Monthly Archives: April 2006

Tag, you’re it!

Last night, while reading over some sites, I decided that I wanted to go beyond the somewhat static category scheme that my site has had for a while, and do something a bit more dynamic, like the tagging scheme that sites like del.icio.us have made popular. It was a really simple change on the backend side of things, but it should allow for me to be a little more descriptive in my categorization of posts. You’ll still be able to find the different tags from the dropdown in the menu, but you’ll also be able to see tags via the Tag Cloud. The Tag Cloud is a premise I borrowed from a few other tag-oriented sites that shows visually how usage of one tag compares to the other tags.

To compliment the new tagging scheme, I set up some more neat (read: pointless) interaction with del.icio.us, so that any tags that exist both here and on my del.icio.us page will display an icon denoting the shared tag. The behavior is different based on what you’re looking at, so I’ll leave it for you to figure out. You’re all smart people.

Breaking News!

In what may or not be a sweeps week, we here at WMGN bring you this news flash: God Forbid is an awesome band! I’ve just been informed that the news actually broke Saturday night, but this reporter didn’t get the full story until he bought two of their albums (“Gone Forever” and “IV: Constitution of Treason”) and gave them a shake down. Our sources confirm that Coyle brothers, guitarists for God Forbid, have serious guitar skill, and that they should be considered along side any guitar tandem in existence as one of the best. Their sheer riffing prowess and elegant yet agressive leads will surely lead to many hours of listening enjoyment for any fan of metal. Authorities on the scene recommend that any metalhead purchase albums by this band as soon as possible.

Ok, yah, that was lame. No more fake news reporting for me. On a similar yet less talented note, I’ve uploaded some guitar clips I’ve recorded over the past few days. All have included a couple beers at least. Apparently I’m more apt to play when I’m sans sobriety. I honestly don’t remember if the first one is any good. The second one is pretty scatter brained, and if I remember right, my fretting hand was on fire that night, but my sense of time was not. The clip I recorded tonight was pretty quiet and mostly clean until the end, where I kicked on the amplifier’s overdrive, a distortion pedal, and the wah pedal, and had a total Eddie Van Halen moment. You’ll know it when you hear it. There are a few short parts that almost sound like they could have been plucked from “Eruption.” Then again, they might sound like they were plucked out of a steaming pile of dung. You be the judge.

The knife approaches…

I forgot to post this the other day, so I'll post it now. The date is confirmed – I'll be going under the knife for my cataract surgery on May 9th. I'm pretty hopeful. It seems as though the Coats' disease in my right eye is calming down, or at least being controlled by the steroids. Knowing that, I'm hoping that the cataract surgery will restore the clarity that my right eye hasn't seen in some time. I guess I'll know in a few weeks…

Chimaira, Arch Enemy, God Forbid, Hate Eternal – 4/22/06

Last night I checked out Chimaira, Arch Enemy, God Forbid, and Hate Eternal down in the eternal shithole known as Harpos in Detroit. This concert marked a few firsts for me. Foremost, it’s the first concert I’ve ever gone to alone. Why you ask? Because all the other people that said they would go bitched out. I wasn’t about to miss the show though. The second is that this was the first time I’ve brought earplugs to a show. I didn’t use them for the whole show, because they were crappy industrial type earplugs that muck up the sound completely, as opposed to other earplugs that I’ve heard of that let all of the sound through relatively undisturbed, albeit at a much lower volume.

Hate Eternal was the first of the “known” bands on the stage. I’d never heard of them before, and frankly, I wouldn’t have been worse off if I hadn’t seen them. Each of the guys in the band seemed talented, but for me at least, it didn’t seem to add up to something good. To me, it just sounded like a wall of noise, and hence, I had the earplugs in for most (if not all) of their set. If I were to guess, I think this is the kind of music that metal-haters cite when they say that all metal is just neanderthal and barbaric in nature. I give them credit for being solid on their instruments, but not much more than that. Grade: C-

God Forbid was the next group up. I have to say that God Forbid was the first metal band I’ve ever seen where the non-caucasians outnumbered the stereotypical metal white guys. It’s good to see that metal is reaching out and touching more people. It’s also good to hear a band that rocks, and these guys most certainly did that. Their singer was a screamer, but he was counterbalanced by the two guitarists, which did some sweet harmonized backing vocals. It’s always good to have throw that change-up to keep things fresh. The music was very heavy and had a serious groove. Each of the guitarsts have serious skills, and ripped off tons of solos each. There were also plenty of times where they met in the middle of the stage and played extended harmonized leads, which are always totally sweet. All in all, I’d give these guys two thumbs up, and would definitely check them out again. Grade: B+

