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Xmas 2009 loot drop

I am the lucky owner of a copy of DJ Hero for the Xbox 360 that I received from my wife and kids for Xmas this year.

Caution: Naked consumerism post herein!Collapse )
Hope everyone else reading this had a good holiday weekend, too!

Not the year end wrap-up, yet...

So, it's been awhile again. I blame work for being work and not allowing me to do the important stuff like finding funny and interesting things on the Internet, blogging, tweeting, posting to FB, etc. You know, the stuff that's really important. Versus the stuff that puts food on our table and a roof over our heads.

In any case, ...Collapse )

It's the little things that matter most...

I was standing around waiting for my lunch order and watching Fox News' coverage of a high speed chase in Southern Florida earlier today. It was a white late-model Mazda 6. At one point, the crawl/caption below the live footage indicated that the car had exceeded 130 MPH. My first thought was, "I wonder if that's a 6 with the v4 or v6 engine. If it's the v4, I'm impressed it got up that high without redlining or blowing the motor."

I'm pretty sure it wasn't an MS6 because the taillight covers weren't the correct style.


Too much NPR?

One of the things that will happen to me occasionally as I'm reading is that I will become conscious of my internal reading voice. (Not sure if that makes much sense to anyone.)

I was recently reading an issue of the New Yorker from early-November 2008 (hey! i'm less than a year behind now!) and was reading an article about Silvio Berlusconi's political problems. As I was reading, I realized that the internal reading voice of mine was none other than Sylvia Poggioli. I'm so used to any news story about Italy being reported by her.

While reading another article in a different New Yorker about Texas BBQ the intgernal narrator was NPR's Wade Goodwyn.

I think I get 95% of my news from Minnesota Public Radio and National Public Radio. I pretty much never see TV news these days. One odd consequence of this is that I sometimes don't know what these people in the news look like.

The Beatles

I was lucky enough to get the recently remastered and reissued catalog by The Beatles. Mind you, I could only afford to get the stereo MP3s. As much as I wish I could have afforded the fancy big-buck box set, I just didn't have that kind of money to spend on it nor the space in my office for more stuff. But, now that I have this remastered material, I did take the opportunity to get rid of the previous CD reissues that were done nearly 20 years ago. I think I listened to the "new" stuff non-stop for about two weeks straight after getting them. They sound excellent and the remastering engineers did a great job. I'm still curious about the mono remasters but I probably won't pursue getting those.

This is probably the first time I've listened that closely to the early Beatles material (pre-"A Hard Day's Night"). I hadn't been that intrigued with the stuff from that era for some reason (that I haven't really thought much about). It's nice to have those albums, though. It's also the first time I've listened to "Abbey Road" and "Let It Be". Again, I don't know why, but I never got around to buying those final two albums on CD previously. With all of this listening I've come to appreciate Ringo's drumming more. I've also had different songs become favorites of mine, too. In particular, I really latched on to "Dig A Pony" and "I've Got a Feeling".

The material is definitely worth the price.

Glad I signed the "pain waiver" to get in!

I was excited to have a chance to see the current Dethklok/Mastodon metal cavalcade traveling across the country a couple of weeks ago. The show was originally slated to play at the now closed Myth. I was thankful that it got moved to Roy Wilkins Auditorium instead of getting canceled. Roy Wilkins is definitely not really suited for live music. It's a big echoing space full of bare metal rafters and concrete walls. Coincidentally, the last time I was there was for my high school graduation. That's almost 20 years. Yikes!

In any case, what follows is what I remember from the show with some blurry pics I took with my HTC Touch Pro.

The tour, for the uninitiated, is co-headlined by both Dethklok and Mastodon. Dethklok is the fictional death metal band from the [Adult Swim] series "Metalocalypse". Which is about to start its third season. Mastodon is the metal band from Atlanta, Georgia that is really having a break-out year with the release of their album "Crack the Skye". They've also brought along Converge and High on Fire. I'd seen Converge before when I also saw Mastodon for the first time when they were touring for "Blood Mountain". It was my first time seeing High on Fire and I was looking forward to it.

I went with my friend Derik. I would have gone on my own if I'd had to, but it was definitely nice to go with him since he's seen the show, too. Plus, he hadn't seen Mastodon since "Crack the Skye" came out as the band now tours with a pretty fitting video presentation in the background. Boy, was it a very ... eclectic crowd for a metal show. It definitely has to do with the TV show aspect of it, I'm sure. In any case we got there in time to check out the merchandise table. I bought a Dethklok shirt. Horns up!

