Whats my problem people? I haven't posted a single photo this entire month, and I haven't updated the photography section in well over a month. I think that my reminiscing of about a week ago was somehow an unconscious trigger that my mind set off to make me feel guilty for not snapping more. Many other things are occupying my time right now, and hopefully they'll be curtailed fairly soon. Shizzle. At least I finished some new reviews.
Because I've spent a lot of time talking about it with people over the course of the past day, I have three more links to articles written about last nights State Of The Union address. Although I mentioned some of my issues with it last night, my biggest one is that for all the talk, a good majority of the speech is going to end up as empty rhetoric. Don't get me wrong, it's that way with nearly political speech given (both while running for office, and while occupying it). They contain a lot of loose facts to get people excited and try to make them feel better about things, but the fact of the matter is that talk won't equal actions, especially when a lot of that talk requires money that this country doesn't have right now. This article does a pretty good job of summing up many of the feelings that I had after sitting through the speech, and it touches on one thing that Bush stated which made me chuckle a bit. He talked about putting some serious funding into hydrogen automobiles, as if he can atone for his complete ignoring of energy problems up to this point (I still won't let Clinton/Gore off the hook for their absolutely blind-eye politics when they were in office, either). The statement that made me chuckle uncomfortably the most was that he said that hopefully children born now will be driving hydrogen cars by the time they have their licsenses. Sheesh. I should hope we're not as reliant on oil in 16 years, otherwise we'll be even more seriously up a shit creek than we already are. The final link ties into the search for clean-burning fuel sources, and it raises some good points about wind energy. Some more good points, and they make even more sense to me, living out here on the windswept plains.
Finally, an interesting interview with Kurt Vonnegut (one of my absolute favorite writers) about the state of the world today. As usual, I think he hits a lot of points right on the head. He's lived a long time and fought in a World War, but his perspective is always a fresh one.
Although I knew that I would be frustrated by it, I sat down and watched most of the State Of The Union address tonight. Without addressing too much what was actually said (I already did that, MST3K style while watching), let me just state that all the pomp of it just sort of frustrates me. I'm all for honoring the speaker (even though I don't particularly like the president or his administration), but the clapping after nearly every statement frankly sickens me. Much of what was said this evening are thinly recycled statements that Bush made during his campaign speeches, yet the majority of the audience in attendence seemed to be lapping up every word. The most interesting parts to me were watching the reaction shots, and seeing who stood up and didn't, who clapped and who didn't (in response to said statements). I wish I could get a purely outside response to it all, from someone in a different country, because for some reason I can't get grade school out of my head, when so many students would all suck up to the teacher in hopes that they would be rewarded later for their efforts...
Sorry about my rambling. I don't have an excuse for that, as I didn't even play the State Of The Union Drinking game. There are, however, some intelligent (and stupid) and downright hilarious comments in this thread over at Ye Olde Metafilter.
It seems like I'm constantly getting excited over different new releases that I run across, I sometimes forget about the older CDs that I have some memories with. Although I've never actually owned the release, tonight I ran across Nonsuch by XTC at a thrift store (in absolutely mint condition), and couldn't pass it up for the cheap asking price. When I got home and finally had the chance to sit down and listen to it, I remembered why I sat around and sang along with it during my last two years of high school. It's an absolute gem of an album, and listening to it reminded me that I shouldn't always forsake the older music in my collection for the newest flavors. There's a lot of rediscovering to be done.
Had another staying-in sort of evening last night (twas quite a bit colder than I had thought it would be), and rented another DVD. This time, the flick was Tadpole, and it was another good choice. The quick synopsis of the movie is that it's about a highly precocious 15-year old kid who's obsessed with older women, and the events that unfold over Thanksgiving break when he's visiting home from his prep-school. A great little movie that has some things in common with The Graduate, the acting was excellent all-around (Bebe Neuwirth and John Ritter were particularly good), and there were some absolutely hilarious scenes, as well as a couple of touching ones. One of the criticisms that I've heard of the movie is that the digital video is particularly hard-to-watch (it was blown up to 35mm and there's quite a bit of artifacting on the high-speed and low-light shots), but I'm one of those people who doesn't mind that sort of thing if the story keeps me interested, and this one did. See it!
