March 2006

SUSHI!As a young bachelor fresh out of college, I lived on a meager ration of burritos, chili, and random other things that were easy to fix. There were lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and raw vegetables, which were all pretty good for me but not very adventurous (eating Chinese food was considered going out on a limb).

Eventually, I met some friends who liked some different food, and they got me interested in different things like Indian food, etc. Then, I met my wife and she introduced me to the joys of even more great food, including Thai and Greek (real Greek, not just gyros). For our first Valentine’s Day together, we ate at an Ethiopian place and it felt like I had discovered some new, insanely exciting realm of food that I didn’t even know had existed before.

At any rate, along the way I discovered that sushi was really indeed quite good, despite nearly a lifetime of people wrinkling their noses and exclaiming “raw fish!” whenever the word was mentioned. Other than Ethiopian food (of which there are no local restaurants), sushi has become my single favorite food to eat. TG and I try to get out and eat it once every couple months if we can afford it, and usually end up gorging ourselves a bit silly on it, coupling the meal with a Sapporo or two, some blasts of wasabi and slivers of pickled ginger for good measure. Oh my, I’m drooling just thinking about it.

So yeah, the plan is for sushi this weekend in celebration of my friend Ryan’s birthday (happy birthday, yo!). Sushi will be purchased, Sapporo’s will be imbibed, and I will go home with a bulging belly and a smile on my face. I can’t wait.

antiPod The Panasonic Panapet R-70 is portable transistor AM radio from the 1970s. They are housed in a round plastic case that comes in a variety of colors and has two small silver dials (on/off switch/volume, and tuning) that make it look like Pac Man when viewed from the correct direction. Powered by a single 9-volt battery, the radio has a surprisingly strong antenna and comes attached to a large metal keychain to loop around a finger, attach to a belt loop, etc. Coupled with a 1/8″ adapter and a pair of Pioneer SE-50 headphones (also from the 70’s), this bulky twosome makes for the perfect revolt from today’s sleek digital music players.

Sadly, the AM-only tuner limits your listening abilities to little more than an occasional country station, right-wing talk show programs, Christian fundamentalist bleatings, and wide swaths of static. Fortunately, though, it also picks up some sports stations, so I personally end up dragging my radio outside to listen to a baseball game while I’m gardening or even have it playing in the background while I’m cooking later dinners during the summer months. Even though I also own an iPod (which gets a lot more use), I have a place in my heart for the charming and playful Panapet, which is partly space-ace, and partially downright clunky.

Boston UniversityIn a rather roundabout way, I found out today that the mascot of Boston University is a Boston Terrier named Rhett. My first reaction was to laugh, because if there’s a dog breed that doesn’t exactly instill fear into someone, it’s a Boston Terrier. As you might be able to tell from different posts on this site, they’re somewhat crazy little dogs with a big personality (I think both Zoey and Elsa actually believe that they’re humans). To see them used as a college mascot and drawn in a playful, yet slightly menacing way cracked me up.

Needless to say, it’s now my goal to buy some sort of Boston University sportswear (must have mascot on it). So yeah, it’s a totally dumb reason to like a University, but I’m going to have to say that I’m definitely rooting for BU whenever I have the chance. Our dogs wouldn’t have it any other way.

Over the course of the past couple days, approximately 14 inches of snow have dumped from the sky in Lincoln. Both TG and I have been home from work, and I’ve actually managed to get quite a few things done. I have to admit having a childlike fascination with large amounts of snow, though, and I’ve spend some time outside (not only scooping) just goofing around. Both the dogs love the snow and act rather crazy in it, so I decided to waste some time and whip together a video (click the photo below to load it up) of their antics. Good times…

Snow dogs

For more dog in the snow fun, check Aaron Elastique’s pictures from today.

GW - Bring It On I don’t remember if I saw the announcement on live television or whether it was some sort of a rebroadcast later on, but I vividly remember watching President George W. Bush sitting behind his desk in the oval office and announcing that we were going to war with Iraq three years ago.

