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I think that part of the reason that I haven't gotten burned out for quite some time on writing music reviews is that I actually have a choice now about what I can write about. Back in the beginning, I had both a limited budget and didn't get anything sent to me, so I had to review every single thing that I could scrounge up that was relevant. I would review albums that were 2 years old if I felt like it, and that was fine. Now, I get sent enough stuff promotionally, as well as finding a little more room in my budget to buy some things that I actually can pick and choose what I review and it actually keeps me much more excited about things. I don't have to review every single thing that is sitting on my desk (and probably couldn't even if I tried), and I've come to accept that fact and live with it. If I were doing reviews full-time, I would feel a little more obligated, but this is a hobby of mine and I've now been on the other side of it as well (less than 1/10th of the promo copies of Onward+Upward were actually reviewed). At any rate, crossing that threshold is sort of refreshing in a way. It makes me think that I can actually keep up writing the reviews and not burn out. I just passed the 1100 total review mark this week, so that was another little milestone for me.

The news has already been dropped elsewhere (1, 2, 3), but the big announcement that I hinted at last week is that we'll be opening for The Twilight Singers next Thursday night, November 6th at Sokol Underground in Omaha, Nebraska. Once again, we're huge fans of the band that we're opening for (Greg Dulli has been the man in both Afghan Whigs and now The Twilight Singers) and we're freaking stoked to be playing in front of a bigger audience. It will be our first show at Sokol Underground, and our second show in Omaha. Holy crap we're excited. With the edition of that show, we now have a 1-2-3 punch of shows next week. Basically it's 3 shows in 3 nights in 3 cities in 2 states. The Magical Mini-Tour. Something like that.

In other news, Elsa the new little pupper is doing quite well, and I must say that I'm really proud of how well Zoey is adjusting to the changes as well. Although she's been ocassionally jealous that the attention is now split between her and another dog, they're getting better around one another every day. It's a bit of a handfull watching both of them alone, but it's also been a lot of fun. This morning, I woke up with Elsa draped across the front of my neck with her little face resting on my chin. Even though I don't like getting up in the mornings sometimes, there isn't much that beats a soft little puppy face as a wakeup call.

We'd been talking about getting another puppy for awhile, so the chance came up to get another BT and we decided to go ahead and check on getting one. There was a choice of two females from the litter, so we chose the slightly fatter one (because she seemed to play with Zoey a little better in the short time we were there) and brought her home. Now, we have two puppies running around. One is a 4-odd pound round mound of rebound (Elsa - 2 months old), and the other is an 11-odd pound elegant puppy/dog (Zoey - 6 months old). Zoey doesn't quite know what to think of the new dog yet, but we're hoping they both realize that they can be good buddies.

Elsa and Zoey

I keep forgetting little anniversaries with my website, and I think it probably resents me a little bit because of that. At any rate, I'll try to make ammends a little bit with this post. Looking through my archives the other evening, I noticed that I've been putting writing up on the web for well over 6 years now. Honestly, it doesn't feel like that long, but if you go waaaaay back to my very first 'whatever' (a section that has been a bit negelcted for quite some time now), it is dated the 25th of August, 1997. Granted, I was doing a website in college, and I posted movie and music reviews on that (between 1994-1997) and even had a fansite for the band Shelleyan Orphan, but my first post-college website was almost cool (although I didn't buy a domain name until almost a year later) and I've been chugging along since then for better or worse.

The section that has obviously been updated on the most consistent basis are the music reviews (now up to over 1100), and that's mainly because my interest in music is something that has stayed constant over the course of the past 6 years (and has actually grown into even more of a monster in that time). A couple years ago, I was pouring out my thoughts more into essay type entries in the 'whatever' section. There were lots and lots of rants and introspective and self-depricative pieces and in the long run I really do think they helped me out quite a bit. Even though hardly anyone was reading my site, it felt good to just sort of air my thoughts knowing that anyone could stumble across them and maybe even identify with some of them. It was a nice therapy for me to write things down and get them all out, and it probably saved me some counseling. As time passed, my bitter/cynical side edged off quite a bit and I simply became a little bit more comfortable in my own skin and let some of the sections of the site slide a bit (but still keep them up for posterity's sake).

There are, of course, the other sections that rely on input from outside readers (like Lesion Legion and The Photo Trust Project). I consider both to be fairly interesting concepts, and LL has it's fair share of great stories, but as I've learned through the years, you can't put too much trust in people you don't know. I don't want that to sound too cynical, because I've met some great people over the web and even consider some people I exchange emails with on a regular basis as friends, but expecting someone to follow through with an idea that you find near and dear is expecting too much sometimes. Anyway, this is a celebration, not a bitch session, so I'll quit my bellyaching. At this point, I don't know that I can see myself in the future without putting something out there on the web, and so almost cool will keep on keepin' on. If you've read anything here and enjoyed it, and especially if you've stuck around for an extended time (checking out any of the sections), I thank you. I'm flattered. Again, happy (belated) birthday almost cool. I wish you many more.

