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Thursday, September 30, 2010

For Me This is Heaven

In this week's edition of Staff Trax, I mention the greatness that is Jimmy Eat World's two Capitol records, along with their commercial breakthrough. While I also like Futures, I cannot say the same about Chase This Light.

Now that they have a new record out this week -- and a couple of my friends have reviewed it and liked it -- I'm still not sure about Invented.

I'm one of those people who can go on and on about why Static Prevails and Clarity are awesome. But when it comes to Chase This Light, I can only say a few things. It's bland and does not demand repeat listens. Seeing them perform a number of tracks from it a few years ago did not make me want to give it another shot.

I'm not going to retro-actively denounce my love for earlier Jimmy Eat World records. Hell, most of my college experience had a soundtrack filled with their music, including all of those songs on comps and 7-inches. I just have hesitation about certain bands when it looks like they're past the point of making something that I can truly connect with. The same applies to Weezer.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When dog and cat unite

A few weeks ago, I hoped that my dog and Diana's cat could be civil under the same roof. I'm happy to say that we tried brought them together and they get along incredibly well.

Prior to adopting Mimo, the Siamese cat was a stray that kept hanging out around our place. Diana decided to take him in, give him food, and eventually took him to the SPCA for updated shots and exams. Looks like he's going to stay, and I'm quite happy he's stuck around. The only question was if he could get along with my dog Victory.

By a drunken chance encounter, a party guest decided to bring Mimo indoors a few weeks before Diana took Mimo in. According to Diana, Mimo got along with Victory, as Victory didn't bark or attack Mimo. Flash-forward a few months later, while we're in between batches of pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, we brought Mimo over.

Thankfully, there was no barking or intent to maul by Victory. It was more or less Mimo strutting in and scoping the place out while Victory closely followed. Now that they've spent more time under the same roof, they're buddies who want to see each other often. I'm relieved such is the case.

Back when I lived with Jason, his dog Juliet would freak out and try to get rough with cats hanging around the neighborhood. Whenever I visit Jason these days, Juliet is hanging out with two cats and living the slow life.

I don't know why I was afraid a dog and cat could not live together. Maybe there's something about how animals act outside rather than inside. Whatever it is, I'm thankful both cat and dog can live in peace, most of the time.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Dittohead

After many years (and chances) to see Slayer, I finally saw them on Friday, along with Megadeth and Anthrax. You can read what I thought of the show over on DC9, but I wanted to point out something a little more personal here.

You see, when I was a teenager, saying you liked Slayer was like saying you really enjoyed reading Mein Kampf. While other metal bands sang about gruesome things and Satan, Slayer was the pinnacle of all of that to those who were easily scared by that kind of stuff. It was one thing to be a fan of Metallica, but Slayer? That was super-hardcore.

Maybe it was the bad reputation metal had with Tipper Gore and her fellow housewife friends. Maybe it was exactly what your parents didn't want you listening to based on sheer sonics. For its various reasons, Slayer was dangerous.

Or so people claimed.

I can definitely say I was creeped out when I heard stuff like "Dead Skin Mask" and "213" when I was a teenager. I can now definitely say that I am not creeped out by that stuff. As a matter of fact, as I stood there watching Slayer blast through Seasons in the Abyss, I thought their music was about as harmful as watching a horror movie. If you can tolerate Night of the Living Dead and know that's it not real, it's a drama, it's a metaphor for critics to write essays and books on . . . then Slayer is nothing you should lock your children away from.

I understand that this music is not for everybody. Claiming this music is of the devil is really fear personified into something else. How I choose to take in this stuff does not make me some masochist or sub-human. Instead, I understand how it can a form of entertainment. And a completely harmless kind of entertainment, if you like your music fast, dirty, and unrelenting.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Staff Trax and Torche

In this week's edition, I praise The ArchAndroid, and in the print edition, I preview the greatness that is Torche.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Book #3

I have an idea for my next book. Amazing how last week I wrote that I don't have a book project lined up after When We Were the Kids. Inspiration strikes when it does, no matter how silly the idea might sound at first.

About a month ago, while talking with my editor at the Observer, he jokingly suggested a book idea that sounded really silly. I threw in something more silly to the pitch and we had a good laugh. Fast-forward to last Friday night, while standing with Diana in the check-out lane of a Barnes & Noble, I thought this previously-silly book idea could actually turn into something. Something, I don't know what, and something don't want to divulge its topic just yet.

Since I'm a part of a writing-for-fun group with my old housemate Jason and some other friends of ours, there's a desire to bring something new for each monthly meet-up. I have an opening scene in mind to write for Book #3, so I thought that will be my writing piece for the next meet-up.

