Friday, May 25, 2007

Gifts From Long Ago

star trek picture

No, your eyes do not deceive you. That really is a Star Trek print and I really do own it. It was a gift to me from my grandma for my 15th birthday. While I was putting it up in the office of my house, since the matte seems to match the color of my office walls, I noticed on the back the message my grandma put on it, within which she put the year she gave it to me.

It's hard to fathom that this print was given to me over 11 years ago. This picture has been with me (well, it's mostly been in my parents' house) for over a decade. I don't know if I even remember what it was like being 15. Sure, I remember that I was 15 and I remember events from when I was 15, but I don't think I can really understand what it was like to be 15 any longer.

Parents often tell their children, usually when punishing them for doing something wrong, that they understand the situation their child is in because "they were that age at one time." And they were, there's no doubting that, but I don't think the ability to relate completely is there any more. If I can't remember what being a teenager was like in my mid-20's, how will I be able to relate to a teenager when I'm in my 40's? I don't think I will be able to, unless there is some moment of clarity later on in life that will allow me to suddenly re-relate to my youth.

And on a side note, how the hell did I get to be in my mid-20's already anyways? I don't recall having that planned out yet. I'm still operating at 22, if you ask me.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Return to Arms - Return to Arms CD Review

When you woke up this morning, what did you do? In detail, please. I bet you actually have to think about it, don't you? It’s because we so rarely think about the everyday motions and activities that we go through -- they're done mostly on instinct or out of habit. Every day I wake up to the first ring of my alarm clock, grab my clothes from my dresser, take a shower, brush my teeth, get dressed, make my lunch, grab my backpack, and head out to catch the bus. It’s the same every day. The only mornings I actually remember are the ones where something outside of the norm happened. When it is just my usual routine, I have no way of differentiating days. The same can really be said of today's emo rock scene -- if you don't do something that's different, you're not going to get noticed.

This debut EP from Return to Arms contains five tracks of modern emo rock that uses each and every one of the routines that have been established as templates for this genre. Starting the album is a mid-tempo rock track that feels like a slightly more rocking version of Mae, but minus the thought out conceptual nature of most Mae tracks. “Overdose” continues in the same vein, but tosses in a few “nah-nah”s and some vocal manipulations to keep the song from sounding like an outright duplication of the previous track. It’s not enough, though, because I’ve heard this song at least 20 times from 15 different bands in the last year alone.

With the third track, “Take Your Time”, you get a bouncy dance rock inspired intro that quickly slips back into bland, uninspired emo before too long. The bouncy guitars do make further appearances, but they simply feel like cheap imitations of bigger, better hooks made by bigger, better bands. “This is for You” slows down the tempo and channels copious amounts of early career Saves the Day. The use of a vocoder on the vocals at the end of the track would be interesting if it didn’t feel so awkward. If anything ever needed a moratorium declared upon it, it is the vocoder. I don’t think there is a band out there that knows how to use it properly, which probably means it’s not a very good choice for an accentuating tool to be used in the creation of music. The end of the EP comes in the form of “A Crime in Progress”, a straight ahead song that could easily fill in for a My American Heart or Name Taken track (which, by the way, is not exactly a compliment).

Return to Arms are just going through the motions. They’ve listened to enough rock, indie, and emo to know what you need to fit into the genres, and they’ve put together loose copies of what they know instead of actually creating something unique. It may sound harsh, but if a band is going to get anywhere, they can’t simply ape what’s been done before and call it theirs -- they need to have an identity.

F*ck Off



A Canadian environmental group, Flickoff.org, is attempting to appeal to the people of their country to conserve energy. One easy way to do that is to "flick off" lights. I can get behind something like that. What's the kicker for me, though, is their logo. The font they used makes it look like that wonderful "f" curse word followed by an "o" that is flipping you off. Why don't we have interesting advertising campaigns like this in the US? If I could, I'd put a "Flick Off" sticker or poster up wherever I could... especially on my office door. I wonder how long it'd be before I got reprimanded...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Space Poop

I used to be an anime nut. I'd watch anything I could get my hands on while I was in college. You wouldn't believe the collection of anime that I had amassed by the time I graduated. I can't recall exactly what started my fascination with this unique form of media, but I loved it.

