Friday, December 28, 2007

The Office that Doubled as a Tomb

You know, I really don't understand why companies just don't give employees the entire week between Christmas and New Year's off. It seems like the vast majority of people take that time off anyways. Teachers have it off. Students have the time off. Why don't we just do like some foreign countries do and somewhat "unofficially" give the week off.

As I'm sitting here in the office, there are probably about half as many people, or less, that came in and it seems like a lot of them that did come in just don't have that much to do or aren't motivated. Unfortunately I've had more than enough to do so I haven't been able to indulge in slack time, but if I could I'd at home watching TV right now. Thankfully I have a four day weekend staring me in the face. Can't really complain about two four day weekends in a row.

Really, though, would it be too much to give people a few more days off just to be nice? I know some select companies do give the entire week off, which is beyond kick-ass, I just don't work for one of them. It's not really that much fun to be in the office with hardly any people around, wondering what everyone that's not here is doing because it is, no doubt, tons more fun.

Pain Principle - Waiting for the Flies CD Review

Lately my roommates and myself have been playing altogether too much Rock Band on the Xbox 360. It’s seriously way too much fun faking being a real band and rocking out to popular songs from all eras. It also helps that you’re able to download classic songs from metal’s past, such as a group of Black Sabbath tracks or some of the thrash classics by Metallica, like “Ride the Lightening” and “Blackened”. It’s quite a rush ripping through these thrashing, lengthy tracks as compared to some of the slower crap in the game (the Yeah Yeah Yeahs put me to sleep). As I'm listening to Waiting for the Flies, I can’t help but catch myself wondering how much fun it would be to play these songs in Rock Band, since they're speedy, have some nice solos, and are covered in a modern thrash gleam.

Pain Principle have been around since 1993, with roots in the Florida thrash scene. Unlike some long ago formed bands, Pain Principle have managed to update their sound with the changing of the times instead of sticking only with what worked in the past. Sounding like a mixture of Nightrage, Dew Scented, and Pantera this album captures the thrashier side of late 80’s metal while throwing in some very modern metalcore elements, such as some well placed Gothenburg styled breakdowns and bridges. There is also a moderate deathcore influence that can be felt, especially on tracks such as “What the Dead Whisper”, which sounds like a mix of My Bitter End and Death.

Vocally, Kevin Bullock is at times a dead ringer for Phil Anselmo of Pantera and Down fame. He’s managed to pull off the best Phil impression since Dave Peters of Throwdown had a love fest for his vocal style on Venom & Tears. Kevin often employs a deeper, throatier growl than Phil did, but when he’s doing the gruffy, sort-of-singing, but sort-of-yelling vocal work, I could almost swear I’m listening to Pantera, which isn’t a bad thing in the least. Frankly, there seems to be very few unique vocal styles in metal today with most frontmen simply trying to do the standard death metal growls.

Waiting for the Flies does have a few pitfalls, however, and the biggest is one that comes with the territory of playing in the modern thrash genre--songs tend to lack uniqueness. The band executes each song superfluously, but until you’ve listened to the CD at least a handful of times, you may have trouble remembering which solo is in which song, whether you’ve already heard a verse structure in another song or not, and other little things.

Downsides aside, this is most definitely a modern thrashcore (is it just me or are there too many *core genres out there?) hit. It’s always nice to have something refreshingly good cross my desk near the year’s end. Usually it’s crap that is sent out for review now in the December lull because, well, it’s crap. Pain Principle are the exception and definitely deserve some year end love, so all you thrash fans go give them some!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Day After

I hope everyone had a great Christmas this year. For me, it was a pretty low key last few days. I went back to the Hayfield area to stay with my parents Saturday through Christmas. It was nice being back and since I was there for four days it almost felt like I was on a school break, like back in the good ol' days.

It didn't necessarily feel totally like Christmas, though. There were actually a lot of reasons that contributed to it, but the biggest was probably that I just didn't get into the Christmas "spirit" this year, no doubt to a combination of December being a very busy month, the dark economic cloud hanging over everyone's heads, and this being the first Christmas in a long time that I've spent single.

Also with my brother, Randy, not being able to be home for Christmas, we didn't really celebrate on the 25th. We decided to celebrate Christmas as a family next weekend when he'll be back home and we can all be together as a family, which is how it should be, and always has been. Of course, some day us boys will have our own families that we'll spend Christmas Day with, but it's not looking like that's going to be a likely scenario for a while yet. It was still very nice to spend time with my mom, dad, and littlest brother, Ryan, especially since I don't see them as much as I'd like to.

Oddly, church also didn't seem very Christmas-y. Sure, not much has changed, but then again, enough has to make it feel unfamiliar, and when you're looking for something familiar, that definitely feels odd. The church I grew up in has now switched hymnals, service pieces, and songs so even though the structure and general components that I know are there, they're all presented differently. And to top it off, on Christmas Eve service there was no "Joy to the World" sung, which has been a tradition since I can remember going to Christmas Eve service. It left the night feeling, well, somewhat unfulfilled. It's odd how just having one song not there can change the feeling associated with an event so much.

Of course, it sounds like I'm just complaining and being a negative nancy, so I don't want everyone thinking I hate Christmas or that Christmas this year sucked--it didn't. It was just different. I couldn't have been happier snowed in with the 'rents during the whiteout that we had on Sunday (we seriously couldn't see across the yard at times), watching football, napping, catching up, and simply taking time to decompress from our hectic everyday lives. It's not often that we do get a whole day to kick back, turn our brains on low, and indulge ourselves in a little old fashioned sloth.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas, no matter how you spent it. It hasn't been Christmas for me yet. We'll be having it a week late. Who said you had to celebrate Christmas only on the 25th? Not me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I Figued I Could Take More


Man, I could totally take on more than 22 five year olds in a fight. They're freakin' five year olds! I think the quiz was flawed.

Annoying, Yet Environmentally Friendly Buses

I ride the bus every day to and from work. It's way better than driving, even on days when the bus is packed or is behind schedule. I can always zone out on the bus whereas I could never do that while driving. Lately, however, the bus rides have been a little more inconvenient than usual.

Minneapolis has been making a concerted effort to overhaul their busing system in order to make it more environmentally friendly and quieter. In order to do this, they've been rolling out hybrid buses that use less fuel and aren't the noise machines the older buses are. I applaud their effort and am behind them 100%... except when it comes to the design of the hybrid buses.

The old, standard buses are set up pretty much like your average school bus--airplane seating style. There are rows of seats that face forwards, allowing 4 people to sit in each row (2 on each side of the aisle). It's the most effective use of the space. The new buses, however, eschew this design for the front half of the bus and just have two long benches along each side of the bus. This significantly limits the amount of seats available. Because of this, people cram into these seats, extremely squished and on top of that, there are a lot more people stuck standing, making it hard for people getting on and off of the bus. Wading through people is no fun, especially now in winter when everyone is in large coats and carrying cold weather clothing items.

I am really curious to know why the hybrid buses took on such an odd design because it doesn't seem to really make practical sense to have the current design. Do people that take buses in other cities have these crazily set up buses as well or is Minneapolis an anomaly?

Paper Champion - Self Titled CD Review

There is something definitively early 00’s sounding about this EP. Most likely it’s because this blend of radio rock and progressive tendencies was heavily explored by second tier rock acts during that time. Bands like Earshot, Boy Hits Car, and The Apex Theory tried their hardest to separate themselves from the then current radio rock pack by adding some progressive elements to their songs while keeping the basic, softer end of the range, nu-metal structure that was ever so popular in place. It worked in that the bands sounded different, but they never really caught on with the masses.

Paper Champion would have fit in more than perfectly with the aforementioned bands. Sporting a very unique vocal style that sounds like a mix of Boy Hits Car and Serj Tankian’s warbling approach, the music often takes a back seat to the unique and somewhat out there vocals. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there are often passages where the music is doing something interesting and the vocal focus takes away from either the tenderness or ferociousness of the music.

Each song has, for the most part, created its own identity, with the exceptions being “This Mute Tide” and “Teeth” which are two songs that are a little too similar in nature for their own good. They share the same standard progressive rock structure and then, abruptly, come to an end. This repeated and very distinctive song ending technique on a five song EP really sticks out like a sore thumb. Also standing out is the song “Undone”, the slow indie rock inspired ballad on the EP. It’s actually a very pretty song complete with the perfectly added touch of female backing vocals. When it reaches its climax about 3/4 of the way through the song, it’s worth it. The build up, climax, and fade out are all executed wonderfully.

In the end, this is a very promising self released EP that shows a band trying to forge some new ground in the very stagnant realm of hard rock. The band may not sound completely fresh, but the amount of potential that is on display definitely is.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Jon Arbuckle IS Crazy

Lately at work my time has revolved around performing data analysis and data validation, which can be extremely boring and tedious, not to mention time consuming (which sucks when you have other things you want to be working on as well). Every so often I'll find myself just randomly talking to myself about the data I'm looking at, which probably isn't so much weird for me but might be for the people in the cubicles around me. Usually it's a whisper, though... which is probably even creepier... oh well.

When I started thinking about how I probably seem a little crazy talking to database layouts on my computer screen, I remembered a website that I previously stumbled across where someone took Garfield out of a bunch of Garfield comic strips so it looked like Jon was just talking to himself. I looked it up again today and, if it wasn't for the few chuckles it gave me, I might have collapsed under the boredom of work.

