Sunday, December 8, 2013

On my Fascination with Insects: Part Two

I found one of these guys on my walk the other day.  I had thought they were mostly a southern North America thing, but apparently mole crickets can be found on every continent but Antarctica.  In Australia they have an arch enemy, the Blue Ant wasp, which uses the mole cricket as food for its larva.  The Blue Ant is actually far more interesting, but I didn't come across one of those.  This particular mole cricket is the Gryllotalpa Monanka, found in North America.  It is also known as the Dark Night Mole Cricket, which is actually the coolest thing about this particular insect, aside from the fact that it looks horrifying.

The mole cricket usually is a subterranean species, which means it isn't seen very often above ground.  So, I guess I was pretty lucky to see it in the first place.  My picture isn't very good, for example, you can't tell that this thing is nearly two inches long.  Also, its front legs aren't visible, and they are pretty cool looking; hooked and claw-like for tunneling.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Back to Charlotte

 To expand on my other logo design posts, the Charlotte Bobcats (i.e. worst expansion team in the history of the NBA) will be allowed to change their name to the Hornets after this season, as that name was abandoned by the New Orleans club.  This makes perfect sense for a team that has struggled for identity since it's debut in 2004.  The original Hornets franchise left Charlotte in 2002 for New Orleans, and although the city of Charlotte was awarded a new franchise, the fan base hasn't been the same.

So, the Hornets will return to Charlotte next year.  The club has already pledged to bring back the original teal and purple colors.  The question I have is whether the club will use a new logo, or just bring back the old cartoon logo used by the original Charlotte Hornets, and then by the New Orleans Hornets.  Just in case everyone forgot... the old logo looks like this:

The hornet's name is Hugo, and he looks a little jittery.  Too many sodas, perhaps?  I hate logos like this for professional teams.  It's the mascot.  The Red Sox don't have a picture of Wally the Green Monster as a primary logo.  Minor league teams have cartoony logos like this.  Worst logo in NBA history?  probably.  I'm glad it's currently retired.  

Here are some concepts that I consider far more respectable and professional for a major league club: 

vote here
a more abstract hornet that has more of an insect-like vibe as opposed to a saturday morning disney cartoon from thje '90s feel.  This one also alludes to a representation of the basketball without actually showing a basketball.
This is part of a concept that promotes the use of the old logo as a primary, and this logo as a secondary, and patch.  However, I think it would do nicely as a primary.  It bridges the old Bobcats identity with the new Hornets rename and colors.  

full concept
Hornets are pretty difficult for designers to do without looking like comic books, apparently.  But if the club really felt it necessary to have a logo that sells to children, then I'd rather go with this modernized and toughened up hornet.  He's sleeker and dangerous looking, and not as minor league as Hugo.

This is another one from a bigger concept that focuses on the Hugo logo.  Also pitched as a secondary and patch, the honey comb shape idea is intriguing, even though hornets don't make honey.  But it is a departure from the circle logos used by everyone else.  

99 Designs submission
99 Designs showcases design contests.  This one is from designer Eren G.  Also submitted was the same design with an orange basketball replacing the purple one above.  The design concept incorporates the Queen City and Hornets Nest nicknames for Charlotte and puts to rest the ridiculous Hugo logo, replacing it with an elegant insect design that can be taken seriously, and still appeal to children.  Best design so far, sure.

Of course, they could revert back to the true original logo, used only for the 1988 draft.  It is similar to the Canadien's red and white Canadian Hockey logo, but I think it is different enough to not have to worry about copyright infringement or brand confusion.  The original original logo looked like this: 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

It's a Mania!

