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Friday, May 28, 2010

Staff Trax and Bamboozle

This week's edition finds me praising the summer love that is the Go! Team while I preview the Bamboozle Roadshow.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

D'oh (TV on DVD edition)

I have no one to blame but myself for this, but I learned a hard lesson today about being a fan of a TV show when it goes onto DVD. In a post on Ain't It Cool, some details emerged about those who were curious about what happened after the events in "The End." And if you really want to see a never-before-seen epilogue, you'll have to have $200 to see it on the "Complete Collection" DVD set, dropping in August.

It was then that I realized I should have waited until LOST was finished before ever buying the show on DVD.

(Cue the sad trombone slide.)

I have my reasons for why I bought every season at a time. I got into the show shortly into the second season. I was impatient with renting each disc from the first season on DVD from Netflix, so I just said to hell with it and bought the whole first season using a gift card I received for Christmas that year.

Because of watching the whole first season in one swoop, I was completely up to speed on the second season. And because I love listening to commentary tracks and behind-the-scenes supplemental features, I bought seasons two and three when they respectively came out on DVD.

Then, around the time the fourth season was released on Blu-ray, the first three seasons were released on Blu-ray for the first time. I considered buying those first three seasons again since the show was shot in high definition and looks best on Blu-ray. Alas, I held off, and now I'm glad.

Like I did last year with Battlestar Galactica, I think it's worth to pony up for the BD edition of a show. The episodes look incredibly better in this format. Matter of fact, I've yet to see something look bad on BD.

So yes, I'm giving into the double-dip, but I won't lie how excited I am about seeing new features and the pilot episode in HD for the first time. But again, the next time I get into a show, wait until the show is wrapped to buy the thing on DVD.

UPDATE: Turns out the epilogue will be on the Season 6 edition as well. Lesson remains: wait until the show's over and then buy on DVD.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

In-N-Out

Ever since I saw The Big Lebowski, I've wondered about the greatness of In-N-Out Burger. Long a place to eat in California and Arizona, it is coming to Texas (to a location that's less than 40 minutes from my house). I'd love to go there when it opens (opening date not yet announced) but I'm not someone who wants withstand long lines to eat there on its opening day. I'm willing to wait.

There was a time when I ate hamburgers at least once a week. These days, due to various reasons, I eat hamburgers maybe three times a year. I can't say no to hamburgers over a grill at a friend's house or family get-together, but I have no problem skipping over Burger King and McDonald's for a quick meal. Burgers are just not a part of my regular diet, plain and simple.

In my time of living in Dallas, I've tasted the wonderfulness that is Snuffer's, but only three times. There are plenty of great burger places around town and In-N-Out will be a wonderful addition -- and another reason to visit Firewheel Town Center, complete with a Best Buy, Half Price Books, and a Movie Trading Company. But since driving there from my house is a bit out of my way via a tollroad, this is definitely a special occasion sort of thing.

I remember the day the first Freebird's opened in Dallas quite well because I was there. Its location was very close to where I lived and I had waited patiently for a Freebird's for almost four years. So I didn't mind the wait. The Monster burrito tasted so good since I had not had one in years.

But since I've never had an In-N-Out Burger before, I have no frame of reference. I don't know what I'm expecting. I am expecting something good though.

Monday, May 24, 2010

After "The End"

Now that I've watched "The End,"I'd like to share some of my thoughts, but I'd like to keep this short and concise.

Was this a show worth spending six years devoted to, with watching episodes again and again, reading up on possible future episodes, listening to podcasts, listening to commentary tracks, reading interviews, and so on?

Absolutely. I went through a lot of emotional transition during the course of six seasons, and the show was quite helpful in understanding that transition. Sure, there are plenty of questions left, but I don't think the show would be a good show had it not left things up to the viewer to answer.

Is this a show I'd recommend?

Unless you don't like TV shows that move you, challenge you, reward you, and frustrate you, then no. This is not a show for someone who just wants a simple story told every week and the following week is almost like a blank slate.

Has seeing the finale made me think less of the show as a series?

Not at all. I know of people that absolutely hate other series simply because of what happens in the series finale. I am not one of those people. When you don't know how things end, you have your imagination as to how it ends. When it does end, that imagination goes away. I won't look at the first episode the same, but that's been that way since I watched the episode after it and after that one.

What has this show led me to, other than contributing to ratings and DVD sales?