The first series I remember being exposed to, however, was Robotech. I'm sure many grown up nerds that are my age had the same galvanizing experience with this show. It had an alien invasion, giant robots, cheesy drama, and a uniqueness that you didn't find in your average He-Man or Smurfs episode.

What always weirded me out about the show, however, wasn't the focus on how Japanese pop was somehow the alien invaders' weakness (which is pretty ridiculous), but the alien ships. If you look at the picture below, you'll see that they're all long, green-ish brown masses. No matter what I tried to do, I couldn't imagine them as anything other than gigantic pieces of poop flying through outer space with lasers attached to their side.

It was a pretty funny thought to be thinking as a kid since anything feces related is hilarious, but what's even more odd is that, even though I'm now a well established 26 year old adult (who almost acts his age... about half the time), I still chuckle when I think about the Zentraedi space force. They were flying in huge turds, after all...

zentradi

Green Lizard - Las Armas Del Silencio CD Review

How many years do you think the current girl pants wearing trend has left in it? My guess is maybe one or two before the next fad hits and takes over. Who knows what it will be? It’s easy to remember when biker chain wallets were all the rage with metal kids or when Airwalk and Vans were the only shoes trendy punk kids could be found sporting. There was even a small window of time where pink was the color you would wear (pseudo-ironically) in hardcore circles. Just like fashion, music is very cyclical. The 90’s saw metal falling into the background as grunge exploded onto the airwaves and political punk mesmerized the counter-culture. Before too long nu-metal struck a chord with the Nascar crowd and dominated every rock station in the world while pop-punk took up a strong second place in the ears of the kids. Today it's all about metalcore with post-rock making a surge in underground circles. And who knows what will be the predominant styles next year?

All of these disparate genres have had bands playing in them over the last decade and a half, but the quality and popularity have often waxed and waned based upon popularity. Because of this, when a stellar record from a lesser listened to genre came around, it stood out so much more than the next big release from the fad of the day. Right now the political punk genre has been pretty untouched outside of last year’s Rise Against and Strike Anywhere releases. It’s probably because of this that Las Armas Del Silencio manages to grab your ear and not let go.

Upon hearing the opening licks of “Save Ourselves” you’ll find yourself awash in the aura of Boysetsfire, and just to be clear I’m talking about the classic Boysetsfire era — not the crap they put out and called The Misery Index. Throughout the album you’ll hear many throwbacks to the rock oriented spectrum of the late 90’s and early 00’s political punk sound. Pointing out the rock orientation of the band is not something to be taken in passing as the band has a firm polipunk attitude and many songs crank up the tempos, but for about half of the album the band approaches songwriting with a straightforward rock mentality.

With that said, the diversity on this album is what makes it so appealing. The guys in Green Lizard can shift gears from a galloping Billy Talent styled tune (“Bullets are for Everyone”) to a radio friendly, quasi-Rise Against composition (“One Minute”) to a non-clich├ęd, punk ballad (“One Last Kiss”). It’s obvious to see that the 12 plus years this band has been together has benefited their ability to create interesting songs in a genre that can sometimes lack creativity.

Listening to this album and then checking out what the popular Alternative Press bands currently are leads you to one stark realization - any day now we should be seeing the ousting of metalcore from the MP3 players of today’s scenesters, and when it happens, let’s hope that polipunk can at least makes its way back into a small bit of the limelight it used to occupy because it is long overdue for a resurgence. Green Lizard are ready to lead the charge with Las Armas Del Silencio, and there really isn’t a better album to give political rock and punk the surge it needs than this one.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hand Washing

I know it's proper etiquette to wash your hands after you go to the bathroom, but let's be honest for a second here. If a guy enters the bathroom, is there all by himself, is only taking a quick pee-pee, and finishes without anyone else coming in to the bathroom, the odds are in favor of him just heading out of the bathroom without visiting the sink. Sure, everyone will deny it, but they just aren't comfortable with the truth.

Now I would usually think that the above would apply universally wherever there is a public restroom, but then I found myself thinking about this a little harder as I visited the bathroom in a church this weekend before service. Because a bathroom is in a church, does that make someone more inclined to wash their hands, even if they are by themselves... you know, because God is watching? That and you're hanging out in one of his many houses.

