Friday, December 30, 2011

Sick

I'd planned to start posting again after Christmas, but I've been sick, so I probably won't really get back to it until next week.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Our Little Graduate

Congratulations to my little brother on his commencement. Hopefully I'll get there myself at some point.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My 25 Favorite Metal Songs

While sitting in the living room playing music today, I decided to put my leisure to good use. To that end, here is a list of my 25 all-time favorite metals songs. I repeat, these are MY FAVORITES. This is not an objective list of the best metal songs.

Some of the cuts I had to make were rather painful, and of course any list like this is subject to almost constant change. I tried to step back and look at my listening habits over the past year or two rather than just my current mental state, so I think the end result is fairly representative, with the songs near the top being particularly stable in my mind. My one condition was that only one song per band could make the list. That was only a relevant issue with a few bands, though, so that rule didn't affect the final list very much.

Anyway, without further ado, here it is:

25. "Into the Grave" by Grave
The crushingly heavy, catchy, infectious title track from 1991's Swedish death metal classic Into the Grave.

24. "Majesty and Decay" by Immolation
I appear to be in the minority of this one, since Immolation's new 2010 album Majesty and Decay is my favorite album of theirs. The main riff in the title track is one of my favorites in all of death metal.

23. "The Morning Never Came" by Swallow the Sun
Yet another title track (I promise I'm not doing this on purpose), this time the 9-minute epic from 2003's death-doom masterpiece The Morning Never Came.

22. "Brother Blue Steel" by The Obsessed
The opening track from 1991's Lunar Womb is the one of the catchiest traditional doom metal songs you'll ever encounter, and I love Wino's vocals.

21. "Screaming For Vengeance" by Judas Priest
1982's Screaming For Vengeance has a title track with one of the best choruses in metal history. Rob Halford stands out, really showing off his pipes on this song.

20. "Hallowed Be Thy Name" by Iron Maiden
1982 also saw the release of one of metal's most celebrated records in The Number of the Beast. The closing track is a heavy metal classic of monumental proportions.

19. "Brothers of Metal, Part 1" by Manowar
Cheesier than hell, but I don't care. This track off 1996's Louder Than Hell is just pure over-the-top fun.

18. "Symphony of Life" by SpiRitual
A brilliant, complex fusion of electronic, folk, and gothic metal with widely varied vocal styles. This track comes from the EP Pulse, which was released in 2005 and is sadly the only record the band has ever produced.

17. "My Ending Quest" by Gorement
Stunningly beautiful, the opener from 1994's criminally unknown The Ending Quest is probably the single greatest old school death metal track I've ever heard.

16. "Lord of the Seas" by Nomans Land
Coming from Hammerheart, the 2005 release by a largely unknown Russian outfit, this was one of the first Viking metal songs I ever heard, and it's still one of my favorites. It's lighter and bouncier than many of the more subdued songs in this style, but it's a fun, catchy listen.

15. "A Tout Le Monde" by Megadeth
From 1994's Youthanasia. I've heard considerable debate as to whether or not this was still thrash metal, but regardless of what you call it I'll keep playing this song again and again.

14. "Black Sabbath" by Black Sabbath
Possibly the first heavy metal song. Definitely the first doom metal song. The eerie, atmospheric classic from 1970's monumental Black Sabbath is more than just a personal favorite, it's one of the greatest and most groundbreaking tracks in metal history.

13. "I Was Buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery" by Woods of Ypres
A slow, faintly unsettling track from the largely unknown Woods IV: The Green Album, released in 2009. This is an idiosyncratic blend of atmospheric black and doom metal which is hard to describe to somebody who has never heard it.

12. "Enter Sandman" by Metallica
Yes, I know Metallica (The Black Album) was where the band "sold out" in 1991. And I know this gets played every day on every rock station in the country. I don't care. I still love this song, and I enjoy listening to it more than any other single track in Metallica's formidable thrash catalog.

11. "Holy Diver" by Dio
Probably the best-known recording by the legendary vocalist Ronnie James Dio, the title track from 1983's Holy Diver has seemingly infinite replay value. It has become one of heavy metal's most recognized classics.

10. "Born Too Late" by Saint Vitus
The title track and opener for 1986's Born Too Late is good old traditional doom metal at its absolute best. The entire album is just well-executed Black Sabbath worship, but this particular song really stands out to me as something special.

9. "Return Trip" by Electric Wizard
Incomparably heavy and inhumanly slow, this monolithic wall of crushing psychedelic fuzz opened the 1997 release Come My Fanatics.... A nearly-10-minute slab of thunder and bong water, it's everything an extreme doom metal song could hope to be.

8. "Token of Time" by Ensiferum
Marvelously energetic and melodic, this ultra-catchy track appeared on the band's 2001 full-length debut, Ensiferum. It's brilliantly executed and surprisingly upbeat Viking metal that makes me want to start jumping up and down every time I hear it.

7. "Gods of War Arise" by Amon Amarth
This was one of the bands I had to institute my 1-song-per-band rule for. Picking a favorite Amon Amarth song is like picking your favorite individual berry from a blueberry pie. That said, I love this track from 2006's awesome melodeath album With Oden on Our Side and I feel perfectly happy placing it high on this list.

6. "Monkey Junction" by Weedeater
From the first time I heard this hateful southern sludge monster, I was hooked. It is from And Justice For Ya'll, which was released in 2001. This thing is fuzzy, druggy, and hostile in a strikingly catchy way.

5. "Dunkelheit" by Burzum
I'm not the biggest fan of Norwegian black metal, but I love this song. It's dark, atmospheric, and strangely haunting in a way that many later acts have tried to capture but have never succeeded in equaling. It was released in 1996 as the opening track of Filosofem.

4. "The Jester Race" by In Flames
As my longtime favorite band, I naturally had a little trouble picking out my very favorite of their songs. After some thought, the title track from 1996's melodic death metal masterpiece The Jester Race came out on top. This is a slightly redundant, ultra-catchy, chorus-oriented affair that many fans would claim is not even one of the better tracks on the album. This is my list, though, and I've played this song into the ground without ever tiring of it.

3. "The Leper Affinity" by Opeth
The opener for Opeth's phenomenal 2001 album Blackwater Park was possibly the single most pivotal song in forming my metal tastes. I encountered it early in my journey, and I was blown away. Nothing was ever the same after that for me, at least not musically. This deathy, progressive titan occupies a very special place for me.

2. "Inis Mona" by Eluveitie
I just love this song. This carries no deeper explanations or personal history, just pure enjoyment. Coming from Slania in 2008, this wonderfully balanced melodeath/folk metal track is insanely catchy and a ton of fun to listen to, no matter how many times I play it.

1. "One Rode to Asa Bay" by Bathory
I didn't even have to think about this one. This 10-minute-plus epic from 1990's Viking metal classic Hammerheart stands in a class by itself in my mind. Beautiful and deeply emotional, the narrative surrounds the forceful Christianization of Scandinavia, and the subsequent demise of that region's traditional culture. The compositions is amazing, and Quorton's warbling voice cracks with such genuine heartbreak that I find it impossible not to be totally captivated. My feelings about this song are so strong that I even made it the subject of a college essay last school year.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

So I Think I Can Write?

I've started up a new blog as a home for my own short fiction writing. For now, I'm doing short installments of a story I've just begun writing, and I intend to put up another few paragraphs each day. In the future I may add other extended series or possible some stand-alone short works, but I don't really know yet. Since I started it for my own use and benefit, I'm not terribly concerned with developing any kind of readership for that blog. If you happen to be interested in taking a look, though, or if you're just bored and you feel like telling me whether or not it's total crap, I'll leave a you link to it here: Fictional Tidbits

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Metal Christmas



After some searching, this was the best metal Christmas song I was able to locate. So, in celebration of the season, here is some Dio. God rest ye too, RJD.

Does anybody else have any good metal Christmas songs they would like to share? And no, I don't count the songs off Christmas ist Krieg as "good" (though some of them are rather amusing in their own odd way).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Winter of the Beard

The Winter of The Beard from Michael Schwartz on Vimeo.

I found this documentary film to be quite engrossing. It follows the actions, journeys, and personalities of a group of men who record their lives individually while they all grow beards for 6 months.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

As Always With Lists...

As per usual when it comes time to start making lists, I already find myself wishing to add amendments. This is always the case when making lists, but this time I think there are two very distinct problems I'm encountering. The first is that, as previously stated, I've kept poor tabs on new releases this year, so I'll likely still be uncovering things for quite some time that were released in 2011 and that I really like. The second is that I've found myself so heavily drawn to new pagan/viking/folk metal that I had to restrain myself to keep from totally losing any trace of balance in my genre distribution. I was already pretty lopsided, and on second thought I probably should have been even more so than I was.

That top 10 list is done, but just as a couple quick honorable mentions, I'd like to note "Book of Dowth" by Suidakra and "Heiðindómr ok mótgangr" by Helheim. Some good material was also released this year by Absu, Vomitory, Skeletonwitch, Autopsy, Purgatory, and other groups too but the two aforementioned albums are the ones that I feel most strongly deserve mention.

