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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

This Calling

There are only a few byproducts of the combination of being an uncle and getting back into modern metal. Actually, there's probably just one: seeing the lung capacity of babies be on par with the most revered vocalists in metal. Seeing this firsthand is where this can all be truly understood.

I still love a lot of Dillinger Escape Plan, Killswitch Engage, and All That Remains. And I have loved being an uncle since my twin nieces were born. With each visit, I feel so proud of them just for who they are, even though they do have fits. Now that the girls are getting to an age where they can construct full sentences, the amount of crying has lessened a little bit. But I've already witnessed plenty of crying fits, from being tired to being hungry to being scared, to see the maximum volume these girls can dish.

While I see their very loving parents and grandparents do their best to calm them down, seeing them belt out from the stomach is not so much an unnerving experience given my numerous car rides blasting Miss Machine and The Fall of Ideals.

So yes, liking modern metal has made me tolerant of crying babies. But I won't lie, when all sorts of love and affection won't calm them down, patience is severely tested. Patience is something I still work on, so there's more work to be done.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Annual Comics Plea

Last year, Donna helped me out big time with recommending a whole slew of trade paperbacks/graphic novels to check out. I picked up a pile of books in the following weeks, and I just finished the last book (a trade paperback that is incredibly thin, but it took me eight months to finish reading it). Now I'm at a point where I want to go back to the proverbial well.

As much as I like reading comics (and reading in general), I'm still not someone who regularly reads comics. Usually, if there's a movie connection, I'm more inclined. (You won't believe how much more of Watchmen I get now because of seeing the movie a few times.) I have an interest in reading the Scott Pilgrim Vs. books mainly because Edgar Wright's next film is based on the series. So there's an in right there. Plus, I want to finally read From Hell.

But as exciting as it is to get back into the swing of things with reading trade paperbacks and graphic novels, it seems without fail that steam will be lost in finding more books to read. Taking chances can be pricey, and there's only so many chances I can take before I get frustrated.

Once again, I'm fielding suggestions. I lean more towards the kinds of worlds that Alex Robinson, Craig Thompson, Andi Watson, and Guy Delisle write about, and I lean away from superheroes, gritty noir, and over-the-top fantasy. Maybe having that attitude will always relegate me to the ghetto of searching far and wide for indie comics, but there are things worth searching for. It's just going into one of the biggest and best comics stores in Dallas can be really daunting looking at their extensive trade paperback section. Any help would be appreciated!

Monday, July 27, 2009

(Unsolicited) Book Writing Advice

I haven't written one of these things in a while, so I figured it was time to do another one: more unsolicited advice for those who want to write a book!

Write your book first and foremost.
I know I am one to talk about getting ahead of myself (Hello, imagining a possible future all alone in a cramped apartment, or imagining a possible future in a big house with tons of uneven compromises, or broadly imagining something nowhere near that -- and hopefully all for the better), but I can't stress how important it is to write your book first and foremost instead of worrying about stuff like what to call the book or who will put the book out.

With the two projects I'm working on right now, I have a title for one and no title for the other one. I have a pretty clear idea about what I want to write about with both books, so I'm not worried about that. But I do wonder if I'll have to fight for the title of When We Were the Kids if I decide to go with a name publisher. I hope I won't. My attitude is, if somebody else can come up with a better title and I think it's good as well, then that will just have to play out.

In the case of the European horror flick book, I'll let Richard decide more on its title since it's more his book with contributions from me. Hopefully we'll have some ideas soon. As much as people have laughed at me for helping write a book on horror flicks, I'm totally committed to it. This is not the first time I've been laughed at for doing what I want to do. I call it most of my life.