Perth Express - Self Titled CD Review

Mastodon are a great band, don’t get me wrong, but do you ever feel like their songs sometimes drag on just a little too long? Every once and a while you just need that slab of down-tuned metal in smaller, more easily digestible bits, sort of like what Baroness has done with about half the songs on their Red Album. It’s only half their album, though, so you can't get a complete fix. Obviously, you can tell where I’m going with this. Perth Express is that band which manages to pull off the mini-Mastodon songs being alluded to.

This self titled effort is a compilation of Perth Express’ entire discography which consists of their self titled LP from 2006, their self titled 10” from 2004, a split 7” from 2004, and their self released demo tape from 2004. For some reason, this band just hates naming their musical efforts, but it doesn’t really matter since you have everything they’ve ever done (so far) here on one CD filled with 23 tracks.

From the first moment you spin up this CD, you’ll notice that this German band is intent on plowing through your stereo, doing so without ceasing or letting up. There is not a moment on this release where the pace settles or the band pulls back on the reigns... except for track 9, which works as a segue between songs, but we’ll ignore that as it’s a 1 in 23 anomaly. Now in most cases, this raw, undeterred aggressiveness would be something to be lauded, but over the course of 23 tracks the repetitiveness of it all becomes readily apparent. What is also very apparent is the very uniform production across all of the songs, barring the 4 songs from their demo which are pretty rough. For all intents and purposes the first 19 songs could have came from the same recording session.

Discographies are always a great way to experience everything a band has to offer, but it can also show a band’s lack of progress throughout their career. Sure, Perth Express is still a very young band with only a few years of history, but there is such little differentiation between everything they’ve done, it gets hard to enjoy listening all the way through, and full repeat listens sometimes feel like a chore more than anything else. There’s only so much down-tuned, hardcore-influenced metal that a person can take in one sitting. Truth be told, though, these guys know what they’re doing and there are numerous times throughout the album where you’ll catch yourself perking up as a song reaches a thundering climax or a sludgy groove will claw through the noise.

You really can’t go wrong with this album if you’re into the sludgy and dirty metal and are looking for something a little more compact than what the current stalwarts of the genre are putting out. There’s a lot here to listen to and a lot to like, but there’s also a lot that gets repetitive, so bear that in mind when considering picking up this album.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Shopping... something I usually try to have done, if at all possible, before Thanksgiving. This year I didn't quite make it, and I was so far behind that I had to do the majority of my shopping this last weekend. Shopping in the couple of weekends before Christmas, especially in a mall environment where everyone goes because they don't know what to get people and hope to the heavens above that they'll stumble across something for whoever they have to buy crap for (that's why I was there, at least). Every store was packed with people, and not just every day people--these are holiday shopping mutants.

Everyone seems to transform into another, less sane, more aggressive, impatient form of him or herself. I don't mind taking my time when I'm shopping. Being rushed is not that much fun and it's not as if there aren't enough deadlines to meet while I'm at work, so giving myself artificial timelines when I'm doing something that's supposed to be enjoyable just seems ridiculous.

I did manage to brave through the crowds and get the majority of my shopping done. I still have no clue what to get my parents, but it's pretty much an established fact that parents are the hardest people on the planet to shop for. And, of course, I did some shopping for myself while I was out and about, mostly new clothes and the third season of Lost (almost finished with the first season...).

Each year for the last few I've made a habit of getting myself new dress clothes at JC Penny. The reason why... their wonderful $10 off a purchase of at least $10 coupons. My family collects a bunch of them and then puts them all to great use. See, I find one article of clothing that I want, check out using the coupon so that whatever I'm getting is close to free, go find the next article of clothing I want, check out with just that one item with my next coupon, then repeat until out of coupons. This year I ended up with 4 new dress shirts and a pair of gray suit pants for around $35. No complaints here.

One other interesting thing I noted while trying to find something for my roommate is the single anomaly in the Minnesota teams sports store. This store is a great place to go to for anything related to Minnesota sports teams. They have Wild, Timberwolves, University of Minnesota, Twins, and other Minnesota sports related items that make great gifts. However, in one corner of the store there was something that stuck out as not quite belonging--a rack of Kevin Garnett jerseys... as a Celtic. I wonder if they sell more of those jerseys than they do of jerseys for actual Minnesota Timberwolves players. I'd guess yes.

Now, with my shopping adventures behind me, I will be plenty happy to not have to visit a mall for at least a month or two, if not longer. I'm done being a consumer for the foreseeable future!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cubesville, Ahoy!

It was bound to happen sooner or later, and I'd been trying to prepare myself for the day it would happen, but no matter how much I tried to remember that this would eventually happen, it still doesn't make it any easier. For the last year and a half, I've occupied various offices at my job, most recently one that was a double sized office, so I had more room that I really knew what to do with. I loved the office environment. There was no worries about people walking by and bothering you, people yakking on the phone near you, or other distractions and if there was, all I had to do was close my door and I was isolated.

As of yesterday, however, I've been transplanted into a cubicle. Who would have thought going back would be so different. I'm not used to the ambient noises, having people able to hear me while I'm on the phone, or the cramped space of a cube. It's not all bad, though, as I feel a little bit more connected since I'm in an area that has a few other people in it, but I'm not a part of their team and there isn't that much interaction besides the occasional hello. Still, I will say it is refreshing to be in the midst of people again.

Having to move to a cubicle that is way smaller than my office was has also helped me to sort through the crap I've not gone through and toss out stuff I no longer need--documents that have been updated, sticky notes for things that were done a long time ago, and random printouts that have accumulated over time.

I think the adjustment will be ok. I was in a cubicle at my last job the entire time I was there, so it's not so different. And as my manager tells me, this should give me even a little more motivation to strive for my next promotion because I would then be at a level where I would be granted an office.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Nonpoint - Vengeance CD Review

Did anyone even know that Nonpoint was releasing a new CD this year? I thought they had long dropped off the musical radar with their most recent release being last year’s live album, Live and Kicking, and their last proper release being To the Pain in 2005. It seemed like the band was probably closing up shop, especially since their sound hasn’t really been popular in a while. Still, Vengeance appeared on store shelves in the middle of November with little to no fanfare. Maybe part of the problem was that it was released through Bieler Bros Records instead of their previous label, Lava.

Regardless of who released Vengeance, as soon as you listen to it you’ll know that you’re listening to Nonpoint. They haven’t changed much and this album feels like a natural progression from To the Pain where the band took on a more hard rock oriented approach with little of their early career rap-metal influence showing through. Vengeance is definitely Nonpoint’s most stripped down and raw album to date, that's for sure. The production is just good enough to keep the instruments separated, but beyond that this album feels very gritty and raw, which isn't necessarily bad.

This is also probably the band’s least heavy album, outside of Development. The nu-metal edge that some of their songs used to have is all but gone and replaced with a hard rock tone and feel. The only elements that feel “metal” anymore are the occasional pseudo-breakdowns (such as on “March of War”) and the rare scream (as heard in “Wake Up World”). The music often moves along with a strong bar rock influence that, at times, makes the album feel very basic, but on the flip side it also gives it a very “real” feel that has been lacking in previous albums. Knocking the sheen that glossed over their previous albums off gives the band a little more attitude as well.

Of course this wouldn’t be a Nonpoint album without the requisite slow tempo, hard rock ballads, in this case the songs “Breathe” and “A Way Out”. “Breathe” is actually one of the better songs on this album, showing a band pulling back their sound to make a more sparse and moody piece. It would easily fit in on modern rock radio between anything from Evans Blue or Trapt, which to most won’t really sound like praise, but it sort of is supposed to be.

In the end, though, it all comes down to whether you’re still aching for the brand of nu-metal tinged hard rock that Nonpoint is playing. Its peak in popularity has already been reached, but kudos to the band for continuing to do what they love, no matter what the current trends. If you don’t go into this album with too snobbish of an attitude, you might find some moments to enjoy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

More Snowblower Goodness

First, why do all of the service reps call a snowblower a snowthrower. I've lived my entire life in Minnesota and never heard a snowblower called that before this year. I guess that must be what they call them in Phoenix or Texas or wherever it is that Sears' call center is located.

After numerous more calls with Sears by both myself and my parents, it appears they just don't give a flying crap about their customers, but since I don't have a truck to haul the snowblower back to them to return, I'm trying to deal with their service as best I can.

Oh, and here's an interesting thing of note if you buy an appliance at Sears--you can't return the item to any old Sears. No, you can only return it to the Sears you bought it from because of some stupid-ass commission scheme they have. So I would have had to return my snowblower at the Sears my parents got it at, which is like 100 miles away.

Anyways, after more grueling telephone calls, Sears is supposed to be showing up today while I'm at work to fix the thing. I left it outside so they can work on it, but they have no clue what's even wrong with it as they never asked. And I'm still skeptical as to whether they'll actually show up at my place or go to my parents' house again, like they moronically did last time.

Anyone want to take bets on whether or not I have a functioning snowblower when I get home? I'm gonna say it's still sitting there totally broken.

