Thursday, April 26, 2007

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SCOTT!!

Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday dear Scott!! Happy Birthday to you!

*use extreme caution when open mailbox/packages a piece of cake may or may not be on its way to greet you!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Russian Circles [live]


(thanks for the pic, Ryan Russell)

So I thought I was getting pretty tired of indie rock. And then last night happened.

Brief rundown, bear with me. Actually, first click the link. And stream the albums of The Narrator, The Race, and Russian Circles. (just hit cancel when it asks for a password or whatev). Really, do it.

So now it can be like you were at the concert last night. Good. Only with just 5% of the number of people in the room. Yeah. Thanks Legends for not letting us (the radio station) take credit for that concert. Maybe we would have, I don't know, gotten people there. Whatever, it didn't matter. These bands, from Flameshovel Records, still rocked hard.

I was late for The Narrator. The lead singer, Jesse, I've met before when he stepped in as bassist for Chin Up Chin Up. I was late for their set, only heard three really good songs; less quirky Guided By Voices. Best was the last, a campfire singalong 'All the Tired Horses'. Oh yeah, Jesse owns Flameshovel. I congratulated him later on in the night for the bands on his label.

Up next was The Race. These guys jumped genres so fast it would make your head spin, and everything sounded great. I was ready to pin them down as Sigur Ros making dance music a la The Rapture, and then Joy Division trying to play R.E.M. songs, and then it was Nirvana meets The Who. It was awe-inspiring to see them play so well from so few kids, play just for the music and the few of us who were dancing.

Russian Circles. I don't know what to say. Do you like Explosions in the Sky? Of course you do. Think them (instrumental rock grandeur), much harder (more metal), much more intuitive (still with the desire to slow things down once and a while, which the audience needed, badly). The first band that popped in my mind as a comparison was Pelican, and I guess Pitchfork agrees. I have seen some great guitar rock shows. My Morning Jacket, Built to Spill, Yo La Tengo. This was the most blown away I've ever been. My hands were in my hair the entire time. Most of my DJs fled due to the volume (not Betsy! oh freshmen) so I watched them with my old music director Ryan, who works for Flameshovel. He said they were the best live show he'd ever seen too. And he's seen more shows than God.

I think at this point I need to, for journalistic integrity, admit to one of Ben's rare nights of imbibing. The DJs had an iPowerHour (one minute song clips) and I got there half an hour late and had to do doubles, plus the obligatory one for the road. So I wouldn't judge you if you take this review (written the next morning) with a grain of salt.

Side Story:
Ryan's Dad (this fifty year old guy was so pumped for this band, I hope I'm that cool in 30 years) hands me a beer at the end of the show. I set it down for a second to get money to buy a sweatshirt. (Normally I'm not a big merch guy, but this was a religious experience). And I get carded. Poker face goes on. Card goes to cop. Card comes back to Ben. Ben makes a getaway. It was tense.
End Side Story

So I was so pumped by these three guys and their looping, beautiful, brutal, soul-saving rock 'n roll that I had to meet all three of them. Nicest guys in the world. They said they'd love to come back, and I promised more people. I met two of them while wearing their sweatshirt. Cute or pathetic? Pathetic. Also met The Race's lead guy, Craig I think. Told him we were spinning his disc hard. He really wanted to talk.

In summation, and to paraphrase an article Paste's best writer had in the last issue (Modest Mouse cover), every night there is some band in town that will rock your reproductive organs off and remind you why you love music. Keep going.

Rating (The Race): mMmGravy/MMGravy
Rating (Russian Circles): mMMGravy/mMMmGravy

Sorry Narrator, I love you guys too.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Doug Goes to Guatemala (Quailman Makes Mysterious Appearance, Eats Twenty Fajitas)

Okay, I know this is ridiculously late, and I’d say that I had a good reason for the delay, but let’s be honest, I don’t. I’m lazy, y’all know that. So, anyway, for those of you who don’t know, I went to Guatemala with the Cornell Catholic Community (a dismal, sorry excuse for a “community,” but what are you going to do? We are the “Godless University, after all…”). Guatemala was… well, poor… as this was a service trip, we went to the crappy, not-touristy part of the country, and saw how people actually live.