I'm currently trying to give myself a crash-course in audio-mastering, and let me tell you that it's not a skill that you can pick up in a couple hours. Terms like "attack time" and "gain reduction" are swimming in my head, and I'm just trying to keep it all straight. Whew. No wonder people get paid the big bucks to do it well. John Golden, I give you mad props...
I'd heard different people say that it was a pretty good film, so last night TG and I rented Changing Lanes. Going simply from the trailer that I'd seen a couple months ago, I thought that it would be the typical cat-and-mouse revenge movie with all kinds of bling-bling action, but it was actually a pretty subdued movie and the character development was a lot better than I thought it would be. There were still a couple of moments that felt a little overblown, but overall I was very impressed by the film, and I didn't even mind Ben Affleck for once, as he played a young, hotshot ethically-challenged lawyer (which seemed to suit him well). One of the best parts of the film was during a short special feature on the DVD in which the screenwriters were talking about what they wanted to accomplish with the film. It's obviously a film about morals and ethics and peeling back different layers of it all and realizing that nearly everyone has implicated themselves with things they'd probably rather not be associated with, and it got me thinking about the not-so-forthright ways in which I walk a ethical tightrope (like the fact that by paying federal taxes, I help fund the building of bombs which have killed innocent people). At any rate, I probably think about these things too much, but that was another one of the points that the screenwriter talked about. Obviously, everyone takes something different away from a film, but the fact that this one made me think a little bit more than the average Hollywood fare makes me want to recommend it.
After more crazy band moments than a VH-1 "Behind The Music" special, we finally put a wrap on recording for the album tonight. Even though we have a couple more things to do (mixing and artwork finals) before the album is actually done and off to the manufacturer, there was sort of a triumphant feeling after that last Steve Miller-esque keyboard flameout (this will make sense in time) was nailed (go RD!) and we listened to it in the context of the song. Giddy smiles all around. We think we have something here that's interesting and good and just a little bit different than what you might normally hear.
Oh, and new reviews. Bring it!
It's really really cold here tonight, and I haven't even faced the worst of it. I shoveled the driveway and walk when I got home (it only took about 20 minutes because of the light snow), and the tip of my nose started to feel like it wasn't attached in that time. When I came inside, it instantly let me know I should have covered it up, and I had to deal with sniffles for awhile afterwards. At any rate, the majority of the evening was spent inside mixing the tracks down for the impending release of our CD. I've been talking about it for months and months, but it's seriously for real getting closer to finally being finished, and we're in the ending stages of touch-up and mixdown. Another track went to the fabled "nother level" tonight, which is always a good feeling.
About 6 years ago, I was rapidly preparing photography, trying my best to create work that would be shown in my senior show for college. There were two different darkrooms on campus that students could use, but one of them had been neglected for quite some time, and it had simply turned into sort of a storeroom and junk closet for broken or unused equipment. Since I was doing only large-format work at the time and I didn't like sharing a room with other people when I was working, I cleaned up the room and hauled enough equipment into it so I could work on my own, without the traffic of other students. Several of the things in the room were rather makeshift, but that was part of the joy for me. We didn't have any development trays large enough to hold my paper, so I'd have to spread chemicals over the exposed papers with my hands and dip them back and forth through the deep end of the tray like I was making taffy. Also because I was working with bigger prints, the enlarger often wouldn't even extend to a height that I wanted, so I'd have to take it off the base and lay it on the floor, removing the print shelf and exposing large sheets of paper that were taped to the wall several feet away. Even the radio in the room had seen better days, and in order to play a cassette you had to jam a screwdriver in next to the tape because the door that was supposed to hold it was missing. On a large number of evenings and afternoons, I'd come out of that room stinking of stop bath and toner, but somehow the work created there felt special to me because I'd put time into getting it running again and it had been my personal darkroom for a couple weeks.
Over the course of this weekend, I spent the gift certificates that I got for Christmas, and picked up several things that I'd been wanting in terms of filling in the gaps in different media areas (books and music). I don't know if I've ever been at such a point where I have so many different unread books on my shelf that I'm excited about tearing through, or music in my listening stack that I haven't even gotten around to hearing yet. Reading and listening will probably occupy most of my day off tomorrow.