The show had a pretty early start. The doors were listed for 6, I think. High on Fire was on stage by 6:30 or 6:45.

Mr. Blurrycam presents... High on Fire

They played for about 30 or 45 minutes. I know for sure that they opened with "Fury Whip". They played stuff off "Death is this Communion". Not sure what else they played as I'm not super-familiar with the titles of their songs. For the gear heads, the lead singer/guitarist played a custom First Act 8-string most of the set. And, for some unknown reason, did a lot of spitting on the stage (though not at the crowd). Nice tight set, regardless. I was glad to have had a chance to see them live.

Next up were Converge who played for 30 minutes or so. Converge is more hardcore and punk influenced than the rest of the bands on this tour and the crowd apparently didn't care for it. In fact, in most of the comments I've seen from people who've seen this show during its tour, they really don't seem to like Converge. Which is a shame. I think they're a great live band. Lots and lots of energy. I'm not a big fan but I can definitely appreciate what they're doing. There were obviously fans there but they were probably in the minority. BTW, from all reviews I've read/heard, the new album "Axe to Fall" is a killer. Here's a link to their "Axe to Fall" video.

Mr. Blurrycam presents... Converge!

For the gear heads out there, one of the things that really impressed me about Converge was Kurt Ballou's guitars. When I saw them for the first time a couple years ago, he was playing a lot of guitars you don't find in your typical metal band's arsenal: mostly Fender Customer Shop Telecasters and a Rickenbacker. This time out, though, I was perplexed by what Kurt was playing. They looked like Fenders but the bodies weren't quite the right shape and were too small. The headstocks weren't quite the right shape, either. Turned out that he was playing all First Act custom "Studio for Artists" series guitars.

Mastodon took the stage next. For the most part, they played a slightly shortened (I think) version of the show I saw in May. They played "Crack the Skye" in its entirety again then played a few songs off their prior albums. This time they played "Circle of Cysquatch" (which I was hoping they would play last time). They didn't play "March of the Fire Ants" (but they did in May).

Mr. Blurrycam presents... Mastodon

Mr. Blurrycam presents... Mastodon

As I said previously, the sound wasn't all that great at this venue. So, that kind of marred my opinion of the performance. But, it wasn't the band's fault. For the gear heads, Brent Hinds started the night playing what looked like a clear acrylic Flying V and then alternated between that and some First Act custom guitars including an 8-string.

Last up were Dethklok. Before they hit the stage, there was a short advertisement for the new video game "Brütal Legend" which is about a heavy metal roadie named Eddie Riggs (voiced by Jack Black) who gets transported into a world heavily influenced by heavy metal imagery, etc. The commercial included Dethklok so it was very fitting (and funny).

Dethklok's set is fixed night to night because it is synchronized with videos from the TV show and specific song animation for the live show. The setlist is

I wasn't sure what to expect and was hoping it wouldn't be cheesy or anything. I was completely blown away. Not just by the spectacle of the set itself but by Brendon Small's musicianship. Very impressive. He played and did lead vocals. I was a fan of his because of "Home Movies" and "Metalocalypse" but I must say that I am an even bigger fan now because of his musical talent.

Since I only have one really sorry image of Dethklok's performance (which is saying something considering some of the junk above), I provide links to photos taken by others at other tour stops that are higher quality here and here.

Also, someone else was at the St. Paul show. LJ user kenezbian. I came across her posting on the show via the [AS] community topic for this tour. I know I saw her and her husband at the show, too. Sounds like they had a pretty cool night since they got to meet and chat with Brendon, Gene, and guys from Mastodon, too. You can find her post about that night here.

BTW, the new Dethklok album, "Dethalbum II", is excellent. Even better than the first!

"Until the Light Takes Us"

A brief note about the embedded trailer. Though it is in passing, there is one photograph of someone who has committed suicide and a brief sequence of someone cutting their arm with a knife.


"Until the Light Takes Us" screened as part of the tenth annual Sound Unseen Music and Film Festival. I found out about this showing from my friend Kathie (that's her blog that's linked here). Once I saw the above trailer, I had to see it.

"Until the Light Takes Us" is a documentary that essentially covers the early days of the Norwegian black metal scene in the early 1990s. (Those unfamiliar with "black metal" should go here for a primer of sorts.) From reading this article at Twitch this documentary may be the best of the ones that exist since it's the first to include one-on-one interviews with Varg "Count Grishnackh" Vikernes (of Burzum). After watching the movie, I hold two opinions.

