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Stepping back up to the plate

Surprisingly enough, I haven’t written about this yet, so I figured I’d do so now. Last March/April I got sick. Nothing unusual, just a cold or infection or whatever. As such, I had to take time off from singing with my band while I recovered. Problem is, I didn’t recover. My throat was a horrific blasted wasteland for week after week, and I had issues just talking, not to mention singing. With this happening, and the move about to kick off, I decided to tell my band mates that I needed time off. I told them I didn’t know what was going on, or when I’d be able to play again, and if they found someone else in the interim I’d be totally fine with it. I didn’t want to hold anyone back because of my issues.

I started seeing doctors, and went through test after test. Initially, it started as an allergy issue. I got on allergy meds, but that didn’t do enough. After more tests and discussions, it was suggested that it’s perhaps a GI issue, that I’m having reflux that’s burning the back of my throat all the time. I went on meds for that. Slowly, as the summer ticked on by, I got marginally better. It was a fight the whole way, trying to sing constantly, getting frustrated and angry when I’d be done after a song or two, and then waiting for the next day to try again.

Fast forward to October, and the insanity that ensues during that month for us, I started to forget to take my allergy meds. It just wasn’t routine enough, and it slipped out of my conscious thought. Good thing is, though, it looks like things have gotten better. Not all the way, but enough that I can start rebuilding my stamina and getting my voice back into shape.

This brought up another question: Should I return to the stage? I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Part of me says no, because I’m older and who the fuck really WANTS to come see me on stage and hear me sing, aside from the Lish. Not that I’m really that much older than I was a year ago, mind you, I just hadn’t really thought about it before. Don’t get me wrong, I love that my friends come out to see me perform, and they never complain about it whatsoever. But me being me, I tend to think people only come out because they want to support a friend, and not because of what they’re hearing. If they didn’t know me, would they still come? I tend to think they wouldn’t. I hope this doesn’t come off as me being unappreciative, because I’m not. I love that they come to support me, as I’d do for them. The question is, though, is coming back worth it? Sure, I love to sing and be on stage, but a big part of that is what I get from a crowd. It’s an incredible feeling to play in front of people, and see some of them get really into it, screaming along and exploding with energy. It’s like standing in the sunlight when you’re cold.

On the other hand, there is music still in me that I feel the need to express. If I did go back, I’d want to do a mix of originals and covers. The problem is, I’d want to do a wide range of covers, from metal to alternative to classic rock. My music tastes tend to be eclectic. I’d wanna do some Faith No More, STP, Alice in Chains, as well as Maiden, Metallica, Slipknot, and even some more mainstream shit. I’ve been in bands awhile, and sets like this are hard to come by, and it’s tough finding players all on the same page with something like this.

So I have a decision to make. Do I hang up my mic and just do more youtube covers for my channel, or do I step out on stage again? Right now, I don’t know what I’ll do. To be honest, a part of it, quite possibly a big part of it, has always been me seeking acceptance and validation. Formative years believing I’m not worth a damn cause that to be taken as fact. This belief carried on throughout my life, and is still just as relevant today as it was back then, so I seek validation and acceptance constantly. My logical side wars with this internally, but emotions are silly things, and don’t really give a shit. Being told you’re stupid, ugly, worthless, and disgusting tends to leave a mark. Even something as seemingly provable as being told you can’t sing, or are a shitty singer, leaves its mark. The irony is that when people validate me, I tend to not believe them. I truly feel as though they’re just being nice, or sometimes as if they are patting me on the back and saying good job as if I’m a child in an “everyone gets a trophy” sort of activity. This is made easier because I set high standards for myself, and mostly never meet them, so my emotional response has that in mind, as if everyone knows where my bar is set for myself. Anyways, enough of my pity pot bullshit. Hell, who knows, maybe subconsciously I wrote all this just to garner sympathy and attention. It’d make sense. I guess the real question is this: If my need for validation and acceptance wasn’t there, would I have ever taken that stage in the first place? I don’t have an answer for that one.

Who IS that guy?