My guess is six months from now I'll look back at my list and shake my head, but oh well.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Top 10 Metal albums of 2011

Well, it's December, and we all know what that means. It means this is the time to start releasing our best-of-the-year lists. Before I start mine, I'd like to make a few notes:

- I did not do a very good job this year of keeping up with new releases, so it's quite possible that I missed out on a number of albums that deserve "Top 10" status. I can't rank what I haven't heard yet, though, so these are the top 10 albums from 2011 that I've heard.

- This list is just my personal opinion, so when you see that releases by groups like Mastodon got left off, don't freak out about it. I'm not claiming they're bad by excluding them, I'm just saying that they didn't do much for me personally.

- You'll notice that the genre distribution is not terribly balanced. To be fair, I'm not crazy about power metal, and only a handful of thrash groups interest me. There may well be many great releases this year in those genres, but I don't follow them closely enough to be a good source of information on them. Death metal, on the other hand, is a genre I really enjoy. Unfortunately, it didn't produce much that really stood out to me this year, though I guess I could give honorable mentions to the newest releases by Vomitory and Autopsy. As such, for me this was a year dominated by pagan/folk/viking and sludge/stoner/doom.

Alright, time for the list.

TOP 10 METAL ALBUMS OF 2011

10. Opeth - Heritage
I was a little torn over this album. On the one hand, I love Opeth and I love that they are willing to experiment and expand their sound. On the other hand, the end result of this particular experiment was not one of their best efforts. The weird, proggy developments and lack of death vocals made this an unusual release. It was still interesting, and there were some excellent moments here and there, but considering the strength of their back catalog, this record simply settled to the middle. That's still good enough to make my personal Top 10, just barely.

9. Moonsorrow - Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa
Another good-but-not-great release by one of my favorite bands. This one was not weird, though. It just didn't do much that other Moonsorrow albums haven't done already. These Finns are probably the best viking metal band on the market, and I don't really have much to say about this album other than that if you like Moonsorrow or just epic viking metal in general, you will probably like this.

8. Weedeater - Jason... the Dragon
These sludge/stoner doomsters are like a great, lumbering beast. This time around they produced something a little slower and more druggy than their last album. It's not them at their harshest, but the deep, fuzzy grooves make for some fun listening.

7. Amon Amarth - Surtur Rising
I'll assume that anybody who likes metal enough to read this list already knows who Amon Amarth are. I also assume that if you're familiar with this pack of Swedes, you already know what this album sounds like. With that in mind, there's not much reason to describe this record. As an aside, this was the only death metal release to make this list.

6. Kroda - Schwarzpfad
The Nazi-esque politics of this Ukrainian pagan metal outfit make mass appeal somewhat improbable. However, their music is brilliant and I highly recommend this album to anybody who enjoys black/pagan/viking/folk metal. The songs are all long, with just 5 tracks in 50-minutes, and they tend to start slow and mellow before building to heights of cold northern hostility and then returning to quieter passages. The hard/soft dynamic is not unusual in long metal tracks, but Kroda handle it better than most bands in my opinion.

5. Cruachan - Blood on the Black Robe
This Irish band produces some of the most genuine-sounding Celtic metal you'll ever find. With this release, they opted for a much heavier approach than on their previous albums that I've heard. The folk instruments are still present and this is still clearly Celtic folk metal, but for all those listeners who feel that folk metal allows those elements to sap all the harshness from the music, this should be a pleasant surprise.

4. Wizard's Beard - Pure Filth
Who knew a group from England could sound so much like they belonged in a deep southern swamp? On their debut album, Wizard's Beard have created a brilliant slab of sludgy doom that sounds like a cross between Weedeater and a pissed badger. This is heavy, hostile, and infectious in the extreme. It's also my favorite surprise find of the year, despite its rather short run-time. I'm really excited to hear more from these guys in the future.

3. Gernotshagen - Weltenbrand
Yet another entry from the pagan/folk/viking metal sphere, this time from Germany. I had thoroughly enjoyed their previous release, but by adding more melodic structure and variety this time around, I feel that they outdid themselves. Multiple vocal styles, tempos, and song lengths help keep things fresh without ever disturbing the flow of the record. This album also expertly balances the harshness of black metal with the catchiness of folk.

2. Witch Mountain - South of Salem
I don't like female metal vocalists, so when a female fronted metal band captivates my attention, it's something special. Portland's stoner metal outfit Witch Mountain have succeeded in doing just that with their newest release. The heavy, groove-laden music contrasts wonderfully with the clean female vocals, creating a sound that at times borders on bluesy. It's an excellent, though not conventional sounding, album. Those who like some variety in their collections should really look into this.

1. Primordial - Redemption at the Puritan's Hand
After I brought this album home, I couldn't stop listening to it for about 3 weeks. That alone stands testament to the quality of this release. I've long been passingly familiar with these somewhat un-folksy Irish Celtic folk metallers, but it wasn't until I bought this album that I finally gave them a real listen. I was impressed. The gritty vocals which had always grated on me when I'd heard bits of them previously really hit a sweet spot for me on this record, and I came to realize why fans always cite them as Primordial's standout feature. In the end, I got more enjoyment from this album than anything else I heard released in 2011, and that's why Redemption at the Puritan's Hand is my selection as the top metal album of the year.

Solitude

Streetlights cast a dull yellow glow, reflecting the rickety wooden storefront facades along Union Street. Fog settles densely in the silent autumn night, wrapping the short block in a glowing sepia blanket. It is four in the morning: a time when all truly sane men in this small Ohio town are settled comfortably in their beds. Yet on the corner, staring blankly into the night, looms a lone figure in a long dark coat. Motionless and silent, he would have been frightening were there even a single soul to witness his eerie vigil. There is not. This is his time. Nobody else knows that, but it is true nonetheless. Alone. He is always alone. But with that solitude comes power, for is not power merely the ability to control all those in your presence? In the absence of outside opposition, the lone man has that control, for the self becomes the entirety of the world he inhabits. He is lord and master in that place and time, unopposed in his control over all he sees. This grasp is tenuous indeed, for with the mere approach of another soul, his power is lost. That is why he occupies the depths of night, where he can stand alone and strong. In the luminous fog on this now deserted street, he finds himself the god of an empty kingdom. Lord over nobody, but lord just the same. Nothing in all the world can compare with such an experience as this. Nothing.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

It's a Sad Day in Baseball

For 11 years, Albert Pujols had been more than just a stellar baseball player. He had become an idea. His image of integrity, loyalty, and hard work stood out amongst the team-hopping, money hungry, disgustingly selfish world of professional athletes. He was a symbol of a bygone age when great players like Lou Gehrig were the type of man that kids could look up to as heroes. In a world populated with the likes of Alex Rodriguez and his ilk, caring more about inflated stats and big paychecks than their teams or the lessons they taught the kids who looked up to them, Albert Pujols was different. He was the last titan. Today, that titan fell. The great symbol of all that was best about the game has become a sellout.

It's a sad day, and I'm truly disappointed.

Passion

While poking around on a few sites I haven't visited in a while, I came across a short video I found interesting to watch. It's a brief piece on Jack Passion, the former world beard champion. You can check it out here if you're curious.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Nov 18th

In facial-hair related news, while I was offline I missed posting about the amusingly titled "Have Sex With a Guy With a Moustache Day". I find the ad video amusing, personally, so even though I was offline at the time I'm posting it now.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's Been a Month

Well it's December 1st, so that means my self-imposed exile is at an end.

I feel that this exercise has been highly productive. Rather than spending all my free time online, in the past month I have used that time to write a short story, several poems, read 2 Icelandic sagas, and design and construct a strategy/role playing board game set in 7th century England.

The productivity has been nice, but the important test is to see if I can walk away from this with a healthier approach to internet usage. I think I can. Longer posts may follow on the matter, but I'm not sure about that yet. Mostly I just wanted to say "I'm back" to my readers.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Internet Hiatus

On my way home today, I got to thinking. I wondered about what kind of life I would have lead if I had been born in an age before television, the internet, video games, and cell phones: back before the constant bombardment of meaningless stimuli that we have today, back before commercials told you every five seconds how you should spend what precious little time you have on this earth, and back before you could sit down to work on something but end up distracted for hours watching YouTube videos. What kind of a person would I have been? Before my family got a computer at home, I used to read for hours, I wrote poems and stories, I spent hours on my own looking at the trees and pondering the nature of the universe. These days, despite being older, presumably wiser, and currently enrolled in college I do very little of any of those things. Instead I sink my efforts into Blizzard games. I stare at shows on Hulu for hours at a time. I recheck my Facebook page a hundred times a day to see if anybody has left some pointless comment on a picture of myself I didn't need to post in the first place. In short, all that time I once used to expand my mind and further my ties with the natural world around me, I now waste sitting around doing nothing.

I might have been an important scholar or writer or philosopher in another age. I know it sounds arrogant to say so, but I still believe it to be true. Even in these modern times I was on the right path for a while, until I allowed myself to get derailed. The problem is that I'm intelligent, but I'm also easily distracted. I'll never know for sure what I could have done had I not been surrounded by today's array of mind-sapping entertainment available at a moment's notice. What I can and do know, however, is that I've allowed myself to be sucked into the machine to a degree I would never have believed possible in my childhood. I also know that I don't like the result. Every day I get fatter and lazier. Every day I feel less motivated to achieve anything of note. Every day I sink further into the chasm of unthinking and uncaring numbness. It's like sliding into a coma, and I'm afraid that if I do nothing to reverse the process, my mind will glaze over and I'll be left as nothing but a grey lump in a chair staring at a glowing screen.

