Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Excuse Me, Is This the Way to...

Holy hell! I remember this place...of course, the last time I was here, the cobwebs weren't so thick, the clock was running, the milk in the fridge wasn't expired and I'm pretty sure the healthy aroma of a completely stale, deteriorating environment didn't permeate my lungs upon inspiration. Has it been that long? Was I that out of it to not even think of writing anymore? What the hell happened?

Short answers: Yes; No; Too much. And how did the internet get cobwebs?

Nearly eighteen months ago, when I last posted, I'd been in the throws of inching my way towards the DMI program at Community College of Philadelphia. Now, I'm just over a full year into the program, president of the class of 2013 and I'm starting to really feel confident doing it. Of course, I'm no stranger to things like that shifting on dimes as life gets in the way, but it's been a rocky, challenging and ultimately fun ride. I'm still interested, excited and generally up for whatever aiming at becoming a Radiology Technologist brings on. Plus, I find myself thinking a lot more in this environment and because of that, I can unequivocally state that I'm happy. Now, with the wife working on her masters as well, static arises with aplomb between us. Without getting detailed, we've had some run-ins to say the least, but I think it'll all be worth it once school for both of us is over. Despite the fact that I'll most-likely have to hop right back into school post-certification, things should definitely come closer to looking up.

Shifting to personal interests, not much has really changed. I'm still the music and film aficionado I always was, but the waters in both of those have calmed significantly due to school, work and free time simply disappearing. Though, a friend of mine recently hooked me into Hulu +, where they have ALL, count 'em, ALL of the Criterion Collection titles currently in print. Frankly, the movie lover in me finds that simply sexy. Yes, I said it. Still the video game lover as well, though I've made the switch from Xbox 360 to PlayStation 3. Of course I still play FIFA, but as my interest expanded, I found the titles on PS3 to be more interesting than the Xbox exclusive titles. InFamous, Uncharted, LittleBigPlanet, and ModNation Racers were the retail titles that I found simply alluring - the former pair for the stories and the latter for the replay factor. But I'd also heard about the PlayStation Network (PS3's Xbox Live counterpart) being the venues for games like Flower, PixelJunk Eden (in fact, the entire PixelJunk series) and a slew of other downloadable titles that could be fun, challenging and even thought-provoking in equal measure. I'm also still a football fan. While I did shift away from supporting Liverpool due to some personal issues I have, which I won't go into, I decided to not choose another English team to support. Of course, I still have my soft spots for Tottenham and Manchester City (FUCK UNITED). The team I've shifted my support to is Valencia in Spain. I came to them about the same time I decided to watch football regularly (not support due to vicarious FIFA playing). I loved watching David Villa in the 2006 world cup and, upon researching the club, their wasn't much I didn't like. I've still maintained trying to follow a team in different countries whose leagues I like (i.e. Bayer Leverkusen in Germany, PSG in France and Palermo in Italy). The most interesting development though is the arrival of the Philadelphia Union in MLS. I'm close to this team because I was in the group responsible for getting investor's attention and starting them. Of course, I'm still a fan, but won't really associate myself with that group due to them seeming to prefer narcissism rather than projecting support to their team. Not gonna name them either. :)

But enough about me. Milo's still with us and doing well. He's going to be 4 in a couple months. He's become an absolutely essential member of our family. I don't think we'd want life without him. Yeah, I'm going to end it here. Don't feel like going on. :)

Hopefully (and I say this all the time) it'll be a bit more regular.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Happy Silver Anniversary to The Legend of Zelda

It's amazing how an article about a video game can both cause me to contemplate my age - something quite out of my character - albeit with boundless joy to the point that it electro-shocked this blog out of me.

I'm absolutely floored that The Legend of Zelda (the NES original) is turning 25 years old on Monday (2/21). I still remember my birthday in 1986. There was a huge box sitting on the living room table that I just had a feeling about. Everyone knew I was eyeing it up like a hungry lion stalking an antelope, but they decided to run the 46 defense on me and kept me away from the prize.

When I finally got to that heavily guarded birthday treasure, I tore through the wrapping like FC Barcelona through a mediocre defense only to be flummoxed by the revelation of a microwave oven box. This trick had been played on me before.