The Beatles
(White Album)
1968 Apple
produced by George Martin, Chris Thomas

John Lennon - guitars, bass, vocals, keyboards, percussion, harmonica, saxophone
Paul McCartney - bass, guitars, vocals, keyboards, percussion, flugle horn
George Harrison - guitars, bass, vocals, organ, percussion
Ringo Starr - drums, percussion, piano, vocals

  • Hey Jude/Revolution
  • Ob la Di Ob la Da/While my Guitar Gently Weeps
This may not be the "best" Beatles album, but it may be my favorite. The diversity in this project is incredible. It has rock n roll, it has the blues, it has folk and country, and big band. Apparently the turmoil in the band caused all four member to create individually, as infighting led to seclusion.  Ringo even quit the band for quite some time during the sessions. 16 of the 30 tracks actually featured all four members. Much like Jefferson Airplane's live performances later in their career, this album brings some of the best of the band's material because it is created in such dischord and chaos.

Being a double album, there are many songs to experience. This particular album has many of my favorite Beatles songs such as While my Guitar Gently Weeps, Rocky Racoon, Happiness is a Warm Gun, Black Bird, Why Don't we do it in the Road, and Helter Skelter.  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Be an Honest Puck

I like folk music. It's simplicity, it's story telling properties, it's importance within the oral tradition are all appealing. This post is about another traditional folk song.

Fairies are a big deal in the traditions of Britain, Scotland, and Ireland. Shakespeare, Drayton, Alexander Pope, and Sir Walter Scott all wrote about them. There are countless myths and stories concerning fairies that have been passed down through folk traditions for centuries.

The Ballad of Tam Lin is one of these traditional tales.
Stephanie Law's Tam Lin
The tale is of a character named Tam Lin, who is able to either steal from, or impregnate any maid who comes across his path in the forest of Carterhaugh (somewhere in the Cheviot Hills along the Scottish/English border). When a girl named Janet (or Margaret) returns to the forest to find an herb to end her pregnancy, Tam Lin reappears to her and tells her his story of being held in bondage by the Fairy Queen. He tells her how she can set him free.

There have been many versions of the story written lyrically and set to music. Most well known are the versions by Frankie Armstrong, Cast Iron Filter, Fairport Convention, and Anne Briggs.

Below are the lyrics used by Fairport Convention, which is the first version of the song I heard as a kid.
I forbid you maidens all that wear gold in your hair 
To travel to Carterhaugh for young Tam Lin is there 
None that go by Carterhaugh but they leave him a pledge
Either their mantles of green or else their maidenhead 
Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee 
And she's gone to Carterhaugh as fast as go can she 
She'd not pulled a double rose, a rose but only two 
When up there came young Tam Lin, says "Lady, pull no more" 
"And why come you to Carterhaugh without command from me?" 
"I'll come and go", young Janet said, "and ask no leave of thee" 
Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee 
And she's gone to her father as fast as go can she 
Well, up then spoke her father dear and he spoke meek and mild 
"Oh, and alas, Janet," he said, "I think you go with child"
 "Well, if that be so," Janet said, "myself shall bear the blame 
There's not a knight in all your hall shall get the baby's name”
 For if my love were an earthly knight as he is an elfin grey 
I'd not change my own true love for any knight you have" 
Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee 
And she's gone to Carterhaugh as fast as go can she 
"Oh, tell to me, Tam Lin," she said, "why came you here to dwell?"
 "The Queen of Faeries caught me when from my horse I fell 
And at the end of seven years she pays a tithe to Hell
I so fair and full of flesh and feared it be myself 
But tonight is Hallowe'en and the faerie folk ride 
Those that would their true love win at Miles Cross they must buy 
First let past the horses black and then let past the brown 
Quickly run to the white steed and pull the rider down 
For I'll ride on the white steed, the nearest to the town 
For I was an earthly knight, they give me that renown 
Oh, they will turn me in your arms to a newt or a snake 
But hold me tight and fear not, I am your baby's father 
And they will turn me in your arms into a lion bold
But hold me tight and fear not and you will love your child 
And they will turn me in your arms into a naked knight 
But cloak me in your mantle and keep me out of sight" 
In the middle of the night she heard the bridle ring 
She heeded what he did say and young Tam Lin did win 
Then up spoke the Faerie Queen, an angry queen was she
 ”Woe betide her ill-fought face, an I'll death may she die” 
"Oh, had I known, Tam Lin," she said, "what this night
I did see I'd have looked him in the eyes and turned him to a tree”