Admittedly, this imagery is a little dramatic. I know logically that there are massive benefits available in our modern age that people from any other time would have killed to receive. Beyond even the obvious improvements in medicine, sanitation, and comfort of living there are intellectual benefits for those who use today's resources properly. The internet allows us to learn things in minutes that might once have taken days, weeks, or even years of study to uncover. The television gives us up-to-date accounts of current events from around the globe, keeping us better informed about matters of government, war, health, weather, and social concerns than people in centuries past could even imagine. Social networking sites and blogs allow us to write down our thoughts and ideas and present them to a larger audience than most of us could have ever hoped for in years past. All these tools are available to us, and for the right kind of people it makes this age the most exciting and productive era they could ever have hoped to inhabit.

Unfortunately, we are not all the "right kind of people". I, for one, am decidedly the wrong kind of person. That is not to say that I cannot possibly thrive, it simply means I need to take a different route to reach the desired destination. My salvation lies in my ability, honed through years of careful introspection, to recognize my own shortcomings. I lack the internal discipline to use technology exclusively for good. I do gain some benefit from it, but far more often it becomes a dump where I throw away hours upon hours of potentially productive and enriching time. Time is our most precious resource, and our time on this planet is undeniably finite, so to utterly waste that resource is probably the most injurious action we can take against ourselves. For my part, I've decided to stem the flow before I bleed out entirely.

This brings me to my main point, which is that I've decided to take a break from the computer. I don't have a smart phone, texting, or a television so by turning off my computer I essentially revert to having nothing technological beyond a telephone and a house with electricity and indoor plumbing. As an act of self-discipline and hopefully reconnection with a better version of myself, I'm keeping my computer off (except to meet specific academic obligations) for one month. Today is my last day online until December 1st, so I'm taking this time to get things in order and to alert people of my impending absence from this electronic world. Obviously this post serves as my explanation, and I hope that when I reappear in December it will be as a slightly happier and more balanced person. Of course, if this pseudo-sabbatical has its intended effects I won't be posting terribly actively upon my return, but that all remains to be seen. In any event, good luck to my readers over the coming month, happy Thanksgiving in advance, and may you all find your own paths to be who you want to be.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Just wanted to wish a happy Halloween to everybody. Sadly, this year's costume cost me my beard, which I miss but am already working on regrowing.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Primordial - Redemption at the Puritan's Hand

I am well aware that this album has been out for months, so this review will be old news to any Primordial fans. That said, I only bought it a few weeks ago and I've been listening to it more than anything else since then, so I'm going to briefly review it anyway.






























First off, I should note that while I've been passingly familiar with Primordial for a while and I've heard several of their songs in the past, this is the first full album by the band that I've ever listened through. I therefore won't be able to place this record within the greater context of the band's catalog. Instead, I'll just have to discuss this album on its own merits. With that in mind, here we go.

There are two major elements I noticed throughout this album that feel worthy of note. The first was Primordial's excellent sense of balance. As anybody who listens to much metal that falls in the general pagan/folk/viking sphere knows, many such bands have a tendency to go a bit over-the-top with their medieval-ness. Personally that's never bothered me, since I'm a dork who eats that shit up, but I do recognize that it's too cheesy for many people. With this record, though, it never felt to me like the fantasy end of things got pushed to an extreme. Instead, they maintain a healthy balance. It stays metal, but the Celtic flavor never really disappears.

The second big factor, and I've heard this one mentioned before, is the lead vocalist. At first I wasn't too crazy about him. In fact, in the past the vocals have been the main reason why I didn't explore this band further. I can't really explain why, but they just did nothing for me. Somewhere during the course of playing through this album, though, a switch inside my head was flicked. It was kind of bizarre, but by the end of the record, I wanted nothing so much as to play it again and listen to the now-fantastic-sounding vocals. In fact, sitting down to write this review prompted me to yet again play my personal favorite track, the marvelous Bloodied Yet Unbowed.

I don't know how this album stands relative to their previous efforts. What I do know is that it has won me over as a convert who now intends to further explore the rest of their catalog. I'd give it an A-.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Metal Halloween

Okay, so I know I've said I don't care for most of his music *gasp*, and I also realize that my costume could have been done a lot better. That being said, I decided to dress as King Diamond for Halloween this year. He's got the perfect image for it, I already owned the hat and coat, and it was a good way to stay warm. I went to Columbus to "do" Halloween last night, so I probably won't dress up on the actual day, but I've posted this picture of the finished product so you can see my total failure to imitate his make-up. That finely detailed stuff is hard to do. The hat helped a bit, and I did get a nod of recognition from a black metal guy I passed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Theatre

I recently went to see a production of Eurydice (which was fantastic) and I was reminded just how incredibly effective the use of the right song can be at just the right moment. Call me a pansy if you like, but in the final seconds when the music started just before the stage went dark, I almost cried.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Funny How That Works

Occasionally a quick, unplanned snapshot will come across like it has been carefully orchestrated. While on a recent trip to NYC (my first time in that city) my mom took such a photo of my siblings and I sitting in front of a statue at the edge of Central Park. It struck me so immediately as something that looked like a cover from a modern radio rock band that I couldn't resist editing it, slapping fake band and album names on it, and plastering it on the internet.

So anyway, here it is. I'm front and center, in case you were wondering.

Skeletonwitch Again

I've noticed my concert-going experiences these days are becoming increasingly one-dimensional. It's not hard to figure out why that is, though. As I've previously mentioned, Skeletonwitch are from here in Athens, so they come back and play somewhat regularly. Additionally, since this is a college town, and not a terribly big one at that, the majority of other shows in the area are annoying indie hipster crap. So, with all that being said, tomorrow night will make my 3rd Skeletonwitch show in about a year. I'd certainly like to mix it up a bit more with the bands I see, but that requires some driving and actual expense, whereas this show costs $7. In my opinion, that's a price that is pretty hard to say "no" to.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Doctor is In

I have recently been reminded of a conflict which was once a central pillar of my family's day-to-day life. For many years I had thought we were alone in our crisis, but I am no longer the child I was and I have long since learned the truth. There are in fact a great many people struggling with the issue. One could say it has become one of the dominant points of conflict in the modern world. What is that issue? Well, it can be summed up in a single, simple sentence: "Is Dr Pepper good?"

I'm curious as to your thoughts on the matter.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Opeth - Heritage

To begin with, if you're not a regular reader I should mention that I love Opeth. I would consistently rank them among my top 5 favorite metal bands, and they are one of the few groups I routinely buy new releases from without feeling the need for a preview.




Well, today I bought Heritage, which I somehow didn't realize until last night had already been released earlier this month. Everybody seems to be up in arms over the album, and I've already heard that oh-so-favored term "sell out" getting thrown around a great deal. I've also heard a number of claims that Opeth have abandoned metal entirely and morphed into a purely prog-rock band in the vein of Camel. The album's cover art, I should note, does little to dispell this latter notion, and so it was that I headed into the local record shop to see what had become of the great Swedes.

The first thing that struck me about the music itself was how much it sounded like . . . well . . . Opeth. This is definitely one of their softest releases, and it certainly does explore more of the prog-rock and jazz elements of their broad spectrum. Still, it didn't sound like some random prog band, it sounded like Opeth. The choices of chord progressions, the vocals, and the amorphous song structures all carry on in the band's typical style. Indeed, I found myself reflecting on Watershed, which this feels like a logical progression from, and I maintain that The Devil's Orchard (Heritage) and Burden (Watershed) sound like they could easily be from the same album.

As the album progressed, I began to see more clearly what people had meant about the prog and jazz elements. There are certainly jazzier, more experimental tracks here, with the extremely soft Nepenthe serving as a fairly good example of that side of things. There are moments here and there in the mid-late parts of the album where they seem to be channeling Jethro Tull, most notably in the peculiar flute sections of Famine. The album closes on an instrumental track, which actually feels rather fitting in my opinion.

I should note that the song lengths are generally somewhat shorter on this album than is usual for them, with only 2 tracks cracking the 7 minute mark (both are around 8 1/2 minutes long). The total of 10 tracks are, if I'm not mistaken, the most any Opeth album has featured. And yes, the death vocals are gone this time around. It's not the first time that has happened with Opeth, though, so I find it rather laughable that so many people are taking the vocals as a sign that Opeth are no longer a metal band.

So in summation, this is indeed a rather strange Opeth album. It is, nonetheless, still distinctly recognizable as Opeth. As for what this bodes for the future, I find the band's willingness to experiment with their sound to be one of their strongest suits. They continue to try new things without ever taking any really distinct step toward becoming a radio band, and I wouldn't have it any other way. In a musical climate where fans are all too quick to assume that any release which isn't "normal" for a band is a sign of the end, I personally have no fear whatsoever about Opeth's musical direction.

