Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Sun Always Shines on T.V.: Top T.V. shows for me

Alright, it's obviously summer time and that means reruns. So let me share with you some of my favorite t.v. shows on the air right now.

1. Scrubs - Is there a better t.v. show on right now? The writing, acting, and directing is all top notch. I found this show in syndication on Comedy Central and in one the first episode I ever saw I laughed and cried within 10 minutes of each other. Not too many shows can say that. The never-ending story of J.D. and Elliot seems to be making another return for the last season (that's the rumor I read). The entire cast is great from J.D., to Turk, to even Ted, but my favorite has to be Dr. Cox. His sense of humor is great. I think we all wish that we could say the things he says at work. Here is a clip of some of his best season one moments.
Scrubs Homepage

2. Battlestar Galactica - Ok so if Scrubs is the best comedy on right now than BSG is the best drama on right now. Seriously, the "reimagining" of the classic 70's version is so good. If you were a fan of the original you need to forget everything. Characters have changed sexes, races, and some became Cylons. It took me a half of a season to let go of what I knew and that's when I started to really enjoy it. The bad news is that this show is going off the air after season four. I see this as a good thing, you don't want to have boring scripts and "jump the shark". For those who don't know the BG story follow the link. Now this is technically a sci-fi show, but last season most episodes didn't even leave the ship. The really crappy part is that the season finale was a while ago and we still have to wait until NEXT JANUARY FOR THE CONCLUSION!!!! BTW, there is a free video on Itunes that tells the story up to season 3.
Battlestar Galactica Homepage

3. Two and a Half Men - This show has kind of jumped the shark after Candi left, but it still has its moments. The chemistry that Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer is great. Once again, some great acting and writing going on here. Some of the stories have become more adult oriented as the show has progressed, but it is still very enjoyable. I think what's makes this show work for me is the interaction between the "does what's right brother" and the "do what I want brother". Throw in an ex-wife, grumpy maid, and a lazy son and you get a solid t.v. show.
Two and a Half Men Homepage

4. America's Funniest Homevideos (AFV) - ok this show needs no introduction. It's just a classic show. I never get tired of watching people get scared, falling off of bikes, crashing into just works. America is full of idiots so this could go on for a long time.
AFV Homepage

5. Pardon the Interuption - so this isn't technically a prime time show, it still is one of the best sports show out there. Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon discuss the day's sport stories and some celebrity gossip as well. To listen to sports guys talk about American Idol is pretty funny. The nice thing is that Tony is on Monday Night Football and Wilbon now does the NBA for ABC.
PTI Homepage

Honorable Mention:

The Batman
- yes the cartoon. Listen cartoons aren't for little kids anymore. I think it started with the Batman: The Animated Series back in the 1990's. The writing was more complicated and the artwork was darker. Well this version of Batman started out rough, almost like an anime style of Batman. In season 3, we got Batgirl. In season 4, we got Robin. now as a comic book nerd this pissed me off because everyone knows Robin came into the picture first. But I digress. At the end of season 4 we saw the introduction of the Justice League. Now this has peaked my interest because Justice League and Justice League Unlimited were two of my favorite shows of all time (more on them later). So I can't say where this Batman will rank. It is getting better so I will wait and see.
The Batman Homepage

Alright so those shows are still on. Next time I will look at my favorite shows that aren't on anymore.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Summer school & some random movie thoughts

ok so we are 2 weeks into summer school with 4 more to go. This pace is pretty crazy for me. I have never taught so fast...ever. The students are doing a great job of keeping up, but I am pretty worried about later chapters in the 2nd half. It is all brand new material. I give them a lot of credit though, 5 hours a day,a ton of homework every night, and tests pretty much every other day...that's tough. I don't know how many will pass or fail. I expect most if not all to pass 1st semester, but I can't say anything about 2nd...too early.

