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Posts published in January 2009

Ira Glass on Perseverance

Ira Glass on Storytelling #3

Thank you, Ira, for telling me what I already knew somewhere deep down and what I wrestle with all the time. I love that you’ve provided a self-effacing example to help illustrate your point. Keep work, people! Eventually what you make will be good.

I really like his point that creating for someone who expects you to produce, even if you’re not being paid, is critical. It totally supports my philosophy about work which led to the creation (and recreation and rerecreation) of the Great Williamsburg Writing Circle (GWWC). I know I work better, more regularly when I am beholden to someone, when someone is expecting the work out of me. Whether that is the GWWC, a film or something I am editing at work, or now my friends at Uncle Magazine, it is a huge motivator for me and impetus not to just get all lazy and complacent and stupid about it. It’s also the driving force behind the Year of 5000 Photos and 50 Short Stories; if I am expected by you, my fair readers, to produce work and share it on this site, then, by gum, I am going to produce. I am going to produce even if the work is trash.

If you’re interested, here are the other videos on Storytelling.

Ira Glass on Storytelling #1

Ira Glass on Storytelling #2

Ira Glass on Storytelling #4

Also: [audio:PrisonEnsemble.mp3]

Dipshit tires to outlaw “profanity”

robertfordWhat the fuck? Are you serious?

Sen. Robert Ford pushes to outlaw profanity

Oh, yeah, real good. Why not burn the Bill of Rights while you’re at it, smart guy? Who is to say what is considered “profanity” in your ill-defined, unconstitutional, piece of trash bill? Oh, you don’t like me talking about “dicks” and saying the word “fuck”? 5000 dollar fine!

You don’t like the word “clementine”? 5000 DOLLAR FINE!

You don’t like the word “nipple”? 5000 DOLLAR FINE!!!!!

You don’t like the phrase “Amendment I—Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”?

I know that there has been a movement recently to restrict people’s rights, but you’ve got to be kidding me. Go find another way to get your name in the headlines. I suggest doing humanitarian work or passing legislation that enhances, expands, and supports people’s rights.

I have been on a metal buying spree as of late

Between last Friday, the 16th, and Tuesday, the 20th, I purchased quite a few heavy metal records. 9 to be precise. I thought it might be nice to share a little break down of what I thought about these purchases.


Architect – Ghost of the Saltwater Machines


The first Architect record, All Is Not Lost, came out of nowhere. It was a recommendation by my friend Deegan who is always a consistent source for bands I need to check out. That first record completely blindsided me with it’s pure intensity. I was blown away. And then, while browsing the record store on Friday for some death metal (sometimes you just need it), I saw that Architect had a new one out. Done and done. I had to get it after how amazing their last effort was. I was not disappointed. In fact, I’d say of the whole haul, that this is far and away the best record I purchased. It’s not as heavy as some of the others, but it is just too awesome for words. Any fan of extreme music owes it to themselves to go out and get this right now. You will not be disappointed.


Belphegor – Bondage Goat Zombie


I encountered Belphegor on Blabbermouth a week or so ago. I had heard of the band before in metal magazines and the internets and wherever, and always thought “Belphegor” was a pretty sweet name, up there with Borknagar. I watched the video and thought it was a pretty decent mix of black and death metals, which I am down with. I’m certainly no purist when it comes to metal genre; it would only limit my intake. After getting the album, it’s obvious that the members of Belphegor have a 6th grade metalhead’s sense of humor, evilness, and sexiness. The album title is ridiculous, the song titles are ridiculous, and the liner notes are riddled with badly Photoshopped photos of evil sexy chicks with horns and bondage gear and shit. Lame. I mean, “Bondage Goat Zombie”? Seriously? Is this, like, some sort of concept album for 12 year old Norwegian retards with a leather fetish?

The irony of this is that the record itself, the music—the whole point—totally rocks. If you can get past the silliness of it, it’s actually pretty good. Funny how that works.


