the lights dimmed within the venue and the band members took their places, there was a small pause and then 45 minutes of sheer amazing-ness ensued. Seriously, this band is phenomenal live. The precision with which they play their instruments is something to behold, both visually and audibly. BTBAM know how to play. There is no doubt about it. Especially memorable were their performances of “Selkies” and “Backwards Marathon”, both including amazing guitar solos. The only slight setback experienced during the set was their cover of Queen’s “Bicycle Race”. Now I’m using setback in the sense that it only broke the flow of the set, but their performance of the song was still ridiculously good. Kids, this is a band to see if you ever get the chance.

Closing the show was Norma Jean. As much as I would have wanted to see another hour of BTBAM, Norma Jean put on a relatively good show. The good majority of their set was spent playing new material off of Redeemer, but they took the time to throw in a couple of songs off of the unbelievably underrated O God, the Aftermath and ended the show with “Memphis Will Go Down in Flames” off of Bless the Martyr, Kiss the Child. In deference to other bands in this genre, the boys in Norma Jean didn’t come out in scene clothes but instead performed in what I like to term “Dirty Woodsmen” gear. Wearing old work clothes, mostly jeans and flannel, while having fake dirt and refuse on them, the band looked just like they sound — rough, abrasive, and violent.

With that said, I did have some problems with Norma Jean’s set. The biggest was the second drum kit and drummer that they had with them. I was wholeheartedly expecting some rad dual drumming techniques, but instead the second drum kit and drummer were there mostly for show. The auxiliary drum kit's cymbals weren't even mic-ed up and the mixing had the secondary drumming so low in the mix you couldn’t even hear them. It was all for show. The other problem with their set was the simple fact that, much like their albums, there is very little differentiation between any of their songs. Sure, each song was loud and aggressive, but by the end of the set it felt like the same 5 riffs had been repeated a billion times over, just at slightly different tempos.

At the end of the day, this is definitely a show to go to, if for no other reason than to see the intense live experience embodied by Between the Buried and Me. The rest of the bands, except Bless the Fall, were all also wonderful performers and deserve your well earned cash and attention. Get out there and catch this tour while you can!

Click here for pictures from the show.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Stupid Rich Kids

Thank you for giving me another reason to hate rich kids. Showing me all of the really expensive, neato, tricked out, totally rad, and totally gratuitous toys that are out there for this holiday season makes me want to find every rich kid I know or knew when I was a tyke and kick each and every one of them square in the face. Then I could steal their toys and laugh at them for crying from a heel to the face. Stupid kids.

Seriously, though, who the hell needs a life sized Batman made completely out of Legos for $27,000? Or how about a genuine seven foot tall Robby Robot? It'll only set you back a cool $49,999.99!

I think for Christmas I'll settle for some new socks, boxers, or just being with my family and friends. As bad ass as the life size Batman would be, I think I can pass this time around.

But if I happen to ever meet a kid that got the life size Lego Batman... he better be prepared for a heel to the face, lots of laughing, and being short one life size Lego Batman.

Monday, November 20, 2006

That's Why I Own a 360

In reading most of the coverage from big media outlets, the Playstation 3 hasn't been talked about in too bad of a light. Most of the focus has been on the violence surrounding getting one, the extreme prices paid on Ebay to own one, and the competition with the Wii. There hasn't been too many articles actually talking about the PS3 but then, in the oddest place of all, the NY Times gives us their coverage of the PS3 and it is very far from flattering.

Everything I read about the PS3 makes it sound like a really rushed, broken, half-assed version of an Xbox 360 with an untested, hard to program for core processing system. One developer has even commented that for all the horsepower that the PS3 has, it just won't be able to do what a 360 can because of the architecture differences.

I'm sure I'm beating a dead horse here, especially since I already own and love my Xbox 360, but the PS3 was horribly underwhelming as it was being hyped and now that it is out, the price doesn't even come close to justifying the shoddy piece of junk that it is. Who'd have thought I'd be cheering for Microsoft at this point?

A Few More Movies

So here's three more movies to add to the review thread.