How I suggest one keeps the writing in mind over all other possibilities with the book release, book release date, and so on, is to just keep in the habit of working on the book. That doesn't necessarily mean spend eight hours a day on the book or eight minutes a day on the book. Just find a good routine and keep working. Once again, it's like exercising. And I'm firmly aware that there are plenty of people who have a hard time of sticking to a routine. But if you really want to put your book out there for anyone and everyone to see, I say it's very necessary.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

To play (in a band) or not to play (in a band)

Two years ago, when I wasn't reporting traffic or writing, I was playing drums in a couple of bands. There were many trips up and down stairs with my sensibly-sized four-piece drum set with two crashes and one ride cymbal. I rehearsed a couple of times during the week and played shows on the weekend. I liked the people I played with, and I enjoyed and weathered the (sometimes frustrating) usual things that come with playing. Well, for almost two years now, my life has not had any of the joys or pains of playing with a band.

All the activity disappeared rather quickly off my radar. I was fired from one band for reasons that I'm still not sure why. (I think it's due to the fact that I play aggressively during rock-out parts, but if that's really the reason why, then it's a pretty lame excuse to fire somebody from a rock band.) With my other band, something (or maybe a lot of things) just slowly took the drive out of us. We went from practicing every week to just practicing for an upcoming show.

So, for the past year or so, my activity behind a drum set has been reduced to very little. I still play a lot, but the times of being in the room with other people are scant. Sure, there are times I jam with friends, but that's not every week. I love playing and I just keep playing because I want to. In many cases, I can't help but tap along.

What's strange about this situation is how rare it is for a drummer with a drum set to be without a band. I only half-joke that every town and every college has a lot of guitar players, but every bass player and drummer are already in at least one band. So, what gives?

As tempting as it would be to play in another band again, I'm really hesitant to join a business masquerading as a band. Without fail, it's happened to me three times before where the band has already formed, has a way of working together, and just needs somebody to rock out and keep the beat. Well, any sort of input from me as a musician (yes, there are drummers that know a few things about arrangements, chords, and song structures) seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Once again, I'm using the excuse of "bad situation happened before, don't want a similar situation again." But that's the way I tend to think, hence why I get frustrated and overthink these sorts of situations.

Still, I can't forget the excitement I felt while I was at a party a few weeks ago when a friend of mine mentioned half-jokingly that he, along with his friend and me, should start a band. Though he was mainly joking (he's already busy doing his own band, doing solo shows, and working a full-time job), the thought was definitely positive.

So who knows, maybe I'll saying something completely different in two years.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

$240 worth of pudding

If there's something that makes me sound like a total old timer, it's talking about comedy. Without fail, stuff from the Marx Brothers and Bill Cosby always makes me laugh. Yet there are certain forms of comedy from the last fifteen years that baffle me. And it's easy to make light of them because I don't find them really that funny or completely unfunny. (I still don't get how a movie like There's Something Like Mary is considered so-laugh-out-loud-it-hurts funny. How is the "We've got a bleeder!" gag funny? Seriously. And this is coming from somebody who fell onto the floor laughing at the South Park movie on the first viewing)

Anyway, a particular example of comedy I don't necessarily always get, but don't necessarily always dismiss, is found on Mr. Show, The Kids in the Hall, and The State. Sometimes I get the humor and laugh; other times I just wonder what the hell is going on, and how did the writers come up with this stuff. In the case of The State, I wonder where the idea for $240 worth of pudding comes from, but I can't help laugh every time I see the sketch.

Reading through Nathan's review of the complete State series on DVD, I'm thankful there's still people out there that don't have the rose-colored glasses on with this show. Yes, there's great stuff, and yes, there's "What the?" stuff. And as passionate people can be about their love for the show, this is a prime example of a show that I could laugh at that my parents probably wouldn't laugh at. Meaning, there's still plenty of people that just don't get this kind of stuff. Maybe that's why the show has such a cult following.

For me, I think about the "What the?" stuff and why I don't get it. There's something about comedy that resonates with people: how and where the humor comes from real life. Why do you think Bill Cosby's stuff and Jerry Seinfeld's stuff still holds up well? Real life is the basis for the material and real life is presented clearly in the material. When I see something that seems to be written while the writers were stoned, I wonder if I have to be stoned, and with a group of friends, to laugh at it.

