7th straight day with temperatures over 90 and there's no end in sight. Although I ventured out just after dinner to do a little garden work, I stayed inside for the majority of the rest of the day, sitting at my computer and getting a bunch of things accomplished that I'd put off for some time. I really really hope that the weather breaks soon, the crops around here are starting to suffer pretty badly, and out West from here the grasshoppers plague is of biblical proportions. It seems like a majority of the country is either dry or on fire.
While cutting excess wax from a candle yesterday (when lit, it would simply gush down and extinguish the wick), I stupidly sliced my finger. Blood poured out of the small wound for about one minute, then quit just as quickly. I was talking to Aaron on the phone when it happened, so he got to hear me swearing and carrying on after giving myself the shiv.
After only 3 days of reading it, I burned through Stupid White Men by Michael Moore. As I mentioned a couple days back, I don't agree with all of his arguments, but think that he's definitely a good guy to have around. Sure, he harps on a lot of things over and over again, but with our collective consciousness evaporating and focusing on something new every couple days, it's good to bring up our past mistakes and hopefully learn from them. One thing I really enjoyed about the book were some of the final chapters in which he takes aim at the Democrats as well. While the majority of the book focuses on the Republicans (and G.W. especially), he doesn't mince words when pointing out the flaws of the softening Democratic party and how it has basically become a dirty mirror of the Republican one. Interestingly enough, the book was written well before either Sept 11th and the Enron and Worldcom collapses, and much of what he says in the book rings even more true after those big events. Although it's definitely not for everyone, it's a fascinating (yet entertaining and quick) read that I think will stir up a bit of fire in most people who read it. Go out and find a copy, or if you know me personally, borrow mine...
My friend Travis (from way back in college) stopped by with his wife Moyra, and it was good to see them both. They'd been in Honduras teaching for a year, so I got to hear some interesting stories and see a batch of pictures that made me want to pick up and leave for a vacation. Although I have a hard time meeting people, I had what I considered to be quite a few good friends in college, and now everyone is scattered all over the United States. New Mexico, California, Massachusetts, Minnesota. Everyone has sprinkled far and wide, but being situated right in the middle of the country has allowed me to see most people on their way from one place or the other. I'm sort of a friendly pit stop, which I don't mind at all. We have more guests staying this coming week, as friends of TG stop by on their coast-to-coast journey (east to west).
TG and I rented Gosford Park last night, and we both highly enjoyed it. It's one of the many movies I didn't get around to seeing when it was playing last year, and I'm glad that I finally caught up with it. Quite an excellent film with an absolutely solid cast and great direction. I'll have to see A Beautiful Mind before I can make my final assessment, but at this point I'm leaning toward the idea (as many people have been for some time) that Altman should have probably gotten the best director Academy Award rather than Ron 'Opie' Howard. The best film that Altman has done in years, it was a crafty little whodunnit, and I'd have to give it a final rating of 8 out of 10.
Even though this has been the hottest week of the year so far, I've actually enjoyed biking to work. My body has adjusted to the warmth, and with a self-made haircut last weekend, I barely crack a sweat on the way into work. On the way home, it's another story (I'm usually pretty damp by the time I've gone the 5.5 miles), but I'd still rather be pedaling home than sitting in my hot car without air conditioning. In fact, my car has been sitting for exactly a week now without being driven, which is sort of a nice feeling. Although I'm not anti-car in any way (I really enjoy driving the Volvo around and still need it to do a majority of things), it's a good feeling knowing that I don't have to rely on it all the time.
Had band practice this evening as usual (for Thursdays), which was hit or miss, but definitely had its moments. Some of the songs we started out with have evolved so much that they sound completely unlike their humble beginnings, which is a good thing. It's interesting hearing something evolve from a simple melody that was almost thrown away and hear it blossom. Oh, and right before bedtime, I added new reviews and a long-awaited F.A.Q.
