I took a long break from posting about political stuff, but it doesn't mean that I'm not thinking about it. On the contrary, I become more and more frustrated with our government each day. An interesting contrast on recent events includes the juxtaposition of this well-researched list of quotes (on a personal site no less) and this article in the Washington Times. I know that the government has always been a little less than responsible in both spending money and keeping track of things, but things like this are absolutely ridiculous. 1 trillion dollars in missing money from the Pentagon, including 56 airplanes, 32 tanks, and 36 Javelin missile command launch-units. No wonder there's no prosecution when it comes to big companies like Enron fleecing people for millions of dollars. It seems to be chump change considering how much waste there is in the government.
The reason that I stopped posting for awhile is that I found that people just don't want to hear it. I'll admit that I get frustrated once in awhile (so much that I don't want to talk about it), but it by no stretch means that I don't want to think about it. Things (huge freaking problems) get swept under the carpet so quickly anymore that it astounds me. People were talking about campaign finance and election reform after the 2000 election, but that went away real quick. After the accounting scandals at the aformentioned Enron and other companies, there was talk of corporate reform, but that was forgotten in the wake of 9/11. We went to Afganistan and cleaned house, only to forget about that country when Iraq and their huge stockpiles of WMD came along. Now, it seems that people have already forgotten that our whole justification for the war was finding said WMD's and thusfar it's been a wild goose chase. Hell, at least North Korea admits to having nuclear weapons, but we're not going after them for some reason (*cough* they don't have oil *cough*).
See, I get worked up too easy. I can't just sit back and watch "American Idol" or "Extreme Makeover" and simply forget about things. I'm trying not to be fooled by the fools in charge and although I dread the 2004 campaign kicking into gear, I hope that people don't roll over and forget about all the stupid shit that the current administration has done over the course of the past few years. Damn, I better breath deep...
Okay, that's my only political post for awhile. I'll get back to talking about housework (TG bought a weedwacker tonight!), band stuff (we think we have an upcoming show, but it still haven't been set in stone so I can't talk about it yet), and music (new reviews, sucka).
In the past couple months, I've slowly seen my reading totals taper off and then almost completely fall by the wayside. Since moving into the house, it seems like I'm always busy with something else, and by the time I get around to my usual reading time (just before going to sleep), I'm so exhausted that I simply decide to shut off the light and call it a day. After a long break in not finishing anything, though, I finally finished a book today again. Broken Vessels was the first work that I'd read by Andre Dubus since I'd read a couple of his short stories in college, and I remembered why he struck me so much with so few words. Although this was a batch of non-fiction essays as opposed to the short fiction that I'd read years ago, the same measured voice came through and reminded me why I liked him in the first place. Although it gets a touch mushy in a couple different places (the more sentimental stories), there are also some absolute stunners, including the essays he wrote after losing both of his legs in a freak car accident. I'll have to check out some more of his short fiction and essays when I get the chance. His short story "The Doctor" is still one of the best that I've ever read.
Another side effect (albeit a good one) of finishing the book today was that I was again motivated to start reading a little more regularly. Who knows how long it will last, but I'm already almost 50 pages into a book that I started after arriving home from grocery shopping this evening. Hopefully it won't take me 2 months to finish it as well.
In looking back over the 5 books that I've read this year already, I just noticed that 4 of them were short story and/or essay collections. That makes perfect sense, as the first 5/12ths of this year have been some of the most hectic months that I've ever had. Short story and essay collections don't involve a lot of committment, and it makes them good reading even while being physically and mentally displaced. I have a couple actual full-length books on my shelves that I've gotten recently that I want to eventually start, but I'll probably have to wait until I get more into the mode of reading almost every night again, or until my life simply settles down a bit (which doesn't look to be anytime soon).
Like Jason and his movie marathon, this weekend has been filled with media for me already. On Friday night, TG and I relaxed after getting a few things done (managed 10 miles on the rollerblades after work) and rented Apaptation, which I'd meant to see when it was at the theater but never had the chance. I'd heard lots of varying opinions on the film, but I came away thinking that it was pretty great. Granted, it's one of the more strange films that I've seen in a long time simply in terms of plot and the absolutely huge number of ideas thrown into the mix, but that's part of what makes it so successful. There are deep ruminations on the creative process (and the frustrations involved with it), looking past the surface level of things to find more than you've barganed for, as well as tons of other things that I'm not even touching on here. Basically, it's completely all over the place, and the fact that it manages to keep things sustained at all is a huge credit to it. At any rate, recommended if you like peculiar films.