Catching Up With Friends

We've all had friends we've, for whatever reason, grown apart from. It could be they moved far away, your common interests diverged, there was a traumatic experience, they got married... whatever, really. The end result was that you lost touch with that friend. It sucks but it happens. In time, though, there are moments when you have a chance to reconnect with those friends and, to me, this is the litmus test to prove whether that friendship was solid or a matter of circumstance.

When you haven't seen a friend in a long time (I'm talking months or even years) when you get back together for that "reconnecting" moment, the results are almost always the same and fall into two different situations.

The first result is the awkward, "umm... so... how you doin'?" situation. Let's face it, with some friends you were friends at the time because of one shared interest, a forced living arrangement, or out of necessity. It's these quasi-friends it is hard to reconnect with. Your common frame of reference can no longer sustain what you had, especially if one or both people have moved on from what used to bring them together.

I'm not advocating that you don't try to stay friends or stay in touch with these types of friends because that connection isn't there, but if you can't find a new connection to build or rebuild that friendship, it's probably best to temper the expectations of where that friendship will go and what levels it can possibly attain going forward. You may never have that "close" friendship that you used to have.

On the flip side, there are those moments where you see a friend you haven't seen in ages and, despite the amount of time that's gone by or the amount of things that have changed, it doesn't feel like a single moment has passed since you last saw each other. It's these moments that let you know you have something more than a superficial commonality drawing you together in your relationship. There's something deeper, more refined, and almost unidentifiable that speaks to you both and reminds you that you actually know each other.

These are the friends you know that will always be there, no matter what changes. Sometimes you don't even know that some of your friends fall into this category until you are away from them and you come back together.

...and with that, I'll bring today's run in with sentimentality to an end.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Some New Art

2007 - art piece 004

My living room used to feel really... naked, for lack of a better word. Above my couch was a gaping, open, white wall. I knew I'd eventually get something to put there, but never really knew what, mostly because I never really thought about it, I only told myself someday I'll put something up there.

It finally got to me how empty the wall looked, so while my parents were up visiting last weekend I visited some art stores with my mom to see what was out there. I narrowed down what I liked to a few large prints and pieces of art. Eventually, what you see above won out.

Yes, it looks a little lonely up there by itself, but there will eventually be other wall decorations to go with it. I'm thinking about that now, and not just in the ambiguous sense either. I have some ideas, just no money to do it right now (or at least none set aside for it at the moment).

What drew me to this piece is its simplistic nature. Some pieces of art can be extremely busy and overloaded with color, movement, and flair. I don't like to complicate things too much so something simplistic seemed natural.

The scene itself was also something I could relate to. The snow in the foreground gives it a definite Minnesota, or midwestern, feel to it. As you look through the trees there is definitely something coming on the horizon, something bright yet unknown. I know it's obviously me reading into it too much, but that gives me a sense of seeing that there is alway something approaching, something in the future coming your way and even though you don't know what it is, you know it's there and you can prepare yourself or anticipate it or enjoy the knowledge that something new is near.

I needed to put up something I could relate to and not get sick of looking at day in and day out. This managed to fit the bill, and fit it quite nicely.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Are You Kidding Me?

The snowblower fiasco continues. Sears never showed up at my place yesterday to fix my snowblower, which kind of really sucks since there is still snow in my driveway and I stayed home from work so that I could be there when the repairman came.

The repairman did show up to fix the snowblower, just not at my house. Even after leaving detailed instructions with the Sears repair center, they still sent a repairman out to my parents' house instead of mine. No one was home there during the day, obviously, and they called my dad's cell instead of me and left him a message.

When my parents called up to ask them about this snafu, they gave two options--wait until next Friday to have the repairman show up (hopefully at the right place) because that's the earliest open time they have or I can run over to a Sears store 20-ish miles away, get the broken cable myself, and install it myself. Seriously, why should I have to do all the work when my parents bought a $250 service plan on the snowblower?

Honestly, Sears screwed up. Their stupidity is keeping me from blowing out the rest of my driveway. Their faulty craftsmanship left me with a broken snowblower out of the box in the first place. I'm really tempted to tell them to come pick the damn thing up and take it back. I'll buy something somewhere else. If this is the quality of service I'm going to get, I don't know if I want to have anything to do with Sears. And they wonder why their stores aren't doing so well. Might this be one of the reasons?

I plan on calling them tonight to try and get things sorted out and hopefully get them over to fix things, get some type of refund, or make some sense out of the ridiculousness that is the Sears repair department. Screw Sears. Seriously.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Winter Has Arrived

...and with it about a foot of snow, my suffering from a cold, and a snowblower broken right out of the box. It's a little bit of a rough start to the winter months, but I'm sure it can only get better from here.

I was actually pretty stoked for the first snow. It's one of the few reasons I love Minnesota. I hate the cold, but when there's some snow to go with it, then it doesn't seem so bad. Really, there's no point to the cold if you aren't going to have something unique accompany it. So as the snow fell over the weekend, my dad and me unboxed my brand new Craftsman snowblower. Side note, who would ever have guessed how freakin' expensive these babies are? I sure had no idea.

The unboxing went well and we only had to put a couple of things on since it was nearly assembled right out of the packaging. As we pulled the boxing away, there was oddly a wire hanging from throttle lever on the handlebar. It was just dangling there, not attached to anything. As my dad examined it closer, since I don't really know jack about snowblowers, he saw that it was broken off and would need to be replaced. Before I could even use it, the bad boy was broken. How sad.

The snow came, fell, and made everything quite beautiful. With the falling snow came my falling further into a cold I had contracted last week. There was no way I could get out and shovel snow between coughing fits, sniffling, and trying to not take a power drill to my temple to relieve my headache. Being the wonderful people they are, my mom, dad, and housemate Caleb went out and shoveled the driveway. It was quite the task.

Of course, Mother Nature didn't want to wait until I got my snowblower fixed until she dumped another load on us yesterday. As it stands, we have a small path that my other housemate, Jared, shoveled for the time being. Sears is going to be coming out to fix the snowblower tomorrow so hopefully I can put it to its first use later in the evening.

I'm also hoping my cold subsides by then as I'm still battling it, winning slowly but surely. Every year, like clockwork, once winter arrives I end up with a knock-down, drag-out battle with the latest and greatest cold germs that have grown over the last year. I always win, but some years are harder than others and this year was a tough one.

And with that... I guess I'm back. I don't know how often I'll feel like writing as priorities, people, and pressures have all changed a fair amount this last month or two, but I'll give it the ol' college try. It's the best I can offer.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Small Hiatus

I haven't really had the desire to write anything lately. Been busy with work and trying to deal with some other things going on in my life and it's left me somewhat drained. That and there are some things I really miss right now and I'm just trying to get by as best I can for the time being, which means that if I did write anything it'd be mopey, lame-o crap anyways so it's probably better for all that I just push away the keyboard for a little bit.

So, I'll be back to write sometime. I'm just taking a little time away.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


It’s not often that a band comes to town without an opening act, but that’s what Down did when they came to play First Avenue here in Minneapolis. With the venue completely packed with fans of all ages and sizes, before Down came on, we were all treated to a video montage of rock performances of some of the classic rock greats, such as Cream, AC/DC, and Black Sabbath.

After this quite lengthy montage (it was on for over an hour), the band finally came on stage to immense amounts of cheering. They busted right into playing, eschewing any pre-playing bantering. From that moment on, everyone was treated to almost two hours of stoner metal, and there definitely would have been more had there not been a curfew that needed to be enforced for all of the young ones that came out to the show.

Having been to a fair share of metal and metalcore shows lately, it’s seemed like so many bands are only concerned with how many breakdowns they can fit in or how “heavy” they can sound that they forgot about writing solid riffs and good songs. Down reacquainted me with the notion of heaviness in the classic sense of the word. They didn’t fill their set with breakdowns (in fact there were none) or resort to screaming as loud as they could, instead they played some of the sludgiest, heaviest riffs written in the past couple of decades. Not since the great Sabbath has a band been able to capture that classic rock vibe in a modern setting.

Phil Anselmo is a hell of a frontman, commanding in presence and getting the crowd into it. And he didn’t get people into their performance using the usual clichéd tactics most frontmen use, such as making people clap or asking for applause or telling people to get up. What he did was sing his heart out, talk a little with the crowd between songs, and sing his heart out some more. He’s always had pipes, but it seems like they were made for this type of music as his gritty, loud singing fit the band’s vibe perfectly.

Throughout their set, they managed to mix together a fair number of songs from all of their albums, focusing a little more time on songs from their debut and their latest, giving II a little less focus, but still covering the better songs from that album.

There was a phenomenal reaction to the songs from Over the Under with one of the biggest crowd reactions coming in the form of cheers for “Beneath the Tides”. It was also great to see the crowd get into things when they slowed everything down to play “Jail” near the end of their set before breaking into the crowd pleasing “Bury Me in Smoke”. Talk about a tremendous way to end a set. Everything about that song feels and sounds loud. Listening to it on CD is nothing compared to hearing it blasting at you in a live environment.

It’s really rare to see a band that seems to love to death what they are doing and who do what they do extremely well. Down is that rarity. Take the time to see them if you have the chance. It’s more than worth any price of admission.

Friday, November 02, 2007


Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know they're a cheesy band, but watching the two Dragonforce guitarists shred it up is always fun. Jared emailed me this video and it definitely needed to be shared.