I think that, somewhere in my lineage, there's some great grifter known for pulling the wool over almost all those around them. Unfortunately, not all of his skill trickled through the generations, because I saw through this one; a trick played on my cousins, sister, and me enough times that I knew how to put on a happy face for the clothes I was about to receive. It was always a tried and true technique of gift-giving to to throw certain items in a box which had nothing to do with what the items were. For instance, one year my grandmother was given a refrigerator box completely wrapped. She was so happy it was a fridge that she made my uncles drag it to the kitchen so she could start switching the food out. The stubbornness runs deep enough, that they did it anyway. I think that was the first time I can remember hearing a torrent of obscenities woven by a lady more likely to be the good witch of the north than one who verbally shatter 4 men the size of the purple people eaters. Then again, she probably tasted a bit of karmic backwash in her throat that day because I can surmise she did something similar to each one of her kids (10 that is). Plus, the actual gift was several pieces of furniture that, I think, ended up being a new bedroom set that she'd been talking about for months.

Back to the story, I opened the box and put on a shit-eating grin as I pulled out shirts and pairs of pants to the oohs and ahhs of relatives and the quiet snickering of friends (7-year-olds can be so cruel). But as I reached in and prepared another fake smile, my knuckle knocked on something cardboard, but it couldn't be the bottom of the box. Instinct took over and the rest of the clothes seemed to explode out of the box as if I'd failed to disarm a bomb. Beneath them was a pristine, unopened Nintendo Entertainment System. Needless to say, I flipped my wig. Even more so when I discovered the 3 games taped to the back of the box.

So, like that, gaming came into my life. While the Italian plumber tackling turtles and eating mushrooms is probably the more famous of the characters that waltzed into my world that day riding a soundtrack of bleeps and bloops, the one that captivated me the most was the little elfin boy named Link. Sure, Super Mario Brothers, Excitebike, and Kid Icarus were great in their own right. Kid Icarus is still one of my 20 all-time favorites, but the un-boxing of The Legend of Zelda was almost a religious experience. From the format breaking golden case, to that fantastic golden cartridge. I imagine I wasn't the only kid that felt like King Arthur pulling Excalibur from the stone when I pulled that golden game cart from its vinyl sleeve.

Then there was the game. And what a game! The semi-open world, the levels, trying to find the levels, hell, even the instruction manual was amazing! So captivating was that first of Link's console adventures that myself and legions of others continue to revisit Hyrule whenever a new game comes out.

Thanks for 25 wonderful years!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I Got Lost in the Wilderness There for A While

So, I'm just under a month shy of not posting anything for a year. Let me tell you, it's been a bit of a trip. I was laid off from my job, I went through a bout of serious depression, returned to school, I left mxdwn in a rather unprofessional fashion - which I regret - and I ended up back where I was before I spirited myself to this side of the country, Pepsi.

Yeah, that's a bit of a short version of things, but I got some other things I want to talk about rather than my own sojourn through the wildernesses of unemployment life in which I almost had a complete emotional shutdown.

Starting with recent events, I want to say a belated goodbye to Coach John Wooden. While I wasn't around to see his UCLA absolutely dominate college basketball, I did grow up playing the sport and many of the coaches I had referenced him in coaching teams that I played on. One team in particular, was my final year of basketball camp at Iowa University. It was a 2-week camp in which I didn't really grasp what I learned till well after I left college the first time around. I remember we had a motley crew of people from completely different backgrounds, many of my teammates weren't even from this country, which was a completely new experience to me. While we all were able to communicate in English, our coach's main goal was to get us working as a team using Coach Wooden's pyramid. Our first practice was drills and running on the first day of camp. Each subsequent practice and game, there would rarely be a mention of plays, tactics or even a scrimmage. His main argument against our questioning him was, "You're at basketball camp and this team is a part of that. In every other minute of the day, you'll be drowned in fundamentals and tactics, I want to teach you to be a team." The first few sessions with him sucked. We wanted to practice and play the game in order to win, but he got us talking to each other and through that specific interaction we began to figure each other out off the court. What none of us knew was how well that would help us on the court.