Looking back through my old blog entries, March of 2003 was a busy time in my life. I was just getting ready to move into a new house and we in Marianas had just gotten our album back from the pressing plant and were preparing to play some shows. The actual night of March 19th, TG and I (and some friends) actually saw Godspeed You Black Emperor! in concert, which seems oddly fitting now that I think about it.

Today, Thinkprogress released a timeline of the last three years, and it’s interesting and sad to look back and see all the statements made that ring so falsely today. Of course, the big one that sticks out is this one:

[M]y fellow Americans: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended.
President George W. Bush (May 1, 2003)

I was one of those people who was really frustrated by the 2000 election, but I was also someone who after 9/11 really tried my best to believe in the administration and hoped that they would do the right thing. Sadly, I’ve learned that I cannot trust them at all anymore. There have been so many lies upon coverups upon scandals upon lies that I simply can’t believe anything they say. Judging by current approval ratings, it seems that a majority of Americans actually think the same thing.

2317 Americans dead, 30,000 Iraqies dead, 250 billion dollars spent. I have no words…

Grizzly Man by Werner Herzog Werner Herzog is such a singular director. Although I haven’t seen a lot of his work, I think I can safely say that obsession of the human spirit seems to be one of the themes he most likes to cover (be it a straight film or a documentary). Grizzly Man is certainly no exception, and it turned out to be one of the more engrossing films that I’ve seen in some time.

Basically, the film is a documentary about the life of one Timothy Treadwell, a man who spent his summers living with grizzly bears on the Alaskan peninsula for 13 years. Late one summer, he and his girlfriend were killed by one of the bears, but Treadwell left behind roughly 100 hours of film from his excursions, including everything from on-screen contemplations about wildlife to wild-eyed rants about the forest service. Oh yeah, and he also shot some rather astounding footage of the animals themselves.

There’s no question that Treadwell is a flawed character and that his actual work was questionable at best. He talks about doing research, but we never see any concrete evidence of any. He speaks of protecting the bears from different outside forces, but one could argue that he actually hurt them by living amongst them and letting them grow accustomed to a human presence. If anything, the most important thing that he actually did was spread awareness of the bears themselves, and hopefully because of that people will think twice if their habitat comes under attack from different interests.
In the above regard, I can see how it would be easy for someone to get hung up on his misguided nature and miss out on what is truly one of the more fascinating character studies that I’ve seen in a long time. Whether it’s reading a Studs Terkel book or hearing about people like Christopher McCandless, I’ve always felt that real life always seems to trump fiction most of the time. Treadwell is a fascinating person, and whether you agree with his philosophies or not, all his good points and flaws are laid bare in the film.

Herzog narrates the film, and while he sometimes made unexpected entries into the film to expouse on personal reflections, it wasn’t something that bothered me. His thinly-veiled reference to working with Klaus Kinski made me smile a bit as he added his careful words with his heavy German accent. A completely unique film about a man obsessed, this one made me laugh at times and even got to me a bit at times. Highly recommended.

While updating my music reviews for the week, I noticed that I had plowed past another decent number in terms of total done. It’s not quite a big enough total to justify celebration (which should happen in about 15 months if I can stay on course), but it seemed like an occasion to check out some other totals. Here’s what I found…

  • Number of different artists reviewed on the site: 1141
  • Number of different labels covered on the site: 652
  • Total number of reviews: 1701

The bigger number that I’m talking about is 2000, and I’m going to plan some sort of blowout with prizes for that one provided I keep on keeping on that long. I have no plans to stop right now, and in fact feel about as inspired as I ever have in terms of spitting things out on a regular basis.

I’m kinda obsessed with checking the referral logs on my website. Sometimes I come up with decent ideas to boost traffic, but most of the time I just find myself looking at the numbers to see what people are reading on my site. I know that quite a few visitors check this section each day, but people rarely comment, and I’m fine with that. I don’t write much that warrants a response, instead making the section more of a diary-style site that I can look back on in a couple years and say “oh yeah.”

However, I do follow the statistics for the music review section of my site pretty closely, and after a small lull at the beginning of the year, I’ve noticed that things have picked up dramatically lately. I think it’s partially due to finally getting bumped back up in search engines after my redesign, and that seemed to be confirmed after I went to Google and entered about 10 recent titles I’d reviewed plus the word “review.”