Many people are aware of Facebook’s rules for using your real name. For them, people using nicknames or stage names or whatever, screws up their metrics for farming personal information and selling it, so they enforce a policy where only real names are allowed. They have, however, made exceptions for this by allowing the stage names of performers. This, as far as I know, has only really applied to drag queens, since they started a whole public kerfuffle about this causing FB to cave in rather than get publicly smeared or whatever. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to apply to pretty much anyone else.

I like to keep my anonymity online as much as possible, and part of that was having my name on FB be Persona Non Grata, which matches all of my other sites such as this one, youtube, google+, etc. Also, I use this name as my stage name for all my bands. This caused my account to get flagged awhile back, saying it wasn’t my real name. I was able to get by it by re-entering the name with a slightly different format, but last night I got hit again, and this one really sucks. They require me to upload images of my personal identification, such as a license, credit card, social security card, etc, as well as change over to my legal name. I sent them a message stating that I use my stage name online, as this is how most people know me. Many only know me by that name. I included screenshots of the band FB pages showing that PNG is, in fact, used across the board. My account is currently suspended, awaiting review. It’s sad that it comes to this, especially when I’ve tried to contact their support before, only to find out that they have no actual support desk. You have an issue? Post it to the forums for other users to comment on. If you wait for them to respond personally, you’ll wait forever. Apparently, this is the only way to have anyone review an issue.

I really hope they make the right choice, and allow me to continue using FB for my music and to stay connected with those in the community. If they don’t, I may just end up saying fuck it and deleting my FB account. We’ll see.

Been a long time since I rock n rolled

Wuzzzzzzaaahhhhhh

Wuzzzzzzaaahhhhhh

As some of you know, I dropped off the face of the blogosphere (I can’t believe I actually just used that ridiculous word) a while ago. Lots of shit happened since then, the biggest of which being my change to a new place of employment. I’ve had a bunch of stuff to write about, but just haven’t had the space or time at work to do so, and my personal time at home is pure insanity most days. I’ll try my best to sum it all up here, so bear with me.

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Lish showing off the guns!!!

First and foremost, the Lish decided to try out for a roller derby team. I’m, of course, fully supportive of this, being a straight male and all. She made it onto the team, and has been balls deep (metaphorically speaking) in derby ever since. She’s currently working on passing her skills test so she can be cleared to play in games, and I have no doubts that she’ll pass and kick ass. The team she’s with is great, with some real top shelf people involved, and I’m happy she got involved in it. I kinda wish some of my hobbies had the same feeling of camaraderie, but alas I have geek hobbies,  so the power playing and dick waving (again, thankfully, metaphorically speaking) is always prevalent. That brings me to my next point.

The forecast on audition day....

The forecast on audition day….

My bands have been in a sort of flux lately. The cover band is doing ok, and we actually played shows recently! The original project I was playing keyboards in took a turn for the worse. We lost our drummer and bassist, and have yet to find replacements. Our searching has so far turned up a large number of complete lunatics, wackjobs, and dudes who really need to learn what it means to say they play an instrument. Some dudes came in and just had no idea what the fuck they were doing. Some had personal issues, such as the guy who was pushing 50 and had to work out with his daddy, whom he still lived with, what nights and times he could come out to play. And some were just plain bat shit crazy, who looked like Bernie from Weekend at Bernie’s 2 having a seizure. Finally, my old original band has had some movement lately. We broke up a year and a half ago, leaving an album unfinished and without playing a last show. Recently, we all got together to discuss our next steps, if any, and we all agreed to finish the recordings and play some shows. Where it goes after that is anyone’s guess, but at least we have something good on the horizon. I’m honestly stoked about it, since this is really the only band I’ve been in that I really felt was “my” band. Here’s hoping something good comes of this.