Yeah, so about those books that I finished recently. First off, I started a rather large book of journals by Lewis And Clark while on vacation, but I haven't finished that yet. However, also while on vacation TG picked up a copy of Nickel And Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America by Barbara Ehrenreich and I ended up reading the whole thing over her shoulder on the plane ride home. This was a best-seller about a year ago, and the premise is that Ehrenreich went around the country taking low-paying jobs, then chronicled her living and expenses to see if she could get by one what she was being paid (basic living expenses like housing, food, etc). What she found wasn't something that surprised me, sadly enough. Even on jobs that were paying higher than minimum wage, Ehrenreich found it really difficult to get by and afford basic life necessities.

Although I agreed with many of her conclusions (it would be hard not to), the book felt pretty manufactured in many ways. Because she never stayed in one place for more than a month at a time, and because of her often rather condescending language, it many times came across as rather patronizing. Although she got in and did some dirty work, it was hard to feel sorry for her in any way when she focused almost completely on herself and observations (hey, I'm a rich person working crappy jobs!) and the characters that deserve our empathy (the real people she met along the way) are described in cliche's and/or barely at all. If you want to read a great book of character studies on jobs, read Studs Terkel's Working. Although it was published quite awhile ago, it has aged rather well, and some of the interviews with everyday people truly are enlightening and/or will make you question what you do for a living.

On the complete other side of the spectrum, the other book that I finished recently was The Fermata by Nicholson Baker. I'd never read his much-ballyhooed (in some circles) The Mezzanine, but now that I've finished The Fermata, I'll probably have to dig into it. First off, The Fermata was way more erotic than I thought it would be. The story is about a guy who can stop time (for everyone else around but himself), but instead of doing things like robbing banks and/or other things that could simply make him rich, he is content to simply work a temp job and while stopping time take the clothes off women and admire them. Often hilarious, the book was quite a bit different than I expected, but mostly in a good way. The main character is obviously very morally confused, but part of the joy of reading it all is plowing through his skewed sense of reality. I'd definitely recommend it to those who aren't afraid of the 'rot' (as the main character Arno Strine refers to erotica in the book), and I'll be checking out other work by Nicholson in the future.

This was one of those weekends where the alarm wasn't set, but there still wasn't much for sleeping in going on. It was all about the houseworks, and TG and I kicked out the jams and got a ton of different things done. Some of which include...

  • raking the lawn
  • mowing the lawn
  • picking up black walnuts (two 50-gallon lawn bags full)
  • planting tulip bulbs and constructing new flower bed
  • cleaning a majority of the gutters on the house (will have to bring in specialists for some of them I think)
  • hauling loads of leaves, etc to the landfill
  • sanding woodwork and plaster in master bedroom
  • putting up new screendoor
  • several loads of laundry
There were some other things too, but it's a Sunday night and I'm starting to shut down my mind. I've finished two books in the past week (quickly bumping my total up for the year to a horrible 9 books total), and I'll write about those in the next couple nights. Until then, you get another picture of Zoey.

Zoey is alert!

We had our first practice tonight since the show a couple weeks ago and amazingly enough things still sounded pretty damn tight. With another show coming up in three weeks (opening for Timonium in Lawrence), I was wondering how rusty we'd be after the layoff, but I think any worries that I may have had were erased with fairly blistering performances of almost all our live tracks. Let me also say that I have the upmost respect for bands who can write songs on the fly while getting input from all members. We've managed to come up with some wicked parts of songs and can kick out some pretty interesting improvised jams just about once a practice, but it's the whole structuring and actual sitting down and putting songs together that's the tough part with so many people contributing ideas at the same time. We're getting ready to start buckling down and doing album number 2, so these sorts of things are on my mind...

Speaking of not slacking while on vacation, new reviews!

Did I mention that I was going on vacation? Because I did. TG and I just got back from a trip out to the Northeast and it was a blast. The main function of the trip was to attend the wedding of a longtime friend, but we padded things with some more days off and basically explored the area. We flew into Boston last Tuesday evening and arrived back home last night. I'll write up a more detailed trip journal when I get a chance (and put up some photos hopefully), but for now I'll just say that we had a lot of fun and hung out with a lot of cool people and ate a lot of great food but it's good to be back and sleeping in my own bed again and hanging out with the puppy again.