At any rate, I guess there’s no real point to this post other than to say that I’m hugely excited about the increase in traffic, especially considering I haven’t even dropped my latest site feature in the review section (coming soon). It’s always nice to feel like your work is getting seen by people.

Last night, Ryan and Aaron and I piled into the Accord and drove 3 hours to Des Moines. For some reason that is still unbeknownst to me, the city in the middle of Iowa manages to snag several groups per year that don’t end up playing in either Lincoln or Omaha. It’s true that there is one cool venue in the town (The Vaudeville Mews), but the two times that I’ve been to the city, the reception for bands has always been a bit strange and seemingly secondary to drinking and socializing.

Getting back to the show at hand, I would have to say that The Books are probably within the top five of my favorite bands at the current time. When their debut album arrived a couple years back, it somehow managed to defy easy explanation as the group deftly combined found sound samples of spoken word and field recordings with organic instrumentation, programmed electronics and other processing. On paper, it was a combination that seemed like it could be a trainwreck, but the duo pulled it off effortlessly and despite many writing them off as a one-album wonder, they’ve now managed to put our three full length albums and hold my attention every single time (their last album, Lost And Safe clocked in at #2 on my 2005 year-end list).

The opening artist was called Death Vessyl and instead of being a full band as on their recorded disc, it was just one guy and his guitar singing rather quietly without much of a presence. A majority of the people in the bar at that point pretty much talked through the performance, and while I wasn’t enthralled with the music, I was somewhat annoyed.

When The Books started, things quieted down in the bar considerably, and Nick Zammuto and Paul de Jong took the stage and played along (guitar and cello respectively) to pre-recorded music and syncronized video backdrops. With their complex arrangements, I figured that would be the setup, but the remarkable part of the show was how well they sucked you into their little sound world and made you almost hold your breath a little as the show progressed.

Songs were slightly extended in places and changed in nice little ways that seemed to fit the live environment better. Their rendition of “Take Time” (and accompanying visuals) had me laughing aloud, while quieter songs like “Twelve Fold Chain” mingled subtle, almost hypnotic visuals with the understated but engrossing songs. At many times during the show, their music (along with video clips from found videos procurred from thrift stores), touched on a sort of simple and yet beautiful humanity that I’ve always loved about their music. They manage to capture those little awkward, touching, and slightly silly moments that come from simply being a human and distill those thoughts and feelings down into musical vignettes. On top of the above, Zammuto and de Jong seem like such nice, down-to-earth fellows that you just want to walk up and give them a big hug.
Needless to say, it was completely worth the drive and ticket price, and since I already owned all their CDs, I made sure to buy a t-shirt. As seen in the graphic below, I even got them to sign a CD. If they come to your town, please go see them.

The Books signed my CD

It seems that every couple months (or perhaps only once a year), I go through an almost crippling period of self-doubt. I think it might just be part of my personality type (the only time I took the Myers-Briggs test, I ended up an INTP), but it doesn’t help that I never feel like I have enough time to get everything done.

There are several projects I’ve been working on lately that have brought this doubt to the front of my mind, and I’ll try to explain one of them below.

Despite what it looks like on the surface, I’m always trying to think of new ways to make my website a little bit better. Many times, this involves me thinking about whether or not I should re-design, but about two months ago I had an idea that I thought was very original in terms of adding value to the music reviews site.

Right after I thought of this idea, I almost immediately scrapped the thought as the time committment involved was pretty massive. As time passed, it kept creeping back into my head until a couple weeks ago I did a little test run to see if my idea would work. During this test process, I found myself alternately loving and completely hating the idea, even going so far as giving up before calling myself names and coming back to it.

As it turns out, I stuck with the idea and if things go as planned, this new feature will hopefully be made available in the next month or so. That said, I’ve still gone back and forth several times in the past week about whether it’s a completely stupid idea or not.

Most of the above probably makes no sense because I’m being purposefully vague, but the thoughts I had while working through the above process unfortunately aren’t limited to it alone. It seems to happen often, even going so far as having dreams where my ideas are laughed at by some sort of offscreen greek chorus.

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