I would imagine that guys, at least religious and respectful ones, would make extra sure to wash after going to the bathroom while in church because that's what Jesus would do, right? And since you automatically feel about a bajillion times more guilty about anything you may do or have done as soon as you enter the front doors of a church, actually committing a social no-no while inside of this holy establishment could potentially load someone up with so much guilt that they may never be able to recover, especially if they're Catholic. So just do yourself a favor and remember to wash your hands in God's house. He's watching...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Gas Hike

I consider myself somewhat lucky in that I have a gas station a block from my house and said gas station has the cheapest gas in most of the Twin Cities metro area. I have no clue how they stay a solid 5-10 cents under everyone else, but they do. So when gas was in the $2.50 or $2.60 range, it felt good to only have to pay $2.40 or a little more for gas.

But now... my "cheap" gas is in the $3.20 range and if I were to fill up anywhere else, it'd be more than $3.30. How is $3.20 somehow cheap for gas? And how soon is it going to be the case where I'll think $3.75 is cheap? I can't imagine it'll be that long from now since the summer travel season is just starting and gas is already jumping up uncontrollably.

I feel bad for anyone who has to drive to work (emphasis on the work has). Anyone who chooses to drive is an idiot. I'll take my public transit any day. How can you beat getting to downtown and back home for a whopping $4.00 a day? You can't. But I'm sure bus prices will be going up soon as well. You just can't win.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Some Home Updates

Since I really am uninspired lately, here are some pictures of updates I've done to my house lately.

house 014

In the basement bathroom, I put up both an adjustable mirror (on the left) and a medicine cabinet (on the right). The bathroom was pretty sparse and didn't have anything in the way of storage so I felt I had to add some. It's just too bad the way the doors were machined that they don't line up quite right.

house 013

The basement bathroom also didn't have anywhere to put towels, so I had to put together a cabinet, which fit nicely right next to the shower.

house 012

Not too much new here--just a wine rack for storing the cheap wine in the basement.

house 011

I put up some of my baseball pictures in the basement above my main (overflowing) bookshelf. I think they look good and match the overall tone of the room.

house 010

I have no idea how I've accumulated so many little stuffed animals, but a decision was made to consolidate them all on the top of one book shelf.

house 009

JC Penny was having a big clearance sale on all of their lamps so I took the opportunity to pick up a nice, old world looking lamp for my reading nook in the basement.

house 005

Here's some more wine storage, this time in the kitchen and this time for the good wine. I also put in the under cabinet CD player so that I can listen to tunes while I'm cooking and going through the mail.

house 003

I finally got my swords up on the wall, which is great since I never put them up in the old house. I think that wall will make a nice weapons wall.

house 002

Doing my best to make use of the built in shelves in my room. I figure they're perfect for putting up pictures.

So... there's some more house stuff that I've been doing lately. That's all I got...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rock Star

This week Jared and I went in together to buy Guitar Hero for the Xbox 360. Needless to say, that's where most of our spare time is being spent. Ultimate frisbee leagues also started this week. And I had two full days of meetings at work. That's it. That's all I got.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Just Call Them Flowers

Anyone who lives in a city knows that one of the first things your neighbors may or may not get mad at you about is how nice you keep your lawn. I live in the city now and own my own house. I also have a lawn, albeit a somewhat small one which I had to mow for the first time last week. It didn't take too long - about a half hour - but while I was doing it, I noticed how many weeds had creeped up into the grass.

Growing up on a farm, we had so much lawn that if you were to treat all of it for weeds, you'd be broke both in terms of money and time. If it weren't for creeping charlie and dandelions and other assorted non-grass greens, most country homes wouldn't even have a lawn. It'd just be dirt.

With that background firmly in place, at the house I rented last year, I could care less what grew in the lawn. There were weeds aplenty overpowering that lawn. There were even a few dreaded thistles that caused more than a couple piercings to bare feet. I didn't care, though, because I was renting the place and the landlord was in Iowa and was also probably one of the worst and most incompetent landlords in existence. He was kind of like the Alberto Gonzalez of landlords.

Now I own a place, though, and there are definitely weeds in this lawn. The back yard is pretty much completely weeds, while the front yard only has a few dandelions making an initial assault on the masses of grasses firmly entrenched there. Considering my background with lawn care, the fact that both of my neighbors don't really keep their lawns weeded all that well, and the fact that I've never cared what is actually growing in my yard as long as it is green, soft to walk on, and didn't stab me or make me itch, I think I'm going to concede victory to the weeds without even fighting, saving myself money, time, and stress.

