Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Some Yummy Gay Cat Love


I made this for a conversation thread over at Decoy Music that has managed to somehow combine the topics of homosexuality, lolcats, and marriage. I may just have made myself LOL with this one.

The Celtics Now Legit?

So long, KG, and thanks for the memories. It's sad to see Kevin Garnett go since he has pretty much been the face of the Minnesota Timberwolves for the last decade. I'm sure he wants to play on a winning team--I know I would--but it doesn't change the fact that it's going to be really hard to get behind the Wolves this season.

Most seasons I try to get to at least a few T-Wolves games since I like the team and, more importantly, have always liked watching KG. Now half of the reason I went to games is gone. None of the new guys the Wolves will be getting in the uber-trade with Boston will be able to draw fans like KG did and, frankly, I really don't see myself going to any Wolves games this year.

It's really too bad that we had to lose such a superstar, especially one that wasn't an outright douchebag like most sports stars today (Michael Vick or Barry Bonds, anyone?). I wonder who will be the next star to take up the mantle of being the go-to guy here in Minnesota. There are no real clear contenders right now.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Maybe It Wasn't Pink Eye

My eye hasn't gotten totally better yet. Instead, it is less irritated and red, but it still feels like something is in it and my vision can sometimes be a tad blurry. The thing is, I figured out why. It seems like I somehow managed to scratch my cornea. In examining my eye closely in the mirror this weekend, I noticed a spot in the black of my left eye. Thinking maybe I had something in my eye I examined it quite closely and found that instead, it was a scratch on my cornea.

Knowing this, that explains the feeling of constantly having something in my eye when there really isn't. I ended up searching and rubbing to get what I figured was some debris out of my eye at least once every half hour the last week to no avail, but at least I know I wasn't going crazy.

What I wonder now if is I scratched my eye while I had pink eye or if I didn't actually have pink eye but instead my eye was compensating for the scratch and was extra irritated because it was scratched. Who knows?

Now I simply have to wait for it to heal up, which I have no idea how long it'll take. I'm going to venture a guess and say at least a few more days if not more likely a week. It's usually fine as long as there's enough moisture in my eye, which explains the excessive tearing.

So, eye irritation mystery solved.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Hometown Pervert

This week all of the talk in my home town has been about how a local bus driver was having sex with little boys. The bus driver, David Gerlach, was someone that everyone in the community knew, mostly because he owned and operated half the buses used by my elementary and high school.

I didn't know Gerlach all that well since I never had a need to interact with him other than to say hi when he was the bus driver for our away sporting events. However, he always did seem a little... too friendly. He was never afraid to be somewhat touchy-feely with kids, but I simply assumed it was because he was one of "those guys". You know, the ones that just think they're being nice and caring, like a parent, by showing physical support. Seems like every community has a few of these types of people and that's just how they are--they're touch oriented, but never have anything malicious in mind when they do it. It's just second nature.

Apparently Gerlach wasn't one of "those guys". Instead he was a slimy, dirty, pile of human waste. I'm sorry, but molesting kids is something that I just can never understand. Stealing--I can see how someone could justify it and we've all done it ourselves. Assault--sometimes you just get pissed off and need to hit someone. Murder--I have a hard time seeing how someone could go to the lengths of killing someone, but I could see it happening. Rape--not acceptable, but again, I could sort of see how someone could be driven to that point. Child molesting--that's just some sick shit. Seriously. What kind of deranged pervert needs to take advantage of developing and impressionable youths?

Usually I don't take too much of an interest in crime, but in this case I want to see this horrendous waste of oxygen thrown into prison, and not some posh prison. No, I want him sent to prison prison where his child molesting ass will get ripped open over and over again. That'd make my day.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


...I think I might be getting or have pink eye.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I was in a Triathlon

You know, I totally forgot to mention that two weekends ago I participated in the Lifetime Fitness triathlon here in Minneapolis. It was quite the experience for me and my team. Since I can't swim, I recruited a couple of friends to do the swimming and biking (since I also don't have a bike). This left me with the sole responsibility of running, which was just fine by me.

We ended up doing ok. I was decently happy with my 10K time. I managed to do it in 49 minutes, which is about a 7:55 minute mile pace. It's not bad, but I would have liked to have been a tad bit quicker. Ideally a 7:30 mile would have been what I'd have liked to have been at. Maybe next year.

