Thursday, March 30, 2006

Because I’m All About the Guitar Pt. 23: Rob Zombie’s Educated Horses, a review

The kids have been on spring break this week, so I took tomorrow off to do the kinds of things kids like to do when dads take the day off to spend with them. Since the carnival’s in town, that probably means spending great amounts of time standing in lines for a few second’s worth of excitement, eating really greasy, overpriced food, and probably getting a sunburn on some part of my body.

But I love it.

So, I’m posting my next BIAAtG installment tonight rather than Friday. Without further ado, Rob Zombie’s Educated Horses review:

Image hosting by PhotobucketI have a like/dislike relationship with Rob Zombie’s music. On the one hand, I am really fond of a lot of his music, and I like the horror movie subject matter. On the other hand, I'm not very keen on a lot of of his commercially inspired music.

When White Zombie first hit the scene, I was really into it. It was a return to the “monster rock” that The Misfits and The Cramps had made famous, but no one had approached again (with any success anyway) until Zombie came out.

Their rhythms were solid, the grooves infectious and his voice memorable. They were a hit. Later, Zombie branched out solo and introduced more sampling and electronica into his music. He started out solidly heavy metal/hard rock and became, technically, industrial metal. While industrial metal purists will argue that point – if it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck and damn well flies like a duck, it’s a freaking duck. It was probably around this time that I stopped really caring for Zombie's work.

Rob Zombie filled a niche with his solo work that the public needed filled. With Ministry failing to follow up Psalm 69 with anything decent, longtime industrial fans found themselves grooving to Zombie in their place. And he did a good job. Songs like Dragula infected pop culture creating huge crossover success for Zombie.

His previous works always delivered great grooves and something that is going to be a very big issue with this review -- dynamic tension. He would set a mood and take you up and down and sideways and back and forth across the spectrum of anger, lust, depression and hatred. And that’s where this album fails.

With Educated Horses, Zombie takes us down a lot of familiar paths. There’s no new sounds here. His typical whisper-raw voice permeates the album. The problem is that he never goes above this or below it. The album is set at mediocre and never leaves that spot.

The album opens with an instrumental, “Sawdust in Blood,” that is very reminiscent of the Terminator theme song. So much so that I was about to start searching the phone book for Sarah Connor. The album never waivers off that point of mediocrity. When the next track, “American Witch,” cuts in, you think you’re going to get something more – it’s heavy – but dull. Just repetitive nonsense. The very thing that techno/industrial detractors have complained about the genre being.

“Foxy Foxy” is next up and is really the title track of the album and you want to like the song. But it winds up being one long tease. It keeps building up to something huge that never happens. You expect some huge Trent Reznor-esque screaming fit that never materializes. What should be the biggest thrill of the album leaves you frustrated.

Honestly, it goes downhill from there. “The Scorpion Sleeps” has a couple of moments, “Death of it All” is probably my favorite track (a slow, bluesy, “going to hell” kind of song), and the lowest point of the album is probably the song “The Devil’s Rejects” tying into his movie of the same name. I loved the film, however this level of cheese is going too far – “Hell doesn’t want them. Hell doesn’t need them. Hell doesn’t love them.”

If I were rating it in stars I would probably give it two out of four. I guess it might be good to dance to, if You’ll dance to anything …

Previous installments:
Part 22.5: An awesome video
Part 22: Fretting over the board
Part 21.4: A shout out;
Part 21: Cop Out;
Part 20: Lenny Kravitz;
Part 19: Is it guitar or is it Korg?;
Part 18: A beautiful guitar;
Part 17: Getting all amped up over the sound;
Part 16: Not quite plug and play;
Part 15.25: Don't let Gibson buy your company;
Part 15: The greatest guitarist you've never heard of;
Part 14: The finish;
Part 13: Vernon Reid;
Part 12: The vibrato tremolo;
Part 11: Jimmy Page;
Part 10: What's in the wood?;
Part 9: Rebuilding a guitar;
Part 8: G3 2005;
Part 7: John Petrucci;
Part 6: Chingon;
Part 5: Home recording on the cheapity cheap;
Part 4.01: Guitar Zen;
Part 4: Full service Friday -- concert going in 1993;
Part 3.5: Gretsch guitars;
Part 3: The Reverend Horton Heat;
Part 2: Back when I thought I could play;
Part 1: Zakk Wylde then and now

Another silly quiz

I am 9% Metrosexual.
Metro-What? Git Off My Lawn!
I need some advice. I need to STOP BUYING MY CLOTHS AT WAL-MART!!!! I will never land a decent woman unless I shave this nasty facial hair, and spend more then $5 on a haircut.


Hey, remember the 80s?

The top-10 best 80s music videos, based on cheese factor and celebrity cameo, according to Joblo.

I am a dream warrior, dammit.

The difference sublime

You know, there's nothing like an infant to make throw the differences between men and women into sharp relief. You know, I don't mean to sound divisive, but there are more differences between the genders than anatomy.

Case in point: Both of my daughters, as infants, explored like most babies do. However, there was a sense of caution to eveything they did. You could almost see the gears tick as they approached something, "Is this going to hurt me? Can I pull myself up on this?" And if they tried something, and it didn't work, they usually didn't try and do it again.

Flash forward to present day. My boy, God love him, approaches everything he does with reckless abandon. I understand that there are probably plenty of infant boys that don't have a daredevil spirit, but I do know that a boy will do the same thing, over and over and over and over, expecting to get different results than the first time.

It is with all this set up that I explain the main difference between my daughters and my son. At 8 months old, my boy has learned how to crawl down from things like ottomans and couches. My daughters never really wanted to do this, on purpose anway. The huge difference is that my boy, while slowing his descent by holding on to the edge of the ottoman or couch, breaks his fall with his head.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Because I'm All About the Guitar Pt. 22.5: An awesome video

Anyone who's read my blog for a while knows that I'm a huge fan of Dream Theater and John Petrucci. Well, I found this video on You Tube earlier today. It's an old bootleg video of a JP guitar clinic. It's long, so consider yourself warned.

I dig the dude because of his personality, but his ability and talent are easy to see. Check it out.

What can I say?

I am 16% Idiot.
Friggin Genius
I am not annoying at all. In fact most people come to me for advice. Of course they annoy the hell out of me. But what can I do? I am smarter than most people.

I mean, not like I didn't know or anything.


Lisa finishes her tale of boobies, beer and debauchery.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Idol liveblog 3/28

UPDATE: Tracey actually has some thoughts on Idol.

UPDATE 2: Dean gives his thoughts.

Songs of the 21st century, any predictions for tonight? I'm actually looking forward to what Shakira and Wyclef Jean have to say. Hopefully the crew will bring it.(But there was no Shakira or Wyclef, the bastards!)

I'm going out on a limb and saying that my pre-show prediction is that Lisa will be on the bottom rung tonight.

Lots of "Love Lisa" banners in the audience ... foreshadowing?

Lisa: Some Kelly Clarkson song I don't know. Starts with a couple of flat notes. Is it just me or is she trying to play an Aaliyah look? Wow, that was her worst performance. Ever. Bad. Flat. Lifeless. Bad.

The talking heads: Randy - Wonka, wonka, not too good. Finally telling the truth. Paula - (Wow, amazing lucidity! Laid off the horse tranq tonight?) Basically saying, "Honey, you fudged up." Simon - The song was too big for you. He nailed it. She wasn't good.

Maybe my prediction was on? We'll see.

Man, Idol continues this season's trait of front loading the suck, Kellie and Ace are next. Color me anticipated, er constipated.

I am quite upset that they don't have the stars giving them little bits of advice along the way. I was really, really looking forward to hearing Wyclef's POV on some of these singers. I have some respect for the dude, it would have been interesting. Bastard producers.

Kellie: Another song I don't know. Der her, it's the Britney Spears marriage fantasy song! Pt. 1 anyway.

Well, honestly, her vox don't suck. This is her world. But it's not great. Not anything that you can't hear at any karaoke bar across the States. Her voice fluctuated a bit painfully here and there at the end. Still, she's got a following and you can hear it in the crowd.

Randy: Like your roots, but why would you sing something that monodynamic, oh yeah, that's because you are monodynamic. Paula: Still lucid! Wow! Simon: You idiot. Why are you wasting my time.

