Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Google's Quasi-GPS

My cell phone bill is nearly $100 a month just to get my basic phone service with something like 500 anytime minutes (my unlimited nighttime minutes don't start until 9:00 pm) and my blackberry enterprise service. Thankfully work covers my blackberry fees (or else I wouldn't be using it), but it still leaves me with what I feel is an overpriced plan for a phone I don't use a whole lot. The thing is, I have the 2nd cheapest plan through the perennially evil AT&T. The cheapest is just ridiculous and I can't see anyone using it since there's hardly any minutes available.

Anyhow, one of the features my blackberry has is GPS. I can't use it, though, unless I add on a $10-$20 GPS service onto my monthly bill. It'd be cool to have GPS but, frankly, I wouldn't use it much since I don't leave the metro area very often.

Leave it to Google, though, to come up with a free pseudo-GPS function added into their Google Maps application on my blackberry. It was rolled out probably 6-9 months ago and it wasn't that accurate. It could locate me in a 1,000 meter radius or so, depending upon where I was in the metro. Cool as it was, it wasn't useful since it would show me 5 blocks away from where I actually was which didn't help when driving.

Now, however, there must have been some updates because as I was tinkering with it yesterday I noticed that it was locating my position accurate to within 3 meters at time (usually between 5 and 10 meters, though). That's almost GPS like tracking using cell tower signals (I'm assuming). Who needs GPS with this kind of accuracy using my cell's signal that I don't have to pay extra to use?

I'm sure that once I get out of the metro area it won't be as accurate, but I don't see myself needing it to be ultra-accurate when I'm driving out in the country and there are turnoffs every mile on average. It's awesome to have a free GPS alternative and hopefully it'll stick it to AT&T and get them to allow GPS usage for lesser fees or, God forbid, free. If you have a blackberry, download the Google Maps app and give it a whirl. It's pretty damn useful.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Jeroan Drive - The Stones Remain in Silence CD Review

Your enjoyment of this release, and ultimately of the band itself, hinges on one very important aspect of the band--the vocals. Erik Fǽo has a screeching wail that takes a little getting used to, to say the least. Coming off as a mix of Dennis Lyxzén from Refused, Johnny Whitney from The Blood Brothers, and Cedric Bixler-Zavala it’s easy to see how Erik’s approach may grate on many listeners’ nerves. I’d like to say that you’ll eventually get used to it and may even grow to like his approach, but that isn’t necessarily the case. I know that for some, his vocals just won’t ever be approachable and that should be expected with such an outright abrasive style.

While the vocals are sure to be the focus of your ears the first time you listen to Jeroan Drive, the rest of the band doesn’t sit back with the knowledge that they aren’t the focus. Honestly, it might be interesting to hear some instrumental tracks and a few more instrumental passages since these guys pull together some of the better pieces of Refused, Thursday, and even some Helmet-esque moments. “The Greatest Betrayal” contains some of the best Helmet riffs in the last 4 years that haven't been written by Page Hamilton. Really, though, this song is a little bit of a departure from the band’s predominant sound, focusing on the really heavy riffs between the subdued choruses filled with melodic female vocals that are, unfortunately, mixed a little too low and almost get lost in the shuffle.

The band does get to show off their chops on the latter half of “11:57 at the Laundry Service” as they lay down a very precise, surgical post-hardcore groove that no doubt slays when played live. At times, as stellar as Jeroan Drive are, they tend to stray a little too much into the realm of merely mimicking Refused. “Mirror Escapades”, for example, sounds like it could have been a long lost b-side from The Shape of Punk to Come. The only thing that keeps it from sounding exactly like a Refused song is the spoken word style vocals near the end of the song that, frankly, should have just been left out.

Special note should be given to the title track as it shows the band really stretching their musical legs. The song has many disparate and interesting elements. It’s barraging at first, but it still possesses a mellow undercurrent courtesy of the backing chimes. The melodic female vocals make a return on this track to much more success than in “The Greatest Betrayal”. The song flows nicely back and forth between thundering heavy verses and the more restrained choruses before spreading out into a sprawling instrumental bridge that eventually fades to silence only to be resurrected in a cacophonic, cathartic, and unrestrained release, easily becoming the album’s strongest song.