Ok so something you might/might not know about me is I am kinda nerdy/fanboy when it comes to movies/comics/etc. Two new movies are coming out this summer, Die Hard 4 & Transformers. I will talk about the latter later (how's that for a tongue twister?). As for DH4, seriously how can they make a Die Hard and have it rated PG-13? DH is a rate R movie...always has been always should be. For that reason alone I will probably never go see it. Listen Die Hard was a classic action movie. Tons of explosives, shootings, adult language, and humor...with a little love story for the women that had to see it. DH 2 was more of the same, except it was a total change of location. The thing I liked about DH 2 was that it was a stand alone movie, there were very few references to the first DH (minus the plane scenes). As for DH3...ugh this is were it jumped the shark. Now I love Sam Jackson (huge Star Wars fan remember?), but he killed it. McClane doesn't need a sidekick. To me it just smelled of cheap movie tactic. The only thing I did like about DH3 was the "fuull circle" approach from DH1...the whole brother thing. It was done perfectly. I saw the previews for DH4 and I see the wanna-be cheerleader guy from Dodgeball running around with McClane...that is even worse that Sam Jackson. A ton worse.

ohhh man, why did they do this? Seriously though it can't be as bad as the new transformers movie coming out. I will tackle that one later.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

In Flames - Come Clarity

Wow... 2 posts in one day!!! What is the world coming to? Anyway let me continue from this mornings In Flames post. First off, I kept quoting the "death metal" category because In Flames to me is Swedish Death Metal. They really started that whole sound. Now you will also see it as Gothenburg Metal, but for me Swedish Death metal.

Ok so I left off with their last two albums Reroute to Remain and Soundtrack to Your Escape. RtR was a huge experiment for the band after the successful Clayman. Despite what most fans think, I personally loved the album for it's daring change of style. Soundtrack to Your Escape kept some of the elements from RtR, but also mixed in some of the speed from earlier albums.

So last year they brought us Come Clarity. This album was a natural follow up to StYE. It continued to mix the styles, but with more of an emphasis on Clayman. Why? How about the return of the twin guitars, speed, and awesome solos...while keeping the vocal melody they started with RtR and StYE. When I first heard the single Take This Life I was floored. The intial speed and brutality was unmistakable, then the chorus was so beautiful it shocked the hell out of me. So what you get on this album is that perfect combination of Clayman's speed & solos with RtR/StYE melodies. The album on the whole is a very solid album, minus the sing-a-long Scream. There is also a female vocalist on one song, Dead End. It is a nice change of pace and she doesn't overshadow the rest of the band so it's not a big deal. In fact it's one of my favorite songs on the album.

In Flames' Myspace (Take This Life, Leeches, Come Clarity, A Touch of Red)

In first "death metal band"

Well after all of those depressing posts it's time to get back to work with what I always imagined this blog to be So a few days ago I mentioned how I had been listening to female fronted metal for awhile. Well as it would happen that day when I was working out I happened to listen to some In Flames (they have a song with a female guest vocalist on their latest album) and realized just how great of a band this is. So how did I find out about this band? To be honest I can't remember, but I do remember picking up Clayman for the first time. Check out that cover. Sweet. Now as I said this was my first "death metal band"...I really couldn't understand anything they said, but the music was awesome. It sounded like Iron Maiden on steroids. Twin guitars, beautiful solos, rapid drumming...just too awesome. The first song I heard from In Flames was Only for the Weak, this song is more of a mid-tempo metal song. So when I started listening to the rest of the album I was blown away.

Now when I started listening to In Flames, they had already released 2 more albums. I decided to look at some reviews to see what they thought. Reroute to Remain was the follow-up and most fans bashed it left and right as a nu-metal sell out album. Soundtrack to Your Escape was next, the reviews were a little bit better. But the common theme was that they couldn't match up with Clayman. Well I didn't pick up any of those albums until I was watching Headbanger's Ball and saw the video for A Touch of Red and My Sweet Shadow. Those songs were pretty solid and so I decided to bite the bullet and pick them up. As I listened to it, it sounded like a combination of Korn and Clayman. I defintely heard some nu-metal, but it wasn't all nu-metal. I was totally different than Clayman. So after enjoying that album I felt like I wanted to try Reroute to Remain. Highlights of Soundtrack to Your Escape include A Quite Place, A Touch of Red, My Sweet Shadow (my personal favorite), and Dead Alone.