Maybe that's the key: deep-rooted prejudice with the notion of why people routinely get baked. So coupling that with the kind of humor people laugh at when they're stoned, I scratch my head. And no, I'm not about to get into a baking routine so I can understand the humor. I guess that's the Sam the Eagle in me.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A summer place for us

Once again, I have a desire to see a movie that is so reviled by critics, but I just want to see it. No matter what, if I hate the movie, love the movie, or find the movie so-so, I just want to see it so I can say what I think of it in my own words. Though The Spirit is high on my Netflix queue, A Summer Place is higher.

Yes, A Summer Place, a film whose soundtrack is more renowned than the movie itself. The Percy Faith Orchestra's theme music frequently shows up in the film, and to be frank, it's a theme that I have no problem hearing again and again (see also the orchestral version of "The Last Time" used in the Verve's "Bittersweet Symphony").

I'm also aware of the "will they or won't they do it" prevailing theme throughout the movie. The "it" is, of course, intercourse outside of marriage. Yes, the dirty deed that has ruined people's lives, whether it be unwanted children or STDs. Yes, the deed that is horrible, terrible, despicable, and animalistic, except with the person you love. And yes, the more exaggeration, the sillier everything sounds.

Call this all camp, but frankly, I just want to understand why a film's soundtrack is better remembered than the film itself. I can barely remember what exactly happens in Last Action Hero, but I can tell you how kick-ass its soundtrack is. And if I have to drive to see it, no simple article or snide comment can make me think otherwise. I'm always up for seeing movies anyway, and part of the enjoyment of Netflix is to see movies I've never seen before and never saw available on DVD when I shopped at Blockbuster.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Edit

Over the weekend, I took in a viewing of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Now knowing that I have seen the one movie my parents actually ventured out of their house to see this year, I can share plenty with them as they are Potter fans. I've read almost all of the books (I forgot to read the Chamber of Secrets for some reason) and I have always meant to re-read the series. Now I have some drive to do that.

But before I get to that point, I had to point out something that the filmmakers decided to leave out from the Half-Blood Prince book. In hopes I don't come across like an angry early review I read last year, I thought the subtraction of Dumbledore's funeral was wise. Sure, I hope the scene is in the Deathly Hallows movie, but tone-wise, having a Dumbledore funeral after all the mourning and grieving that's already in the movie would seem redundant. Therein lies the challenge of adapting a book into a movie, and moreover, a book series into a movie series.

I can recall when the breaking news about The Return of the King was that Saruman's death would not be in the theatrical cut. An online petition was even started, begging Peter Jackson to put the scene back into the theatrical cut. Well, Jackson's stance stood, and the theatrical cut was all for the better. When the scene was placed in the extended version, people were happy to finally see it, and it made sense why it was removed. Pacing-wise, the scene just threw the beginning off, and the bigger villain in that film was Sauron anyway.

I say you could chalk all this up to understanding that there are more purists than editors speaking up on the Internet. The purists want everything from a book to be made into a film, not really thinking about the film meant to entertain and tell a whole story in one sitting. I think the filmmakers did a great job, and I look forward to final two-part film.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

(The Next Two) Book(s) Update

Time for a little update on the books I've been working on this year: When We Were the Kids and the untitled European horror flick book. Basically, with no concrete deadlines comes a somewhat lazy work ethic. This is the opposite of my ethic with the Observer, but I think as a writer, it's good to have both.

When I can find the time this week (or weekend), I'm getting back into watching and reviewing some movies I've seen and have not seen. As much as I loved The Descent, I'm curious how nerve-frying it will be on a second viewing. Plus, I hope to see The Last House in the Woods, a film that Noel gave high regards to, for the first time. I love how watching movies that you want to see can count as research.

As far as When We Were the Kids, I'm throwing more ideas around and just jotting down basic ideas. That was the plan back in January, and that's the plan I'm sticking with for the rest of the year. I have plenty to go off of based on all my experiences playing in bands, but what has helped bring back a tremendous amount of memories about the context of the day is Greg Prato's book, Grunge is Dead. Essentially, Prato's book fills in the gaps around the book LOSER and the excellent documentary Hype! Plenty of important people who saw grunge develop and explode were interviewed, and it's quite a compelling read.