Personally, I found it terribly interesting. Mostly because I tend to be a sucker for documentaries about pop/rock bands and artists. Doubly so because I'm still finding my way through the world of "heavy metal" and have found myself particularly enamored with bands that are part of the US black metal scene (primarily Wolves in the Throne Room, Krallice, and Leviathan/Lurker of Chalice). So, this documentary comes as a way of filling in some historical gaps that were previously addressed only through wikipedia entries. On the other hand, I had a hard time seeing how this would find a larger audience because of its subject matter and the fact that there was a lot of background about the music and scene that wasn't really expounded on. It seemed as though it was assumed the viewer had some previous knowledge about the subject matter.

A curious thing with this documentary was that the majority of the music that plays throughout was either Boards of Canada or (assuming my hazy musical recollection serves me right) early múm. There was very little actual black metal played during the documentary. And, maybe because it wasn't as relevant to the specific subject matter at hand, they didn't really get into some of the more extreme ideologies espoused by some (National Socialism, racism, eugenics, etc.) Varg touches a bit on some of his beliefs and how it relates to the music but otherwise not much else was really said about it.

I found the entire section involving Harmony Korine to be pointless.

There were some lighter moments in the documentary too. The scene of "Frost" from Satyricon sitting on a plane to Italy next to a little boy who keeps looking at the camera crew and then looking at this mean-looking guy was pretty funny.

It was announced before our screening that this documentary has been picked up for distribution. So, if you're interested, you may get a chance to see it in a theater after November.

Uh, does this work still?

Sorry reader (LOL). It's been a long time. Mostly because (a) I've been so busy at work that I don't have time to post on here and (b) in the evenings I end up doing household chores that can't get done while the girls are up or I'm just too burned out to do more than stare blankly at the computer monitor.

But, I've also felt guilty neglecting this place. I've got a lot I want to talk about. But, much like what's going on at work, so much to blog about that I can't figure out the best place to start so nothing gets blogged about.

Let's see if I can remember what's been going on since I last posted anything...

We joined Lifetime Fitness in July. I've been going mainly to improve my cardio-vascular fitness. But, I've also been using it to do a little bit of weight training and working to strengthen my core to help with my golf game. It's only been a couple months. In order to receive a membership credit through our HMO, I've had to go a minimum of 12 times per month. When we signed up, the ramifications of this hadn't dawned on me. If I want that credit, I have to go three times a week! It actually hasn't been that difficult to do that so far. I can't say for sure if it's been helping or not. But, I will say that I feel "weird" if I miss one of my "scheduled" trips to the gym.

My beginner's golf "league" has ended for the summer. Which is sad. I will miss having a regularly scheduled golf outing every week. My friend and I were going to go this past Friday. He called me in the morning to say he couldn't make it (kid was sick). So, I went by myself (no way I'm going to let a round of golf go to waste). The forecast was for rain and I was praying that it would hold off (or at worse drizzle) during my round. With the impending bad weather, there were few people on the course. In fact, I was able to go out and play by myself! Unfortunately, about 2/3rds of the way through the first hole, it started to rain. No problem, I brought a jacket with me. Then it rained harder for about 10 minutes. Then it let up to a moderate drizzle. Then it rained hard again. Repeat over and over again. I was finishing the 10th hole when I decided I was too distracted by my pants being completely soaked to continue. Luckily, I had thought ahead and brought a change of clothes. I ordered a pair of Adidas rain pants on Friday afternoon. I don't mind golfing in the rain. I just don't like being completely soaked. I'll be ready for the next time because my friends and I seem to have a knack for choosing the days when it's going to rain (or snow) when we golf.

My birthday came and went. Also, in another sign that I am old now, it is my 15 year college reunion this weekend. I won't be attending any of the festivities. Most of the alums that I'm interested in seeing I already see on a regular basis. But, it is weird to think that it's been 15 years since I left college. It also means that my 20th high school reunion is around the corner, too. Yikes!

But, I do what I can to stay young. My interests and hobbies seem to bear that out. My wife was kind enough to allow me to purchase "The Beatles: Rock Band" for my birthday. Since I hadn't bought either Rock Band or Guitar Hero: World Tour yet and had no instruments other than my GH2 Gibson X-plorer, I bought the version of TB:RB that included the drums, Hofner bass replica and microphone (wired).

