Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

I could have titled this post, “How Sam Blunders His Way Through Writing His Books And Now Tries To Explain How To Do The Same,” but I dislike long titles.

Learn from the…erm…expert?
There are two things that people always seem to say when they learn you’ve written a book. The first, and most common is, “What’s it about?” My reply is usually, “Read the book and you’ll find out.” My wife is working with me to change this approach (thankfully). The next thing usually said, and to me the more curious of the two, is something like, “I could never be that creative,” or “I could never do that.” I find them curious, in either version, because they’re downright wrong. (more…)


Hooo-kay, been a little while since I’ve done any blogging.  Things have been a little interesting around here for a while and I neglected to update everyone.  No excuses other than things have been crazy at work with all the reorganization, and my wife and I have been busy folks.  Having said that, I do promise to be a little better about the posts.  I’ll try to keep them short and quick for your benefit and mine.  Anyways, with that out of the way, got a few things to talk ’bout.

Book Update
First off, the book’s done fairly well so far.  Most of my sales up to this point have been friends and family, but I’m continuing to talk about it with folks we come across on a regular basis.  By the way, if you have not picked up a copy of the Thief and the Red Mandolin, you can do so at  Either do a search for the title or simply click on this ‘lil link here:

Those that have read the first so far have had good remarks about it overall.  The most common statement is that the prose is good which is very encouraging.  The negative comments have actually been pretty varied and some even conflict with each other, so until I get some repeat offenders, I’m going to chalk those up to personal preference.

I’m also still on the lookout for a publishing house.  I’ve sent a copy off to Snowbooks, an outfit based in the U.K. that has a pretty unique take on publishing.  Their focus is more on in-store retail and marketing, and less on traditional marketing avenues like book signings.  Also, they have a different structure for handling books.  One person handles all aspects of a particular novel (cover design, sales, marketing, editting, etc.) instead of having it bounce around from department to department with the more traditional publishers.  I sent it to them in September and I’m still waiting to hear back.  So, be keeping that in your prayers.

5 Things from Sam’s Desk of Awesomeness: Music Videos

I decided to try something new this week.  We’ll see how well I can keep up with the postings, but I’d like to start sharing with everyone five of something I enjoy every post.  I’ll some regular categories like songs, videos, and pictures, but then throw in some random categories at some point.  This isn’t exactly what you would call a top 5, more like a sampling of things I think are pretty dang awesome.  For this first one, I decided I would start with music videos.

1. Linkin Park – Leave Out All The Rest
This video combines two of my favorite things in life: Linkin Park music and epic science fiction.

2. All-American Rejects – Move Along
A nifty video by the boys from Stillwater

3. Red – Death of Me
I had this in an earlier post, but I like the song and video so much I decided to include it again here.  I’ve always liked stories and themes that deal with the opposing forces within each human being as we struggle daily to do the right thing.

4. Skillet – Hero
The video’s kinda generic, but does give tribute to some of our everyday heroes.  The song is great too

5. The Fray – Heartless
This video is awesome for two reasons: 1) The Fray takes Kanye West’s song from crappy to good 2) The visuals are pretty impressive, albeit a little weird.

That’s it for this time folks.  Keep checking back for more news and interesting things I come across.

El Capitan

The Good Kind of Crazy
Well, here we’ve had yet another long hiatus in between posting, but this time it might actually be fairly excusable. Or not. However you want to view is cool with me. As you all know, I’ve been working at Cessna for a few months and I am enjoying it immensely. There’s a ton of information to soak up and my biggest challenge has been to absorb it all. But, overall, I’ve been doing alright. The only thing that really bugs me is that corporate America seems so darned inefficient. And intentionally so. The best way to describe is that we’re really good at optimizing inefficient processes. Yet, as bad as that sounds, Cessna is the best in the biz. What does that say about Lear and Raytheon? Hmmm…

Some of the stuff in this blog post has actually already been posted on Myspace so those of you who have read it already can pass over it if you like or re-read it (this time in exciting past-tense and correct spelling!). Whatever floats your boat.

They’re all Edjumacated an’ stuff
I’ve had the priviledge of attending a couple of graduations recently. The first was OSU’s. Not only did I get to see some good friends of mine graduate, but I also got to hear a big name speaker. You may have heard of him. He’s the president of the U.S. of A, George W. This was the second time I’ve been able to attend a presidential speech (the first being Bill Clinton at the ’97 National Boy Scout Jamboree).

Now, I can understand why some folks would hate our president. There are plenty of people inside and outside of the media who love pointing fingers at things that the president may or may not have done for whatever reason. With all the nasty words flying around it’s even understandable to see some folks believing them and despising the man inside the White House.

But, none of this gives anyone the excuse to disrespect the office which he holds. He was elected by a process established by our Constitution (and no “but, he cheated” crap either, please) as the leader of our nation and that in itself deserves our respect. You may not like the man, but please, in the midst of fishing for conspiracy theories and re-spewing whatever garbage is thrown out by the media or Michael Moore as truth, take a moment to breathe in deep, exhale, and remember that you still live in the best damn country in the world and the man in charge of it has the toughest job on the planet.