Kellie: Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. Sounds like a secretary who messed up the collating of some huge assignment.

Ace: Drops of Jupiter, I love this song and he's killing it! Man, he may be worse than Lisa. There's no emotion in it. He's playing the crowd with his eyes and not his talent. Ugh, there was that damn Michael Jackson inhale crap.

Very not impressed. He's flat. Then sharp. Then flat. I think he might have been on key once or twice the entire performance. The crowd, predictably, doesn't care.

Randy: Man, you have all sucked so far. Paula: I love you *twinkle* so I'm not going to say anything bad 'cause you're a star, "LOVE ME! LOVE ME!" Simon: Oh, just pay him for the night, Paula. Why did you choose a song you can't sing? Oh, maybe because you can't sing.

Ace: I'm sticking to my guns and gonna be in the bottom three again.

Thank God! Taylor and Mandisa are next.

Taylor: The little intro is trite, but cool. I love the guy. I'm biased. He's doing Trouble. Another song I don't know. I like the slower groove.

Having to put your hand up to check your intonation is not a great thing, Taylor. However, he has been in key the whole song, which is more than the three guys before him can say.

Great, great job. A little bothered by the hand check thing, but he did a great job and had no real spastic fits.

Randy: Wasn't a great song, you didn't get to show off. Paula: I agree (more lucidity! Is her new karate man bringing her back to life?) Simon: He likes it! He likes it! But when Simon criticizes the style, you might want to keep doing it.

Ryan pops out a great bust comparing Simon to Kelly Clarkson. Damn funny.

Mandisa: Very anticipated. Oh, starting it off big. She owns this audience and stage. However, her voice doesn't really adapt to the quick stocatto vocals -- she's got too much vibrato in her voice for that. However, once she gets to drag out the notes a bit she's really on. The best so far.

Too doggone short. Just as I was getting into it, it was over. Man, she makes you want more.

Randy: What the hell is up his ass? Randy's not liking anything tonight. Paula: 40 million people have joined the church of Mandisa. Simon: Thought it was indulgent ... hmm, perhaps. But it was damn good, indulgent or no.

Chris Daughtry and Katharine McPhee up next. Hopefully they can cut tonight's stagnation. I mean, I thought Taylor and Mandisa gave the performances, but the judges seem to be in such a funk because of the first three deliverers of suck.

Chris Daughtry: Busts right out with the owning up to the Live version of Walk the Line. I'm glad he did that. Owning up to it. I think he did a good job anyway. Doing Creed tonight. Hmm. Guess it's all right. I'm not a big Creed fan. Maybe if he put some cotton in his mouth to chew up the lyrics like Creed's singer does.

Here's a problem when you're really good and you sing someone's stuff who is not that good. It doesn't sound right. Creed's singer half-mumbles his lyrics and is almost always flat. But Chris wasn't. He rocked it on key and very lucidly.

Randy: You were sharp (because he's used to the f*d up version); Paula: Eff me, Chris; Simon: Stop doing the same thing every week.

So, Simon wants Chris to stop being a one-trick Pony. That's perhaps a fair criticism.

Katharine: Doing Christina, ouch, she starts poor. She's not on at all. Where is her voice? Oh my GOD! It's bad, bad, bad, bad, bad! Not only is this the worst I've heard her sing. This is the worst performance tonight. As Simon would say, it's too big a song for her. It's way evident. She was sharp, flat, nowhere in between, runniing up a hill and falling in a well. Wow, that sucked.

Randy: I'm a fan and not telling the truth. Paula: Drugs. Kicking. In. Hearing. Gone. She thinks Christina would be proud. What. The. Hell. Simon: The best tonight. Almost as good as Christina.

Good effing lord, did these people hear the same freaking song I did? What the hell? I'm no fan of Xtina, but I've heard the damn song many, many times. I mean, who hasn't all you have to do is stand still long enough and that freaking song finds you. Xtina is a hell of a singer though. She can play subtle and knows when to belt it out. Katharine didn't know when to do any of this. She was all over the place like she really didn't know when to hit what note.

I wonder. I wasn't watching her sing, I was listening. Maybe that has something to do with it.

Bucky: Back in his element with a Tim McGraw song. Again, not much better than open mic night at the local pub. It's not bad, but it's not THE American Idol good. The cowboy hat is a good addition though.

Randy: Definitely the right place for you. Paula: Be careful with your diction. Simon: Thinks it was okay, but wasn't impressed.

Fair assessment.

Paris: Does Beyonce -- playing the audience, okay ... here's my problem with little Paris, you can hear the jazz wanting to come out in her voice. She can't stop it. It's great when she's belting out the Billie Holiday or Ella Fitzgerald, but it doesn't quite work here. However, her bad is better than everyone else tonight. She delivers even though I was annoyed at the beginning. High energy and she never dropped a note.

Randy: Fearless, the bomb, you're turning me into a pedophile. Paul: You're good. Simon: I thought it was precocious. It was like a little girl pretending to be Beyonce.

Again, I was listening, not watching, so that might have been the case from the dancing. But the singing was dead on.

Elliot: Ooh, a guy's rocking it tonight. This is his best performance in quite some time. So far, the best male performance of the evening. Great, great vox. Dead on. Finally.

Randy and Paula are loving it. First time they've drooled like they were last week over everything. Simon: Great song, horrible arrangement, good vox. Well, that works.

All right: I paid really close damn attention to the recap at the end just to make sure I wasn't off in my opinion of Katharine like I was last week. But no. She sucked. What the hell were they hearing?

Summation: If it wasn't for shows like last week, I would give up after tonight. Seriously, if I didn't have this much invested, I would just let it go. I am sorely disappointed by the entirety of the show. A couple of good performances just don't make up for mostly mediocre ones.

My choices for bottom 3: Bucky, definitely; Lisa, highly likely; Katharine should be there, should, but it'll probably be Ace.

Something Awful does it again

For those of you confused by a movie's premise, Something Awful offers Truth In Movie Titles.
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The films that divide us

Jeff at the Shape of Days links to a post at John Hughes' blog Hughes for America.

Read Jeff's post, it's a good inictment of the politics behind Hughes comments. While I don't agree with the political agenda-driven parts of Hughes' post, I do tend to agree with the central thesis of his argument.

After this years Academy Awards, there was a backlash among TV and radio commenters who were attempting to reach out to their base. They asked questions like: "Why wasn't the Wedding Crashers nominated? Wasn't that a good film?"

The simple answer is that, while highly entertaining, no, it's not "good film." That is, it's not good in the way the Academy awards good (or is supposed to award good). It's not art. Movies like The Wedding Crashers and The 40-Year-Old Virgin are the bublegum pop of film. They are very fun to watch, they are highly entertaining, and we reward them by pouring huge sums of money into those movie-makers' coffers.

If you stripped politics from Hughes' argument, you'd have a great piece on the state of film and the Academy. The average movie-goer doesn't dump a lot of money into the kinds of films that the Academy rewards because, a lot of times, it takes a refined taste to enjoy those movies.

That said, I think it's a sad state that folks out there, right and left, take something as silly as movie awards and turn it into political fare. It illustrates how hard we're fighting to divide ourselves. How sad.

Monday, March 27, 2006

And so it begins

Today begins years of embarassment for my baby boy. Today my daughters decided to put a dress on their 8-month-old brother. It has begun.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Share and enjoy

Sirius Cybernetics has finally launched a cola.


Who knew subtitling was such an important job? Visit Bombay TV and try your hand.

Here's an example I whipped up.

Here are the ones I did at the Swilling:
Katie comes home early.
Striking while the iron is cooling.
Casino Royale.

h/t Bingley.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Black leaders want satellite TV or something like that

Oh, satellite voting for the "displaced" black community. Or, in other words, we'll lose, so you have to help us win.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The coolest web site I've seen today

The Movie Timeline is a website operating off the assumption that everything happens in movies is true and is making a timeline based on the events in the movies.

It's a really neat list and invites all visitors to contribute. Check 'em out!

Don't tell me I've got nothing to do

Guilty admission of the day: I have always liked the Statler Brothers.

