24 Withdrawals…

Wow, I did it…  It took almost 4 months but I managed to get through all four seasons of 24 on DVD: 24 DVD’s (how ironic), and 96 episodes later I finally finished the final episode last night! What started out as something fun to check out has turned into a TV obsession.  I tore through seasons one and two in a matter of weeks, then with Season 3 things go so busy that I took almost two months off from the DVD’s.  I still managed to get my 24 fix with season 5 each week, then three weeks ago I picked up where I left off and haven’t looked back.

I find it funny to find that I’m writing about watching a TV show – but this isn’t just any TV show – it’s an intense experience of plot twists, character betrayals, and a ton of suspense.  I would recommend 24 to anyone that is looking for an action fix.  Before you know it, you’ll be thinking Jack Bauer thoughts yourself!  Start with Season 1, Disc 1 and take it from there1  Whatever you do, don’t start watching the show mid-season.  It’s simply too complicated, and you’ll probably not enjoy the show all that much.

Now that I’ve finished the DVD’s all I do is wonder "What now?".  How am I going to get my 24 fix now?  It’s hard enough watching each show a week at a time, but in 5-6 weeks when Season 5 comes to an end does that mean that I’m going to have to wait 7 whole months before my next hit of 24…  I knew this day would come, and now it’s here… 

Also for those who like the show check out this listing of the truths about Jack Bauer

Poser Drummers

Sunday night Bethany and I went out with my friends Matt and Amanda over to the UNC University Center Ballroom to go see Better Than Ezra.  I’m a pretty casual Better than Ezra fan.  I remember when they first came out with "Deluxe" when I was like 14, and have kept up with all of their hits over the years.  I have their Greatest Hits CD  as well as 4 other BTE CD’s, but I never explicitly sought out their music, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but their show was freakin’ awesome!

First off, it was amazing just how intimate this concert was.  This event was put on by the UNC Student Government (or Programming Committee or something), and really wasn’t well-advertised.  I don’t think any of the radio stations really knew about it, and my friend Matt only found out about it while he was randomly checking their web site.  The UNC ballroom was small, and they actually sectioned off the ballroom to make it even smaller.  I’m not a very good judge of the number of people, but I can’t say that there were more than 300 – so this was a really intimate concert, and I was only about 10-15 feet away from the band!  The only time I’ve been closer to an artist was when I went to go see John Ondrasik from Five For Fighting at an acoustic show.. The set-list was excellent, they played all of songs we were hoping to play.  They were really funny, very good spirited and the show was simply a lot of fun!

However, the night had the potential to go south pretty early, when this hard rock band from Fort Collins took the stage to open.  I guess they had won Battle of the Bands at UNC earlier this year, but from the sounds of things it didn’t sound like the event was very competitive.  This band just wasn’t very good.  The sound was just very young and inexperienced, and it was hard to swallow because the guys were just arrogant in their stage presence.  As I watched this band I paid close attention to the drummer (as I typically do) and through (a possibly unfair) critical eye I reached the conclusion that he is a poser drummer.  He also had some really bad problems technique-wise: his left hand was gripping the stick like a club and when he hit the drum he basically used all of his arm, a little write, but no finger – which means that your stick isn’t bouncing.  When you don’t capitalize on your stick bounces you find yourself working twice as hard, you’re hitting the drum way too hard to get the volume you’d like, and I’m convinced you’re cutting the life if your drum heads in half.  On top of that this guy had his drums positioned really strangely which resulted in some really bad technique, especially in his bass drum foot, ultimately causing some phasing issues with the band.  But above all of the technique problems, which could be fixed, I concluded this guy is a poser drummer, which I’m not so sure about

What is a poser drummer?  In my mind it’s a drummer that’s more concerned about their stage presence and "looking cool" more than they actually care about drumming.  It is important for a drummer to have a good stage presence and allow their joy and passion to be conveyed to the people watching them, but when it interferes with your playing ability or technique, then we have a problem.

Some things that Poser Drummers do…

Stick Twirling – This by far is my biggest pet peeve, but it is also a bit "controversial" in the drum world. I read "Drum!" magazine off and on and it seems right now there’s a big discussion about whether or not it’s a worthwhile skill to have.  My personal take: The time you spent on learning how to do your little stick twirl, you could have actually improved your technique and playing.  Everyone has a limited amount of practice time, and you should make the most of it.  There are a few drummers that are an exception, but most of us have room to improve on the set. Go be a baton twirler on your own time.