Over the Hedge (6.5/10): For animated CGI fare, this movie wasn't that bad. The previews made it out to be a little more funny than it actually was, but I'm sure the target audience of kids didn't notice as there was plenty to keep them interested. The story is your run of the mill "evil character redeems himself after the people he tries to screw become his friends" plot, but there are enough clever one liners and colorful animation to keep you from nodding off. The voice work was pretty tame as I was expecting a lot more from the colorful cast (William Shatner, Steve Carell, Eugene Levy). Watch with your girlfriend or kids and you'll be fine.

Monster House (6.5/10): Another animated CGI movie, but this one had a slightly more adult tone to it. The animation also wasn't the standard CGI type, but instead had a definite claymation feel to it, which was refreshing. There were some definitely funny one-liners and some great tension building moments, but what brings this movie down is the ending. I found myself hoping for more creativity towards the end, especially since the house monster was so concerned with only being seen by kids that the tossing out of that convention at the end really turned me off. Otherwise, this was an acceptably done film that was entertaining enough.

Cold Creek Manor (3.5/10): Talk about a slow ass moving movie. I have no problem with slow paced, pot-boiling mysteries, but this movie went absolutely nowhere for the first 80 minutes. The "mystery" about Stephen Dorff's character also isn't that much of a mystery and even the most obtuse viewer will be able to pick out the end ages before it is revealed. There isn't really a good reason for anyone to watch this film as all of the performances are pretty average as well. Well, I suppose if you were having trouble falling asleep this would be a good movie to flip on, but that should be about it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Xmas Gifts

Christmas will be here before you know it and I know that many of you still have tons of Christmas shopping to do (and if you want to get a little something for me, here's my wish list... no pressure). Sometimes it might be hard to find exactly what you want to get for people on your Christmas shopping list and sometimes it is hard to find things cheap to get people. Money is always tight around the holidays. So why not check out

I recently found out about this site from Jared. We were talking about buying Playstations and Xboxes and other geeky hardware when he showed me this site. The gist of it is that the site has one item for sale a day and keeps selling it for their discounted price until quantities run out. When it does, the sale is over for the day. It's cool. Something new and cheap every day.

Then there's woot-offs, which is what the site is doing right now. A woot-off is where they run a deal until all of the stock for that item is sold out, then they put up a new item until it is sold out and so on until the woot-off is over. It's awesome. I find myself refreshing the page all day and doing my best to keep my mouse finger from clicking on the "I Want One" button.

Check it out and prepare to get addicted... and to see your credit card bill increase!

So Who Didn't See This Coming?

Today is the day that the Playstation 3 was unleashed to the masses. Getting one, however, is pretty much an impossibility right now unless you want to pay upwards of $3,000 or more on Ebay for one. Crazy, huh?

What's even more crazy is all of the violence that has surrounded the launch of the Playstation 3. From various articles found on the internet (like this one from there have been robberies, riots, fights, and even a shooting as people line up to get one of the few Playstation 3's that are available at most retailers. Most of the larger department and electronic stores (ie: Best Buy, Target, Circuit City, etc.) were only going to be stocking between 4 and 40 at each store. Most of the time it was in the 8-15 range.

Because of the limited number and the unlimited demand, I could see how that 16th or 17th person in line might get a little testy knowing they're right on the cusp of getting a Playstation 3 and, probably, access to a couple of grand pure profit in their pockets within a week or two once the item gets sold on Ebay.

I thought about camping out at the Target next to our house, but then didn't really want to (that and my roommates didn't want to either). It probably would have been worth it, however, to stand outside in the cold for 8-10 hours to make a couple grand. That's a pretty nice profit for a day's worth of work doing nothing but sitting in line reading a book, sleeping, or listening to an audiobook.

This all reminds me of when the Xbox 360 came out last year and how everyone was lined up for them. I wanted one so badly at the time and also figured that the claimed shortages were overhyped. So when I showed up at Target a few minutes after they opened looking for a 360, they told me that there was a line outside that morning and they were all gone within minutes. Eventually I got one from a friend who didn't want it any more and sold it to me with his PSP, but it really sucked not being able to get it when I wanted it.