Oh yeah, and before I forget, this is the final song in Guitar Hero III and it totally dominated me... on medium. Man, I suck.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Lonely Halloween

Having Halloween in the middle of the week just isn't as fun as when it comes on a weekend. No one really wants to go do anything on Halloween when it comes on a Wednesday. I finished with a long day of work and knew I had a long day of work the next day so the last thing I really wanted to do was find somewhere to go out to and "celebrate" the holiday. If it was a Friday or Saturday, sure, I would have tried to do something interesting, but it was a freakin' Wednesday, probably the lamest day of the week. So I stayed home to hand out candy to kids...

...only not a single kid showed up. I live on a pretty main road and am only about 6 blocks from two different schools, so I figured I'd have at least a few little rugrats show up. I even know some of the people living on my block have kids, so at the least I thought they'd stop by. Instead, nothing. I had my porch light on, was upstairs watching TV in the main floor living room, and waited from 5:30 until 8:30 for any trick-or-treaters to come by. No one did, though.

It's a little sad that my whole night was spent looking forward to giving little kids I don't know candy that their parents probably don't want them to have in the first place, but I always remember Halloween being a fun day, so I wanted to pass some of that fun back on to the little ones in my neighborhood.

I talked with my parents to see if they got any kids out on the farm and they also didn't have a soul stop by. My mom mentioned that a lot of the schools, churches, and other kids groups in their area had Halloween activities that they did instead of trick-or-treating. That's cool, I guess, since kids aren't running around town but... dammit, I wanted to give away some of the candy I had building up in the house! Since I couldn't push it off on to kids, now I'm stuck with it and Lord knows I have no will power when it comes to candy. I might as well get prepared to put on a few more pounds. *Sigh*

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

It's Halloween!

Halloween is one of those under appreciated holidays, at least in my mind. Sure, you don't get any days off for Halloween and the traditions seem aimed at younger kids, but it's still a fun holiday. If anything it should lighten up the day a little bit and make things a bit more fun.

For example, when I went to visit Caribou this morning for my coffee fix, all of the employees were dressed up in different costumes. It was neat and they seemed to be having fun! Kristi was having a Wizard of Oz theme at her work. They decorated their cubicle area and turned the place into a veritable corporate Oz. I can only imagine that it kept things a little more light hearted for the day.

And then there's my workplace. I work for an accounting firm and, as the fates would have it, accountants are allergic to fun. As I get in to work today the only thing different than any other day is the candy dish at the front desk has more candy in it than usual. Everyone is still dressed in suits and business attire. There are no decorations anywhere. It's the same drab environment we're always in.

The same will go for other holidays. When Christmas comes, there are no decorations or Christmas cheer--it's just business as usual. It really shows the difference between the uptight corporate work atmosphere and the atmosphere of companies where fun has not been banned. I want to have that cheesy Halloween crap, as odd as it sounds.

Hopefully I can at least bring some cheer to some kids this evening handing out candy to trick or treaters...

...oh crap, I need to buy candy!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Work... killing me. The last few weeks have been filled to the brim and, more often than not, overflowing with stuff to do and stuff to do NOW. So many little things have been snowballing and building up into piles of junk. And considering that the end of the year is coming up, there are a lot of projects that we have slated to have complete by that magical December 31st date. So, really, that's why I don't write anything lately.

I've got some reviews to write for Decoy yet that I haven't gotten to. I picked up a PMP Certification study book that I'd like to get started on. November is here so I need to organize broomball teams and winter ultimate frisbee teams. I also need to get my ass outside and get some more running in before I get too fat. In the last month and a half I've put on nearly 10 pounds. Not good.

And to top it all off, where the hell did October go? Are there seriously only two days left? When did that happen? I didn't even get around to making a jack-o-lantern or anything. Before I know it I'll be home for Thanksgiving and trying to figure out what to get everyone for Christmas. Oh, and side note, stores should NOT be allowed to put out Christmas stuff until after Thanksgiving. Having Christmas crap out on the shelves before it is even Halloween is ridiculous.

Oh, and my car died. Awesome.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Oink Shut Down

In case you haven't heard, Oink has been shut down. If you have no clue what I'm talking about, then don't worry about anything. If you do know the website I'm talking about, and you were an uber-user, well then that kind of sucks. Hopefully nothing comes of it beyond the website getting shut down, but I could see a lot of problems for some of the super users on that site.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Is It Time to Go HD-DVD?

I'm wondering this myself right now, mostly because of the special Best Buy has this week. I can get the HD-DVD drive for my Xbox 360, which is the cheapest HD-DVD player out there right now, and it comes with the first season of Heroes on HD-DVD. On top of that, I can mail away for 5 free HD-DVDs. They're movies that I'm at least interested in and Heroes I haven't watched yet but am anxious to.

There are a couple of things holding be back, however. First, this who Bluray vs. HD-DVD battle is far from settled and it seems like either format still could come out on top. Ideally I would like to go with a dual format player, but they're pretty expensive still. Getting locked into a losing format would really suck.

And speaking of locked in, I'd be starting off my Heroes DVD run in HD, which is expensive as all get out. The standard DVD set of the first season is like $40 but the HD set is between $60 and $100. So I'd be throwing down at least that much for each subsequent season. Also, HD movies are far from cheap in comparison to standard DVDs.

But man, do I ever want to watch HD movies on my 57" HD TV. Sure, my Xbox 360 upconverts my standard DVDs to look better than they should, but the pure clarity of straight HD would be so amazing. I'm so on the fence right now...

Friday, October 19, 2007

This is Really Getting Old

Hey Mother Nature... I don't ask for much, maybe a clear day here and there when I have ultimate frisbee games, but I have a pretty pressing request for you today. Please, please, please can you let the sun come out and have this rain stop? It's been about two weeks of constant rain, mist, and overcast skies. We had one day where the sun peaked through (last Saturday) and it was amazing.

I don't know how much longer I can take such dark and dreary weather. Fall is one of my favorite seasons, and I do usually end up a little melancholy during the season (which isn't all that bad) but this year I'm starting to feel downright depressed.

There's been no time to enjoy the fall colors since I can't get out because it is raining. There have been no cool evening runs because it is freakin' raining. I'm moody, needy, sad, and mopey and I can't seem to get out of it when every time I look out a window the weather only reinforces my mood. I'm sure the people close to me are sick of my down mood. I know I am. But I just can't get over it.

It's weeks like these that make me realize I could never live anywhere that was in a perpetual state of dreariness. I'm just too moody. Anyone have any cures for getting over this? Other than praying the weather changes sometime soon?

I'm done with this weather. I f'ing hate it. It needs to change like right now...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sponsored Post: Online Casino Bluebook Review

This is a review paid for by ReviewMe.

Now, with that out of the way... I like cards, I like doing some gambling, and games of chance are fun. However, I tend to enjoy playing cards and gambling with actual people. That's why I host a poker game at my house every week. It's a nice excuse to get a group of friends together to come play and hang out. Some people, however, prefer to do their gambling online.

Now there are a ton of online gambling websites out there, each with its own idea for how to get you to spend your money there. Online Casino Bluebook is a website that tries to pull together some of the best online casinos to try out.

The first thing I noticed when I went to their website is how dated it looks. Seriously, it's like the site crawled out of the early 00's. In a day and age of CSS, Ajax, and Flash it is really weird to see a website done totally in tables and seemingly not very interactive. So barring this, does the website do anything for you?

Well... I guess. You can find a lot of listed online gambling establishments and information about them, but I'm not seeing a lot of added value. Sure, you get a little info about each site, but it's nothing more in depth than you'd get when looking at the site's front page.

Another thing that gets to me is that all of the links to the different websites contain referrer variables which leads me to believe that this consolidation of online gambling information is nothing more than a scheme to get referral bonuses. This leads to my wondering whether the "best" online casinos to go to aren't simply the ones that pay out the biggest referral fee.

In the end, I doubt I would use this site, but if you want a lot of online gambling website links at your fingertips (and don't mind that the owner of this website gets a kickback for every new site you try) then you might want to visit it once and give it a look.

Adonis Decay - Messenger CD Review

When I was younger and living at home with my parents, my brother and I had rooms right across from each other. My room was pretty cluttered, but very organized. There was a lot of crap everywhere, but it was all arranged in patterns that made sense. Walk across the hall into my brother’s room and you’d see a gigantic mess. There was stuff everywhere and no real rhyme or reason as to why anything was anywhere. We both had tons of stuff, but in one room it was strewn everywhere while in the other everything had its place.

Messenger, by Adonis Decay, is a lot like my brother’s room – it’s a mess. It’s apparent that they were going for a very scatological approach to how they wrote their songs, trying to incorporate many different elements of heavy music into a cohesive whole, but cohesive this is not. There are random pig squeals tossed around, some melody every now and then, and then there are some grind moments followed by a thrash solo, only to be tossed aside for some melodic rock strumming and a couple of double bass fills. In some cases, this is a recipe for success, but when the elements aren't put together all that well, it just doesn't work.

Take the second track, “The Red Beyond”, for example. It starts off with melodic singing and some metal riffing, obviously trying to emulate some of Between the Buried and Me’s more constrained moments. After about two minutes of this, the screaming and growling comes out with some double bass only to be followed at the three minute mark by a guitars solo and muted, ambient passage. And of course the vocals need to make a reappearance along with some sort of guitar build up before the song closes on a quite outro. This is not necessarily bad in and of itself, but the flow wasn't very smooth. And on top of things, this is the most cohesive track to be found on this album.