Aside from that, it’s pretty much been business as usual. We’ve been attending a few SCA events, and enjoying that. I haven’t been to fighting practice really, with only one attendance since Pennsic, because the timing never really works. Lish usually has derby practice that night, and I’d rather save the sitter than go to practice. I do wish I was able to get into it, since whenever I see guys fighting at events I kinda wish I could suit up and join in for a bit. A close friend of mine got into it the same time I did, and is having a great time and really enjoys it. I must admit that part of the reason is me being grossly out of shape, as well as being not physically strong. Much of my training would just be straight up strength and endurance training, and let’s face it, I’m a lazy fuck. I’d much rather sit at my bench and rebuild PCBs than do squat jumps and burpees…

You've been warned...

You’ve been warned…

I’ve seen a few movies that I’d like to share my thoughts on, stuff like Snowpiercer, Europa Report, 5 armies, etc. I’ll do my best to get those going, as well as some other shit. I’m also going to post some more arcade related stuff on my other blog, so if you have any interest in that crap, give it a look. Otherwise, I’ll see you freaks around soon!

All bottled up

I’ll preface this post with a warning: This post will be entirely me ranting and bitching about stuff related to my life and choices, so if you don’t wanna spend the next few minutes reading about me whining, then you can safely skip it and not feel like you missed out. That being said, let’s get on with it.

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Me in my natural habitat….

When I started blogging, it was for many reasons. I felt like imparting what little knowledge I have, and views I have on life. I wanted a collection of this information. I even felt “well so many people do this, why not me”. Another big reason is because, to me, it’s a form of therapy. People have said to me, on more than one occasion, that I have balls for posting some of the shit I post. This always strikes me as kind of odd, but that’s mostly because my perspective is different. To me, I’ll post about pretty much anything, shame free. Doesn’t really bother me much. Hell, the only reason I don’t talk about most of my crazy shit around others in person is because it tends to make THEM feel uncomfortable. For me, blogging about stuff is cathartic, a process akin to journaling which they teach you about in therapy. Only difference is that I do it in public, in case there are other people out there who feel the same way, so they can read it and know they’re not alone. Oh, and the attention, I also totally do it for the attention (of which I get very little [hey, you shut up!] ok..)

Soooooooooo, here goes! I’m pretty sure I’m gonna be miserable at work forever, and my career will burn out in about a decade. Good start, right?! I’ll elaborate. I used to do logistics and warehousing, and while I enjoyed it, I made shit money and there was no real career path. The other careers I had interest in were a wash as well, so I chose something that came easily to me, and I could make better money with: computers. I got certified and started doing PC support and followed with sysadmin work. The work itself isn’t bad, per se. I like solving puzzles, and learning how shit works. Problem is, it’s not a passion of mine. I don’t go home and play with computers. I’ll check my mail and Facebook, maybe troll Craigslist a bit, but otherwise I don’t bother unless something’s broken. Also, a ton of people in this profession are complete assholes. Many of them have this competitive thing, where every time you disagree with them, or correct them, it’s seen as a challenge and is thus “game on”. Others have severe control issues, or are so lacking in social skills that it’s painful to work with them. Sure, there are cool laid back kinda dudes and chicks too, but they’re in the minority, from my experiences. I just don’t feel the need for the pettiness and condescension. All in all, probably not the best fit for my personality, since I don’t tend to take shit like that well. To top all of this, I’m trying to find a new place to work. My current place does little other than stress me out, but even searching for a new place is also stressing me out. Can’t win either way.

The Lish and I have had to make a hard choice. After much deliberation, we’ve decided to move. Not to get too far into it, it should suffice to say that our current house doesn’t fit our needs, and altering it to fit our needs would make our already insane taxes absolutely astronomical. This wouldn’t be as big of an issue if our school district was top-notch, but it isn’t. Grade school and such are good, but the High School is apparently like a demilitarized zone since the “less illustrious” town next door sends their kids there too. So we’re moving. I didn’t realize how much stress this packs on, especially since we’d have to sell and buy right around the same time. I’m going nuts trying to get the house in salable condition, while also keeping an eye on the housing market, and trying to keep the Lish from getting trampled by the onslaught of “moving stress”. While I’m doing this, she has to be the one who must constantly keep the house 95% clean in order to show it to buyers, and be ready at a moment’s notice. We also have to round-up all of our stuff that we don’t use regularly, and store it somewhere off-site in an effort to give the house a more empty look. Not an easy task when you have a bunch of stuff, much of which is hobby related. That’s another part, I have restrictions on homes I look at. Must have room for my arcade addiction hobby, must have room for Victoria (my ’68 Fairlane), must have heat and a roof and stuff. You know, little shit. All this, and we’re trying to get it done ASAP so we can (hopefully) move within the next year or two.

