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Best thing I’ve seen this week 051212

May 12, 2012

While I’m sure that the best thing some of the folks at SFA are seeing this week is their diploma being placed in their hands, I will not be seeing any of the roads in town until sometime Sunday afternoon. Just like the other locals who are wise enough to practice their doomsday prep, I have already gathered all the necessary supplies needed to hide out in my house for a day or two. (maybe I’ll finally get more than ten pages read in “A Dance with Dragons” today) Congrats to all of you who just joined the ranks of SFA Alumni. I’m happy for you all, but I wish to share neither the restaurants nor the roads with you this weekend.

As always, anytime I get to watch Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero or any of the pros from the Bones Brigade days, it’s one of the better parts of my week. And in that spirit I bring you some footage from this year’s Pro-Tec Pool Party. Please enjoy thoroughly.

As awesome as that was, the best thing I’ve seen this week is a little more high tech. The how and why of the Augmented Reality Sandbox created at UC Davis makes my brain hurt, but that doesn’t make it any less cool. Just watch the video, and then you can read the article on Mashable.com if you want to know more about it.

If you can feel what I’m feelling then it’s a musical masterpiece

May 5, 2012

I’ve been pretty nocturnal this week. So by the time I got up and moving this morning (around 1 a.m.), there was no shortage of “RIP MCA” posts to greet me.

There have been other musicians from my early years who’ve passed away — Bradley Nowell, Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, Andrew Wood, and Cliff Burton to name a few. This feels different though. Maybe it has something to do with the way I connected with The Beastie Boys’ music, maybe it’s just that I’m older, or maybe it’s a little of both.

If I think all the way back to 1992, I can remember at least three albums that I eagerly sank my young teeth into. There was “Dirt” by Alice in Chains, Dr. Dre’s first solo record and instant classic “The Chronic,” and “Check Your Head.” Besides being the first of those three albums to be released, CYH was the first time I’d ever heard live instruments used on a hip hop record. Modern groups like The Roots have made this more commonplace, but back in ’92 … not so much. You could point out that “Walk This Way” came out six years earlier, but that was more Rick Rubin just sampling an Aerosmith song than having Run DMC record backing tracks for and entire album. You could also bring up the “Judgement Night” soundtrack, but it wasn’t released until 1993.

To call CYH an eclectic album would be an understatement. In addition to the tracks the Beasties would rap over, it included a few extremely un-lyrical tracks like “Lighten Up,” “POW” and “Groove Holmes,” the Funkadelic-esque “Something’s Got To Give” and “Mark on the Bus” and even straight up punk rock songs like “Time For Livin.”

If, like myself, you’re less of a causal listener and more of a seeker of sounds, there’s a good chance that you experienced a simultaneous jolt of joy and curiosity when Money Mark dropped in the B3 at the beginning of “So What’cha Want.” I’d never heard an organ played like that before. That sound entranced me, and when the drums from “When the Levee Breaks” were dropped in, I wasn’t going anywhere. When people talk about how they freaked out back in 1968 when they first heard Tommy James singing through a tremlolo at the end of “Crimson and Clover,” that’s how I felt. I even bought a Hammond at one point, but I’ve yet to reproduce that sound in the ten years since I first heard it.

I should say that I’m not trying to take anything away from either “License to Ill” or “Paul’s Boutique.” They’re both great albums. The vibe on CYH just hooked me in a way that the previous two records never did. The Beasties continued that vibe through their next record as well — 1994’s “Ill Communication.” Both of these records have remained staples in my collection, as well as the lesser known “In Sounds From The Way Out(released in 1996), which contains instrumental tracks from the previous two albums, and a couple from the “Sure Shot” and “Jimmy James” singles.

Musically, I was in a completely different place by the time “Hello Nasty” was released in 1998, so I never ended up getting into it as much, but I ain’t ever mad at it if it comes on. To be honest, I haven’t really listened to “To the 5 Boroughs,” “The Mix Up,” or “Hot Sauce Committee Part 2,” but I’d be extremely surprised if I didn’t enjoy them. I did listen to “Some Old Bullshit” once in ’94, but I wasn’t really feeling the whole hardcore punk thing at the the time.