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Whats in a Name Change Part Two: Dead by Racism

I like graphic design, specifically logo design, and especially the concepts that didn't make it.  I posted some designs before when the New Orleans Hornets changed their name and image to the New Orleans Pelicans at the end of the last NBA season.  Sports teams seem to lend themselves easily to reimaginings and redesigns.

The Washington football team is taking heat from many places recently, aside from the usual disgruntled American Indians.  recently the 99designs community held a contest for Washington football team designs.  Please go to the linky link to see them all, below are my favorites.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Social Change on the Airwaves

Football season has started again.  Of course this means that every week for the next 19 weeks all sports networks will be doing nothing but talking about what happened on Sunday, and what may happen next Sunday.  Also, we should be talking about racism in athletics.
click me
The Oneida Nation has paid for a radio campaign aimed at the Washington football team with the goal of getting the mascot changed.  a full story can be read here on USA Today's site.  But a quick Google of Oneida Radio Ad will give many different links to similar stories.

click for article

Click the linky links below to hear the radio ads.  So far there are two spots.

click for first ad
click for second ad

Who is Bold Enough to Wear Green and Purple Spandex?

Bet you can't guess the next Batman villain to be featured on my stupid blog.  I'll give you some clues, it'll be a game like 20 questions.  Some may even call it a riddle...

Created by Bill Finger and Dick Sprang (best name in comics history!) in 1948, The Riddler first appeared in Detective Comics #140.  Edward Nashton, sometimes named Edward Nigma (E. Nigma being a synonym for mystery), is unlike other villains, as he rarely kills anyone, however, his obsession with solving puzzles and proving his superior intellect puts him right in the same ballpark with all of the other obsessed Batman villains.  

Unlike some of the other campy Batman bad guys who were able to be rewritten by contemporary writers into scary villains, The Riddler has always been, and probably will continue to be, a joke.  There is something far too silly about a criminal who leaves clues that will lead to his arrest.  His modis operandi does not allow him to be taken too seriously.  A criminal that wants to be caught shouldn't expect any respect from anyone.  However, this character continues to be a mainstay villain, despite the camp and the stupid gimmick. 

Carey and Schumacher couldn't kill him
Recently, the Riddler's reputation was given an overhaul.  Jeph Loeb seems to like the character, as he uses him in his Long Halloween/When in Rome/Dark Victory storyline, and also in his Hush story arc.  In Hush, the Riddler is revealed to be the mastermind behind the entire plot, manipulating Ra's Al Ghul, Tommy Eliot, and the rest of the villainous cast.  

The people that brought us the Arkham video game series have also contributed to building the Riddler into a character worthy of more than just pathetic comedy.  In Arkham City, he is portrayed as psychotically obsessed with proving his superiority to Batman.  He takes hostages and sets up death traps that Batman is forced to solve in order to save innocent lives.  This is a departure from past versions of the character, in that he is willing to murder.  

In the current comic book continuity, the Riddler had been revealed to be "cured" and was moonlighting as a private eye in Gotham, often teaming up with Batman to solve crimes.  So, much like Catwoman and Mr. Freeze, it looked like the Riddler would end up a reformed villain.  However, in the See No Evil story arc, the Riddler's psychosis returns and he starts taking private eye type jobs from other villains.  This arc ends with the Riddler murdering his partner/sidekick, Enigma.  

After the reboot, the Riddler is found in Arkham Asylum where he is released by the Joker during the Death of the Family story arc.  This Riddler character is portrayed as a more sober genius, and is seen as intellectually dangerous by the Joker.  