It's just lawn. Right?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

More Movies

Here are a couple more movies I recently saw to add to the review thread.

Jesus Camp (7.5/10): It's a little freaky to see how some completely right wing Christians are teaching their kids religion, not so much because they're so religious, but because of how their religion manifests itself in their everyday lives. Kids are home schooled and taught that science is wrong. They're taught that those who don't believe as them are enemies. They're made to feel extremely guilty for any small "sin". They use religion as a tool for exclusion, judgment, and hate. It's a total perversion of everything that Jesus taught. And it happens every day somewhere in some backwater hick town. Scary.

Hot Fuzz (7.5/10): Sean of the Dead was a hilarious send up of the zombie movies that had come before it. One of the best qualities of the film is that it never got less funny the more times you watched it. Hot Fuzz was funny, but not nearly as clever as Sean of the Dead, and I also think it wouldn't hold up over multiple viewings. The movie was also a little disjointed with the first two thirds being focused on the comedic while the last third was focused on being completely over the top in regards to action. It's still better than most comedies you'll see this year, so that's a definite plus.

Wolf Creek (5/10): I tend to go pretty easy on horror movies because they're a guilty pleasure of mine. All you need is a decently engaging antagonist, some clever deaths, and a couple of twists and I'll have a decent enough time watching it. When a horror movie, such as Wolf Creek, is 75% boring set up and only 25% actual horror... well, then what you have is a very uneven and near unwatchable horror movie. I was honestly so bored for the first hour plus of this movie that I thought about turning it off. The final third of the movie is perfectly fine and has a wonderfully demented antagonist, but the arduous path a viewer has to take to get there is excruciating. For all the accolades this film garnered, I found it very lackluster.

Fearless (7/10): Martial arts movies, much like horror movies, usually adhere to a checklist of needed ingredients. With martial arts it is usually a few awesome fights (usually with unique set pieces), a lot of talk about honor, stilted acting, and a protagonist that learns something about himself. Fearless has all of these elements in spades. The story is pretty basic, with there being a little bit too much heavy-handedness in the message, which happens to be "you don't have to be bad to be a bad ass". The fights, especially one epic one on one battle in a restaurant, are exquisite. It's too bad they all take place in the first two thirds of the movie. The final fight at the end is more of an acted out scene than a fight, but it fits the plot so it's not all bad. Still, this is a solid martial arts flick, it a little bittersweet knowing that it is Jet Li's last martial arts movie.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Dead Ceramic Squirrel

deadsquirrel02

Earlier this week, we were supposed to get some strong storms, but instead all we ended up getting were some extremely strong winds. There were many tree branches that came down into the yard, a couple of houses in our area had chunks of trees snap off. For the most part, though, it just blew a lot of stuff over... including one of the ceramic squirrels on the tree in my front yard.

I noticed the poor guy when I had finished making myself a pizzadeia1 and looked out the kitchen window. There I saw one of the two friendly, permanently (or so I thought) affixed squirrels lying in the grass... and then noticed his head wasn't there... because it had rolled over to the driveway. Instantly my mind told me that from the looks of it someone had put out a hit on Frank (the name I'm posthumously giving the squirrel). However, it was just the wind. But still, I'm sad for Frank. I'm going to try to Gorilla Glue the guy back together, but I don't know if it'll hold.

1 A pizzadeia is my combination of a pizza and a quesadia. I take a tortilla shell, lay it out on aluminum foil, put some tomato sauce on it, lay out some pepperoni, sprinkle some garlic onto it, and cover in cheese. It's so wonderfully yummy.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Fun Project

shelves03

I have a lot of CDs and a lot of DVDs. This is a fact. At my previous residences, they've been haphazardly "organized" spanning multiple racks, shelves, rooms, boxes, and what have you. Now that I'm living somewhere permanent, I figured it was time to fix that. With some help from my dad (seriously, dads can help do anything--you just have to ask them), we built the above pictured shelving system into a perfectly shaped recess in my basement living room.

I was able to fit pretty much all of my DVDs and CDs on to this structure, which is really a Godsend when I want to find a particular movie or disc. Instead of trying to remember which rack I had a particular thing on, I could simply consult my "wall of media" which is, by the way, alphabetized, and find what I want.