While this is not likely to find a place alongside my favorite Opeth records like the masterful Still Life and Blackwater Park, it's still an enjoyable record which I expect to play plenty of times in the future. My initial reaction is to give it about a B+.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Death Metal that is Melodic

When the phrase "melodic death metal" is used, images of the Gothenberg scene immediately spring to mind. While I do very much enjoy that style (In Flames, as I've mentioned before, is my favorite band) I'm recently feeling really drawn to something slightly different. It can best be described death metal that is melodic, but is not melodic death metal.

As contradictory as it sounds, there is a distinct difference between the two.

The former is genuine, full-on traditional death metal that just happens to have a more melodic execution, and it sounds, for lack of a better word, very "chill". That is to say, despite the thunderous riffs and bestial bellows, there is something soothing and almost tranquil about the music.

The latter, on the other hand, is an entirely different breed of music, with strongly melody-based song structures and falls about halfway between Swedish death metal and Iron Maiden.

I'm not here to explain what melodeath is, though, so I'll stick to my point. These "chill" death metal bands are, at the moment, extremely appealing to me. Two bands in particular that I feel best exemplify this sound are Apophis and Gorement. I've talked about both bands before, and I believe both were covered in my post on underrated death metal bands. The odd thing is, it wasn't until I was listening to the fantastic "Sea of Silence" in my car last night that it occurred to me how similar these bands really are in terms of their overall sound. And that got me wondering; "What other bands out there sound like this?" The question seems particularly pressing in light of the fact that both bands have very limited discographies. Further, since Gorement are no longer a band, and Apophis appear to be on an indefinite hiatus from recording, it is quite likely that neither band will have any future releases. Even if they did, at this point enough time has passed that it would be overly optimistic to expect anything comparable to their older records.

And so my journey begins. Am I to find another band to fill that musical void, or shall I wander aimlessly through the wilderness until, lost and defeated, I abandon my quest? Only one thing is certain: if I'm talking like this, it means I've been playing too much World of Warcraft.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Way Back to Metal

I find that when my musical listening patterns have wandered too far afield, jumping straight back into the belly of the beast can seem a bit unappealing. I mean, I love Incantation, and I know that. But right now, after the past several months of listening to lighter, more pop-oriented music, the idea of blasting myself with Craig Pillard's demonic bellows just feels like a bit too much. It's almost like drinking Dr Pepper while you're sucking on a peppermint: you need time to get the flavor of the first thing out of your mouth or the taste is disgusting.

To that end, I've found myself thinking a lot about "gateway" metal bands recently. Not so much in the Slipknot/Killswitch Engage vein (since I don't need an introduction to the world of metal) but rather in a way that asks the question: "What real metal band can I get into even when I'm not feeling in a 'br00tal' mood?" There are several options in such a situation, but I found myself naturally gravitating toward one in particular. Given my penchant for Swedish melodeath, it comes as no surprise that it was good old reliable Amon Amarth that raised their Viking fists in greeting and ushered me back home to the frozen northern wastes. On a less dramatic note, it really is true (at least for me) that Amon Amarth's infectious, bouncy, melodic-yet-heavy sound is so universally appealing that there really is no way not to get into it when they start playing. I love In Flames to death, Bathory are amazing, Electric Wizard absolutely crush, but if there's one metal band I can always listen to at any time and in any mood and enjoy the hell out of it, it's Amon Amarth.

Fantasy Baseball

I'm always both sad and relieved when this time of year rolls around: it's the end of fantasy baseball season. For the past several years I've been part of a very aggressively active and competitive 10-team league with the same group of people (composed of a cluster of friends and family members and friends of family members). It's always a lot of fun, and it's always a battle right to the end. Last year I missed the finals by literally one at-bat, it was that close.

Well, this year I got knocked out in the first round of the playoffs, so I'll be taking my seat a bit earlier than I had hoped. Despite my mediocre finish, though, I am still riding the joy of one draft-day decision that has made me proud. In the fifth round; after he'd already been passed over in favor of fellow starting pitchers Roy Halladay, Felix Hernandez, Tim Lincecum, Cliff Lee, Jon Lester, Clayton Kershaw, Ubaldo Jiminez, CC Sabathia, and David Price; I grabbed Justin Verlander. Today he collected his 24th win in my final day of play. That's sure a cool thing to see on your team.

Admittedly not all my choices panned out that well. Taking Hanley Ramirez in the first round was particularly disastrous, and I would even go so far as to blame the subsequent lack of a top-ten hitter on my team for my failure to advance in the postseason.

In any case, I beat my brother in our 5th-6th place consolation game, so at least I got to finish on a win, even if it was a meaningless one. And while a part of me is sad to see yet another season go by without claiming that ever-elusive championship, there is another part of me that is relieved. Multiple members of our league spend several hours every single day pouring over stats, digging through prospects, and concocting various ways to best their opponents. Thus, in order to be even reasonable competitive it is often necessary to devote quite a large amount of time and effort to the league. I enjoy it, but it does wear thin eventually. So this year, rather than complain about my lackluster finish, I'm going to sit back and enjoy my new-found freedom. That, and I might brag to everybody about how I snagged Justin Verlander in his soon-to-be Cy Young winning season after nine other pitchers had already been taken.

Monday, September 12, 2011

TrollHunter and Warrior

This evening I watched two movies I've been looking forward to seeing: TrollHunter (no, the lack of a space is not a typo) and Warrior. I have to say, all things considered I'm pleased with what I've seen. So I decided I'd write up a couple quick movie reviews, since that's what I'm in the mood to do.

TROLLHUNTER

TrollHunter is yet another found footage monster movie. Where it differs from something like Cloverfield, though, is in its oddly comical flair and its deeply ingrained cultural identity. That is to say, its Norwegian-ness is so integral to the film's execution and effectiveness that I shudder to think of what the planned American remake will look like. Sterilized beyond all reason, no doubt. As for the "comical" part, aside from the behavior of the characters themselves (which has a very authentic, unscripted quality), several of the trolls provide a degree of amusement just by their appearance. On the whole, it can't quite seem to decide whether it's meant to be fantasy, horror, or comedy. The blend plays out well, though, and overall it makes for fun viewing. In any case, it should come as no surprise to anybody who regularly reads my blog that I thoroughly enjoyed the film, given my love for "found footage", fantasy creatures, and all things Scandinavian.

WARRIOR

Warrior is, as I'm sure you can guess just by looking at the trailer, yet another hyper-clichéd fight movie à la Rocky. In fact, the warring brothers angle it brings into play seems dangerously close to The Fighter as well. Granted, this is MMA instead of boxing, but the basic idea translates pretty easily. Being a tad generic and predictable, though, doesn't stop Warrior from being fun to watch. The three central actors (Nick Nolte, Joel Edgerton, and Tom Hardy) are really what make the entire thing worth watching. All three actors take characters that could easily be generic, cookie-cutter drama fodder and make them interesting and effective. Tom Hardy is especially great to watch, as he pulls off his dark, intense, scary-as-hell character perfectly. I have to admit, I was disappointed that they went the generic easy route with the ending, but they made it work okay I guess. Besides, as I was walking out of the theater, I wasn't thinking about who won the big fight. I was thinking about how awesome it's going to be watching Tom Hardy play Bane next year.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago Today

There's nothing I can say about 9/11 that hasn't already been said. Maybe the words aren't important, though, as we remember the day our world changed forever.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Vegan Enchilada, take 1

I should preface this by saying that I am not really a vegetarian or vegan. I have, however, recently been trying to cut down a bit on the amount of meat in my diet. With that in mind, I decided today that I would try modifying a familiar chicken enchilada recipe to make it into a vegan dish. It's pretty simple to make, really, with a very short ingredients list. It just has chicken, corn tortillas, green enchilada sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, and diced black olives. I substituted extra firm tofu for the chicken, and I bought some mozzarella flavored faux cheese. I figured that without the usual chicken flavor, I would need some additional seasonings to go with the green enchilada sauce, so I added in a touch of onion powder, Cholula sauce, and some crushed red pepper. After mixing together the filling (sauce, spices, tofu, cheese, olives), slathering some extra sauce on the tortillas, filling and rolling them up, and lining them on a baking sheet you just spread a little more sauce on the top, along with some shredded cheese and more olives, and the whole thing just bakes right up in about 20 minutes.

The principal ideas were sound, and the finished product was vaguely similar to the original. My modifications, however, require a little more tweaking. First off, the "cheese" was a source of trouble, since it didn't melt properly. I'll have to try a different brand next time and see if it works better. Secondly, I think next time I'll have to leave the tofu to sit and soak in some other sauce for a good long while before I add it to the filling. As it was, the tofu absorbed a modest amount of the green sauce's flavor, but it feels like it needs to be punched up a bit more to be really worthwhile. Finally, I think next time I may have to add either additional seasonings or larger amounts of the ones I already used.