I can only imagine all of the poor Sony fanboys that won't be getting their prized PS3 on launch day. I don't know, but after reading all of the "blah" and negative reviews about the games for the PS3, I'm not too sure it's worth all the money, waiting, or hype. It's like a way more expensive version of the 360 with a Blu-Ray player and wi-fi (if you get the $600 version, that is).

If you ask me, the Playstation 3 is probably going to do ok in the long run, but I think the Xbox 360 is poised to take the 6th gen video game crown. Mark my words, Xbox will be king by this time next year.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Holy Freakin' Lord

Anyone who pays attention to politics, especially during this last election, will have noticed the barrier that we progressive Minnesotans have broken. This last election we elected Keith Ellison to Congress. Why does this break some barrier? Well, because he is the first Muslim to be elected to Congress.

I really applaud him for making it and I adhere to a lot of his ideals. If I wasn't too busy wasting my votes on independent candidates, he would have received my vote. But now, instead of receiving any type of positive media coverage or being asked normal, political questions, CNN Headline News is asking him to explain to the rest of the United States that he isn't somehow "working for the enemy". Ridiculous. I like how Ellison handled the situation, but he shouldn't have to be subjected to crap like this.

Glenn Beck, the man interviewing Ellison, even goes down the road of insinuating that the large Muslim and Somali population in Minnesota might be "the enemy" as well. I cringed watching the video at the link. When will people in this country stop being so damn closed minded? Thank God, or Allah if that's what you believe or Buddha or whatever (does it really matter in politics?), that Minnesotans at least were progressive enough to look beyond the religious affiliation of a political candidate and vote on political leanings. At least that's the reason I hope the majority of us voted for him.

Not all politicians are terrible, filthy bastards. Just people like Glenn Beck. Here's to hoping you serve us well Mr. Keith Ellison.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Go Get Fat

It has been a fortunate (or maybe unfortunate) timing that I recently came across two wonderful buy one, get one free coupons for two places that I most definitely love to go.

First, if you want your ice cream fix, click this link to get yourself a buy one, get one free coupon you can use at Cold Stone Creamery. Usually when I go there I just buy one of their freakin' huge buckets of ice cream goodness, but with the use of this coupon it's definitely a nice, reasonably priced way to take someone out on a date or to just get twice as much ice cream for your money.

The second coupon is for my coffee shop of choice, Caribou Coffee. Click here for the buy one, get one free coupon. This one you need to get using quick, however, as it expires on the 22nd. I know I'll probably use it daily since there's a Caribou in my building. What I do is order one of their cold drinks and one of their warm drinks. I stash the cold drink in the fridge for later and drink the warm one right away. If you want to get the Rick combo, order a large campfire mocha and a large chocolate coffee cooler. So yummy... and so many calories... but so much caffeine too!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Black Friday Shopping

Every year for the past, I don't know, probably 8 or 9 years I have run the gauntlet at Best Buy on the Friday after Thanksgiving to secure myself the hottest deals of the year. I'm sure this year will be no different than the last, but after looking over the ads of some other stores over on Black Friday Ads, I find myself wanting to shop at other places instead of my usual standby of Best Buy.

Take a look at Best Buy's ad and you'll see a ton of good deals, yes, but none that really interest me. There's obviously some great deals, like the 50" HDTV for $700, some of the computer systems, and whatnot, but I only find myself interested in the following items:
  • Table Tennis for Xbox 360 for $19
  • The Outfit for Xbox 360 for $10
  • 7" Digital Photo Frame for $80
  • 250 GB External Hard Drive for $70
  • Some of the $5 DVDs
  • Prison Break Season 1 for $20
So as it stands right now, I'm not exactly looking forward to getting up at like midnight (or just not going to bed) to drive to Rochester (which is 45 minutes from my parents' house) to stand in the freezing cold to maybe not even get those few things. I'm sure I'll go as I think my brother is planning on getting a laptop before he heads off to college and my other brother always finds things he wants, but for me there's no "holy crap, that's an awesome deal and I need it" item or items jumping out at me.

