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It turns out that just going to bed early and reading a little bit was just what I needed. Not only did I feel better this morning after getting more sleep than usual (ie more than 6 hours), but I managed to finish off a book just before I turned out the light last night. A couple months ago, I picked up David Guterson's The Country Ahead Of Us, The Country Behind nearly at random from a thrift-store shelf. The cover photo was striking and caught my eye, but it turned out that Guterson was also the author of Snow Falling On Cedars (I'd seen the movie and enjoyed it, but not read the book). At any rate, I was itching for some short fiction, and The Country Ahead Of Us... is a batch of his shorter works. It was a quick read, and the stories were all quite good, with several that really stood out for me. The closing story of "The Flower Garden" is pretty much worth the price alone. He writes a lot about memories of childhood and infatuations with sports that fade in light of other things, and many of those things struck a chord with me (as a grade and high-school kid who was thoroughly obsessed with sports, but soon moved onto other things). Although his stories mainly fell about a generation ahead of me, they still resonated deeply, and I'd definitely recommend it if you're in the mood for some brief stories that are reflective without being overly depressing.

New reviews again this week, including number 950. I think I'm going to need a moment of silence when I reach 1000 later this year.

I realize that I haven't posted any photos yet this year. It's not that there's nothing interesting enough to be photographed, it's simply that I've forgotten to pull my camera out as much as I should. I carry one around in the pocket of my heavy jacket that I've been wearing nearly every day this year, yet it somehow still manages to slip my mind that it's lunking against my ribs. Eventually, it will come out of hiding and there will be a little more color around here.

I don't think I've ever had so many things going on at once as I do now. Every waking moment is filled with something it seems, and so tonight I'm going to turn off the computer before midnight and just lay down in bed and read for awhile. I'm going to need little breaks like that in the next month, because it's just going to keep on continuing at this frenetic pace.

So it seems that things have finally reached a finalization point with the album. I know that's a familiar refrain around here, but tonight we listened to the album completely from start to finish and after some absolutely minor tweaks (including last minute song changes and artwork finalization), it will go out priority mail to the pressing plant this week. It's all kind of exciting and a bit nervewracking at the same time. On one hand, it's kind of a leap of faith, investing what is a fair amount of money in 500 copies of an album that basically only three people have heard to date. It's a hope that at least some of those will sell, and although the primary reason when starting the group wasn't to make money with the music, it would be nice if people were interested in the album and we sold a couple copies. On the sheer wonder side of it, the whole album thing will finally be a reality (in about a months time). I've been a huge music obsessive freak for quite some time, and once those albums come back, my name will be sitting alongside a couple others, and even if we don't sell a single copy (which I hope doesn't happen), we'll have at the very least put forth the effort and time to push things clear through to serious, and somewhat significant point. I'm rambling and I'm excited, and I'll quit mentioning it until we have copies in our hands...

Between the packing and the scooping (more snow!) and other things that needed done today, I sat down for awhile and got quite a bit of work done on a new track. I'd been kicking around ideas, and even started something the evening previously, but things weren't going too well by the time I went to bed and I decided to pretty much scrap what had been started. Sitting down in front of the computer the next day, I had thought about things a little bit more, and decided to go at it from a slightly different angle. I had a concept that I wanted to work with (create a track using only one sound sample, no longer than 1 second long), but because of that limiting structure, I gave myself the freedom to manipulate it however I saw fit. With snow and ice on my brain still, I managed to create something that I was pretty happy with over the course of the day (working in small stints, then coming back and adding parts later). It's not anything amazing, but once I decide that I'm happy with it, I'll probably throw it up on the site here at some point in the future.

The last couple days have been an absolute frenzy of packing and rearranging. Up to 10 boxes of books packed, and it looks like the grand total might clock in somewhere at about 20 or possibly slightly less. I'd be lying if I said that a majority of them are mine, as TG's literary background completely puts mine to shame. The interesting thing is that like our CD collections, we didn't really have a lot of titles that overlapped, yet we still have plenty of different books and writers to talk about. As time progresses, I'm sure that I'll dip into her side a little more, and she may explore a bit of what I've populated my shelves with, and that's part of the fun of it all (just like the fact that I didn't much get into dub until after I'd met her). At any rate, we decided to get rid of the small amount of doubles that we did have, and got some credit at the excellent local used book store for future purchases of some sort (home improvement books quite possibly).