I sort of thought that signing up for the triathlon that it would get me motivated to get into a tough training regiment, but it seemed like the opposite happened. As the triathlon got closer, I found I had less and less time to actually get out running. Having Ultimate two nights a week knocked out two potential running days and then I'd usually have at least a day or two where I'd have activities after work so I pretty much only got like 2-3 actual distance runs in per week. I don't really count Ultimate towards my running total since it is all sprint work.

Regardless, I managed to do ok. This last weekend, however, I did really notice my lack of training come into play. I played in my first Ultimate tournament since last fall and my feet and calves aren't letting me forget that fact.

Our team was short on players for the weekend so there was little time for me to rest on the sidelines and there were no bye's scheduled for either day because of the amount of teams in the tournament so there went any other rest time I might have gotten. Since I'm also not the best frisbee handler in the work, I'm usually a cutter, which means I'm almost always supposed to be running. It was a great couple of days for pushing my legs onward, but I also hit some limits that I never used to have. The combination of less training than usual this summer and being another year older kept me from being able to do as much as I would have liked, which is frustrating, but I think it might be what I needed to happen to get me back to thinking about training hard again. It was the nice, solid kick to the ass I've needed for a while now. Let's just hope I follow through on my good intentions this time.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Non Contact My Ass

For the most part, Ultimate is supposed to be a sport where there is little to no contact. Ideally it should be that way, but in reality it is not. I've never sustained any real heavy injuries from Ultimate playing. That is, up until this year.

Last night during our game, I sustained my third frisbee related injury of the year (the first being my hyperextended knee in the winter and the second being my sprained thumb from a few weeks ago). This time it was definitely contact related whereas the other two were only sort of contact related.

As I was going up to defend a disc that was thrown to a player I was playing defense on in our end zone, my jaw made contact with the offensive player's shoulder. I jumped into the air before the offensive player did in order to attempt to knock the disc away, and as I was at the peak of my jump the other player jumped up in a direction that made some pretty direct contact.

When his shoulder jammed into my jaw I heard a sickening pop (also heard by everyone on the field) and instantaneously thoughts were running through my head that I must have broken my jaw or destroyed some teeth. As I hit the ground, my ears were ringing and my head was more than a little rattled, but I could move my jaw fine. I tasted a little bit of a gravelly texture in my mouth so I probably chipped off some enamel on my teeth, but I felt around and no major tooth destruction occurred thankfully.

So for the third time this year I've managed to sustain a decently painful injury, although this time there will be no effects to my disc game because of it. It leads me to wonder if the game is starting to get more physical or if I simply have bad luck this year or if I'm just putting myself in more dangerous positions on the field or if it's something else. I do know that I have held back on diving for discs this year to avoid injury, but I've found myself trying to jump over people more, which is how I sustained two of my injuries.

Regardless, getting knocked around a little every now and again simply keeps me on my toes and lets me know that I'm at least getting myself into good, competitive positions on the field. If anything, it makes me feel a little bit younger as opposed to old and broken. Go figure.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Fantasy Sports for Women?

As I was walking down the hall at work the other day, I overheard an interesting conversation between two women in the office. The first was telling the second about this fantasy competition that she was in with some of her girl friends outside of work. I initially assumed that she was in a fantasy baseball league or something like that, but then I heard her say, "The scoring isn't as ideal as I like, because right now you get way too many points for your star being on the cover of a magazine."

Being genuinely intrigued, I slowed down, turned a corner, and listened in. It turns out that the fantasy league being discussed is actually a celebrity fantasy league. The people in this league would be celebrities to have on their team. They would then accumulate points for how many magazines their celebrity was on the cover of, how many late night appearances he/she made, and other similar categories that, I'm guessing, are simulating the celebrity's popularity.

I'm imagining this would actually be a somewhat interesting game to play, but pretty much whoever gets to draft Paris Hilton would have such an advantage over everyone else it'd be the case where everyone else would probably be competing for second place.

The biggest question that comes to mind in regards to this fantasy sport is where do the participants get their information? I managed to find one website, Fafarazzi, that has online leagues for people to get in on, but if you didn't use an online site I would imagine it would be pretty hard to get full, accurate information. Unlike sports, there's nowhere to turn to for hard stats about how often a celeb did something.