If the show's creators hoped to introduce its audience to books you should read, then they did a great job. Books like Watership Down and Catch-22 aren't high on my reading list, but the reasons why I have all of Stephen King's books in my library is much in part to this show.

I'll also add that I now have a significant argument for a show that broke the Twin Peaks curse. People who follow television know that show's rapid ascent and slow fall, but this was a show that didn't falter so far that it couldn't finish the race.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Last night with AVA

Even though it was a weeknight, I couldn't resist seeing Angels and Airwaves play. Here's my show review.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Staff Trax and AVA

This week's edition of Staff Trax spotlights my newfound love of David Garza's music. Also, I interviewed Adam Willard from Angels & Airwaves a few weeks ago and this is the end result.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Descent Part 2: Why?

When I finished watching The Descent a couple of years ago, I was not screaming for a sequel. Since producers listen more to box office receipts and DVD rentals and sales than fans' desires, The Descent: Part 2 was made. Director Neil Marshall was involved as an executive producer on the sequel, but then again, Bob Clark was a producer on the awful Black Christmas remake. (Alas, Danny Boyle was a producer on 28 Weeks Later and that miraculously worked incredibly well.)

If I hoped that Part 2 was going to be as great as 28 Weeks Later, that hope diminished quite quickly. If anything, Part 2 will be as well remembered as Silent Night, Deadly Night 2.

Why I chose to subject myself to this movie was for Richard's European horror movie book. Since I praised the hell out of the original Descent, I felt obligated to at least watch its sequel. I have no regrets in watching this movie, but I have a lot of reservations about ever watching it again. My love of the original has not been tainted. Rather, it gives all sorts of more reasons to love the original even more.

At its core, Part 2 is really a What If? movie. What if Sarah actually escaped and never came to terms with her daughter's death? What if you saw the original theatrical version and wanted to know what happened literally hours after the events in the original? Since I wasn't one of those people, this movie was not for me. Since I like some bit of logic to taking a woman who was just admitted to a hospital for cuts and amnesia out of the hospital to help find the other women, this movie was not for me.

At no point in watching this did I ever feel paranoid, trapped, or uncomfortable. The original does that incredibly well and my nerves are always rattled when the scares kick in. The sequel attempts to recreate those "gotcha!" beats but I rarely jumped. Not helping matters was that the characters were very thin character types just waiting to be slaughtered.

I know I can't expect all horror movie sequels to be on par with the original Dawn of the Dead, but sometimes, there are certain horror films that should not become franchises.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Date with IKEA

Yesterday, I finally went to the Epcot Center of home shopping, IKEA. Yes, the much-praised, extremely large place for all sorts of home things that's been in Frisco for years. Why did it take so long for me? I finally had a reason to go.

But years ago, I was afraid I would have to be dragged to this store, along with Bed, Bath and Beyond, all in the name of being in a relationship.

Thankfully, I was able to find those fears unfounded. I had no fear of going and actually had a great time.

As an early birthday gift, three friends of Diana's offered to buy her a few things from the store. I wanted to come along, first and foremost, and I had no problem with spending two hours walking around.

After looking around the top floor with all sorts of room set-ups, we grabbed a cart while perusing the bottom floor. As the four women in my company looked at what they could get for Diana's new apartment, I noticed quite a few men in my situation: pushing a cart slowly around.

Whether or not these guys were happy to be doing this, I could only speak for myself. I chose to be at the store and I chose to push that cart. And I chose to make suggestions as well. Never at any point did I feel lonely, bored, or whipped. I was happy to help out in any way that I could.

Too often, whenever I hear a guy talk about spending time with his woman doing traditionally feminine things, there's this sense that the guy didn't want to be there, but if he didn't want to be sitting at home all alone and sleeping alone all alone that night, he grins and bears it. Any desire the guy has to go do something he really wants to do is shot down. Because he doesn't want to be single or sleep alone that night, he hangs his head and says, "Yes, dear."

I am very happy to say I am not in that kind of situation.

In the case of our IKEA trip, Diana offered me dinner out at one of our favorite restaurants and we went to Half Price Books afterwords. Also keep in mind, she came with me to see the Dillinger Escape Plan, a band I never thought I would ever take a girlfriend to because of their sound, a couple of months ago. She loves to see me be passionate about doing things like writing, reading, watching bands play, and playing drums. In turn, I love seeing her be passionate about art, metal-smithing, reading, and writing. This is definitely a two-way street kind of relationship.