I definitely approve.  I'm not a fan of classic villains going soft and turning into anti-heroes.  It appears that the Riddler is headed toward a more dangerous characterization as seen in Arkham City instead of the clownshoes of a villain we all grew to know and expect.   

Monday, September 16, 2013

Put this Sponge on Your Head, Please

Ride the Lightning
1984, MegaForce
produced by Flemming Rasmussen and Mark Whitaker

James Hetfield- rhythmn guitar, vocals
Kirk Hammet- lead guitar
Cliff Burton- bass
Lars Ulrich- drums

  • Creeping Death/Am I Evil/Blitzkrieg
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls
  • Fade to Black
This is my favorite Metallica album. To this day, every time I hear bells on the radio, I wait, hoping. After three bells, I get dissapointed, because that means the song is Hells Bells by ACDC and not For Whom the Bell Tolls, which I'd so much rather hear.  

I listened to this album the other day for the first time in years, and marveled at how much Hetfield doesn't sound like Hetfield. Compared to contemporary Metallica, it sounds like they have a completely different singer.

This album has many of my all time favorite Metallica songs. Ride the Lightning, Fade to Black, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Creeping Death, and Call of the Ktulu (Cthulhu, idiots) are each pretty fantastic, Trapped Under Ice isn't a bad song either. In fact, that only leaves Fight Fire with Fire, and Escape on the list of songs that make me go "meh". If only two out of eight tracks are unremarkable, that's a pretty great album.  

Also, this album was pressed as vinyl records (1984 was still two early for CDs to dominate the business) and created some cool collectors items. 500 pressings were packaged in green sleeves instead of the blue cover shown above. Also, the Fade to Black promo single was pressed in glow in the dark green vinyl. These both go up for auction once in a while and bring in 200 to 400 dollars.  Not as much as the clear pressing of NoFX's The Decline... that's ridiculous.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

What Happened to the Smartest, Biggest and Scariest?

This latest installment of Batman Villains is going to be all about nostalgia.

Most of the time, I complain about squandered opportunities back in the day to make villains more than two dimensional crooks with a theme, and celebrate the recent adaptations, and reimaginings that have revived characters like the Joker, Mr. Freeze, and the Mad Hatter. But, there is at least one character that has gone the other direction.

What happened to Bane?
In 1993, Bane makes his debut in the Knightfall story arc. Created by Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench, and Graham Nolan, Bane was supposed to be both a physically imposing villain, and an intelligent criminal mastermind, influenced heavily by the famous Doc Savage character of 1930's pulp. Bane's character is made famous in Knightfall for physically crippling Batman, breaking his back after besting him in hand to hand combat. This is definitely one of the most iconic images in Batman history, right up there with the death of Jason Todd, young Bruce Wayne left with his dead parents, and the cover to Batman #9.

 Technically, the character was created specifically for Knightfall. He was created for one purpose, to be an unstoppable force bent on destoying the Batman. Knightfall touched off a seemingly continuous list of Batman stories featuring villains whose only prupose and goal is to destroy Batman. One storyline where the villain has this obsession is great and iconic. But after Bane, and Hush, and the Black Glove, and the Court of Owls, and even older villains like the Joker and Ra's al Ghul following similar plots, the idea gets stale and boring. What happened to criminals doing criminal things for their own ends, and the Batman needing to stop them? At a certain point after Knightfall, Batman stopped needing to go out and fight crime, he just had to wait around (and not very long) for villains to find him.

Bane doesn't die and disappear after his initial storyarc. After his initial appearance, and the Knightfall arc, Bane makes one more appearance as a villain, manipulated by Ra's Al Ghul and his daughter Talia. This time Batman defeats him and sends him out of Gotham. After this, Bane's publication history takes a nose dive, and he begins to turn into an anti-hero, waging personal wars on other villains for getting in his way, like Ra's Al Ghul's League of Assassins, and recently, the Court of Owls. He teams up with Batman constantly.