What's going to suck is when I eventually fill up this shelf system. Then what do I do? I'll probably have to build another shelf system adjacent to it. But hopefully that doesn't happen for a while because shelves are expensive, even when you make them yourself. The combination of 3 heavy duty wall mounts, 27 adjustable supports, and 9 pieces of shelf grade lumber (each shelf is 66 inches long) cost around $115 at Home Depot. It's well worth it, though.

UPDATE: I just noticed that if you view the full size version of the photo, you can actually make out the DVDs on the shelf (too much glare on the CDs), so you can also check out what type of taste I have in movies.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Ebay Edges Another One Out

Come June 16th, Yahoo auctions will be no more. Looks like the best free auction site out there couldn't make enough money to stay viable. I have no idea where I'm going to list my comic books, DVDs, and video games now. Ebay is not an option since comics don't sell right away so I'd have to list them multiple times, which costs too much, and then Ebay takes too much of a cut on every sale that by the time all is said and done, I hardly end up with any money and have wasted a ton of time.

Yahoo auctions was great because you could list items for free, let them stay up as long as you wanted, and there was no cut that Yahoo took. Sure, the traffic wasn't nearly what Ebay has, but it was good enough for me to sell a chunk of items here and there.

So what other options are left? It's pretty much Ebay and... Ebay?

94 Comic Book Movies?

Rotten Tomatoes has put together their list of worst rated to best rated comic book movies. There were some notable missing movies (such as the original Punisher movie or the Captain America movie, for example), but I'm assuming that's because the list is dealing only with movies that were put out for theatrical release. That being said, I found I've actually seen 55 of the 94 movies listed, and some of the comic book movies that I think would be in the top 10 only broke into the top 20, and a couple not even that far up.

Now I don't want to ruin the ending of the list for anyone, so skip the rest of this post until you read the list at the link because I have a few things to say about the top 10.

10. Metropolis: I own this movie and enjoyed watching it, but I don't think it's top 10 worthy. The story is a little slow at times and for a lot of the movie I didn't get the "large" feel that a movie should give you. Instead, it felt more like an extended episode of an anime series. That being said, it's still well worth viewing.

9. Superman: The Movie: If this movie didn't make the top 10, I would have screamed "schenanigans" until my lungs gave out. This film is pretty much the sole reason superhero movies continue to be made. This is the template that most modern, non-sequel superhero movies follow and they do it because this movie got it right. And it has Christopher Reeve, which should be reason enough to see it.

8. Batman Begins: Some may argue with me when I say that this is the best Batman film, but seriously... it is. Christian Bale is the perfect Batman. Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney have nothing on him. The only thing holding this film back from utter perfection is the slight lack of development of the secondary villain, but beyond that issue, this is a movie that comic book geeks and everyday folk can both get in to equally.

7. Men in Black: I'm sorry, but this movie and its sequel are horrendous. For a serious movie, MIB fails. As a comedy, it fails. As a comedic drama, it fails. As a sci-fi movie, it fails. I really couldn't stand this movie. It feels like it was filmed to appeal to the big, dumb, action crowd and they came out in droves to see it. It's just hard to believe that critics somehow thought it was good.

6. A History of Violence: This movie stands alongside Road to Perdition as one of two of the best non-superhero comic book movies. What's doubly amazing about this movie is that it outshines its source material. Whereas the graphic novel was stilted and uneven, the film was an amazing exploration of violence in it's myriad of forms.

5. X-Men 2: For modern day superhero movies, this is the gold standard. It built perfectly on the first film and the ending left open a window to create a continuing chapter that could eclipse the greatness of X2 (unfortunately, X3 was terrible). The characterization, action, and acting was perfectly in line with what you could expect in a comic book and an adaptation of such material.

4. Spider-Man: It broke box office records, everyone and their uncle Billy-Bob loved it, critics adored it, and yet I thought it was pretty much crap. Kirsten Dunst and Toby Maguire are two of the most untalented leads I've ever seen and pairing them together made this movie pretty much unwatchable. It didn't help that the plot felt overly lame and the characters were one dimensional. The action was pretty cool, but that was about all I could find myself enjoying.