While looking through our collection, I also realized something else that makes me quite happy, and that's the fact that we have a lot of cool oversized picturebooks. While we have a whole slew of 'serious' books between us, ranging from Faulkner to Hemingway to Sagan to O'Connor, we also have a really nice assortment of books that are just nice to sit and look at. We have everything from Edward Gorey collections and Edward Weston books to oddball ones on The Heathman Hotel and a day in the life of America (an excellent, although somewhat dated picturebook). I can't forget the whole batch of Shel Silverstein, either.

I haven't completely dropped off the face of the planet, things have just been rather busy lately. The house thing is still coming along, and there was an inspection and all that entails earlier this week that went fine. Lots of paperwork and the business that goes with it. In addition to that, we've been crunching along and trying to finish up everything with the CD as well. Right now, it's down to artwork and a couple last minute tweaks in the mixes. Should be sending it out to get pressed early next week.

The whole war thing just doesn't want to go away. The amount of prose that's been spilled in argument of both sides is pretty staggering, but there are still the rare articles that seem to be a little more lucid than the rest. This is one of them. Lately, though, I've found myself siding with Mr. Pollack in simply saying Just Shut Up!

Finally, the weekly new reviews.

I have a bad habit of getting rid of things, but then aquiring things during the same process. This couldn't have been more evident than this weekend, when I was ditching a bunch of CDs at the local music store, but found myself using store credit to pick up several other things that I'd been wanting. It's a vicious circle I tell you, but at least I'm getting rid of more things than I'm bringing in.

Judging from a mean average while scooping the driveway this morning (which was quite a good workout, I must say), it seems like we must have gotten about 5 inches or so of snow over the course of the last day. The important thing is that we also got some rain before that, because we're lacking pretty severely in that department in nearly the entire state. Most of the day was spent getting different things done around the house, which was nice for once. I even made a big batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies this evening, and in the time that I was waiting for the individual sheets to bake, I set out packing up some of our book collection (which TG and I decided would be first to get boxed). I managed to fill 4 medium-sized boxes (much larger would make them almost too heavy to lift), and judging from the empty spaces on the shelves, I may have gotten about one-fourth to one-fifth done. A small dent in the forthcoming packing frenzy...

The snow is coming in quickly now, as it has been for the past 2 hours or so. The forecast is for 5-7 inches of the stuff, which could make driving pretty interesting tomorrow since we had a good bit of rain before it actually snowed. I took a day off to tie up some loose ends, and it was packed with media. I sang myself nearly hoarse on errand-running trips, then stopped by the music store on the way home and found a couple CDs (Venetian Snares, Calla) that I'd wanted to check out for awhile. It seems that every time I go to trade things in earnest, I end up finding several things that I need to aquire. At least it was a straight trade...

When I got home, I ordered some takeout (all the benefits of eating out, without the mad rush of the Valentine's Day crowd!), then finished Eiger Dreams. After becoming enbroiled in a rather large Carl Sagan book and getting bogged down by it a bit, I picked up the aformentioned Krakauer (author of both the excellent Into The Wild and Into Thin Air) and plowed through it in about 4 days. A collection of short stories, it made for rather quick reading, which was a good break for me. I didn't enjoy it quite as much as his other books, simply because the stories weren't as deeply involving, but there were definitely some interesting little reads, especially the pieces on the deadly summer at K2 and the crazy Burgess brothers.

After hearing from quite a few different sources that it was a good flick, TG and I rented Igby Goes Down tonight. Although I thought there were some good moments, the movie overall pretty much bored and frustrated me. I didn't really care for any of the characters (except for the one played by Bill Pullman, but he was in the film so little it didn't make much difference) and when it was over, the only emotion I could remember feeling while watching it was annoyance. I don't mind teen angst movies, or even ones in which there don't seem to be any real redeemable characters, but it just felt like everyone was trying so damn hard to make you notice that THEY HAVE PROBLEMS (which seemed to be the only point the plot hung on). I felt like it was trying to capture a Catcher In The Rye sort of feel, but it just didn't do it for me.

