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.