Arch Enemy was up next. I’ve heard of them many times before, but haven’t really taken the plunge and listened to them all that much. Well, I will be checking them out further, because they were awesome. More killer guitar work, to say the least. Lots of sweet riffs and hard driving rhythms. Tthey also have one of the only female singers that I’ve ever seen in a metal band. She’s no candy ass either… she gets out there and lets it rip, and there’s no doubt she’s metal to the core. She’s pretty hot too, but she’s also vegan, which in my now-biased eyes, that reduces her hot factor. But that’s a completely different story. Anyway, Arch Enemy is awesome, and they will definitely be getting more attention from me, and quite soon most likely. Grade A-
[Chimaira playing Implements Of Destruction]
Chimaira was the reason I made the 90 mile journey alone, and while I would like to say that they didn’t disappoint, they did in a way. More on that later. I was beside myself when they broke into the first song – Implements of Destruction. My favorite Chimaira song. I didn’t really think i would ever see it live since it’s an instrumental weighing in at about twelve minutes, but they played it. And they nailed it. It may have been slightly abridged, but they played the vast majority of it. After they finished, the lead guitarist stepped up to the mic and said that we were in for a ‘different’ kind of Chimaira show tonight. The lead singer had a death his family, so he had flown home to be with his family. So, rather than cancel the show, he asked some of the guys in the opening bands to help out on vocals along with their keyboard/sound effects guy (who does backing vocals anyway). The singer for God Forbid came out and did their next two or three songs, and he did a pretty good job, although you could see that he was fishing around for the lyrics at times, and was putting the microphone into the crowd an awful lot. One of God Forbid’s guitarists came out and sang the ‘clean’ vocals in “Down Again,” and he did a pretty good job as well. The singer/guitarist from Hate Eternal came out and sang the next two songs, and he did a decent job as well, although you could tell he didn’t know the lyrics either, and had to keep looking down at the lyric sheets they had written up and placed on the stage monitors. After that, the keyboardist moved his setup to center stage and took over the vocals. He at least knew the words, and the 4 songs or so he sang sounded pretty coherent and Chimaira-like. I think he pretty much wore himself out though. He looked pretty beat by the end. For the last song, which was “Pure Hatred” I believe, they gave a fan his biggest concert dream ever – they pulled him up on stage to sing. They called out for someone who knew every word, and this guy did. He nailed it. The only time he missed is when the band threw in a pause that wasn’t in the album version, and he started too early. No fault of his own… it’s not like he rehearsed with them.

All in all, their set was pretty good. They played all of the songs I expected them to, which made me happy. The disappointment factor stemmed from not seeing them as a unbroken unit, which led to some of the general vocal disarray. I can’t fault them for it though. They soldiered on, and with some help from the opening bands, did the best they could and still made it a memorable show. I would probably have given the show a B-range grade, but they played Implements of Destruction in its (almost) entirety. Because of that – Grade: A-

Today’s sign of the apocalypse

Taken today at Marshall Fields, when buying concert tickets:

[image]

I think Bon Scott is spinning in his grave.

Fun conversation with Alex

Alex: i think i saw kiss at cobo
Alex: ...
Alex: naw that was silverdome.
Mike: or tiger stadium
Mike: I know they played there too
Alex: on they're final farewell tour?
Mike: along with aerosmith or something crazy like that
Mike: with AIC opening
Alex: what?
Mike: if I remember right
Alex: AIC opened for KISS?
Alex: WTF
Alex: AIC will always reign over kiss in ways we cannot even comprehend!
Mike: http://www.bacus.net/alice/aliceliv.htm
Mike: scroll to the end
Mike: 6/28/96
Alex: i see
Alex: goddamittttttt
Alex: thats just not fair!
Mike: yah, it's an embarassment
Mike: a sacrelege
Alex: seriously. I saw kiss as my first real concert. AIC is ACTUALLY an awesome band.
Alex: not fake awesome.

Alex is right. Alice in Chains is an awesome band. Kiss? Eh, not so much… in this dude’s eyes at least.

Scorched Earth

Upon first glance, that phrase would bring up happy memories from my teenage years. Scorched Earth was a game that I played on my computer for countless hours against human and computer foes alike in a 256-color, tank based, battle royale. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Others might envision the predictions of mutually assured destruction brought about by the Cold War and its stockpiling of vast amounts of nuclear weapons, poised to anihillate the majority of the Earth’s population at the orders of two men, seperated not only by distance, but also social and economic policies. But that’s not what I’m talking about either. I’m talking about a hot-button topic for our times – Global Warming.