Ultimately the end result, while certainly edible and not particularly offensive, was just pretty lackluster. I've still got plenty of everything except the cheese, so I can try again as soon as I find a more acceptable substitute on that front. I think, with a little work, I can turn this into an enjoyable meal that I won't be embarrassed to make for other people.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Music Drought

It occurs to me that there has been something of a vacuum in terms of my music-related posts, which is unfortunate since music is probably the subject of greatest interest to most of my very small readership. Not to worry, my fine fellows (and ladies, if you're out there too). With the return of the school year comes the return of my radio station activities, and with it my need to listen to some good metal to counteract the flood of hipster indie-pop with which I'll inevitably find myself inundated. My current frame of mind has found me playing tons of music which is so fundamentally bad that I'm embarrassed to even mention it. I won't be talking about that. I feel the winds of change coming, though, so soon enough I expect I'll have some worthwhile music to discuss.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Apollo 18

Just went and watched it tonight. The buzz around the movie has been pretty negative. I, however, rather enjoyed it. It had some good, tense stretches and just enough really startling moments that (while not horrifying) it made for a pretty enjoyable scary movie.

Of course, I'm a bit of a sucker for "found footage" horror films, which most people seem to rather dislike. I suppose that largely accounts for the difference between my feelings about the movie and those of other people I've heard comment on it. Oh well, to each his/her own.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Year 2: Bring it On

Well, I'm back in Athens for the start of my second year of school here. Still have a few days to hang out and get settled, most of which I should probably spend getting my room in order since I moved to the apartment next-door from my previous one.

For now, though, it's hot and humid and the AC is on the fritz, so I think I shall refrain from doing much of anything.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gone with the Wind

After years of having it on my list but never getting around to it, I've finally watched Gone with the Wind. And I must say I wasn't disappointed. Some movies are highly touted but fail to impress, but in this case I fully accept Gone with the Wind's status as one of the great films in history.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sucked Into WoW

You may have noticed my recent lack of posts. I am ashamed to admit that, rather than having a really good excuse for my absence, I've just been burning up most of my free time playing World of Warcraft.

Since the Cataclysm expansion hit, I had spent time leveling a troll druid, but I had otherwise played relatively little. The past few weeks, though, my brothers have both reactivated their accounts, with my best friend preparing to do the same, so I've been deeply immersed in leveling a new paladin as well as piling up my priest's PvP gear in preparation for arenas. I'm up to about 3.3k resilience with him right now, so it's coming along but I'm not where I need to be just yet.

Anyway, that's my excuse. Now I have to get back to my dwarf.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

South Park Bottom 10

I love South Park. It is easily my favorite show on TV, I own every season that has come out on DVD and I've watched most of the episodes many, many times.

Well, in celebration of that, my brother and I started putting together a top 10 list of the best episodes. We quickly realized that said ranking would require a lot of thought, because there are just so many episodes that are hard to leave out of the top 10. Most seasons, though, have 1 or 2 duds that just don't live up to the quality of the series as a whole. So instead of a top 10, we decided to put together a list of the 10 worst episodes (in our opinion) that the show has ever aired.

If there's one that you really hated but you don't see it here, feel free to chime in. It's not often that you'll get to hear me knock South Park, so enjoy this rare opportunity.


THE BOTTOM 10 EPISODES OF SOUTH PARK

10. The Return Of Chef (Season 10)
This one was my brother's choice to include. Personally I'm willing to grant forgiveness for the lackluster episode and the sad departure of Chef, since with Isaac Hayes leaving the show's hands were tied. Taken in isolation from its real life context, though, this one just isn't much fun.

9. Starvin' Marvin in Space (Season 3)
Novelty character episodes have fallen rather flat in most TV shows, and South Park is no exception. Starvin' Marvin is not only uninteresting, he's also at the helm of some uncharacteristically ham-handed social commentary. This was not his first appearance, but I think this one was worse than the original Starvin' Marvin episode.

8. Towelie (Season 5)
Again, novelty characters are typically a bad idea. This episode has its moments, but it earns a spot on the list for introducing arguably the most annoying and pointless recurring character the show has ever had.

7. Crippled Summer (Season 14)
Just a stupid episode that served as nothing more than a place filler. Jimmy and Timmy are the only recognizable characters to appear, and the whole thing is pretty much Wacky Races but with South Park animation.

6. Lice Capades (Season 11)
Yet another episode killed by a stupid novelty character. The goings-on with the kids are entertaining, but far too much time is spent with the dreadfully stupid and annoying insect trying to escape with his baby.

5. Eat, Pray, Queef (Season 13)
I think many people enjoyed the feminist statement this episode made. I'm not going to dispute that, but the episode itself is just not entertaining. The Queef Sisters are annoying (one set of Terrance and Phillip is ok, but a second is just too much), and the closing statement song comes across really forced and poorly executed compared to their typical witty endings.

4. Stanley's Cup (Season 10)
Needlessly dark and depressing. This episode doesn't suffer from poor execution, but it's so grim that it's just no fun to watch.

3. Jackovasaurs (Season 3)
The title character ranks up there with Jar Jar Binks on the list of most annoying figures in the history of fiction. He and his obnoxious family make you, like the town's residents, feel relieved when the whole thing is finally over.

2. Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics (Season 3)
Since it's nothing but a collection of Christmas carols, this barely even qualifies as an episode at all. A few seasons have featured rather weak Christmas specials, but this one takes the cake for pointlessness.

1. A Million Little Fibers (Season 10)
This episode is flat-out awful. The three central characters are Towelie, Oprah's anus, and Oprah's vag. So yeah, that pretty much sums it up right there.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Goblins

I've mentioned before that I love webcomics. Well I recently became aware of a long-running one called Goblins. I was almost immediately drawn in and I just finished plowing through the entire archive. It's based on D&D adventure stories in a way reminiscent of 8-Bit Theater's take on FF, but with artwork that has evolved considerably over the course of its run. If anybody is looking for an interesting webcomic to read and you're not already familiar with Goblins, I'd highly recommend giving it a shot.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mayhem Festival

Just got home a little bit ago from the Mayhem Festival. We went to the venue outside Pittsburgh, same place we went to Ozzfest last year. We arrived shortly before 3:00pm, so we missed some early opening acts, but between the 3 stages we still saw 10 bands play. I should add that by having 2 smaller stages where one played while the other got set up, they vastly improved the experience by totally eliminating downtime between bands. The groups we saw were, in order:

SIDE STAGES

-All Shall Perish- (Thoroughly mediocre and generic, but I already knew that.)

-Kingdom of Sorrow- (I saw them at Ozzfest last year two, and they failed to leave much of an impression. A second viewing didn't do much to change that.)

-Suicide Silence- (Despite being familiar with the name, this was the first time I'd ever actually heard any of their material. Stolen riffs, endless breakdowns, annoyingly screechy vocals, and a front man who spent way too much time trying to get the crowd to jump and mosh every 5 seconds. I'd call them the worst band we saw.)

-Unearth- (Second time seeing them. They're by no means a favorite of mine, but they're decent, and they played a reasonably entertaining set.)

-Machine Head- (One of the side stage closers. The best band we'd seen up to this point, though nothing terrifically special. I'll admit I'm starting to sound pretty negative, but honestly there were a lot of lackluster performances amongst the openers.)

-In Flames- (The other side stage closer. It was my third time seeing them, and if you've read many of my music posts you can probably already guess that I really enjoyed watching In Flames again. It was the first time I'd seen them since Jesper left. They weren't as good as the last time I saw them, but they still put on a very entertaining show and were far and away the highlight of the small stage performances, in my opinion.)

MAIN STAGE

-Trivium- (Second time seeing them. Meh.)

-Megadeth- (Second time seeing them, too. One of the better performances of the show, unsurprisingly. They didn't have the time to cover all the material I'd have liked, but they sounded good playing what they could.)

-Godsmack- (They sounded good, assuming you like hard radio rock. The vocals were surprisingly similar to the quality of their recordings. The caveats would be that they had the audience sing the choruses far too often, so we rarely heard the actual appropriate vocals for those, and that while the quality of the performance was perfectly solid, there just seemed to be a general lack of energy. On the whole they were pretty good, but certainly not great.)

-Disturbed- (Big production values, plenty of energy, and good quality performances by all the members. Regrettably, their song selection left quite a bit to be desired. They left off many of their hits in favor of an odd assortment of filler tracks. They may have been holding on to those as ammo for an encore, but they ended at 11pm and I think the crowd was about out of steam, since there was surprisingly little noise calling for more. As such, they didn't come back out and we walked away feeling just a little bit cheated. Much like Godsmack, this left their set at pretty good, though again certainly not great.)

I had a fairly fun time. Compared with some of the other shows I've been to with large bills, though, this one was rather lacking. I can't REALLY say that I was flat-out disappointed, but at the same time I was a little. Admittedly this was more of a hard rock affair than my typical show selections, but I've seen enough hard rock bands live that I feel I'm perfectly capable of approaching this objectively. And for me, the show overall landed a grade somewhere between a C+ and a B-.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Finally Writing Again

I had been making excellent progress on my personal writing project up until I started work. At that point, I almost totally stopped. Over the past few days I've been trying to sort out where to go next with it, and last night was the first time in weeks that I got any significant amount of writing done.

Friday, July 22, 2011

In Flames - Sounds of a Playground Fading

A funny thing happened today. While killing time in the air conditioned mall, I happened briefly into a Hot Topic. An annoying, whiny song was playing (as usual) and for a minute I just kind of phased it out. Then suddenly a a slightly louder vocal bit caught my ear and I froze. I knew that voice. I grabbed my brother and said "Oh crap, you hear this? That's Anders Friden singing. This is In Flames." He had my sister go up to the counter to ask who was playing, and they confirmed what I already knew.