He’s was given a country with 300 million people who can’t agree on anything, an economy about to take a downturn and everyone yelling at him to fix their problems. He also has the rest of world demanding things they have no right to. And in the midst of that he was faced with 9/11 and, more recently, Katrina, the two most devastating events in our national soil (with the exception of the Murrah bombing) since Pearl Harbor. Bush is one of the few that had the brass to step up to the plate to even take this job and he has done so head on. So cut the bulls@#t and show some respect! Hippie!

Sorry, I’ve been holding all that in and I had to get it out there. Oh yeah, the speech was awesome.

The other graduation was quite a bit smaller, but, to me, more special. If you’ll recall, I worked as a youth minister at one time in the small town of Taloga. While ministering there I met a young man named Bryan. In Sunday School and in large groups, Bryan tended to be a quiet guy, chiming in only occasionally in the discussion. But, that changed once you got him playing a few rounds of Medal of Honor on the Game Cube. He would come out of his shell a little and talk up a storm. Over the course of my year as a youth minister I got to know Bryan and became friends with him. We kept in touch from time to time in the three years that followed my departure from Taloga. Recently, he sent me a invitation to his high school graduation. So I hopped in the standard Mayo mode of travel (AKA an Explorer) and drove my way down to Taloga. It was great to see the accomplishments that Bryan had made. He handed out flowers to all the folks who made an impact in his life and I happily accepted one from him. I told him it was the first time a guy had ever given me a flower. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors and pray that he keeps God at the focal point of all he does.

And now… on to the reviews!

Music: Angels & Airwaves, We Don’t Need to Whisper
Whenever a big-name band breaks up the big question that inevitably comes up is, “So what now?” Fans are left wanting more, the band members are left to either find a new gig or move on to other things, and gossip mags are forced to find someone else to peg. Tom DeLonge, formerly of Blink 182, answers that question in a big way with the recent release of We Don’t Need to Whisper the first outing by his new band, Angels & Airwaves. After Blink 182 went on “permanent hiatus” DeLonge found himself wondering what to do next. “I didn’t have a career, I didn’t have a band, I didn’t have music happening in my life and I was torn apart.” He says of his situation. “I knew I had to make one of two choices. The first choice was to lie around and be sad, thinking back to the times when I was in a big band on top of the world. The second choice was to continue to make new music and take it to a completely different level.” And a different level is exactly where he went. While the pop/punk influences are still seen in Whisper, A&A has taken on a different sound that is more akin to U2 with perhaps a little Pink Floyd thrown in than his former band.

I thoroughly enjoy this album front start to finish. From the slow, spacey intro of Valkyrie Missile” to the loud guitars of “The War” to the anthematic finish, “Start the Machine” (my personal favorite) We Don’t Need to Whisper is a fantastic album. Lyrically, DeLonge is portraying a story throughout. “The whole idea,” he says, “is that even though there is a struggle in your life you can find happiness and love within the worst of times.” It’s refreshing to see artists bring optimism and depth back into music along with a great sound. Highly recommended listening. And don’t be bothered by the parental advisory sticker, it really should not even be on there is you ask me.

Anime: Gankutsuou
The Count of Monte Cristo is considered one of the all-time greatest pieces of literature. A tale of betrayal, revenge, redemption, and love set in France in the early 1800’s told over 1500 pages. Gankutsuou (good luck with the Japanese on that site) is anime studio Gonzo‘s (of Last Exile and Hellsing fame) re-telling of the classic story. In its re-telling, Gonzo has blended science fiction elements with early 19th century France and an original, albeit quite bizarrem style of animation. The series centers around Albert, the son of Count Fernand de Morcef and the beautiful Mercedes. Albert is a very naive young man, always looking for the best in people even when that goodness does not seem to exist, but he is a pure soul. As most of you know the story, the count uses Albert to infiltrate Parisian society and begin his grand scheme for revenge against those who had him wrongfully imprisoned. Even though it does stray some from the original, Gankutsuou is a gripping story that keeps you wanting more.

The style of the animation is something to behold in and of itself. It is difficult describe without actually showing you. There is a heavy use of a wide range of colors and patterns. As the characters move across the screen, it is almost as they’re clothing were transparent and what comes through is a different background entirely. As I said, it is difficult to describe in words, just understand that it is unusual yet very beautiful in the same instance though it may be too much for some. With a combination of solid storytelling and original artwork, Gankutsuou is one of the better anime series to come out in a while.

Well, that’s it for me for now (ugh that was badly written). Hope you guys are having a fantabulous summer, cause you’re all fantabulous people (heh, I like that word). See ya next time. This week’s pic comes from a buddy of mine at work. Imagine seeing that thing on the highway! And yes, those are balloons.