Anyways, I found this extremely interesting and I might actually think about starting a celeb fantasy league myself just for the heck of it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Living Sacrifice - Discography Review

Christian metalcore, hardcore, and metal has become quite the hotbed for new bands over the last couple of years. Right now it seems like everywhere you turn in the heavy music industry you’re confronted by Underoath, Norma Jean, or any one of the many other bands from the Solid State or Facedown rosters. The genre has, no doubt, reached critical mass and weeding out the chaff in this overcrowded arena is quite the task. However, when you find that no one remembers who xDeathstarx or Flee the Seen were, they’ll still remember one of the Christian metalcore giants—Living Sacrifice. In a little over a decade, they managed to create six amazing albums that ran the gamut of the heavy music realm, each with its own special place in the annals of Christian metal’s legacy.

Living Sacrifice

Album Information
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

For the time it was released, Living Sacrifice’s self titled debut had a hard time separating itself from their thrash peers. Sharing a lot of similarities with heavyweights of the day such as Slayer and Anthrax, it was hard to see Living Sacrifice as anything but a knock-off band who had formed up to do nothing more than play to what was popular at the time.

The musicianship of the band was great, no matter how derivative they may have seemed at the time. Songs such as “Internal Unrest” and “Walls of Separation” sported a very strong early Metallica influence, but a lot of the time when they weren’t focused on thrash grooves, they were aiming for sheer speed, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it led to a lot of songs sounding extremely similar.

What was really holding them back on this album, however, was the lackluster vocals of Darren Johnson. He simply had no diversity. Every line was delivered in the exact same manner—a strong talking voice that rarely varied in tone or speed. Had there been a little more dynamics to the vocals, this could have been a much better album than it was, which is exactly what was hoped for on their next release…


Album Information
Rating: 2 out of 5

…but unfortunately Johnson managed to make his voice even more unlistenable. From the first guttural wail of “Enthroned” it was apparent that Johnson was trying to change things up, but went in the wrong direction. Instead of his semi-spoken style, he moved over to trying out a death metal growl that, instead, sounded like the howl of a half-tongued, drunk beggar being disemboweled. With this change there was at least hope for less monotony, but again things went totally wrong and Johnson kept his new vocal approach the same on almost every track.

While Johnson progressed backwards, the rest of the band moved forward into a decidedly more death influenced thrash approach. There were rarely any speed solos or progressions seen on Nonexistent, but the thrash was still strong with these Arkansas natives, albeit with the aforementioned death influence and some occasional groove moments, such as on “…To Nothing”.

It was interesting to see the infusion of death metal with the previously thrashy core sound of the band. It led to some extremely heavy songs that, if not for the vocals, would still be classics today. One particular example, “Void Expression”, showed the band mixing death metal progressions with down-tuned grooves. Adding to this already potent mix, the band shifted gears halfway through the song to try out some double bass blasting before transitioning into a melodic, acoustic bridge leading into a very metal lead guitar solo. This song was a glimpse into the great things the band could accomplish when they were really trying.


Album Information
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Again, with a new release comes a new vocal approach for Johnson. This time he moves away from the guttural and slides back towards the talking vibe of their self titled debut, but he adds more of a yell to his repertoire this time around. What is still apparent, however, is that despite yet another vocal change, no matter how Johnson delivers his vocals they are always so unchanging throughout the course of an album that it makes a listener very easily bored.

As Johnson backtracked in his vocal progression, the rest of the band made another small step forward, this time taking the thrash style of their debut and using it simply as an accentuating piece of their death metal approach. It should be noted that the style wasn’t a true death metal style, but instead could be seen as death metal that sometimes strayed into an early metalcore stance. As an example, “Sorrow Banished” used a decidedly death metal approach for the verses, but in the chorus and bridge progressions, you can hear some oft-kilter breakdowns (minus the modern double bass blasting) that could be slipped into Botch’s playbook. “Unseen”, on the other hand, starts with strong metalcore elements and then implements death metal passages throughout the track.

Beyond the occasional guitar breakdowns, there is also some focused double bass work used to accentuate the aggression of this album. They don’t resemble the typical modern blast beats, but come off as slightly more well placed and used, especially since they’re not utilized at every single opportunity. Although, it would have been nice to hear some more spice added to some of the retread death moments. By the end of the CD, it’s easily noticeable that the same song approach might be used a few times too often. Thankfully, though, the album overall is better than the last two, showing the band making steps in the right direction.