I was crushed by what I was hearing, and I beat a hasty retreat. The episode did serve as a reminder, though, that I had yet to check out their new album. And even though I fully expected to hear a mountain of garbage, I dutifully went into Best Buy and picked up a copy anyway.

I have to say that, at least after my initial listen through the album, I'm pleasantly surprised. The old In Flames is long gone, and we all know that. I was expecting an even bigger train wreck this time, though, from the bits I'd heard and from the really weak nature of their previous release. Instead (though there are certainly a few weak tracks, like "Liberation", the one I'd just heard) I found myself reminded quite a lot of Reroute to Remain and, at times, Come Clarity. It was quite a relief I must say, and already I can tell that I like this new material substantially better than A Sense of Purpose. They mixed some decent guitar leads in, they've tried incorporating some of their traditional jester imagery (including one song title), and while most of the songs are relatively mid-paced and moderate in terms of aggression there are a couple tracks that actually stand out as some of the heaviest material they've released in years.

Of course the loss of Jesper is something I'm not thrilled about, but at least it appears the band is capable of functioning in their new form without him. There are several tracks that sounded fairly derivative of previous In Flames songs, but I suppose by the time a band releases 10 full-length studio albums that's bound to happen. I can't give a good, comprehensive review having only played the album once, but my initial reaction is that this is something I'll find myself playing and enjoying again several times in the future.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Industrial Metal?

I have heard the argument advanced that, since "real" industrial music eschews any conventional form of structure in favor of an anti-musical approach, it cannot truly be combined with any standard musical form. As such, the arguer claimed, "industrial metal" is a false term that represents a musical style which is not really a fusion of its namesakes. Personally I am neither a fan of nor an expert on industrial music. I typically just use the term to refer to metal which includes elements of electronic music. I can't vouch for the "correctness" of the term, but that's how I use it and most people seem to understand what I mean when I use it that way.

I'm curious what others' thoughts are on the matter. Also, does anybody out there with a more specific expertise in the area of industrial music have anything to add?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Human Centipede

I just finished watching The Human Centipede. I know I've written about people who don't know how to watch horror movies, but that movie was flat-out disappointing. It probably would have gone down better had I not spent months hearing about how it's the goriest, most intense and disgusting movie anybody has ever seen. Honestly, I didn't even think it had the gore factor of standard torture-porn fair like Saw or Hostel, let alone the savage gruesomeness of underground gore horror à la August Underground's Mordum.

I probably need to step back a little for perspective and realize that my penchant for death metal and gory movies has almost certainly left me far less sensitive than most viewers. That said, even people who have seen other gory movies have claimed that this one was too much for them, and frankly I don't get it. I really wanted to enjoy The Human Centipede, but it just plain did nothing for me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Before and After

As per request, these shots I took right before and after trimming my beard.



Oh Deer!

Last night I was driving home from town. Maybe half a mile from the house, I saw a small deer standing in the opposite lane about 30-40 feet in front of my car. I started to slow down. When I was maybe 6 feet or so away, the deer suddenly walked right in front of my car. I locked down on the steering wheel and mashed the brakes. Suddenly the deer stumbled and fell down on the road, with my bumper hitting the middle of its back as I came to a stop with the front of my car right on top of it pinning it to the ground. Switching on my 4-ways, I sat there for a few seconds thinking "oh shit, oh shit, oh shit" and watching a few tufts of hair drifting through my headlight beams. Then I heard it cry out from under my car. Slowly, I backed up about 4 feet. The deer stood back up and ran away into the night. I drove home, and upon checking the front my car found no signs of any damage whatsoever.

So in short, last night I somehow managed to hit a deer without hurting it or damaging my car in any way.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Beard Trim

I decided over the past couple weeks that my beard was getting a bit too unruly, to where it was bothering me. Different parts were starting to curl in different directions and while I make a rule of ignoring what other people say about my appearance, it just looked bad to me. So today I tried to do some light trimming, but it didn't seem to help (possibly even made it worse). As such, I decided to just trim it way back. So I still have a beard, but now it's down to about an inch long. I actually rather like the way it looks right now, so I think I'll keep it this way for a little while.

In 5 days it would have been 8 months without trimming.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Internet Phone Pranks

Well, evidently there are websites now that one can visit to prank call their friends. The caller can select any of a number of sound clips, choose a number to call, and choose a number they want it to display as on that person's caller ID. I got a call early today, courtesy of an annoying friend of mine, which came up as being my brother, and started with a girl's voice saying "Hey baby." I was taken by surprise. I could see my brother at the time and had him show me his phone right then, so naturally since I'd just been watching a bunch of Doctor Who I assumed it was an alien. Turns out I was wrong, but the fact that some random website can remotely manipulate the functions of my caller ID is almost as unsettling as the idea of getting hit on by an alien. Not quite, but almost.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Back From Canada

Got back to my parents' house late this morning. We didn't spend as much time in Toronto as I had hoped, but we went to Montreal too, which wasn't originally part of the plan. In all honesty, I enjoyed the visit to Montreal more. For one thing, the fact the it's a French-speaking city made it feel more, for lack of a better word, "foreign" than Toronto felt, which added to the overall experience. Plus, in Toronto we mostly saw the new parts of downtown and the main attractions (I did enjoy visiting the Art Gallery of Ontario), while in Montreal we spent a chunk of time just wandering the streets and soaking in the city. We also met some very nice people in Montreal who pointed us to a few interesting locations worth visiting. They also told us some about the community programs they were involved with in the area we were in, which happened to be a very low-income part of town. One thing I was struck by, was that despite the fact that we were in a poor, somewhat dirty area with graffiti around us it never felt at all dangerous in the way those parts of US cities tend to feel. Also, we happened by chance to be there on the last day of the Montreal International Jazz Festival, so we got to enjoy some live music before we left.

After we crossed back into the states, we hit the northeastern corner of our country, since my dad wants to set foot at one point or another in at least the lower 48 states, and he hadn't visited most of that region yet. So we saw Vermont (Montpelier is a beautiful little town), New Hampshire (where we visited the Old Man of the Mountain and learned that his face fell off a few years ago), Maine (where we spent a good amount of time, with the highlight being an hour or so spent in a lobster fishing village called Friendship talking to a local lobster dealer about the life of a New England fisherman).

The trip back down after that was mostly just driving to get home today, but we did stop off last night in Concord, Massachusetts so my mom could see Louisa May Alcott's house.

It was a pretty eventful trip, and overall I'd call it a success. I wouldn't mind going back to visit Montreal and/or Toronto again with a smaller group (there were 6 of us) and with a little more time to spend. For now, though, this little slice will have to do.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hark, Canada lies on the horizon!

Yup, tomorrow we head to the great northern wastelands to check things out. Should be fun.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Admits". . . . ?

I'm not normally one for celebrity gossip, but I almost burst out laughing when I saw the Yahoo headline "Labeouf Admits to fling with Megan Fox". And the word that jumped out at me to make the whole thing ridiculous, as my title indicates, is "admits". Shia Labeouf, that nerdy little weed who only has a career because directors need an inexpensive actor to poke in between giant robots, Indiana Jones, and scantily clad women is "admitting" that he had a fling with a woman who is widely considered to be among the hottest on the planet?! That's like me "admitting" to being a secret agent for the CIA.

When you admit to something, it means you're telling people a truth you had tried to keep secret and/or are probably not too proud of. Claiming you "hooked up" with a sex symbol in her prime is not a good example of such a thing. In all reality, it sounds more like something an insecure little wiener would make up to make himself sound cooler than he actually is. And since I already consider Labeouf to be a little wiener who deserves virtually no credit for the success he's had thus far in his career, it's not very hard for me to believe that that's exactly what this story is. I realize that word may not have been choice, but when you already dislike somebody, it's easy to just assume the worst.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What's this "morning" thing I've heard so much about?

I am, as I may have already mentioned, not a morning person. And by that I mean I usually drag myself out of bed around noon. It's not that I sleep all day: I get about 7-8 hours most nights. It's just that I am an extreme night owl. Typically, I don't get to sleep until after 4am.

All that is going to have to change pretty dramatically now. The new job I just started has me getting up at 5:45am, so if I don't want to fall over dead, I'm going to have to start getting to sleep much earlier than I have in years.

I realize this probably isn't terribly interesting to read, but right now I'm feeling a bit too tired to really think about anything other than how early I have to get up tomorrow.

p.s. as a follow-up to my previous post, we did win the Dominion round. Just thought I'd share that. I really will try to get back to posting things people might actually want to read, but lately I find myself getting sidetracked far too often.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Eventful Update

Going to see the Red Sox vs Pirates tomorrow. Normally I'd root for the Pirates, but I just traded for Lester in my fantasy league, so I'm torn on that. I guess I should see it as a win-win situation: either the Pirates win or my pitcher wins.

Saturday the Steel Valley Super Nats are taking over Salem, so I'll be surrounded by classic cars all day.

Also happening tomorrow, the end of the current round of Dominion. It's a text-based war game with 50-day rounds, and my brother and I are primed to win for the first time after years of playing (and no, that doesn't mean we're bad players. Around 15,000 people have played over the years, and only about 60 have ever won a round). This win means nothing at all to 99.9999% of the public, but after all this time playing the game, I'm excited about it.