Although I don't agree with everything that Michael Moore says (I'm a reader of his website and several of the books that he's written), I went to Bowling For Columbine tonight and I seriously recommend that everyone should go and see it. His methods for interview (attack) aren't always fair to the people that he goes after, but the movie is entertaining, touching, and thought-provoking at the same time. I laughed aloud several times, gasped at the blunt comments people made (Charleton Heston especially), and damn near cried several times. The conversation and discussion that the movie generates is argueably more important than the movie itself (I saw it in a packed house with people of literally every age including grandparents and high-schoolers). Some of the footage and film was downright hard to watch (the security camera footage from Columbine itself), and for all the times that Michael Moore goes a bit far in some of his assessments, I'm glad that he's there as a counterweight for right-wing blowhards like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly.
Our first show downtown as a group went off not quite as we had planned. After a soundcheck in which everything seemed to be at proper volumes, we lined up and got ready to swing with our first track of the evening, only to find that sound was intermittent from my laptop. The source of the problem wasn't in the laptop itself, but in two seperate cords with faulty innards. After over 15 minutes of fiddling around (and at one point waving our hands up and almost saying 'to hell with it'), we patched things in a rather rudimentary way and busted through as many tracks as we could before our time was up (which turned out to be only 3 and a half). Once we got rolling, things went fine, but I was a bit sad that things didn't go off as planned and apologized to everyone that would listen. The crowd was cool about it, though (we didn't get pelted with anything), and we'll chalk it up as a learning experience. Now it's time to finish that little album we've been talking about for so long...
I know I mentioned it before, but the band that I'm in (Marianas) has a show tomorrow night. It was one of those things that came up unexpectedly, and given that we were working on trying to wrap things up with our album, I wasn't very excited about doing it initially. At the time we were notified, it was only a week until the show, and we hadn't worked on performing live material since our first show months ago. With a few practices, though, the majority of things came back to mind, and we worked a couple new tracks into the set while kicking some of the ones we didn't feel sounded quite as good. Having sat and listened to our recorded material so much in the past couple weeks, things had sort of started losing some of their lustre, but I think that getting out and playing live and (hopefully) getting some feedback will give us the kick in the pants we need to finally put the axe to the grindstone and finish things up with the actual release. Anyway, the show will be at Knickerbockers (southeast corner of 9th and O Streets) in Lincoln, Nebraska on Thursday the 16th. We're the first opening band, and we'll probably go on at about 9:00. If you make it out through the weather and snow (please be careful driving), come up and chat with us after the show. We'd like to hear what you have to say.
Even with the week as busy as it's been, I'm still managing to come out ahead on the different tasks that I try to do each week. Not only have I been managing to get more sleep than usual, but I've also been reading at least 20 pages each night before bed. I even have the music reviews written up for the update this Friday, and my neck is agreeing with me pleasantly. Upon hearing tonights weather report of possible snow for tomorrow afternoon and evening, I could hardly contain my excitement. The last time we had any measurable precipitation here was in early November, and lately I can feel my throat dry up with every breath and I have cracks in my right index finger so deep that they bleed if I don't keep a bandaid with vitamin E on it at all times.
Had a fairly productive day, and my neck seems to be getting back to near one-hundred percent again finally. Still on some muscle relaxers (which I've found hit me twice as hard if I haven't eaten enough food) and anti-inflammatories, but hopefully I can get off those in the next two days or so as well. It seems that the root of the problem that I've been having is with ergonomics. As a person who sits in front of a computer for 8 or more hours during the workday, then comes home to sometimes sit in front of one for 3 or more hours again, my bad posture and desk setups eventually caused a lot of strain and my body let me know (in an extreme way) that it wasn't going to take it anymore. Over the past week, I've made many improvements, including putting both my monitor at work (with the help of six phonebooks) and at home (an empty crate) at eye level (not an easy thing to do when I'm 6'6") and remembering to try to sit up as straight as possible all the time. While it's sort of annoying, at least it hasn't turned out to be something more serious, and it was probably good that my body gave me a wake-up call to get myself more orderly before something worse did happen.
Oh, and after a long hiatus with no entries, Lesion Legion has been updated with two new stories. Whew.