Now this next part is completely my fault, and may be slightly my imagination, but it matters. I’ve been moving a LOT of arcade machines lately. I brought a few new ones in, and I took a few out. I keep my games in the basement, and they go in and out via a short staircase to the garage. Considering how much these games weigh, and how bulky they are, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that I always need help moving them in and out (HAIYO!). I call on my friends to help me on such occasions, which ends up being once or twice a month. At first, I had no problem getting help. Nowadays, the help is drying up a bit, and I can’t say I’m surprised. I have a bunch of very good friends who always go out of their way for me, yet in recent memory all I’ve done for them was asked for help. I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to waste an entire day driving for a game, only to break their balls helping my get it up or down stairs. I’ve felt the vibe off those around me, and whether it’s my imagination or not, I feel like a user. I feel like I guilt people into helping out of desperation, since they know I can’t move these games alone. I’d imagine them feeling like “well what am I gonna do, say no?!”. I feel guilt about this, and it does weigh on me. I don’t wanna be that guy, who takes from others without really giving much. As such, I’ve been wracking my brain to devise a way of getting these in and out without needing another person. I have a plan, but I need to do some more structural engineering to work out the kinks. Once that’s in place, I won’t have to harass anyone in order to shuffle stuff around. BTW, if you’re one of my friends reading this, please don’t succumb to any need to make me feel better. I KNOW I’ve been doing this. I’m just letting you all know that I acknowledge it, I do feel bad about it, and I’m making arrangements to free you from future endeavors.

I’m currently in 2 bands. One is an original band that I play keyboards in, the other is a cover band that I sing in. The original band is much more focused. We play out once a month or so, and that’s great. The other side is that it’s harder for me to learn or work on parts, since setting stuff up at home to practice is a nightmare, and it’s hard to find the time. Also, we have a few songs with solo sections for me, and I was never really much of a soloist to begin with. I’ve never been good at just going off like guitarists do, I’m more of an elaborate fills kinda guy. Now I’m looking down the barrel of more and more shows, and my writing issues are starting to drag things down. My cover band, on the other hand, is a totally different story. I’ve been playing with them for about a year or so, and we still haven’t played out. I’m not sure what the deal is there, but it’s aggravating going to practice every week and practicing songs that only we hear. Hopefully that changes soon.

All this shit just compiles to send my normal stress levels into orbit. I know, almost all of these are first world problems, and there are many people out there with real problems they have to deal with on a daily basis. I don’t really have much of a response to that. Sure, I could say that from my perspective and such, this is an equivalent stress level to others who have real hardships but are used to coping with them, but I don’t actually believe that. I think people with real hardships have lots of underlying stress they don’t even recognize. Oh, and by the way, don’t mistake me ranting about being stressed as me unhappy with my life. Far from it. I’m just very stressed out at the moment, and needed to vent to nobody in particular. It’s easier than venting to a person, cuz then I’m always wondering if they’re thinking “listen to him bitch about stupid shit, he doesn’t even know what real problems are”. Maybe I don’t, but that doesn’t make my stress less valid and real…

Hail to the king?

Avenged-Sevenfold-Hail-to-the-KingA few months ago, I picked up the most recent Avenged Sevenfold album, Hail to the King. I gave it a good listen, and must say that I wasn’t impressed. Their previous albums were kick ass, with heavy riffs, awesome drumming, and killer vocal hooks. This album just seemed to be missing….something. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that this is the first album that the Rev didn’t collaborate on or not, but something definitely changed. I put it on the back burner, and left it alone for awhile.

About a week or two ago, I started listening to it again, since I forgot much of the album and couldn’t remember why I disliked it. I’d been listening to a lot of Maiden recently, newer Maiden that is, and that’s when it hit me. The new A7X sounded a LOT like newer Maiden. This is both a good thing and a bad thing, in my opinion, and I’ll explain why.

