Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A corporate competition where everyone loses

I'll begin by saying that I'm a big supporter of the idea that competition between companies brings lower prices and greater innovation, giving the consumer better, cheaper products to choose from. However, this is not always the case.

The battle for a new high-definition video-disc format is killing everyone. The consumers lose because there are 2 incompatible formats that do pretty much the exact same thing for about the exact same price, except the title availability isn't the same. So if I flip a coin, and go with HD-DVD I lose out on all the Pixar films I love. If I decide to switch over to Blu-Ray, I'll miss out on Paramount and Dreamworks films. And even if I drop the huge amount of money on a quality player from each camp, I'm still stuck when it comes to heading over to my friends' house: what player do they have? I might as well buy the DVD version of everything and forget about all of this high-falutin' high-def stuff.

Now here's where the companies lose too. By not collaborating on one format, they lose customers who either choose the other format, or neither.

Personally, I'll be waiting, along with most of the world, for a winner. If that winner never comes, we'll either see both formats die and be replaced altogether, or we will see high-def combo players become standard (to note, this would be fine by me, just as long as they get cheap soon).

For the time being, no one's happy, and it's all because the big studios were too busy worrying about this piracy thing that they keep telling us is killing their profits, to see that a new unified format is the only way to rake in money like DVD did.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

November is Hip Hop History Month

Now's the time to break out all your Run-DMC, Eric B & Rakim, KRS-ONE albums, and spin a James Brown break or two, all while poppin' and breakin' and watching your local graf crew bomb the city.

Let us all celebrate the four elements of hip hop this month...
1) Emceeing
2) DJing
3) Break dancing
4) Graffiti
...and remember those who have come before you.

Grab a copy of some of these fine documentaries: Style Wars, Freestyle, The Freshest Kids, Scratch

Bonus points for anyone who knows who that is in the picture, and why he's notable.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cellphone surprise! (Solved!)

It appears that it was not "Annie" they were saying but "Amy." Thankfully I know just who that Amy is. Mystery solved. Thanks, Ames (even if you're always 10 days late)!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Cellphone surprise!

Most people just call someone when they want to wish them a happy birthday. Apparently I have a friend who decided that that was too mundane. For today I received a voice mail from India wishing me a happy birthday. It's 10 days late, but really, it was a great surprise. I wish I could somehow post the message here because it was great, but you can pretend to listen to it by visiting the website at and read the greeting to yourself in your favorite Indian accent.

I couldn't tell who it was that sent me the message, but it sounded like they said "Annie." I don't know any Annies that would know my birthday, so it's a bit of a mystery. If you have any information on who this might have been, post it in the comments, I'd love to thank them.

Friday, November 02, 2007

I have a bunch of new co-workers!

This was new co-worker 26453. He worked hard, but we had to kill him when he got too close. Let this be a warning to all of my other new co-workers. Except Paul, we'll let him live.

Halloween is serious business

Because I can't stay away from my punk side, I dressed up again this year as a punk. You might remember me as being Elvis Costello a couple of years back. I went to WookieFoot's halloweeen show this year, and had myself a fine time rockin' out and checking out the amazing variety of costumes there.

Maybe next year I'll go as something post punk, so I can have a punk time line triptych.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Jerry Springer: The Opera

This past Friday night, I went and saw the opening show of Jerry Springer: The Opera. It's an absurd, but interesting look at Jerry Springer, and the role he plays in our society. It deals with questions like: Is he to blame for our society, or is he a product of it? Does Satan watch TV? Is Jesus really just a big baby? As much as I enjoyed the story, I felt the rhythm of the lyrics felt choppy and forced.

However, don't let that dissuade you from going. The sets are fantastic, the singing is incredible, and the whole thing is just plain bizarre. So if you're in Minnesota, go ahead, indulge in local theater, just don't blame me if you come out of it having some sympathy for Jerry.

Grab tickets and find more info at the Minneapolis Musical Theater's web site.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Better Living Through Moustaches!

Come, indulge yourself! Enjoy the delightfully witty repartee of two distinguished gentlemen, as they discuss important worldly topics. This is truly an insight into the razor sharp minds of
two well known men, Mr. Salt and Mr. Pepper. Behold: Better Living Through Moustaches.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I Want A New Blog

One with no doubt
One that wont make me talk too much
Or make my face break out*

Well, I've got a new blog going along-side this one. It's a simple, fun, little thing that tracks the music and stuff looping through my head. It's called "The Phonological Loop."

Check it out.

*"I Want A New Drug" copyright Huey Lewis And The News

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The thing that wouldn't die

Cardboard friend differs from actual item

Last night I've come come to realize that the best of friendships never really die, they just take extended vacations in the remote jungles of apathy.

After 2 years of awkward silence between me and my best friend, we finally got back in touch with each other.
But how does one come back and say, "hey, I don't really know why we stopped talking, but now we've got a gulf of time between us, wanna hang out?" It took me a long time to get up the courage to admit that I've got blame to carry for the falling out as well. When you feel like you've lost a best friend, it's easy to shift the blame elsewhere, and avoid taking the responsibility of re-making the connection. It's easy to fear that everything has changed and things will never be the same again.