For as long as I remember hearing about this topic, I remember thinking that people were making a bigger deal of this phenomenon than it merited. After all, the Earth has been around for around four billion years, and humans have been smart and meddlesome creatures for what, the past hundred, maybe hundred and fifty years? What could we possibly know about how the Earth works? How arrogant are we to think that we could possibly have an influence on such a massive system that existed long before we came about, and will likely exist long after we’re gone? As recently as this past weekend I had this discussion with my dad and uncle. “Sure we’ve progressed, but we’re not that smart.” That was our general concensus. I’ve never dismissed the notions of Global Warming completely, but I have never really took them as seriously as some of the “save the planet” types wanted me to.

That viewpont has been changing recently, along with some other viewpoints of mine. Call it an awakening, call it paying more attention to things I didn’t pay attention to in the past, call it what you like. It’s the topic of another discussion really. Anyway, the more I’ve been reading and thinking about the subject, the more I think it merits attention – if for no other reason than to be cautious. Sure, my past thinking that we’ve got nothing to worry about because we’re nothing of consequence to the Earth could be true, but what if it’s not? There are a lot of very intelligent people across the globe that believe this is something we need to act upon immediately, if not sooner. These people aren’t just folks that stayed at a Holiday Inn Express the night before. They know their shit, through and through. They’ve studied, researched, modelled, and experimented. And they’re all saying the same thing. If we don’t change our ways, we’re fucked. And not like, “eh, we might have to get used to sweating a little more.” They’re talking severe climate change in in the next 100 years. Climate change that’s drastic enough to start conjuring visions of Venus in our backyards.

Doomsday prophecies are normally something I dismiss with a quickness, but I can’t help but buy into this one, at least partially. I’ve come across a few things in the past couple weeks that make me believe more and more that unless we pull a 180 right now, we’re done for. I’ll name two here. First was a two paragraph blurb I read in this past month’s issue of Discover, entitled “Plants grab control of the global greenhouse.” Judging by the article title I thought that someone found some mechanism, either natural or artificial, to use plants to help control the greenhouse effect. Not so much. The gist of the article is that living plants (not just dead and decaying plants) are a significant source of methane emissions, and that these emissions *increase* with temperature. Nobody observed this before, which reminds me of my belief that mankind is far too arrogant about it’s knowledge, but I digress. Do the math. Plants are good because they eat up carbon dioxide while releasing oxygen. Carbon dioxide is a potent greenhouse gas. This is a good thing right? But, on the other hand, we now know that they also release methane, which is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. So, plants emit methane, which spurs global warming. This results in plants releasing more methane. Sounds like a positive feedback loop to me. Nature probably has mechanisms to keep these processes in check, but it seems that mankind has thrown a wrench in that machinery by throwing the process all out of balance.

The second thing was a show I just watched a few hours ago. One of the few shows I deem worthy of watching is Nova, on PBS. I have my MythTV box record every instance of it that it comes across. Their most recent episode was entitled “Dimming the Sun.” It covered a lot of material, so I’ll attempt to summarize here in a few sentences. Essentially, it is the belief of many climate scientists that while we’ve been fouling up the atmosphere by adding carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air through our various energy-producing means, we’ve actually been providing a protective blanket at the same time. Their findings suggest that the ash, soot, and other filth that our burning of fossil fuels has deposited in the air has actually helped us calm down the greenhouse effect. This happens by altering the nature of the clouds that form downwind of polluted areas. “Normal” clouds tend to form when water condenses around larger natural airborne particles such as pollen. The abnormal clouds they described are formed by condensation around the ash and soot particles mentioned earlier. These particles are much smaller, and lead to many more smaller water droplets than would occur in a “normal” cloud. As a result, the clouds are more reflective, which makes them more efficient at blocking sunlight. As a whole, the Earth’s surface is seeing between 5 and 15% less solar radiation than it was 30 years ago, depending on where you’re measuring. Other man-made phenomena, such as airplane condensation trails, contribute to this effect. The probem with this scenario is that the developed world has become pretty good in controlling its emissions of particulate matter, but not nearly as good in controlling greenhouse gas emissions. This is resulting in the removal of our protective shield against global warming, while increasing the things that cause global warming in the first place. Not good. The projected effects vary depending on the models used, but some models predict that the Earth could warm by as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit by the turn of the century, with drought and famine becoming widespread. Totally not good.