Now RtR is defintely more nu-metal. But there is no rapping on it. The first time I listened to it, I turned it off and bashed it on some metal boards like everyone else. Now if I had to compare it to Metallica, I would say RtR is like Metallica's Load albums. They are solid albums, but they aren't metal like Metallica's albums. In fact, years later I find RtR to be one of my favorite In Flames albums. The mood is different. The twin guitars are gone, most of the solos are gone. There is more of an emphasis on song structure and melodies. There is even a super ballad...kind of a country feel to it. When I listen to this album now, I pretty much listen to it from start to finish. There isn't alot of filler on it. I think it's because the music is so different from everything else they have done it makes it more enjoyable. Hands down my favorite song on this album is Free Fall.

This has gotten pretty long...I think I will save their latest album for another day. But I will say this about it, it is more of a return to Clayman than RtR or Soundtrack.

In Flames' Myspace (Take This Life, Leeches, Come Clarity, A Touch of Red)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Lost Friends - Randal Schneider

Ok, so being that I met up with a friend that I hadn't seen in close to 11 years and we just had a graduating class go through it made me start thinking about never seeing students again. Now as I said before, this is the first class I got to know...3 years sharing drama, laughter, and sadness with them. And I will always be curious to see what happened to them. And it's this curiosity that makes me remember my friend Randal Schneider.

So let me set the stage, I have just transfered from Mt. Sac to Cal State Fullerton and am beginning all of my classes in my major. Now when you start in your major you have classes with a ton of people that you will see over and over again. It wasn't until my second class that I met Randal. We hit it off right away. We both liked alot of common things, computers, games, music, and of course Star Wars. Before I knew it, Randal was my best friend at school. We used to hang out on the weekends sometimes studying, most of the time screwing around making fun of some of the students that didn't understand the material. I remember one class we had in a computer lab, I sat there planning a trip to Laughlin via train. Well I was convinced a train had to stop in Laughlin, when I found out it went through it but didn't stop he sarcastically said I could jump out...of course I started laughing and our professor got upset. Laughing in class with Randal was a common theme. I can't count the number of times either he or I had to get up and leave class because we were crying from laughing so much. Or the semester he sat in on one of my classes because he had a break and didn't have anything else to do.

Now Randal was one of the smartest people I have ever met. Let me put it this way; he started out as an Engineering major, then decided to double major in Mathematics because they shared a bunch of classes. Then to top it off he was planning on doing a triple major with computer science... that's just insane. No matter what grade I got, he always got a higher grade. I remember the last class we had in summer school (Advanced Calculus) he had a solid A most of the summer, myself a solid C. We were laughing how this would be the 1st time I wouldn't get one grade lower...unless I pulled off an A+ on the final. Well, the two of us studied pretty hard for that test and he showed me some proofs that I had forgotten minutes before the test started. As luck would have it, those proofs were on the test. I ended up acing that damn final and got a B in the class. In the fall, my wife and I got married while I finished up my last semester. Randal was the only person from school I invited. He showed up, had a good time. We didn't have any classes that semester and we barely saw each other. Our friendship kinda ended on a whimper.

Now before you start saying, just look him up online...I have. I can't find that guy to save my life. He used to have a Prof Fink screen name (huge Simpsons, Futurama fan) and he changed it.

So what's the point? I always tell people don't become the next Randal. I know I should have made a better effort as well, but I have learned not to take friends for granted. When I left UPS after 5 years, I told my 5 closest friends this story and we have done a pretty good job of staying in touch...not as much as I thought we would, but we still get together a few times a year.

I miss Randal and am always curious as to what happened to him.

So as another year comes to a close, I wonder how many of my students will become Randals. I am sure I will have 1 or 2 come back for a few years, but then drift away. Sad story huh? But at least I found someone I hadn't seen in 11 years.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Musical tastes

Well it's that time of year again when my tastes in music start to shift a bit. Now despite this being one of the best years of metal, I still get bored after awhile of the same thing. And let's face it metal is usually verse, chorus, versus, chorus, solo, chorus, verse, chorus...and if you are lucky another solo. So anyway back to the topic at hand. Lately, for about 2-3 weeks, I have been listening to female fronted metal bands (or combo of male/female). Now maybe it was my review of Lacuna Coil, but something made me want to listen to it. I have created a playlist on my Ipod of 69 songs that simply rock! It's not just gothic metal either, there is some symphonic metal, metalcore, death metal...all solid music as well. Now for those who are long does this phase last? Who knows...the longest I ever listened to female metal was about 1 month. Personally, I see myself blowing that away. Reason? Ipod; only selecting the best songs is what makes it so skipping of songs.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Relay for Life & a crappy realization