Because I'm All About the Guitar Pt. 22: Fretting over the board

Most guitars you've seen have dots as position markers along the fret board. It's not the most obvious place for a musician or guitar owner to express themselves, but it's one of the places that has some of the best artwork available.

Perhaps you've seen the guitars that have "shark tooth" inlays or perhaps even something more outlandish. The following are some of my favorites and range from mild variation of dot markers to outright garish.

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This eclipse inlay is probably the one I would have if I could afford a custom-built guitar. It's simple, uncluttered but still neat. I really like it.

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My next favorite is this double helix. However, without good side position markers, I'm sure I would get lost on the fret board. Cool looking though, huh?

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I adore this inlay. I can't imagine how long this must have taken. It's gorgeous (and I love tigers). There's no way I could play this. This would the kind of guitar I would buy to display. And believe me, if I had that kind of money, that's exactly the kind of thing I would be doing.

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Lastly ... well, there's a point where there's just too much. In my opinion these guys crossed it a while ago. However, this is a very popular, well, common anyway, design on JET guitars. It's a jungle scene with parrots, if you can't make it out.

All these images are from Ed Roman Guitars. His inlay gallery has some great examples of what's available out there.

Previous installments:
Part 21.4: A shout out;
Part 21: Cop Out;
Part 20: Lenny Kravitz;
Part 19: Is it guitar or is it Korg?;
Part 18: A beautiful guitar;
Part 17: Getting all amped up over the sound;
Part 16: Not quite plug and play;
Part 15.25: Don't let Gibson buy your company;
Part 15: The greatest guitarist you've never heard of;
Part 14: The finish;
Part 13: Vernon Reid;
Part 12: The vibrato tremolo;
Part 11: Jimmy Page;
Part 10: What's in the wood?;
Part 9: Rebuilding a guitar;
Part 8: G3 2005;
Part 7: John Petrucci;
Part 6: Chingon;
Part 5: Home recording on the cheapity cheap;
Part 4.01: Guitar Zen;
Part 4: Full service Friday -- concert going in 1993;
Part 3.5: Gretsch guitars;
Part 3: The Reverend Horton Heat;
Part 2: Back when I thought I could play;
Part 1: Zakk Wylde then and now

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Hey Mr. Driver Man, Don't Drive Slow ...

'Cause I got somewhere I gotta go.

- Waiting For the Bus
made me not shuffle and go directly to
- 36-24-36
made me go directly to
- Dance, Motherf***er, Dance!
made me go directly to
- American Music
made me go directly to
- Add It Up

It's amazing how much I love music but how some music can make me feel so maudlin. I loved the Violent Femmes. Still do, in a different way, but you ever listen to a band that you haven't in years and it brings back a rush of memories. Memories of unfulfilled, half-planned dreams. The Violent Femmes is the soundtrack of my failed ambition.

Nothing particulaly poignant about their stuff. Just happened to be listening to a lot of them at a particularly enthusiastic period of youthful zeal. Sometimes shuffle sucks.

The House of Sick continues

My family cannot overcome the sick that has invaded our home. The wife came down yesterday with what Daughter #2 and I had over the weekend. Daughter #1 had a bad fit with her asthma, but has overcome that.

D#2 is over her tummy issues, but last night -- about 11 p.m. just as the wife and I were getting to sleep, she breaks in crying about getting a bug bite. CullenWife takes D#2 out and gets ready to hit her with some Dermaplast. Then D#2 starts scratching all over. She takes off her nightshirt and she's covered in hives. Head to freaking toe.

Much antihistamines later, they get to sleep. I thought all was well today, but after I got to work the wife calls me. D#2 has broken out again and they're going to the doctor's office. End result -- no clue what's causing it but monitor it and if she gets worse take her in again.

She's had no new foods, no new clothing, detergents, anything that we can think of. She still looks bad. I hope it's nothing serious.

On online video renting

Okay, I have finally signed up for Blockbuster online. Before you flame or write it off or whatever, hear me out.

I have used Netflix. I have rented at "real" stores and have even worked for one. My absolute favorite manner of renting has been, up to this point, Blockbuster's pay one montly fee, rent all you want, two-out-at-a-time plan. But we were watching A LOT of movies and not doing much family wise, you dig?

So, we cancelled the plan. But, we have been feeling like we were taking it without moisture paying $4 a pop for rentals when there are plans out there so much better. We decided to sign up for the online plan.

You are all aware, I'm sure, of the dealio there. You pay a monthly fee, you get three movies mailed to you at a time, and they are changed out as you mail them back. If you watch a lot of movie, or have odd tastes, it's a great plan. But what sets big blue above the other online competition, is that there are plans that give you coupons for X number of monthly rentals at a "real" store. Our plan gives us two. Which, admittedly, isn't a lot, but we're getting most of the stuff in the mail. We can use the coupons for right now movies or something for the kids. It's a nice feature.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Chicken Little becomes McNugget

Goodbye Kevin. Parting is thuch thweet thorrow.

Kevin Covais loses. The truest moment of this season's Idol. Justice may take time, but it is met.

ABU uniform

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe Air Force has finally jumped on the digital uniform bandwagon. The Air Force announced its new uniform March 18 with a projected mandatory wear date of 2011.

I'm pretty impressed with it. While I don't quite like it as much as the Marine Corps' MARPAT, I think the Airman Battle Uniform is a great improvement over the BDU and leaps and bounds better than the Army's ARPAT.

Image hosting by PhotobucketFrom the article:
The new uniform design is a pixilated tiger stripe with four soft earth tones consisting of tan, grey, green and blue. The ABU will have a permanent crease and will be offered in 50-50 nylon-cotton blend permanent press fabric eliminating the need for winter and summer weight uniforms.

I'm very impressed with the boots. That is a great color for the uniform. This is a war-ready uniform. I think the Air Force proves that once again they are a service that listens to both the research and their service member's wants.

Funniest exchange of the evening

CullenWife: I can't believe how dizzy I am.

Daughter #2: Me either.

Maybe you had to be here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Idol ruminations 3/21

UPDATE: As always, Dean has his thoughts up. Interesting how we agree on some point, disagree on others, but our bottom three are the same.

UPDATE 2: Tracy also has her thoughts up. Again, it's interesting where our opinions meet and diverge and we still come up with the same end result.

UPDATE the third: Sheila posts her thoughts.

Coming at you live:

Mandisa: WOW! How great was that? Opening with a barnstormer like that! She just owned that song. I am not familiar with the original, but I don't have to be, she destroyed it without me knowing it.

Great way to start the show.

Paula's, "Yer, yer a thoroughbred." Sh-she's on horse tranquilizers.

Bucky: Barry Manilow rearranging Buddy Holly? How arrogant. And the execution sucked. Once again, Simon is the voice of reason, "pointless karaoke," was beyond apt. Sounded like the rehearsals were better than the performance. Things are not boding well for the Bucktoothed one.

Paris: Had my doubts, but this one is on par with Mandisa's performance. Paris is on tonight. I must say, I think Mandisa obviously has Paris in experience. She's not as hot and cold as Paris has been, but when Paris is on, she is on!

Can we just forget that Randy and Paula are there. I understand why Simon is so upset having to sit next to those two.

But doggonit, don't talk so much. Or calm down before talking. Yes. Definitely calm down first. Your voice is way too wacky when you're excited.

Chris Daughtry: I am really looking forward to this ...

Oooh, Johnny Cash. I'm worrying. Doesn't seem like his style. Hopefully he makes it his own, appears that it's going to be, they're not really giving us any sound bites. What little we are getting sounds interesting.

I like the all-black.

Started a little boring, honestly. Kicked up a bit, but I'm not sure I liked it. Not when there were so many other '50s-era tunes to choose from. However, it definitely seemed to be a crowd pleaser. He really could have rocked out some of those old tunes, and I guess that has more to do with why I'm disappointed than with the actual choice of song.

Randy ... yadda, yadda; Paula ... snore; Simon ... back to reality Chris, you didn't give your best, but even not at your best, you rock.

Random thought: Hmm. Some of the best singers in the country ... you thoughts?

Katharine McPhee: I hope she sings something rocking. Her voice is great and she is very good looking. Hmm. Sounds like she's going to do some lounge singing.

I'm not sure I'm fond of Barry. That is, last week they had Stevie Freakin' Wonder and this week Barry Manilow. That's like Spam after Porterhouse, know what I'm saying?

