Friday, August 31, 2007

Demo Derby Videos

For anyone who doesn't live in the midwest, been to a county fair, or attended the Mad Max-esque demolition derby events that are at said midwet county fairs, I've posted a couple of videos, below, from one of the derbies I attended this year.

These videos are of the smaller of the two derbies I attended this year, so the action isn't quite as visceral or manic, but it still gives a decent idea of what demo derbies are all about--crashing cars until they stop working.

Watching the videos after posting them, I realize how crazy it probably seems for someone who has never even heard of the concept. The way that the drivers soup up their cars, not only in reinforcing the frames and beefing up the engines, but in the paint jobs and other "extras" might seem a little crazy to some. Regardless of what anyone thinks, demo derbies are a ton of fun that I think anyone with an eye for destruction will enjoy.

So anyways, here are those clips:

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Purpose - 1994 - 2001 CD Review

Collecting Purpose’s entire discography onto one disc, 1994-2001 compiles together the band’s two seven inch releases, two album releases, seven demos, a cover, and an unreleased track. It also gives listeners a chance to see all of the different musical avenues the band traveled down in their time together, no doubt in part because of the revolving door policy the band had on its members. Over the band’s seven years together, there were a total of 12 different members.

The first six tracks are comprised of the band’s release Art as a Weapon. Playing a straight forward emotional punk style of music, the band sounds very much akin to early Saves the Day with a tad bit of Sunny Day Real Estate influence on one end of the spectrum and some Ensign on the other end, both thrown in for good measure. It’s hard to understand why this band didn’t blow up as they could have easily been the next Epitaph poster band in the mid to late 90’s. They definitely had the sound down.

The next four tracks come from Alpha and Omega and show the band taking on a decidedly punk edge. Without the aspirations of becoming an emo band, this release put the band smack dab in the same category as The Offspring, 1208, and The Descendants. The production of Alpha and Omega left a lot to be desired and when these songs come right after Art as a Weapon it is very noticeable and does detract from the songs.

What It’s Worth, the next album captured, gives us four tracks of the band quickening up the pace and sounding like Strongarm with a melodic vocalist. “Tonight” especially shows the band playing to their hardcore influences. The shift from punk edged emo to melodic hardcore is an interesting one to hear as the band handily plays to both styles.

Up next are the four tracks from the band’s self titled release. Unfortunately, these are probably the weakest songs in the band’s discography. Playing in the realm of straight up punk a la early AFI or Bad Religion, we see the band shifting into yet another genre, but doing it somewhat unsuccessfully. It also doesn’t help that the production leaves the guitars sounding weak and the songs somewhat drab overall.

The final section of this release is actually a very bittersweet collection of songs, bittersweet because the demos contained here show the band progressing to the point of infusing all of their different genre experiments into one sound. Taking on a post-hardcore sound, these demos show how the band could have put together some wonderful Thursday and Boy Sets Fire influenced songs. However, since these songs are demos, the production values are pretty low with everything feeling extremely rough.

In the end, not many people outside of New Jersey have probably heard of Purpose, but they were a band on the cusp of greater things and, unfortunately, faded away before they could ever move on to a bigger stage. This discography may not appeal to many, but to those yearning for something new to listen to from the mid-90’s punk era, this is a perfect disc to pick up.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dream Theater - Live Show Review

Let’s get this out of the way now—if you ever in your life have a chance to go to a Dream Theater show, you should never, ever, under any circumstances miss out on it. Knowing that, it was essential that I visited the State Theater in Minneapolis this August when Dream Theater made their stop in town.

After about half of the crowd found their seats, Into Eternity hit the stage for 40 minutes of some muddled and average metal. For a bit I was fearful that the entire show was going to sound horrible because Into Eternity’s set had the bass way too high in the mix, as well as extremely murky in nature. The guitars could only be differentiated when there was a solo being played. Lastly the vocals only made it to the top of the mix when Stu Block was screeching. The death metal growls just didn’t sound that great. Fortunately, the sound was just bad for this set.