So today was the annual Relay for Life cancer walk in Walnut. My wife and I did a four hour shift in the middle of the day. I thought that we might walk 2 hours together then trade off the next two, but we got going and just started talking and before you knew it we only had one hour to go. It was alot of fun. We even ran into people that we hadn't seen in over 8 years...that alone makes it a great experience.

My wife raised over $300 for the event ... me = $0. Don't get me wrong I tried, but I know I have to do more next year. Speaking of next year, we might try the night walk. And we might bring our little girl out too. She will almost be two! Very hard to imagine that right now, but this year flew by so I might as well.

So I came to the conclusion over the past few weeks that I am almost destined to get cancer. My grandfather died of cancer last year, and it started with prostate cancer. And just a few weeks ago I found out my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. BTW, my grandfather was my mom's father, so you can see I am getting it from both sides of the family. I guess realizing this early puts things into perspective. I feel like I am becoming more aware of everyday common events and really cherishing them. I don't want to miss anything with my daughter's life and I don't want to leave my wife alone. So what am I doing? Well I am trying to eat healthier and am working out on a daily basis. I don't drink or smoke, so I guess that accounts for something. I can hope that live as long as possible...knock on wood.

So this is a very depressing post, but it's the truth. Tomorrow is promised to no one. While at UPS, a 23 year old employee died at a wedding reception of a heart problem that no one knew she had. Most of the stuff that causes drama between family & friends isn't worth it. My advice is to try to let everyone know how much they mean to you and try to live everyday like it's your that sounds almost hippie-ish.

Alright next time I will get back to music or school.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Summer School

so day 2 of 24 for summer school. I don't mind summer school, it breaks up the monotomy of summer. It is 5 hours though...which can get kinda boring. It's funny because most brain research says that after 20 minutes the brain just kind of shuts off for awhile. So I have to find a way to present 4-5 sections in a 5 hour span without frying their brains. I don't find it too challenging until the later chapters that are more difficult. I'll give the students credit, I never wanted to do a summer school class in high school. Now in college I did take Advanced Calculus in the summer. It was my last "hard" math class (until I sat in on Topology Math 417..yikes!) and it went 3 hours a day 4 days a week...or something like that. Anyway, I liked it because that was all the math I had to learn. Although what made it somewhat worse was the fact I had just started working at UPS @ 3 a.m. everyday. I am happy with the fact I pulled off a B or B+ in the class after I totally aced the final. Seriously, you know that feeling where you just happen to know everything on the final? That was me. Ahhhh memories.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Top albums...mid year

Alright, last year I forgot to give my mid year top albums list, but this year I won't forget. I have been pretty impressed so far with the albums that have been released, mainly due to the return of the guitar solos in most metal releases. I will try to find some songs from the albums...most likely through their Myspace page. So here we albums (so far)

1. Machine Head - The Blackening: this was a tough one between this album and Megadeth's United Abominations. What made this one #1? The guitar sound came across a little thicker than Megadeth's. Plus the songs are so complex with time/tempo changes. I mean when you have the guts to have a 10+ minute song to start off the album you know you have a solid album.
Machine Head's Myspace (Aesthetics of Hate)

2. Megadeth - United Abominations: a close second. This is another solid Megadeth album. Sleepwalker is a song that could have easily have been a R.I.P. leftover. Washington is Next, United Abominations, You're Dead, Burnt Ice, and the A Tout Le Monde remake all classics. The boys seem to be on a roll right now, hopefully they can keep this line-up together and see what they can do next.
Megadeth's Myspace (Washington is Next, Sleepwalker & A Tout Le Monde)

3. Susperia - Cut from Stone: Now first off this is not better than Unlimited. What we have here is another slice of modern thrash metal. Insane drumming throughout all of the tracks, heavy guitar riffs, and more Chuck Billy vocals makes this a solid album. The build up on the first track More is classic headbanging.
Susperia's Myspace (nothing from this album, but 3 songs from Unlimited)