His continued appearances sparked an interest in his back story, naturally. Which lead to a revelation and story arc concerning his father.  I've said this before, characters with murky mysterious back stories should be left alone. Part of the awesomeness of characters like the Wolverine and the Joker is not knowing where they come from. Once you lift that curtain, they become less mythic and more commonplace. Bane's father was revealed as King Snake, a primary antagonist of Robin, the boy wonder, not exactly an A-lister.

Furthermore, Bane has been cast in other media as more of a drug induced bruiser, and less of the intelligent master criminal. This happened most famously in the Joel Shumacher craptastic film Batman and Robin. The reputation of the character hasn't fully recovered.

unfortunately, this actually happened
Bane appears in the Batman Arkham games from Rocksteady, and comes off as just another muscle-bound brute with an addiction, manipulated by smarter evil geniuses. Christopher Nolan tried to ressurrect the character in Dark Knight Rises. At first it appears that Nolan has used the original Knightfall premise for this Bane character. But later, it is revealed that Bane is primarily a puppet for Talia Al Ghul and her new league of assassins, basically no more than a scary visage and brutal muscle, like the Bane that appears in the Legacy story arc.

Bane could be, and probably should be, one of Batman's main villains, continuously making trouble in Gotham, sometimes succeeding. Like the Joker and Ra's Al Ghul, Bane ought to be a challenge each time he shows up. Instead, he's been relegated to the B-list bench, along with the Riddler, Two Face, and the Penguin. Bane was created to be a main adversary, and hasn't received the respect he deserves.
so very very close

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Chris Cornell with his Head in the Oven

1994, A&M
produced by Michael Beinhorn

Chris Cornell - vocals, guitars
Ben Sheppard - bass
Kim Thayll - guitars
Matt Cameron - drums
Artis the Spoonman - spoons

  • Day I Tried to Live/ Like Suicide/ Kickstand
  • Spoonman/ Cold Bitch
  • Black Hole Sun/ Like Suicide/ Kickstand
  • My Wave/ Spoonman/ Birth Ritual
  • Fell on Black Days/ Kyle Petty, Son of Richard
This came out when I was in Middle School, like most of the must have grunge, and post-grunge "alternative" music from the 90s. Soundgarden hit it big with this album. Although some hipster fans prefer Badmotorfinger, no one can deny the number of hit singles, good reviews, and Billboard #1 debut. Superunknown recieved 5 out of 5 stars from Allmusic, Q, and Rolling Stone. They definitely hit their stride here, it is a much more complete and diverse album.

The things the band had stated were influences on this album are interesting also. Aside from Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, which permeate throughout all their work, Ringo Starr, Sylvia Plath, and druids were also counted among influences, according to band members. I guess if your major influence is Led Zeppelin, druids make sense. And if you're going to write lyrics from a dark and miserable place, Sylvia Plath is probably your best friend.  

The band was marketed as a Grunge band like Nirvana, and Alice in Chains, which I never understood. Actually, I never understood the genre Grunge to begin with. None of the famous Seattle grunge bands sounded anything alike. Nirvana was far more punk rock than Pearl Jam or Soundgarden, Alice in Chains was far more miserable and muddled and actually sounded like something grunge ought to sound like, like that crap you find behind the washer at the laundromat. Soundgarden was a metal band with a melody, and a singer right out of the Judas Priest line of 80's metal singers. But, they were creative enough to feature a jug band spoon player on Spoonman, and delve into some psychedelic sounds on Black Hole Sun.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summer Camp and the Oral Tradition

It's summer time again, as evident by the recent 90 plus degree heat wave.  And summer time makes me think of summer camp, which makes me think of campfires.  Campfires, as everyone knows, are a staple of summer camp programming.  It doesn't matter if you went to boy scout camp, or a performing arts camp, a camp for one week, or four, or eight, or even Camp Anawanna, or Camp Firewood, there were always campfires.  Summer camp campfire always features the same things: there are a few camper/counselor skits which are usually one of several traditional skits done at summer camp dating back to the beginning of time, and there are a few songs sung on an acoustic guitar, at least one by the same dude who insists on performing last every time because his song is chill and sets the mood for the end.  Throw in a couple of juggling tricks, and a few interactive songs and chants and call it a night... but not before the storyteller.