I finally bought Stupid White Men about a week ago and just started reading it a couple days back. Although it's typical Michael Moore (completely over-the-top in places), I found myself just getting all stirred up about the election again and all the crap that's gone on since it. I really hope that people are seeing through the Bush facade, and that hopefully he'll be a one-term president. Although I don't agree with everything that Moore writes, I find it comforting that he's around. Although he's a bit of a blowhard sometimes, I think his heart is generally in the right place and it's nice to have him offsetting the bloated right speakers like Rush and all the vocal Freepers. Speaking of which, if you want to get yourself _completely_ riled up, just spin on over to any number of the commenting forums at Free Republic. If you're anything less than hardcore right-wing, your blood pressure will shoot up within minutes of being there.
One of the most interesting things about working on music is the progression of our sound over the past couple of months. When we started out, we were pretty much fumbling about in terms of recording and even putting together songs, but it seems like we just keep picking up new things and getting slightly better every time we meet up. After somewhat of a slump almost a month ago, things have been coming along really well lately, with little breakthroughs that keep the excitement level up. Tonight, a rather bumpin' beat made its way into a song. Whoulda thunk it?
Oh yeah, and check out the UGE (big as my noggin) Broccoli from the garden!
Note: I'm not squinting because I'm a 'badass' or a 'tough guy' or trying to exude some sort of hardened charm. It was simply very bright out and my eyes have photosensitivity issues. Thank you.
Time away is sometimes the best way to gain a perspective on things created. I've been looking through old artwork and photography lately, trying to round up ideas for different things, and realizing there are quite a few pictures that I simply didn't give enough of a chance the first time around. Because I've had a rather lackluster showing lately in terms of creating new photography, I scanned in some of the old pictures and put them up. It's also enough motivation to actually devote time each month to doing more photography.
Finished Why They Kill by Richard Rhodes and it was a very interesting look at the psychology of violent criminals and a possible (but very well researched) theory on contributing factors in what makes them act. Sort of a mixture of biography and basic theory, the book follows the views and life of criminalogist Lonnie Athens, whose writing on violent criminals was considered a bit renegade for some time, but is actually quite plausible and has gained respect throughout the years. Based on tons and tons of case studies and interviews (and personal encounters with violence), the book traces a path of 'violentization' that nearly all case studies interviewed went through and unfortunately points out a lot of the deficiencies in the way that violent criminals are dealt with and 'reformed.' Rhodes is a very good writer (he won the Pulitzer for his book The Making The Atomic Bomb, which is still on my to-read list) and if you're interested in the above, it's fascinating (although probably not the best thing to read before bed, as I often did).
A day of relaxation after the show yesterday. Read the morning paper. A bit of gardening. Band practice. Ampersand, etcetera.
Hadn't been out to see a live show in quite awhile, so it was refreshing to head out and see three great bands this evening. Went to Omaha with Jason (for a show that he helped to bring to the area--thanks!) to catch The Golden Age, The Devics, and Lift To Experience. Before the show started, had some awesome scores at the music store, then shared some good conversation with people I should keep in better touch with.
Opening the show was The Golden Age, who were yet another local band that I'd heard a lot about, but had yet to hear. They played a good show of well-instrumented indie-rock, not unlike Bright Eyes with a much more bearable vocal style (yes, that's a compliment). Two guitars, bass, and drums and vocals with some nicely placed keyboards, it was a good way to start the evening. Not too loud, not too quiet, just about right.
I'd heard a little bit by The Devics (pronounced "DeeVicks"), but nothing I'd listened to prepared me for just how damn good they were. Sounding something like a 'real band' version of Portishead (with live drums replacing beats), they mixed upright bass, pounding piano, wide-body woozy guitar, and amazing, hypnotic female vocals for something that completely threw me off guard and left me clapping hard and meaning it after each song ended. Wow. If this foursome comes anywhere near you to play, don't hesitate in going to see them. So, so good.