Having a microphone when you don’t sing – There’s a reason why most of us are playing drum set, and it’s the very same reason we shouldn’t have a microphone in front of us.  You especially should never have a mic if you’re using it to talk to the crowd between songs.  You’re too far back for people to see you talking so when you do open you’re mouth most people are just too busy looking around rather than listening to what you’re saying.  Besides that, drummers can’t sing.  Unless you’re one of the few exceptions like Don Henley, Phil Collins or Carter Beauford, then lose the mic.

Singing the words to your own songs (while playing without the mic).  I can understand the motive for this, especially if you took part in writing the songs, but don’t do the lead singer’s job for them.  There is an exception if you want to sing a line to yourself here and there, and this may just be a personal thing for me – but  if you’re band is not big enough to have the crowds singing the words back to you, you shouldn’t sing the words to yourself…

Repeatedly hitting two crash cymbals at the same time.  There are a few *big* moments in the songs that may require you to hit both cymbals, maybe at the beginning of a hard-core opening, but here is no excuse for you to hit BOTH crash cymbals that have basically the same tone…  Whenever I see this I just think "how over the top".  

Breaking new sticks/heads in one show.  One of the questions that bugs me most is when people ask "How many sticks have you broken?", like it is some sort of bragging right.  When you’re playing a marching snare you eat through your sticks like a wood chuck, but that’s because you’re slamming the rims every other note – drum set is completely different…  I’ve broken sticks on the drum set before, but it’s after weeks of use (and you usually have a sense at the beginning of the show that it’s going to break).  I just can’t stand when people have these relatively good-conditioned sticks and they’re broken in half before the end of the show. It’s not a sign you’re tough – it’s a sign that you play too hard and probably have some major technique problems…

So that’s the beginning of my drummer "poser" list…  These are just from the top of my head, but I would be welcome to hear any that you may have.  You don’t have to be a musical person to identify "poser" signs.  Just think back to when you were watching an inexperienced drummer and he did something that made you think "how stupid!"…

Current Song – Collective Soul – Satellite (From the Ground Up EP)

V for Vendetta

This evening Bethany and I went to go see V for Vendetta.  After seeing this movie all I can say is "Wow!  You need to check it out!".  This movie is definitely a powerful, thought-provoking story – the kind you need to go see with friends and plan on having some discussions over coffee afterwards.  It’s hard for me to say whether or not this is a good movie, I still need some more time to process it.

The imagry used in the movie is amazing.  Directed by the Wachowski brothers (the same guys who wrote and directed the Matrix trilogy), you can see a lot of the same techniques employed in this movie.  Throughout the movie they keep giving you these mesmerizing scenes that really capture your attention and convey the message well.  There is a lot of graphic violence in the movie, but it wasn’t without purpose and did help enhance the movie.  One of the fighting scenes at the very end was incredibly gory, but also very mesmerizing in the way it was executed.

The story dealt with a totalitarian government (taking place in a futuristic Britain) and the battle between "V", an anarchist terrorist dressed as Guy Fawkes.  The movie deals with the manipulative tactics and propaganda used in the regime, and it’s interesting to see the changing effects the tactics had on the people of Britain, as well as the transformation of a girl named Evey Hammond (played by Natalie Portman).

Hugo Weaving was excellent in this very difficult role, where he spends the whole movie wearing a mask.  Having no facial expressions, Weaving had to rely on his voice inflections and body language to convey his emotions.  I can only imagine how difficult this was.  It’s funny – because didn’t see Weaving’s real face, I didn’t realize he was in the Matrix and Lord of the Rings until I got home and looked it up on the internet. 

I definitely need some more time to process this movie before I can write about it, but I really wanted to express the initial impact it had on me.

Not so sure about Xanga anymore…

Lately I’ve been having a lot of minor issues with Xanga which is beginning to culminate into a general dissatisfaction with  the blogging interface.  In the past there have been minor issues – the fact that they don’t use RSS is a big deal to me, but it all starts when they started rolling out their new editor.  They really did a lot to ramp things up, but I discovered a huge potential issue.  A few weeks back I was in the process of writing a huge entry when I was in the process of doing a few Edit > Undo commands when the next thing I knew half of my blog entry was gone.  When I tried to Redo, nothing happened – everything was gone.  I was really frustrated and attempted to submit a condensed version of the entry.  A few nights later I made another entry, and the same thing happened.  At that point I had no problem with switching back to the older editor.