The week after next, I'll be going on a 5-day trip with my family to Toronto. I've spent only a tiny amount of time outside the USA, so I'm looking forward to that.

I've started writing again. What I mean when I say that is that I've started writing fiction again. I'm nearly finished with the second chapter of my novel, and so far I'm feeling better about it than I have about anything else I've ever written. It will surely be a mess that could never be published, but after all the time I've spent working on various writing projects that I never finished, I just want the sense of accomplishment from knowing that I saw one through to the end.

Finally, I got a job today. Well, more accurately, my brother got me a job. I'd been looking for summer work until I went back to school in the fall, and his company was looking to hire a short-term grunt. So beginning on Monday, I'll have to start actually getting up in the morning. It's already been discussed that I'll miss that week when I go to Canada, so it's all set and it's just what I wanted.

And that's that.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day (late)

Happy Father's Day out there to everyone. I spent most of the day at a car show with my dad, and we also watched the 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival dvd that he got as a present. Seeing all those great blues guitarists on stage together has put me in the mood to watch The Blues Brothers.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Pirates and Indians

Just got home from a ballgame in Cleveland. Unfortunately, the Pirates lost 5-1, but if I expected to see my team win, I wouldn't be a Pirates fan to begin with. So even though the bucs lost, it was a fun time. My sister and both my brothers came, and we had a good evening out.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I'm Back

That hiatus lasted a little longer than I had originally planned. I'm back now, though. In recent news, I got in my final grade reports and I carried a 4.0 this quarter. I'm spending the summer at my parents' house; I'll be moving into a different apartment when I get back down to school in the fall. In a few weeks, we'll be heading to Canada for a week or two, so that should be fun.

In beard related news, today marks 7 months since my last shave.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Moving

Well so far (knock on wood) the internet seems to have recovered from its troubles. I don't expect it to stay working, but for now I still have it.

The big item of news for me, as of last night, is that I'm probably moving into a different apartment in the same complex soon. It would be a slight upgrade since the other place gets much more natural light in the daytime and mine is slightly cave-like. Basically there are 3 apartments clustered together, with room for 3 tenants each. There's going to be some shuffling now that the school year is ending so that all the remaining people can get into apartments with the roommates they want. I'm a bit of a wildcard in this whole affair since I'm the only person who isn't attached to anybody so it's really up to me if I want to move and make everybody's life easier or stay and make my own life easier.

There would be some advantages to moving. As I mentioned, this apartment's orientation is different so it's very dark inside. Also I got stuck in the middle bedroom so I can hear noise from both my roommates at once, which can be annoying. So if everything checks out I'll probably make the switch. In any event, that means I'll have to move all my stuff, and consequently I'll have a period of time where I'm not able to get online. So even if the net stays alive until then, I'll probably be out of touch for a little while anyway.

UPDATE: My internet is back down. I have preparation for finals on Friday anyway, so I'm just going to call a full hiatus until early next week at the soonest.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Net Problems

I know my posts have been short and uninteresting recently, and I apologize for that. For the next week or so, they may become totally non-existent. I've been having a ton of trouble with my internet connection, and it looks quite probable that I won't be able to get online until next weekend. Hopefully in the mean time I'll come up with a few interesting things to say so my posts are worth reading when I come back. See you then.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Summer Project

I've recently decided on a summer project for myself. I haven't got all the details lined out perfectly, so I don't want to say more right now. More details will be forthcoming in a few weeks, though.

Friday, June 3, 2011

What a Weird Day

Have you ever had a day where you don't seem to have anything to do, yet somehow you've been in the middle of something all day? Well today was one of those days for me. It's a weird feeling.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEDOM!

Ok, that's not entirely accurate since I still have finals to do, but in terms of regular classes I am finished for the school year as of today. Part of me wants to go celebrate, but another part of me would rather just sit at home watching TV and eating donuts. Knowing me, that latter part will probably win.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Muggy Metal

The weather here has been incredibly hot and sticky of late, and I find that weather has an odd way of affecting the music I listen to. During this past winter I found myself frequently diving into Viking metal and black metal. The sounds of the cold, hostile north suited my environment perfectly. Well, with this temperature shift I find myself sliding toward the opposite end of the pole. The hot, gritty south has come to dominate my musical listening habits recently: the oppressive fuzz of Weedeater, the Texas swagger of ZZ Top, and even the good-ol'-boy twang of Waylon Jennings. Thanks to Kelly's post on Full Metal Attorney I'm currently listening to Belzebong. Despite being Polish, their style suits my mood quite well too.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Basic Instructions

I think I've mentioned on here before that I'm a pretty big fan of webcomics. There are several that I follow, but none more closely than Basic Instructions. It's the one that got me started reading webcomics in the first place, and it's one of those things that I've followed for long enough and from such an early stage in its development that I've grown to feel like I know the writer personally (I don't, though). Anyway, I'd highly recommend that anybody with some time on their hands take a stroll through the BI archives.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Out of Town

I'll be out of town until Monday night or Tuesday morning, so I probably won't post any blogs until then.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sci-Fi Poster

I was browsing through the discount poster bin at a local shop when I happened across this:










Maybe it makes me a nerd, but I think this poster is awesome. I love retro-futurism in all its various incarnations, so I felt compelled to buy it. Now I just have to figure out where on my overcrowded walls I can put it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Dark Knight Rises

By now the news is all over the internet about the first publicity photo of Bane for the upcoming Batman movie. And many of us have also already read about how it was released.

For those who haven't heard, though, there was a twitter hashtag embedded in the visual spectrum of the bizarre chanted shouts on the film's official website that lead enterprising fans to tweet that particular phrase (#thefirerises). Doing so revealed a channel which linked to a photo of Bane hidden on the official website.

I personally think that The Dark Knight, while very good, was significantly over-hyped. I expect the same will be true of this next installment. That said, I have to admire this extremely creative display of viral marketing.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Un-Metal Mood

Oddly, I find that recently I haven't been in the mood to listen to much metal. Almost every time I put on a metal song these past few days I've grown bored and turned it off halfway through. Instead, I find myself playing a lot of the music I liked before I got into metal (particularly ZZ Top and Breaking Benjamin). I go through occasional phases like this, and I think this one was brought on primarily by a feeling of nostalgia.

The point is I probably won't be posting much about metal over the next week or two, but I'll get back to it.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

International Street Fair

This was International Week at my school, and today they closed down the main downtown street to hold the International Street Fair. I spent a couple hours there, had a good time, and was thrilled to actually have some clear calm weather for a change. Below are a few pictures of the festivities. [click to enlarge]









Friday, May 20, 2011

Randy Savage

A minute ago I read that 'Macho Man' Randy Savage just died. I haven't watched WWF, WCW, or any other TV wrestling in years. When I was a kid, though, Randy Savage was my absolute favorite. After Hulk Hogan he was probably the biggest wrestling star at the time, and I was sad to hear that he died at such a young age (58). RIP.

YouTube Musicians

YouTube has become an increasingly common platform for launching young musicians' careers. Its reputation, though, has been pretty negative since to date the most notable musical product of YouTube has been Justin Bieber. The largest demographic of YouTube users is probably teenagers, so that's not terribly surprising. On the other hand, there is nothing to stop a more interesting musician from attaining notability via internet videos.

For some time now I've been following a young power metal vocalist, PelleK, on YouTube. Recently he has launched a new channel and started recording studio vlogs of his work on a new album. His style is more flowery than what I typically listen to, but it still illustrates a valid point: it is possible for far more talented and diverse musicians than the typical teen pop fodder to launch their careers via YouTube.

First Metal Song?

Black Sabbath are almost universally proclaimed as the pioneers of heavy metal. Inarguably they had the biggest impact on the early development of the genre, but it's always interesting to ask what the very first metal song was. Some people will claim it's Black Sabbath (the song, not the band). Others will cite Summertime Blues as played by Blue Cheer in 1968. Personally, I'm somewhat inclined to give the nod to The Beatles' 1968 release of Helter Skelter.

It's all fairly subjective, just like deciding what the first rock'n'roll song was, since it's retroactively labeling points in a gradual evolution. Still, I find the question intriguing, and I'd be interested to hear what any of you consider to be the first metal song.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Cyber Bullying"

I think we can pretty much all agree that bullying is a bad thing. Some of us dealt with it when we were kids, some of us only saw it happen to others, and some of us may have even been bullies ourselves; regardless of our specific relation to it, we know it's not good.

That being said, I find that the increasingly common term "cyber bullying" really pisses me off. To paraphrase Terry Gilliam, we're living in a society where people's lives are so easy that they think the worst thing you can possibly do is say something that might offend somebody. Well, at the risk of offending anybody who puts stock into the idea of cyber bullying, I'd like to say a few things on the topic.

To start with, yes it sucks that some people like to be assholes on the internet. Seriously though, if a few lines of text unbalance your emotional state to the point where you feel like a victim of bullying, you need to toughen up a little bit. There are much worse things out there in life, and if you can't handle this I'd hate to see what happens when you actually have to confront a REAL problem.