Into Eternity’s set consisted of a good mix of songs from their entire catalog, but the biggest fan reception came from their newer material. It’s too bad that the only vocals that really cut through were the high pitch wails because they made me cringe more than anything else. It didn’t help that Stu felt it was his duty to “direct” the rest of the band while they were playing and he didn’t have anything to sing. In fact, it was pretty damn cheesy. The band is pretty talented, true, but the cheese just keeps them from doing anything on stage that isn’t worthy of eye-rolling.

The next band, Redemption, felt like they belonged on this tour, whereas Into Eternity was an odd fit considering they’re basically a power-death metal band with some strong solos. Redemption are a straight forward prog rock band that play a style of prog extremely similar in nature to that of the headliners, Dream Theater. Many of their compositions used the vocals for a verse or two and the chorus, but then focused on letting the band members show off their chops.

Usually letting prog rock bands go nuts on their instruments in a live environment to show off is what will usually gain them notoriety, but Redemption needs some work before they reach that level. The bassist, playing a large, six-string bass was impressive to watch, and so was one of the guitarists, as they both knew how to shred on their respective instruments, but the second guitarist kept missing notes and making small screw ups. It was obvious that the rest of the band was not exactly happy about it either. For the most part, however, the band performed admirably and was passable to listen to.

Now, with the two openers out of the way, it was time for the always epic Dream Theater to take the stage. As the lights dimmed, everyone in the theater jumped to their feet and cheered as the band entered. Talk about rabid fans, but it was easy to see why fans are so devoted to the band as the show played out over the course of two hours and fifteen minutes. Opening the show, after belting out the intro of “Also Sprach Zarathustra”, was “Constant Motion” from their latest effort, Systematic Chaos. This started off the show on a very classic rock oriented footing, but the crowd ate it up, especially when John Petrucci broke into his first solo of the night followed shortly by even more cheering at Jordan Rudess joined in on keys.

Keeping things heavy, the band jumped right into “Panic Attack” from Octavarium. Personally, I think this is one of the better songs on the disc and it translated well to a live environment with the thick guitar tones resonating throughout the theater. The menacing vibe of the song got the crowd pumping, and to give everyone a chance to catch their breath they followed it up with “Blind Faith”, which starts with a long, mellow introduction before hitting full force. The 11 minute epic let the entire band show their stuff, especially Petrucci on the extended guitar solo about halfway through the song.

For their next cut, they dove into “Surrounded” from Images and Words. The pace of the show slowed as the band moved through this classic. Of course everyone in the crowd knew this song, but it has never been a performance piece that allows the band to show off. More than likely it is used as a chance for everyone to get a rest from the intensity of the show opening and to give the audience a chance to experience a classic from the back catalog.

With the crowd aching for another heavy tune, Dream Theater dove into the chord progressing monster that is “The Dark Eternal Night”, another new tune. It sounded just as menacing live as it does on disc. The only drawback was the supporting vocals from Mike Portnoy didn’t come across as well as the distorted version on Systematic Chaos. However, this was merely the tiniest of set backs, considering the song allowed the audience to see Rudess and Petrucci bend their instruments to their wills yet again. The song culminated with the crunching metal grind of the final minute of the track.

Slowing things down again, the entire band exited the stage except for Rudess who broke out the keytar for some soloing action before moving back to his multi-keyboard setup to dive even further into his 5+ minute keyboard solo work which led into “Lines in the Sand” from Falling into Infinity. Sporting a very classic prog sound, this song was great to see them perform, but it seemed like the audience had the weakest reception of the night while the band was ripping through this underappreciated hit. Portnoy ended up singing James LaBrie’s vocals from the recorded track while LaBrie took on the vocal lines that King’s X vocalist Doug Pinnick performed on the album cut of the song.

Taking things down a notch and diving back into the classics again, Dream Theater broke out “Scarred” from Awake. Petrucci and Rudess made the intro very light and fleeting before the meat of the song came into play about 3 minutes in. The crowd reacted very well to the song and there was even a solid amount of singing along to the late bridge around the 6:30 mark of the song.

Unfortunately after “Scarred”, the band chose to go into “The Heart Carries On”, what I believe to be one of the band’s weakest songs. They dedicated it to the victims of the I35W bridge collapse here in Minnesota, which was a nice gesture, but it couldn’t save the cheesy lyrics, lighter waving radio rock sound, and general lack of maturity that the song possessed.