I actually wish there was a Circuit City in Rochester because after looking at their ad, I find myself wanting more stuff in their ad, like the following:
  • Some of their $3 DVDs
  • Infected and Ape Escape for PSP for $10 each
  • Quake 4, Gun, and Full Auto for Xbox 360 for $17 each
  • Some of the 2 for $8 DVDs
  • House Season 1 for $13
  • Boondocks Season 1 for $19
  • 250 GB External Hard Drive for $40 (way better price than Best Buy)
  • Digital Projector, 92" screen, and subwoofer for $450 (I probably wouldn't actually buy this, but it's pretty cool nonetheless)
I'm almost tempted to drive up to the Twin Cities from my parents' place Thursday night and go to a Circuit City... but I probably won't. Would be nice to have those deals available at Best Buy, though.

Monday, November 13, 2006

It's Odd What You Find

This weekend I was taking some time to clean up in my room. This wasn't just the normal vacuum and dust, take out the trash, toss the odds and ends clutter in the closet type of cleaning. No, I actually didn't do any productive cleaning, but instead decided to go through some of my drawers, cabinets, and other storage units.

As I was rifling through junk I'd tossed away ages ago, I found a ton of crap that was ripe for the tossing. It was amazing some of the crap that I decided was worth keeping whenever I put it where I did. At times my inner pack rat comes out and I get the urge to save things that no sane being would ever imagine holding on to. That or I thought, in some crazy state of mind, that whatever I hid away I would eventually use for something later on... which I obviously didn't since it's still hanging around unused and taking up space.

While I was cleaning out my computer's cabinet, I ran across something interesting--a small wad of cash. Now it wasn't very much money. In fact, it was quite the small sum. Seven dollars to be exact, coming in the form of a fiver and two ones. Wracking my brain, I tried to come up with a reason as to why I'd tuck away a few scant dollars into my computer cabinet. That it dawned on me, it was a gift from back in the day. A gift that has a somewhat interesting back story.

So you know how guys are expected to do really nice and sweet things on Valentine's Day? They're supposed to buy expensive crap for their girlfriends, take them out to nice places, and treat them like goddesses. I've never had a problem with that mentality as I like to do nice stuff for girls on Valentine's Day, but along those lines I also would expect a little something on that day as well, even if it is only something little and cute, as long as it's heartfelt.

As you probably guessed, the seven dollars was a Valentine's Day gift that I got from a girl I was dating at the time. It was mailed to me in a card with a ripped off portion of notebook paper with something like "get something fun on me" written on it. Now in defense of the girl who sent this, we weren't able to get together on Valentine's Day as we were in different cities at the time, but with that being known, imagine for one second what would happen if a guy had sent that as his Valentine's Day gift.

I could totally see the girl opening the card, seeing the rumpled up odd amount of money, the scribbled note, and start fuming instantaneously. What girl would ever let a guy get away with this? I'll tell you--none. But since I was a guy, somehow I'm guessing the girl thought it would be ok because guys don't like Valentine's Day or something. I don't really know, but I remember getting it and being simultaneously disappointed, furious, and overcome with laughter.

So with that little story told, what's the worst or oddest gift you've ever received? Bonus points if you got it on Valentine's Day.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Couple Good Graphic Novels

Originally I had plans for this Friday night and Saturday daytime, but because of a blizzard that decided to ravage its way through Rochester on Friday, my plans (which were in Rochester) kind of fell by the wayside. With some free time opening up, I took the opportunity to open up a couple of graphic novels and knock them off of my "to read" shelf (which is getting to be larger and larger every month). Both of the books I read were very enjoyable and come with my ringing endorsement for you to spend your money on.

The first graphic novel I plowed through comes from the small-ish publisher, NBM Publishing, and goes by the title War Fix. I ordered this in my previews order a couple of months ago based solely on the premise--the story of an embedded journalist that comes to hate and love war simultaneously. He's a war junkie, but he doesn't want to participate. Throughout the book, you get the feeling of war voyeurism.

The tone is very contemplative and somewhat simplistic, yet darkly attractive. As we see the main character go from living a life as a normal journalist to becoming a journalist focused on war to becoming a journalist right in the middle of the Iraq war to a journalist who gives up everything to be surrounded by war. The transformation is accompanied by many anecdotal scenes of what war is like in today's modern Iraq. The book kept me very interested throughout and at the end of it all, it didn't feel heavy handed or trite like so many war books seem to be nowadays.