As much as I claim to write a lot, I'm not actually that prolific. My focus is always super-intense when I'm working on something I want to finish. Things get left on the sidelines. Having this writer's group is a wonderful way for me to stay on track.

In regards to When We Were the Kids, I'm taking a break on it for the rest of the month. I'm waiting to hear back from my agent if it's something that could be sold to a publisher. Either way, that's my main focus, but it's nice to know what I can look forward to once that book is ready to come out.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Carry On

I braved the elements and saw KISS over the weekend. Here's my review.

I knew that KISS would be spectacular, but something that really surprised me was how great Pat Green was too.

Yes, Pat Green.

You can read in the review why I was impressed, but I think it's important out something else that I didn't bring up. Whenever I've mentioned the guy's name around people, people (who are not fans of him, country music, or frat/sorority life) groan. Seems like part of rush week in college involves a conversion to Green's music. So any connection to that world when you detest Greek life deserves damnation.

Well, damn me for liking Pat Green. I've felt this feeling before with Journey. Once detested as a flag-waver of corporate rock, any self-respecting musician should never profess an admiration beyond guilty pleasure. Since I still stick behind the notion that there should not be any guilt in pleasure, I remain a Journey fan.

Green seems like he avoids the pandering that most pop country music does. You know, the flag-waving, Coors-Light-drinking, good ol' kind of stuff that is ripe for parody, especially when it tries to be serious or heartfelt.

All I'm really going off of was a great set by the oddball on a rock bill. The guy followed Drowning Pool for crying out loud. But what does that say about the caliber of Green? Plenty to me.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Staff Trax and KISS

I praised Black Mountain in this week's edition of Staff Trax and I previewed the upcoming KISS show on Saturday. If my preview sounds like the beginning of a traffic report, well, it's intentional.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

190 pages

I kept to my word: I have a rough draft of When We Were the Kids.

This is not the final draft, but at least I have my bearings straight about where things are going. The current page length is 190 pages in Word, but that will definitely change. Whether or not there will be more or less remains to be seen in the next few months. Plus, page length in Word is almost double what the print length will be.

The big question mark is how will this be released. If I self-publish, it will probably come out next year. If I get a book deal, that will take longer. I'm trying not to be overly-pessimistic or overly-optimistic, but I'm a little too aware of how a book proposal can be sold a little better than a book that's almost done. I'm committed to the style and presentation of When We Were the Kids. Any suggestions about drastically changing that will meet with a lot of resistance from me.

Another big question mark is what I will do after this book is done. I had a really good idea that was squashed by several factors, but I have another idea of something to work on. It seems like my life has a lot of balance when I'm working on a long-term project. I want to keep that balance going.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Filed autobiographically no more

After nine years of filing burned CD-Rs in spindles, I finally got around to alphabetizing them last weekend. In what could have been a major undertaking, I followed an idea Diana had and I was done in only two hours.

What prompted such was my ongoing efforts to update my iTunes with way more music than before. Since my current computer holds more gigs than any of my previous computers combined (with a few hundred gigs left over), I've tried completing albums or entire catalogs on stuff I only had on CD-R. Trying to find those CD-Rs filed in a loosely autobiographical kind of way just didn't cut it anymore.

Diana had brought up how she would have alphabetized them and that inspired me to do my own version. I grabbed CDs from every letter of the alphabet and stacked CD-Rs on top of them with their corresponding letter. Now I can find something way faster and more effectively.

As I look at the size of my physical library of CDs and CD-Rs and look at how much I can store in one CPU, I still am hesitant to box up all of my CDs and put them in storage. I know I live in a day and age where physical doesn't matter as much as long as it can be obtained digitally, but some things won't give too easily.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Z

I have to vent. About zombies. Again.

I have plenty of reasons to watch George Romero's recent flicks. I enjoyed Land of the Dead, but ever since then, I've found his flicks to be on par with Day of the Dead. This is not like Romero's worst films are better than an average director's best films. Films like Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead rubbed me the absolutely wrong way.

Diary of the Dead has an interesting premise: a reboot of the zombie apocalypse in the day and age of YouTube. The premise doesn't really come to fruition because of stock, one-note characters. Given that Romero used unknown actors for Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, the same technique doesn't work for Diary or even Survival of the Dead. Survival is more or less a hokey western, complete with rival families, and oh yeah, there are zombies hanging out.

I know not every director can hit it out of the park with every movie. All I'll say is that if you want to see a couple of zombie movies done right, start with Dawn of the Dead.

What I've found interesting is, despite how much the zombie genre has been mined over the years, is amazing Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead is.