4. Nightrage - A New Disease is Born: Ok, this is the 3rd album by this band. The first 2 had a classic Melodic Death Metal (ala At the Gates) feel to them. Right away you know this is different because one the first track you hear some clean singing vocals. You might be tempted to say this is a metalcore album, but it's not. Musically, it's still melodic death metal, but the clean vocals might turn off some. For me, it adds another dimension that Tomas couldn't give them.
Nightrage's Myspace (Scathing plus some others from their 1st 2 albums)

5. Sanctity - Road to Bloodshed: Did Testament release an album finally? No, but that's what this band reminds me of. Solos galore, solid drumming, and vocals that bring back memories of Chuck Billy. This is what Trivium's The Crusade should have been.
Sanctity's Myspace (Beneath the Machine, Zeppo, & Seconds)

6. Deadlock - Wolves: ok imagine At the Gates with a sprinkle of Lacuna Coil thrown in and you have Deadlock. Well I guess I could throw in some industrial elements as well and then you would have Deadlock. Their previous album featured 2 songs with a female vocalist, this album they have her on pretty much every song. Now this isn't opera style vocals or female screaming vocals, just a female clean singing along. It me it works. The trade off between male/female vocals seems effortless something that I have found is not that easy to achieve.
Deadlock's Myspace (Code of Honor)

7. Fear My Thoughts - Vulcanus: Where did this album come from? FMT were a Killswitch Engage clone on their last 2 they release what can only be described as a melodic death album...once again in the same vein as At the Gates. All of the breakdowns and metalcore tendencies are gone. Very nice change of pace.
Fear My Thoughts' Myspace (Culture of Fear & Blankness)

8. Shadows Fall - Threads of Life: ok now if you read my blog you know that Shadows Fall was the band that opened me up to a ton of they will always have a special place in my musical heart. As for this album, nothing new. If you liked The War Within, then you will like this album. I can't knock them though because if they change people will scream sellout & when they don't change then people complain because they are afraid to try something new. Once again tight drumming, nice guitar solos, and top notch production.
Shadow's Fall's Myspace (Redemption)

Disappointments so far
1. Mnemic - Passenger: seriously this guy could be the worst vocalist ever. Their previous album Audio Injected Soul was a classic industrial metal album. It was perfect in everyway...why change it? Just disappointing.
Mnemic's Myspace

2. Chimaira -Resurrection: ok musically, nothing wrong again. Vocally I can live with it. But I am running into the same problem I had with their self-titled album...nothing sticks. After I turn it off I can't remember one song. It is a solid metal album that while listening to it you head bang, air drum, etc. but afterwards...nothing.
Chimaira' s Myspace

3. Becoming the Archetype - The Physics of Fire: I go back and forth with this one. Maybe it's because their debut Terminate Damnation was so strong, but this one is lacking something. Their debut was a classic metalcore album with some progressive elements thrown in. This album I would categorize as progressive death metal. Maybe I needed the metalcore...who knows? Still very solid and after a few more listens it could end up in the top 10.
Becoming the Archetype's Myspace

Still looking forward to
1. 3 Inches of Blood - Fire up the Blades (myspace page Goatriders Horde from upcoming album)
2. Darkest Hour - Deliver Us (myspace page Demons from the upcoming album)
3. Devildriver - The Last Kind Words (myspace page)
4. Beyond the Embrace - TBA (myspace page)
5. Biomechanical - Cannibalised (myspace page)
6. Guns N Roses - Chinese Democracy (it's a joke that thing will never be released)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tirades of Truth: Lacuna Coil - Comalies

ok a couple weeks ago, I talked about some new classic albums (Nevermore, Into Eternity, and Killswitch Engage). Well I can't believe I missed one, actually I am sure I missed more than one, but this one is a glaring omission...

Lacuna Coil - Comalies
So where do I start? Well for those who don't know of this band, Lacuna Coil is a gothic metal band. The whole male/female vocal exchange wasn't started by Lacuna Coil, but they perfected it. Alot of people want to compare L.C. to Evanescence, but truth of the matter is that L.C. has been around longer and play traditional goth metal, not too much on the pop rock.