CYH is one of the albums that I’ve purchased a few times. Sometimes you lose a CD, or it gets scratched or stolen. Sometimes you get broke and need to sell CDs, and sometimes you get a little too religious and break them. What ever the reason, I’ve purchased CYH more than once on CD, and also on cassette, on vinyl and more recently from iTunes.

These days, most of my music lives in digital form on a couple of external hardrives, but I still enjoy a physical copy or two. I have fond memories of hours spent flipping through used CDs and vinyl. I know it’s an outdated medium, but all the “art” people are making out of vinyl records hurts my heart a little bit. “Digging” was one of my favorite pastimes in high school and college. Moondance used to have a “dollar box” of all the promos bands and labels would send them, and don’t even get me started on Cheapo in Austin. I could literally spend a week or more in there from open ’till close and never get bored. I’ve bought more than a few records based on their cover art alone, but I also copped many a  maxi-single and import in my day. For all you youngsters out there who’ve never known a world without the internet, we used to have to spend $30 -$50 for a copy of a record that was sold overseas. It was the same record as the $15 version sold in the US, but it would have one or two extra songs that weren’t available on any US releases. Sometimes you’d get lucky and there would be a US released maxi-single, which would have the radio and album versions of the song, and then a handful remixes. Sometimes they were cool, and then sometimes, you didn’t really need seven different versions of Ice T’s “New Jack Hustler.”

One day while digging, I came across copy of the “So What’cha Want” maxi-single. Three tracks in I saw something I couldn’t live without, and When I put it in my stereo, it didn’t disappoint. This gem was a Soul Assassins remix by DJ Muggs featuring B-Real at the end of the track. Muggs had already gotten my attention by producing most (if not all) of Cypress Hill’s 1991 debut and eight tracks on House of Pain’s debut in ’92. Muggs sat the Beasties original vocals on top of a sativaed version of the bassline from Lowell Fulsom’s “Tramp,” which he’d also used a year earlier in “How I Could Just Kill A Man.” He did get rid of the organ for this version, but the result still leaves this as one my favorite tracks from The Beastie Boys.

I’ll leave you this morning with that track, and I’ll sign off by saying thank you to Adam Yauch, Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz for the music you’ve given us over the years, for making me more aware of the global community through your work with the Milarepa Fund. Thank you for years of memories (both good and bad) made while listening to your records. And thank you for this little trip down musical memory lane I got to take this morning. But mostly I like to say thank you for improving the quality of my life, three minutes and thirty seven seconds at a time.

Rest in Peace MCA.

Best Thing I’ve Seen This Week 042412

April 24, 2012

This is gonna be a short one (and it’s late), but the quality more than makes up for the quantity.

The only runner-up this week is a complete novelty, but if you were born before 1990, you’ll appreciate this modern take on a classic. People were pirating music way before Napster, and the mixtape was was of the main uses. There’s absolutely no point in owning one of these, but it still makes me smile just knowing it exists. If you can’t live without one, you can snag it over on Suck.uk.com.

The best thing I’ve seen this week was a movie I expected to be a complete piece of shit. In fact, the only reason I watched it was because the week before, I sat through “Ghostrider 2,” and I didn’t think it was that bad. I’m still not sure if that says more about me or the state of Hollywood in general. But I digress. After watching the trailer for “Cabin in the Woods,” I decided that it was just another dime-a-dozen slasher-kills-5-teenagers B movie. It even looked a little like they were trying to remake “Evil Dead.” I decided to give it a chance, and I’m extremely glad I did. It’s not going to win an oscar, but this was hands down one of the funnest movies I’ve seen in a while. Probably because Joss Whedon is one of the writers. Had I know that earlier, I wouldn’t have been hesitant about watching it. And now I’ll give the obligatory BRING BACK FIREFLY plug.

That’s all until next week, and I’ll try to keep that post on time. But before I sign off, I’ll invite you to come experience the best thing you’ve seen this week, and just leave this here.