3. Ghost World: I didn't think critics liked this as much as they obviously did. Frankly, it was a good movie given the source material (which I find is a little overrated), but I had a hard time finding anything to relate to. A movie about a couple of outsiders should be something I could relate to, but they were just too out there and a little too different for me to find a connection. Still, it's a decent movie.

2. American Splendor: This is the perfect adaptation of the epitome of autobiographical comics. The mixing of real world conversations with Harvey Pekar and the acted out portion of the movie lended to giving the film an undeniably authentic feeling. It's also endearing as hell... if you enjoy watching movies about angsty, odd comic book writers.

1. Spider-Man 2: Seriously? Best rated comic book movie? This is a joke, right? Alfred Molina was a bad ass Doc Ock, but you still had to put up with Toby and Kirsten, which is utter torture. The plot was slightly better than the first, and the characterization got a little better, but I still was pretty much unimpressed. Again, the action scenes were pretty cool, but beyond that and Molina, this movie did nothing for me.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Traffic is Up

bigmonth

I really don't have any explanation for it, but last month was the highest month for traffic here since September of 2005. It seems like there might be some more Google search traffic hitting the site, but other than that I can't explain the uptick in traffic... other than the explosion in my awesomeness quotient in the last couple of months.

Audio Books

You know, for as much as I have tried my hardest to like Audible, I am getting to the point where I'm about ready to stop purchasing audiobooks and just buy the actual book and go download the audiobook from Oink or somewhere else on the internets (I'm inspired to use this word since our lovely president was using it again).

The latest problem has arisen with my MP3 player that I usually use for listening to audiobooks. It's an RCA Lyra 256MB sport MP3 player. Just a cheap gadget that I can use to take my audiobooks with me. Recently I received a laptop upgrade at work so I installed Audible on my new laptop. Turns out it won't recognized my Lyra correctly in Audible now. After tinkering for a bit, I gave up and installed Audible at home. It recognized my MP3 player just fine, but keeps throwing errors when trying to transfer.

No matter what books I download from Audible (that I've purchased already and haven't listened to yet), they won't transfer. So this leaves me with no option for listening to my audiobooks unless I a) listen to them while at my computer, b) buy a new MP3 player, or c) burn the audiobook to CDs (I think this is an option) and then rip them to MP3.

The first is not an option since I refuse to sit at my desk to listen to a book. I'll sit and read a book, but the whole idea of an audiobook is that I can listen to it on the go, like when I'm on the bus or walking around. The second isn't really an option right now as I don't want to spend another $40-$50 just to get another MP3 player to listen to audiobooks that should be playing just fine on my current MP3 player. The last is not an option because it is way too time consuming.

Since Audible uses a proprietary audio format (extension .aa) loaded with DRM, I can't just convert the audiobooks into MP3 or another playable form. Which leaves me sitting around not being able to listen to the books I spent my money on already... which really pisses me off. I'm more than willing to pay for audiobooks but because of the ridiculous DRM scheme used by Audible, it's making this paying customer think about switching to piracy to get audiobooks in the future because I know I will always be able to listen to the pirated audiobooks in non-DRM'd MP3s. Screw copy protection. You're only hurting the ones who are actually already buying.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I am Not I am - Dear God, We Must Return Fire CD Review

Ok, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat — I am Not I am like Jesus. For some of you that’s all you’ll need to know to write this band off. You can thank me later for saving you from reading anything further about this young metalcore band. If you’re reading this far, however, then the idea of a metalcore band that sings about Christianity isn’t necessarily a turn off for you. Yes, it’s true, Christian metalcore has exploded to be extremely huge in the last couple of years. In fact, this is probably the most attention Christianity has received in the heavy music arena since the mid 90’s Christian hardcore movement. It’s even gotten to the point where there are simply too many bands trying to crowd themselves into this overplayed subgenre, which makes finding anything decent within it a hard task.

I am Not I am won’t necessarily stand out from the likes of Underoath, Norma Jean, Emery, and the other Christian metalcore heavyweights, but the odds are strong that if those bands are constantly topping your weekly playlists, then I am Not I am is definitely a band to give a listen to. Their five song EP, Dear God, We Must Return Fire, could easily be inserted into any metalcore lover’s usual rotation.