One of the interesting things was that the temperatures out East have been above normal as well, so the trees hadn't turned colors nearly as much as they usually had by the same time of year. Thus, there were less "leaf peepers" (as the locals refer to them) out while we were there and it was easier to get around in general. Still, we saw some pretty vibrant colors and enjoyed driving all over the countryside in Maine and New Hampshire. We also did a bit of the whole touristy shopping thing, although probably less than the average person.

So yeah, Zoey got to spend 6 days at the puppy hotel, and she seemed a little freaked-out when we picked her up (it was easily her longest stint away from us), but has settled back into her normal routine rather quickly (for example, she is sleeping in my lap right now after taking a long walk with me earlier). Just because you can't get enough puppy pictures, here's one of her sleeping in her sunny spot on the floor this morning.

Puppy in the sun

For the first time in a long while, had a fairly lazy weekend. There were still some things that managed to get done (like cutting some lower branches out of a tree in the front yard that were getting in the way), but there was also some general lounging and relaxing for once. I actually sat down and read for almost an hour on Saturday morning on the couch in our sunroom and Zoey hopped up and curled up next to me in the warm sun. I used to call myself a cat person, but I think I've officially switched to a Boston Terrier person. This little dog (sleeping in my lap as I type this) is so rad. I'd carry her around all the time in a little backpack if I could (yeah, roll your eyes if you must).

At any rate, I'm now in danger of actually finishing another book, fairly close on the heels of burning through another book of short stories. I guess I completely forgot to report that latter at the time I actually finished it (probably 2 weeks ago), but I did make it clear through all 400-some odd pages of the McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury Of Thrilling Tales. As with most celebrity-type short story collections, there were some real winners and some real craptastics as well. Elmore Leonard impressed me greatly with his tale of a youth gunslinger, while Dave Eggers contributed a short story that was quite good as well. Nick Hornby's story was both funny and depressing, while The giant turd of the bunch was the absolutely atrocious hitman story by John Grisham (astounding bad). Authors that I'd never read before (but will probably seek out more of) and impressed me were Aimee Bender, Dan Chaon, Carol Emshwiller, and Jim Shepard. If you've read any of the aforementioned and want to recommend something, just drop me an email.

Well, the big show has came and went and one night later I'm left with a night that was absolutely packed with experience. Warning, this entry might get a little bit long...

If you've been reading the site the last couple of weeks, you know that Marianas got an opening slot for The Sleepy Jackson / My Morning Jacket show in Omaha last night (October 1st) at The Ranch Bowl. This was without a doubt our biggest show to date and we'd been practicing for weeks and weeks with the new lineup in order to get things down and sounding really great. We were told from the venue that we had 30-35 minutes to play, so we put together a setlist that consistently ran 34-37 minutes when we played it in our practice space (depending on tuning breaks, etc).

Yesterday, we all got off work early and got together to try to run through the set one more time before loading up all our equipment and heading off to the venue for a 6p.m. soundcheck. By the time everyone got to the practice space, we were running out of time, but managed to run through 3 songs (the more technical songs) and nailed them all. It was a good feeling and we got everything into three vehicles and left quickly, getting through rush-hour traffic to arrive at the venue around 6:15. When we got there, My Morning Jacket was in the middle of their soundcheck, and they finished at about 6:30 or so and left. We loaded in all our stuff just before The Sleepy Jackson did their soundcheck, and by the time they started it was almost 7 (the time the doors were orignally supposed to open according to flyers).

At roughly 8:10, their soundcheck was finally over, and we hurried to get our equipment on the stage and get some semblance of a soundcheck (we were originally supposed to go on at 8:30). With people already starting to come in, we finished our 10-minute soundcheck at about 8:30, and anxiously awaited the sign to get up and play. The doors officially opened and a huge crowd of people streamed in. Meanwhile, we looked for any sign that we should be playing as time ticked by. At almost 9:10, we finally got the call to start playing and went right into things, playing the first two tracks before announcing our names and other general info (we have CDs for sale and pins for giveaway!). In the middle of our fifth song, Ryan was told that it would be our last song. We had played for just 22 minutes and we still had 2 full songs left, but they turned the lights back on and we had to tear down our equipment.

In the end, we were frustrated that we couldn't play our entire setlist (obviously), but we ended on a great note and got a great response from people overall. The new lineup went off smashingly and everyone in the group had a lot of fun. Hopefully, we'll be playing some more shows in the near future and after everything that went down last night, everything should just get easier from here on out. Oh yeah, and My Morning Jacket were rawk.

Speaking of music, I managed some new reviews somehow.

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