All settled in
Sorry about the delay, I was waiting until I got my first paycheck to post anything. I figured I’d be settled in enough to set aside time exclusively to write a decent article. I’ve crammed a lot of stuff into this one to make up for the big delay. We’ve got two CD reviews, an anime review, and, for the first time in a while, a game review.

So, here I am, three weeks into my new job at Cessna and things are going pretty well so far. I haven’t done much of what you might call actual engineering. In fact, most of the work I’ve done has almost not been clerical. But, I understand it is necessary at this point while I try to get a handle on how things operate here. I also feel like I’m having to learn a new language. People are using acronyms left and right and I recognize them merely in that they are letters of the alphabet. For a while I was happy I understood at least that. While some of the lingo has started to make sense, an unusual predicament has risen because of it. At first I was troubled by not knowing what was going on, but now I think I’m more troubled because I does make sense. It’s like “Oh I get it…oh dear God save me.” It’s coming to the realization that Dilbert may very well be the 8th Pillar of Wisdom because it’s all true. Terms like synergy, multi-tasking, empowerment, and database management begin to make sense. I’m overexaggerrating of course, but sometimes the terms get thrown around a lot and it disturbs me a little that I actually know what they mean.

I like the folks I work with so far. Though I am surprised a little about how disgruntled some people can get. Well, maybe surprised isn’t the right word because that would imply ignorance of disgruntled people. A better word would probably be reminded. In any case, the point is that some folks seem rather ungrateful that they were hired and are paid by this company. I don’t quite understand, but whatever floats their boat. I’m also picking up on all the little nuances of office life such as scavenging for office supplies, talking to the tech support department that needs more help than we do, co-workers who truly love telling you about their hobbies for a couple of hours longer than necessary, and the prairie dog-like qualities of the cubicle farm (it’s hilarious to watch all the heads pop up when something unexpected happens). My personal favorite is when you walk down a long hallway and someone else appears on the other end. Their eyes will meet yours for one microsecond, then spend the rest of the long walk covering every square inch of the hallway (sometimes twice) that is not physically occupied by your body. I take the “stare straight forward tactic” which works until someone walks right down your lane.

All in all things are going well here in Wichita. The cats seem happy here. They enjoy knocking as many of my things over as they can as many times as they can. Vitaro is growing and he is a very affectionate and loving cat. Blitz is still, well, fat. But, I enjoy his company and I think Vitaro would be lonely if he wasn’t here.

Music: Toby Mac – Welcome to Diverse City
Since dc Talk went on it’s “hiatus,” the three members have been busy with their own solo projects. Kevin Max makes weird Sting-esque music, Michael Tait sticks closer to the likes of Third Eye Blind and Matchbox Twenty, and Toby Mac’s music…is just about everywhere else (except country, thank goodness). While his first album stuck mostly with rock and rap with a lil’ bit o’ soul thrown in, Welcome to Diverse City goes all over the musical map. The opening track is a little reminiscent of old dc Talk tunes and is mostly a “Hey there, I’m back” sort of song. But then the CD literally takes off with tracks two and three. Track two, “Catchafire (Whoopsie-Daisy)” is a hard rock/rap song that combines musical elements from across the ocean. It’s followed up by “The Slam” which could quite frankly be used as a modern anthem for Christians. As I listen to it, I get excited about what Jesus did for us and what exactly that means for us today. From there the album musically moves on into melodic acoustic (“Atmosphere”), upbeat rock (“Gone”), rap/funk (the title track), and to parts beyond. There’s even a song where his son (who has to be like, 8 or 9 at the oldest) sings and raps. It’s a fun little track and the dialogue between Toby and his son at the end is hilarious. From beginning to end, Diverse City is an album that takes you by surprise and is thoroughly enjoyable. And I’m telling you this as someone who really isn’t much of a rap music fan. As an extra treat, Toby is joined on the last track by Tait, K-Max, and the rest of the old dc Talk band, an excellent remix of “Atmosphere.” It almost makes you want to hold up a lighter in the middle of the song.

Music: Shawn McDonald – Ripen
As everyone knows, I love coffee shops. I love the warm drinks (even if it is a candy-bar-in-a-cup), the long conversations with friends and family, and the mellow music that set the nice, laid-back atmosphere of a good coffee house. It’s this sort of warm and friendly atmosphere that develops in my mind every time I pop a Shawn McDonald CD into the player. He is relatively new to the music scene. His fantastic debut album Simply Nothing was surprisingly basic, both musically and lyrically. He rarely uses anything more than his voice, acoustic guitar and a few background sounds from the keyboard. And his lyrics are very straightforward and there’s no question about a song’s subject matter (unlike some bands) which, by the way, deals with our relationship with God and many of the songs can be seen as simple prayers of faith. However, do not see the basic nature of his music as a weak point. The direct approach Shawn took in his first album made for an excellent and refreshing listen. On his second album, Ripen, Shawn stretches his creative abilities and puts together one amazing musical experience. His lyrics are still direct-which in a time of weird emo and goth bands is actually a Godsend-yet he has expanded his musical influences. Some tracks still keep that simplicity from his first album, but others, such as “I Am Nothing,” “Take Hold,” and “Imago” show the growth he has made from his first album. The whole album is wonderful, but the songs that truly stand out are “I Am Nothing,” “Free,” and “Confess,” a love song he wrote to his wife. It’s very encouraging for me to see artists bringing originality back into the Christian music scene and I very highly recommend picking up Shawn’s music. He also has a live album that I understand has a rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I’d go out and get it, but Ripen is still securely fastened to my CD player.