On Saturday morning, I got up at a decent time and basically relaxed for awhile before again tackling work in the master bedroom. Ended up getting a lot more of the fine detail work done on the woodwork, and I started ripping out the carpet as well. Things are coming along slowly, but surely.
Again had a relaxing evening watching movies, and we rented Mona Lisa, which was an earlier film by Neil Jordan. Since it was a Criterion Collection disc, I figured we wouldn't go wrong, but there was something about the film that just didn't keep me very enthralled. All the performances were great, and the seedy subject matter was fairly interesting, but it just didn't thrill me a whole lot. Good, but not great. If you're looking for a slightly-gritty British thriller, check it out.
Because TG had never seen it, we also rented The Shawshank Redemption. I hadn't seen it in quite some time, but I remembered it being quite good the first time I watched it and it didn't let me down on this repeated viewing. Lots of great performances, and it's still easily Frank Darabont's best film to date (his mush factor went off the charts in subsequent films it seems). Probably in my top 20 favorite films of all time, actually. Just a downright enjoyable film.
So yeah, I just posted the 1000th (and more) review over in ye olde music review. What I thought I would be excited about doing a couple months ago has simply become another update. Instead of trying to do anything fancy or run a contest, I've decided to just play it sort of low key. I guess it just sort of pertains to where I feel I am right now at this particular juncture in my life. While I'm happy and somewhat proud (I don't know of too many personal review sites with such a number) of the fact that I've written so many reviews, I also don't really place a whole lot of value on it for some reason. I enjoy doing it still, but I always sort of question whether it's worth the time and effort. I wonder if I should be spending my time doing other things, and despite traffic to the section steadily increasing over time, I still often wonder if anyone gives a shit.
Really, though, those are the sorts of questions that I shouldn't let bother me. Although I've always paid a lot of attention to how many people are coming through my site (it's mainly the numbers game in my head), it's never been about getting the most readers or anything like that. If I wanted an increased readership, there are some really simple ways that I could change my writing style (be more 'controversial,' etc) that would easily bring in more people. People (and I'll admit that I fall into this category sometimes unfortunately ) love to see artists and their work shredded by critics, but the majority of my reviews are sort of the antithesis to that. Instead of looking at little holes to pick at or giant holes to swing a sledgehammer through, I'll often times try to find even small things that I enjoy about a disc that may not completely do it for me. While I have written somewhat negative reviews on the site, there has never been a personal vendetta involved, nor have I simply slammed someone just for the sake of doing so. Especially since I've worked in a band recently and released a CD, I know how hard it is to get someone to review your work, and I've tried to help give a good review to lots of little unknown bands that I thought were doing something interesting and creative. In the end, I'm only one person, and it probably doesn't mean a whole lot anyway. Although I didn't start out at quite the pace I'm at now, it took me just under 6 years to accumilate the number I'm at now. The above statements probably make it sound like I'm burned out on the entire thing, but that's not really the case. I just over analyze things too often, and this is yet another case of such.
Was on a roll there last week, posting three whole days in a row before dropping back to my usual sporatic updates. So it goes, though. Life is keeping me busy around here, and I don't really even have a whole lot of news to report on any front. One thing that I must mention is that the weather has been pretty fabulous lately, at least in my eyes. Considering the past few springs have seemingly skipped out on the mild weather and dove right into the brutally-hot range, this extended spring of slightly cool temperatures is doing me right, especially since we don't have air-conditioning in the house. Leave the windows open at night and have been sleeping like a rock, even with the trains making their noise off in the distance and an ocassional ambulance siren a couple blocks away.
Had sort of a laid-back week on the house repair front, but I plan to again tackle things full-on starting Saturday morning as soon as I wake up. This week has mainly been devoted to working on music of some sort, and I've been programming a ton of new beat loops and stuff for possible Marianas use, and possibly just to have laying around for fun. Last weeks sampling session yielded a huge batch of interesting sounds to play with, so things have been flowing a little bit easier with the new sonics to choose from. In other group news, there still haven't been any music reviews of our album posted anywhere, but we may actually have a live show set up for next month at one of the better venues in town. Still not a definite confirmation on that one, but I'll make sure to note any changes. Fun band link of the day: see what happens when I start a thread about Marianas on the Saddle Creek Music Message Board (nothing too bad, actually).