Live they barely do, Tiny, one-room houses made out of sticks, hiking many miles up a mountain to farm their tiny parcel of land, eating nothing but tortillas and beans day in and day out. The service I did was mainly survey out land (“surveying” here means hiking around the perimeter of an arbitrarily shaped section of forest with a GPS and climbing trees to get a signal) and building stoves so that the women do not have to cook on a dirt floor. These are brick stoves, by the way, not like ovens or anything. Granted, we mostly got in the way when we “built” the stoves, and the Guatemalan who was supervising us had to redo everything we did, so I decided to play with the village kids instead. I was kinda boring until I realized that I can pick them up and spin them over my head, but after being sick and not sleeping the night before, I tired easily.



Exchange rates are awesome, and I brought a bona fide tienda back with me. So much stuff… so cheap and so Hispanic…. Just like Ian! Also, really amazing coffee… dark and strong… just like…Ian! (Sorry for the horrible joke, but I haven’t seen Ian in oh-so-long…) It is all humanitarian and stuff, so that’s sweet. The farmers actually get a decent, livable wage, which helps them make realllly good coffee. One of the things that I took away from the whole thing is a profound respect for the Church and those that serve in it. The priest there, Fr. Greg, has done so much for the community, it’s ridiculous. For instance, concerning the land that I was surveying, the mission raised the money and bought the land for the people. If the church wasn’t involved, and say, the government did it for them, violence would break out, driving the poor off the land. Only through the Church can any progress be made in peace. The country is beautiful, you just need to make sure you aren’t looking at anything that shows any evidence of human activity, ‘cause the cities and stuff are mostly dirty and poor. Anyway, had a good time, and apparently I was such a good Catholic that the Community is sending me to France at the end of May, so while I WILL BE HOME FOR SUMMER, I may not be in PDX until mid-June, as I’ll probably go from school to Bend to Paris.




PS: The weather was absolutely amazing. Especially considering that it’s snowing right now. Yes, snowing. Over a foot in mid-April. Ithaca is *******

Monday, April 16, 2007

GRINDHOUSE Double Feature - PLANET TERROR and DEATH PROOF

Movie theater prices getting you down? Hard to justify $8-$10 for a weekend night movie? Plus soda, parking, transportation, whatever else? Here are two movies that will absolutely one-hundred percent give you your money’s worth and then some. On their own, they’d still deliver the bang for your buck, but together? A steal.

I should advise you that no one anywhere is really prepared for these movies. The first one is the single goriest (hey, it IS a word) movie I’ve ever seen, ever, and the second is…honestly, it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and if you think the first will in any way prepare you for the second, you’re wrong.

A brief history lesson. In the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, there was a rise in low-budget films that came out that didn’t have the star power or budgets to attract viewers, so instead they used mass amounts of violence and sex to draw audiences in. These movies would travel around the country and be shown in crap-ass theaters popularly known as Grindhouses. In the process of their travels, the movies would get beat to all hell, frames would end up missing (usually due to projectionists cutting out the best violence and sex and putting together their own reel), and before long entire reels would be just be gone.

This double-feature is Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk 'Till Dawn, Desperado, Sin City) and Quentin Tarantino’s (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill) attempt to make something in that genre. And while they deliver on the feel of those old movies, neither really fit the mold. But that might just be because they actually had a budget.

Planet Terror, Rodriguez’s contribution, is silly in all the ways that made the second half of Dusk 'Till Dawn so great, and at times it sort of abandons the concept and turns into a sort of parody of the genre it’s trying to fit into. But it’s entertaining as hell, surprisingly tense, and the true test for stomach power (I’m not a squeamish man at the movies, but there were one or two moments that tested that). But there’s a great ensemble here, with Freddy Rodriguez (who I know best as Carla’s brother on Scrubs) and Rose McGowan taking point, and rather well. Rodriguez (Freddy) in particular surprised me; it’s a very physical role, and he kicks all kinds of ass. A series of geek-cred actors show up throughout the film (and Bruce Willis!) and they’re all completely great. The action is insane, the blood and guts aplenty, and the acting just on the edge of shitty and kick-ass.