Ugh. Not grabbing me so far. Not sure this was the best choice for her. It's not showcasing her voice the way some other choices could. Well ... okay, the end kicks up a bit, but I'm not sure if that's enough to make up for the rest.

UPDATE: Re-listened during the final sequence and I reverse my initial review. This was quite good.

She's safe though. And, her dress selections do tend to be compounding the "baby on board" rumors, don't they?

Randy: "Once again, I am wasting oxygen." Paula: "Vodka? Where? I love everybody ... telling you, really I love you ... it's not the medication talking." Simon: "You've turned into a star."

Well, what the hell do I know, huh? I mean, not everybody can do Ella, and she nailed it, but it just wasn't there for me. Her voice is just too ... clean, yeah, clean, for that song.

Taylor Hicks: My favorite. I am effin excited to hear him sing tonight.

Very strong performance, but not something that really showed off his vocal chops. Wow, I'm agreeing with Randy. Dammit. Paula is having a moment of lucidity also. Simon: Not the Taylor Hicks fan, and I think he's off base here. He fights back a little, but it doesn't matter. I usually find Simon to be the voice of reason, and perhaps I'm letting my opinion taint any objectivity, but I really think Simon is off-base here. I think he just doesn't like Taylor much.

Mid-show analysis: As much as I want Chris and Taylor to rule the show, Mandisa and Paris have delivered the best performances. However, all four are my top four, and I don't think any of them have to worry about being booted.

Lisa Tucker: Here's someone who really needs to show off her chops this week. After last week's performance and her rating in the bottom three she's gotta do something to stand out, especially since she's very talented.

Well, she ain't gonna do it with this song.

I guess it was fine if she was a Mouseketeer. Just not enough to stand out there. I think she's in trouble.

Wait for it, wait for it ... Simon: "Trapped in high school musical." Ha! Perfect.

Kevin: Aaargh! His rehearsal clip is physically painful. I lost my balance walking across the room. We should ship him to Iraq and put him on a damn loudspeaker. "We surrender!" They would shout.

Well, we'd probably wind up in The Hague for war crimes.

"Prepare to shed a tear, America," bwahahaha! More apt than you know, Ryan.

Seriously though, this kid's just not in the same league as the other contestants. He was flat more often than not. And I just can't buy this song from this kid. I know there are plenty of geeky musicians out there, but he just isn't appealing.

But, dammit, the crowd loves him. I want him gone, but he's probably not going anywhere. It just wasn't bad enough.

Randy: "Believe your press, dog. It never lies to you!" Paula: "If you were legal, you'd be in trouble!" Simon: "Kevin, you and I both know you shouldn't be here, but you're probably not going anywhere."


Elliot Yamin: Great singer. Interested in hearing what he has to do. Fanilow is a bad joke and we are all stupider for having heard it.

He always starts a little weak, but it picked up quickly. I'm not sure I'm impressed with how much vibrato he puts in his voice. At least not with something this mellow. It comes across like he's trying to put too much into the song.

The little vocal runs are good though. Even with him overdoing it a bit, it's the best male performance so far.

Randy: "I'm not telling you anything you don't know." Paula: "Ab, dabba, derp, you're good." Simon: "Fantastic."

Kellie Pickler: She's gonna sing Patsy Cline. Anyone as shocked as I am? (He said with sarcasm palpable enough to smack you through broadband.)

She's obviously still an audience favorite. I mean, I was fooled for some time by the innocent country girl act, but as Hollywood week tore on I began to have my suspicions. The final straw was the salmon comment. Who's never heard of freakin' salmon? It's a Crayola color for Bob's sake.

"I didn't know Patsy was in the '50s, tee hee."

To be fair, that wasn't bad. Wasn't great, but it wasn't bad. She would rock most homegrown karaoke.

Randy: "Must. Waste. Oxygen. Dog." Paula: "I want to go to the zoo." Simon: "Did it right. Welcome back."

My feelings pretty much. I still think she's out of her depth, though.

Ace Young: Wonder what he's thinking? Hmm. "Must appeal to little girls. Must not come off as friend of Dorothy. Must man up. Man up ... hmm."

Good lord, rehearsal clip, what the hell is up with the Michael Jackson sharp intake of breath? That is amazingly annoying.

Flat, flat, flat. Ouch. What is going through his mind? "Must do Creed pose. That will go over well."

All right. It's starting to come along a bit better. Once he opens up a little bit it's better, but those closing notes are bad and off-key. Not his best performance. Not at all. Damn audience. What the hell do they know?

Randy: "Dude. You're back. Don't know where you went, but you're back." Paula: "That was sexy, what would you do for a crisp hundred-dollar bill?" Simon: "It wasn't the best vocal tonight, but you're safe."

Well, I must ruminate a little.

End of show synopsis: I think it's easy to say who the top 5 or 6 are, so the more difficult question is who's in trouble? Lisa, definitely. Buck, quite possibly. Kevin, hopefully.

Because I'm All About the Guitar Pt. 21.4: A shout out

I have added a new blog to my roll: Guitar Stuff. It's a no-nonsense site where Matt reviews guitar gear and talks about guitar-related stuff. The thing I really enjoy is that he does so in a straight forward, experienced-based manner. Very interesting and very informative.

The House of Sick

What a suck weekend.

I had class Friday night and Saturday morning. My wife was in Atlanta Saturday and I had to pick up the kids from the babysitter. Well, Daughter #2 pukes right before I load them into the vehicle. That sets the tone for the evening as she continues this several times throughout the evening.

Then, Daughter #1 has breathing issues Sunday (she has asthma). We took her to the doctor Monday morning, but all he did was give us some medicine (she usually gets hospitalized). So, she was out all yesterday, I stayed home to help out. Which wound up being a good thing. I went down with stomach issues yesterday afternoon.

This time of year sucks.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Because I'm All About the Guitar Pt. 21: Cop out

Well, first of all, happy St. Patrick's Day! A pinch to ya' if you're not wearing green.

I have been so busy getting together a presentation and other materials for a class I'm taking, that I wasn't able to put together anything for this week's BIAAtG. So, in lieu of anything I would normally write, I would like to share a couple of my favorite online resources regarding guitars.

Harmony Central: A fantastic resource for rock instruments. They provide news about what's going on in the world of instruments and amplification as well as peer reviews, tablature and message forums (which I would avoid). If you're looking at a guitar and want to know what people are saying about it, this is a great place to find out. I also like their interactive lessons.

Guitar Noise: It hasn't been that long ago that I got tired of how much I suck at actually playing the guitar. So I looked around the 'net for some good instructional resources. Guitar Noise is a site that is primarily geared toward guitar instruction for beginning and intermediate guitarists. I'm not fond of the way the site is desgined, but the information there is very good.

Hope ya'll burdgeoning guitarists check 'em out and let me know what you think.

Previous installments:
Part 20: Lenny Kravitz;
Part 19: Is it guitar or is it Korg?;
Part 18: A beautiful guitar;
Part 17: Getting all amped up over the sound;
Part 16: Not quite plug and play;
Part 15.25: Don't let Gibson buy your company;
Part 15: The greatest guitarist you've never heard of;
Part 14: The finish;
Part 13: Vernon Reid;
Part 12: The vibrato tremolo;
Part 11: Jimmy Page;
Part 10: What's in the wood?;
Part 9: Rebuilding a guitar;
Part 8: G3 2005;
Part 7: John Petrucci;
Part 6: Chingon;
Part 5: Home recording on the cheapity cheap;
Part 4.01: Guitar Zen;
Part 4: Full service Friday -- concert going in 1993;
Part 3.5: Gretsch guitars;
Part 3: The Reverend Horton Heat;
Part 2: Back when I thought I could play;
Part 1: Zakk Wylde then and now

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I will gladly lift your legs, they're on fire, lift your legs of desire

So. With Idol on everyone's mind in my office, there was a lot of Stevie Wonder being played. Annoyingly so. But still, I had a fix to fill. Superstition was burning in my head.

I cranked it up once home. But then I wanted to hear the Ohio Players. Which led me to listen to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Which sent the player into shuffle. Which brought up Rid of Me.