The campfire has become the last bastion of the oral tradition in this country.  Everything that happens in the campfire is unrecorded, mostly from memory, and shared from one generation of camp people (counselors/older campers) to another generation of camp people (younger counselors/younger campers).  The storyteller was always my favorite part of the campfire event.

Usually the storyteller went last (unless that one dude didn't insist on singing his sappy, mood crushing love song last).  Sometimes the story had a moral, sometimes it was just a funny folk tale.  Eventually, when I worked at camp, I became the storyteller, which is something I learned how to do from other storytellers (hence the whole oral tradition thing).
He's going to play another Ben Gibbard song

The way I tell stories has been influenced by three separate people.

My father has been secretly teaching me how to tell stories since I was a kid.  From the pulpit, my dad has been telling tales, anecdotes, and analogies to better connect scripture to modern people's lives my entire life.  I learned from him that the plot is the easy part of the telling.  It's the details and language that make the story interesting.  For example, anyone can tell the basic plot of Pyramus and Thisbe, but only Shakespeare was able to write Romeo and Juliet and stretch it out to five acts.

There was a counselor at the camp I went to, and not only was he the storyteller, but also the campfire MC.  Seeing him tell stories was amazing.  From the first time I watched him perform (and it was a performance truly) I decided I wanted to do that too.  I learned from him that a good story is told not just by telling the story, but through enthusiasm, pantomime, changes in volume, pitch, accents, etc.  It wasn't enough to just tell the story, showing the story is a must.

this is how I picture myself when I tell stories
Thirdly, there was another counselor who also told stories.  The lessons I learned from him were more about what not to do.  The way he told stories highlighted his arrogant, self righteous personality.  Most of his stories had morals, and he delivered them mostly in a way that made everyone feel he was talking down to them.  When this particular counselor stood up to tell his story, there were barely audible groans, the rolling eyes, and the whispered not-agains that accompany campfire acts that no one wants to see.  I decided that when I tell stories, it would be done in ways that weren't heavy handed, or obviously message-laden.

My favorite story to tell was one I learned originally from my father.  It's called the stone-cutter.  It goes something like this:

There was once a stonecutter, who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life.

One day, he passed a wealthy merchant's house, and through the open gateway, saw many fine possessions and important visitors. "How powerful that merchant must be!" thought the stonecutter. He became very envious, and wished that he could be like the merchant. Then he would no longer have to live the life of a mere stonecutter.

To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever dreamed of, envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. But soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants, and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. "How powerful that official is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a high official!"

Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around, who had to bow down before him as he passed. It was a hot summer day, and the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. "How powerful the sun is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be the sun!"

Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. "How powerful that storm cloud is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a cloud!"

Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. "How powerful it is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be the wind!"

Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, hated and feared by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it — a huge, towering stone. "How powerful that stone is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a stone!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a stone!"

Then he became the stone, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the solid rock, and felt himself being changed. "What could be more powerful than I, the stone?" he thought. He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stonecutter.

Of course, I tell things a little differently, adding details, changing some things, but the basic progression of the plot remains the same, and it always ends where it began, on the mountain. There is clearly some sort of moral/value to be learned here, but I liked to leave the whole "and the moral is..." piece out, allowing everyone to interpret it their own way.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Selfish Freedom of Religion

click me to read the article

This is quite possibly the best article I've read on the Religious Right lobby in America.  So much domestic policy seems to be held up by this fear of putting "religious freedom" in jeopardy.  However, as this article points out pretty intelligently, religious freedom is really a term used to further an agenda of conservative Christian values.