To cap off the night, the band played “In the Presence of Enemies” part I and II as one extended song, instead of the bookends that they are on Systematic Chaos. Throughout the nearly half hour of playing time that this compilation took to play, not a second was had to be bored. For being a new addition to the Dream Theater performance repertoire, it gave the band plenty of chances to shine and the audience ate it up. This was a perfect capstone to the night’s performance.

However, as everyone knows, the last song is never the last song. After a brief respite, the band came back out for a 20+ minute medley of “Tears in the Rain”, “Finally Free”, “Learning to Live”, “In the Name of God”, and “Octavarium”. It was great to at least hear sections of some of these songs, which I’m sure many in the crowd wished they could hear in their entirety.

In the end, the show was heavy on the classic songs and material from Systematic Chaos, which is to be expected. The show was a treat for both long time Dream Theater fans and for new fans alike. You really haven’t seen a rock band until you’ve seen Dream Theater. The musicianship of the members of this collective is world renowned and for good reason. They didn’t miss a single note the entire two and a half hours they were on stage. They were near perfect and truly worth every dollar you’ll spend to see them.

Thunderstorm Side Effects

So apparently all of the storms coming through the area lately have caused a little more havoc than simply forcing me to mow my lawn. With the intense lightning show that came with Sunday's showers also came knocked out stop lights on my bus route to and from work, which meant that they were temporarily turned into four way stops. Combine this fact with the knowledge that my bus route in one of the main alternate routes people take because of the 35W bridge collapse (which already made my bus ride longer than usual), my normal Monday bus ride went from 30 minutes each way to 50 minutes.

On a more personal note, because of the extreme amount of rain that's come through the area, I also found out that when the ground is so saturated, I get some slight water leakage into an area of my basement. It wouldn't have been too bad if the leak was in an area of the basement that was linoleum, such as in the laundry room, but it happened in the basement family room, causing some of the carpet to be damp. Nothing too serious, but annoying nonetheless.

Thankfully, it looks like there isn't any rain in the near future for the area... well, at least not high percentage chances at least. I could do without rain for a little while.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Two Ends of the Spectrum

On Saturday I did something I hadn't done since the first weekend in June -- I mowed my lawn. Since early June, we've hardly received any rain here in the northeast Minneapolis area. The few big thunderstorms that went through this summer either strayed to the south metro area or were light on the rain and heavy on the electricity.

That all changed last week and it changed for most of middle and southern Minnesota as inches upon inches of rain fell, and in some places it was over a foot of rain causing one town to basically be flooded off the map. Even my area ended up with more rain than we knew what to do with. My yard, underneath the half dead and slowly coming back to life grass covering, was saturated with water making the lawn muddy and squishy for a few days.

Even now the rain keeps coming and coming. Last night another strong storm rolled through the area and we're supposed to get even more this evening. We've got plenty of rain for now Mother Nature, thank you very much. The only fun part about all of these storms is the light show that accompanies the rain. Last night was extremely electric with some lightning striking pretty darn close to where I was, one time even being so close (probably within a couple of houses) I could hear the sizzle at the beginning of the thunderclap.

Let's hope the storms roll through in the early evening tonight because this getting woken up in the middle of the night because of storms is getting a little old.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Superman... is Fussy with His Laundry

Superman is a Dick

Seriously, how can you not turn this picture into something misogynistic?

More Comcast Awesomeness

It looks like Comcast is making even more friends by cutting off service to their users. It's interesting that Comcast has been making the news lately (geek news at least) for throttling torrents and cutting off service. At the same time, our internet service, which is through Comcast, has been quite underwhelming.

We've experienced the torrent throttling and packet shaping since many of my torrents won't seed to people, even when connected. Also, our service has been abysmally slow as of late. Recently we've been having a hard time getting more than 30 kbps and web pages take forever to connect to their source and then load.

We've done the usual--reset the router, reset the modem, restart the computers--and nothing changes the fact that our service is slow, our ping is astronomical, and my Skype calls are warbly. What sucks is we don't have any alternatives for internet service in our area since Comcast was allowed to have a monopoly in our neighborhood. And I'm sure that my calling to complain will be in vain since they KNOW that they're the only option in town. The bastards.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Me on TV

I've finally gotten around to uploading this news piece that a local Rochester, MN news channel did on blogging and me from about two years ago now. It's interesting looking back on it and watching it again. Enjoy and don't poke fun at me too much...