The second graphic novel I got to was one that I picked up a while back, actually, and let linger on my shelf, mostly because I find I have to be in a very particular mood to really enjoy a Howard Chaykin story. Mighty Love tells the tale of two superheroes who happen to run into each other when working the same case and slowly fall for each other. The rub, however, is that their alternate personas hate each other in real life and are working against each other at every turn.

Truth be told, there really isn't anything groundbreaking or awe-inspiring about this offering, but it's just interesting enough to keep you turning from page to page and then before you know it, boom, you're done. Chaykin's artistic style may not be something everyone can appreciate, but I find most of his work to be of an interesting, if somewhat simple, style--thick lines, slightly exaggerated characters, and simple coloring. It works, though.

So if you're looking for a couple of decent graphic novels to pick up and read as the temperatures start to drop and snow starts to litter the ground, feel free to give these two a shot.

Friday, November 10, 2006

World Championship Tour 2006 Show Review

There’s nothing like a rock show on a Wednesday night at a new, trendy dance club, right? With one of the main venues for rock shows in Minneapolis still undergoing some reconstruction work, many of the concerts coming through town have been routed to other venues in the area. This show, which was originally scheduled to run at The Quest Club was sent to The Myth, which is in a northern suburb of the Twin Cities. It’s a dance club by trade, but will host shows as well. With that in mind, the crowd was treated to a show with production values light years ahead of what you’d find in most rock venues in the area.

The show started late, no doubt because the tour didn’t have to accommodate the From First to Last set, which is good because I’d much rather listen to the tunes that were played while the road crew set things up than suffer through a half hour or more of FFTL attempting to perform. After the prolonged wait, Chiodos hit the stage, greeted by cheering from most of the crowd. Much like the last time I saw them, Chiodos showed they have a very strong Minnesotan following.

One of the main downfalls of the venue being a dance club in nature is that the sound system is geared towards thumping out techno and trance music, not metal. As such, while the levels were getting adjusted throughout Chiodos’ set, the majority of the middle tones were somewhat mute in comparison to the deep, muddled bass and the highs of the keyboards. A few songs in, the sound levels adjusted nicely, just in time for the band to break into “Baby, You Wouldn’t Last a Minute on the Creek” and follow it up with “The Words ‘Best Friend’ Become Redefined”. The latter of those two songs is always a highlight of any Chiodos’ performance, with its razor sharp opening and the progressive song structure throughout the remainder of the song. Closing the set, the band played the crowd favorite “There’s No Penguins in Alaska”. They put on a solid performance, as they always do when they come through town, and the crowd ate it up.

Playing the middle slot for the night was Every Time I Die. Quite unexpectedly, they had what was easily the best sounding and tightest set of the night. The nature of their style of metalcore doesn’t usually lend itself to tight playing, but every song was spot on and sounded phenomenal. Playing a solid mix of tunes from both Hot Damn! and Gutter Phenomenon their set was a good combination of aggression and fun. Their somewhat southern tinted form of spastic metalcore got the kids to both circle pit like a bunch of rabid monkeys, as well as hardcore dance to the groovier moments.

During their set, ETID tried to resurrect the outdated and quasi-cool (at best during its prime) Arsenio Hall dog pound hoot. Seeing the pit stand staring at the stage doing the dog pound hoot was a laugh and a half. Isn’t it amazing how a crowd is so utterly captive to the performers on stage and will do just about anything they are told to? Once the stage banter was complete, the band finished out their set on a strong note, riling up the kids for the headlining, scene kings, Atreyu.

Now I’ve seen Atreyu three times previous to this performance, each time being totally underwhelmed. In their defense, I reasoned to myself, the places I saw them didn’t have ultra high class sound systems like The Myth so maybe this time would be different. It wasn’t. For some reason, Atreyu routinely fails to put on a good sounding show. The guitars are never quite high enough in the mix and everything feels kind of loose. This was the case yet again, and it was only exemplified by the ultra-tight performance put on by ETID moments before.