Man I miss PJ Harvey circa 1993. What happened, Polly Jean?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

American Idol thoughts 3/15: Effin VoteForTheWorst

Kevin should have gone home, but not even in the bottom three. Come on America, what the aitch ey double hockey sticks is wrong with you?

But Melissa was who I really thought was going to be going home tonight. And I was right.

Great post

The Tampa Bay Times' Stuck in the 80s blog has a wonderful post up now asking the question: What were the top 5 movie soundtracks of the 80s?

It's a pretty solid list, but I would definitely have the Lost Boys soundtrack on my list as well as the River's Edge soundtrack.

How about you?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Idol thoughts

Well, after a couple of lackluster weeks we really got a treat tonight! It was rough going at first. I wasn't impressed with anyone until Mandisa got on stage, after that things really picked up.

Bucky was probably the biggest surprise of the evening. I thought he was probably going to blow chunks most, but he really delivered.

Most suck performance: Kevin. I mean, wow, that just sucked. And what's with the 'tude, dude? Second most suck: Melissa. Sorry girl, but it just wasn't there.

Best performances in order from fourth best to best: Mandisa, Paris, Taylor and Chris. Mandisa brought it last week, so I wasn't surprised that she did so again tonight. However, I felt that this was Paris' best performance since her audition. Taylor was amazing also, but Chris was the real winner tonight. Simon hit it on the head, he's really the most recording-worthy performer thus far.

However, I still am routing for Taylor. He just keeps getting cooler every week.

I'm not sure how many people go home tomorrow -- just one? I really hope it's Kevin. If not it'll probably be Melissa.

UPDATES: Tracey's got up some thoughts on the performances.

As always, Dean's take is interesting although I don't completely agree. I stick with my original assessment.

Filed under: Duh

The future of newspapers depends on profit.

"I'm afraid what this says is that the future of newspapers depends more on people who care about profit than (journalism's) community responsibility," said Naughton, who retired in 2003 as president of the Poynter Institute, the school for journalists that owns the St. Petersburg Times.

Another revelation:

"I wish there were an identifiable and strong correlation between quality journalism - and newspaper sales," Knight Ridder spokesman Polk Laffoon IV said in the report. "It isn't . . . that simple."

Step 1: Aqcuire newspaper
Step 2:
Step 3: Profit


UPDATE: What the hell kind of name is Polk Laffoon IV anyway?

I am not always a good person

When you live in a tight neighborhood with lots of children conflict is bound to happen.

I live in a moderate to small sized apartment complex. Maybe about 40 apartments share a large courtyard. Plenty of room for kids to run around, fly kites, play football, and there's a pool too. Large.

There are about 6 families whose children are outside playing often. Mine, of course, and a close neighbor's are two. We often have problems with the children of a family who lives a couple of apartments down.

The children will take sidewalk chalk (recently banned by the apartment complex gestapo) and write lewd and course language on the sidewalk and stairs outside our apartments. Normally, I don't think anything of it, I just spray it off with a hose.

A while ago, these children and my girls got into a tussle. They went as far as to come to my house and tell me that my little girl was hitting them. Let me set the picture for you, my five-year-old daughter is TINY! Very, very small for her age. And she was four at the time. The youngest girl out of the three at my backdoor was 7. And a large 7. So, I apologized and talked to my girls. It was apparently my girl's fault that all this happened, however the other children were amply able to take care of themselves.

I have had other problems with these same group of children, but this sets the stage for what happened yesterday.

I came home from the gym after work and walked out back to a large kerfuffle. A large group of children were standing around. My youngest daughter was crying. My wife was asking children questions, and this one girl -- most often the ringleader of the group I have problems with -- was adamantly saying, "I didn't do it!"

Listening long enough to find out what was going on, I acted. Seems that the children were playing and this girl pushed my girl off of something ... I'm still shaky on details. At this point, I just wanted all these kids away from my apartment and my children. I walked forward and said something that no adult should ever say to a child. Not the way I said it. She said, "I didn't push her!" I said, "I don't believe you."

Now, that might not seem like a lot, but put that in context. Even though I didn't believe her -- hell, still don't believe her -- it was the wrong thing to do. She's 8 years old and was adamant in her belief that she did nothing wrong. I, as an authority figure shattered her wold with four simple words that didn't seem like much at the time. I just wanted to diffuse the situation and get the kids out of there. Which happened.

About 15 minutes later, the girl and her mother came back over. The mom was steamed. She wanted to find out what had happened, as would I were the situations reversed. But we got nowhere. No one was satisfied with anything that was said and the girl and her mom walked away.

But I went back inside and started to think about it. Her mom had said to my wife, "Your husband is a grown man." Which at the time, was kind of funny because her inarticulate argument wasn't making much sense. As I thought about it, and the impact of what any adult says to a child, I began to see her point. I went over to their apartment and apologized to the girl.

This is not to say that I believe the girl, I don't. She has a history of behavior that makes her believability suspect regardless of what's happening. But I never should have told her that.

Sometimes it's best to keep things to yourself.

Monday, March 13, 2006


I'm not sure why, but this FARK headline got me more than most.

Image hosting by Photobucket

Okay, one thing of semi-note...

I almost forgot, my youngest daughter had a test to get into the local magnet school. They recently changed their admission policy and now potential students have to take a kind of test.

We have been trying to get Daughter #1 in this school since the beginning of this school year. They formerly used a lottery system to choose new students as openings became available. They are adding space this year and are accepting a larger number of kids. But, when we got the letter telling us to come out for testing, we thought it was for both kids. But no, only Daughter #2. Which is disappointing. This school has a far better academic program in the K-5th grade than any other local school. And we really wanted our girls going there.

Or so I thought.

You ever go to a place and immediately catch a vibe that is off putting? You know, no one has done or said anything to you, but you are extremely uncomfortable there. This school did that to me. And when the administration began talking to us and explaining that no, only D#2 was being tested, my uneasiness was confirmed. These ladies were beyotches.

The school D#1 is currently attending, conversely, is full of amazingly nice people. The first time I went there, I was amazed at how comfortable I felt walking its halls. Everyone there makes an effort to be nice to you. It's pleasant.

I should make this point now, I am not going to let my inner comfort levels decide where my children go to school. That is, not unless I could put a significant name to why I feel uncomfortable. But D#1 will be going into the excellerated program next year if she stays in her current school. And I really don't want the girls going to different schools. Right now anyway.

I'm torn. I'm thinking we're going to wait and see if any more slots come open and D#1 can get into the magnet school too. But if not, we're putting D#2 into the same school as D#1.

Any suggestions?

Weekend whining

Somebody has to have done something interesting this weekend. But it certainly wasn't me.

I flushed my car's cooling system and washed both my car and van. Woo-hoo! Lots of homework. Yippee! And laundry. Oh my!

So. Anyone do anything of note or am I setting a trend here?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Steve Zahn is the luckiest SOB of this decade...

Image hosting by Photobucket... maybe the past 100 years or so.

I have always liked Steve Zahn. His brand of goofy coolness is very appealing. This story, however, has shot him into the land of legend. He is a god among men.

UPDATE: The link I had up died, here's the story in full:

Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz in steamy threesome
Friday March 10 2006 16:57 IST

LONDON: Most men would have loved to be in actor Steve Zahn's shoes the day he shot a scene with both Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz in the movie 'Bandidas', for he was treated to a threesome with the lovely Latinas in it.

Zahn, who plays a lawyer in the movie which stars Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek as robbers in a Mexican frontier town trying to flee the law, said that his wildest dreams had come true when his co-stars tied him to a bed and teased him to get his help.

"I thought I'd died and gone to heaven," The Sun quoted him, as saying.

Certified Barista

I don't know what this has to do with coffee, but congratulations Tracey!

Because I’m All About the Guitar Pt. 20: Lenny Kravitz

Image hosting by PhotobucketEverybody goes through phases in life. There is usually something that helps punctuate those phases or the transition from one point to another. Maybe a favorite song or a frequented coffee house that served as both a landmark for our memory and a catharsis for the transition.

After I graduated from high school, the music scene was meandering. Heavy metal was getting played out and the old-school ‘70s and early ‘80s punk I adored was beginning its co-opting to pop thanks to bastards like Green Day. Grunge was just beginning to permeate our conscious minds and everywhere I looked I couldn’t find solid musical ground to stand on.