Leaving a nasty comment on a YouTube video may make somebody kind of a jerk, but it's certainly nothing to be compared with actually following and tormenting a person in real life. To even suggest as much is not only an act of nauseating self-pity, it is also an insult to anybody who has ever had to deal with a legitimate bullying problem. Are people genuinely so thin-skinned and hyper-sensitive these days that anonymous text comments on the internet are now seen as a valid threat to their mental and emotional health? I can't help feeling that the current generation of overly reactionary helicopter parents have a lot to do with this trend.

And to the parents of young children: if you truly think your kids are too young to deal with the aggressive things people are saying, just keep them off of those websites. It's called "supervision" and it's a big part of your job description. If they get into something they should not be hearing, it's not the community's responsibility to tailor its behavior to your needs. Don't lead a crusade to try to stop people on the internet from behaving they way they want. Instead, take some responsibility for your child's online activity and limit them to websites you feel are "safe" for them until they're old enough to deal with unpleasant people. You can't expect the whole internet to be G rated just because you aren't watching where your kids go when they're online, so stop trying to dump your lack of responsible behavior on "cyber bullies".

Of course, if the bullying is coming via Facebook (or something similar) from a person you actually know, then it becomes more personal and thus more valid as a form of bullying. It's still not terribly difficult to un-friend somebody and ignore their messages, but if they are persistent to the point that their behavior leaks into your real life (remarks to mutual friends, posting embarrassing videos of you, etc) then we've moved beyond the point of "cyber bullying" into actual bullying and obviously that's a real problem. I think it was this type of behavior that the term was originally coined to describe, and in that sense it is perfectly relevant. It is, however, increasingly being used to instead describe functionally anonymous hostile commentators on YouTube videos and blogs. In that sense, it is a gross misuse of the term "bullying" and does nothing but create reactionary panic over something which really shouldn't be that big of a deal.

For those of you who use the term in this overly sensitive and irrelevant way, I'd like to link this little rant* I found with which I wholeheartedly agree.

*The part I'm referring to begins at 2:46. If the link gives you an ad and then starts the video at the beginning, close that tab after letting the ad finish and then click the link again. It will jump you straight to the relevant section.

Deliver Us (new In Flames)

Well I finally checked out "Deliver Us", the lead-off single from the upcoming In Flames album. It was... well... frankly I'm not exactly sure what the fuck it was.

I know the old In Flames is dead. I know that Jesper Strömblad's departure can't have helped matters. But evidently even the lukewarm newish In Flames has ceased to be. This was worse than A Sense of Purpose. This was downright depressing. I see no hope for this album. My only wish is that there is at least one good single on it, since I already know I'll end up buying it anyway and it would be nice to have a little something to justify the purchase.

Tell me, am I being too harsh or is this really as bad as my initial reaction tells me it is?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

6 Months of Beard

Today officially marks 6 months since the last time a razor touched my face. I recently did some light moustache trimming to get it out of my mouth, but otherwise the beard has remained untouched by any sort of cutting implements. I'd like it if my soul patch and moustache would thicken up, but otherwise I really can't complain. I'm happy I've gone this far, and I plan to let it grow for 2 years without any trimming before I decide what length to keep it at, so this puts me 1/2 of the way to a year and 1/4 of the way to my goal.

In other news, my interview went well yesterday, and last night I attended a guest lecture by Arun Gandhi where he discussed the philosophy of nonviolence as advocated by his grandfather. This week is "International Week" on campus here, so there are going to be special lectures, workshops, art exhibitions, fairs, and international cuisine all around the school for the next 5 days or so. I'm looking forward to the festivities, especially since several of my class sessions have been cancelled for this week.

And on a sad note, Harmon Killebrew died today. RIP

2011 WBMC Winners

I'll give a fuller post later, but I have to run so I just wanted to post this since I found the winners and their photos.

Winners

Monday, May 16, 2011

Interview Today

In a few hours I have a job interview, and though I'm typically a very relaxed person I'm feeling pretty nervous about this. Hopefully all goes well.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

2011 WBMC

Today the 2011 World Beard and Moustache Championships are taking place in Norway. It would have been fun to go and watch, but Norway isn't exactly next door. Instead I'll just have to root for Beard Team USA from afar and I guess I'll see the results whenever they go up online.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Vegan Black Metal Chef

I was just poking around YouTube and I discovered this alternative cooking show that I thought was an interesting concept. The title pretty much says it all, now are you ready to have a black metal song teach you to cook?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Shave That Mess!

Recently it's been incredibly hot and sticky around here, and the mane of hair surrounding my face and head on all sides was beginning to annoy me. So I decided this evening to take action and make with the buzzing. Here's a little before and after:



Passport

I thought I'd mentioned this already, but I can't find that post so I guess I'll say it now. Last weekend I finally got my passport. I'd been planning to do it for several years and just never did until recently. I'm glad to finally have that taken care of.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Beards 6 Minutes

I found a video from a series of 6-minute documentaries done on various Adelaide artists. This one is about the band The Beards, who I've mentioned before. I just love how straight-faced these guys are able to play their schtick.

6 on the Street

Monday, May 9, 2011

Manos: The Hands of Fate

I was in a Best Buy the other day, and I picked up one of those boxes that has 50 cheap crappy horror/sci-fi movies for like $12. On looking at the back, I saw that Manos: The Hands of Fate was in that collection. Well I have something of an ongoing love affair with horrible movies, so as soon as I saw that such a legendary bad film was in there, I had to buy it. Upon watching it I will agree to its status as one of the worst films ever made. It wasn't as fun as Troll 2, but nonetheless I was not disappointed.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Album 12 of 12

Album that changed my life:
"Dopethrone" by Electric Wizard

And here we conclude the series. Dopethrone was my first exposure to Electric Wizard, and it was the album almost solely responsible for getting me into doom. I honestly didn't like this the first time I heard it. Or the second time. Or the third. I kept periodically coming back to it and giving it another try, though, and eventually it grew on me to the point that Electric Wizard became one of my favorite metal bands. I'm glad I was so persistent in listening to this band (which was pretty much just because I thought they had an awesome name) and now I can point my finger straight at this album whenever I listen to Saint Vitus, Cathedral, or Weedeater and say "that's the album responsible for me liking this."

There you go, those were the 12 albums that changed my life.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Album 11 of 12

Album that changed my life:
"Jaktens Tid" by Finntroll

I'm not exactly sure of when I first heard this album. What I am sure of, though, is that this was the first full-blown folk metal album I ever heard. The past couple albums on this list had set me up for the folk metal scene, but it wasn't until I encountered Finntroll that I officially broke into the sub-genre. This was huge for my musical tastes for two reasons. First, folk metal itself is one of the main branches of my musical listening. Second, it was through this, rather than Bathory, that I first became aware of Viking metal groups like Windir, Ensiferum, Thyrfing, Moonsorrow, Månegarm, and Falkenbach. Truth be told, this album probably belongs in the top 3 or 4 in terms of how much of my current musical tastes it opened for me. Oddly, though I have nothing specifically against them, I find that I rarely listen to Finntroll these days. Their impact on my musical development, though, has been massive.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thor

I'm not generally a big one for 3D. Nor am I a big one for doing something just because it's popular. Here are a few things I AM very interested in, though: Vikings, Marvel Comics, and mythology. So yeah, I was exited to see Thor. I had my reservations, considering the odd sci-fi slant, but I figured it was worth the risk. Thus, I headed out for the midnight premier in 3D. And overall, I was pleased. It was Hollywood blockbuster fair, so there are certain things one knows to expect, but it was an entertaining movie. It had plenty of action, an ample sense of humor, and it actually looked pretty cool in 3D. They actually brought in some good actors, and I was surprised to see that Kenneth Branagh directed it. Plus I blasted Twilight of the Thunder God in the car while I drove home, which served as a perfect close to the evening.

"Thor! Odin's son, protector of mankind. Arise to meet your fate! Your destiny awaits!"

Death Metal Quiz

I was playing around on Sporcle.com yesterday, and I decided to make a death metal quiz. It's really more of a "see how many of these American death metal bands you can guess" than a proper quiz, since outside giving the State they originally came from, it doesn't really give any clues. Whatever, it was just for the fun of it anyway. If you want to give it a try, I'll link it here.

Album 10 of 12

Album that changed my life:
"Hammerheart" by Bathory

In my last entry, I noted that the slower material by Nile had sent me looking for long, epic metal. In my humble opinion, it doesn't get much more epic than this. I bought Hammerheart some time in the late fall or or early winter of 2006, and it was one of the first albums (besides the In Flames back-catalog) that I can remember buying online. My search for epic, sweeping metal had yielded an all-time classic that introduced me to Viking metal, introduced me to one of my absolute favorite bands, and contained my single favorite metal song ever recorded (One Rode to Asa Bay). In a nutshell, this was one of the best musical purchases I ever made, and though I love much of Bathory's material, this remains my favorite of their albums. Through this record I would find myself latching onto numerous other bands. Admittedly I did not hear bands like Moonsorrow, Falkenbach, and Månegarm until somewhat later but Hammerheart prepared me to receive them when I finally did. It would also not be a stretch to say that, by acquainting me with a different element of Scandinavian metal, this album primed me for the next entry on this list.