Anime: Infinite Ryvius
I like stories that delve into the subject of human nature. Books like Lord of the Flies, The Pearl, and Flowers for Algernon are among my all-time favorites. So when I saw a trailer for Infinite Ryvius, I was naturally interested. The story is set in the not-too-distant future. Earth has developed the ability to travel throughout space, but not Star Trek light-speed style. We’re still talking about shuttles and space stations that don’t have gravity. It centers around a group of teenagers sent to a training station above Earth for space flight training. However, in a mysterious act of sabotage, all the adult instructors and crew members are killed and the children evacuate onto a large ship hidden within the station known as the Ryvius. They are left to piece together what happened, how to maintain order on the ship and, ultimately, how to get home. So it presents itself with an interesting setting for human interactions, both good and bad. Ideal for great story-telling. So, does it live up to my expectations? Mostly. The English translation script could’ve done with a few more revisions, but the voice acting overall isn’t bad. Ryvius has a large cast with a few standout characters (kind of like Lost though not quite as detailed), namely two brothers, Koji and Yuki who, for reasons that are slowly revealing themselves, have hated each other since before the beginning of the series. Love triangles, military conspiracies, and a strange girl with an equally weird reddish pink outfit who appears randomly, a strange ship all come into play (all par for the course as far as an anime is concerned I’d say) for a story that is all in all pretty fun to watch.

Game: The Godfather
There are very few movies have the esteemed Legendary status. Movies that will be remembered for ages to come like Gone with the Wind, Citizen Kane, King Kong, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to mention some. The Godfather series of films are also among that list so when I saw that Electronic Arts made mention of plans to create a game based on this classic series, my curiosity was naturally piqued. Would they do the series justice? What style of game will it be? Who on earth are you playing as? All these were questions that were not only on my mind, but many other people’s as well. The game released this last Tuesday and, needless to say, I was a little hesitant to pick it up. Now, the question every game must answer is this: Is it worth it? Answer: Yes…sort of. It will depend a lot on what someone looks for in a game. This game doesn’t have the mass appeal to it that games like the Halo and Half-Life series have, but it does have it’s own little niche. The story is set in The Godfather‘s world and storyline, but you play as an obscure background character in the story (whose name and personage you create yourself), but you apparently have the potential to rise to the level of Mafia Don so at some point the game’s storyline leaves the movie’s. I haven’t gotten there yet so I’m not sure how they handle it.

Okay, on to the review. Firstly, playing style. The gameplay is action-oriented from a third-person perspective, much like Grand Theft Auto III and Gun. The controls can be tricky to learn however. Fist-fights can be tricky ordeals, especially if you have a lot of people to take down. This is probably the second weakest point of the game (I’ll get to the weakest in a minute). Once you get the hang of it, it’s quite fun and some of the gun battles get pretty exciting. And there is a lot of stuff to do! You can work to take over businesses for the family, pick up hit contracts, protection duties, or you can follow the game’s main storyline. This is where I think they dropped the ball. One of the biggest selling points in my mind is a game’s ability to tell a story (a brilliant example of game story-telling is Indigo Prophecy). While The Godfather game’s storyline is good (it is after all, following the original closely) it seems much too short. I think I’ve accomplished 30% of the story missions already and I’ve barely played more than a few hours. Now, this may change as the game gets progressively harder, but I haven’t seen that change yet. The graphics are actually quite good. I’ve noticed a few bugs with it, but overall very top notch and nothing that can’t be fixed in a game patch. The characters from the movie look strikingly similar to the originals and the facial expressions are amazing (the photos are posted above for comparison, top left is the film, bottom right is the game). The only one that seemed off to me is Michael Corleone (Al Pacino). But, like I said, my grievances with the graphics are very minor. A nice little touch they added is the ability to unlock clips from the original movies some of which they re-create in-game. Overall, a player’s ability to enjoy this game will come down to their patience with the controls at first and a love for the setting. I have both so I enjoy the game, despite its shortcomings.

I apologize if that was a little drawn out, but I love the Godfather series and was very anxious about what the game had in store for it. I’ll try not to be so wordy about the next one.