Let’s talk about “Game of Thrones” for a minute … (some spoilers)

April 16, 2012

I absolutely loved season 1 of Game of Thrones. I didn’t watch it when it aired, but after the first episode, the rest of my day was cleared. I watched all ten episodes that day, and each one was better than the last. I began book 1 of the Song of Ice and Fire series back in November and haven’t put the books down since. After finishing “A Game of Thrones,” I re-watched season 1, and it was just as good. But now that I’m about 100 pages into book 5 and three episodes into season 2, I’m not experiencing the same excitement I got from season 1.

I think the main difference is that when I first watched season 1, I had no knowledge of the source material. Having already read “A Clash of Kings,” I’m feeling a bit more cheated as each new episode of season 2 airs.

For starters, they’re not major characters, but I would have liked to see Patches and Shireen on Dragonstone. I was so annoyed having to read that whole storyline from Davos’ perspective, I would literally put the book down each time his name was at the top of a chapter. I’m good with him now, but I feel like I earned a bit more than the producers are giving me on Dragonstone. And on Pike too for that matter. The events on both islands seem like they’re really getting glossed over.

While mildly unsettling, neither of those situations are as disappointing as how many pages of Arya’s storyline were skipped at the end of tonight’s episode. I guess that was Polliver who took her sword, but where is Gregor Clegane and The Tickler? There’s a lot that she’s got to accomplish at Harrenhal, but there’s still seven more episodes.

At least they did a good job casting Brienne. I’m guessing that next week is when we’ll say goodbye to Renly. I’m wondering if they’ll play that scene close to the book or if they’ll just phone it in.

Another thing that doesn’t seems to be getting all the attention it deserves is Bran’s relationship to Summer. They briefly touched on his dreams last season, so I won’t be surprised if they don’t develop the wolf dreams much further. Although, I am glad to see that they ditched the fish eye lens this week. One last thing about the wolves. I know direwolves are supposed to be bigger than regular wolves, but I really hope they don’t just keep filming the wolves on a green screen so they can re-size them. At least we’ll get to meet Jojen and Meera soon.

I know it has to be incredibly difficult to fit more than 1,000 pages into ten 1-hour episodes, so I’m cutting everyone some slack. In fact, I’d probably be just as enthralled as I was during season 1, if I hadn’t already ready book 2 … and 3, and 4, and part of 5. It’s been more than 3 months since I finished book 2, so there might be a bit of “A Storm of Swords” that I’m expecting to see later on this season. I’ll have to keep that in mind.

Another thing to consider is that I was able to watch all of season 1 at one time, and I’m having to digest season 2 week-by-week. I could wait another seven weeks so I can view the season as a whole, but I think we both know that’s not about to happen. Oh, I’ll watch the whole thing again in seven weeks, but it’ll be for the second time.

Judging by episode titles alone, if Jon Snow joins the wildlings in episode 7 and the Battle of the Blackwater happens during episode 9, I won’t be surprised if the season ends with some of the chaos at the Fist of the First Men from Book 3. After all, the Night’s Watch didn’t actually leave the wall until more than 100 pages into book 2, but it sure made for a powerful scene at the end of last season.

All that said, the show seems to be holding up on its own and it’s staying “true enough” to the source material that I’m not really all that annoyed. I just wish I hadn’t read book 2 yet. I’m not about to stop reading though. The books are just too good for me to wait until HBO films the next 3 seasons to finish them.

Best Thing I’ve Seen This Week 041512

April 15, 2012

It’s a symbiotic relationship. The weeks when I get more work done, I have less time to search for things to entertain me (and vicariously, the rest of you). Not to fear though, I still have one or two things to share.

The best thing I’ve seen this week was “The Wire.” Yes, you read that right. I finally got around to watching it, but I know none of you came here to read about an HBO series from 2002. However, if for some reason you haven’t watched it but don’t have time for five seasons, you can stop after season 3. It wraps up well enough at that point, and frankly, seasons 4 and 5 were pretty weak compared to the first three.

One of the best things I’ve seen this was was a short Facebook update about some new local music. There’s no website or videos yet, but be on the lookout for phoenix that is Texas Whiskey Rebellion to rise from the ashes of The Otis Jones Project. (I’ll come back and re-edit a link into this M-er F-er once they get up and going). It’s always a little sad to see someone stop playing music (even if you end up netting yourself some gear out of it). Conversely, it’s just as good whenever those folks pick back up again.