Finished A Confederacy Of Dunces today, and I must say that I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. After hearing mentions from several different friends whose opinion I trust, I picked it up and plowed right through it. A quick read, it follows the travails of one Ignatius Reilly, a book smart, socially-backasswards buffoon who stumbles around berating nearly everyone in his path while giving himself gastric problems worrying about the state of the world. A tricky little book, it makes fun of stereotypes and has a wild variety of different characters in commenting on social structure and just plain capturing the odd feel of New Orleans at the time it was written. I've been reading little bits out of Hollywood about some people wanting to make this into a movie, and doing so will be kind of tricky because of the fine line that all the characters walk. In these rumours, Philip Seymour Hoffman's name has been tossed around as the best candidate for I. Reilly. If it's true, that's a step in the right direction, as PSH is one of my favorite character actors, and it would be great to see him in a lead role (I can almost hear him exclaiming, "Oh, my valve!"). At any rate, I'd highly recommend the book if you're looking for a good piece of fiction (if my opinion doesn't count for much, know that it won a Pulitzer for fiction back in the day).
In the past couple weeks, I've had the same dream on several different ocassions. In it, everything is going normally, but then I feel one of my teeth is loose. As I start to wiggle it, I can feel that the teeth around it are all loose as well, and eventually they start falling out. In last nights dream, I felt that first loose tooth, only to open my mouth and have 8 different teeth fall into my hand at one time. The funny thing was how calm I was about it. Everyone around me was freaking out, but I was telling them to settle down, as I was sure the dentist could figure something out. (note: recently, someone told me that if you dream of your teeth falling out, it's a sign you're worried about your mortality, which maybe I've been doing more of lately given my strange ailments)
Was planning on going to the movies this evening, but there's still a bit of soreness in my neck, and I didn't want to make it worse by staring up at a screen for two hours. The next best thing was sitting at home, where I could put a heating pad on and rest my head against the back of the couch. Unfortunately, TG and I picked an absolutely horrible movie. For some reason, both of us had thought we'd heard good things about Pumpkin, but we must have heard wrong. A movie in which a rich, stuck up sorority girl falls for a guy with both mental and physical handicaps sounded like a good premise for some dark comedy and even poinant statements on how we view each other as humans, but tonally the film was all wrong. During the times it was supposed to be touching, they poured on the syrup, and it rolled into a parody of itself, while the attempts at humour fell flat almost every time as well. After 20 minutes, I got up and started doing some other things, only to sit down later and watch the trainwreck unfold (seemingly in slow motion, since it was almost 2 hours long). I enjoy satirical comedies if done well (although many will disagree with me, I think that Kids In The Hall: Brain Candy is one of the best of it's kind).
Well kids, it turns out that the band Marianas has another show, and it's a week from now. We're going to be opening for Mylow and Black Black Ocean at Knickerbockers on Thursday evening the 16th of January. We're cramming to get ready for the show while simultaenously trying to put the finishing touches on the album. We're getting closer all the time, and it's really starting to shape up and sound great. Hopefully other people will think the same thing.
Lingering pain in my neck/shoulder still, but it seems to be getting better every day, so that's encouraging at least. I run out of medicine within the next couple days, and if things don't seem like they're going to reach a resolution of some sort, it will be another trip to the doctor for me (X-rays? MRIs?).
A couple interesting music review section related things recently. First, the readers list is coming along quite well. After less than only two weeks, there have been 45 submissions from over 15 different countries. The eventual goal is to beat last years numbers (52 and 19 respectively), so that's well on the way. The second item is that in two seperate cases this week in selling on ebay, the buyer has mentioned that they read my site. That made me happy.
Still have some pain, but it seems to be subsiding a bit fortunately. In my unusually calm state, I've been plowing through books at a speedy rate, and have finished a book each of the past couple days (and may finish another if I sit down a little longer tonight). The aformentioned Crashing The Party was an infinitely frustrating read, making me feel like there isn't a whole lot I can do as one individual to help break the two-party stranglehold on the American political system (note: I didn't say 'democracy' there, because it has ceased to be one). Granted, I can still cast my vote and feel like I'm acting my part, but the corporations have a stranglehold and it seems that nobody in the current political system has any ideas for changing it (the McCain-Feingold plan is a good start, but ultimately quite lacking in nearly all areas). Ralph Nader is a good fellow, and even though many people feel like his party helped put the current administration in place, the 2000 race was Gore's to lose and he can only blame himself at this point (or one of the partisan Supreme Court judges that _his_ democratic party voted into place without so much as a peep). Reading the book opened up old wounds, but I would highly, highly recommend it if you're at all disenfranchised with the political system in this country (no matter what party you belong to).