Tons of Movies

With the rainy weather the last week or so, I managed to pound down a few movies. For all of my 2007 reviews, head here.

Bridge to Terabathia (5.5/10): Talk about a movie that takes a monster of a detour halfway through. The movie starts off as a fun, light tale of a blossoming friendship with themes of being imaginative, not conforming, and being open to new ideas permeating the narrative. Then at about the 2/3 mark of the movie, it shifts completely into a depressing, downtrodden, and listless examination of how to deal with the loss of a friend. It was so promising... and then so disappointing. It's not the happy-go-lucky fun film the previews portrayed and will probably make kids feel a little uncomfortable and sad when watching it.

Vacancy (8.5/10): A short but tense thriller. The standard horror plot macguffin of having a couple get stranded in the middle of nowhere with only one particular hotel/house/area to go to for help is used to get the story going, which made me wonder if it would even be worth my time. Thankfully the execution of the movie is what kept it afloat. Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale were both very real and did a nice job of playing such typecast roles. A couple of interesting "surprise" moments kept the movie flowing quickly and kept me very interested.

Stardust (8.5/10): Some critics have hailed this as a modern Princess Bride and I would agree that this is a very apt comparison. As opposed to many of the recent fantasy movies to be released, Stardust is all about fun instead of trying to be overly serious or about some huge, world changing event/item. Everything about the movie simply screams "fun"! It is definitely geared at a younger crowd, but there is plenty to enjoy for adults. The cast had wonderful performances all around. True, Robert De Niro's character did feel a little forced at times, but it was still a hilarious character. Claire Daines was magnificent as the fallen star. And everyone else was solid as well. A great family film.

Superbad (9/10): Superfunny is probably a better title. I don't think I've laughed so hard during a movie in a long time. The cast is phenomenal, the story is crazy, yet believable, the one-liners are infinitely quotable, and you won't stop laughing the entire time. Sure, it's raunchy and contains mostly crude humor, but that's really the point of the movie--to be crass, but in a hilarious manner. Seriously, go see this movie and laugh your ass off.

The Good Shepherd (8/10): This is a movie I'd wanted to see since it hit theaters, but never took the time to dive in because of its extreme length (it's 2.5+ hours long). All of the run time is put to good use, focusing not only on what it was to be a spy in the 40's, 50's, and 60's, but on what the implications were on the characters' relationships, personalities, and lifestyles. There is little to no action as the focus is so much on the characters, which gives this movie a more contemplative feel as opposed to simply running through another thriller/mystery plot. The cast is exceptional as well. If you have the time to dedicate to it, this is a fairly good movie.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Some Michael Vick Fun

As horrible as the whole Michael Vick dog fighting issue is, at least there's one neat thing to come out of it--the Michael Vick chew toy! I know if I had a dog, I'd definitely want one of these (or a few) for my boy to chomp on. The more I read about the horrible distasteful things that were done to the dogs in Vick's and his accomplice's possession, the more furious I become. It's because I really love animals and couldn't imagine attempting to hurt them on purpose.

What kind of a heartless bastard can make an animal feel so much pain, so much anguish, and then kill it for no real good reason? And how can someone do it without feeling even a pang of guilt or pain himself? It's terrible. He has so much money available to him to do basically whatever he wants to do, buy whatever he wants to buy, live however he chooses to live, but what does he do? He continues to live the ghetto-ass, violent lifestyle he probably grew up in. Like a friend told me when discussing this issue, "You can take the man out of the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto out of the man."

You know, it's been a while since I've gotten extremely riled up over a news story, but for some reason this really pisses me off. Maybe it's because I thought people were above this sort of thing which, obviously, I was wrong about. The human race is sickening sometimes.

Monday, August 20, 2007

See Ya Later, Vick

Let's all say it together now, "Michael Vick's career is over."

Personally, I think it would be fair to take him and everyone else convicted of running the dog fighting circle, as well as brutally killing the dogs in the underground fight circuit, throw them all into a room, and unleash about 20 stark, raving mad dogs on them. Bonus points would come from using dogs that were recovered from the fighting circuit.