Then, although I had heard him plenty of times before, I discovered Lenny Kravitz. I mean, for what seemed like the first time, I felt his music. It was poignant, meaningful and wonderful.

I’m not sure I can articulate what Lenny Kravitz sticks out (or, stuck out – more on that later) from other bands. He’s not the first musician to rehash late-‘60s to mid-‘70s rock. Nor will he be the last. But something about his attitude in his music, something he translates well into his recordings. His music isn’t original, in fact, it’s probably more derivative than most other popular rock. But that attitude pushes his music to you, makes you pay attention to it.

There was something raw in his presentation. There was something primal in his music. There was something interesting in his words. It all worked together to make me pay attention to what he did. That and it was all catchy. Good choice of chord progressions and melodies.

His first three albums held me rapt. They filled a short void. There is also something special about Lenny that made me pick up my guitar again. I had put it down to concentrate on vocals for a while (damn me) and never fully recovered. But I did pick it up again, thankfully. Also, when Are You Gonna Go My Way? came out, it was my car’s theme song (I had a huge Ford Custom 500 – the car just seemed to purr that song).

Something happened after AYGGMW. Circus charted well, but that was mostly due to his previous popularity. It sucked. Just nothing touched you like before. To steal an overused euphemism, it was phoned in. Then 5 came out and I gave up on Lenny. There was simply nothing that was redeemable off of it. His cover of American Woman? Horrible. Painfully so.

I haven’t really listened to anything of his since then, but I’ve heard something on the radio here and there. Seems like the past couple of years might have seen a return to his earlier work – the work that made us love him. But I can’t say this with any authority. And honestly, I felt so burnt by Circus and 5 that I don’t know if I even want to find out.

Lastly, I want to point out that regardless of how much I didn’t like his later albums, I really appreciate Kravitz’s use of many brands of guitar. Though we see him play a Gibson Flying V most often, he doesn’t have any brand loyalty. You see him playing Fender, Gibson, Mosrite and Ibanez. That is really cool.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Idol liveblog ... sorta

UPDATE: Paul at Wizbang! is looking into his crystal ball.

I'm writing this at commericials while viewing the show ...

Good Lord, Bo Bice sucked.

Kinnik is the first to go. Can't say I'm surprised. I really thought she'd get the lowest votes. However, her performance of the song today is great. The best performance she's given -- ever. Is she sang like this all the time, she might not be going home.

Will's going home too. The only surprise here is that he had lower votes than Kevin. His song sucked again.

What a suck ass commercial break. I knew it'd be down to Ayla and Melissa, just let us know dammit!

Wow! I thought America would get sucker punched by Ayla's cute-factor, but Melissa's going on! I'm very happy about that as she's a personal favorite.

Ayla's crying. First time I've seen her show her age. She is truly amazing though. I think we'll see her again in the future. Her emotion is really effecting her song though ... the cracking voice is kind of killing it.

She pulled it out though, like the competitor she is. Now, let's get Kevin off the friggin' show.

Kevin stays! Damn! Damn them!

America voted ... Gedeon is booted. Well, three out of four ain't bad.

I really, really thought Kevin would be gone. Oh well.

What I really find interesting about this show is the contrast between immediate opinion versus America's voice concerning other pop stars. Sometimes our memories are short and our opinions fickle. With regular pop stars, we speak via record sales. These guys really have to work hard to both give a good performance AND be likeable. Part popularity contest, part talent show. I can't believe how caught up in this I've become. Very good TV, I think.

Duct tape doesn’t solve all problems Pt. 3: Finally, where all this is going

Parts one and two are below this. Read them first.

One such rifle range occurred shortly after the battalion and our PAD returned from the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. Army units deploy to Fort Irwin to “play war” against the opposing forces there. It’s armor-based training in the middle of the desert.

Getting units’ equipment to NTC is accomplished a couple of different ways. Generally, most the vehicles and equipment containers are rail loaded. That is, they are driven onto train cars and then transported out there. There are circumstances where equipment is flown out, but that is very rare. What is more common, if equipment needs to get out more quickly than the rail, or if it misses the rail, it is line hauled -- loaded on flat-bed tractor trailers and driven out.

The one, and only time I went to the NTC, we had less than two weeks to prepare and go. We were an afterthought and we had to jump through hoops to get out there. To get our equipment out there in time, we line-hauled our two HMMWVs. This is the lesson of the story: if you are in the military, or if you ever have occasion to haul a vehicle with canvass tops across the country, take off the freaking canvass!

When we got to NTC, one HMMWV was missing the rear cargo-area canvass and had substantial damage to the front, passenger-area canvass. Either the canvasses weren’t secured for travel or the wind just picked up a weak area … they got ripped up.

Image hosting by PhotobucketSo, back at Polk, weeks later, we’re having to do all this tactical travel in HMMWVs that aren’t technically able to be used. We had cannibalized the best canvasses onto one vehicle, but during the course of NTC, the front canvass ripped at the front, just above the windshield – see the circled area of the photo. However, we had to get out to the range for our one day of shooting. A soldier’s mind can be a dangerous thing; we had to work with what we had and ripped canvass met camouflaged duct tape and the military’s version – 100-mile-an-hour tape.

Picture this: Five soldiers at 5 a.m. doing their pre-combat checks for all the appropriate gear, weapons, MREs and freaking tape. It was a mess. A big, honking, aggressive, intimidating military vehicle with a huge mass of green and camouflage duct tape all over the top.

Driving to Alexandria from Polk takes about an hour in a civilian vehicle, so it takes about an hour-and-a-half in a military vehicle. About half-way there, the tape begins to lift. “Um, Specialist J*, could you hold down the canvass so it doesn’t fly up,” I holler, because you can barely hear shit in a HMMWV under the best of circumstances. We wound up pulling over and taping it down again. It barely made it.

While at the range, we reapply tape liberally. It looks ridiculous. I take the opportunity to point this out to the maintenance sergeant there who is supposed to be ordering new canvass for my HMMWVs.** He shrugs it off. He is still a bastard in my eyes.

We all shoot. We all qualify. We get ready to leave and pick up an addition passenger – a senior-ranking NCO. I was driving; I didn’t want any of my soldiers to have to worry about the canvass.

Halfway home, that senior NCO and I kept a hand on the canvass. The freakin’ tape just couldn’t hold the shit down.

I first began telling this story to relate a humorous “Ha ha, we had to drive a lot holding down canvass, how funny,” kind of story. It turned into a lot more because I realize that this event means a lot more to me and serves as an allegory for military service.

Sometimes your shit looks like it’s ready to go, and it’s not. Sometimes your shit isn’t mission capable, but you make it work anyway. Sometimes you just need a hand.

*Oddly enough, she shared my last name (by marriage) and her home town is within an hour’s drive of my family’s stomping grounds, but her family is no relation.

** Which never arrived during his stay. He moved to another installation long before we got our canvasses – over a year after we returned from NTC.

Duct tape doesn’t solve all problems Pt. 2: Getting closer

Part one is below this. Read it first. Okay. A LOT longer than I expected. There will be a part 3.

A PAD has a lot of equipment assigned to them to help them achieve their mission. They have the computers, cameras, editing systems and related accoutrements. There are supplies, tents, field desks, chairs and all that mundane stuff you don’t ever think about until you have to plan such an expedition. They also have vehicles and trailers, etc. to transport said equipment and personnel on the battlefield.

For most Army journalists, a PAD is their only real experience with combat-like training. (Ed. More correctly: Every soldier gets combat training every so often. What I mean to say is that this is a PAO soldier's only experience being in a combat-ready unit of other PAO soldiers. They may be assigned to combat units individually, but they'll never have the experience of a PAD -- getting the equipment ready, etc.) They have to stay on top of their assigned gear and their deployment equipment. But, most PADs tend to have a daily mission supporting the installation Public Affairs Office that takes a lot of time away from combat mission-related training. There aren’t a lot of PADs in the Army. Most journalists spend a good bit of time assigned to installation PAO shops where all they do is work on the newspaper or broadcast products and have that seldom-seen relationship with the company as I was talking about earlier.