The more I choose to take a more positive attitude about life and enjoy being in this committed relationship, the more I understand something Charles Schulz once said: "happy isn't funny." I like to make cracks about sad, unfair things in life, and things are easier to describe when there's a lot of drama, tragedy, and unhappiness. But I think it sure is nice to experience something that isn't a soap opera or something out of a beer commercial. That kind of stuff might sell to other people, but not for me.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Staff Trax and OK Go

Some good news: the next few months will be quite busy for me with the Observer. In addition to Staff Trax, I have a couple of features in the works. For now, there's this week's edition of Staff Trax and my article on OK Go.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Monitors

After playing in bands for a couple of years in high school, only then did I find out what a stage monitor was. All these years later, I'm still thankful for stage monitors, especially since two of the three Pull Tabs shows did not have them.

Until I played a show with a monitor, I just watched the guitarist and noticed where his left hand was and when he stepped on his distortion pedal. Since I could faintly hear his singing voice, I had to go off of body language. That's how many songs were written in a big, echo-y garage, so if I ever sounded like I was off that's why.

I don't forget that experience and never take monitors for granted. I've played shows where there were monitors, but I couldn't really hear anything. If I had to narrow down what was most important, the bass guitar and second microphone would not make the list. Let me just hear the lead singer and the rhythm guitar and I'm good.

There's another example of how important playing in bands in high school shaped me and many people I know. Now back to writing that book on the subject . . .

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Unpacking

As laborious as packing for a move can be, I think there's a lot of fun with unpacking. Since I look forward to that, it keeps me sane with the (seemingly) never-ending nature of packing. With my last few moves, the first and foremost thing I want to unpack is my DVD and CD collection.

Over the weekend, I helped Diana move into a new place and what was the first thing I unpacked? Why, her CDs and DVDs, of course! I already knew we had pretty congruent musical tastes, but there's a lot of joy I have going through somebody's collection. It's the kind of stuff that sparks conversations. And it often leads to finding more music that you never really knew before.

Sure, I eventually get to unpacking things like kitchen supplies, books, clothes, and bathroom supplies, but there is an immense joy in putting CDs and DVDs on shelves in alphabetical order.

Maybe that's very indicative of my desires and passions, but if there's one thing that must go first, that's the one.

Monday, May 10, 2010

As real as it gets

As luck would have it, I got to see my first UFC pay-per-view on Saturday night. I've seen the UFC many times before on Spike and have spent many hours playing UFC Unleashed 2009 on my PlayStation 3. I even downloaded the 2010 edition on Friday.

While at a get-together at a sports bar with work friends, it just so happened that the Machida-Rua 2 bout was scheduled. And it looked like I was going to be there most of the night since our table had a whopping 22 people. In turn, I saw it all: from Kimbo Slice's slams to Paul Daley's suckerpunch to the thrilling victory by Shogun Rua.

So I think it's now to safe to say out in public that I am a fan of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Just admitting to this kinda comes with a bit of defensiveness. I know it's a violent sport. I know it's a very masculine sport. I'm aware of the unintended homoeroticism. And I'm aware of how popular the sport is with nerds who could never be in shape for fight. I'm quite aware, but it's still quite an exciting thing to watch.

As I watched the main event, I was reminded of how good things can be. The league is run by people wanting to put on an exciting, unscripted kind of entertainment. The play-by-play and color commentary is done by people who are clearly into the passion of the sport. In other words, this isn't like watching an NFL game or even a WWE match.

On top of that, there is a great deal of sportsmanship. Even though Rua and Machida intended to beat the crap out of the other, they approached everything with class and respect.

Now it's out in the open, I guess I am "a man" or a nerd or maybe both.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Embarrassment (music library edition)

Following up yesterday's post about Bobby Patterson, I realized once again that I had something that I didn't know I had: a Bobby Patterson tune, covered by Golden Smog.

Bobby has mentioned before that Golden Smog covered "She Don't Have to See You," but until today, I thought it was just as a one-off live cover. Nope: the supergroup with members from Wilco, the Jayhawks, and Soul Asylum recorded a version for their debut album, Down By the Old Mainstream.

I've owned Down By the Old Mainstream for years, but truth to be told, I have only listened to a couple of songs off of it twice. Sometimes records grab me and sometimes they sit on my shelf for years. Now I think it's time to dust this one off.