I really hope that Vick never plays in the league again. I'm sure he will, however, as he's talented enough that some crappy ass team (read: The Oakland Raiders) will eventually suck it up and take him on board. Seriously, though, if you are convicted of a federal offense, there is no way you should ever get to play in sports again. What type of a precedent are you setting for young kids by letting criminals come back?

Sure, everyone should get a second chance after serving their time, but it's different for sports in my eyes. They're influencing kids and impressionable minds. Much like I could never work for an accounting firm again if I was ever convicted of fraud, embezzlement, or other crimes that impact my career.

Lock his ass up. End of story.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Screw Comcast

I really really really wish that we had more options for internet in our area. Right now we have Comcast and... Comcast. That's it. They have a monopoly on the internet in our area. They've been the worst possible company to deal with for anything. They've screwed up our billing repeatedly, given us the wrong hardware for cable and internet, not been able to properly authorize our router, and now are throttling and outright denying bittorrent traffic.

Both my roommates and myself use bittorrent for many purposes and we are now unable to seed particular torrents or use bittorrent. I know that once our running special on internet + cable runs out with Comcast I'll be switching to DishTV for television instead of Comcast and I might have to suck it up and try to see if I can somehow get DSL here at my place to avoid continued usage of Comcast's services.

If you have Comcast, call them or email them or do something to let them know you don't think this is a fair practice. We're paying for our internet service at $44.99 a month so we should damn well be able to use it, not just use it for select tasks that they feel people should use it for.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Demo Derbies

One of the awesome things about growing up in a farming community was the annual county fair, or the county fairs of local communities. With these fairs came a wonderful event--the demolition derby. For a few hours during each county fair, drivers would pit their reinforced junk heaps with big engines against other drivers' beat up cars to see who could keep theirs running the longest. It is like a scene from Mad Max come to life and it is awesome.

Last weekend I went to the Mower county fair with my family, girlfriend, and her nephew. We were there to give Kristi's nephew his first taste of the demolition derby experience and I think he thoroughly enjoyed it. As usual, I had a blast. Really, how could watching a bunch of cars crashing for a few hours not be entertaining?

Both my mom and me managed to get some shots of the action. You can check out my mom's shots here and you can look at mine right here. I also have some videos, but they're over 100 MB in size each, so I'll probably have to shrink them down before I post them or else put them on Youtube or something.

Next demolition derby on the schedule is the Steele county fair demo derby this Sunday at 4:00 pm. I can't wait!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

42 Days Off...

I was having a really hard time getting going this afternoon so I went down to Caribou Coffee in my building and grabbed myself a mocha to get re-energized. One of the things that Caribou does is has a daily trivia question for 10 cents off your order. I find it fun to check out their question and it is a good way to get curious people like myself to come back, especially when they have some themed questions. Each Caribou picks their own questions (at least from what I can tell) as I've visited two different Caribou stores in one day and they had different questions.

Anyways, today's question was, "Which nation has the highest amount of average paid days off at 42?". I knew it had to be a European nation so I guessed France since they seem to often have a lot of vacation time. I wasn't quite right. It is actually Italy.

Now can you imagine having 42 days off every year? And remember, that's the average amount of days off. Some people get more, some less. Still, 42 days off is a whopping TWENTY more per year than I currently get, and I'm pretty lucky to get 22 a year. I know a lot of people who get 10 a year, or even less.

It's really sad how few paid days off United States workers get, especially if you're talking about the lower middle class and under. The lesser paying the job, the less time off usually seems to be the way things go. I wonder if people would be more motivated to work if they knew they had more fun time off? I'd like to say I would be, but honestly I don't know. I'd love the extra days off, but would it motivate me more? I know I'd definitely be a lot happier and, hopefully, a little less stressed.

So who wants to move to Italy with me? I know I'd put to use every last one of my 42 vacation days!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The VOIP Plunge

Currently I have Cingular/AT&T as my cell phone provider. When it was just Cingular, the service was awesome. Rarely a dropped call, full signal just about everywhere, and great service. Now that Cingular has been taken over by AT&T, things have just gotten bad. I didn't think there would really be any perceptible change, but there definitely is. The most notable is that I often get next to no signal at my house. This is really puzzling because I live in one of the inner Minneapolis suburbs so it's not as if I'm off in the outback somewhere. I have also had numerous problems with bad call quality and dropped calls since the switch as well.