I also recently finished Bagombo Snuff Box, which is a collection of short stories written by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Although I'm a huge, huge fan of his work, I can honestly say that this was probably my least favorite book that I've read by him. A collection of his earlier work, it's easy to tell that his writing isn't nearly as polished and his ideas aren't nearly as well-formed as his later and longer works. It will be easy to forgive him, as he's written some of my favorite fiction that I've read to date (Cats Cradle, Mother Night, and Slaughterhouse 5), but I'll have to wait awhile again before tackling one of the two books of his that I haven't read.
Thursday morning, I woke up with some pain in my neck, but went about my daily business thinking that it would clear up. Friday, I woke up and couldn't move my head without shooting, white-hot pain, so I went to the doctor and they prescribed me some medication and a steady diet of relaxing. Hopefully it's nothing more than the muscle spasms that they think it is... I'm cutting down on my computer time and taking it easy the rest of the weekend in hopes that I can clear this thing up.
Anyway, last night in my relaxed state, not much more than watching a movie was in order, so TG and I rented Sunshine State. Directed by John Sayles, it's another in his long line of somewhat odd little movies that have real moments of greatness. In terms of social commentary, the film is sweeping and all-reaching, touching on class, race, environmental issues and just about everything else. Although it definitely won't be for everyone, I found it very refreshing, even though some storylines felt a little trunicated. With roughly 10 different main characters, whose lives intertwine in different ways, that's bound to happen, but the fact that he keeps it moving along so well at all is a testament to the film and direction. A great little slice of life film, definitely recommended.
One thing that I do each year is keep track of how many books I've read for the year and how many pages each of them contains (sorry, I attribute that to my somewhat bizarre number fetish). This year, I managed to step it up just a notch from the year previous, and finished up 15 books for a total of almost 5400 pages worth of material. The pages read is sort of a loose guide of how much is actually read, since typefaces and kerning and all that jazz varies from book to book, but all I'm looking for is a rough estimate anyway.
At any rate, I was again lucky this year in that nearly all of the books I read were really, really good. Some of them were outstanding, and if you want to know my direct comments on any of the below, they can be found in the archives of this section (except for the Nader book, which I just finished and haven't yet written about here). If you're thinking about buying one and want any more of my words on it, just drop me an email, as I'd love to discuss/recommend something. Now, it's time for the final list...
I've been doing this section for a year now, and in terms of format, this seems to be the easiest and most interesting section for me to now keep going. I can write mini-reviews for different media that I consume, or talk about my life or whatever else I feel like. Coming on the heels of my somewhat constrained section of Come To My Senses, it's refreshing. I can take a day or more off if I feel like it, and then come back to it. I'll redesign it if I get bored at some point, but otherwise I think it will just keep on rolling along as it has been.
Had another little get-together at our place last night, and this time people showed up. Originally, we had planned for trivial pursuit and whatnot, but there was enough good conversation that we didn't even get around to it. With a large concentration of severe music geeks in the same general vicinity, talk sometimes spun into a nearly inescapable vortex of year-end lists and 'shop talk,' but things ended up mostly decently balanced (I think). For some reason, I didn't feel like taking pictures, so you'll just have to imagine what it was like if you weren't there. Think old-Rome debauchery and then go the opposite direction. Laid-back and fun, it was a good way to ring in the new year.
On another note, 2003 year was a pretty eventful one for me. It was the year that I finally got off my butt and got serious about creating some music (and luckily found two other people with a similar vision), and managed to continue most of the other things I was used to doing at the same time. I still found time to read (more on that in an upcoming entry) a fair amount, and although my writing output was down a bit, I still managed weekly reviews and an ocassional other piece. While I didn't keep up an exercise regimine as well as I would have liked to, I haven't fallen completely out-of-shape. I used to come up with semi-specific new years resolutions for myself, and while I mostly would meet them, I decided a couple years back that it wasn't really necessary. Instead, I'm just going to try to make this year another great one. It probably sounds like an easy way out of setting any goals for myself, but I think I know what it takes at this point in my life, so I just need to do it.