And it's not like this issue will stop now that I'm building my online library.

A few years ago, I really took to that Sara Bareilles song, "Love Song." Thankfully, before I purchased it on iTunes, I realized that I had already downloaded the song . . . back when it was a free song for a week on iTunes. Oops.

But that's a part of the fun in discovering music, right?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Why can't we be lovers?

This week's edition of Staff Trax sheds some light on the job I do when I'm not writing about music. For the next few months, I report traffic on an AM station called Soul 73. I still produce the traffic data for the DFW market, but for a handful of reports in the midday, I also report traffic on the radio.

Like how I found out about Northern Soul all-nighters and their soundtrack, I took to the music found on the station quite naturally. I wasn't forced to listen to the music; I just got a taste and wanted to hear more.

There's such a vast quality of R&B and soul music from the sixties and seventies that I have just begun to dig into. Thankfully, there are box sets out that can shed more light. Hell, there are entire box sets devoted to Motown singles year-by-year.

Even if a lot of Northern Soul is considered sped-up, Motown knock-offs, there's something so wonderful about hearing music with a pep in its step and grabbing melody in only four chords. And it's nice to know there are way more great songs out there beyond "My Girl."

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Never Sleep Again

Despite Richard's enjoyment of it, I have no major interest in seeing Sam Bayer's 2010 version of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Even though I have a coupon to see the movie for dirt cheap, I'm not looking into available showtimes this week. Something about a remake that essentially recycles the original film shot-for-shot and explains all backstory not found in the original (and is not Rob Zombie's take on Halloween) just doesn't interest me.

But there's an upswing for me: a desire to watch the original film again.

I did not see any Nightmare On Elm Street movies until I was a freshman in college, but I knew who Freddy Krueger was well before then. I couldn't avoid seeing him in commercials, be it for another Nightmare sequel or for FrightFest at Astroworld. I knew what he looked like and was quite often scared of him. That's what a good franchise horror villain should do, right?

Aside from Wes Craven's New Nightmare, I have not seen any of sequels, but I do have some interest in Part 3 solely because of Frank Darabont's involvement. I'm pretty sure I'll watch the pilot episode of his forthcoming The Walking Dead before that happens.

Yet all the roads kept leading back to the original. Be it a friend who posted a blurry picture of himself in front of Nancy's house to seeing John Saxon in the original Black Christmas to getting a better understanding of Wes Craven's work and intentions, I've had reminders of the original Nightmare all along.

I now have a copy of the original on Blu-ray and I will break it out and watch it soon. Being the only horror film fan in the house, I'll have to watch it alone. But I'm pretty sure I'll have no problem falling asleep that night.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Is it plausible?

Something I keep in mind as I write When We Were the Kids is the idea of plausibility. This is a fictional story, but almost all of the events happened in real life. For the remaining percentage that never happened to me or anyone I knew, I ask myself, "Is this plausible?"

For example, a few weeks ago, I came up with an idea for a outside show that takes place in a perfect environment for a metal band. I won't say where this was, but since most of this DIY rock scene is about playing nontraditional venues, it's the kind of place you could brag about years later.

The deal is, this never happened in my time and it never happened to someone I knew. But if I explain the plausibility, there's no danger of this becoming pure fantasy, right?

Another example: I wrote this down earlier today after an experience I had Saturday night seemed to mesh with something I experienced a few years ago at a local show. Something seems weird and kinda funny when I hear rednecks with a thick, Southern drawl talking about things that you never hear rednecks talk about.

In particular, I heard a couple of people go on and on about Joy Division a few years ago while I waited for the Crash That Took Me to take stage. Then last Saturday night, while browsing for a few Stephen King books that I don't have, I heard a couple of guys talk quite in depth about Star Wars books that take place long after the events in Return of the Jedi.

Morphing the stories together, I came up with this idea where two major characters encounter some rednecks at a show. Instead of talking about monster truck shows and porn stars, these guys (complete with big beards, mesh hates, and Star Wars tattoos) go on and on about how awesome Peter Hook is on bass.

I asked myself about the plausibility of encountering something like this at a trashy bar in town, and I didn't hesitate.

This is a great example of how fun it is to combine real life with total fiction and come up with a fictional story on its own. I'm not somebody who wants to write a story fact-for-fact, beat-for-beat with only changing the names of the people and places. Based on the experiences I've had in bands since 1994, there's a story to tell, even if parts of it are completely fictional.