For some reason, I always think that I'm going to have more time on the weekend for doing things, but that's pretty much a farce lately. Luckily, I've been able to sleep in a little bit and catch up somewhat, but I've been going pretty frantically of my days off. This weekend, TG and I actually went out to a movie for once instead of staying in, but we decided to stay away from the crowds at The Matrix: Reloaded and instead went to see A Mighty Wind. It's not secret round these parts that I'm a huge fan of Christopher Guest and all of his mockumentary films (Spinal Tap, Waiting For Guffman, and Best In Show), and even though I'd read some mixed reviews on this newest film, it didn't deter me.
I'm glad that I didn't listen to the naysayers, because I thought it was one of his better films. It's hard to get better than any of the aformentioned, and instead of trying to out-laugh them, it remained a good film by simply doing things slightly different. While many of the characters in the film had their neurosis (who doesn't?), it seemed to be a lot more fond of everyone in general. There were moments where you were laughing directly at someone, but there were also some downright touching parts as well (seriously!). Anyway, if you haven't gone and seen it and you enjoyed any of the aformentioned films, you should go and see it now.
I also forgot to mention that instead of practice this last Thursday evening (AG was in Lawrence), Ryan came over and we went sample crazy. Instead of tweaking the presets and doing the beats and programming that way, we're going to try to create every single sound ourselves. That probably doesn't sound like much of a feat, but sifting through almost 6 minutes of clacks, scrapes, thumps, and squeaks is tedious work, especially when you have to do a slight bit of filtering with each one, as well as fade it in and out. At any rate, I have a whole slew of new sounds, and tonight I went on a programming frenzy and (I think) there some neat sounds that have come out of it all.
Over the course of the past couple weeks, I've been trying to decide whether or not I will do something to celebrate the posting of the 1000th review in my music review section when it rolls around next week. I did little contests when I posted my 500th and 750th reviews, but I'm going back and forth on whether I should do anything for the even bigger milestone. Of course, one of the things that's been holding me back on any of it is that I've just been too busy to plan anything special anyway. I also waffle back and forth on whether it's even that big of a deal. Sure, I've quietly amassed a lot of writing, but when it comes right down to it, does it really amount to much? My thoughts are that I've hoped to help some people find music that really moves them, because I know how much music plays a factor in my life, but that's all I can hope for. That, and it's still a lot of fun for me to do it. If it ever becomes more of a chore than a joy, I'll have to shut it down.
Another part of the equation is that my fascination with 1000 reviews may in fact be related to my overall obsession with numbers and statistics. Ah, anyway, I guess I'll see what I decide in the next week (provided I actually write number 1000). Speaking of which, numbers 995, 996, 997, 998, 999 went up in this weeks batch.
TG thought that since I'd chronicled the various pets that I'd noticed in the neighborhood, a good idea would be to also chronicle the non-pet animals that I've seen as well since we moved in. There are a couple unique animals, and I'll expand on those a little more below...
- lots of squirrels (including 2 with half-white tails)
- red-headed woodpecker
- 2 doves
- 2 cardinals
- lots of bats
- several blackbirds
- several robins
- several bluejays
- small garter snake (seen on two seperate occasions in the neighbors garden)
Although I may have mentioned it before, it's true that we have two somewhat odd squirrels that live in our neighborhood. I don't see them very often, but it's easy to notice them because the two both have tails that are about half white in color. Not sure how they got that way, but it makes them easy to spot amongst the droves of normal squirrels.
It's true that there are also a lot of bats in this neighborhood. In the most-recent house that we rented, I hardly ever noticed bats in the sky at night, but in this neighborhood I can see them almost every night I go out when it's reasonably clear. It's an old neighborhood with lots of trees and some larger-sized houses with chimmneys and lots of overhangs, so I imagine it provides a good environment for them to live. I actually like the creatures quite a bit, and their quiet little squeaking noises are neat to hear at night. Not only that, but I'm sure they help keep the bug population down a bit.
Finally, we have a flicker who has made his home in one of the trees in our backyard. We'd heard his distinctive call many a times and seen him (or her) flying around and sometimes heard tapping, but it wasn't until the other evening that we looked up and saw that there was quite a good sized hole (in a dead portion, so no worries) of one tree in the back. We tried to take a picture of his new little wood condominium, but my digital camera doesn't have the best zoom lense on it and the bird was hard to make out against the gray bark of the tree anyway. Take my word for it, it's a cool little bird.