However, when we got together to hang out, within the first minute I forgot about the years that had passed us by. It was like not a day had passed. Sure, there was some news that came as a surprise, but when it all comes down to it, neither of us has really changed in any fundamental way, despite all the growing up we've done. It's like an old lock and key. Even after years of use, my house key still works. Sure, the parts have been warn, and they don't look quite the same as they did when they were new, but it all fits together and I can still open that old door.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Houses are wonderful but difficult

For a long time I've wanted a house of my own. I've been looking forward to all the great parts about owning your own house. You get to paint it as you please, you can install sound proofing and play your music as loud as you want, you get to make your living space as you want it. What I'd never thought about (and who does in their fantasies) was all the hard work and frustrations that go with owning a house. You've got to mow the lawn, keep a lot of space clean, fix or replace appliances when they break, and do everything else that is required to keep your house from being condemned and enjoyable to live in (or visit).

Over the last few years, my parents have been updating and fixing things in their house. It started with the desire for new flooring in the kitchen, and has culminated in a complete revamping of the entire house. Some of it is needed (thanks to certain poorly built walls), but most of it is redecorating. Although it's quite beautiful and rewarding when it's done, the long, frustrating hours my parents have had for the last year, as these most recent project have been going, have made me realize that even the fun stuff can be agonizing.

As much as I still look forward to someday buying my own house, I'm not so naive these days. At least I have an idea what I'm in for.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I've got Vertigo, and I love it

Over the last 5 years I've become an avid comic book reader. What inspired it, I'm not sure, but I'd gone from a passing interest in X-Men (I mean, how cool is Wolverine), to religiously attending local comic book conventions. I generally stick to the stuff I pick up from the conventions, which consists of mostly local and independent artists.

However, over time, people have recommended, or I have stumbled upon, a few mainstream titles. Here's a list of some of the best:
  • Transmetropolitan
  • Fables
  • Preacher
  • Y: The Last Man
  • Lucifer
  • Sandman
For those who haven't already guessed, the running theme here is: they are all Veritgo titles. Vertigo is the more adult imprint of DC Comics. Instead of caped super heroes, you've got a lot of men and women, gods and creatures, many whom you might root for at one time and then hate at others. Characters that feel real, or at least more real than Superman.

If you're an adult who is looking to get into comics, I'd suggest picking up almost any title from Vertigo and giving it a read.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Blue man says "Keyboards are gross!"

One of my coworkers took misophobia to the logical conclusion the other day. Rubber gloves are the perfect way to avoid the dirty, germy oils, dead skin flakes, food bits, and other unsavory menaces of the keyboard. Isn't he just adorable?
His wife must be so proud.

Monday, April 30, 2007

MicroCon 2007

This Sunday I went to the Minnesota State Fair grounds to enjoy a nice time at MicroCon, a small, yearly, spring comic book convention. As always, it was a great time to talk with artists and see what's going on in their lives, and their art.

I always make a point to talk with some of my favorite artists at the conventions. These guys (and girl) are not only great artists and story tellers, but they are excellent people as well. Very rarely do I feel like being a fanboy about something, but it's just so exciting to me to be able to talk with a section of the usually inaccessible people who bring me a lot of joy. Here's a list of my favorite comic book artists who frequent Minnesota cons:

Sam Hiti (also check out Fist-A-Cuffs)
Zach Miller
Becky Grutzik & Matt Wendt
Zander Cannon, Kevin Cannon & Shad Petosky

If you've got any interest in comics (or art, for that matter), and haven't been to a comic book convention before, stop by the next con this fall. It's good way to go out and experience new art and ideas.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Remembering our history through samples

Although some people believe that a piece of art is to be experienced on its own, I feel so much art is enhanced by understanding where it came from. Music has a very long history, and although much of it is inspired by other works and genres, a good portion of modern music is created with the help of sampling other works.

When done properly, this practice takes prior art and creates something new that goes beyond the original. A new work of art that brings older works into a new light. However, ignorance and carelessness can devalue an original work. Much as when forgetting a nation's history can devalue its current state of affairs.

In an effort to make others aware of where their music comes from, I've decided to share some interesting examples of a real history in samples.

Many people have heard the song "Doin' Time" by the group Sublime. Few have any of the music's origins. In the early 1930's George Gershwin wrote the music to the opera Porgy and Bess. In the opera there is a song entitled "Summertime." That piece was later arranged by Herbie Mann and recorded in 1961 during live performance at the Village Gate. This particular recording happened to be instrumental. Years later, Sublime sampled that recording and used their own lyrics. However, they pay homage to the original lyrics and begin with "Summertime and the livin's easy," which is how the original begins.