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Seriously guys, what the fuck happened?!

First of all, I’d like to start by saying that Iron Maiden is, and has always been, my favorite band. I’ve seen them a dozen times, both with Bruce and with Blaze, I own every album legally, and easily half of my tee shirts are Maiden shirts. I have so many shirts that I cycle them out in a yearly rotation. I love most of their albums, but some are really not that great, and one is downright horrible (Yes, I’m looking at you Virtual XI). There’s a history to follow here, and I’ll sum it up as best I can. Bruce Dickinson, their singer, came on board in the early 80’s to replace Paul DiAnno, who sang on the first 2 records. He reigned until the late 90’s, when he left the band to pursue a solo career, which released some amazing albums. They replaced him with Blaze Bailey, who wasn’t a bad singer, but he wasn’t a true replacement for Bruce. He did 2 albums with them, and in the early 2000’s they welcomed Bruce back and started cutting new records with him again.

Iron Maiden - Brave New World - P

This record is the SHIT!!!

The first of these was Brave New World, which is fucking incredible. Then they did Dance of Death, which was also pretty awesome. The next one, A matter of life and death, was a big step down IMHO, and much of it was wholly forgettable. Their latest, The Final Frontier, was kinda meh as well. I know many Maiden fans will disagree with me, but trust me, I’d like nothing more than to absolutely LOVE these albums. I think the problem is that Steve Harris, the bassist and main songwriter, has run out of ideas. Many of the riffs are recycled, taking older riffs and changing them slightly for a new song. This breaks my heart, since I’d rather they end off on a high note, rather than slowly sink into mediocrity. They still put on a fucking phenomenal show, and are incredible musicians, but the songwriting is getting tired and worn, and it’s showing.

 

Now, back to Sevenfold. I feel the Maiden their new album sounds like it sort of a mix between Dance of Death and A Matter of Life and Death. It’s not full of wicked hooks that kick your face in, it’s more like very subtle parts that eventually grow on you. Sometimes this is a good thing, and after listening to it for a few days I must say that I do like the album a lot. It’s just a noticeable change of pace from a band who has consistently been kicking me in the face (in a rather pleasant way) for the better part of a decade. If you didn’t like it at first, give it a few more listens. You might end up really enjoying it, or you might hate it just as much and then blame me for the extension to your agony and disappointment. Either way, you gotta admit, it certainly isn’t worse than the last Disturbed album, Asylum. Boy, did THAT suck.

As for Maiden, I do hope they freshen things up and get struck with some new inspiration, but I fear that Harris is too set in his ways as a songwriter to recapture that magic from the 80’s and 90’s. He still has his moments, but they only seem to last a few songs instead of entire albums. Regardless of that, though, I’ll always buy their albums and listen to them, because even their bad albums are still better than 80% of the other shit that gets released these days.

I need more RAM

DaftPunk2

2 suave muthafuckas!

I’ve been putting off this review for awhile, since I wanted to take my time to gather what little thoughts I have. A few months ago, I picked up the new Daft Punk album, titled Random Access Memories. I’ve been a fan of theirs, though not of the die hard variety, for many years. My first introduction to them was a flash animation starring the main character from River City Ransom, with him “dancing” to the song Harder, Better,  Faster, Stronger. I was so hooked, I bought the album Discovery. I know that album cold, and the movie Interstellar 5555 they did. I’ve always been a fan of older techno, ever since the early 90’s when it had a boom. Once they moved to the freestyle shit, I abandoned ship. Daft Punk is sort of the bridge between the two for me. All that being said, it was a huge culture shock for me when I realized that their latest album was nothing like their previous offerings.

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This gets the PNG seal of approval!