Due to some unfortunate time management and bands starting a bit late, Lift To Experience only had about 25 minutes to play once they finally got set up, but they packed every single second of that time with exhilirating sound. I'd raved about their album The Texas Jerusalem Crossroads last year in my music review section, but they were all that and a 10-gauge shotgun live. Pounding drums, thick grimy bass, and guitars that alternately roared (tickling the little hairs on your neck) and shimmered. It would have been nice to see them play even longer, but they dove in full-throttle for the time they were on and had the crowd enraptured. The picture of them below just about conveys it...
If my quick rundown wasn't enough, I'm sure Jason will have even more on his site sometime this week about the show, and he _may_ even have a live recording of it for viewing at some point. Oh yeah, and both of the headlining bands stayed at his place after the show, so I'm sure the campfire stories from that will be mighty entertaining.
I rarely ever cook with the use of a cookbook, and so far it's never really come back to haunt me. As I experiment more and more in the kitchen with different foods and spices, I feel like I'm just sort of picking things up and filing them away some deep place in my head to be used at another time. Today, I concocted one of the better soups that I've ever made, and although I'd made a variation of the same thing once before, the batch today came out several levels beyond what I'd ever done before. If I were suddenly offered the chance to host a cooking show, I would jump at it in an instant.
Met up with the band tonight again, and we've decided on a name it seems. After all the fuss and indecision, it's probably going to seem very anticlimactic, but we've decided to go with the name "overheard." We're getting much closer in terms of actually having a release now, even getting down to the fun parts of coming up with package design and what all we want to include with that. Meanwhile, I'm starting to seriously look for a laptop, as performing live is also going to be something that we'll try for down the road.
Oh, and speaking of music, I posted my 800th review tonight.
I've been told by more than one person (including my lovely girlfriend) that I shouldn't wear headphones while biking to and from work, but for some reason I still do. Their argument is that I can't hear as well as I need to while biking, but of course I have a theory that's exactly the opposite of that. While I know that it does block out some of my hearing, it's because of this reason that all my other senses simply heighten along the ride. I keep an eye out for everyone else even much more than normal, and since I don't play the music very loud, my ears still hear very nearly everything outside anyway.
In addition to that, I only choose minimal, repetitive music for the trips in, thus taking even one more factor out that my brain has to process. Sure, I'm listening to music, but most of the time it's at a volume so low that it's equal to wind noise in my ears without headphones (which they in turn cancel out). Alas, I don't want people to keep worrying about me and my riding, so I'll probably stop wearing them, and they're starting to get to be yet one more addition I don't need in the hot summer mornings (since lots of heat is lost through the head, and wearing headphones traps that in).
Met up with the band tonight and we've narrowed things down to two names. Instead of deciding on something for sure, though, we're going to work up some rough graphical treatments over the course of the next couple weeks, and see which one shows more promise. Admittingly, we're probably putting way too much thought and time into the decision, but we're all a bit goofy like that.
Had an impromptu, 2-day late fathers day dinner for my step dad today, so I buzzed out of town after a sweaty bike home from work and was gone for a good chunk of the evening. Overall, I had a good time. Helped spread some mulch around some newly planted trees, ate some good dinner, and even took a couple pictures on a roll of film that seems to last forever. Oh, and I also helped put a cat to sleep.
That last part isn't exactly something I'm beaming with joy about, but it was something that really needed to be done. I've always been a big animal person, and from grade school through high-school, we always had at least one pet (which ranged from cats to rabbits, and at one point even some chickens). At any rate, the problem started when an odd-behaving cat showed up at my parents farm a couple weeks back. It was violent towards the other cats, and seemed to get more and more sick as time passed. Eventually, my step-uncle and step-dad decided that it needed to be euthanized before it infected or killed another cat.