So, call me crazy, or blame the five or so beers I’ve consumed this evening, but this really strikes me as something that needs to be taken seriously. I can’t say that I’m well-informend on the topic, but this might be my motivation to start learning more. But from what I do know, and what I highlighed above, this isn’t some crackpot theory. This is based upon undisputed observations over the past 30 years, if not more. If the scientists are right in their predictions, something needs to be done, and soon. If they’re wrong, they’re wrong, and we go on as usual. But if they’re right, our planet might not be hospitible for human life in a relatively short period of time. Is this really something we want to roll the dice on?

Bottoming Out

Before I went on my cleaning spree today, I went over to CompUSA and Marshall Music. I’ve been trying to avoid places like CompUSA and Best Buy since I’m somewhat broke at the moment, and I have a bad tendency to walk out with things I wasn’t planning on buying and certainly don’t need. Today was different. I had a purpose. Earlier on this morning the AC adapter for my Thinkpad (a.k.a. Craptop) gave up the ghost. I didn’t hold much hope for finding an AC adapter at CompUSA for such an old model laptop, but I didn’t think it would hurt to look. They didn’t really have anything that was tailor-made for it, but there were a few generic laptop adapters that might have fit the bill. Let me clarify – they may have fit an expensive bill. The one that looked like it might work the best was $99. There’s no way I’m going to pay that much for something that might work. As it turns out, I found a site later on the day for a company that makes all sorts of batteries and adapters for laptops old and new. Their price was much cheaper ($35), and they guarantee compatibility. I picked up an adapter from them, and also a replacement battery. The battery on the craptop was really bad, and quite inconsistent in its performance.

The trip to Marshall Music was just for strings and picks for the old Gee-Tars. While I was there, I decided to renew an old experiment I’d begun some time ago. Along with my normal strings, I picked up a pack of 7-strings so I could bottom out the Carvin. I’ve done this a few times before, and it’s always proven interesting. I really like the low sound that the baritone tuning provides. I put the strings on when I got back from the store, but the intonation was pretty bad, so I adjusted the truss rod a bit to tighten things up. It sounds a lot cleaner now. The only bad thing is that the Carvin only has one pickup in it right now, so I’m kinda limited in my tonal capabilities. Perhaps I’ll be able to pick up a couple Fender Lace Sensors once Greg delivers the cash that he owes me… 🙂 In any case, I’m hoping it will insipre me to play more. I might also be inclined to record some clips, and if I do so, I’ll be sure to upload them to the site for your listening (dis)pleasure.

A little cleaner

Today was a productive day. I spent most of the day cleaning my apartment and finally putting some things away that were still laying around in boxes from when I moved in… Yes, I know, it was three and a half months ago. Everything has a home now. I kept telling myself that I was going to wait and get another storage-type device like a desk or filing cabinet to house the stuff I hadn’t found homes for yet. When I actually got down to sorting through it, I realized that most of the stuff already had a place somewhere, and the rest was just garbage that just needed to be tossed. This probably marks the first time since I moved in that the apartment is in a state that my mother would call “mostly clean.”

I’m normally not a very messy person, nor am I a neat freak. I have a chaotic kind of order to my existence. I’m very visual, so if I put something somewhere, I remember the surroundings, and if I need to find it, I know where to look. Therefore, I don’t really need to organize a lot of things by normal standards. However, what I had going on here was a bit out of control. I’ve been a bit more lax with my organization since I’ve been living on my own, and I’m not necessarily happy with it. My always-on-time bill payment record is now tarnished because of my lack of order, and that makes me angry. In response, I’ve decided to get organized again. I’ll start with this pile of crap…

[pile of junk mail]

This is pile of various statements, pay stubs, and other important papers that I collected during my cleaning today. Some of these go back as a year and a half, some even longer. There are even a few Compuware pay stubs in there, and I haven’t worked at that godforsaken place since 2001! I have no idea where those came from. I’m pretty anal about keeping documents like these when I receive them, but I haven’t been so anal about filing them. That will change. I’m tired of the disarray.

The Force is strong with this one…

Indeed you are powerful as the Emperor has forseen, Matthew…

Matt: DAMN "The Grand conjuration" kicks fucking ass
Mike: hahah
Mike: yah
Mike: I can play that song too
Matt: first time listening to it
Matt: oh yeaH?
Mike: learned it on the guitar
Mike: most of it
Matt: i can play it on winamp
Matt: owned
Mike: rofl

“The Grand Conjuration” is an Opeth song by the way… My conversion of Matt to the Dark Side is almost complete!