So with no deadlines comes no word about release dates, but these books are still very much in the works.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Finally realizing that Firefox was not an SNES game

I'm definitely in ancient times with a cell phone, and I should also add I'm in ancient times with my computer. My Dell desktop is about four years old, and I'm still running Outlook Express 2003 for e-mail. I'm not about to jump ship and become a Mac user or a Vista user, but I finally decided yesterday to download the Firefox browser.

The reasons simply boil down to the never-ending crashes I received when closing a page on Internet Explorer. This had been going on for two months straight, and error messages were sent every time. So I just decided to give in and download something else.

So far, so good as the browser works fine and there are no error messages. But I can't but think about people I know that are really into being on top of new technology, and how much I am not.

I was puzzled when I saw people drop $500 for an iPhone the day it came out. I'm still puzzled when I see people on a 3G phone surfing the Internet all the time when they've already been surfing the Internet on a laptop or desktop all day. I just don't have the drive to be on top of technology. If something works and works for years, then why should I jump ship to the newest of the new?

Of course, this is further proof that the apple didn't fall far from my parents' tree. Up until recently, they were active CompuServe members, on a high speed Internet connection mind you, but CompuServe members for e-mail and Internet access.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Is there an app for life?

I have owned a whopping number of three different models of cell phones in my life. The one I have had for the past four years is a flip phone, and it works just fine. How it works just fine is that the phone makes phonecalls and sends and receives text messages. Have I ever wanted my phone to do more? Absolutely not, because I don't have the kind of desire for Internet access on my phone. I spend enough of my life on the Internet, so why should I spend all of my life on it?

I'd like to restate a comment I left on Donna's blog on this topic:
I would say that having a cell phone is a great safety net, but don't let it become your life. Texting is a great option to have. I might not like texting, but I have friends who are easier to contact through text rather than calling them.

All this said, all those bells and whistles with camera phones, 3G connections, etc. are, in my opinion, not necessary. There might be an app for anything, as the ad goes, but it's no replacement for human life and communicating with humans.

In my day-to-day life, when I'm not at work, my cell number is the only way people can call me. Thankfully, I have not become an impatient robot that makes phone calls all the time about being there in five minutes. If I'm lost or if a friend or loved one is running late, there's the exception.

I hope I'm not sounding like Tyler Durden here, but your basic cell phone is important to have. Yet I can't forget the fact that I went twenty-plus years without a cell phone and survived, got to places on time, and met up with friends on time. I still keep that in mind when I carry my cell phone around.

A big part of my view on this comes from a conversation I had with a friend of mine who has an insane amount of texts every month as well as Internet access. Basically, ever since he's had this access, he can't think of his life without it. Well, I prefer to not become that addicted. As a matter of fact, I have never gone over in monthly minutes or texts since I've had my own calling plan. I know I'm throwing away some money each month that way, but I'd like to keep a cushion just in case I were to ever really need all those monthly minutes in a month.

I think this boils down to an issue of want versus need. Do I need to know which bands Franz Nicolay played in before he joined the Hold Steady when I'm at brunch? No, that can wait for when I get home and log onto my computer. I just don't need to know everything right now and in the moment. I like to think about things and follow-up on them when I get the chance.

In the case of e-mail, I don't receive that much in the first place, so why should I be impatient about not receiving an e-mail sent to me while I was taking a nap? The same with Facebook. There's a time and place to receive information, and I just prefer to spend some time away from computers and the Internet in hopes of not becoming a Cylon hybrid.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Horror stories

What's a surefire way to make me nervous about doing something I haven't had much experience (or no experience) in before? Tell me horror stories. As in, you moved into this neighborhood and your house was burglarized three times in one year. Hearing that makes me think I should never consider moving to that neighborhood. Effective, yes, but I'm at a point in my life where I'd like to hear more stories, and preferably not just the horror stories.