Some PADs have really good relationships with the installation where they are assigned. Some don’t. The 11th PAD falls, or fell (as I have no idea how they are now) into the latter category. The problem is, is that with a commander and NCOIC, they have a detachment rating. Which means they are treated as a company-level element, but they don’t really have the personnel to support company-level activity. They should be attached to a full-size company or detachment and that company should assist the PAD in personnel and equipment issues. This relationship should be administrative only. The company and battalion supporting the PAD shouldn’t get into the business of running the PAD. BUT, it’s inevitable that these things are going to happen.

At Fort Polk, while I was there, we were attached to the 142nd Corps Support Battalion whose mission is primarily quartermaster and maintenance. At the time, they had a battalion commander who was very interested in getting in the business of all his companies, administratively attached or no. Basically, we had to start attending all battalion training meetings and perform all their training activities also.

In ways this was good. In ways this was bad. It was bad in that it took us away from supporting the post PAO and from giving the journalists training and experience in doing their public affairs mission. It was good in that it caused us to become far more battle focused. That is, we became far more familiar with our combat and field equipment, loading and unloading the equipment into vehicles and preparing ourselves for deployment.

As “Army training” is concerned, I learned more about how the Army works and how it is supposed to work in my last two years in the Army than I did in the eight proceeding. This is due in large part to our detachment commander, a major, who was a former armor officer. He knew all this stuff and forced me to learn it. He was an asshole. But it was baptism by fire and I learned tons.

The reason Maj. Mike was so influential in us actually learning stuff is because he insulated us, in large parts, from the BS that went on at the battalion. Their exercises and such tended to be cluster effs. We participated but at the same time did our own thing relevant to our mission.

One of the biggest clusters the battalion did quarterly was the rifle range. Every soldier has to qualify at least semi-annually with the M-16 and any subsequently assigned weapons, such as the M-9 pistol, the M-249 SAW, the M-24 sniper rifle, etc. Since soldiers had to this, the battalion took it as a training opportunity to take care of several requirements.

While there were several ranges on Fort Polk, the battalion decided to have its ranges at Camp Beauregard, an Army Reserve installation in Alexandria, LA. This allowed the battalion to perform a load exercise of their equipment, a tactical convoy to Beauregard and they would do the Common Test Training and Testing while there. This quarterly excursion would last three or four days. Sounds good on paper, but the execution was always, and I mean ALWAYS, a mess. Things didn’t happen when they were supposed to happen. Soldiers were running around not aware of what to do. Soldiers were running around intentionally not doing what they were supposed to do. Soldiers were running around doing things in private that they weren’t supposed to be doing. Again, it was a cluster.

So, these quartermaster and maintenance units, whose jobs were also their daily missions, would do all this stuff and it was pretty easy for them. However, those of us who were attached to the battalion, my unit, Finance, and the Personnel Services Branch were kind of ass out. We had daily missions and couldn’t really afford to take off for the majority of a week just to qualify with our weapons. So, generally, we had to cut deals that we would drive out for one day and return that evening. The catch was that we had to drive our tactical vehicles, HMMWVs and the like, and couldn’t drive regular government-owned, civilian-style vehicles.

Duct tape doesn’t solve all problems Pt. 1: The set-up

This turned out to be really long, so I am separating it into two parts. This first part is an explanation and set-up for the second part, which is the actual meat of the story I want to tell.

The military has two kinds of jobs: combat arms, combat-geared tactical jobs and non-tactical jobs. The difference being that the tactical, combat-related jobs live, eat and breathe their work. Their company is their job. Their first sergeant and company commander are also their bosses.

Non-tactical guys belong to a company also, but only for administrative issues. The first sergeants and company commanders only see their troops at formations and company-related activities. These troops have jobs at different places on the installation that, in the majority of circumstances, the company has no control over. Many of these troops work for DoD civilians.

This is pertinent for a couple of reasons. Combat arms guys are always working together. Working with the people they will go to war with. Building teams and bonds that will get them through the stress that is a combat deployment. They are also constantly working with their gear, checking their vehicles, weapons and weapon systems, and performing plans and exercises to test their systems, gear and personnel. This is their job – staying ready for war. It doesn’t matter if it’s infantry, combat engineers or chemical/biological defense, these guys are constantly working as though the flag could go up at any time. Now that the flag has been up, their training takes added enthusiasm.

The combat arms troop is the bread winner of the military. They are the guys that the rest of the military is there to support. So, in contrast, most of the REMFs (yes, I was one) don’t practice their common combat-geared skills often. They are required to go out and qualify with their weapon every so often, they have to pass a physical fitness test and they have to pass a test of common military skills regularly (quarterly in the Army). But generally, they go and do their daily support missions. There is no way they are as practiced or as ready as a combat arms troop, or someone who is assigned to a combat arms unit. They simply don’t get enough practice.

While stationed at Fort Polk, I was in the closest unit to combat arms that a Public Affairs pogue can come – a Public Affairs Detachment. A PAD is an eight-person team comprised of a commander, noncommissioned officer in charge (E-6 or 7), a public affairs NCO (E-5), three print journalists and two broadcast journalists (all E-1 to E-4). Their mission is to deploy in support of operations around the world and produce command information products (print and broadcast) for troops in theater and in the rear. That means, the PAD should do a local newspaper or newsletter. They should post this on the web or distribute it electronically. They should also be sending out press releases to international and DoD media. They may also be responsible for escorting and credentializing civilian media in theater. Broadcast journalists may be operating radio or TV stations or providing said products to the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service for distribution around the world.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Idol disappointment

Update: Dean's a little nicer than me.

Wow. What a waste guys. Not a single stand out performance. Based solely on the strength of their performances tonight, any of these guys could be going home. The show wasn't even that entertaining tonight. Very disappointed.

However, based on previous feelings and attachments we know that Taylor, Chris, Ace and Elliot are safe. I mean, they all gave passable performances, but they either chose the wrong song or delivered a lackluster performance. I thought Taylor gave the best showing, and I liked his song choice, but something was off.

As for who's going home, I'm almost certain that Kevin is on his way out. My next choice is between Will or Gedeon. They both kind of freak me out for one reason or another. Bucky may be in there also, but he was in the passable range tonight also.

I can run!

Well, I can jog slowly, actually. For those of you who haven't been reading my blog long, or just don't pay attention, I have only recently started exercising and getting back in shape. Allow me to put this into a little bit of perspective for everyone.

Two years ago, when I was in the Army, I could still run. Not well, mind you, but enough to still call it running. That changed the day I went on terminal leave. I haven't so much as looked hard at a gym in two years.

My decision to diet and exercise has followed a somewhat haphazardous plan. I started with diet and very slight exercise. Enough so that I don't even consider myself having started exercising until I started going to the gym last week.

Near the beginning of this initiative -- say, three or four weeks ago -- I tried to run. I woke up early one day with the intent of doing a slow, very short run. I went MAYBE 100 yards. I mean, it was not lack of desire, I simply experienced total body failure.

Last week I began a serious workout plan at my gym. I am currently focusing on cardio to both build endurance and lose weight. I am doing 45 minutes of cardio and a slight ab workout Mon., Wed., and Fri. I am doing 30 min of slow cardio focusing on muscle-building, reverse-progams and then weight training on Nautilus machines on Tues. and Thurs. It's been going well the all of one-and-a-half weeks I've been doing it.

I threw my back out on Monday. I rested really well Monday evening and took yesterday off exercising and pretty much chilled out. Today I planned to do a very light workout on the elliptical or a walking pace on the treadmill. I don't know what was up today, but every freakin' machine in the place was in use. Normally, when I get there after work, I can count the number of people in the fitness center on one hand. No more than two. Today it was packed. I decided to bite the bullet and just go run.

It was easier than I thought it'd be. I can't believe how much more of a workout real running (well, slow jogging) is compared to a machine. Covering real ground versus digital miles is so much more rewarding. I am ecstatic, hence the long post.

Thanks for supporting me in this guys.

Lessons learned

As most of my 'net friends know, I am attempting to lose weight and get in better shape. There are pros and cons to this. Over the past week-and-a-half, here are some lessons I've learned or, at least, were refreshed.

Lesson #1: It's amazing how quickly your body responds to exercise if you push yourself at a decent rate. I started my gym routine on an elliptical runner, 45 minutes, level 1, flat rate. And it nearly KILLED ME. By Friday I was running random hill programs, 45 minutes at level 8 and it was a good workout.