It’s easy to peg this band as nothing more than a Refused clone with some slightly more abrasive vocals but, believe it or not, this band is much more than that. There is a genuine sense of emotion flowing through this band, showcased in the violently delivered vocals and intricate instrumental delivery both.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Collection Complete

It's a really great feeling when you get to complete something, especially if you're somewhat of a collector by nature. I've always had that collecting urge ever since I was a kid. I was an avid baseball card collector, comic book collector, and toy completist. It was my goal to get all of the action figures in a specific series or the entire run of a comic series or the entire team of a certain sport. It was in my blood.

I've managed to wean myself away from that "need" to have all of a particular thing since, sometimes, it was a money sink and I didn't always need the entire set. For example, I might start reading a comic series and find I really didn't enjoy it, but I'd keep buying it because of my completist nature. I've since broken that habit. Now I just need to break it when buying TV on DVD since I've bought more television DVDs than I can possibly watch in the next few years.

Anyhow, what this is leading up to is me saying that I've finally met one of my remaining completist goals--I just received in the mail the final volume of Lone Wolf and Cub. This 28 volume graphic novel series has been so critically acclaimed since its release that I told myself I needed to get the entire set someday and then sit down and read all the way through it, experiencing the epic as a whole. At about 250 pages a book, that's around 7,000 pages of reading. It's a daunting task, but the set is staring at me from my book shelf every time I walk by it. I'll start it soon... soon.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

This Week's Dozen

It's time, once again, for Ricky G's Weekly Dozen. I wasn't feeling a particular mood to do a theme about this time around so I decided to throw a variety of tunes in the mix, but since it's such a variety of tunes I made sure to keep it short and sweet--no song is longer than 3 minutes. So check it out, here's the track list:

1. Mors Principium Est – “It is Done”
2. Finger Eleven – “Other Light”
3. Unkle – “Lawless”
4. Aesop Rock – “Labor”
5. Index Case – “Listen”
6. Amoral – “Raptus”
7. Witches with Dicks – “One Whopper for the Copper”
8. Your Demise – “Too Little, Too Late”
9. Theatre of Tragedy – “Let You Down”
10. Biohazard – “A Way”
11. Scarve – “Senseless”
12. Near Miss – “Call for Help”

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

My Stimulus Check

The stimulus checks will start being sent our way starting in May. I'm one of the first batch to receive my $600 and it should be direct deposited the week of May 2nd. I haven't really thought about what I was going to do with it since $600 doesn't seem like that much money. Now don't go and rail on me for thinking that it isn't a lot of money. Comparatively speaking, it isn't a whole lot. I received my tax refund last month and it dwarfed the stimulus check that'll be heading my way so I was more concerned with how to use that.

What I did do with my tax refund was invest in a couple of stocks and pad some of my mutual funds. I don't need to spend it right now, so why should I? I know that the government would love for me to take my $600 and go blow it on a new TV or a video camera or a nice dinner or a vacation or some other materialistic thing so that the money is pumped back into the economy. I just don't have a desire for any of those things, though, so I'll probably just use it to pad my mutual funds a little further.

I have considered using it to buy a bike since I don't have one and would like to have one so that I'm not reliant on my car to get me to places that aren't too far away, but I wouldn't spend the whole sum on a bike anyways. I can't imagine spending over $300 on a bike. I'm not a person who is going to do bike races or anything like that. I just want something decent that will hold up and get me from point A to point B, and that can also be used for a biking workout every now and again when I'm not running.

Anyhow, what I was trying to get at is that it seems odd to have a sum of cash getting sent my way and not wanting to immediately spend it on something frivolous. I know if I were 5 years younger I'd totally have it blown before it arrived, but now I don't feel that strong materialistic urge to spend, spend, spend on crap I don't need. The few things that come to mind that I want outside of a bike is a water softener for the house (which is increasing the value of the home so it isn't really money that is leaving my possession), saving it for some new cabinets in the kitchen, or putting it away for when my car eventually dies and I need to get a new one.