Living on a farm, there are several ways that they probably could have gone about it, many of which are highly inhumane and the majority of which would probably have given me nightmares were I the person doing it. Shooting it with a gun might not have been an instant death and nobody wanted to physically break the neck of said cat. The system that was devised was to catch it, then put it into a grain bag and hold the open end of the bag over the tailpipe of a running truck. Having just explained it, it still sounds pretty horrible, but once the cat was actually inside the bag (no pun intended), it didn't panic at all. Instead, it simply went to sleep and never woke up again.
The cat that we put down tonight was one that had actually been infected by the earlier stray cat mentioned above and was exhibiting the same traits that the other one had. I remembered playing with it when it was just a kitten over a year ago, and even have pictures of it around somewhere. Seeing it grown, sickly (and probably suffering anyway), and hostile towards everything was even more sad than knowing that we had to end its life.
Today was one of those nearly completely run-of-the-mill days. Nothing terribly exciting happened, but it wasn't really boring either, just simply there and comfortable. Looked at the garden right before dark and it's still rocking out. I will have more progress pictures soon, including brocolli!
Although it's been frustrating at times, I've been learning so many different things from recording and 'producing' the music that our group is working on. I knew it somewhat at the beginning, but I guess I didn't realize how much of music is in the numbers. Every single night I sit down and work on putting things together, I discover another shortcut in the software, or a new way of doing something that will (hopefully) help us out in the future. After running into a wall with a recent problem, I finally figured out the solution tonight, and after some headache (and computer tranny lockdowns) figured it all out and got things back to normal. I'm speaking in vague terms here, because some of the things I've learned are probably things that I should have known already (and I don't want my astute readers making even more fun of me), but speaking of music as a learning process alone, I've been having a blast.
Continuing that thought, things are still coming along well. We're trying to put the spit-polish on the tracks that we're thinking of using for the EP and coming to the realization that working in a group involves an intricate amount of give and take. There are obviously going to be little things that each person doesn't like with nearly everything we work on, but one of the many fine points of keeping the group going is minimizing the number of disagreements and simply finding a sound that everyone can at least live with. A crappy analogy might be like a three-headed fox chasing a rabbit, in which the heads can't decide to fight off one another or cooperate to reach the common goal, then share the spoils (whatever they may be). At any rate, I'm still excited by it all. Aaron and I worked on things the past two nights, and new, interesting ideas keep on bubbling to the surface.
And finally... the week of birthdays concluded today with the 80th birthday of my Grandma. She hasn't ever seen my site and doesn't really understand the whole web thing or why I spend so much time on the computer, but I still love her. Again, feel free to pass along good-feeling birthday wishes to a great lady.
Finally finished up Fates Worse Than Death by Kurt Vonnegut, and it wasn't one of my favorite books of his. Like Palm Sunday and Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons it was an autobiographical collage comprised of different speeches and short pieces that he'd written, filled in with other little tidbits to help string everything together. Overall, it seemed much more haphazard than his other books of this nature, and although I enjoyed specific pieces a great deal, it didn't work quite as well as a whole as those other two. Not to worry, he's still one of my favorite authors ever, and with it down, I only have 2 or 3 more to read until I've finished his entire body of work.
Watched The Mothman Prophecies tonight, and it was a decent little supernatural thriller. Kind of like a better episode of The X-Files blown up to movie-length, the main way it worked was through the power of suggestion. Director Mark Pellington (who directed music videos before Arlington Road and now this film) has plenty of tricks on hand to use, but fortunately keeps things fairly subtle for the majority of the film. With Laura Linney and Richard Gere (who I've admittingly not liked in several films), the acting was pretty good, and the story was creepy. The interesting thing about the film is that it's based on true events, while much of it was obviously embellished, the biggest scene in the entire movie (which I won't spoil) was something that really happened and the way it's played out in the movie is very unsettling. Overall, a 6.75 or so out of 10.
The rabbits are officially making me really upset. Went outside this morning to find one of them actually digging up one of the marigolds I'd just planted two days earlier. Since this was one of the recommendations that was given to me (that rabbits don't like marigolds), I figure that we just have some sort of mutated, bionic rabbits in our backyard. I may have to move to more drastic measures including, but not limited to mothballs, electric fence, and a moat with sharks.