With “The Red Beyond” things at least felt like they worked for the most part. At many other points in the album, the transitions from one style to another, as well as the combinations of elements, feels unnatural and forced. Focus is a virtue, not a vice. Considering this is only an EP, I’d be afraid to hear what the band would have done on a full length. No doubt it was good for the band to get this out of their system and to put to tape what they felt was a set of crazy good metalcore songs, but hopefully upon reflection they’ll see that they need to reign themselves in and focus on songwriting going forward. There’s a lot of talent here that could be molded into something great if allowed to mature. Let’s hope that’s what happens.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Machine Head / Arch Enemy / Throwdown / Sanctity

Before I start, I’d like to take a moment to make an appeal to club owners and, to an extent, opening bands. When you schedule a show to start at a certain time, please start the show at that time. Some of us have to leave work early to get to shows that supposedly start at 6:00, so think of those of us who are taking extra time out of our day so that we can come patronize your club and give the opening bands a chance.

Once again I found myself down at the famous First Avenue in Minneapolis on a weekday for a show. As is usually the case for weekday shows, it had to get started early, or at least was supposed to. Eventually the show openers, Trivium, hit the stage. Errr, wait, I mean Sanctity. For all intents and purposes, though, it was like watching Trivium. They sounded like Trivium, looked like Trivium (the lead singer of Sanctity even wore a Sanctity t-shirt much like the lead singer of Trivium does with their band’s shirts), and were merely passable like Trivium. Oh, and just to make sure we’re on the same page, when I make the comparison to Trivium, I am talking about pre-Crusade Trivium. From Crusade onward the band has just been one big, steaming pile of unlistenable crap.

There were a couple of interesting parts to Sanctity’s set, however, such as their dedicating songs to women’s periods (not so much interesting as lame, I guess) and having crowd members come up to sing their final song. Now that was funny as hell. The two long-haired, girlfriendless, 30 year old dudes took the stage and proceeded to head bang and air guitar for 4 minutes. The awesomest part was when it came time for the lead guitarist’s solo. As he stepped up to do his rock star thing, one of the two moron brothers that were on stage jumped in front of him and air guitared the solo to the crowd. I was in stitches it was so hilarious.

Anyways, after the comedy troupe finished up their act, a reunited Pantera stormed the stage playing some dirty, southern metal. Wait… what I meant to say was Throwdown came out to play. Seriously, talk about a complete overhaul in sound. Their first couple of songs were from Venom & Tears and sounded uncannily like Pantera b-sides. Truth be told the songs sound a heck of a lot better live than they did on disc, probably because you can feel the band’s energy and passion whereas on the album it felt like hollow hero worship of their influences.

In the middle of their set, Throwdown did toss in some classic tunes to get the meatheads in the pit slamming around. Listening to their older tunes, however, did leave me pining for their old sound and the interest I was garnering in their new songs lost some luster. I’m glad they went in the direction that they wanted to as musicians, but with two completely different sounds as a part of their catalog noticing the disparity is unavoidable. Still, they put on a very good performance in front of a predominantly metal crowd.

The first co-headliner to take the stage after Throwdown was Arch Enemy. The first thing that I noticed was the mixing of the band. Whereas Throwdown’s sound was very full and balanced, Arch Enemy had the vocals extremely low in the mix and the guitars were a little empty sounding. This didn’t necessarily hurt their performance, but it led to their set feeling weak in comparison.

While watching Arch Enemy, I noticed that they seem to have weak stage presence. Their ability to play is spot on, but they just sort of wandered around as they played. Sure, their brand of metal doesn’t necessarily lend itself to having an aggressive stage presence, but when you take into account much of their music sounds very similar in nature, their 50 minute performance felt overly long and drawn out.

And while we’re speaking of long and drawn out, the set change time between Arch Enemy and Machine Head was abysmal. It was around 35 minutes between the two bands whereas the first couple of set changes took 10 minutes each. You can’t complain too much since Machine Head’s set was impeccable, but that’s nothing new, is it? Every time I’ve seen Machine Head play they have been a treat. Even when they were opening for Heaven & Hell, playing with crappily mixed monitors, and getting no more than 25 minutes to play they were solid and commanding.

Once again, Machine Head was thundering and brutal. Only playing songs off of The Blackening, From Ashes to Empire, and Burn My Eyes they focused on the heaviest and most intense material in their catalog. There’s nothing like having a crowd totally go off as “Imperium” hits. Of course, it helps to have a band made up of musicians who play aggressive as all get out. Seriously, as much as people probably doubted it during the early 2000s, Rob Flynn is a commanding frontman. The entire set you can see that he’s playing his heart out, singing his ass off, truly enjoying what he’s doing, and able to appreciate the energy of his fans.

Playing for a solid hour, the band hit on many of their strongest songs such as “Old”, “Block”, and the more recent “Halo”. The three opening bands were simply appetizers that couldn’t even compare to the massive meal of metal that Machine Head served up.

The moral of the story, in case you haven’t noticed, is that you really need to go see Machine Head if you get the chance, regardless of who they are with. If the other bands are good, well, that’s just gravy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

That Fall Funk is Here Again

No I'm not sad about it
No I'm not mad about it
Sort of getting used to it
Everybody leaves sooner or later

No I'm not hurt about it
No I'm not sure about it
Must be good at chasing away
Everyone I love sooner or later

Now I always think about it
Yeah I always think about it
There's never nothing left to say
Everybody does sooner or later

I don't know what it is about me
That magnifies my self conscience
Operation numb the pain
Gonna take you higher sooner or later

Gonna keep on trying
Gonna stop this crying
It's just another day
It's just the way

No I'm not mad about it
No I'm not sad about it
Sort of getting used to it
Everybody leaves sooner or later

--From "Sooner or Later" by King's X

Depressing, isn't it? The song came up on random while I was working and I must not have been concentrating too hard on what I was doing because the lyrics really caught my ear (that and the song is a great psychedelic and bluesy tune). It brings back memories of that first fall after college, when most of my friends were heading back to school for another year and I was hitting up the real world.

Most of the friends I had during my senior year of college were from the class below me or younger. I just seemed to mesh a little better with those years. And since I had gone back for an extra semester after graduating, the feeling of graduation never actually seemed to set in. That is, until that fall.

At the time I was living with my parents and commuting to Rochester for work. I liked living with my parents (and it was free rent and food--what's not to love?) and although the commute sucked, I managed to make it through. My job wasn't that tough, but there also wasn't many people my age or that shared common interests with me. That wasn't that much of a big deal during the summer when everyone was home from college, and the spring semester before the summer, when I was working, I felt like it was an internship type of thing. School wasn't too far off, I'd be going back soon... but I actually wouldn't.

Emotionally, I was depressed as all get out that fall since my social circle shrunk to nearly no one, work wasn't all that stimulating, and I had this longing to be doing something but I didn't know what. I simply wasn't happy. Eventually the feeling passed and I worked out of the funk I was in, but for a few months there I struggled with the feeling of everyone leaving and, illogically, thinking it was somehow my fault.

It's been more than a few years now since I've been in school and everyone I knew in college has now also graduated, but I still experience some pangs of loneliness and abandonment when fall rolls through. It's crazy how much that change from college to the real world affected me, and how it left such a lasting impression. I can't believe I still miss college. Or maybe I just hate knowing that I'm getting older.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Everyone Celebrate!

The Yankees are done! Thank God. I can't stand that freakin' team. Nothing more than a bunch of whiney, overpaid, underperforming players. It's always a riot watching them play because they play like a group of individuals thrown together because they're paid to instead of actually playing as a team. That's how you win games. You can't simply buy championships.

What would have made this year even better for baseball is if somehow the Minnesota Twins wouldn't have self destructed in the second half of the year and made the playoffs... and Barry Bonds would have left the sport of baseball for good. Man, I can't stand that guy. The only thing I can't stand more than him is the Yankees, and their season is done!

Monday, October 08, 2007

A Win for the Bad Guys

Looks like the RIAA finally has some good news to latch on to -- they managed to get a Minnesota woman convicted of music piracy. No doubt this will only embolden the RIAA into making more and more senseless suites against music sharers instead of trying to adapt their business model to accommodate the internet and all of the avenues available for creating new revenue streams.

The case itself was probably one of the worse ones to go to court. It would have been interesting to see some of the 80-year old grandmas and pre-adolescent children going toe-to-toe with the RIAA, but in this case it was a 30 year old woman taking on the RIAA after sharing obviously RIAA supported artists such as Aerosmith and Green Day. Still, I'm somewhat upset by the jury's decision to award the RIAA $220,000. From the article, I found this most perplexing:
In proving liability, the industry did not have to demonstrate that the defendant's computer had a file-sharing program installed at the time that they inspected her hard drive. And the RIAA did not have to show that the defendant was at the keyboard when RIAA investigators accessed Thomas' share folder.
Also, the judge in the case ruled that jurors may find copyright infringement liability against somebody solely for sharing files on the internet. The RIAA did not have to prove that others downloaded the files.