Comic Update
I’ve actually been keeping up with the weekly comic posting schedule fairly well. Right now, I’m up to comic number 6. I feel a little clumsy right trying to get the humor right. For those who know me well, and/or have some knowledge of the things I joke about, it’s fairly enjoyable. But, I can see the humor being lost of some people who have neither (or even just one) of those things. I’m trying to aim for a sort of “accessibility” that’ll entertain the average Joe, but those who are in-the-know will get an extra treat out of it. I’m taking the shotgun approach: point and shoot, see what I hit, what I missed, reload and shoot again. Hey it worked for Ulysses S. Grant in the Civil War, why not me and my web comic.

Parting Words
One last little bit of fun-ness. Robby, who continues to introduce me to things that are far more addicting than they really should be, has introduced me to MySpace, an online community where you set up your own customized page with pics, music, videos, whatever and meet a lot of other people. So, if the urge should take you, head over to my MySpace page here. Ok everyone, enjoy the new Spring season (if it actually exists where you live). The pics below are from DeviantArt yet again. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go synergize my databases in a multi-tasking, hostile take over of several managerial processes (actually, I’m just gonna go play some more Godfather).

What an Interesting and Expensive Week
Man, this week has been weird. Weird in the sense that it is been different from the way the preceding weeks have gone, which was slow and uneventful. I actually got stuff done. Monday was not weird. Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, started off normally, but then I decided, in lieu of my usual Valentine’s Day routine of watching TV wishing I had a date, to help the Sunnybrook college group babysit other people’s kids at the church. Specifically, I was in charge of the 3 to 5 year-old group. At first, I felt out of place and was not quite sure what I was doing. But, I stopped thinking about it, loosened up and had a blast. We watched a Veggietales movie, ate hotdogs and Jell-O, and tried to watch another movie but ended having a huge wrestling match instead. The only downside was that I wore the wrong pair of jeans. This pair of jeans, my favorite pair in fact, has few holes in it, including one on the backside of my right thigh, another one above the right butt cheek and a few more that I did not even know about until that evening. The kids thought that these were perfect places to poke their little fingers into. Repeatedly. Basically, I got assaulted by a bunch of preschoolers and first graders. I think I may be traumatized for life…not really. Kidding aside, I had a great time and got know a few of the college kids better as well. All in all, a fun night indeed.

On Wednesday, I got busy trying to get some of the logistics for my move to Wichita worked out and I shifted around a bunch of money, freeing up some of it so I can actually move into my apartment and putting a good chunk of it into an IRA. I also went to OKC to pick up my glasses. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I now have to wear glasses all the time. The timing for this could have been better, but my vision has become a veritable hazard, namely in my driving. During the day, I could get by just fine but, at night, the road signs became blurry and I could not make them out until I was right on top of them. Luckily, I managed to pick out some frames that accentuate my already dashing good looks. Wednesday was also the day a great idea hit me that I will mention later on in this article. Thursday, I spent a good part of the day working on this new little pet project and getting a few more Wichita-related things done.

I also went to The Brook out at the church Thursdsay night. Joe Weece is doing a terrific job out there as the college minister. He knows how to challenge college students and tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. It is also worth mentioning because it is where I, for the first time ever, broke a bone. Now, calm down, it is not anything major, just a finger. I broke it while we were playing dodgeball of all things. I could not even tell it was broken until afterward when it was really swollen and I could not straighten it out. I swear it is the dumbest thing. In all my years of playing sports and enjoying highly physical hobbies like basketball, polocrosse, scuba diving, skiing/snowboarding, and Tae Kwon Do, I have never been injured beyond a simple bruise, headache, or twisted ankle. Then I go and play a dumb game of dodgeball and break a finger. Really, it is more annoying than anything. Oh well. Friday was fairly uneventful. I worked some more on my project, studied French, and shot the breeze with Robby for a bit.

The Project
I have decided to try my hand at creating a comic strip. The concept came to my head while I was playing around with The Sims 2 one day. I had created a “family” wherein my brother Tim, my best friend Robby and I were brothers who bought a house and started a new life for ourselves. I tried to keep the personalities and the looks as close to true life as possible though I did have to fudge a little. In Sims 2, you give each character their own aspirations from a list of six: Pleasure, Fortune, Family, Romance, Popularity, and Knowledge. I gave Tim Fortune, Robby Popularity, and myself Romance. What ensued was nothing short of comical. By the time I had reach 6 hours or so of total playing time, Robby was the head of military intelligence at the local army base and married a super model, I had just been promoted to head gas station attendant and had “woohoo’d” (as it’s called in the game) with at least 5 different women (some of them multiple times and in multiple places), made out with many more and had a live-in girlfriend (and no, I am not trying to vicariously indulge in some weird fantasy), and Tim was in charge of bank robberies for the town mafia and got married to a senator. Needless to say, it was quite a strange household. My character slept on the couch a lot.