Lesson #2: While your body responds postively to stimuli, it will also respond negatively. For example, if you have a back prone to going out of whack, it's going to do so.

Lesson #3: I prefer plain old ibuprofin to naproxen sodium. Growing up a military dependent, I was given Motrin for every ache and pain. A few years of military service provided the same. Then one day, naproxen sodium came into my life and I thought it was a Godsend. But, based on recent comparisons, ibuprofin is my preferred pain killer for back pain. Naproxen sodium is still the king for headaches though.

Lesson #4: There is no entree I can think of that is not improved by a liberal dose of hot sauce. This is, of course, not a recent lesson learned, but something that bears repeating often.

Welcome back!

The Shape of Days is up after a short hiatus. Jeff has posted all the entries he wrote while his site was down, and (like I need to say this) they are great. Especially this one.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Again with the Idol

UPDATE: Dean has now got his thoughts up.

Tonight the ladies kicked it up a couple of notches, in comparison to last week. But, there was something lacking in most of the performances. Paris seemed ... flat, or just too comfortable in the role she's made for herself. I have no doubts that she'll continue to next week, but she needs to really challenge herself soon or she may not see many more weeks. Especially when they combine the girls and guys.

The best performance tonight, bar none, was Mandisa's version of I'm Every Woman. She loves the song, you can tell. She just owned it. Very good, very good. I'm not sure I agreed with Randy's "best performance this season" assesment, but it was very good.

Second best ... I think probably Kellie Pickler. She sang Melissa Etheridge's I'm the Only One and did it very well. She didn't have the second best sounding voice of the evening -- or third or fourth for that matter -- but she did have the second best performance. She just sucks your attention to her. Very watchable. If you're not young enough to lust after her, you either feel like she's your little sister or daughter. She's so disarming. I don't know that that'll be enough to carry her to the end, but she's sailing past tonight.

My picks for who's leaving: I am certain that Kinnik Sky is leaving. Unfortunate because I really liked her personality; she just hasn't delivered the goods since finals. Second choice ... that's a bit harder. I believe it's between Melissa McGhee and Ayla Brown. While I really like Melissa's voice and would love to hear some more songs from her, she's probably going to be the one voted off. I think Ayla's got more universal appeal and is just too likeable.


Wizbang! continues to rock

The commentors at Wizbang! are consistently interesting, amusing and thought provoking. Recently I have been reading Kim Priestap's stuff and she is doing amazing stuff.

Her recent post about the Oval Office carpet is dead on. She is now a permanent commentor at Wizbang! and posts weekly updates at her original blog. Make sure to pay attention to her stuff, it's great.

Monday, March 06, 2006

An Academy Award post

I only caught bits of the show last night, but anything I would write was best said here.

Great excerpt:

Hollywood is often accused of being "out of touch with mainstream America," as Jon Stewart said during his opening monologue. He specifically pointed out that "this town is too liberal," joking that it's "a moral black hole where innocence is obliterated." As George Clooney pointed out while accepting the Oscar for best supporting actor, Hollywood's progressiveness often means that its films have often led the country before it changes for the better.

The real way that Hollywood is out of touch has to do with its inability to laugh at itself, and the Academy Awards are the best example. Films are important, whether they are everlasting works of art or audience-pleasing thrillers. As Jon Stewart demonstrates every Monday through Thursday evening, appreciating something's consequence and weight while laughing at it is possible, just maybe not for an audience that is too caught up in its biggest moment.

Difficult weekend

I had an arm-length "Honey Do" list this weekend and I didn't accomplish any of it.

The two major items on said list were to clean our mini-van (three kids, even one being an infant, are rough on a vehicle) and run a radiator flush through my car. I woke up Saturday morning intent on getting those two things knocked out. Still getting the groggy out of me, I logged onto my computer to check mail, etc. That's when the weekend went downhill.

My computer decided it no longer wanted to talk to me. The keyboard was refusing to act in a civil manner and the mouse was all out of sorts. Initially, I was able to run my anti-virus and anti-spy ware programs, but to no avail -- the computer's ailment just kept getting worse. To the point that it would only boot up about 1 time in 5.

I ran through every diagnostic I could, checked everything I know how to check and came to the conclusion that whatever the problem was, was beyond my ability to fix. So I was faced with a couple of choices: Pay someone to diagnose it, buy a new system. Well, we're not a large area and most computer places aren't open on weekends (and because of school and my wife's things we really can't have our computer down very long). The only places that were open charge around $70 just to look at the thing. Then you have to worry about getting parts and if you can do the work or have to pay them to do it. OR, just pay a bit more and get a new system. I did the latter. I was able to cannibalize most of the parts from my old computer: ram, DVD burner, and the old hard drive.

I slaved the old drive and pulled our old information from it and reformatted the thing. I believe that the processor was going out on our old computer, but I don't know this for a fact. Anyway, it took me almost two whole days to do my diagnosing, part hunting, giving up and buying and then reinstalling/setting up. Hopefully I'll get to some of that Honey Do during the week.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Because I'm All About the Guitar Pt. 19: Is it guitar or is it Korg?

I am a fan of progressive rock. I love bands that consist of great musicians playing great music at breakneck paces. Odd chord choices and interesting scale progressions are my cup of tea.

A common theme is making one instrument sound like another, or mimicking other sounds. My favorite band, Dream Theater, is big on this with guitarist John Petrucci and keyboardist Jordan Rudess sharing solos. So, I've decided to post a fun little challenge, can you tell which solo is guitar and which is keyboard:

Clip 1
Clip 2
Clip 3
Clip 4
Clip 5

Answers are in the box, highlight text inside to see the answers.

Clip 1: Keyboard
Clip 2: Keyboard
Clip 3: Guitar
Clip 4: Both
Clip 5: Guitar

Let me know how you did.

Previous installments:
Part 18: A beautiful guitar;
Part 17: Getting all amped up over the sound;
Part 16: Not quite plug and play;
Part 15.25: Don't let Gibson buy your company;
Part 15: The greatest guitarist you've never heard of;
Part 14: The finish;
Part 13: Vernon Reid;
Part 12: The vibrato tremolo;
Part 11: Jimmy Page;
Part 10: What's in the wood?;
Part 9: Rebuilding a guitar;
Part 8: G3 2005;
Part 7: John Petrucci;
Part 6: Chingon;
Part 5: Home recording on the cheapity cheap;
Part 4.01: Guitar Zen;
Part 4: Full service Friday -- concert going in 1993;
Part 3.5: Gretsch guitars;
Part 3: The Reverend Horton Heat;
Part 2: Back when I thought I could play;
Part 1: Zakk Wylde then and now

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Idol ruminations revisited: Hicks and Daughtry kick ass

Well, the guys did better than the girls, but there were still some poor song choices and it was lackluster in comparison to last week. However, my favorties, Taylor Hicks and Chris Daughtry brang down the house.

I was shocked by the judges' comments for Hicks. I thought his song choice was perfect for him and they berated him for not showing out. I just don't get these guys sometimes. Meanwhile, Daughtry closed the show with a huge rock and roll number. The very best volcal performance was by Elliot Yamin, but he lacks the stage presence and overall likeability of Hicks or Daughtry.

Dean disagrees with me on a couple of issues.

It was difficult, but I was able to cast votes for both my favorites. Who do you think's going home?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Defining yourself

Cullen --

Extremely extreme!

'How will you be defined in the dictionary?' at

h/t Rob.

More Idol ruminations

I agree with Dean, last night's American Idol episode was the worst of the season.

With three exceptions, the ladies made very poor song choices. Melissa McGhee, Kellie Pickler, and Mandisa were the only ones who picked decent songs and gave enjoyable performances. I disagree with Dean, in that I think Melissa gave the best performance. She got my vote last night, but I was also going to try and cast one for Kellie. American must really love that girl because the phone lines were busy for a solid 30 minutes on her line. I gave up without ever getting through.

Based on this episode, I truly believe that a guy is going to pull off this year's contest. Not just becuase I think Taylor Hicks is awesome, but because the overall talent pool with the guys is much greater.

Speaking of Hicks, don't forget to log in your choice of song in my post below this one.