It's a nice "gift" from the government, but I'm not going to spend it how they want it, unfortunately, and I'm assuming most other people aren't going to either. Maybe not because they don't want to, but because they can't with mounting bills and a rising cost of living. So anyone have any big plans for their stimulus checks?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Enamel Annoyance

I don't know how I did it or when, but I managed to chip a small bit off of one of my lower front teeth. I probably would have never noticed, except that whenever I run my tongue along my front teeth, it catches on a jagged piece of enamel. At first I thought it was probably a sharp piece of food stuck in my teeth and tried to tongue it out, all the while simply scratching up said tongue. Eventually, I got frustrated and tried picking out whatever it was with my fingernails. That was the point at which I realized that there was, in fact, no food in my teeth.

Looking into the mirror I could just barely see the small off-shooting of white that was as sharp as a newborn kitten's claws. I was amazed that such a tiny piece of my tooth could be the cause of all this ruckus in my mouth. Figuring that eventually it would just wear down, I kept tonguing it and tonguing it and tonguing it until the front of my tongue was raw. The tooth chunk hadn't been worn down at all. How I didn't realize that would be the result before I started my tongue vs. tooth battle is a mystery.

Knowing now that tooth trumps tongue, I escalated the battle to using food warfare. I chewed some gum, which obviously didn't help. Later I employed the help of some hard candy... same result. So at this point, I'm pretty much to the point where I've learned to get along with the sharp mini-blade tooth chunk in my mouth, but I'd be damned if I let it win. It was time to pull out the big guns.

Visiting the bathroom, I picked up my tweezers to see if I could get on the edge of the tooth blade and snap the point off. The tooth blade was too small, however, and I merely wasted my time trying to get a hold on it and subsequently poking myself in the cheek or under my tongue. I was down to my last option--my nail file.

Snapping open the nail file that is a part of my fingernail clippers, I maneuvered it into my mouth so that the file could work against the tooth. Filing away at it for a bit, I then checked it with my tongue. By golly, it was definitely less sharp! But then I looked at the file. The took, somehow, wore down the metal file edges while slowly giving up pieces of itself. I was impressed. Who would have thought that the metal of my fingernail clippers wasn't that much tougher than a tiny chunk of tooth? I was pleasantly amazed.

Today I have no more bladed chunk of tooth bothering me. I won, but it was a long fought battle. It taught me a little something too -- If my teeth can give a metal file a pretty good fight, I'm pretty sure cavities are are a myth. There's no way food particles can burrow into my teeth if it takes a chunk of metal to simply knock a small piece of it off.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Bloodbath - Unblessing the Purity CD Review

It’s hard not to go into listening to this EP with expectations running high. Considering the pedigree of the members of this band, which include musicians from Opeth, Katatonia, Witchery, and Edge of Sanity, you’d think that there would be no way that this album could not be amazing. Sadly, the album treads some very familiar territory and does not quite measure up to the masterpiece that could be expected.

I suppose we shouldn’t kid ourselves and expect Bloodbath to tread anywhere outside of the Swedish death metal genre, but there was at least a little hope that maybe some influences from the band members' work in Katatonia or Opeth would show through. However, that is not the case, and really hasn't ever been the case in Bloodbath's history. This is full bore, no-holds-barred, balls out death metal with “Mouth of Empty Praise” only touching briefly on a melodic guitar line mid-song. The EP starts off by throwing a vicious blast beat attack at you before letting up on the tempo just a hair to give the song some actual structure, which seems to be something these four songs at times lack -- the shifting of gears between the more grooved riffing and death metal blasting isn’t always the smoothest. There are no complaints about execution however, but at times the transitions seemed a bit forced or ill-fitting.

That being said, one of the best songs of this band’s career is most likely the aforementioned “Mouth of Empty Praise”. The band flirts with some melody in the guitar solos, all the while letting the song develop out of the band’s ingrained death metal format. It closes this EP in spectacular fashion with Michael Akerfeldt adding his always crushing vocals. Unlike his work with Opeth, there is not a single moment of melodic crooning on Unblessing the Purity -- it’s growls all the way through and, really, that’s the only type of vocal approach that works here. Throwing in some clean vocals just wouldn’t seem right and would feel much less credible alongside the punishing death metal onslaught.