I got to thinking, “You know, it’d be kind of fun to make a comic strip out of this.” Then I realized that I could take in-game pictures. From there, the creativity snowball just kept rolling and I have produced the first page of the (un)cleverly titled The Maygrove Brothers, what I hope becomes a long-time hobby. I have always wanted to create a comic strip, but felt that my drawing skills were never up to snuff for the kind of thing I wanted to do. I do not plan on making any money with it. In fact, it would probably be illegal for me to. It is just something I thought would be a lot of fun to do. I will try to make this a weekly update sort of thing to go along with my web log articles. I have created a cover page and a character intro page also. Oh, and just to cover my bases, I do not plan on following along the same lines that the sims went in the game. My character will not be a slut, Robby will not marry a super model, and Tim will not lead a life a crime (maybe). I have based the characters mostly on looks and somewhat on personality, though I do mix up character traits a bit. I have posted the first page below, but I will use a separate blog site for subsequent pages.
There will be a link on this page as well as in the e-mail updates I send out to make it easier for everyone to get there. I recommend bookmarking it on your web browser.

Music: Flyleaf
Alright, it has been a while since I covered a hard rock album. More than likely, this music will not appeal to the older folks. But, you people of enhanced age may be glad to see that there are bands out there who can make music that appeals to younger generations and bring across a message that needs to be heard. And what’s more, it’s original. On Flyleaf’s self-titled debut, the band sports a sound that ranges from heavy guitars with plenty of screaming like “I’m So Sick” to more melodic and graceful tracks like “So I Thought” (my personal favorite song on the album). Something that makes Flyleaf different from your run-of-the-mill hard rock band is that their lead singer is a girl. Obvious comparisons to Evanescence could be made, but musically, Flyleaf is closer to Breaking Benjamin. Lyrically, Flyleaf makes reference thoughout the album about their rough upbringings. Nothing new. But, they also sing about overcoming the adversities thay have faced, something that the guys in Korn have apparently yet to do. The members of Flyleaf are unquestionably Christian, but they talk about real issues that people have and how to deal with those issues. I highly recommend this album any rock music fan.

That’s enough for this week. Its two weeks from Monday that I start work and only a week-and-a-half until I move. I am so looking forward to starting. Can you tell yet?

Yet another pic from DeviantArt. Man, I wish it would rain. Oh yeah, I also fixed the “James Blunt” link in the last article.

And the Verdict is…
Ladies and gentlemen, I now have a job working with the Airworthiness group at Cessna. I am truly excited about this opportunity and cannot wait to get started. I was told the news by the head manager of Airworthiness himself. He even mentioned that the decision, made by all the managers within the group, was unanimous. The Airworthiness group is in charge of maintaining and acquiring the certifications for all the aircraft that Cessna delivers worldwide. Since each country has their own separate rules concerning airplanes, this involves a lot of conversation with folks across the globe. The only downside is that I do not start until March 6th. I was hoping for an earlier start date and I may try to see if I can speed things up, but it is still very exciting to have this opportunity.

I am currently reporting to you from the Airport Hilton in Wichita. I had my physical exam for Cessna this morning and spend a few hours this afternoon doing some aprtment-hunting. I have found a decent place that is close to where I will be working and is in a good area as far as proximity to essential establishments of consumer indulgence (Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Starbucks). I also happen know a few folks from my Pony Club days that live in the area so I will have to check up with them.

Music: James Blunt – “Back to Bedlam”
The 70’s were a strange and eventful time in our nation’s history. Funk and disco along with bell-bottoms and groovy long hair were in style, Elvis was getting fat, Nixon became the only president ever to resign from office, some dude named John Travolta had a couple of movies that became famous, and the Mustang was still a man’s car. This tumultuous time also brought us rock n’ roll acts like Alice Cooper, Queen, David Bowie, and KISS. Luckily, Americans moved on from these times (well, most of us at least) and are now developing trends that will undoubtedly be made fun of by someone else decades down the road. But, not all of the music from this time was awful (Okay, “Bohemian Rhapsody” was good, but c’mon…). There were great songs like “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon & Garfunkel, “Hotel California” by the Eagles, and “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd (yes, I do like those songs and I don’t want any crap about it either). In the same spirit as these comes James Blunt straight from of the United Kingdom. Blending modern-day pop rock beats with classic 70’s guitar and vocals, Blunt shows musical prowess as the tracks range from the upbeat “High” to the rockin’ “Out of my Mind” to the slow and slightly depressing “Cry.” Overall, the album is genuinely a treat to listen to. He’s almost nailed the 70’s lyrically too with the occasional drug reference and strange likely-induced-by-said-drug choruses. The only track I skip is the song “Goodbye, my Lover” which is more spoken than sung and comes across as kind of whiney. So, if you feel like reminiscing about the 70’s with music of the 00’s or just like decent music, James Blunt is worth a listen.