I recently plowed through the first 48 issues of the comic in preparation for the upcoming TV show. The pace is quick and the dialogue is sparse in many spots, but that's fine by me. New characters come along, some die quickly, some die later, and some stay alive. How the tension is built around the characters along with the zombies is quite engaging. The characters are important, and oh yeah, there are zombies.

Here I am enjoying generations of zombies, but intrigued by the younger generations these days. This genre won't end . . . thankfully.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Hit Somebody

As I look at what I have in my first draft of When We Were the Kids, I have begun reading a book on somebody I barely knew and barely knew his music. Warren Zevon, the subject of the book, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, is the person. Other than "Werewolves of London" and his final record, that's all I really knew about him going in. That's why I'm reading the book.

As a writer, you can engage your readers way more when you go beyond talking about how awesome somebody's music is. All opinions are subject, so do you really want to devote a lot of space in a biography talking about how awesome the second album is better than the first album? There's a place for that stuff, but I don't think large chunks of space should be devoted to that in a book.

I still stand behind the notion that you should examine more about the people you're profiling instead of the music. The music should be mentioned, but this not a glorified essay meant for liner notes. You get a better understanding of the music when you know more about the people behind it.

So far, I've enjoyed this take on Zevon's life, as told in the oral history format with a number of people that knew him well. The emphasis is more on Zevon rather than talking about all the specifics of his music. The music is there for you to listen to if you're curious. I like that option instead of being bombarded about opinions about his music.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Wallpaper hangin'

A few years ago, Kev did a blog post about a "wallpaper" gig. As in, he was playing music meant to be in the background. Over the weekend, I did my first DJ gig as a wallpaper artist as well.

My aunt's 50th birthday party was Saturday night. She had an entire restaurant in downtown McKinney rented out for the night and she asked me to provide music for the party portion after dinner. She had suggested music from her college days, like the Go-Gos, A Flock of Seagulls, and Talking Heads. Since I have a vast library of songs from the '80s (popular and not-so popular), this was a piece of cake.

I wanted to keep the music peppy and recognizable. You can't be a punk purist about everything in life, you know. And when you're DJing something other than your personal playlist, you have to understand that you're not the only one listening to the music. I might know how awesome "One in a Lifetime" sounds in Stop Making Sense, but the average listener probably knows the opening lyrical stanza and chorus hook at most. Generally speaking, I wasn't so sure most of the attendees even knew who the Talking Heads were. But they enjoyed my playlist.

Another big thing I wanted to make sure went well with this gig was the music's volume. Meaning, not too loud, but not too soft. My reasoning is because of a certain late-night place that I like to go with Diana, Ryan, and/or Matt. On some nights, its P.A.'s insanely loud volume drowns out a normal speaking voice, so we all have to yell at each other. The volume doesn't really fit the vibe since the place is very chill and relaxed.

Keeping that in mind, I asked my father (who provided the P.A.) to keep things at my (and the whole place's) preference of a volume level. No one complained that things were too loud or too soft.

DJing is a fun thing to do and I see no problem serving the crowd. If you wanted to hear the newest Dillinger Escape Plan record, I'd play it in the car or at home for you. I'm not about to put that on something for a general audience. Hell, most people I know who like all kinds of music cannot get into those guys.

This kind of DJing isn't settling; it's doing the job asked of you.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Staff Trax

Last week I saw AFI open for Green Day and I wrote about it. I wrote about it some more in this week's edition.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Superfans

Sometimes being around a superfan can be a great thing.

Recently, an old co-worker of mine (who lives and works in the Cayman Islands, no less) came into town and visited our house. Catching up on things, I had to ask about her fandom of Coheed and Cambria, and what she thought of their latest album, Year of the Black Rainbow. I knew she was a fan of Coheed back when we worked together (which was around In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3), but I was curious if her fandom remained.

Turns out, she is still a big fan and spoke highly of their side projects as well.

Since my friend is a sane person and knows what's good and what's bad, I have to admit that her fanaticism rubbed off on me. I had a few Coheed records already, as well as a DVD of their first four albums performed live, so I decided to round out my collection.

As I wrote in my Staff Trax write-up last week, I am still not so sure I could ever comprehend the saga told in the lyrics over their five albums. I'm glad that I don't have to know that in order to enjoy the music. Usually, bands who make crappy albums claim there's some story around everything and you're supposed to dig far deep to get the story. Sorry guys, crappy music equals very few repeat plays.

Even though superfans may get a bad rap (come on, you can run into some pathetic ones from time to time), but if they can convince you that a band they love is worth your time, then it's perfect.