Unblessing the Purity is short and sweet and to the point, everything and EP should be. Despite some weak moments, the overall execution of this mini-album is spot on. If they can iron out some of their transitions and maybe ease up a little on the blast beats, their next album is going to be a monstrosity of everything that is right in the death metal genre. This band knows what they’re doing and show it on this EP.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Food is My Weakness

Most weeks I try to make it to the gym or run at least 3 or 4 times. Ideally, I like to do something 6 out of the 7 days of the week and if I exercise heavily on all 7 days, I feel awesome about it. Now you'd think that if I was working out that much that I must be in tremendously good shape, or at least in pretty darn good shape. That assumption, however, is quite incorrect. I'm not horribly overweight or anything, but I'm also far from being in wonderful shape. And it's definitely not because I'm not exercising enough or hard enough... it's my diet. I eat like crap.

I love pizza and hot pockets and greasy burgers and anything you can make in a microwave. I salivate over anything with high cholesterol content and lots of fat. And don't even get me started on candy, cookies, and sweets. Put anything chocolaty within reach and I'll scarf it down before you know it's gone. I love food. And it's because of that undying love that I have to exercise so much. If I didn't I'd be a 300 pound couch potato who can no longer see his toes.

I'm trying to get better about what I eat, however, since I'm not always able to exercise as much as I'd like. First, I try to not buy candy or sweets if at all possible because, if it's in the house, it gets eaten. I've been relatively good about this over the last month or so, breaking down only occasionally to get ice cream or cookies.

Sweets are only part of the problem, however. The other part is microwavable food. I've made a conscious decision to not buy any more hot pockets, burritos, TV dinners, or other "quick fix" microwavable food once my current stock is gone. This will force me to actually cook the food I eat. I find a lot of the time I'm not super hungry, but since microwavable food is so convenient it's hard to say no to it. Now if I had to actually get out pots and pans or use the oven to make food in those situations, I'd probably pass because I'm not that hungry.

We'll see how this goes. I'm almost out of hot pockets and other microwavable food. I do have a lot of Easy Mac and Ramen left, but I have an easier time not turning to those foods for comfort. The only obstacle I still need to overcome after all of this is ordering out. No more running up to Papa Murphys for pizzas that weigh more than a newborn or hitting up the Chipolte if I feel the burrito urge. It'll be tough, but it'll also help my pocketbook, which I can use as another way to motivate myself.

All in all, I think soon I'll be able to start making some headway in changing my eating habits. Not right now, though... I've still got some pepperoni lean pockets and a bucket of ice cream calling out to me. 'Scuse me, I'll be right back...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Windy Days

Tuesday afternoon I volunteered to help out at a local track meet taking times at the finish line. It was a beautiful day and it got me outside in the afternoon to enjoy the weather and it also gave me a chance to think back fondly on my track days which were, hard to believe it, nearly a decade ago. I'm 27 now and I ran my last competitive track meet my senior year of high school when I was 18. It doesn't seem like that long ago when I'm thinking about it, but after I get in from a hard run that I would have dominated at that age, I can definitely tell it's been a while.

Watching the kids running, I kept thinking to myself, "Man, I could totally kick these little kids' asses." Then I'd get their times and realize that I probably couldn't hit some of those times without putting in a little training first. Adulthood and the working world isn't exactly conducive to giving you time to put in daily strenuous workouts. I'm lucky if I get in 3 or 4 runs a week. If I put in some time at the gym or lifting at home on top of that, it's a huge bonus.

In thinking about it, I'm pretty sure getting out there and running a 100 or 200 wouldn't be too much of a problem because with sprints usually the people who are good at them have the natural ability to move fast or they don't. It's hard to take a slow person and get them to sprint fast, you just need to have that innate ability to start with. Luckily I was pretty decent at sprints and I still use a lot of my quick speed muscles and sprints in ultimate.