The focus is on an ongoing lawsuit by the Hobby Lobby, a conservative Christian owned hobby store chain (the Chik-fil-a of the arts and crafts world).  Hobby Lobby refuses to offer health care to employees if that health care system offers contraceptives as part of it's plan.  The Hobby Lobby wants the same exceptions that religious non-profits receive.  The problem is, they aren't a non-profit organization.  They are a for-profit corporation.  At least this isn't about homosexuality and marriage.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

What a Jive Turkey

Another post to file in cool things seen while working category... the other day I watched as this giant bird landed on the top of this woman's house.  I wasn't able to get the best pictures possible, as anyone with a keen eye for photography can tell... nature doesn't always cooperate.

I'm not sure if turkey vultures are bad omens or not.  I enjoyed watching it settle on the roof and chill out for a bit before taking off.  Apparently, turkey vultures are one of 7 species in the family Cathartidai, which includes the King Vulture of Brazil, and the Californian Condor.  

Up close, it looks like this: 

This is certainly the coolest thing I've seen at work yet.  Nature is pretty awesome.  I need a better camera.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ska in Gainsville

Less Than Jake
Hello Rockview
1998: Capitol Records
produced by Howard Benson

Chris Demakes - Guitar, Vocals
Roger Manganelli - Bass, Vocals
Vinnie Fiorello - Drums
Buddy Schaub - Trombone
Pete Anna - Trombone
Derron Nuhfer - Barri Sax

  • All my Friends are Metalheads/Help Save the Youth of America from Exploding/Rock and Roll Pizzeria
  • History of a Boring Town
This album came with a booklet that had each song illustrated like a Dick Tracy comic book. Pretty awesome. It is one of my favorite ska fueled punk albums, second only to NoFX's So Long and Thanks for all the Shoes. Punk with a horn section was the new thing in the mid to late 90s, and as soon as it exploded, it disappeared. This album will hold a special place for me, as it reminds me of those angsty high school and anxiety filled college years. Last One out of Liberty City starts the album out with a bang, a great way to begin an album full of face paced, melodic punk, punctuated by trombone harmonies. This is actually the only thing from Florida that is worth my time.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Butterfly Effect

Another installment of Cool Things I See at Work:  

This is a butterfly of the Nymphalidai family, genus Speyeria, a species of Fritillary butterfly.   As far as I can tell, by looking at other pictures and reading descriptions, this particular butterfly is the Aphrodite Fritillary.  

Once again, this is pretty cool, as according to Butterflies of Massachusetts dot com, this particular species of Fritillary has become pretty uncommon in the New England area, supplanted by the Great Spangled Fritillary.  Although, because I'm not very good at this, what I found could very well be a Great Spangled Fritillary.  

It's About Dichotomy!

Beyond Heaven/Above Hell
2010: Rebel Monster
produced by Jacob Hansen

Michael Poulsen- guitar, vocals
Thomas Bredahl- lead guitar
Jon Larsen- drums
Anders Kjolholm- bass

  • Fallen/A Warrior's Call/Rebel Angel
  • Heaven nor Hell/Carolina Leaving
  • Still Counting
  • The Mirror and the Ripper
  • A Warrior's Call
The album can be classified, I suppose, as a concept album, but everything this band releases is one giant concept, and this album is just one link in the chain of the concept that spans several albums.  I've never heard of any other band doing this sort of thing, either, which makes it pretty interesting.

The concept appeals to me in a big way, as I'm a huge dork when it comes to demonology, Faust myth, and Judeo/Christian superstition.  This particular story line is, essentially a deal with the devil with a twist.  The cover art kind of gives away the themes of good and evil, redemption, circular story telling...