Movie/Anime: Steamboy
It is not often that I am truly amazed by the accomplishments of a movie. I do not mean that merely in the sense of a movie’s entertainment value, such as with Gladiator or The Last Samurai. I am talking about movies that are literally landmarks, pushing through the limits of what can be done. Movies like The Matrix (Bullet Time and wire-fu), Snow White and the Seven Dwraves (the first feature-length animated movie), and the Star Wars trilogy (visual effects and sound). Katsuhiro Otomo, director of the acclaimed Akira, has brought forth another visual masterpiece in the anime genre. Akira, released in 1988, is considered to be a major turning point in Japanese animation as it was the first to use the cell-animation technique that is now employed by virtually everyone in the industry. The story is terrible, but the animation is absolutely amazing, even by today’s standards. After finishing Akira, Otomo began work on a film that would take him a full decade to complete. That project was Steamboy. Though the impact is not quite as profound as Akira‘s, Steamboy is still an amazing feat of filmmaking. It basically takes the same methods of his previous film, enhances them a thousand fold and throws in a little CGI (computer-generated imaging) to produce one of the most gorgeous films I have ever laid eyes on. As you watch it, you cannot help but be amazed at the level of painstaking detail given to the world of Steamboy. The way that the artwork, the animation, the sounds and the music come together is shere beauty. This is what makes Steamboy worth watching. The story, while much clearer and more done than Akira, still leaves something to be desired. It is almost as if Otomo does not quite know how to finish a movie and just makes something up so that he can be done. While there is a conclusion, it is a little odd and you feel like the real story is what happens after the credits roll. Kind of like if you watched the first Star Wars or Lord of the Rings movie but not the others. Despite this, I consider Steamboy a great movie to catch. Look for Patrick Stewart and Anna Paquin (Rogue from X-Men and X2: X-Men United) as voice actors on the English dub-over.

Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Evening, and Good Night
Well, that’s it for me this week. I need to spend time trying to figure out how I am gonna pay the deposits for the new apartment, what stuff I need to thow/give away, and if there truly is an ultimate question to the answer of life, the universe and everything. I hear it involves a 9 and a 6 somehow. Today’s picture, which I think is from, is brought to you by the letter “I” as in “It’s about frikin’ time Sam found a job!” Love ya mom and dad 🙂

Job Search Update
I went a little link-crazy in this article. Oh well, I refer to a lot of different things to so it kinda makes sense. Some great news this week: I’ve landed an interview with Cessna. Wait, make that two interviews with Cessna on the same day. I got a call early last week asking me to come in for an interview on the 20th and I’m all, “Sure.” Then, on Friday I received another call asking if I could stay an extra two hours for another interview with a different manager. Considering my schedule is more wide open that a Kansas wheat field I said, “I think I can swing that.” So, I gots ta brush up on ma mad interviewin’ skillz this week. I even dressed up all nice and stuff for church on Sunday to get back into the feel of wearing a tie (10 pts to whoever can guess what movie the pic is from).

Movie: Glory Road
Sports movies pretty much follow the same formulas. If it’s a comedy, the team is a bunch of bumbling fools who somehow get it together and pull off a major win at the end (Necessary Roughness, Bad New Bears, and Little Giants). Sometimes they try to show us what happens “behind-the-scenes” in the lives of the athletes (Any Given Sunday, Raging Bull, and, to a lesser extent, Jerry Maguire). Still others take a historical stance and aim to educate us about the importance of a particular team or game (Miracle, Rudy, and Chariots of Fire). Almost all of them make some attempt at a moral, usually having to do with not giving up on your dreams or something like that. Following the historical vain, the same group that made Remember the Titans have brought us Glory Road. It follows the story of the Texas Western University basketball team, the first NCAA team to put full starting line-up of black players in the Championship Tournament. The film portays the struggles of the team, especially the racial tensions, very well, but drops the ball somewhat on character development. You get a great feel for the team as a whole, but the only character that is devoted a lot of development time is the coach. While this is also the case in other great sports movies like Hoosiers, you get the feeling that more could be said about the individual players. Even in Hoosiers and Remember the Titans, you felt a good connection with the players themselves. This is not to say that the connection is not there, it just is not as strong. However, despite this the movie is good, well worth the $18.50 for tickets and concessions (I had a date with me).