Because of this, and because I want to make calling people easier when I'm working from home, I decided to dive into the Skype world. I downloaded the service and played around with it for a bit, paying for the SkypeOut service (so that I can call any US/UK/Canada phone number) as well and found that it works pretty well. I only had one dropped call, and it was a conference call I'd been on for about 35 minutes. I chalk it up to an internet hiccup from Comcast.

Liking the service, I decided to go with a home VOIP phone so that I'm not tethered to my computer for making calls. Not wanting to spend a lot, I went with the Phillips VOIP 321 phone, which is designed to work with Skype. I set it up last night and it seems to work great. I plan on giving it a test run for a week or so and, assuming it works great like it currently is, I'll invest in a SkypeIn phone number so that it will work just like a land line (with the obvious caveat that my computer must be on and the internet up and running).

So has anyone else taken the VOIP plunge and given up on landlines? I have to admit, it's a ton cheaper than a land line, Vonage (which is just proprietary, crappy-ass VOIP), and a strictly cell plan. For a number and unlimited outbound calling, it's about $90 a year, which is the equivalent of about 3 months of Vonage or a landline. The only thing I'm a little sketchy about is having to leave my computer on for the line to be available.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Great Music Video (And Song)

Video for the song "Lords and Wolves" by Underminded. They're a great bunch of guys that stayed at my place a year and a half back before they headed out for a European tour. I'm really impressed with how their latest CD turned out. It's called Eleven:Eleven and you should pick it up if you enjoy heavy music.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Truthism From this amazing site you'll find all sorts of "true" gems of information... such as some of my favorites below:

"1.) The North Pole and the South Pole do not exist. In their place are polar openings that lead into Inner Earth.

2.) Anyone en route to a polar opening is eventually stopped by Outer Earth guardsmen."

"These humans who are in Earth's secret societies are merely pseudo-elites. On the other hand, the Reptilians are the ruling elite because they are at the very top of Earth's control pyramid."

"A complete science would place astral planes, parallel dimensions, synchronicities, consciousness, etheric fields, telepathy, vital energies, emotional energies, volition, hyperdimensional existence and timeloops all under the same framework. At present, these appear to be phenomena distinct from science, but that is because science as we know it is incomplete."

"Science = Faith"

Seriously, this site is one of the funniest I've read in ages.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Movies... More of Them

Well, here's the latest batch of movies I watched. See all of my 2007 reviews here.

1408 (7.5/10): The overall tone and execution of this film were both wonderful and dark, but in the end I failed to pull in any connections between all of the different "horrors" that John Cusak's character experiences and their importance to the character. Since this was billed as a psychological horror film, I expected there to be something to connect all the pieces and make the movie more than just a haunted house flick, but there really wasn't. Regardless, it was still a good movie that is head and shoulders above all of the lame torture porn movies rampaging through theaters.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (5.5/10): Having only seen the first Harry Potter movie (and hating it), going in to this film I found that it was hard to know why anyone was doing anything. Sure, I picked up the gist of this movie's storyline, but having not been entrenched in the Potter world I found I could care less about any of the characters since I didn't understand any of the underlying motives. Other than that, it was a decent fantasy flick with some notably terrible acting from the child actors. I'm sure Potter fans loved it. I didn't.

The Simpsons: The Movie (9/10): This is the real deal. Having been disappointed with the show for the last few years, my expectations were quite tempered, however, this ended up being extremely gut busting funny in classic Simpsons style. There are a number of new quotable lines that you can expect to be filtering into everyday vernacular, most notably the "Spider-Pig" lines. So far this is probably the funniest movie I've seen this year.

A Mighty Wind (7/10): Christopher Guest, the king of mockumentaries, puts together a film chronicling the reuniting of folk music's legends. It's decently funny, but lacks the amount of laugh out loud moments that Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman had. In fact, parts of the movie feel strangely like an actual documentary in that they lack the over the top nature that made Guest's other mockumentaries so fabulous. It is still a solid movie, just not as funny as I would have expected.