The biggest hurdle that I'd have to overcome if I was racing my same high school races today would be the 400. I can guarantee you that I would not be able to whip out a sub 55 second 400 if I tried my hardest, there just isn't enough gas in my tank for that long of a sprint and I'm probably about 10 lbs too heavy to really push that long of a sprint. Now that I'm talking about it, I'm actually curious how I'd run a 400 now. Would I blow all of my energy sprinting out the first 200 and die in the last half? Or would I be way too conservative to start thinking I'd need the extra gas at the end?

Being out at the track, beyond bringing back memories of the old "golden days", gave me some motivation to really try and put some effort into my runs and getting a few more in if I can. I don't want to be relegated to talking about the good ol' days--I want to be able to still be in shape, quick, and able to crank out a good 5K time. I know it's not a sprint, but there aren't any real competitive options outside of 5K and 10K road races, so it's time to channel some of that competitive nature to beat my ass back into shape.

This Week's Dozen

This week I'm all about bringing the heavy tunes. So if you want a soundtrack to beat someone up by, then this is it. Check out the mix here. You'll get treated to these kick ass songs:

1. Chimaira – “The Dehumanizing Process” (live)
2. The Great Deceiver – “Marathon Man”
3. Freya – “Through the Eyes of the Angel of Death”
4. Bloodjinn – “Break the Silence”
5. Thick as Blood – “Dead to Me”
6. Century – “Watch Them Become Animals”
7. Norma Jean – “Absentimental”
8. God Dethroned – “Hating Life”
9. Unholy – “Awaken the Sleep”
10. As I Lay Dying – “The Sound of Truth”
11. The Breathing Process – “Pandora’s Rebirth”
12. Gone Without a Trace – “Power and Greed”

Monday, April 14, 2008

Flogging Molly - Float CD Review

There’s definitely something to be said for consistency. From Swagger to Drunken Lullabies to Within a Mile of Home all the way up to their latest, Float, Flogging Molly have been undeniably consistent. Each album shows the band taking their Irish pub crawling punk rock into more and more refined territory. Whereas many bands try to expand outside of their comfort zone, Flogging Molly stay contently within theirs, sharpening their well established sound. At times, however, there can tend to be a feeling of rehashing what’s already been done more so than creating something new.

The band was, arguably, at their best on their sophomore effort, Drunken Lullabies, where their fusion of punk rock and Celtic influences was most balanced. Within a Mile of Home saw the band dialing back the punk in favor of more folk influenced drinking rock. It was still a strong effort, but it felt like something was lost in the mix. On Float we see the band, again, playing their unique brand of Celtic folk punk, but much like on Within a Mile of Home the edge isn’t there any more.

It would be an outright lie to say that this is a sub-par release, because it is far from being so, but for as catchy and heartfelt as this album is, longtime fans will feel like there could have been so much more. Most noticeable upon initial spins is the sheer lack of a standout track. Whereas past albums had anthems such as “Drunken Lullabies”, “The Likes of You Again”, and “Tomorrow Comes a Day Too Soon”, Float has… a bunch of songs that are decent. The closest thing to an anthem on Float is the mid-tempo, late night, drunk ride home, sing-a-long “Punch Drunk Grinning Soul”. The opener, “Requiem for a Dying Song”, is also another strong song, but it just doesn’t stick in your head like it should.

Let’s be honest, though. This is still a CD that you should own if you enjoy music written from the heart and the bottom of a pint glass. There may be more slow songs on Float than past releases, but that’s not really all that bad. Whereas their first three releases were energetic, this one is the soundtrack to the long walk back from the pub, leaning on your friends, remembering life isn’t all that bad. “Us of Lesser Gods”, “Float”, “Between a Man and a Woman”, and, well, the majority of the album exudes a weathered, melancholic happiness, a feeling that can only come from a band that knows exactly who they are and what they are bringing to the table. There is no struggle for identity to be found here, just confidence on display for all to see.

There’s nothing new to be found on Float, but who the hell cares? It’s good. It’s been done before, by the same band nonetheless (and slightly better), but much like chocolate, you can never really get enough. While not life altering, Float is definitely life-affirming… at least in regards to helping you enjoy your life a little more.