Bloodbath – The Fathomless Mastery


Sometimes the thing that will draw me to a band is its name (as we will see later), and Bloodbath is no exception to that. These guys are some sort of Swedish Superstar death metal band with members of Opeth, Katatonia, and some other bands filling their ranks. Their website states that the original intent of this band was “to thrash out some classic death metal in the style of early Entombed, mixed with some of the US Florida death metal scene bands.”

Now, if I had read that description before buying their record, I probably would have gotten in ages ago. Entombed? Floridian death metal? Thrash? I love all those things. What’s not to love? Does this record live up to that massive hype? Hell no. Does that mean it’s bad? Of course not; in fact it’s a quite adept death metal record, but it’s nothing all that special. It’s a good listen and if you’re looking for something new, check it out, but be prepared not to be amazed. It definitely puts off that old school death metal vibe though. Listening to it as I write this, I get flashes of old Dismember, Deicide, Malevolent Creation, Gorguts, Suffocation, definitely Morbid Angel, with a slight twinge of a more modern, more Swedish sensibility. Even their band photo looks like something Deicide would have taken in 1990. Cool, if you were into that shit. I don’t know, listening to this even more, I might be wrong and this might end up being totally awesome. We’ll see. It’s making me feel all nostalgic.


Brain Drill – Apocalyptic Feasting


Holy living fuck, this album is gnarly. And by “gnarly”, I mean “awesome”. And by “awesome”, I mean “totally fucking awesome”.

I was on the phone with Charlie in the record store, browsing through the Bs, when I came across Brain Drill. Remember when I wrote about how sometimes all I need is a good name? Well, here it is. First, great name. Second, great album name. Third, great song titles. Fourth, fucking great album art. I am a total sucker for this kind of horror movie gore death metal. It’s just awesome. I was a HUGE Cannibal Corpse fan back in the Chris Barnes days, and The Bleeding is still one of my favorite death metal albums. I think one of the things that prompted this whole “heavy as I can find it” music search was that I felt like folks just aren’t making metal records like that anymore, and I most certainly don’t see coverage for bands like that on MetalSucks, Lambgoat, or Deciblog. Luckily, I knew from my childhood that finding bands like this is usually as easy as finding the holy trifecta of offensive band name, offensive album name. and offensive song titles. You are almost guaranteed with those three things in place that you have a death metal album on your hands. The history is there and these guys are definitely carrying on the legacy of some of the great old death metal bands. Even better is that their brand of death metal is clearly informed by Grindcore, another extreme music subset that I cannot get enough of. All in all, the heaviest record of the bunch. It might not be as technical as some of the other ones, but in terms of pure brutality Apocalyptic Feasting shines.


Cattle Decapitation – The Harvest Floor


Probably my favorite vegan death-grind band from San Diego, I was really excited for this release. Maybe too excited after 2006’s Karma.Bloody.Karma. The Harvest Floor, while a fine album in its own right, does not stand up to their previous effort, but, really, I’m picking nits. This is a serious, no-nonsense party death metal record that does not skimp on the harmonized growls (YES). If Cattle Decapitation had never released Karma.Bloody.Karma, I might feel more strongly about this new one, but I can’t get the old one out of my head. It’s a good record, a really good record, but it just misses the mark set by the last one and that is disappointing. Definitely pick this up and give it a listen or thirty as it is still one of the best metal records I’ve purchased in a while.

I don’t want to come off as harsh. This album is brutal. You will like it.


Decapitated – The Negation


Decapitated, as you would rightly expect, is a death metal band. This is another highly capable death metal band, like Bloodbath, that is good, but not really all that special. They do everything right, except stand out. One great thing about this record is their cover of Deicide’s “Lunatic of God’s Creation”—I love the original SO MUCH. I remember being in 7th grade or whatever and knowing every single word to that self-titled album by Deicide, which, for me, is still the best thing they’ve ever done along with Once Upon The Cross. There is so much good metal history for me with Deicide that the cover on this album automatically gives Decapitated points for good taste.


The Faceless – Planetary Duality


When I described this band to Charlie, I referenced Protest The Hero, which I think is pretty fair, if Protest The Hero was a death metal band. Maybe these guys should be called Prog-Death Metal? Did I just make up a new subgenre of metal? The Faceless are probably my new favorite Prog-Tech-Death-Robot-Metal band, but not to be confused with my all-time favorite Prog-Tech-Robot-Metal band, Genghis Tron. Get it, the difference is DEATH.