The week of birthdays continues, and today Aaron turns 29. Again, send some birthday wishes his way.
Also, you're the man now, dog! (turn your speakers on if you have them).
Starting tomorrow, my week is going to start getting even busier than it already has been. I have something going on every day and/or night (above and beyond the regular work job) from here through Sunday evening. Truth be told, I rather enjoy being busy, but not so much that nearly all my waking hours are completely filled-up. Must find the fine line and walk it.
As mentioned last week, I boosted up my site a bit behind-the-scenes. First off, I decided to switch my domain name (after hearing too many horror stories about Network Solutions, I gladly went to Dotser, and for less money). In addition, I boosted the amount of storage space I have with my site, as well as my monthly download quota. Basically, I'm just trying to think ahead for several different improvements I want to make with the site, as well as adding some multimedia once the (still unnamed) band starts rolling along with actual recordings and whatnot. It may be some time before anything actually changes or gets added to the site, but trust me, it will.
Didn't do a whole heck of a lot today, although once again started my day with a bit of weeding in the garden. This afternoon, TG and I went to a birthday party for Torsten. He will be 1 year old tomorrow, and if you think of it, wish some happy thoughts his way. The picture below is of him just after he made a mess of himself with a bombpop and just before he took a swim in the pool.
After talking with TG (a great anchor of hope in my swirling sea of self-doubt) about my current slump, I think I realized most of what's causing it, and I've alluded to the different points many times over the course of the past couple years. There are many reasons why I keep having reoccurring 'down' times, and in the end they're all kind of silly to get anywhere near upset about. Basically, the different parts of the equation are:
When you put all of those things together (or even two or three of them), it adds up to disappointment a fair amount of time, and depressive states some of that time. As I mentioned in the discussion we had, I don't feel the need to be famous or anything, and I don't have to...
- I'm impatient
- I want to be really good at one thing
- I take on too many things at once
- I compare myself to others younger than myself who have done great things in their respective fields
- I base a large portion of my happiness on how much I'm creating
- I have a somewhat short attention span
- I'm very critical of myself
in order to be a happy person. Instead, I just need to focus a little more on the smaller parts of the whole and realize that it takes more than a couple months to create something meaningful. Yes. True. I will mope less.
- write a best-selling book
- be part of a gold-selling record
- get thousands of hits on my site every day
- be a famous photographer
Rented Novocaine this evening and it was a fairly entertaining little bit of dark comedy. I've always been at least a partial fan of Steve Martin (although he's done much better work elsewhere), and Helena Bonham Carter again worked the whole junky-schoolgirl roll that she played in Fight Club. At some points, the movie just felt like it was trying too damn hard to be clever, and the ending was sacharine enough to just about choke on (including the old 'write a book under an assumed name and sell enough to live out your life in hiding' trick that I've seen numerous times before). Still, it was much better entertainment than some other movies I've seen, and had enough slight twists to keep it interesting. I'd give it about a 6 out of 10.
Somehow I managed to get my reviews all written ahead of time this week, so I've been able to work on some of my own stuff a little more. After meeting up and kicking around some music ideas last night (still no name, though!), I tagged the ending on a short story that I started over a month ago. It clocked in at just over 3500 words, and although I want to post it on the site, I don't think I will for awhile. Since it's something longer, and one that I'm fairly happy with, I want to come up with a nicer format than the generic 'whatever' section that I usually sling my stuff into. It's that very reason that I came up with the In Other Words section, so it's all or nothing on this story (as well as three other finished ones I have sitting on my hard drive). That, and I never receive any comments on stories anymore. Perhaps they just keep getting poorer and poorer in quality, and nobody wants to hurt my feelings. Either that, or they're simply too long and boring to plow through, but if that were the case, why would anyone be reading this section still?