So just making something available is piracy? I don't know if I can get behind that. So if I leave my CD collection on the sidewalk outside of my house (from which anyone can come by and make a copy), I am conducting piracy? And there wouldn't even have to be proof that someone copied my music -- just by having it there I'd be conducting piracy. That seems a little wonky to me.

On top of that, the RIAA didn't have to prove that a program capable of sharing these files was on the woman's computer when the scanned her drive... so how do they know definitively that she was able to share the songs and was, in fact, doing so? I am pretty sure she was sharing them, but I thought the point of a trial was to prove that you did something, not to just be pretty sure someone did it.

It'll be interesting going forward now that this precedent has been set. I expect to see the RIAA getting sue-happy over the next 6 months.

Friday, October 05, 2007

I Took the Zune Plunge

My MP3 player that I use most of the time is a 40GB Lyra something-or-other and it is starting to get to the point where it is really beat up and at times likes to reset itself. It's been durable as hell, surviving many drops, tosses, and miles upon miles of running, but it doesn't have a lot of features that I'd like to see it have when using it to entertain myself on my bus rides. I know, I just bought an Audible compatible MP3 player to listen to my audio books, but what if I wanted to watch the latest episode of the Office I downloaded? And how about syncing? That's the biggest pain in the ass with my current Lyra--the software it uses takes forever to load anything. The Zune software is relatively easy to use (I use it already for streaming music to my Xbox 360).

With that, I've been eying up the 30GB Zune. With the announcement of the Zune 2 and the recent price drops on the Zune 1, I was really tempted. They were $130 on Woot one day and you can find them at about $150 online all over. I still couldn't make up my mind. But then a huge one-two combo hit and I am now going to be the proud owner of a black 30GB Zune 1.

The first punch came in the form of finding out that Microsoft is upgrading first gen Zunes to have all of the features of the Zune 2, which means MPEG4 support and wireless syncing. Two things that I've always thought MP3 players needed. No more plugging into my computer to get files onto it. All I have to do is plug the baby into its charger and it'll do it all automatically over the wireless network.

The second thing that dropped on me, as if the first wasn't enough to think about diving into the Zune pond, was Woot had a special, offering up Zune 1's for $100. I couldn't resist. And I still had $80 in my paypal account that had been sitting there from some comics I sold a while back. Now I just have to wait for it to get here... and pray the firmware upgrade Microsoft promises works as awesomely as it sounds like it will.

I can't wait to watch recorded TV shows on the bus instead of only being able to listen to audio books or music. Sweet...

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Story Changes - The Way of the Dinosaur CD Review

There was a time, not that long ago, where emo and hard rock bands didn’t need to scream on their albums. Really, there was such a time, as hard as it is to believe. Today, just about every band signed to any decent sized indie label that plays within the realm of “emo” has to toss in some screams every now and again so that they can show how “emotional” they are about something. Come on, you don’t need to scream to show strong emotion. When did that become a rule? Don’t people remember the early Tooth and Nail days when Further Seems Forever and The Juliana Theory were starting out? Or how about the early Jade Tree years? Heck, remember that band called Jimmy Eat World? It seems like hardly any emo or “emo-core” bands remember any of that nowadays. Instead they try to ape Senses Fail and the flavor of the week screaming emo style that’s recently caught on.

Thank goodness there is occasionally a band that isn’t afraid to break away from the trends and just plays good music. It’s true that you’ll hear a lot of Clarity era Jimmy Eat World throughout The Way of the Dinosaur, but it could be worse. Think about it, what does the music scene need more of right now -- more copycat bands that either whine way too much (The Spill Canvas, My American Heart, etc.) and lamely toss screams around while they're whining (Emery, Taking Back Sunday, and the like) or more bands that remember when Saves the Day and The Get Up Kids were trend setters? If you didn’t say the former, stop reading and go listen to your Fall Out Boy mp3s for the bazillionth time.

Honestly, as nice as it is to hear some throwback styled songwriting, after listening to “Needle”, “You Run Away”, and a few of the other great songs on this album, a sense of sad nostalgia passes through the air reminding us all that bands such as The Juliana Theory and Further Seems Forever are no longer making music. Even though they aren’t, and even though that style of music is no longer popular with the scene kids, bands such as The Story Changes are keeping the sound alive.

While they are keeping the blood pumping in this dying genre while everyone anticipates the next Jimmy Eat World record, it would also be nice to hear them keeping some of the diversity of the sound alive. Throughout the 10 tracks on this album, all of the songs keep the same mid-tempo, established emo structure. There are a couple of small derivations, such as the moody “Caught Up in Chemicals” or the slightly up-tempo chorus of “Your Own Design”, but for the vast majority of the album, there is almost no differentiation from song to song.

The Way of the Dinosaur functions well as a reminder, nudging those of us who are old enough to remember music in the mid-90’s to early 00’s to go pull out some of our old favorites and give them a couple of spins. It’s also an album that is great for a few listens, but lacks staying power. Still, we need more albums like this that break slightly outside of the mold of what is currently popular in the scene, simply to provide some diversity for those people who actually do want something different.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Get Restarted

Ever get that mid-afternoon dragging feeling? All you want to do is curl up in your office and sleep for hours? Heck, I know I do. Most days, even weekends, I have a hard time soldiering through the afternoons. What I discovered in college, and still practice to this day, is something Lifehacker is just pointing out to everyone now -- take a caffeine nap.

I don't usually get to take a standard caffeine nap, really, because I have already had either 10 cups of coffee or about 24 ounces of energy drink in me throughout the morning, but what I will often to do get my juices flowing again is zone everything out, set my blackberry to go off in 10-20 minutes, and close my eyes. Sometimes I get to sleep, but most often I float in that weird zone of just lazily thinking and walking along the borders of sleep. Sometimes it feels like a dream, sometimes I just end up thinking about stupid junk. Either way, I make sure not to think about work or anything stressful at all.

Once I wake up in 15 minutes or when my blackberry goes off, in about 30 seconds I'm back into full wakefulness and ready to go. And I feel energized. The grogginess is completely gone. Seriously, it works wonders and helps keep me focused on getting things done when I would otherwise just lazily plod through things.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Sleep? What's That?

Could it be that fall is here? Could it be that I drink way too much coffee and Monster? Might it be that I've been getting through a behemoth cold? Maybe it's because I've been uber-busy at work and want to make sure I get enough non-work activities in each day? Heck, maybe it's just a freakin' chemical imbalance. Any way you look at it, though, sleep just hasn't been something I've been getting much of lately.

Ever since I took the red eye home from Seattle last Monday morning which left me with only a couple of hours of sleep to go on, I've been only getting 6 hours of sleep a night--tops! Last night, for example, I was up until after 1:00 am and then I woke up naturally at around 6:10 am. And it's been like that all last week.

I'm not going to complain too much because who really wants to waste time on sleeping anyways? Well, yeah, I know dreams are cool and waking up after a great night's rest kicks ass and falling asleep soundly after a long day pretty much rules... but beyond that, I think I'd rather do other things. So I have been. Mostly reading and reading and reading.

It's just so weird to go from having a sleep schedule where I'd be getting around 7-8 hours a night to being able to survive just fine on 6 or so. It's like I got my college energy levels back all of the sudden.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dreary Saturday Tops Off a Bleak Week

That'd be the headline if there were a newspaper article written about me and this previous week's activities. It's just been one of those days where things don't quite go right, then they go even more wonky, then other things get thrown into the mix, then your stress level starts to eat at you, then nothing seems to fall your way, and then to top it all off there's that existential yearning underpinning everything and sucking the meaning out of anything you do.

It's harvest time, and every year around harvest time I long for being on the farm, being around the machinery, watching as the fields provide everything they've grown all summer to the farmers who have cared for them. I don't even care if I'm involved in the harvest process, I just like being around it.

When I lived with my parents, I didn't get to do any of the important tasks like driving the combine or running the grain trucks. Instead I usually ended up chopping stalks (which is a process where we take a gigantic lawn mower thing over the corn fields to shred up all the stalks) or plowing. It was pretty boring and I was completely isolated out in the fields that had already been harvested, but I felt like what I was doing was contributing to something bigger. I was participating in bringing food to the world.

My current job (and every job I've had other than working on the farm) has never brought me the same amount of fulfillment. What I do now is more challenging and I don't mind what I do, I simply don't get that same deep-down, intrinsic happiness from it. I don't see how what I do contributes to anything outside of a small function for the company I work for.

I deal with it, though, and once winter sets in this longing again subsides. It's not all that bad dealing with the longing, but when other things start to weigh in on you, that's when it starts to suck. It was a long, stressful week this week at work. Fighting a cold after getting back from vacation, I had a lot of things I needed to get through at work. It was stressful, but I dealt.

Being sick is never fun, but in the middle of this week, I ended up having a migraine that knocked me the hell out on top of already feeling like ass. And don't even get me started about my lame attempts at trying to exercise. It just doesn't work when you're sick, no matter how hard you try to convince yourself you can do it.

And now, this morning, as I tossed in the towel on the week, chalking it up as a loss, I tried to smile and march on. But then I did my morning errand running at Target... and found they didn't have a few of the items I wanted, one of my credit cards didn't work, and it started to pour out as I was leaving. Wonderful. Some days you just can't win.

So now I'm here sitting at a local Caribou Coffee shop, catching up on some work, and hoping that I'm finally out of the woods because I'm getting sick and tired of crap not going my way.