After living in the new neighborhood for a couple of weeks now, I've made little mental notes of different things that I see and hear. One of the things that I've slowly catalogued is the different pets in the surrounding area. I'm a big animal person, and TG and I plan on getting either a dog or a cat or both at some point, but until then there are the following pets within two blocks alone.
- old bassett hound
- seemingly stray black cat who walks through our yard once every couple days
- tiny brown chihauhua (well-trained, walks with owners without a lease)
- sheltie (likes to bark a lot)
- black and white cat (indoor only thusfar, have only seen through windows)
- old bassett hound (part two)
- young chocolate lab (cute!)
- large pit bull who barks one or twice really loud when seeing me to make his presence known
- beagle who absolutely freaks out and barks every time I walk by
- small cute tabby cat who only comes out once in awhile (when owner is watching)
As can be seen from the above list, it's definitely more of a dog neighborhood, but none of them are annoyingly obnoxious in their barking habits (although I have groggily swore at one of them when it woke me up early one Saturday). What's worse than all of them put together is a small remote control car that races around most nights and sounds like like a weed wacker on steroids. Maybe it will crash and break soon (one can only hope).
Ah sheesh. Another crazy couple of days and I don't even know what to write about. Spent a day off from work on Friday stripping paint in what will eventually (a repeated refrain) be the master bedroom. It's getting much closer, and with some more work I think I can get it down to the wood. That will require lots of sanding, including a lot of elbow grease and a fancy respirator, but I'm up for the task. Anyway, instead of posting a ton tonight, I'll just post a picture of the sweet new headphones that TG got me awhile back. I'd meant to post something when I got them, but forgot. Vintage Pioneer bubble-ears. Sweet!
I'll be back with more when my brain is firing on all synapses.
Tonight, TG cooked up one of the best mealss that I've had in a long time, and that includes eating out at different restaurants. She put together a batch of homemade ravioli, and it easily rivaled any ravioli that I've ever eaten. She made pesto from scratch with fresh basil, made pasta from scratch, and whipped everything together into something that was flat-out amazing. I'll be the first to admit that I sometimes wolf down my food a little too quickly, but this evening I was literally savoring every single bite, even taking much smaller bites than I normally would simply to make it last longer. Combined with only a single glass of wine, I literally felt a bit tipsy after eating, but it was a really nice thing. Food buzz central. Take that Emeril, you little bitch!
I don't know if I've mentioned it yet or not, but this year is shaping up to be a humdinger (yes, I used that word) in terms of great music. Towards the end of last year, I found myself slightly let down by several albums, but there have already been at the very least 20 good releases this year, and 5-10 of those range from great to flat-out amazing. A couple of them are reviewed in this weeks new review update, and I have a couple more on my desk that I'm digging as well. Speaking of reviews, after three-plus weeks we're still holding out for the first review of the Marianas debut CD. Who's going to step up to the plate? C'mon! Bring it!
Saying that I'm having another busy week will probably sound redundant, but it's the bitter truth when you lead the life of a rockstar. Uh wait, did I say rockstar? I meant to say homeowner. Yeah, that's it. With all the recent rain showers, everything has been growing like mad, and that includes the grass. Although I don't live in a neighborhood with crazy neighbors that will knock on my door if my lawn reaches over a certain height, I still feel compelled to keep it shorn pretty nicely most of the time. There are probably two reasons for this, and one of them is that I'm always needing grass clippings to add to the compost pile that TG and I started by the back shed when we first moved in. Although it was sort of just a novelty at first, I have to admit that I've become sort of obsessed with putting every single remaining kitchen scrap into it and turning it whenever I get the chance. Because of this, there's always some seriously thick and goupy compost kicking up to the top of the pile and releasing a bit of unsavory aroma. When this happens, I toss a little dirt and some grass clippings on it to clear things up. I've taken such a liking to doing this work that I not only don't mind the earthy smell of everything as it decomposes, but I've given the compost pile a name and sometimes say, "I'm going out back to feed Seymour" (bonus points for getting the easy name reference).
So yeah, maybe I'm a little on the crazy side, but things are going well. Our herb garden is going off, and I could squat and put my face in the basil for minutes on end, inhaling the lovely scent. Both our tomato plants and strawberries already have blooms on them, and the grape vine going up the pergola has been sprouting leaves and blooms like nobody's business as well. Maybe we'll have to learn how to make wine.