The kicker came when in these last few days when I signed up for a Flickr! account.  For those who don’t know, Flickr! is a community photo hosting site, and it also has a lot of great options available for blogging.  One of which is the ability to add some random photos the margins of your blogs.  I copied and pasted all of the different variations of the code- but nothing worked.  After doing some reading, it looks like Xanga won’t let you use any external scripts.  I understand that there are some potential security risks, but at the same time it shouldn’t prevent you from using some of these awesome new blogging features that are being released.

A few months back I played around with Movable Type on my family’s web space, and there were some parts that were really appealing.  I thought I didn’t have enough time to learn/try a new blogging software, but after what’s going on with Xanga I’m really reconsidering.  I’ve decided for the time being to post both in Xanga nad MT for now, and see where things go.  But for people on my Xanga, it might be helpful to bookmark my new Blog site for the time being.  I would love for you to keep reading!

Catholic Podcasts…

I’ve been meaning to post this for some time. While I do need to catch up on some life’s happenings, as well as some reflections from a six-week retreat that I’m taking part in – but I’m still struggling to find some time. I would like to share in an email that I wrote a few weeks back to a few friends of mine, and expand on this a bit. And give you an idea of a latest technology obsession of mine…

Friends of mine may know that I have been listening to a PodCast put on by Fr. Roderick Vonhögen, a diocesan priest from the Archdiocese of Utrecht, the Netherlands. For the last year, Fr. Roderick has been producing Catholic Podcasts (starting with the Catholic Insider) taking place in Rome. Fr. Roderick was in Rome during John Paul II’s death, as well as the Papal Conclave and offers some audio accounts of those events. Currently Fr. Roderick hosts a podcast called The Daily Breakfast, a 25-minute show that includes music, Catholic news, reflections, Entertainment Reviews (including shows like 24 and Lost), Health tips and lots of other information! It’s a really interesting PodCast and I find myself starting my mornings with this show. The Daily Breakfast is entertaining and reaches a vast audience, including many non-Catholics. One of my favorite segments Fr. Roderick does is called “The Peculiar Bunch” which “answers all those questions you have about Catholics, but are afraid to ask”.

The Daily Breakfast isn’t necessarily intellectually or spiritually challenging, but it’s incredibly entertaining, and it offers a lot of Catholic perspective on everyday happenings. This is an amazing example of how the church can offer ministry over the Internet. Essentially Fr. Roderick has created a virtual faith community. For Catholics like myself who are searching for a meaningful faith community, this is a wonderful opportunity to hear daily reflections and dialog with a Priest on many pop-culture issues, but also taking part in this Internet community as well. Fr. Roderick is also busy forming the StarQuest Podcast Network, a network of Catholic Podcasts and currently features some other entertaining shows.

I’d like to invite you to take some time and listen to a few episodes and see what you think! You don’t need an iPod to listen to a Podcast. “Podcast” is simply a term for a radio/audio show that can be downloaded on your computer, then moved to an iPod or MP3 player – but they can remain on your computer and you can listen to them as well. A great program to download & year Podcasts is Winpodder – http://www.winpodder.com/ , but you can also use iTunes as well – http://www.apple.com/iTunes . To subscribe to a Podcast simply visit the web site and click on the “Subscribe” links on the top right-hand side of the web page. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!

The Daily Breakfast Show – http://www.sqpn.com/scripts/dailybreakfast.php
Catholic Insider Show – http://www.sqpn.com/scripts/catholicinsider.php
Catholic Insider Site – http://www.catholicinsider.com/ – More information about both The Daily Breakfast and Catholic Insider, as well as information about Fr. Roderick
SQPN Network – http://www.sqpn.com

One update that I think is fun. A few weeks back. Fr. Roderick asked his listeners from around the world to send postcards of where you’re from. I ended up sending him a postcard, and he actually read it on the air – too cool! To listen to that Podcast, download DB#88 – March 10th’s and listen towards the end of the Podcast!