Album Information
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

With Reborn, Living Sacrifice made a few changes. First, they moved up to Solid State Records. Second, Johnson decided to leave the band leaving guitarist Bruce Fitzhugh to take over the vocals. Finally, Chris Truby joined the band on bass. The biggest of these changes was the leaving of Johnson. With Fitzhugh taking his place the vocals no longer became a horrible distraction. Fitzhugh’s vocals were raspy, raw, and were delivered in a quasi-distorted manner. It worked quite well for the band.

Not only was the vocal approach different, but so was the music. Moving even further away from their early thrash elements, the band used many more straight up metal guitar attacks. You could also make out some very technical moments, such as the Meshuggah inspired track “Truth Solution”. The death elements were still present, but used sparingly. Most often they would come into play when there was a need to make a melodic and subdued passage to offset their heavier moments.

While taking on many metal and technical elements, Living Sacrifice explored many of the early metalcore sounds and traits, creating some thoughtful breakdowns and decidedly aggressive progressions, which sound very much akin to metalcore stalwarts Botch and Norma Jean, only with slightly less of a buzzsaw effect.

Living Sacrifice had found a sound that they were comfortable in and had created a record that was leading the metalcore charge. The new lineup supercharged the band and showed they were, quite literally, reborn with a well of newfound potential. They could only get better from here on out.

The Hammering Process

Album Information
Rating: 4 out of 5

Things didn’t quite work out as planned after Reborn. Chris and Jason Truby left the band to form Eso-Charis. After having a hard time finding members to fill in, Living Sacrifice finally entered the studio to record The Hammering Process with new additions Rocky Gray and Matt Putman. With all of the lineup changes, it was hard to believe that the band could put together such a solid follow up to what many will argue was their best album. The Hammering Process, however, came out amazingly well and established the band as a metalcore heavyweight.

Having firmly planted themselves into the metalcore realm, Living Sacrifice hit with a newfound heaviness, supplanting shredding with breakdowns and death metal vocals with a combination of yelling with some spoken word and melody. More than a couple classic songs can be found on this album, such as the crushing “Bloodwork” and the tremendous opener, “Flatline”.

There were many groundbreaking elements on this album that would be emulated by countless metalcore bands to come. The thick, meaty chorus of “Not My Own” and accompanying bridge will leave your ears bleeding. “Local Vengeance Killing” starts off with thundering drums that build up to a hammering start / stop breakdown passage that just about every heavy band has utilized at least once in their career. “Hand of the Dead”, if written today, wouldn’t sound a bit different. It was light years ahead of its time with the combination some clean vocals alongside the brutal yells and mid-tempo metalcore song structure.

The only drawback to this album comes in the form of variety, or lack thereof. A couple of tracks sound very similar and the same tempo range is used for most of the songs. Of course, metalcore has never been known for being the most variety filled genre, but considering all of the different elements Living Sacrifice had employed in the past, they could have maybe mixed it up a little, such as they did on “Burn the End” with the acoustic break in the middle. Other than that, this was a phenomenal album created by a band that had recently underwent some significant lineup changes.

Conceived in Fire

Album Information
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Two years after having put together the best album of their career, Living Sacrifice entered the studio to create what would be their final album—Conceived in Fire. Instead of expanding upon the metalcore blueprint they had established, they worked on trying to bring back more of the thrash elements they had let fall by the wayside. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but came as an interesting shift in direction.

Continuing the trend from their last album, however, was the inclusion of melodic vocals. They were still sparse, but more pronounced when used, such as at the beginning of “The Poisoning”. When not delving into melody, the vocals remained as visceral as ever, feeling at times like those of Demon Hunter at their heaviest.

The metalcore sound wasn’t completely eliminated, however, as you can still find many a breakdown on this album. They were simply not as prominent or relied upon. The focus here was on getting the metal and the thrash back into their songs. Even with the return of those elements, the guitar work wasn’t nearly as shred heavy as their early albums and wasn’t quite as heavy as on The Hammering Process. Instead they treaded the middle ground between the two. Interestingly enough, there were also some slight tribal influences that could be heard, such as on “Send Your Regrets” where the band almost feels like they’re channeling some Sepultura or Soulfly.

Beyond the album standout “Symbiotic”, there were no real exceptional tracks to be found. There were also no complete clunkers. This album instead was made up of 12 solid tracks and one phenomenal one. As a final album, Conceived in Fire wasn’t bad to go out on. It showed the band trying to touch upon all of the elements of their recording career.

What About Today?