Something that was eating away at me for the past month was whether or not I wanted to get another dog now that Juliet has moved away with Jason. Hearing all sorts of stories about people bringing a new dog home and the dog crapped everywhere, chewed up books and CDs, and made a total mess definitely made me cautious. Moreover, downright fearful because I tend to interpret people's words of caution to really mean something along the lines of, "only do this if you really want to" or "don't do this at all."

Since I've been very close to a dog for the past five years, I'm at a point where I find daily life hard without one. I know what I want and what I don't want, but especially what I don't want. I'd prefer to not have horror stories to tell after having a dog for a while. Well, today was a big test.

Yesterday, I decided to visit a shelter in Fort Worth looking for a certain terrier mix I saw advertised online. Turns out, the dog wasn't there, but there was another one, a beagle mix named Victory, that caught my eye. Her specs sounded promising (house-trained, heartworm negative, and a very friendly dog). So I decided to give her a walk around the kennel. When her collar came loose and she ran a few feet away from me, she was stopped by a large black dog that another prospective adopter had out. This behemoth of a dog started smothering her, but wasn't attacking her per se. Seeing the kind of response she had (stood ground, but did not retaliate viciously) totally sold me on her.

I adopted her and took her home, and everything worked just fine. But the big test was seeing how well she could do when nobody was home. After trying to put her in the Pet Taxi (and hearing her scream bloody murder), I decided to let her roam around the rooms except for the bedrooms and bathrooms. Since I usually side with a terrible possible outcome, I was nervous that she would chew on books and DVDs, pee everywhere, and mess up all this new furniture.

So what did I see this afternoon when I got home? Zero damage and a bouncy dog who was happy to see me and wanted to go outside for a pit stop. Disaster was averted for today, but who knows what tomorrow could bring. But I hope that doesn't come. If it comes, then it comes.

Tying this all together, horror stories are compelling because there's so much drama involved. People are less inclined to tell a non-compelling story when there's little or no drama. I think I should remind myself more that such a large percentage of life involves non-horror stories.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Your mother does not work here

A friend and regular reader recently asked a pretty good question: what's the point in making a bed? As someone who makes his own bed everyday he's at his home, I have my reasons. But more along those lines, I think there's something that comes with the discipline you choose to keep after you've moved out of your parents' house and the discipline you let fall to the wayside.

In my case, I like to make my bed everyday because it looks nice and tidy during all the hours I'm not sleeping in it. Nobody has told me to make it, and since straightening everything and folding things back in takes an average of a whopping sixty seconds per day, the "chore" fits neatly into my daily routine. However, when I'm staying at my parents' house (aka, the house I spent almost twenty years living in), I fall back into the habit of never making the bed.

Something I think is imperative for people trying to find their way as an adult is to live without Mom and Dad. Just the mere notion of paying rent, fixing things, and cleaning up after yourself is a valuable lesson for those that have always counted on the parents to take care of everything.

But I won't lie: there was a point during my first few months of living without my parents where I realized I could do whatever I pleased. Luckily for me that didn't involve staying up all night, skipping class, or drinking excessively. Rather, it was choosing to not go to a home football game on a Saturday night. It was choosing to wake up on a Saturday morning when I wanted and doing whatever I wanted (which, like a lot of my life now, involved watching movies, playing video games, and surfing the Internet). Instead of thinking this was rebellion, I take the side of an astute observer I know: it was growing up.

I think it's important for parents to instill a sense of routine and work ethic just for the sake of getting little things done everyday. I don't judge friends or family who don't make their beds, but I definitely judge myself when I don't do it myself.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

I never want to say my best days are behind me

During all the hours I spent at the Warped Tour, I enjoyed running into a couple of people I interviewed for POST. Coupled with my time at the 94.5 the Edge reunion show on Friday, I found the conversations to be a nice lesson in moving on. More specifically, having a nice, steady gig, but it's a gig that doesn't always last forever. Yet after that gig is over, you're able to find something as good or even better, or you're simply able to move on with your life.

In the case of the Warped Tour, I ran into someone who is a phenomenal bass player from a legendary band, but his current band has probably received more hate as being a redundant band in a sea of redundant bands. Another person I ran into used to play in a band that was loved in its day, and is still loved to this day, but this band never reached a very large audience. Anyway, he's been working as a sound man for a few years and still plays guitar here and there.