My initial reaction was distaste. I really loved the first song, since it was kind of a techo-ish, but with a VERY 70’s feel to it. Then I listened to the rest of the album and realized that the whole thing is 70’s R&B/Funk/Disco-ish. I stopped listening to it, since it was such a drastic turn that my puny brain couldn’t get passed the fact that they went from the Tron Legacy soundtrack (which is decidedly incredible!) to a 70’s homage. This all changed when I went away on vacation. The lish, the peanutty, the beast and I all went to Lake George for 2 weeks. We rented a house up there, and I brought my PS3 for late night gaming and daytime music and the occasional movie. I gave the lish a copy of the album before we left, and she immediately fell in love. She absolutely LOVES music from the 70’s, so it was well within her realm. The album ended up being the vacation soundtrack, being played daily on repeat. At this point, I was over my initial shock, and could listen to it objectively. The album, in short, is fucking awesome. Great grooves, great hooks, and a very chill overall feel. The album really suits a chillin’ out atmosphere, and has a good mix of upbeat and mellow songs. During the times that we were in the house, we grooved to the tunes, danced on occasion, and generally enjoyed the enhanced relaxation. Now, when I hear the album, I immediately think of our time there just chillin’ out in the house, looking out into the woods, just feeling awesome. The only song I’m not crazy about is the tribute to Georgio Moroder. The music is good, and I love much of the work Georgio did, but the couple of minutes of him telling everyone his life story is something I don’t need in a song. I bought a music CD, not a narration CD.

So, in short, pick it up and listen with an open mind. If you like the genres listed above, you’ll probably love the album.

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The last nightmare

I’m been putting off doing this review for about a month. I’ve had conflicting feelings about this, and wanted to really understand them completely before saying something I’d just have to retract at a later date. I think I understand enough now to really get my thoughts across well.

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If you don’t own this, go fucking buy it and put it on repeat for at least 6 months!!!

I’ve been an Alice Cooper fan since I was about 12 or so, when I borrowed my cousin’s Welcome To My Nightmare cassette. He ended up buying me a copy for my birthday so he could have his back, because I wasn’t giving it up. That album in particular had a huge impact on me musically, and really caused me to appreciate the narrative aspect music could convey. It’s by far one of my top 5 favorite albums of all time. This album was the birth of the power ballad, and has influenced most major rock artists of the past 30+ years. So you could imagine my surprise and joy when I found out he recently released a true sequel to that concept album, with the next chapter in the story of Steven, whom the first album was about.

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Welcome back, you crazy awesome bastard!!!

I picked up the new album immediately and gave it a listen. The opening song is awesome, and I was really getting into it, until some of the other songs came around. I must admit, I didn’t really like it at first, and that really bothered me. I wasn’t expecting the same magic the original had, because that can never be replicated, but present day me wasn’t in the right frame of mind for this album. So I put it aside…for about a day, and ended up going back to it because the songs kept popping up in my thoughts, and I had to listen to them again. This snowballed until I became obsessed with the album. I sat and analyzed it, and how I felt about it, and finally got it.

Many of the songs on this album have a very retro feel, and are in different styles ranging from pop and rock to disco and beach rock. There’s even a song with Ke$ha, of all people, singing on it. Each of these songs flow well enough into each other, but instead of very updated versions of the styles, he stayed true to them. That is what I wasn’t expecting, since all current artists seem to do that. This is a truly classic Cooper album, with great riffs, great hooks, solid arrangements, theatrics, and his silly/campy sense of humor. He didn’t try to remake his classic, he expanded on it and made something new. Some songs sound like they could’ve easily been on one of his 70’s records, while others would have been right at home on one of his 80’s records. It was sort of like being on a ride spanning more than 30 years of one of the most influential musicians of the past 50 years.

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Hangin with Mr. Cooper….

I really like this album. It doesn’t just show that Alice still has it, it shows that even though we’re in this age where the vast majority of music out there is commercialized cookie-cutter crap, used to sell products above all, music can still be great and mean something. Modern artists and producers should take lessons from bands like Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden, Anthrax, and Black Sabbath, because they are still making fucking awesome albums, and aren’t being worthless bullshit sellouts like many of the other bands out there. There are exceptions, like A7X and Shinedown, but they’re sadly in short supply. Thank you, Mr. Furnier, for releasing an album that helped me keep the faith!