The drums


I think I'm finally getting down the drums. I'm at least scoring four stars regularly on easy. I'll move on to the next difficulty level soon enough. I definitely prefer the scale of the guitar/bass that came with this game versus the scale of the GH2 X-plorer. The guitar/bass is closer in size to a real guitar so I find it more comfortable to play. I can only assume the rest of the RB2 instruments are of this scale. Not sure I want to pay the price premium for either the replica Rickenbacker or Gretsch though I am sorely tempted. The Gretsch replica would be sweet. I had hoped these would work with GH2 and GH3. But they don't. So, I guess if I want to keep GH2 and GH3, I'll have to keep the X-plorer around. The X-plorer does work with TB:RB.

OK. This post is getting a tad lengthy, I've got more to talk about but I think I'll save it for a post talking about the music I've been listening to lately instead.

Soon! I promise!

Lucky Egg (Qee)

This year is the fifth anniversary of ROBOTlove in Minneapolis. I swung by their store a few Saturday's ago to see what was up. Sadly, even though I have access to such a great little shop in town, it's not often that I find my way over there. Mostly due to a general lack of disposable income and time.

In any case, after spending quite a bit of time looking at all of the awesome stuff that I wanted to have, but couldn't justify actually needing, I settled on a couple items:

  1. Burgermenos Egg Qee by Jon Burgerman:

  2. Burgermenos Egg Qee Chase (Front) Burgermenos Egg Qee Chase (Back)
    According to this blog post, the one I got is the fourth chase figure.

    The funniest part is that this figure is the first blind box figure I've ever purchased! I wish I had this kind of luck in everything I did (like playing the lottery)!

    Here's a part of what my collection looks like now:

    The crew

    I've been pretty good about not going overboard on the collectible stuff. But, it's hard when great new items keep coming out (like the new KR Futurama figures)!

  3. New Skateboard Graphics by J. Namdev Hardisty:

  4. New Skateboard Graphics

    Gorgeous hardcover book. I've been enjoying paging through this one.

While I was in the store, I also had a chance to see the Mark Ryden "YHWH" vinyl figure in person. I was on the fence about this one because I had only seen it in pictures on websites (and the e-mailed updates I get from Porterhouse). But, I definitely wanted it as soon as I saw it. Unfortunately, that piece was out of my meager price range. Oh well.

Feel the Burn!

A few Sundays ago, we had promised to take the girls over to Lake Calhoun to check out the events that were being staged there during Minneapolis' Aquatennial Celebration. So my brother came over (we hadn't seen him since he had returned from a brief visit to Korea), Shelly packed a nice picnic lunch, and we all bicycled down the Midtown Greenway to the lake. The Greenway is excellent. One of the best things that was constructed to make bicycling in this city much more manageable. This was the first time I had ridden my bike since last year. It probably took about 30 minutes to get from our house to the lake.

Shelly pulled the trailer with the girls in it on the way to the lake. Julie is definitely too big to be riding in there. She's nowhere near ready to go on long rides, though. She can't make it halfway around our block before complaining that she's tired. We've previously discussed getting one of those ride-along trailer bike contraptions. It would be a good compromise between forcing Julie into the trailer and not going on bike rides at all.

In any case, we got to the lake (it was a gorgeous day) and there were a lot of people. Lots of good people watching. We caught the last milk carton boat race of the day between a team made up of representatives from the Aquatennial committee and a team representing the St. Paul Winter Carnival committee. I don't remember who won. They had a bunch of those inflatable bouncy things set up and Julie wanted to go on one. Just as we were standing in line to buy tickets to do that, someone offered us their wristband as they were leaving. So, Julie got to go on the ride for free! I think Sophie wasn't interested so she hung out with Shelly and they watched Julie from the side.

Here's the view from Thomas Beach (where the stuff was going on)...

Thomas Beach, Lake Calhoun

The stuff in the foreground was for the sand castle/sculpture competition. There were a few nice looking ones and what looked like a lot of "no shows". Unfortunate.

For the ride back, I pulled the kids in the trailer and Shelly chatted with my brother. We made one brief stop on the ride back but made it back home without any problems (well aside from all of my huffing and wheezing and the sore legs). All in all, it was a nice way to spend the day.


Original came across this one in a post on the Mobtown Shank.

Now I wish I had a theremin.

Eight ... is not enough.

Eight years ago today, Shelly and I got married.

I can't believe it's been eight years already.

Happy anniversary, sweetie!

More Camera Obscura "live"

Apparently, Camera Obscura performed "live" in the studios of Minnesota Public Radio's The Current. They performed "Honey In The Sun," "French Navy," and "Tougher Than The Rest."

I can't seem to get the embed code to work in LJ, so you'll just have to do with the above link.