This record is great, filled with technical flair and interesting song structures, yet still capitalizing on the pure, straight ahead awesomeness of double bass drums and harmonized growls. And to appease the electronic music dork in me, they liberally throw the vocoder into the mix, which is great. They even have Candiria style jazzy interludes. How cute!

My one complaint about this record is that the lead singer commits, for me, the most grievous sin one can in metal: he sings without the ability to do so. What could have been a truly classic release is relegated to the “Pretty fucking good” category for numerous bad-singing-in-metal-songs infractions. Too bad, The Faceless, you were so close. Maybe next time!


Origin – Antithesis


Another Origin record, another wall of hyper-technical death. If you’re into this kind of stuff, you already know all about Origin and you don’t need me to convince you. Why do I buy these? I already have Informas Infinitas Inhumanitas. Shockingly, the title track “Antithesis” actually has something approaching a groove that’s not just a wall of blast beats. Possibly worth the price of entry for that track alone. Luckily for you, that was not the track I posted so you don’t get some sort of deluded opinion of this release.


Severed Savior – Insurrection


Drunk on my recent acquisitions, I listened to a handful of 30 second clips of this record on Amazon and when I saw it in the store, I threw it on the stack. Even more so than Bloodbath and Decapitated, this album is totally average. At least the former two have something going for them. Severed Savior is just boring compared to the other records in this list. Maybe it’s an issue of context. If this was the only metal record I had purchased while buying a bunch of other music, or if I had made the mistake of buying a Misery Signals record when I meant to buy a Misery Index record, then perhaps this album might feel more special. As it is though, I am totally underwhelmed by it. It does absolutely nothing special. It is technically good, but it’s kind of like the band you see before the band you went to see and you bob your head to the music and you clap, but you’re sure as shit not down there in the pit and you’re not going to be heart-broken if you miss a song while getting a beer or taking a piss.

In the immortal words of Nuutti, this band is pretty all right.

I know a lot of you out there will read this and listen to the tracks and think, What the fuck is Joe talking about? All of these songs sound exactly the same. Well, I say you just don’t know what you’re listening for. I promise that if you had spent half your life listening to heavy metal, you’d understand every single thing I’ve written. In particular, I’m looking at Charlie and Austin, Deegan if he reads this. You guys will understand. The rest of you, I’m glad to have shared yet another tiny sliver of the mess inside my head.

I think Charlie’s header image says it all.


Listen to death metal.

Captain’s Log – I’ve taken too much LSD



This has to be the best thing I have heard in ages. Listen to the entire thing and please don’t be turned off by the fact that it’s a Star Trek joke; you’re better than that. I’ve listened to it at least four times over the last few days and it hasn’t gotten old. It comes from the Kasper Hauser podcast, which, apparently, you can get on the iTunes. I wouldn’t know. I don’t purchase copy-protection crippled, down sampled music. I’d rather get the CD and be safe in the (too common) event of a hard drive failure.

Thanks, Jesse!

President Barry

I am not overly emotional. I tend to be a little guarded with my feelings. I hesitate to become too deeply involved with anything until I can get a good feeling of what I might be getting myself into. It’s a defense mechanism that has served me well in my life, but has the added effect that I have a hard time being moved by momentous occasions. I don’t get wrapped up in the moment. The swell of the human tide has little effect on me. I just don’t feel it.


Today, however, I was deeply moved by the speech that President Obama gave during the inauguration ceremony. He comes off as undeniably genuine, his positivity and hope infectious, his intelligence evident. You can’t help but be moved by the guy as he addresses untold millions of people with utter grace.

In case you didn’t get to see the speech, here it is.

Here is the full transcript at The New York Times.

I haven’t heard a speech that good in 8 years. Or longer. In fact, I’m not sure I remember a time that I’ve been present for a speech as powerful and important as this. Certainly not during Clinton or either Bush. I remember Reagan, but only for the fact that he was President and that one day we didn’t call the big country at the top of Asia the USSR anymore. So there you go.