Friday, April 11, 2008

On a Grumpy Streak

Sometimes I wish I lived downtown. You're close to everything and can walk wherever you want to go. You don't have to plan to go do something, you can spontaneously head out to an event. The commute is virtually non-existent and whatever travel time you have to and from work is spent walking, which is infinitely more enjoyable that sitting in stuffy, gridlocked car or hopping a herky-jerky bus. I don't live downtown, though, because I like having a house and yard and some space for when I eventually get to the point where I add a dog to the family. Living downtown just wouldn't be conducive to having a dog. This doesn't stop some people, however.

The last few days I've noticed the same woman out and about walking her dog on the sidewalks where I walk between my bus and work building. Cool, she's out with her dog... but she lets it piss right in the middle of the sidewalk and does most mornings. It's really gross walking down the sidewalk having to step over streams of dog urine.

I think people who let their dogs urinate and poop on the sidewalks should be cited. It's icky and if I can't get away with pissing on the sidewalk, then someone's animal shouldn't get to do it either. One of the things that I believe you give up when you choose to live downtown is the option of having a pet such as a dog where you need to take it outside to defecate and pee. The caveat to this is if the owner walks the pet over to a park with grass before having it do its duty, then fine, but it should be absolutely unacceptable for someone to let their animals pee pee on the sidewalk... and it should be punishable by allowing any passerby to kick the offending owner in the kidneys or, if the dogs is one of those annoying little yip-yip abominations, the passerby may punt the dog into the middle of oncoming traffic. Harsh, I know, but yip-yip dogs are actually tools of Satan and should be returned to him at any opportunity.

My Weekly Dozen

Here's a nice, little, mellow-ish mix to go with the snowy and dark weather we have going on here in Minneapolis. It's the middle of April... the snow just isn't funny any more. Anyhow, check out this week's dozen.

1. Cave In – “Paranormal”
2. Authority Zero – “PCH 82” (acoustic)
3. Flogging Molly – “The Likes of You Again”
4. Hierosonic – “From Yesterday”
5. My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult – “High Class Taboo”
6. Jimmy Eat World – “Futures”
7. In Reverent Fear – “Twin”
8. The Appleseed Cast – “Antihero”
9. The Mayan Factor – “A Red Gone Blue”
10. Oceansize – “I am the Morning”
11. Dropkick Murphys – “The Dirty Glass”
12. The Gathering – “New Moon, Different Day”

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Go to the Humane Society Instead

I love animals and most people I do tend to care about them as well. Some people, however, are douche-buckets. Every industry has them--the people more concerned with making money than being humane and considerate. Retail has Wal-Mart. Cable companies have Comcast. The mortgage industry has Countrywide Financial. And the pet industry has puppy mills. Truth be told, though, it's not just puppies that get milled. It happens for most animals that are sold in pet stores.

Personally, I'll never buy an animal from a pet store. There's too many lovable, huggable, so-ugly-they're-cute animals at local animal shelters that there's no reason anyone should have to shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for an inbred animal that was produced in an inhumane facility.

I know puppy mills are nothing new, but my mom's been talking about them recently and it never hurts to remind people that there are animals out there being treated very inhumanely so pet stores can make a few extra bucks.


I'm wholeheartedly against smoking. Let's get that out there right now. It's a habit that sucks away years of your life, dollars out of your pocketbook, and the respect of those around you. It sounds harsh, but it's pretty true. I've always had a hard time hanging out with people who smoke, not so much because they do smoke, but because I can't stand being around second-hand smoke or talking to people who have gross smoker's breath.

Lately, I've noticed another thing that really irks me about smokers--their littering. Rarely do I see smokers putting their ash and cigarette butts into outdoor ashtrays. Instead they finish their smoke, tap off the ashes, and toss the butt to the ground. I can't stand seeing butts all over on the sidewalks. Apparently they don't think they're littering.

What's even more frustrating is that if I did something similar, like tossing a candy wrapper on the ground after I finished a Snickers, I'd get dirty looks from those around me and, if there was a cop present, might get a talking to or a ticket, especially if I was tossing the wrapper out of a car window. However, it's totally acceptable for a smoker to toss their butt out the window.

