A Slice of Fried Gold

Work work "work"

Friday, November 30, 2007
I've been working my butt off lately. Not actually working. Not running or exercising or anything. I've been working on a Christmas present that I came up with that my Mom and I should do for each other.

See we are both music nerds, so what we are doing is compiling a top 20 albums of 2007 CD for each other. Here is the concept and the rules below.
  • CD's must be from 2007 (duh)
  • List is to be top 20 CD's from 2007, not songs
  • Take favorite song from each CD
  • Must work within constraints of one CD
  • Work backwards, meaning song #1 is your 20th favorite, song #20 is favorite (kind of gives the CD a countdown show spice!)

While working at work I listen to new CD's and recommended CD's. While at the gym and driving I get more familiar with said albums by listening to them in a more isolated situation. Additionally, I listen at my computer to continue the wide range of set ups. Some albums play better in cars and in other situations, so I give them a fair shake from every direction.

It's very much fun, but because of the fair shake I'd like to give everything, I'm asking for any recommendations anyone has. That is if I have not asked you already. Anything! Every year I miss like 10 CD's that I really wish I checked out, and I'm trying to cut it down this year. So recommend people!

Evel Knievel dies at 69

Sadly enough, my costume inspiration and true all-American hero Evel Knievel passed away today at 69 years old. Strange post for me, but it was brought to my attention at work and is pretty sad news. MSNBC has a very solid write up about the man and his life here, and I'd recommend reading it. It's pretty inspiring to know someone never really held back in life, even if the things he did were somewhat legitimately crazy.

Literary Rush

Tuesday, November 27, 2007
So continuing on my reading tear, I recently finished two Sci-Fi ish books that were very solid and quite spectacular respectively.

The former book was Cory Doctorow's (of blog extraordinare Boing Boing fame) Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. It was a quality book which conceptually was a ten, but in actuality turned out to be more of an 8 or so. It was a story based in the somewhat distant future, a time when all disease, death, and poverty have been eradicated.

Quick aside about one of the concepts Doctorow created in this book. Value based economies of today have been replaced by a kind of merit based economy which is given the name Whuffie. This concept is probably the most interesting one found within the book, as it proposes the idea that what a person has and can get (not to mention overal appearance and apparent condition) is based entirely around this Whuffie. For example, if your Whuffie is low, it means respect for you is low, or even if you have a lot of it, it could be coming from sources that have low Whuffie in their own right, thus making it low also. If your Whuffie is low and you try and stay in a hotel, you would likely get a room that has a tiny bed and almost no space to relax in. If you have high Whuffie, you'll likely be staying in a suite of some sort. That's enough of that for now.

Anyways, the plot of the book follows the protagonist Julius as he tries to uncover the mystery behind his death, while trying to save his beloved Liberty Square rides in Disney World (now a veritable post-modern day Mecca for the Internet obsessed and the culturally preoccupied) from the evil Debra and her team of Ad-Hocs. These people may or may not be plotting to remove the old school charm from the rides and replace them with impersonal (yet intriguing and well liked) aspects, and may or may not have killed Julius to help them accomplish that. He is joined by his best friend Keep On Truckin' Dan and his girlfriend Lil in their attempt to save the honor of the Magic Kingdom.

It's a rather bizarre book that once again, is great conceptually, but falls short due to a couple of reasons: occasionally scattershot narrative and despicable characters. Julius is an amusing and definitely interesting protagonist, but due to where his character arc takes him, he is awfully hard to like. His girlfriend Lil and virtually everyone else in the story are also very hard to like, as they more often than not choose the opposite of what you the reader would typically want them to do. The one character who is seemingly redeemable (Dan) is dampened a bit by the fact that his primary arc is his attempt to get his Whuffie back up so he can kill himself while back on top. Odd stuff.

The narrative as I said is rather scattershot, with it being difficult to follow at times and dissipating entirely for occasional 2 to 3 page tangents which do very little to progress the storyline. They can be interesting details to the characters lives, especially our peek into Julius' previous marriage, but at the same time it did feel as if the time could be used more effectively.

Yet even with those downfalls, the book is a joy to read even with the bummer characters because they are very funny in their own self depricating way. Also, Doctorow pulls off some of the more bizarre concepts that I've read, including believably having characters smoke crack as a social drug, akin to alcohol or smoking today. This type of strange humor really make the pages fly by, even when the plot may be stalling. I'd say I recommend it, but with reservations. If you like your humor a little on the odd side and you dig interesting views of the future, this book is definitely for you.