In a wonderful change to the usual, a few acts have come through town that I've been very interested in seeing. The first was Mastodon. The second was Wolves in the Throne Room. The most recent was Camera Obscura at the Cedar Cultural Center.

I got into Camera Obscura after their previous album, "Let's Get Out of This Country", came out. I don't recall if I was into them the last time they came through the Twin Cities. So when I saw that they were coming to the Cedar Cultural Center, I knew I had to see them.

I arrived to find that the show had sold out. So, I was glad I took the extra effort to pick up a ticket earlier in the week. I found my way up to the front so I could meet up with a friend, Kathie. I have to say, that it's been a long time since I took the effort to get up to the front near the stage at a show. In my advancing years, I've taken to preferring a seat or standing in a location that afforded a better view of the stage that didn't require the possibility of being trampled. But, unlike a metal show, I didn't really have to worry about a mosh pit. So, I was safe. We were off to the right side of the stage where Gavin (Bass) and Kenny (Guitar) were situated. One nice thing about being right up at the stage (and a low-rise stage at that) was that I got a perfect view of the set list for the evening:

  1. My Maudlin Career

  2. Swans

  3. The Sweetest Thing

  4. Tears for Affairs

  5. Teenager

  6. Let's Get Out of the Country

  7. Eighties Fan

  8. James

  9. Away With Murder

  10. Honey in the Sun

  11. French Navy

  12. Books Written for Girls

  13. If Looks Could Kill

  14. Lloyd I'm Ready to be Heartbroken (encore)

  15. Razzle Dazzle Rose (encore)

The two encore pieces weren't on the set list. But, it's hard to miss "Lloyd I'm Ready to be Heartbroken" since it was the big hit off their previous album. "Razzle Dazzle Rose" closed out the same album.

I also took one picture from the show. So, you get a relatively blurry look at Tracyanne...

A blurry Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura

The band sounded great. Though, based on some of the gestures various band members were making, I think some specific instrument levels either in the house sound or in the monitors wasn't quite loud enough. I didn't notice it. Tracyanne dropped a verse during one song, though I can't recall which one now. She apologized and said some were giving her the "evil eye". Oh well, live show, things happen. Big whoop. Move on.

In any case, if you like these guys and they're headed your way, SEE THEM. I hope I'll get future chances to see them play again.

One last story... While I was waiting for the opening act to finish, I was standing toward the back corner of the room near one of the doors to the "green room". At some point, this woman came out to watch. I looked back and wondered which band member she was. I thought it looked like Tracyanne but wasn't 100% sure. Of course, it turned out to be her. Had I realized it at that time, I probably would have done my best to not devolve to "gushing fanboy" mode. If I were really on my toes, I probably would have asked politely if they could play "Knee Deep at the NPL" for me. That is probably my favorite song by this band. It's off the "Underachievers Please Try Harder" album.

Won't ghost ride this whip...

So, back in October of 2007, we purchased a "pre-owned" 2004 Honda Odyssey. At that time, we ended up donating the 1995 VW Jetta III that I had been driving (it had 185K miles on it). I began driving Shelly's 1993 Honda Civic LX

1993 Honda Civic

Overall, it was in pretty good condition considering its age. It had been through a major hail storm in the late-90s and so was dimpled. But, in comparison to my Jetta, it had fewer miles on it, maintenance costs for it would be considerably lower, and it had an AT so Shelly could drive it when necessary. So it made sense at the time to get rid of the Jetta and keep the Civic.

I drove it with relatively minimal complaining or griping (Shelly might disagree). One problem that seems to be common to Civics of this generation is that the points where the rear bumper cover attaches to the rear quarter panel is prone to rusting. You can see where it's separating in the above photo on the driver's side. We had that fixed once a couple years ago. It held up but recently started coming apart again. We asked the dealership to try and fix it again. They did, but it fell apart the same night I drove it home from the dealer's parking lot. I think they knew how futile an attempt it was that they didn't even charge us for that work.

We decided that it was time to replace the Civic. So, this past Saturday, we purchased a 2007 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE

2007 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE

Shiny. Pretty. Overall, it's in very nice condition. Seems to have been relatively well maintained. A couple of minor dings on the bumper (that I'll cover up with some touch-up paint) are the biggest cosmetic blemishes. It's much quieter on the inside than the Civic was, too. I feel very lucky to have gotten a replacement for the Civic. It's not the G35x that I was aiming for, but this fits in our budget.

Not entirely sure what we're going to do with the Civic yet. We had planned on donating it, like we did with the Jetta, to the Newgate Education Center. But, Shelly informed me last night that someone may be interested in buying it from us.