I wish I could understand the smoker's mindset. How do they figure that tossing their cigarette butt to the ground is any different than throwing any other piece of garbage out? Do they think it's ok because it is a small piece of garbage? Or one that will eventually get washed away with the rain and fall apart in the water?

Maybe they feel it's their way to get back at society for forcing them to smoke outdoors, at least 10 feet from any doors, freezing in the winter and sweating in the summer. We've forced them to not smoke in office buildings, stores, bars, clubs, and just about every indoor public place. No doubt the must feel ostracized... but why should they? They've got a habit that produces secondhand smoke that injures those around them. They should be outside, away from those who might care about their health.

Regardless, smokers need to take notice that their butts are garbage and should be treated as such. Go find a frickin' outdoor ashtray and stop littering.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Go Buy a Book

One of my fellow ultimate players, Justine Lee, has published her first book, It's a Dog's Life, but It's Your Carpet. I've ordered my copy and if you're a curious pet lover, I'd recommend you give it a shot. You can order it from Amazon right now for a 40% discount, so get hopping!

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Weekly Mix

In case anyone cares or wants to stumble upon some potentially life altering music, I think I'll be doing a weekly mix tape of sorts. Instead of the lame Daily Dozen thing where I just list what I'm listening to, you can actually listen to my mix tape for the week. So, without further blabbering from me, here's this week's mix.

1. Lifer – “No Need”
2. Underoath – “The 80’s Song”
3. City Sleeps – “Just Another Day”
4. Taking Back Sunday – “Great Romances of the 20th Century”
5. Soundgarden – “Drawing Flies”
6. Cataract – “March with Your Battleforce”
7. The Sinking Ships – “Kiss the Sharks”
8. Juno Reactor – “Komit”
9. Gaza – “Moth”
10. MxPx – “Andrea”
11. End of the Rope – “Parasite”
12. Econoline Crush – “Burnt”

Thursday, April 03, 2008

For Today - Ekklesia CD Review

It’s always fun to read the fluff that labels or promoters provide to retailers and media outlets to hype up a band and get people to buy their releases. Reading the blurb Smartpunk has up about this album, you’d think it would be this year's metalcore masterpiece. “Music is a catalyst and For Today uses their August Burns Red meets Between the Buried and Me sound to spread their message across the nation.” Those are two pretty talented heavyweight bands to compare For Today to and, as you would suspect, they are no where in the same league as either of those groups. All that For Today provide the musical world is yet another dosage of faceless, competently executed, Jesus-centric, Hot Topic approved mallcore.

How bland can this band possibly get? For Today manage to combine together the most generic elements of some of the more boring bands in the metalcore realm. There’s the open chord chugging that is blatantly lifted from It Dies Today that appears in more than a few songs, “A Higher Standard” being the main offender. Then there are the strangled screams of Mattie Montgomery, which are some of the most forced screams to be heard in quite some time. The band’s growls are passable and the occasional quasi-melodic vocals are decent, however, but that's not saying much. Almost all of the breakdowns are standard chugga-chugga messes that seem to fill in parts of songs where the band seemed to run out of ideas. The melodic guitar leads feel like they simply aped Means or Life in Your Way while the few Gothenburg moments are totally uninspired.

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of positives for Ekklesia. In fact, there are even more negatives than those pointed out above. Try reading the lyrics without pissing your pants laughing. My favorite set of lyrics comes from the song “Never Lose Sight of the Goals”. Check them out: “I lift my prayers to you father / bring us to our knees / let me hear your voice in this time of need / and take this lust away from me / Ride ‘em cowboy!” What... The... Hell?!?! Where the wickity whack did “Ride ‘em cowboy” come from? Last time I checked Jesus was a carpenter, not a cowpoke on a dude ranch. Oh wait, there’s some even better Sunday morning praise lyrics to be found on “Words of Hope”. They go a little something like this, “For if we call on God, it’s clear / he has made it simple / his eternal power and divine nature is clearly seen.” Holy freakin’ Bible thumping, Batman. It’s such a comical dissonance to hear the Sunday school lyrics being growled out by a grown man. Being spiritual and Christian is fine, but being this outright preachy is just beyond annoying.