Band practice tonight was sort of funny. Since we're getting so close to finishing up the release, we actually sat down and talked business for once. Figuring out which labels we'll send EP samplers to and how we're going to do mailorder and all the little details like that. As usual, it was laid-back. I think this whole band thing is going pretty well...

The familiar refrain, new reviews.

One of the exciting pieces of news is that I recently purchased a house. There's still a pending house inspection next week, and a couple more things to hash out, but if all goes as planned (and I don't see any reason it shouldn't), we'll be moving already in late March. TG and I are super excited about the big old place. It's a two-story house built in 1926, and although it needs some touch-up work, it has a lot of charm already, and we can't wait to get in there and make it our own. I'll try to post some pictures of it once I get the chance to take some.

In addition to that, we're planning on finishing up the CD and sending it out to the pressing plant within the next week. At this point, nearly everything is done, and we're just making sure that things are all fit and tight and perfect. If all goes as planned with that, we should have a batch of 500 CDs arriving to us sometime in mid-March. Much excitement (as well as crazy busy-ness) in the future.

Exciting news will be breaking in the next couple days. Damn, I need some sleep.

After a day spent in Omaha antiquing around and music shopping, we hung out with our friend Amanda and had some tasty food. On the heels of a quick visit, we rushed back to Lincoln for a 5-band blowout to help fund the pressing of a compilation CD for the new Lincoln collective called "A Situation." We ended up arriving about 40 minutes after it started, and unluckily for us missed the one band that we wanted to see the most (unsure of the lineup, we thought we'd be missing someone else...). Appy Polly Loggies go out to Malcom and the Post Trendies, but the remainder of the night was pretty darn fun as well. A good little mix of artists and a great cause. It's always inspiring to see other musicians playing live when you're in a band yourself. Although we've only played 2 shows now, we're getting to the point where we're going to ramp up a bit and hopefully get a few more.

Peep this! The Bush fam loves the red ink!

I wasn't feeling to hot tonight, so TG and I decided to stay in and watch some movies, which is what we end up doing many Friday evenings anyway. At any rate, we picked out both About A Boy and Monster's Ball, thinking that a lighthearted movie offset with a more serious one would be a decent way to go.

Although I suggested otherwise, we ended up watching the happier movie first (About A Boy), and we both enjoyed it a lot. I haven't seen Hugh Grant in too many movies, but he seemed to fit his character quite well in this flick, and overall it was touching without being sappy. A very enjoyable flick, with a great soundtrack to boot (by Badly Drawn Boy, with other tracks sprinkled in for good measure). On the other side of the coin, Monster's Ball was pretty much what I'd expected it to be. Up until the final one-quarter or so, it was almost relentlessly depressing, but overall there was redemption and just enough hope at the end to keep it from being oppressive. Given my current mood, even little slivers of hope and goodwill mean a lot to me, and while there were a couple things about the movie that bugged me (overt symbolism!), overall I thought it was pretty darn good. Billy Bob Thornton is easily one of my favorite actors, and I honestly can't remember him giving a performance I didn't care for. Halle Berry was excellent as well (in the roll she won an oscar for), and heck, even P. Diddy was quite believable in his short appearance.

Over the course of the past couple weeks or so, I've been going through a bit of a rough spot. Although my immediate appearance doesn't usually betray it, I've been letting state, nation, and world events weigh on my thoughts too much lately. I admit that it's important to stay abreast of what's going on in the world, and I try to read news and devour events with a nearly insatiable appetite, but I think I've reached some sort of burn-out saturation point, because it's been really hard for me to shake the feelings I've had lately. I feel like there's a minority in control of our country that doesn't really care what the majority of its populace (or the rest of the world) thinks. I agree that Saddam is a valid threat (if not to us, then others), but there are more than one madman out there in the world, and it's very possible that the human race as we know it could come to an abrupt halt in my lifetime.