Atreyu went through their usual set list except with a little bit more focus on material from A Deathgrip on Yesterday. One of the songs they played from Deathgrip was the atrocious “The Theft”. On disc that song is horrible embodied. Performed live it killed any energy the room might have had. I don’t know why they wrote that song in the first place and am doubly confounded that they even contemplated playing it live, let alone actually doing it. Outside of this big sidestep, everything else was typical Atreyu fair, complete with closing songs “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Lip Gloss in Black” which every last scene kiddie ate up.

By the end of the night, the show felt a little short with only three bands being on the tour, and I don’t know if all the kids felt they got their full $25 to $30 worth. I’d recommend this tour for Chiodos and Every Time I Die, but not necessarily for Atreyu. There are some better tours coming around right now that it might be a better bet to save your hard earned cash and go to some other shows. If money isn’t a factor, though, then give this gig a whirl. It’s decent enough.

Click here for photos from the show.

Gears of Freakin' War

Holy chainsawed alien face, Batman, Gears of War is ridiculous. Seriously. If you own an Xbox 360 and don't buy this game, your 360 should be violently removed from your household and given to a gamer that knows what's what.

So I threw down my $60 on Gears of War yesterday and as soon as I got it delivered to my house yesterday (thanks Kristi) Jared and I jumped right in and started a two player campaign. Awesome is really not good enough of a word to describe my initial reaction. The hype is real, everyone, this game is gorgeous and it feels like a big budget blockbuster movie as opposed to a series of levels connected by cut scenes. You smoothly transition from "level" to "level" if you can call them levels.

We only played for about 45 minutes, but the entire time I was totally engaged. I'm sure we'll put in way too many hours on this game over the weekend, but that's fine with me. I have to get my $60 worth one way or another.

I also managed to put in a couple of games of online play and was also quite impressed. It's quite noticeable right from the first match that if you don't work as a team, you're hosed. The design of the game makes it almost impossible to succeed on your own, unless you are a GoW god. The dynamics make it a little deeper than your usual run and gun shooter. I'm sure I'll also play way too many games online, getting pwnd like a noob.

Go get this game, everyone. And if you don't own a 360... buy one!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A 12 Hour Bug?

I rarely get sick. Maybe once a year if that. In the past five years I think I've been sick about 4 times total, with only two of them being real drag down, knockout affairs. Somehow I ended up with a really good immune system that treats me well. Occasionally, I'll get a little sniffle or something, but it's barely noticeable. Last night and this morning, however, I had a little bout with some weird type of short term, but somewhat intense, bug.

During the Atreyu / Every Time I Die / Chiodos show that Jared and I were at last night, I could feel my throat getting a tickle and it was somewhat painful to swallow. In checking my lymph nodes, I found they were pretty swollen. I figured I was in for some type of battle against a sickness that was invading my system.

When we got home, I had a nice big glass of milk and took a couple of cold pills to help with my throat and jumped into bed. As I was trying to fall asleep I found myself shivering and feeling extremely cold. So much so that I turned my heated mattress pad up as high as it would go, put on some flannel pants and a t-shirt, and covered up in a huge comforter after I wrapped myself in another blanket. Still, I was shivering and freezing. Eventually I fell asleep, but no doubt in a popsicle state.

Upon waking up this morning my head hurt, my upper body felt tight, and my sinuses were blocked up. As I moved through my morning routine in a zombie like state I conceded that I would be in for a terribly long day of feeling like ass and not wanting to continue existing. The bus ride in was no fun. Walking in the cold helped wake me up. Slogging down my morning coffee helped me wake up a bit. I wasn't feeling any better, though.

And then, magically, I was. Around 11 this morning I found myself feeling ok. My sinuses cleared. My throat didn't hurt. My headache was gone. I was cured. And I've felt great since... well except for the fact that I have to work, but I feel good! So what the heck hit me and hit me so hard, but only for a short, short time? I'm not quite sure, but I'm glad it worked itself through my system because I wasn't prepared for a prolonged fight. Thank you, immune system. You're the best!