What is amazing about sampling is that it need not be limited to the original source to be sampled. If we begin with the groovy and rather repetitious song "Take Me To The Mardi Gras" as performed by Bob James (it was originally written by Paul Simon), we see the funky bell and drum groove that comprises most of the song appear in a number of hip hop tracks. One of the performers to sample this song is Run-DMC in their song "Peter Piper." Their DJ, Jam Master Jay, cut up the original on his turntables. Although well known by hip hop fans, "Peter Piper" has been generally forgotten by the public. A few years ago Missy Elliot released a song entitled "Work It." This song could be easily added to the list of songs that sampled "Take Me To The Mardi Gras," however, if one listens more closely one would notice that she didn't sample Bob James, but rather sampled some of the cuts that Jam Master Jay created for "Peter Piper."

Sometimes a song goes above and beyond a simple sample or loop. MC Hammer took the instrumental version of Rick James' "Super Freak" and laid his own lyrics over it. When I was a child my mom swore up and down that she'd heard "U Can't Touch This" years before, but couldn't place it. It wasn't until I was older that I heard "Super Freak" and realized that she wasn't crazy, she'd heard Rick James do his thing long before MC Hammer was rapping.

Knowing the history of the music I listen to not only gives me an appreciation for the original artists, but it adds new value to the new songs I hear as well as broadening my knowledge of music. So go ahead, enjoy that new song, but remember it has a history too. Perhaps one more intricate than you'd imagine.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Dead and Life.

She died yesterday. My family has all gathered in Ohio. What's weird is that it has been so much more about life than about death. The only parts that hurt are when people wax nostolgic about her life. But the stories are fascinating.

In some ways I can't wait to leave, but in others I'm so happy to be here. The whole situation has made me appreciate my extended family in subtle, but significant ways. I can't find the words right now to explain, but I know it's there.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Death and dying.

To note, I grew up without any grandparents. They had all died before I was born. Since then, very few people I've known have died. Those that have were old and their deaths did not come as much of a surprise. None of them I was close with. The one exception, well, I wouldn't have wished him dead, but let's say we didn't agree on much.

Recently, my father's cousin died. I hadn't seen her much, but the little I did left a positive, lasting impression on me. She was a fun lady, and relatively young to boot. But she had a bout with cancer and died shortly after the diagnosis. I've never known anyone who died from cancer. The near daily e-mail reports would come in. First she wasn't feeling well, then she started losing touch with reality. Then she was in a coma. It all happened so fast I thought she would pull out of it and regain her health somehow. But, instead, her living will dictated she not be given nutrients in this scenario. So she lasted a few days before her body finally gave out.

I understand now how families will wait and wait and wait on pulling the plug, just hoping that their relative will somehow wake up and pull through. I keep thinking, what if they'd given her more of a chance? Would she have ever come back?

Around the same time this was happening, we got reports from my own cousin that her mother's health was failing. We'd known for a while that this woman let her diabetes go for years, and was suffering from some of the consequences. It's hard to feel sorry for her when she was the only one stopping herself from getting help. However, this wasn't the only thing she'd been letting go.

It seems that she has been hiding breast cancer for 8 years. We're still trying to get our heads around that. On top of that, she'd never gone to see a doctor after her heart surgery years ago. Her heart was is poor condition since she did nothing to keep it healthy. So now we have 3 things killing her all at once. All either preventable, or reducible by her own means. It's very hard to feel bad for her.

On the other hand, she's my only aunt. She's been a stubborn woman that I've always had a bit of respect for. She never took crap from anybody, and she had a good eye for people. Sure, she's not always been the best person herself, or to herself, but as a close relative, it's been pretty easy to look past that. Now that woman is nearly gone from this world. She's been in a downward spiral for the last few weeks. Sure, there have been some bursts of vigor, but all in all it's been leading to one thing.

She's not dead yet, and if her past is any prediction, she probably won't die for a while. I can only hope she continues to be the stubborn old lady I've always known. Though I'd like to yell at her for being as stupid about her health as she has been, I really just want to hug her one last time. I want her to meet my girlfriend and give me some approval. I want her to be around for her grandkids so they can grow up knowing who their grandmother was.

It's all been hard on me, and I can't help but cry a little when I think about it. I guess this is part of the inevitable road one walks down in the path of life. Some day I will have to see my own parents go, and I can't bear to think about it. I hope by then I will have children of my own, who will have had a chance to meet their grandparents and learn about them firsthand. I hope we all feel like they had led long, fulfilling lives.

To my mom and my dad and my sister, I love you all.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Cleaning out my brain

There's nothing more calming and rejuvenating to me than cleaning. It's a weird therapy. There's no meditating. No thinking about your problems. No Talking. Just you and your cleaning implement of choice (or necessity). Taking a damp cloth to all my shiny metal bits (faucets and mirrors) and polishing them up is my favorite part. That, or vacuuming lint off of the floor and watching the rug go from a spotted mess to a freshly groomed fully patch.

Sure, it seems pretty domestic and feminine, but in the privacy of your own home there's probably no one there to tell you you're a nancy. Unless, you know, you invite people over and dress in a French maid outfit. You know who you are.

Despite all of the therapeutic benefits I still find myself loathing to begin cleaning. I'll never understand this.