Alright so like I have said I always try to compare bands to Metallica, why? because they are pretty well known and it is easier to relate to them. So how can I compare a goth band to Metallica? RTL before MOP, Lacuna Coil put out an album called Unleashed Memories. It really brought in and developed the male/female vocal dynamics. On earlier albums, they used more of the beauty and the beast they used more male clean singing. A quick note, Lacuna Coil, was never huge on the death male vocals, but the screams really went away after Unleashed Memories.

So what is Comalies like? In a word...perfection. The music is heavy...really heavy. I am talking classic head banging...not fast/thrashy, but heavy. There are no solos, but plenty of instrumental breakdowns (not metalcore breakdowns) and drum fills. One another note would have to be the "size" of the music, it feels and sounds so grand. This was the album that got me into the symphonic metal scene, although it doesn't overpower the rest of the band. The one thing I must say about this album is the singing performances by both Cristina and Andrea are so perfect. Her voice is so enchanting and intoxicating...and Andrea's is the perfect balance to it.

Song choices? All of them, this is a no filler album. All of the songs have great versus and great sing-a-long choruses. I can't praise this album enough.

samples: (Heaven's a Lie...classic a good feel for the album) & at Amazon

Thursday, June 07, 2007

middle of a long day

ok ... so school is over, grades are posted/bubbled in. Graduation starts in about 2 hours and I am wide awake. Why is that a problem? Because I am not going to be getting home for another 17 hours. I am doing the whole Disney grad nite deal. It might not be that bad, but I couldn't fall asleep for that 2 hour cat nap. Maybe I will be able to get a nap @ Disneyland.

To make matters a bit worse, I was up at 3 A.M. this morning because my darling daughter is teething and is having some rough nights. Bless my wife, she works veyr hard to get her to sleep. Sometimes...scratch that most of the time she gets to her before I hear a thing. I really do try to help out during the night, but I don't hear her. My wife works her butt off at school and then gets like 5-6 hours of sleep a night...on a good night.

Wish me luck everyone...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

End of the year....

Well here we are another end of the school year. This year is a little different because I came into this school 3 years ago and most of my classes were filled with do the math and realize they are graduating. A little bitter sweet you could say. Hopefully, they have learned right from wrong and will make some good decisions in their adult life. Oh goes on right? Good luck to the class of 07.

As for my classes, believe it or not I do reflect on my teaching style. I know I have a lonng way to go before I am comfortable in my style, but Alg. B this year was pretty close. The daily quizzes, continuing to work on older material on a daily basis was a good idea. I also thought taking away the calculators with a month before state testing was a good idea too. As for my Geometry class, I did the same lessons as last year, but I couldn't motivate them it seemed like. I thought my tests were written a bit better with more multiple choice questions (to prepare theym for state testing), but for some reason they just didn't click. Algebra 2...oh my where do I start? Mainly seniors, who didn't need the class, was the first warning sign. I think I presented the material fairly well, but I need to tweak it some more...fine tune it if you will. Summer school will be a good place for me to improve my Algebra 2 techniques and lessons.

I have no idea what my schedule will be like next year, if I get another Alg. 2 class I am sure I will do better. I am curious about this Geometry AB course we offer. Who knows? I won't find out for another few weeks...or months.

As for my music...I think I did a fair job of exposing them to new music. It's funny to watch kids come in as they hear metal playing in the class for the first time. Most give a double wait this is a math class. We played everything from Metallica (of course) to Lacuna Coil. Motley Crue to Guns N get the idea. I would have to say The Polyphonic Spree was a surprise hit for the class...a catchy song that had most humming at some point of the class. Omissions from this year, Velvet Revolver, Foo Fighters (only 1 song), Testament, and some others that I can't believe I missed out on. It's funny, most kids know these metal bands from Guitar Hero. To hear them come in and ask for Hangar 18...well who am I to say no, right?

A side note...I scan/rescan all of the lyrics for any curse words. That's why I stay off of the rap music, my students say they can't understand it anyway, but I tell them that I would know and it's wrong.

So next stop...Disneyland and grad night a first for me. Then a week off with the baby and then summer school. Good times.