Seattle Pictures

20070919 - Seattle 132

Finally, after having to deal with Comcast taking a giant dump all over our internet service here at home, I have uploaded all of my pictures from our Seattle vacation. Check out the gallery here. I'll probably be adding some more later when Caleb gets his pictures off of his camera. For now, however, enjoy what I have up.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wisconsin Dells - In Pictures!

Not too many pictures, though, at least from me. I only took a few, but my mom snapped a bunch. It's fun to look at the pictures now and remember the laid back, fun time we had in Wisconsin. I'd kill for that right now since work is doubly busy. We have a lot going on, priorities have shifted, and I'm still catching up from taking two vacations this month. Guess I'll just sit back in my chair, sigh a little, and imagine that work was somehow as fun as vacation.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Seattle, Day Five

Our final day in the city of Seattle started off slower than the rest. Being it was the last day, we didn't want to rush anything so we woke up, got some breakfast, packed our junk, and lounged around in the hotel lobby or our room until about noon. At that time we had to check out. After checking out we stowed our bags at the hotel's baggage room and headed off to our first activity.

This activity happened to be the Experience Music Project and Seattle Science Fiction Museum. They are both a part of the same building, which was created to look like a sketch that Jimi Hendrix had drawn at one point in his life. It was a really unique structure.

We spent a significant amount of time at the two museums, with most of my time being spent in the sci-fi half being the geeky nerd that I am. It was really a classy, wonderful museum that treated science fiction seriously. It wasn't just a bunch of old Buck Rogers toys tossed in a display case, but instead was galleries upon galleries of different aspects of sci-fi history, literature, culture, and subjects. It was a shame that they didn't allow photography because I would have filled up my camera with geeky pictures.

The Experience Music Project was interesting, especially the history of the guitar section, but the galleries on Seattle hip-hop and Seattle bands of the early to mid 1900's didn't interest me as much. There was also a significant shortage of grunge information and displays. I had hoped for a little more.

After exhausting ourselves there, we grabbed some food, wandered around the Seattle Center (if you're there, check out the International Fountain as it's pretty cool), and then moseyed to the Seattle Art Museum's sculpture garden along the shore. It was an interestingly set up garden, but there was a shortage of art and what was there wasn't all that interesting to me.

By the time we had finished looking at the gardens, Randy needed to head to the airport to catch his flight home. He headed out with one of his friends, Alan, that had hung out with us while we were visiting. Once he took off, a couple of my friends (Alex and Crystal) came and picked up the three of us that were remaining.

They took us up to a beach in the area and showed us their place, which has a wonderful view of Lake Union. Later, before we also had to head to the airport, we had some Mexican food at a wonderful restaurant in Ballard. I believe it was called The Matador. The entire town or village of Ballard was very interesting and unique. We walked around for a bit and there were a ton of very neat, homey shops that hadn't been eaten up by your standard tourist shops.

Finally, it came time to head home so we hopped on our 1:00 am Seattle time flight (which is 3:00 am Minnesota time) and got back at 6:15 in the morning -- just in time to head in to work for the day. It might not have been the best idea as it took gobs of coffee to keep me going, but it saved me a vacation day to use later on.

All in all, this was a wonderful vacation and I hope this group can get together and travel again next year. It'll just be a matter of figuring out where to go!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Seattle, Day Four

Day four was our second to last day in the city. Since we'd been going going going for the first three, we slowed down a little and took things somewhat slower for the day. We didn't actually leave the hotel until a little before noon. We spent the morning sleeping in, catching up on news, eating breakfast, and taking some time to decide what we wanted to do.

After leaving the hotel, we strolled up Queen Anne Avenue, which led up to Kerry Park. Talk about an uphill walk. It was a long haul and we had some pretty tight, tired thighs and calves by the time we got up to the top. We were greeted with a wonderful view of Seattle and the bay. It was extremely beautiful and we got a few good pictures of the group with Seattle in the background.

We then walked through the Queen Anne neighborhood checking out the ridiculously expensive houses. Seriously, I can't even imagine how much some of the houses there cost. We looked at a couple of the condo for sale brochures and for a 1 bedroom, 1,000 square foot condo, it would run you around $350,000 so imagine what a beautiful, 3,000 square foot house would cost? Insanity.

Once we finished marveling at the houses, we hopped a bus up to the Ballard Locks in the hopes of seeing some salmon coming back home to breed. There weren't as many salmon as we had thought there would be, but as we watched we saw plenty of fish jumping up the Ballard Locks ladder. The ladder is a series of pools of water that the salmon can take upstream to get back to their breeding grounds since the locks were created and cut off any other way for the salmon to return home.

While we were there we checked out the locks, saw a couple of seals, watched a history movie on the locks, and checked out the displays about the history of the locks. It was all pretty interesting, although I'm sure many people would think it was pretty dry.

On our way back to downtown, we stopped by Lake View Cemetery to visit the graves of Bruce Lee and Brandon Lee. Both of the headstones were very tasteful and not overly huge or gaudy. While we were there we also explored some of the areas of the cemetery and checked out some of the more interesting looking and older headstones. It was a beautiful cemetery with a nice overlook of Lake Union.

For the rest of the evening Randy met up with some of his friends while Caleb, Kristi, and I went out to a spectacular Thai restaurant. We all reconvened at the hotel later on in the evening, once again ready to get some good, quality sleep.

And now, today, we have our final day in the city. It's time to pack up, see the few things we may have still wanted to check out, and head back to the airport to fly home and, for Kristi and I, head back to work as soon as we land.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Seattle, Day Three

All right. Day three is done and over. It was another busy one, but we're here not only to relax, but to see as much of the city and what it has to offer as we can. We started off the day once again with the badass breakfast they have here at the Quality Inn.

Once we were satiated, we started our walk for the day. Our first stop was at the REI flagship store. It was a pretty impressive building and had an amazing climbing wall setup. It wasn't so much a climbing wall as it was a climbing DNA-strand looking thing. The landscaping outside of the building was also very pretty.

Moving along we headed down to the piers and grabbed a ferry to Bainbridge Island. Kristi had had it recommended to her (but we can't remember by whom), so that helped us decide which ferry to ride since there's ferries to a lot of places. Riding the ferry was actually pretty interesting... and cold. Being on the water the wind really rips through and made the 60 degree weather feel like a cozy, blowing Minnesota winter day.

On Bainbridge Island, we walked through the touristy area they have set up, full of shops and eateries. We grabbed some ice cream at one of the cutest and quaintest parlors I've seen. It's nestled in a little wooded area at the back of a one-way road, completely out of the way and peaceful. It was also very expensive, but oh so tasty.

We grabbed some food at a local pub that overlooked the harbor. Wanting to get some seafood while we were out here, Kristi and I split a cod dish and Caleb had some Asian shrimp. Again, the restaurant was very quaint and quiet. The whole town seemed that way.

On our way back to the ferry, we walked along a waterfront path to notice two things--there are a crap ton of spiders that have webs in the trees and bushes (big spiders, but not quite the size of some of the larger barn spiders we have at home) and the water is so toxic, you can't eat anything from that bay. All of the sea life in that bay contains paralytic bacteria.

Upon returning to Seattle, we visited some of the shops in Pioneer Square, including Seattle's Mystery Bookshop. It was a pretty neat little bookstore that had a predominant focus on mystery/thriller books and local authors with lots of signed books for sale. It's too bad I'm not a huge mystery/thriller reader or I would have picked up a couple of books.

Once our shopping was finished, we went to the Seattle Underground Tour, which gives you a tour of the old underground portion of Seattle that was present before the Seattle fire in the late 1800's. It was pretty interesting seeing the parts of the city that are now underground, but what was more interesting was learning about the history of the Seattle and Tacoma area. It was well worth going to.

The rest of the evening we spent chilling in local bars and pubs in the Pioneer Square area. We hit up the Underground Bar, which was a pretty great place and really cheap, much to our pleasure. We also hit up an Irish Pub (I forget the name) that was definitely more expensive, but had some live music (a band called Vote for Pedro who played mostly indie rock cover songs) so it was ok in the end.

Having finally exhausted ourselves, we made the long walk back to our hotel (although it felt like Kristi was sprinting and pushing us all to keep up even though she felt she was going at merely a walking pace) and hit the sack. Another day behind us.

This morning we're taking a chance to catch our breath and decide what to do. We still want to go to the Experience Music and Sci-Fi Museum and potentially go see where the salmon are coming back to breed (I guess it's that time of year). There's also the possibility of the Seattle Symphony and just hanging out with some of the people Randy and I know here in Seattle. I do think that today will be a little more laid back than that last couple.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Seattle, Day Two

Well, our first full day in the city was yesterday. We tried to pack in a bunch of wonderful touristy stuff and hit some of the major sights. After stuffing ourselves full at the cafeteria style breakfast at the top notch Quality Inn & Suites we're staying at, we put on the footwear and headed out for a walkabout in the city.

Our first stop was at the Pike's market. You know, the place where they throw the fish? It was interesting enough. Saw some fish and crab tossin' and looked at all the local market shops and realized that everything was way too expensive to buy, so this will most likely be a souvenir-less trip.