The music shows moments of brilliance, as with the use of a harmonica solo in their big single Heaven nor Hell.  The sound blends and changes between Metallica-esque thrash, a little Motorhead inspired garage rock, some blues, rockabilly, and of course Danish death metal (they are from Copenhagen, after all).  

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Surprise! Living a Lie Sucks

So, this is happening today.  The organization Exodus International has closed, and the president of this "Christian" ministry, Alan Chambers, is doing interviews apologizing for his very damaging and unchristian-like ministry which has hurt many people.

Exodus International focused on healing homosexuals, turning them straight through reparative therapy and prayer.  Chambers has gone on record, most famously with Oprah, to denounce this idea of homosexuality as a choice and lifestyle that can be treated through psychological therapy.  Basically, he has realized that brainwashing does more harm than good.  The Huffington Post has an article in more detail.

I'm not sure, but I hope someone else somewhere has drawn parallels between this anti-gay movement and the Inquisition's use of torture to illicit and secure oaths of undying devotion to the Faith.  Frankly, this Evangelical war on homosexuality is disgusting, and I'm glad to see a leader and true believer of this madness flip his position...  how very Saint Paul of him, what a revelation this must have been.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Falling on Deaf Ears?

An open letter to Dan Snyder has been posted by Grantland, the super cool sports/pop culture blog headed up by the immortal Bill Simmons. Changing culturally insensitive, and mostly outright racist Indian mascots is something I've supported for quite a while, so... this is a repost?  reblog? something?

click me to go to the article
I do find this interesting, as it is the first time I've seen professional (semi professional?) sport writers make any sort of public statement regarding this issue in support of American Indians. Most of the time writers, the NFL, and fans play the "too much history" card, or the "dignified honor" excuse like the franchise is doing the Indian people a favor by naming themselves after them.

Anyway, I doubt this will change Snyder's mind, if he even sees it at all. More importantly, many other sports fans will see it. This will help change the mainstream opinion concerning American Indian imagery in sports. Hopefully the NFL will feel pressure to change its stance. The part of this article that made me the most angry was learning how Goodell feels about the issue. Clearly appeasing the owner of one of his franchises is far more important than doing the right thing.  

Snaaaaaake! Snaaaaaake!

I almost stepped on this little guy the other day.  He was nice enough to sit still so I could take a picture.

Milk snakes are one of the 14 snakes found in my area.  Milk snakes, like most of the other 14 snakes, are mostly harmless.  Usually the snake of choice around here is the boring garter snake, but sometimes more interesting snakes show up, like the very long black racer, or even a copperhead or eastern rattler if you aren't so lucky.  This post can be filed in the "cool shit I see at work" category.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

If Only There was a Band More Emo than Billy Corgan...

Silversun Pickups
Neck of the Woods
2012. Dangerbird Records
produced by Jacknife Lee

Brian Aubert - guitar, vocals
Nikki Monninger - bass, vocals
Joe Lester - keyboards
Christopher Guanlao - drums

  • Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)
  • The Pit
  • Here We Are (Chancer)
I like this band.  Pitchfork, of course, gave this album a bad review.  But, in true Pitchfork fashion, the reviewer comes off as just another music snob, hipster douche who only gave the album one, half-ass listen.  Not every album can be In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, or Jeff Buckley's Grace.  Get over yourself.

This album is their third release.  I discovered the band after hearing their single Lazy Eye somewhere, and thinking, "wow, that chick can sing", and then realizing that it was a dude the whole time.  They have a sound very reminiscent of Billy Corgan when he's being depressed.  The similarities don't stop there, either.  They also have a female bass player.  If you enjoyed the Smashing Pumpkin's "shoegazing" melancoly sound made famous by songs like 1979 and Disarm, the Silversun Pickups fully explore their own airy, eerily creepy desperateness on this album.  

While Bloody Mary is a good track, and definitely a good choice for a single, the band missed an opportunity to showcase Mean Spirits as a single.  It is by far the best track on the album, and I recommend giving it a listen, or two.