Death Proof is a whole ‘nother story, and if I must compare the two (screw that, you’re kinda forced into it), I liked it a LOT more. After Planet Terror, the promise of “a slasher flick with a car instead of a knife” would lead one to think it’d all be Kurt Russell driving around running people over. But instead, Tarantino delivers an honest-to-goodness movie. There’s not nearly as MUCH action as Planet Terror, but when the action starts up, it’s ten times as tense and awesome as anything in Terror. Kurt Russell is just insane as Stuntman Mike, the slasher, and everyone in the cast (who, aside from the always-hot-and-awesome Rosario Dawson, even I’ve never heard of) is pretty great. Well, sort of. I mean, none of the women (besides Mike, all of the main characters are women) really handle Tarantino’s dialogue as well as we’ve been accustomed to (Russell is VERY good, but there’s no performance that you could point to as comparison to Sam Jackson, John Travolta, Michael Madsen, Uma Thurman, David Carradine, or any of those other’s performances of Tarantino past), but they’re alive and exciting enough to watch, even though a lot of this movie is just girls sitting around talking. A LOT. But like I said, when that action hits, it HITS, and if you’re onboard with me in thinking Kill Bill was a sign that Tarantino can actually direct the hell out of an action scene, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

The movie also has an amazing soundtrack, probably the best he’s thrown together since Pulp Fiction, and I cannot stop listening to a song called “Hold Tight” by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich that comes at this amazing point at the movie (I can’t spoil it for you, but if you’re watching the movie and you find it “talky,” fear not for it WILL pay off).

And still, I’m more excited for the extended version of Death Proof than Planet Terror (there’s missing reels in both, but Death Proof feels like a LOT was cut from it besides just that, and the missing reel in Terror is one of the funniest parts). It’s not one of Tarantino’s best films (it might just be his worst, but that’s purely because all of his other work is so damn good). There are complaints, of course, about how self-indulgent it is, but Tarantino’s been self-indulgent practically since day one. Reservoir Dogs is still the tightest film he’s made, but as off-the-wall and self-obsessed as Kill Bill is, it’s still his best work. And Death Proof is sort of along those lines. The talky scenes go on for WAY too long, but by the time the action heats up, a) you don’t mind it, and b) it was all worth it in a way. And there’s a mention of Big Kahuna Burger than got a groan from the audience, but I dig that Tarantino’s created this little universe for his films to exist in when he so chooses (Jackie Brown being the only one that exists without).

Oh, and Death Proof has the best ending of any movie ever, ever, ever, EVER. It was so good I wanted to scream.

Still don’t think two 85-minute movies are worth your hard-earned cash? Before Planet Terror, there’s a fake trailer for a nonexistent movie called Machete that’s just hilarious. And in between the two films are three more fakes, directed by Rob Zombie (The Devil's Rejects), Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), and Eli Roth (Hostel). Wright’s is the best overall, and got the biggest laughs of the whole shebang, but Roth’s has the most gut-wrenching moment of the whole three-hour affair, and there’s a shot at the very end that lasts maybe half a second that will have you asking everyone around you (even if they’re strangers) if you just saw what you saw.

Anyway, if you can stomach it, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better use for $10 (probably less for those of you who don’t live in Boston, NY, or LA). It’s ridiculously entertaining, and…well, gosh, that’s really about it. Gather your friends, and hold on tight.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Top Five (Recess Games)

5. War Against the Girls
4. Four Square
3. Cylinderball
2. Prisonball
1. Kickball

Monday, April 09, 2007

Monday, April 02, 2007

Change of summer plans

I'll be unable to go on the hikes that we've been planning for this summer. As it is, I won't be able to do anything with you guys unless you're around in early to mid May, or around in mid to late September. Instead I will be in San Diego at the Marine Corp Recruit Depot, at Basic Training. My ship date is May 29th. I joined the Marine Corp Reserves on Friday the 30th, with plans to do split training, where I'll be gone during the summers being trained into a Marine Corp pilot. During the non-summer months I'll be at school. The delay in the posting of this information is simply due to April Fool's day. I didn't want people to write it off as a joke. Semper Fidelis.

PS. I'll pass on the hike info that I have to someone so that they can finish planning the hikes. I have a good start on the two main ones, and I will continue to assist the person in their planning process if needed.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Top Five (April Fool's Jokes)

5) Oreo shaped dog biscuits.
4) The ol' "porn DVD on a string" gag.
3) We are winning the War in Iraq!
2) JK Rowling is writing an 8th Harry Potter Book!
1) I'm Gay...