After having created quite the Christian metal legacy, the members of Living Sacrifice didn’t give up on music. In fact, Lance Garvin, Rocky Gray, and Bruce Fitzhugh even reunited for a spell to write and record three songs for the Living Sacrifice greatest hits disc, In Memoriam, showing that there’s always a chance for this sleeping beast to reawaken at any time. For the time being, however, you can indulge in the projects that the individual members have moved on to be a part of. Rocky Gray played drums in Evanescence up until earlier this year and is currently playing guitar for Soul Embraced. Bruce Fitzhugh is now working as a producer and manager. Matthew Putman is busy with his three bands—Lovedrug, Snailhuntr, and Unwed Sailor. Jason Truby played with P.O.D. for a spell before moving in a more worship oriented direction, as he now works with Phil Keaggy and Lance Gavin. Cory Putman is currently the frontman for the Christian metalcore heavyweights Norma Jean. The other members of Living Sacrifice have moved on to other endeavors as well, which are not directly related to the music industry.

It’s amazing what a band can in a decade, and what a wonderful progression a group can make when given time to grow, mature, and flourish. It’s hard for bands to get this chance in today’s “one album and done” musical arena where labels need hits and, if you don’t have one, you have to move on. Living Sacrifice is an example of what a band can do when given the chance to create a discography instead of just a disc.

Note: This article was posted at Decoy Music here.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Monday Morning Energizer

Remember back in the day when I professed Cocaine to be the be-all, end-all energy drink? I never did get a chance to order it or drink it because of all the legal hullaballo around it. I'm still considering giving it a shot, especially since they're still selling it, just under the "No Name" moniker. My interest in it has somewhat waned, however, with the introduction of Purecaf.

Purecaf is 100% liquid caffeine. Can you imagine the sheer amount of energy (and heart attacks) that this product could impart upon someone? It also gives you the ability to make what-the-heck-ever you want into an energy imbued hyper drink. I know I'd mix this crap into my milk for sure. Heck, just put some in a mug of water. How much more awesome can you get than having plain ol' zero calorie water now filled with the magic energy juice caffeine?

Or, now this would be interesting, you could marinate food in some liquid caffeine. Can you imagine a energy fortified turkey? Tryptophan be damned, it would be so outclassed by the equivalent of, oh I dunno, maybe 20 Red Bulls that were marinated into the succulent white meat. Turkey could actually make you hyper. How insane is that?

Lord knows what I'm going to do when Purecaf finally opens up their online ordering section of their website. It could be bad... very bad... but at least I'll be really awake for whatever bad things happen.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Those Crazy Moving Staircases

One of the most frustrating things to experience when walking somewhere is getting on an escalator where no one is moving. You're walking along at a nice pace, you need to go up or down a floor, so you hop on an escalator, but you can't keep walking because the person(s) in front of you decided that since the floor started moving underneath them like some form of medieval magic, they can no longer move their feet -- they're so awestruck in amazement that they've forgotten how to walk.

Really, why do people automatically stop walking once they set foot on an escalator? Are people really that lazy that they need to take a break and let the floor ferry them up or down a level. Maybe if you're some gargantuan fat ass and you're on an escalator going up, I can understand how you might not want to attempt making steps in an upward direction, but there's no excuse when you're on an escalator going down.

This might not be so much of an annoyance for me if there were also stairs alongside escalators so I could walk up them and get to where I'm going faster than waiting on a slow moving escalator, but many times there isn't.

In my frustration, I've decided that instead of waiting behind lazy ass people when getting on a magical moving stairway, I'm going to simply maneuver or push my way around people and walk up. I can't take any more of this. My pet peeve cannot be contained any longer. Lazy escalator riders, fear my wrath!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Migraine = Restart

I'm starting to believe that my body's brain must be running some form of Windows as an operating system. Most of the time it works fine. There'll be some small glitches here and there and occasionally there's a bit of a slowdown when I've got a lot going on and my brain can't quite handle it all, but for the most part everything works ok.

But just like Windows needs constant restarting for it to work really well, so do I. This is usually accomplished via going to bed each night and waking up again in the morning. Essentially I have cleared my brain's cluttered RAM, unloaded all the programs that might have still been running, and I have a fresh processing slate to work with.