The other book I just completed (and by just I mean just 3 hours ago) was John Scalzi's novel The Android's Dream. Sadly, I received this book the previous Christmas, and I just now finished it. It is truly sad that it took me that long to read it, as this was an excellent book. It juggled a wide variety of characters in an intricate plot involving interplanetary politics, revenge plots, religous zealots, a variety of Aliens, a new sentient race, and one really awesome former soldier/hacker and current "bearer of bad news" for Alien races.

I recently saw the movie Enchanted (excellent by the way) and noticed on its IMDB page that it had something like eight different genres listed for it. Dream manages to tie even more than that into one extremely entertaining and exhilirating novel. It was probably the fastest 400 page read I've ever experienced.

I would go into more detail about this one, but I'd prefer it if the readers of this page would just pick this one up at the library or your local bookseller to read on your own. It's definitely an experience I recommend for anyone, as it is very entertaining. If you do pick it up, try not be thrown off by the first two chapters. Just because they involve an assassination by way of gas (the type that comes from your insides instead of the type that comes from tanks and vials held by villains) does not mean the rest of the book will be like that whatsoever.

I have to admit, the entire time reading this book, I kept thinking "man, I bet this would make an awesome movie." I don't believe there are any plans to turn it into a film, but if any book has called for it, this one definitely would. I would say if it reminds me of anything, it reminds me of a more political and obviously based in the future James Bond novel as written by Douglas Adams. How does that not seem cool?

Turns out Mr. Scalzi writes a fairly entertaining blog as well, which is entitled Whatever. I recommend checking it out here. The Christmas post is very entertaining, and something I'm sure many people would understand.

Scalzi and Doctorow actually have ties to each other, and as you will possibly see Scalzi's second post directly quotes a post Doctorow made on Boing Boing, and he also thanked him in the front of Dream. I have an amazing ability to constantly read books that are similar to each other or seem to have ties to each other without really attempting to do this. It's uncanny.

Last bit here, up next I have A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, which is a story about how a young widow and father becomes the Angel of Death. This book comes with the Brian Charbonneau stamp of approval, and he claimed to laugh throughout it. I'm 40 pages in and have smiled a good amount, having been robbed of my ability to laugh by the dreaded Dentist. Damn you Dentist...damn you! No less, the saga continues. Cannot quit this reading addiction!

I Love the Smell of Commerce in the Morning

Saturday, November 24, 2007
Outside of Best Buy - 5:03 am, Black Friday

Pretty much everyone is well aware of what Black Friday is. To be exact, it is the day that most every retailer goes from being in the red to the black, meaning it's the day they officially start making money. It is also the day after Thanksgiving every year, and is the single biggest shopping day of the year.

My Mom and I go every year. It isn't necessarily that we go to actually purchase things - a lot of it just has to do with experiencing the event. It's really fun to watch people go absolutely insane over stuff. That's right, I'm calling it all stuff. Basically the day is the one day of the year where it is perfectly acceptable to act insane and blow money right and left with no thoughts towards budgeting or anything of that sort. Essentially, it's the commerce equivalent of Thanksgiving. One day a year you can go overboard, and the rest of the time you are attempting to make up for that one day.

I do buy things, don't get me wrong - I normally buy a few DVD's or go for whatever is free (last year I picked up Ahead Nero 10 for free, which is the best price ever), but some people are just driven insane by the savings. A few years back, I saw a man walk out with no less than 7 DVD players. I would really love to know what he is going to do with 7 DVD players. It's things like that...the insanity...that make people bewildered about this wondrous day. I occasionally sarcastically say "that is such a good deal, I think I'll buy it again" when I see a fantastically priced DVD or CD I already have. I say it jokingly, not actually intending to do this. But people do in fact do this.

Inside Best Buy - 5:10 am, Black Friday

I am also very entertained by the fact that this is in Alaska, where it is obviously going to be cold in late November, yet people stay out in front of stores for over 12 hours so they can get savings. I hope those savings are fantastic, because you'll need that money to pay for your treatments for frostbite. But anyways, enough complaining about people's insanity. I included three pictures of the massive lines. My niece Sophie came up to me and asked me what I was taking a picture of during the last picture, and I simply told her "I like taking pictures of crazy people." Amazingly enough a woman in the ridiculously huge line laughed and said "it's true." I thought that was a fun little anecdote, and at least it makes people realize that what they do is pretty crazy.

Inside Wal-Mart - 6:20 am, Black Friday

I ended up picking up Knocked Up, Crank, Season 10 of South Park, and Season One of Rescue Me for $40, which is way better than the probably $80 to $100 I would have spent otherwise. It was a solid day of shopping, and as per usual it was tremendously entertaining. I can't wait for next year, even though it will be more of the same. The best thing is, I think people just go to go at this point, not because any of the deals are really THAT spectacular or any of the products for sale are that fantastic. Maybe I missed something, but it was pretty light in the high end items from what I saw. Maybe next year will be different, but I think I'm counting on way too many maybes at this point. The only thing that isn't unsure is the fact that I will assuredly be there. Maybe that makes me crazy too...but maybe I'm OK with that.