Oh jeez, I'm full of it tonight again. A veritable factory of smart-ass remarks paired off with self-loathing and/or self-deprecation. Yeah, it's the month swing-cycle I guess, timed nearly perfect to other outbursts. I'll shut up now, and go work on a new freelance project I just started up.
In the past week, I've been making some behind-the-scene changes with my site that will hopefully lead to better things in the future. First, I started the process of transferring my domain name to a different company (which may or may not cause some downtime), and I'm also going to upgrade my host capacity before the end of next week. It will give me more storage space and more data transfer per month. I'm hoping to gradually add more features to different parts of the site as well, including commenting and possibly other little things.
TG found some mission-style furniture for supa-cheap when she was out and about today, so she of course purchased them. The only problem is that we've almost completely filled the house with stuff already, so there's not really room for a massive oak table and two big sturdy rocking chairs. We're going to make everything fit, though, as the new stuff is simply too cool to get rid of. Sitting down in one of the rockers, it creaked ever so slightly, and I settled into it like it was built just for me. I like old furniture so much. Although it's heavier and harder to get around, the quality is ten times better than nearly anything you could buy today.
Another garden picture. This time it's corn, and although I'm unsure how well it will do, it has a fine start.
I'm glad I have so many different interests, because if I get bored and/or feeling crappy about my output with one, I can always jump ship and work on something else. The last couple months, I've felt somewhat uninspired with my photography, and that energy has been channeled into other things like making music and writing. On the other side of things, there is the faint possibility that creative powers are flowing well in nearly all interests, which then brings a bit of frustration because there isn't enough time to complete everything.
Although it's been awhile since I posted a link about my annoyances with the current government administration, it doesn't mean that I'm still not completely frustrated by them. Even when they admit that they've been wrong, their solution isn't to try to change things, but simply to adapt to the damage that's been done. I'll be the first to admit that the heavy industrialization of the past 150 years has made some nearly irreversible changles to our environment, but it's absolutely ludicrous to continue down the path we've been going. Even if _some_ of the figures have been inflated, it's still fairly easy to see that some things are changing in the world. Species becoming extinct at a rapid pace, huge chunks of ice shelfs breaking off, and much higher average global temperatures (especially in the last decade) are just a few off the top of my head, and I'm not even digging very deep (nor am I what would be considered a tree hugger). If we can even make some little changes (which honestly don't involve that many sacrifices, such as passing a law for automakers to raise the average of all vehicles fuel consumption by 5 miles per gallon in the next 2 years), some serious changes could be made. I guess little changes like that don't get made when you're buddy-buddy with big oil executives.
Barely ventured outside today, and when I did it was stupidly. Although the temperature was more bearable today with a slight breeze and some clouds in the sky, I decided to walk/jog barefoot to the store (over 4 blocks away over varying paved surfaces) and in doing so slightly abrased my decidingly tender feet. Wimpy, I know, but I learned my lesson.
Finally, a picture of the burgeoning garden (with more to come);
First off, I want to thank everyone who reads this site or has told someone about it. May of 2002 was the largest ever for the site in terms of page views, and while I don't like to dwell too much on how many people read the site, it's always nice to know that people are. Sometimes it's fun to look at the numbers and hope that the time I put into it is entertaining someone besides myself, and although more page views doesn't absolutely correlate to that, it's my hope.
Spent about 2 hours outside today in very hot weather working on the garden again. Finally spread out the rest of the straw to help keep weeds at bay and moisture in the ground. For the first year of having a garden, I'm amazed at how well it's coming along. The tomato and broccoli plants are rocking the town and the onions, potatoes, and beans all look good as well. In about a month, it should be a produce explosion if things keep on. After drenching all my clothes with sweat and getting downright lightheaded, I came in and re-hydrated, then relaxed for awhile before hopping on the computer and getting some things done. Wrote a little bit and worked on some music by myself. Dare I say it sounds good so far?