Anime: Baki the Grappler
A recent article I read used an awesome line to describe a new action game coming out. The line was so great, I decided to use it here. “Though we like the intellectual stimulation and the good feeling we get from the latest French experiential [film], at times we just want a garbage can full of popcorn and Con Air.” You can think of Baki the Grappler in the same way. Baki is about a young boy who strives to become the world’s greatest fighter. The comparison to Dragon Ball Z is fairly obvious (How’d ya like that link? DBZ fans are nuts). Baki, however possesses more brains than DBZ or (shudder) Tekken can ever hope to have. This isn’t exactly saying much since a retarded canary has more brains than DBZ and Tekken combined, but you catch my meaning. The story begins with Baki, our thirteen-year-old protagonist, duking it out with a gang of 100 thugs, many of them carrying weapons. Before the fight is broken up by the cops, Baki manages to knock out 37 of them. Even I, with my lifetime of martial arts training, can’t do that. Of course, that’s the beauty of TV, isn’t it? The point is that this kid is tough. I’ve only seen the first two DVDs in the series, but it appears that the main antagonist in the series is Baki’s father, a demon of a man named Yujiro Hanma. He bears a striking resemblance to the infamous Akuma of Street Fighter II fame, is considered to be the best fighter of all time, and is a battle-hungry nut job. You learn quickly that Baki’s mother, one of the leading mob bosses in Japan, is just as screwed up as his father. Talk about dysfunctional. The series also showcases various different styles of fighting like Boxing, Muay Thai, and Karate, but they’re mostly just there to show that Baki can whip anybody in whatever style they fight in. One of the things I like most about this series is also the thing I dislike the most. They present Baki as a regular human being with an incredible fighting ability, but his fighting still has its has its share of faults which leaves plenty of room for story development. Unfortunately, they take it a little far at times. Baki will get slammed with a punch one instant, but dodge another much faster and more powerful-looking punch the next all within the same fight. So the fighting occasionally looks a little goofy, but overall its not bad. There are a few other things that might bug you. The opening theme song of the series is of the Japanese speed-metal flavor so you might want to skip the intro credits if that sort of thing bugs you. Also, if the sight of overly huge guys with rippling muscles grosses you out, then this series is not for you. So far, I’m enjoying the series and I’m heading back to Hastings today to grab the third disk.

Long Lost Music
As many of you know, I used to follow the happenings within the Christian music industry with great zeal. I knew every every new album coming out, who had goofed up in a press conference, who had won another zillion Dove Awards, and who had called it quits. It was always sad to see talented bands get stifled or shoved to the side in favor of a band that sounded like everyone else. My list of artists that should’ve made it big but didn’t includes bands like Reality Check who combined hip-hop and rock before it was cool and did so with class and skill, not like some other chumps, and Massivivid, an industrial rock band whose sounds were on par with Nine Inch Nails but could actually sing (my apologies, Laurel). I recently purchased through the great uncle of all internet-based consumerism, (eBay is the grandaddy), two CDs that have been out of print for a good number of years and have reviewed them just for you.

Shaded Red – “Red Revolution”
The first CD to arrive was Red Revolution by Shaded Red. Shaded Red was the second group I got hooked on in high school (Third Day being the first) and I’ve always loved their sound. Their self-titled debut still sits in my CD folder as one of my all-time faves. When their Red Revolution CD came, I was a little put off because they abandoned that original sound altogether and I never got around to buying it. Later, after the band broke up and my musical tastes by then were beginning to broaden, I did the proverbial “Doh!” coulda-woudla-shoulda routine wishing I had bought the album when I had the chance. Recently, I was going through my music collection, pulled out the first album and was listening to it while reminiscing when it struck that I could probably find it on Amazon. Lo and behold, it was there. Red Revolution is an interesting album to say the least. The band uses elements of Spanish music as well as an orchestra in conjunction with their rock n’ roll sound to put the album together. What comes across is an amazing listening experience. The only gripe I have is the occasional yelling by the lead singer. While yelling might work for the likes of Linkin Park or Tool, it is a little out of place with this music. Personal favorites on this album include: “Revolution,” “When God Ran,” and “About my Love.”

Brave Saint Saturn – “So Far From Home”
The other album is one that I at one time owned. Unfortunately, due to the Second Law of Thermodynamics being on an accelerated track within our household, the CD met an untimely and unfortunate end. I’m not gonna name names, I’m just gonna say it was not me that made the CD unplayable. Those of you who have followed Christian rock music from its infancy will undoubtedly have heard of Five Iron Frenzy (FIF), one of the three major Christian bands to gain popularity during the ska craze here in the U.S. FIF was known for its upbeat music, silly lyrics and even sillier stage antics. But, behind all that, lead singer and songwriter Reese Roper held back a lot of his darker writing from FIF’s albums, not wanting to alienate the band’s fanbase. Instead he created a side-project with three of his bandmates called Brave Saint Saturn. Their first outing was titled So Far From Home. Lyrically, Roper tells us of sad situations he has come across in his own life, from runaway family members to meeting a homeless man under a bridge to his fiancee calling off their wedding. On occasion, this tends to get a little whiny, but never becomes shallow. Musically, the band plays what can best be called, “space-rock.” Think of it as your run-of-the-mill pop/rock band with some nifty synthesizers and electronic sounds in the background. The main highlight of the album and their only radio-released single is “Space Robot 5.” Other highlights include “Resistor” and “Gloria.” While the overall feel of the album is fairly dark, the band still displays the silliness they are known for in the odd rap track “Shadow of Def.” If the band appeals to your liking, you can also check out their second release, “The Light of Things Hoped For.”

Adios, amigo, adios
Well, this turned out to be quite a lengthy article. I should probably get back to learning how to “Knock ’em Dead” in my interviews. Have a pleasant week everyone and wish me luck on Friday.

This week’s pic, with a Bleach theme, was taken from