When we were looking at the house the first time, one of the little things that caught our eye was an odd little toilet that made its home in the main floor bathroom. As it turns out, it was called a teapot toilet and it was from Sweden, so we naturally took a liking to it (being fanciers of the Scandanavian design). It really is a neat little toilet, but upon moving in we realized that it wasn't all it seemed to be. In addition to having an affinity for running all the damn time, the back of the toilet was far less accessible than most toilets (requiring that you screw a little plastic plunger hold off before taking the top off), the back of the toilet is curved in a nice way that makes it near impossible for someone like me (with larger hands) to get inside the tank and fidget around and fix things. Over the course of taking the back of the toilet off roughly 10 or 15 times in 4 weeks or so, I eventually just started using the other toilet in the house unless I absolutely had to, knowing that the little teapot toilet would just give me a headache anyway.
Last weekend, though, I sat down with it and turned the water off and took the innards apart and even managed to get it back in complete working condition. It's still a little cranky in terms of wanting to run, but a little jiggle of the handle fixes that right away. Goddamn cute little toilet.
This weekend was spent starting and finishing an entire project, and it's nice to have one small thing done and out of the way in regards to the different things that we want to complete with the house. The problem was that the upstairs bathroom in the house was papered with a rather horrible design and the wood trim was painted a sort of two-week old peach color that pretty much sucked the life out of you upon entering. Since the bathroom is already small to begin with, we decided that a quick (and fairly inexpensive) solution would be to repaint the entire thing. Yesterday afternoon, we went and picked out our paint (a light blue called Scandanavian Sky or something like that), then went to work. After getting a good portion of it done, we shut things down at about 12:30 in the morning and crashed hard.
After a lazy morning and lunch with my family, I got rolling on it again, and had things cleaned up and finished by about 6 this evening. Total time spent repainting (all walls, trim, and the ceiling) was probably right about 10 hours, and it only took that long because there are so many odd corners and little things to paint around. Now that all the towel racks and everything are back up in there, it looks like a completely different room, and it gets me excited to kick things in gear on the master bedroom in order to finish stripping wood off the trim so we can start patching the plaster and do the rest of the work in there.
If I'd remembered to take pictures of it before we started, I could have a real "This Old House" moment right about now, but instead I'll leave you with a picture of the cool centipede that TG took a picture of this evening as he was crawling in our kitchen sink.
Typical Friday night of relaxing before digging in and trying to get a lot of things done this weekend. Did a little work in the yard, then TG and I rented Sex And Lucia. I'd seen a preview for it many months ago, but it never played around here and I was excited to finally see it. After sitting through it, I have to admit that it's much more strange than I thought it would be. The first quarter of the movie plays out like it's going to be fairly straightforward erotica, then the film takes sort of a twist backward in time (one of many) and shows the intersection of several different lives and what happens to everyone. Some moments in the film are just flat-out really weird and/or creepy, but I enjoyed it for the most part. Definitely not your standard fare.
One month ago, we (Marianas) released our first CD to the mostly unknowing public. With overrun at the plant (a fairly standard practice), we got a total of 523 copies of it. To date, we've sold between 45-50 copies, many of them to people we know, but a fair batch to people outside our sphere as well. Overall, we've gotten some nice comments back from people, and it's been a pretty good experience so far. Several weeks ago, we also sent out a slew of review copies to different publications (online and off) that we're still hoping to get reviews from at some point (nothing yet, though, even no mention from the locals). We've even managed to get copies of our CD at Insound.com (search for Marianas, or for fun Sigur Ros, Hood, or Fridge) and local stores in the area (haven't checked back with most of them, so I'm not sure if we've sold anything at this point) in addition to selling through the website. Even with all of the above, we've reached a bit of an impasse in terms of sales. We're honing our live show and tying down some other ends, and all we can hope for is the word to slowly trickle out. Regardless, it's been fun so far and we have no intentions of stopping (oh, and did I mention that at least one small label is showing interest in our next release?).
Speaking of music, this is the first weekend in a month that I'm not leaving town for a show. Time to get cracking on some other things. On that note, there are some new reviews up, including one for the album that will possibly be my favorite of the year (Broken Social Scene - You Forgot It In People). It's one of those releases that gets better with every listen and is just so damn good.