Ok, so as I was saying, not a lot of positives to note for this band. Let’s see, what can we find… ummm... as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, the band competently executes what they’re playing. That’s something, right? And I’m sure these guys get the pit ninjas picking up change like nobody’s business, but then again, what metalcore band doesn’t nowadays? The members of For Today are probably great people… unfortunately, I’m reviewing their music instead of their moral character. *Sigh* I got nothing. This is generic junk. Sorry, I couldn’t hold it back any longer. It's the truth.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Lazy Skyway Walkers

The skyways in Minneapolis are pretty awesome, don't get me wrong, but I get more and more annoyed by the complete laziness and inconsiderateness of many of the people roaming the skyways.

Lately I've been noticing more and more people not wanting to actually open a door. See, as you go from building to building, there are often doors, automatic or manual, that isolate the skyways so that buildings don't bleed off too much heat or cold into the actual skyway. For all of the manual doors (you know, the ones you actually use your hands to push open) they have to be equipped with a handicapped function that opens them when you click the handicap button. It's great that the skyways are totally handicap accessible, but there are way too many normal, lazy people that use the handicap button because they're just too damn lazy to push open a door.

What's even more interesting is that often the buttons are along the outside walls so people have to walk over to them to push them then, in most cases, when they walk up to the door it is still in the process of slowly opening so they have to wait a second or two for it to open. Are we really that freakin' lazy that we can't push a door open on a walk between buildings? There's lazy and there's lazy. This is supremely lazy. Sure, if your hands are full and you're carrying stuff I can see you using it, but there are so many normal people, not carrying anything, that are just incapable of pushing open a door... and it pisses me off. When did people start to think they were too good to open a door?

Then you have the inconsiderate, oblivious, slow walkers. They usually walk in groups of 2 or 3 and take up the entire skyway and walk at half a normal person's pace or slower. It sucks when I'm trying to catch a bus and these people are taking up the hallway, not being considerate enough to let others by, and often walking with plenty of space between them so that it seems like they are purposely trying to annoy everyone.

What really gets me is when I speak up and say, "Excuse me," as I squeeze by them. Usually I'll get dirty looks like I just flicked them off or something. Get out the way, slow-asses. I could just plow by you, but at least I try to be polite even though you aren't.

It's like people just don't realize there are other people in the world besides themselves. It's sad, really.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

The Minnesota Twins season got underway yesterday as they opened up a home series against the Angels. Being the on-again, off-again baseball fan that I am (currently in the on-again phase), I managed to get out to the opener. I was up in the cheap seats, which are the only seats I ever sit in, for this sold out game which had the much loved Torii Hunter returning to take on his former team.

Truth be told, I figured the Twinkies would get smacked around considering that out of our starting 8 defensive positions there were only three guys playing who started in that position the year before. Oh, and the Angels seem to be decently stacked this year. We didn't lose, however, and pulled out a great 3-2 victory that had Torii going 0 for 4 and striking out in the 9th to Joe Nathan.

Over the course of this season and the next I need to get as much baseball enjoyment in as I can since 2010 will debut the new outdoor Twins stadium. There is no way I would have wanted to be at the game yesterday if it wasn't in the Metrodome. It was around 32 degrees out, snowing like nuts, and windy as hell. You couldn't pay me to sit and watch a game in that crappy of weather.

I know, everyone who is looking forward to the new stadium will say that baseball was meant to be played outdoors, but I heartily disagree, especially in Minnesota. We have the most manic, bi-polar weather in the country. Yesterday it was snow and freezing temps. This weekend it is supposed to be mid-50's, sunny, and gorgeous. Sure, when the weather is perfect, I'd love to watch the Twins outdoors, but when it is a 95 degree, muggy, gross day in July I want to be inside the Dome where it's a cool 68 degrees and I don't have to worry about the guy sitting next to me sliming sweat all over my arm or the smell of thousands of people perspiring in unison.

The Dome will be missed, at least by me.