Barry even hit on my major issue with the previous administration: the sacrificing of “unalienable rights” for the shallow illusion of safety. Sure, there are more pressing, short-term issues at stake—jobs, healthcare, the war in the Middle East—but there is nothing else happening right now that threatens what it means to be American more than the removal of our liberties so the public can imagine that they are somehow safer when getting on an airplane. And that is something that has disastrous long-term repercussions for the United States as a whole. It is a slippery slope of small sacrifices before we get to a moment when we wake up and realize that we are living in one giant, dystopian police state and have absolutely no power to do anything about it. The Bill of Rights IS The United States of America. Without it we are nothing. So, it is unbelievably ironic that the Bush administration, who in their crusade to “protect democracy” and keep America safe, have either flagrantly ignored (Patriot Act, I’m looking at you) or sought to dispense with the Bill of Rights all together. Unwarranted federal wiretapping, torture, the dissemination of fear (have you ever seen the “Terror Alert” drop?), illegal detentions—it’s like the preamble to 1984. It is refreshing to hear the new President say directly what we’ve seen happening since 9/11. It fills me with hope that someday soon I can stop being embarrassed of the country I care so much about.

But right now all he has given us are words. Beautiful, inspirational words, yes, but only words. I am anxious to see what he and his team are capable of putting into action. They have a long and incredibly difficult road ahead of them, one which I can not even begin to fathom. I sincerely hope that Barack Obama proves himself to be a man of principle, dignity, and integrity. It is what this country needs. Party politics aside, I think that is something we can all agree on.

As an aside, while watching the Presidential Parade on the television at work, I heard Anderson Cooper refer to the “President and First Lady,” and immediately thought of the Bushes. But then I realized he was talking about the Obamas and I got the chills. How’s that for emotionally distant?

Here’s to the next four years!

Prime lenses

Prime lenses are a total inconvenience. Not being able to zoom is a complete pain in the ass, and having to switch lenses to change the focal length is even worse. I have to carry around multiple lenses to cover a variety of settings, instead of just throwing one zoom on and going for it. They are a real hassle.

If so, then why do I love them so much? It is so much nicer taking photos with my 300 dollar 85mm f/1.8 prime than it is with my 1100 dollar 24-105 f/4 zoom that I almost never even reach for the zoom anymore. The only instance when I throw the zoom on is when I know I’m not going to have time to switch lenses, which itself doesn’t take all that long and can be accomplished with light weight primes one-handed with a little practice. The rest of the time I just leave my two primes, a 28mm and a 85mm, on the body and go from there. I also have the 50mm f/1.8 in my drawer, but I never use it not because it’s inconvenient, but because it feels cheap. I just don’t like it. I’m going to purchase the 50mm f/1.4 in the next few weeks and then retire the f/1.8 version.

I think that what I like most about the primes is that they are solid, sharp as hell, and wonderfully bright through the viewfinder. If you’ve never seen the difference between a lens with an f/4 maximum and a lens with an f/1.8 maximum through a viewfinder, trust me the difference is remarkable. It goes from a dingy, dull image at f/4 to a bright, clean image at f/1.8 which unconsciously gives me a better feeling for the moment happening in front of my lens. It’s just a lot nicer. I feel more connected to my subjects, better equipped to capture the moment as it happens.

The ability not to change focal lengths is freeing from the endless possibilities of a zoom lens. Too much choice is no choice at all. For all the time spent while I’m dicking around zooming in and out trying to get a good composition, the moment has passed. Remove the option to zoom altogether and you find yourself unfettered by choice, able to take the photos presenting themselves to you. Besides, if you really want to get closer, just move your ass. It’s not hard.

Of course, there are times when you need to be run & gun with your photography or for whatever reason you can’t move forward or backward to get the right shot, but for the majority of the time I feel like shooting with primes is just better. That is really true for all the shooting-in-the-dark I do. Every little bit of aperture counts.

As a side note, I took my first daylight photos with the 5d Mk II today, after more than 800 photos in the dark. It does just as nice a job outside in daylight as inside in artificial light.