Hey Hermano

I know this is getting repetitive at this point, but to be honest a lot of my free time has been given up to the pursuit of rock. Between trying to finish hard mode and work through expert mode in Guitar Hero 3, and the development of Alaskan supergroup Hey Hermano (currently Lacey on bass, myself on drums or guitar, and Amy on vocals), I've had very little non-music related free time lately. Not that I'm complaining, I just felt as if I should apologize to my blog readers...if there are any of you left now that I suck at writing. I'd promise that I would enter some sort of regular posting schedule again, but I'm not interested in lying to you.

Back to the point though, Hey Hermano rocks. Lacey is out of town, but Amy and myself are living the dream of being rock stars, with her carrying me through many a song on Hey Hermano's inagural World Tour. Also, for those that don't realize what I am talking about, I purchased myself Rock Band on the Xbox 360, a game that combines playing of a drum set controller (just like real drums), a guitar for bass or lead/rhythm guitar like in Guitar Hero, and karaoke style singing into the mic that comes with the game.

Lacey and Amy, striking rocker poses

It is ridiculous amounts of fun, and our band Hey Hermano was really starting to become pretty big, surpassing 100,000 fans worldwide without having left Europe, but we hit a cold patch and we are now back down to around 14,000 fans sadly. I blame myself, and Aerosmith. Mostly Aerosmith. They should have less solos. It makes it rather hard to beat their songs when everything is a freakish solo and it's 2 am. Apparently, regardless of how much coffee I drink, I am a tad sluggish on the guitar at that time.

Lacey and myself performing "I Think I'm Paranoid" by Garbage - I'm drumming and singing

Anyways, I can't recommend the game enough. It's amazing amounts of fun and I cannot see how anyone who plays could not get obsessed with it *couCOLVERgh*. Want to know the lengths of our obsession? Please add Hey Hermano on MySpace. We're going to become rock sensations. I'm looking forward to the first Rock Band night at a local bar so we can go and strut our stuff. We'll become the world's biggest entirely fraudulent band since Milli Vanilli, and you can do your part by adding us as a friend. If you're lucky, maybe we'll have merch up on there by Christmas, so you can buy your friends a nice shirt or perhaps autographed drumsticks by yours truly. Don't want to get you excited though, as it is only a possibility.

Melting faces is addicting

Sunday, November 18, 2007
I seriously have problems stopping playing Guitar Hero 3. It's so very addictive. This version of the game was in fact made by Neversoft (Tony Hawk series) instead of the traditional Harmonix (busily working on Rock Band...can't wait for that!), but you wouldn't know it from the quality of the game put out. It's pretty spectacular, has a great tracklist, and the songs are almost all very fun to play. They really knocked it out of the park on this one, especially with the addition of a Wireless controller for the 360 finally. It's pretty much the only video game I play any more. I don't know why it is so hard for me to get into games anymore, but so very addicting playing this one. Maybe because rocking out to Social Distortion and Weezer is just inherently awesome? Perhaps because feeling like a rowdy musician is something everyone really wants to feel? Who knows. I think people just really like to have fun.

This one has even affected others, as Colver and Lorna have it as well and both shred on a daily basis as well. Hilariously enough, Lorna is better than Colver. By a good amount. She's up to hard mode now as well. Who knew there was so much rock in such a little body?

I had a goal of beating Through the Fire and Flames by Dragonforce on Hard mode and in co-op with Brian, but I have now come to realize - it's going to be too easy. It's now been upgraded to beating it on expert on co-op. Pretty damn inspired if you ask me, as most recently we've only been able to get through 27% of it on Hard mode, but Brian and I have both improved quite a bit. We're going to tear through it before he goes back to the North Slope, I swear. I'm now going to shoot myself for promising in a public forum about beating Dragonforce on expert. That song is so hard on hard. Expert is ridiculous!

The point of this is, if a game that is predominantly a one player experience can be so addicting, how addictive is Rock Band going to be? Will my band just be meeting constantly? Are we going to have power struggles? Will someone develop a debilitating drug habit? Will anyone talk to the bassist? These are questions I openly ask. All I know is, it's all I want for Christmas and I cannot wait to form my band. Vomit in Your Milk will finally live (that's our band name...we're a Finnish metal band).