There are days, however, where something goes critically wrong--a hard crash or a security hole gets exploited. It's on these days where I get a migraine. You see, when I get migraines I can take as much Excedrin, caffeine, or painkillers as are available and it won't make the migraine totally go away. Just like you can still use Windows when somethings crashed or broken, I can still function. The only way to get back to normal is by going to bed (hitting the reset button). Whenever I go to sleep with a migraine, upon waking up I'm totally fixed. My head is back to normal.

As much as it sucks having to restart, I can deal with it and I've gotten used to it, having had migraines most of my life. I just sincerely hope that I never experience a blue screen of death migraine.

Exactly How I Feel About Things

O' Say, can you see?
By the dawn's early light
We get 'em young, give 'em guns and ship 'em off to fight
While the rocket's red glare is keeping everyone scared
They say, "Just relax - put your trust in me
And you can sit back and watch the war on your screen."

The country's run by lunatics, they're picking up their pens,
Writing themselves into Revelation, "This is how it's gonna end."
Well, I tried hard to bite my tongue, like a good American
But they recruited my little brother and they're shipping off my friends

Broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
You know those who stand to gain are not the ones who sacrifice
Watching bombs burst in air from a comfortable chair,
They just say, "In God we trust, and God trusts in greed,
Yeah as long as they never show real blood on TV."

I'm not sorry if this makes you mad, in fact I hope this wakes you up
'Cause you'll never see what's going on with your eyes so tightly shut
There are too many unanswered questions,
From the towers in New York
To the lies leading up to another corporate sponsored war
Well I'll support the troops by asking what they're really fighting for
And I think that's more patriotic than flying a flag from my front porch

Come on, let's go out and start a fight!
'Cause you know two wrongs always make a right

From "The New National Anthem" by Strata.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Still Remains - The Serpent CD Review

Last year Steve Evetts helped produce a fabulous release in Suck Out the Poison by He is Legend. He helped He is Legend take their already established unique brand of metalcore and add to it a strong southern rock influence. It gave the band a new outlook and their sound a fresh facelift. After having worked with He is Legend, Evetts moved on to work with Still Remains on producing The Serpent, however, I could swear he thought he was still working with He is Legend.

The first time through this album, what’s going to stick out quite strongly is the heavy, heavy southern rock influence that has been introduced into Still Remains’ brand of European metal. In some songs you’ll have a hard time recognizing that this is the same band. A lot of the smooth, heavily produced Gothenburg riffs have been replaced by a more raw, metalcore approach. The vocals have a whiskey soaked, grainy tone that will remind you of Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. It’s quite the transition and one that will, no doubt, not sit well with many fans.

Putting aside any discussion about the band’s transformation for the moment, is The Serpent worth your money? Well… sort of. Southern metalcore has had some extremely solid releases in the last year’s time, namely great releases from the aforementioned He is Legend and Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. There's also a new album from Every Time I Die on the horizon that is sure to garner a healthy amount of attention as well. Still Remains do manage to show up some bands who have recently tried to make the southern metalcore transition (I'm looking at you, The Showdown), which leaves the band in the middle of no man’s land, really.

Running through the album there are many peaks and valleys with some songs being truly amazing while others feel forced and out of place. “The Serpent” sets the album up to be epic with focused keyboards, a building intro, and powerful drumming leading into “The Wax Walls” which, truth be told, feels like only a slight departure for the band with more of a gallop than they’ve used before, but still used in that Still Remains way.

It’s not until you hit the middle of the album that you start running into some questionable tracks. “Maria” is a metalcore power ballad, assuming you can imagine that combination without too much head scratching. “Dancing with the Enemy” is glossy as all get out and will fit in on any modern rock radio station being that it is undeniably bouncy and catchy, but just like one of those giant pixie stix you ate as a kid, it’s great when you’re downing it, but you’ll feel empty and sick later on. The album also ends on a couple of slight downers in “An Undesired Reunion” and “Avalanche”. The first shows Still Remains taking on a more straight forward hard rock feel and the second is the obligatory metal song that fades out with light acoustics to end the album.

To the band’s credit, however, despite the change in their sound and the somewhat suspect songwriting in spots, this is still a worthy album to pick up if you’re a fan of the band or the genre. The mix of well placed and managed keyboards into this southern Gothenburg metalcore concoction that Still Remains has cooked up works well just as often as it doesn’t and even when it doesn’t, at least it doesn’t flat out suck — it just feels awkward.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Yep, More Movies

It's been a little while since my last movie post, right? Check out the full thread here.