Sounding like a very rough version of Underoath with less clean vocals and a more abrasive, slightly swaggering screaming style, the band knows exactly what their target audience is and plays to it perfectly. There’s something to be said about knowing who your audience is and giving them what they want. The biggest lacking aspect to this effort is obviously the production quality. The production is very rough and amateurish, but even so the band still sounds pretty decent through it all. Some smoothing out of the rougher edges and a little better differentiation of the individual band members could have done wonders for this EP.

Just to be clear, in case it wasn’t made so before, I am Not I am aren’t reinventing the wheel here. No, instead they’ve recognized their limits, know what their target audience wants, and have created a very promising EP that should get them noticed in the circles that they want to get noticed in. Let’s hope that they can get their foothold and expand upon what they’ve managed to already establish.

What a Work Environment

You know what makes me hate my job? Well, more so than I usually do as of late? Reading about the Google work environment. Looking at the pictures of their headquarters is amazing. It is so employee friendly and, for as much "play" items and rooms that they have there, I must think it fosters productivity more than it hinders it.

I know if I was working at a company where I could go relax whenever I needed it that I would feel much more at ease and much more motivated when I am working. I'm sure part of it would be that I'd sure feel guilty if all I did was play all day and not get anything done. If a company is going to go so far out of their way to make employees feel comfortable by providing meals and game rooms, allowing workers to make their cubes however they want them, giving employees access to game rooms, pools & massages, and letting you bring your pet dogs in to work with you, the least I could do is give the company my all when something needs to be done.

In my opinion, the traditional office just doesn't work any more... or at least it isn't something that will work as well for my generation or the generation younger than me. How is sticking everyone in a company in offices and cubicles that are basically the same as everyone else's with only a personal picture or two differentiating them going to make people want to be at work? How is requiring an employee to sit in their cubicle from 8 to 5 every day going to foster a want to work? It's not. I know it doesn't for me. When I'm confined to my office for over 9 hours a day, I have a hard time staying happy about my job.

I rarely take a lunch, instead eating a sandwich or something at my desk while working, so the 8-5 work day isn't a standard 8 hour day--it's a 9 hour day. And considering the bus schedules to my suburb, I either have to take a bus in that gets me in at 7:45 am or one that gets me in at 8:10. Since being late is frowned upon, at least when it's me, I'm in at 7:45. At the end of the day, I can either take a bus home that leaves at 4:49 or 5:15. Since I'm supposed to be in until 5 (even though I'm salaried and don't take lunch), I get stuck taking the 5:15 home. So, in reality, I'm working a 9 and a half hour day, which is just dumb. The 8 to 5 workday is an outdated concept. Long live task based working.

Anyways... to get back to where I started, for as much as I think Google is a horribly bloated and overvalued company, they sure do know how to make their employees feel appreciated and have made very large strides in finding non-standard ways to woo employees. I know I'd do just about anything to go work for them, outside of moving since I just bought my house, but even then if given the right compensation and help... I'd at least think about it. But, really, who wouldn't?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mini Nerd Gathering

It's been a year since I've been to a comic book convention, but I managed to take in the MicroCon over in St. Paul this last weekend. The MicroCon isn't as interesting as the FallCon that takes place each fall, but it's still decent to check out if you just want to get your feet a little wet in the comic book convention experience.

This year, as opposed to the last few, I managed to come away from the convention with very little money spent. I picked up a few trade paperbacks and that was it. With so many expenses related to buying a house and the decrease in reading time the last couple of months, I didn't have a wad of cash burning a hole in my pocket.

Also, since I moved into my new place, I went through my comic book collection weeding out the chaff and organizing what I want to keep. In doing so, I realized how many comics I actually have, as well as how many I have that I haven't gotten around to reading. It used to be that I had a few trade paperbacks and maybe a short box or two of comics that were on my list to be read. After reorganizing everything, however, I found I have an entire shelf of trades and a couple of long boxes of comics to read.

Knowing how much I had at home, I really didn't have the desire to go digging through boxes for individual issues to try and put together runs of certain comics while at the convention. I knew I had plenty to read. I knew I didn't have as much time as I used to for reading. I knew I didn't have a lot of money to spend. So I mostly looked for a few cheap trades and also picked up a couple of Captain America trades that I've been looking for since they're now out of print. And I was fine with that. In the past if I came home with such a small load of loot, I would have been very disappointed. This time, however, it felt just fine.