My personal favorite entry from this week is a bit nerdy, but Neil DeGrasse Tyson is a science G (and I’m a fan of seeding theories). He puts just how “special” we actually are into perspective. I’ve often wondered if the aliens would hunt us in order to regulate population control and prevent overfeeding … like we do with deer.

A far less cerebral choice, but no less awesome is this visually brilliant video for “Rella” featuring Hodgy, Domo Genesis and Tyler, The Creator.

My awesomeness can not be defeated … not even by my pessimism

April 14, 2012

There’s a version of yourself that (in your mind) performs at a certain level, and then there the version of yourself that’s actually performing. Sometimes the two of them just aren’t going to agree with one another.

I can’t say that runs like the one I had tonight are some of my favorites, but I don’t seem to hate them as much as I used to. In fact, even with as rough of a beating as my ego took, I still managed to pull off both my best average and overall times. Imagine how much time I could have shaved if I hadn’t had to walk damn near half of those three miles.

15 1/2 is far better than where I began, but it’s still more than three minutes shy of my average goal. So it looks like I will be eating a BBQ sandwich full of 12-minute words this weekend.

I could feel down about it. In fact, I did before I looked at the stats. Even though my record times were unintentional and unexpected, I’m too much of a narcissist to not take some pride in them. Still, I guess I should explain why I didn’t expect this.

As much as it pains me to set my ego aside and admit, the morning I spent last weekend getting reacquainted with my friend the shovel put a hurting on me. I woke up Saturday morning with hurt muscles I’d forgotten I had. I was mostly good after a day or so (other than my left elbow and lower back), but I still had to cut my runs down to two this week. Other than that, every run has become a bigger challenge since I started working to improve my times.

Each time I start out, I know that I have a goal that day of 3.1 miles and that I’m working each day to bring my time closer to 30 minutes overall. Still, I feel like these sessions are much less structured since finishing C25K. Maybe it’s just in my head though. I was more tired than usual tonight. (sleepy tired, not exhausted tired) Plus, I just wasn’t really “feeling it” by the end. Any “just keep going” encouragement I gave myself tonight was more out of just being ready to be finished than trying for a sense of accomplishment.

The tempo playlist I built has obviously been helping, but my legs keep involuntarily dropping out of overdrive and walking on their own. I don’t mind it so much when they take over and keep running, but this “OK, we’re gonna walk now whether you’re cool with it or not” shit has got to stop. My ego and pride are taking big hits each time it happens. I’m pretty sure they’d both thank me if I took them back to flat ground just once.

Tomorrow’s another day, and Monday’s another week. And now it’s time for pills, pages in a book and pillows.

Best Thing I’ve Seen This Week 040612

April 7, 2012

I can’t lie. The best things I’ve seen this week were emails from Bandcamp and Paypal informing me that orders had come in for my new CD. “Imagination Vacation” by The Silent Sounds on TheSilentSounds.bandcamp.com (in case any of you were wondering).

A close runner up was finding a copy of “A Dance With Dragons” on my doorstep (Thanks Amazon!).

While those are both awesome for me, I suppose the rest of you would like something a little more accessible.

It’s not really a “Best Thing” type of story, but some helpful information to know about is the java update Apple put out this week in response to the Flashback Trojan. For a more in-depth explanation, check out this article from 9to5mac.com. They explain it better than I could, but the moral of the story is, if you’re a mac user, run a software update.

This information has probably been available for a while, but I only came across it this week. I’ve been waiting on the Xbox 360 version of one of my favorite faux heroin needles for a few months at this point. With an official release date of May 9, we’re only a month away from losing hour upon hour of time that should be spent on something more productive. 1,600 Microsoft points is a little pricier than most arcade games, but after building a few worlds on my laptop, (and being utterly disappointed by all the knock-off games currently available in the XboxLive Marketplace) I can safely say that your $20 will be well spent if you download this soon-to-be-your-new-favorite-game.

And for those of you who still feel like you need something more interactive in order for this to feel like a “real” Best Thing post, enjoy these crazy mother fuckers from the Out of Africa Wildlife Park playing with full grown tigers like they’re house cats.

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