Smokin' Aces (7.5/10): With a star filled cast and promises of blood drenched violence and action, I figured this would be a great action film. Well, it sort of was. I definitely enjoyed it for what it was--stupid, but well choreographed and filmed violence. There were attempts to be smart and unique, trying for a Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs type of feel, but they felt like bad homages. Ryan Reynolds and Jeremy Piven both turned in good performances. What really kept the movie from excelling, though, was the ending. It shed light on the rest of the movie and at the same time rendered the connection you had with some of the characters null and void.

Waiting for Guffman (7.5/10): Christopher Guest is a pretty funny writer. After having seen Best in Show I wanted to watch some of his other films. This mockumentary was enjoyable, but didn't have as many laugh out loud moments as I would have hoped. Some bits didn't really go anywhere (which may have been the point) in that they were either not serious enough or not over the top serious enough. They were just kind of in limbo. It was still an extremely funny movie with a stellar cast.

Transformers (4/10): Michael Bay, you just raped my childhood. I didn't expect much for a story, but somehow got even less than my already low expectations. Yes, this is a big, dumb action movie about transforming robots. That doesn't mean the story has to have SO many plot holes and inconsistencies and utterly stupid moments. Even more grating than the plot was the inability for the movie to establish what audience it was aiming itself at. It had a dumb story and was based on a toy property so it felt aimed at younger audiences in that respect. The action, however, was extremely visceral and "real" feeling in the amount of destruction caused. Most of the dialogue and gratuitous T&A shots were geared towards teenagers... so which audience was this movie for because I don't think it worked for any of them. The one plus, however, is that the special effects were sure pretty, but that alone just doesn't do it.

Reno 911: Miami (6/10): As much as I love the TV show and find it utterly hilarious, the movie had more failed bits than successes. I had some concerns that the concept of what is basically an improvised, played for laughs version of Cops wouldn't be able to be stretched to movie length and be consistently funny. And it wasn't. There are some really funny recurring bits, but many of the scenes felt forced. Stick to the television show for your Reno 911 fix.

Knocked Up (8/10): Judd Apatow is on a roll. He has been able to tap into funny concepts that are also endearing and made people laugh their asses off. Sporting many of the same actors from the hit The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up has the same comic stylings, which is great. As opposed to The 40 Year Old Virgin, this movie had less quotable lines and more funny overall scenes. It also helps that you felt a connection with the characters, even being set up in the unlikely scenario they were in. Funny, funny stuff.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Minneapolis Smog

Hennepin county in Minnesota, home to Minneapolis, has a smoking ban in place making it against the law to smoke within buildings--even bars and clubs. It's a ban that I fully support and actually really enjoy. Because I have sensitive eyes when it comes to smoke, it was always a pain filled and teary experience going to clubs, concerts, and bars. Now, however, it's just plain fun.

The one side effect of this law that I don't think anyone saw coming was the short range smoke haze that you'll find on every downtown street in Minneapolis. Since people can't smoke inside any more, you have groups upon smelly groups of people congregating outside buildings on the sidewalks smoking like it was going out of fashion. Since the sidewalks aren't all that wide, it means you're stuck walking through the clouds of smoke that lingers in the air, especially on windless days.

It's really annoying. I love the fact that I can be in any building and know that no one will be smoking, but on nice days like today I hate to go walk outside, especially around the lunch hour, because I have to put up with all of the smokers. It's sad, but I end up taking the skyway system on perfectly nice days just so I don't have to breathe in cigarette smoke.

So Hennepin county, now that you have a smoking ban in place inside buildings, I think the next step is to designate certain outside areas as smoking areas. My suggestion would be in the middle of traffic. That would get people to quit a lot quicker than any gum, patch, or limitation plan.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Random IP Blocking

Yeah, that was fun. The reason I haven't had anything posted in a bit (and the reason the last two posts appeared on this site so long after they were "posted") is that for some reason my host was blocking all connections from Blogger (the blogging software I am still, unfortunately, using). Since my host is pretty much unreachable when it comes to customer support (I guess that's what you get with a really cheap host), I figured I'd have a horrible migration staring me down.

As I was looking into setting up Wordpress and seeing if I could migrate all of my posts over, I went into Blogger to check the error messages it was throwing again and, crazily enough, everything published. My host took down their block of Blogger's IP. I have no clue why there was a 5 day ban on Blogger's IP at my host.

So... I hope everyone had a good fourth of July. I'm back!