My apologies to the readership

Friday, November 16, 2007
I will post this weekend. That is my promise. I want to get back to a regularly scheduled broadcast, but I've had a number of things impeding my ability to do that. What are these things?
  • Guitar Hero 3
  • Ryan Atkins visiting
  • Legs healing so I can begin training for Marathon (shoot me!)
  • Joining a Dodgeball team
  • Finishing books
  • Catching up on comics
  • Cotto vs. Mosley
  • Beirut night
  • Night of crazy dancing (Actually, all of the last three were the same night)
  • Bad movie night
  • Porn dinner (Is actually weirder than it sounds)
  • Trivia night x 2 (duh)
  • Football
  • Aces games
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Ridiculous amounts of other TV (which I cannot catch up on for the life of me)
  • I work a little bit as well

Yep, so I've been pretty busy. Brian being back in town, Ryan Atkins visiting, and meeting new people have definitely been great, but it's led to incredible busyness and lots of fun. This weekend I'll go into the nitty gritty, and from there I will try to get back into the swing of things. Maybe I'll just give up sleeping? Who knows?! I'll find the time.

His Dark Secret

Sunday, November 4, 2007
Philip Pullman's collected trilogy of His Dark Materials

If you've met me, spoken to me, or read my blog for any length of time, you'll know probably one thing. I love Harry Potter. Well, that and I really like music. That and I'm a fan of duct tape. I tend to party a lot according to this thing as well. Ok, nevermind, if you read this, you know a number of things about me...not the least of which is I tend to go off on tangents. REGARDLESS. Harry Potter. Big fan. Loved the series, love the movies, sad it's over, would love it to go on forever.

I never really thought anything could take its position as numero uno book series. It just seemed unrealistic.

Yet I feel as if I liked Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series more. I know, hard to believe right? All I know, is it's been messing with me for days after I finished it. The characters are sticking with me deeply, as if the books never really end but stay in my thoughts perpetually after the last words have been read. It's funny that another pseudo-fantasy, youth lit series has captured my imagination so wholly, but hey, you love what you love. Some people read Les Miserables and War and Peace...I read kids books.

It really is quite amazing though. My mom and I were roaming around Barnes and Noble before we were going to see American Ganster (excellent...of course) and I kept yammering on and on about it, even finding a book that analyzes the series and purchasing it, until it led her to tell me that she hasn't seen me this excited about a book ever. It's true though. This has really stoked the flames of my reading spirit. I'm going to read again! Oh my! Could it be possible? David? Reading? I know. Very shocking. It's been a great inspiration, and if anyone who reads this could be so kind, please hook me up with any book recommendations you have. It doesn't have to fit my niche, just anything you've read ever or lately that you particularly are fond of. I also prefer series, as that is more my style.

Back to His Dark Materials though. Pullman's trilogy was received in a very favorable light. There are some dissenters who trash the third book and parts of the second, but the first book - called Northern Lights or the Golden Compass depending on region - is universally loved. I personally think the series grew and grew throughout the Subtle Knife and the Amber Spyglass, with Pullman's descriptions and dialogue becoming more powerful and characters developing newfound richness with every turned page. There are just so many layers and so much beauty in the series, I found it to be utterly engrossing and a bit of an addiction.

Lately, some have ripped on it due to it's "anti-religion" standpoint though. I beg to differ on this concept though, as I read it as four different stories simultaneously - coming of age for protagonists Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry, a giant fantastic war epic (using the term fantastic instead of fantasy because it has elements but would not be a true fantasy in my opinion), an allegorical tale that provides credence to alternative ways of thinking/religion, and a fourth bit that I will not go into detail due to certain people reading the series as we speak.

Now, to my point on the allegorical aspects of the book. I believe that the book isn't anti-organized religion. Well...it is, but it isn't at the same time. What Pullman does is provide readers with the idea that sometimes religion is not necessarily the right choice and is never the only choice. He provides an open mind and a fresh perspective on the concept. Sure, in interviews he has sort of vilified himself by ripping on C.S. Lewis and the blatant religious ties in his Narnia series, but this is no reason to tear down on this series. The depth of characters and the love you develop for these people (plus Bears! And Witches! And Mulefa! Oh my!) who inhabit his work has been unparalleled for me. The connection I feel to the series has, as I said before, reignited the flames of my desire to read actual books, and there is something to be said about that power.

I am in no way trying to get anyone to read this series. I really just wanted to say that I feel as if I owe Mr. Pullman some sort of debt for getting me this interested in reading again. Maybe it will take me to new heights with different books so I will start off another blog with "I never thought something could replace His Dark Materials." Who knows. All I do know is I'm excited about the prospect.