At no point during either conversation was there a sense of "My best days are behind me and my life sucks now." While I'm sure more fans would love to talk about their previous bands more than what they're up to now, I never got the idea that these guys were grieving for a time that has passed. Even though their heralded bands still get together from time to time to play one-off reunion shows, they aren't the touring machines they used to be.

I understand how doing a band itself can be a really short-term sort of thing. Most people don't know all the tough work and sacrifice that comes with doing a full-time band for years. The kind of routine is incredibly difficult to keep up with after so many trips on the road and in the studio. Sure, there are plenty of career musicians, but there are way more who don't do music for the long haul. And I think the same applies in the case of working in radio: there are plenty of more people that can be in for the long haul, yet I've come across plenty of people that are only in it for a few years. And some of those people are bitter.

I've heard plenty in my time of working in radio about how things were so much better before such and such. The industry is not full of people who have this bitter axe to grind, but there are definitely plenty of them that like to post stuff online. Still I remind myself that I know someone who lost her house in a fire and broke her neck in a helicopter accident, but she still works like a total pro and radiates positive energy every single day. Yet people who have had much smaller tragedies (like a sudden layoff or format change) use that as a stumbling block that never goes away. Luckily, I didn't meet anybody at the Edge reunion show that was grieving for a past time in their current station in life. What they did in the past was a ton of fun, but they've found something else to do that has its advantages and disadvantages.

I think about a sign I saw recently outside of a Presbyterian church, no less: "Challenges can make life bitter of better." I completely agree and sometimes, I really appreciate being around people that choose to go with the latter more than the former.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Warped Wrap-Up

Well, I was on my feet for nine hours, and here's my wrap-up of yesterday's Warped tour.

Vans Warped Tour
Superpages.com Center
July 5, 2009


Better Than: falling asleep on the beach and getting a
funny-looking tan.

The weather could have been way worse for Sunday's Warped Tour date. It could have rained all day. Or it could have been sunny and extremely hot.

Luckily, the weather fluctuated between cloudy, sunny, and overcast. In a lot of ways, that weather rundown sounds like the kinds of moods the entire day was for all things Warped.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Mind Warp

My preview of Sunday's Warped Tour date is now online.
Dissing the Warped Tour and its primary audience is about as moot as criticizing Nickelodeon for catering to a younger audience. Fifteen years in, the Warped Tour still has a reputation for being a fairly priced, all-you-can-digest buffet of bands. From Underoath to Dance Gavin Dance to Bad Religion, there's plenty to see and hear—if you can tolerate the heat.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The TV entertained itself

Now just a few weeks after the historic transfer from analog to digital TV, I have tried to check out my local channels on my home's TV only twice. Sadly, the ABC affiliate does not come in, and the other channels are hit and miss with reception. But when I come home everyday, I don't think about turning the TV on. Yet when I visit my parents or certain relatives, the TV is a must.

Part of my main gig involves having five television sets on the entire time. I'm on the Internet all the time as well, but only the Internet is something I want to be on when I get home. There's no desire to turn on the tube and watch when there are books to be read, magazines to be read, books to be written, and DVDs to be watched. And, of course, music to be heard.

For whatever reasons they are, I don't mind watching episodes of Arrested Development or Dinner For Five over and over again while I eat dinner. With the first four seasons of SNL and the entire Battlestar Galactica series coming my way in the next few weeks on DVD, in addition to watching Cheers on Netflix, I have plenty to watch for the rest of the year.

But when I visit family or friends, I don't have all those DVDs crowding up my view. The same with books. I like to visit with my family and friends, but after so many hours of that, there's a desire to do something else, like watch TV. Or in the case of having two-year-old nieces, they need something to watch to occupy them.

As much as I enjoy being around friends and family, there is a desire to head on back home and come back to the everyday habitat. I guess that's proof that I've successfully found my own home and a homelife that's enjoyable. That only took how many years?