While down in the market, we saw a full size pig statue made of, I'm guessing, bronze or some other copper tinted metal. After seeing it there, we saw all kinds of plastic pig sculptures throughout the city. I really don't have any clue why they're around and most of the people I've asked have no clue either. I'll probably have to consult the internets and ask that google guy what the deal is.

After checking out the market and the view over the harbor from the city side, we made our way up to the post office to mail some post cards. Right across the street from the post office is the symphony hall of Seattle (or some musical performance venue, I forget the name). While we are here, the symphony is doing their tribute to sci-fi with narration by none other than George Takei. I would really like to go, but I'm having a hard time convincing the rest of the crew.

Once the post cards were sent on their way, we continued our adventure towards downtown by stopping at the library, which is pretty trippy. The architecture is awesome. As much as the building doesn't seem to be that good of a use of space, everything we read about it inside points out how naturally sustainable the building is. We tried to go to the roof (Randy's idea), hoofing it up the stairs all the way to the roof access only to, obviously, find it locked. While we were up there we went down one floor to the 10th floor (and top floor accessible by the public). It was pretty neat and there's one overlook point where you can look straight down to the basement. It was awesome to look down, but very disorienting as well.

Next up, we met Alex in the Columbia Center, which is the tallest building in Seattle. While we were there, he showed us up to the observation deck, which gave us a perfect view of the city and surrounding areas. It was a little overcast so we couldn't see Mount Rainier or the Microsoft campus. It was still amazing to get to look over the entire city.

We then ventured into Pioneer Square to grab some food at a bar/grill that was built back in the late 1800's. It was a great bar atmosphere and had pretty good food to boot. It filled us up for the long bus ride down to the Museum of Flight.

One of Randy's friends who lives in Seattle met up with us at the Museum and used his membership to get us in. It was really an awesome place to visit. Tons of planes (replicas and full size versions) to see with the two biggest attractions currently being a Concorde jet and a retired Air Force One. Both were quite fascinating, as was the entire museum. I have tons of pictures that I'll get up when I get back.

As the day started coming down, we visited a local mall just to see what Seattle's malls are like... well that and Caleb had forgotten to pack enough clothes for the trip. Anyhow, after clothes shopping, grabbing some food, and relaxing for a bit, we headed back to the hotel and chilled the rest of the evening, making sure to watch some re-runs of American Gladiators on ESPN Classic before nodding off.

Now it is day three. Who knows what's on the agenda for today...

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Seattle, Day One

Yesterday was our first day (or half day, I guess) here in Seattle. Our plane got in about 4:30 local time. We took the bus down to our hotel after getting in (thankfully Kristi noticed we were waiting for the right bus, but going in the wrong direction). We're staying in a very hotel-ish area that's north of downtown and about 5 blocks or so from the Space Needle.

After getting in, not knowing what to do, we decided to just go grab some food and figure out our game plan for the rest of vacation. Oh, yeah, we're a rag-tag group of four out here on vacation. Kristi, Caleb, my brother Randy, and myself decided to make the trip. Anyways, we were going to try to eat at a local restaurant (The Bone Fish Grill), but it was pretty spendy so we decided to save a little money and go to the Bucca di Bepo's next door. It was pretty much a carbon copy of the Buccas that they have in Minnesota.

Afterwards, we met up with some friends of mine who moved out here about a year ago. It was great to see them and they also were able to drive us around and show us some of the interesting sights. We saw the bridge troll sculpture, the statue of Vladimir Lenin, went to the shore opposite the city to see the skyline, drove by the two sports stadiums, and ended up in a part of town that felt very much like the Uptown neighborhood in Minneapolis.

After hanging out at a local bar and catching up, the time lag started to get to some of us. It was only around 10 local time, but after midnight our time, so we headed home to hit the hay and get rested for today.

On tap for today... we don't really know! I think we're going to check out downtown, maybe go to the Museum of Flight, and then figure something fun out to do for the night. Let the first full day begin!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Going Away

Well, I'm off to Seattle for a little 5 day vacation starting today. I'm looking forward to taking in the town and seeing what Seattle has to offer. The weather looks like it'll be ok, mostly in the 60's and overcast with only a slight chance of rain.

The only thing I'm not looking forward to is coming back... I'm taking the red eye home Monday morning, which leaves at 3 am Monday morning and gets me back to Minnesota at 7 am... at which time I'll take the light rail to downtown and stroll into work at 8. I'm sure that I'll need at least two pots of coffee to get through that day, but it'll be worth it to save that vacation day for using later on.

Ok, with that said, I'm off!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Good Call, Mr. Reznor

I've been a lifelong fan of Nine Inch Nails. I'm no fanatic like some folks are, but I've enjoyed each of Trent Reznor's released under that moniker. I've also purchased some of his albums as well (The Downward Spiral twice because it got stolen in college). I don't mind buying CDs of artists that I enjoy and actually do like to support them, but recently in light of the ridiculously inflated CD prices that Australian fans must pay for Nine Inch Nails releases, Trent Reznor urged people to steal his music instead of buying it.

I'm all for sticking it to the RIAA as they are an outdated organization full of bad ideas, so I'm completely behind Reznor on this one. The thing is, one artist isn't going to make a difference really. And the way that the idiotic masses in this country buy up millions of copies of the latest 50 Cent and Kayne West and Daughtry and Hinder, no matter how many good artists want to give away their music it's not going to matter when the RIAA keeps force feeding people crap and the people being fed it don't ever look for anything else to listen to.

Part of the reason I like being an editor at Decoy Music is that I'm constantly finding out about new artists doing unique things in music. And we like to push those artists and give them the exposure that they deserve, but can't get because they don't make crappy-ass, cookie-cutter music.

Part of what is really interesting about the smaller bands out there, who actually do deserve our money and support, don't really give a crap if someone downloads their CD. They don't make that much money from CD sales anyhow. Unless an artist sells tens or hundreds of thousands of copies, there isn't much profit going to the artist--it all goes to the label. Smaller bands get all of their money when kids come out to shows or buy t-shirts or other merch.

I kind of like that method of music distribution. Lord knows just about everyone downloads most of the music they listen to. If you don't, you're a liar. Simple as that. The thing is, when you stumble across a band that you really like that you've downloaded, why not throw a few bucks their way by buying a t-shirt from their website or ordering their CD from Amazon or CDbaby or something? Maybe kids today don't understand that bands need to make money one way or another and wouldn't support bands but would only take all they could for free, but I like to believe that some kids would support what they enjoy.

But what do I know? I'm no musician. All I know I like to support bands I like. They deserve my money. Major label poster children don't. End of story.

The Benzene Ring - Breathing Water in a Dream CD Review

To start off, when reading the bio of The Benzene Ring, I stumbled across this little tidbit of “information”:

”The Benzene Ring play big Smashing Pumpkins guitar rock, dreamy Danny Elfman fantasies, prog rock largesse à la Tool and Yes, and rich emotional Sunny Day Real Estate textures.”

Now you have to admit, by proclaiming the above, The Benzene Ring set the bar pretty damn high for themselves. Has there really been a band in all of the existence of music to blend each of those items together? And even if there were such a band, would the music said band created have been done well? I’m thinking the odds are pretty much against it, but that doesn’t mean The Benzene Ring won’t try to be that band, however.

After reading the above, I checked out the song titles on the album. From the looks of the first couple of tracks (“You and Me in the Absence of Predators” and “An Old Man Dies and Finds Himself in Hell”) and their respective lengths (7:22 and 5:59), it was looking like the pretentiousness potential on this album was quite high. Trying to push all of these preconceived notions aside, however, Breathing Water in a Dream was given my full attention… and oddly it was pretty decent for a pretentious indie rock affair.

For the most part this album is primarily an indie rock effort, but there are many other small flourishes that venture into some prog rock and post-rock territory. And to clear things up about the band’s claims to their sound above, you are not going to hear much of anything that sounds similar to The Smashing Pumpkins or Tool. There are some definite Yes and Sunny Day Real Estate moments, though, with most of the Sunny Day Real Estate moments occurring in short bursts. The Benzene Ring have a few moments on the album that fall into the emo realm the aforementioned band was so famous for.

The fuller, longer, flowing compositions on this album are where this band truly shines. The first two tracks are a wonderful one-two opening punch of mature (at times post-rock influenced) instrumentation, progressive songwriting, and artistic expression. The songs may meander just a tad bit too long, but it doesn’t detract from the overall impact of the songs. “Help is on the Way” is another strong track and is also the longest of the album. It feels very similar in tone to later The Mayan Factor songs with a bit of a more upbeat tone, at least for the first half of the song. The track takes a drastic shift in the second half, morphing into a classic rock and Rush inspired piece. The transition was a little abrupt, but still was workable.

What ultimately detracts from this album are the short snippets of songs found throughout the effort that masquerade as full compositions. “Treasure in the Straw” and “Shuffling the Deck” are two tracks that amount to nothing more than noise on each side of the interestingly put together “Magical Road”, which feels like something off of an early Sleepytime Gorilla Museum album. In total, five of the eleven songs on the album fall into this “snippet” category and disrupt much of the flow that the longer compositions create.

Given some more focus, possibly a little better production, and some streamlining, The Benzene Ring will have things flowing perfectly. As it is now, they are a flawed band filled with a ton of potential that needs some guidance and molding in order to reach the next level.