This isn't the first time that someone has had thoughts like this, and talking to my Mom this evening, I realized that the world has gone through similar and just as valid of scares before. I guess I should be lucky that I don't have to go through duck-and-cover exercises at work, but I guess what it comes down to is that I've completely lost my innocence with the world. Being born in the mid-70s, I was never old enough to really know fear from the outside world. Growing up in the United States, one can easily shield themselves from what's going on internationally, and I did that for a long time. I don't know whether to be happy that I'm at least fairly educated about the issues in today's world, or whether I should simply stick my head back in the sand and try to forget it all.

The thing that's important for me to realize is that I simply can't wish for things to change and the world will suddenly be better. I can vote whenever I have the chance and talk with people about current issues, but constantly worrying about what the president and his cronies are going to do next will do nothing but make me lose my hair. There has to be a fine line I can walk that will allow me to function as an informed person, but won't leave me feeling gutshot all the time. While still paying attention to what's going on, I'm going to try to shift more of my focus to the people and things that I care about, and hopefully that will in turn lead to me being happier as well. I'm lucky to have the people around me that I do, and I need to make sure they know that.

Last nights fun practice must have been a nice boost for me, because tonight I had one of my most productive nights in quite awhile. Over the course of the evening, I took out the trash, helped do some laundry, got some dinner together, tinkered around with starting a new track, finished off preliminary mastering on a majority of the album, and even managed to write several reviews for the upcoming Friday update. Hopefully I can keep up this pace for awhile, as it might allow me to finally catch up with things that I need to get done.

Tonight was one of those band practices that started out fairly normally, but shifted quickly and became one of the best ones in recent memory. The album is pretty much finished at this point, with only some small tweaks before final mastering, and we chatted a bit before getting down to business with practicing some tracks that we'll play during a live show. Toward the end of the night, we started goofing around a bit with throwing some different things together, and the ensuing jam ended up lasting well over 30 minutes. That time is a bit misleading, as we didn't compose one 30-minute track on the spot, but there were many a cool sounds volleyed back and forth, and perhaps it will turn into something in the future. The more important part of it all, though, was that after months and months of poring over every minute detail, we simply sat down and let things fly without worrying about whether we should be recording it (although in retrospect, it would have been nice) or trying to start a new track in earnest. Instead, it was simply about making some noise, and the fact that it sounded pretty damn cool was simply a bonus. It's a good sign to look around the room and see people laughing and smiling while creating some new sounds. Viva Marianas!

Although I'll admit I can be a bit highbrow when it comes to movies, I'll also be the first to admit that I have a weakness for some of the earlier comedies of the Zucker Brothers / Jim Abrahams team. I own Airplane on DVD, and I recently picked up Top Secret as well. After watching it again last night for the first time in a couple years, I must say that it's easily in my top 5 comedies of all times. Spoofing on everything from Elvis to war movies to adventure movies like Raiders Of The Lost Ark, it's similar to Airplane in that jokes are literally coming at the viewer every 10 seconds or so. There are so many absurdist sight gags, puns, and other random weird things that part of the appeal is watching it more than once to simply catch everything that's going on. Very highly recommended, and it includes a very young Val Kilmer (in one of his first films ever) giving a rather silly performance that works.

TG woke up before me today, and was out listening to the radio when she came in and woke me up to tell me that she thought something had gone wrong with the space shuttle. Since the 17th anniversary of the Challenger accident had only been a couple days earlier, upon first listen it sounded like it could have been related to that, but it soon became clear that another unfortunate accident had taken place. A sad thing to wake up to on a Saturday morning, but given the volatile nature of space flight in general, NASA's overall track record has been pretty stellar.

In other news, last night TG and I checked out About Schmidt. As with Election, the whole charm of seeing familiar locations (Omaha and Lincoln) on the big screen was sort of funny at first, but the film itself is definitely something that people shouldn't go into thinking that it's going to be a comedy. It's more of a sad, midwestern existential reflection on life, which shouldn't scare you away from going if you haven't yet. Jack Nicholson gives a great performance as a man who slowly comes to realize that he's gone through life being so guarded and focused that the things which should have been really important to him have been sacrificed for something that doesn't amount to much at all. It's a quiet and subtle piece with moments of uncomfortable humor, but it raises some good questions to the viewer as well. Not only that, but it has one of the best closing scenes of any movie I've seen in quite awhile. Very touching, and highly recommended.

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