This Film is Not Yet Rated (8/10): I'm sure everyone has, at times, questioned why a certain movie received the rating it did. I do quite often. I also find myself wondering why it only takes a slip of a nipple to make something R, when it takes at least a bloody double-digit body count to get an R rating if there are no nipples or f-bomb dropping. It was quite interesting to see how closed off and out of touch the MPAA really is, but on the other hand, the investigative method used (hiring a horribly annoying private investigator) was often very amateur. If the PI sections of this documentary were left out and more focus was given to the secretive, cultish behavior of the MPAA it could have been a perfect 10.

Brick (8/10): I may be in the minority, but I loved this movie. Not so much because it was a cinematic masterpiece, but because it was a wonderful throwback to noir movies of ages past. This is, essentially, a film noir movie as portrayed in a modern high school. For anyone who doesn't view the movie as an homage, it will no doubt seem boring, cliched, and overacted. Viewed as an homage, it is a clever movie that takes the well established noir archetypes and injects them into a modern high school setting.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Boring, Silent Me

I really haven't had much to say since the 35W bridge collapse here in Minneapolis. I had kind of hoped I would have had something to say about it, but all I can think about in relation to it is how freakin' terrible my commutes to and from downtown are going to be.

Outside of that, I've just been busy. All weekend I had junk to do and so far this week I've been in Chicago for work, and that always leaves very little free time to do anything. All day meetings, going out for supper, and then catching up on sleep. Traveling takes it out of me. I was in bed at 9:00 last night and slept soundly until 6:30 this morning.

Anyways, that's why I'm pretty lax on the writing.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Holy Roman Empire / Gloria / Small Towns Burn a Little Slower Show Review

It’d been quite a while since I’d been to a show in a smaller venue so I was very anxious to visit The 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis to see the combination of Holy Roman Empire, Gloria, and Small Towns Burn a Little Slower. As I arrived, I was very surprised at the number of people already in attendance. The small venue was almost full, more than likely because it was Small Towns’ home town.

Opening up the show was Holy Roman Empire. Their debut full length, The Longue Duree, had received a fair amount of play in my MP3 player recently so I was pretty amped to see the band perform. Despite lead vocalist Emily Schambra having to sing through a cold, the band still put on a solid performance. Emily is a very confident and full bodied vocalist, able to belt out every phrase with authority. Even with her voice a little rough at times, it can’t be denied that she killed on vocals.

The remainder of the band were just as impressive. The band as a whole are extremely tight, no doubt because of the experience level of all of the band members. Bassist Geoff Reu was an especially captivating pseudo-frontman, managing to show tons of presence on stage while playing and occasionally adding some supporting vocals. Playing a fair mix of new songs and a couple from their debut EP, Lost in Landscapes, the set was both upbeat and, at times, heavy. The hardcore backgrounds of most of the members of this band shows through as they pound out what they’re playing on their instruments, yet they never miss a note. It would be great to see this band perform as a headliner some time.

Next on the bill were local pop-punkers Gloria. Revving up for the release of their EP, A Lesson in Self Destruction, the band put on one hell of a performance, most notably by their frontman. He possessed a pitch perfect voice that had just enough of an edge when yelling to give their entire set a commanding feeling. The only thing holding him back is the continual swinging around of his mic. It got a little annoying after the first 10 times or so he did it, but instead of quitting he kept doing it every second that he wasn’t singing. A minor quibble, yes, but one that deserves note.

Gloria’s brand of keyboard infused pop-punk was, crazily enough, much more interesting than the majority of the current popular pop-punksters (Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco). The songs were very energetic and the band used every ounce of that energy to get the crowd into it. For a young, unsigned band they played like they’ve been doing this for years.

After such an energetic performance, it was hard for Small Towns Burn a Little Slower to top it. For being headliners, it didn’t seem like Small Towns really cared about the show that much. For most of the short, 35 minute set he simply wandered around stage while singing his lyrics. To complicate matters there were a few technical problems throughout the set. When they were on and playing together, they sounded great, but there was no energy to back it up.

It was really to bad to have the show end with the headliner being a letdown. However, Gloria and Holy Roman Empire were both impressive bands with very strong futures. Any tour that either finds themselves on is bound to be one you should see, just in order to see them!