While our season was awful at a piss poor record of 0-10, but of course all teams made the playoffs. By the time the games began to matter, we knew where any member of our team would be on the court at any time, no matter which five of us were playing. In the first round, we blew the team out by 50. In the 2nd round, 65. The quarters and semis were more of the same and these teams that were tanking us in the regular season didn't even recognize us. There were kids from my school also at the camp and we hung out during free time. Prior to the playoffs, I made a crack about my team playing possum till the playoffs. I didn't expect it to actually happen, but my friends actually showed up to our final game. Of course, I didn't expect it to go to double overtime either, nor did I expect the fairytale ending of sinking the game-winning 3 pointer. Sure, the game meant nothing in terms of my life, but I still have the trophy (we hang on way too long). Back to Wooden, I found out about his style of coaching years later and found out that my camp coach pretty much copped the method from him. In learning more about Wooden, I began to figure out the parallels of team sports and life and realized that it's not always the greatest amount of skill that can help you achieve an objective, but hard work and character as well. So, Wooden had an affect on me, though very indirectly. Hopefully, he's joined his late wife in the afterlife and delivered the letters he'd written to her. R.I.P. Coach.

Now to what's up now. The 2nd day of World Cup 2010 in South Africa has come to an end. I've watched every minute of every game thus far and my goodness does this tournament have some personality. There hasn't been enough matches to really say the tournament has taken off and those that have come and gone had an infestation of hesitation and tentativeness about them. South Africa opened things against Mexico in a decent 1-1 draw where both goals (scored by Tshabalala and Marquez respectively) had quality about them. South Africa didn't break the unbeaten streak for a host nation on the opening game and actually look like they could mess things up for France or Uruguay. Speaking of them, their match, while there were a few moments of possible brilliance, was an absolute bore of a 0-0 draw. South Korea gave spectators their first glimpse of a team coming out all guns blazing and put Greece to the sword 2-0, breathing some more life into this event. Then Argentina absolutely crawled to a 1-0 victory off of a tragically un-marked Heinze goal early in the game. Nigeria looked really up for equalizing, but simply couldn't close the deal. Then there was the final game of today, England vs USA.

I have a few English friends that have loved taking the piss out of me ever since this draw occured in December. Then there was that picture that graced a tabloid in England using 'easy' as an acronym for how the group would turn out (England, Algeria, Slovenia, Yanks). While my friends were winding me up, I really wanted to go all Kevin Keegan on them, but I kept saying to myself that it doesn't matter until the game is played. The game played out for us in awkward fashion. I got some bad news from back home, which caused me and my US-supporting crew to be late, but I had my jersey, a vuvuzela and red, white and blue afro wigs and we brought a flag. While support for both teams was in equal measure at my friend's house, I about cried when Gerrard scored on 4 minutes. I thought, it's 06 all over again. Then the US squad slowly started to come into their game. While I'm not good with tactics and I'm not really looking at stats, there was a decent ebb and flow to the game. Lots of mistakes were made on both sides, especially Robert Green assisting a Clint Dempsey shot over the goal line just prior to halftime. Then, my friend's power went out and we had to listen to the game on the iPhone app. While that was hard to do because I wanted to see the possible mistakes being made by either side. Not being able to, even pushed my blood pressure to severely unsafe levels. It was easily the most stressful sporting event that I've watched, ever.

I think that's enough from me today. It's great to be back and I'm going to try to be more regular about it. Hope all is well.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I Leave and Celebs Drop Like Flies

So, I had a great time overseas. Spain is one of the coolest, most beautiful countries I've seen. If you have the time and the means, I recommend going on a van tour. I didn't get to see Valencia like I wanted to, Sevilla is amazing and I was unable to get to most of the stadiums I wanted to. Just gives me an excuse to go back. More on Spain later.

The last day of my trip was marred with a bit of sadness. Michael Jackson passed away. I was unaware of his health problems, so it all came as quite a surprise to me. Yes, I'm like 2 weeks late here, but I was out of the country, give me a bit of a break. Jackson wasn't even in my top 20 favorite artists of all time. When Joe Strummer and Johnny Cash, two artists I hold far closer to my heart, left us, I was sad to the point of taking the day off work. However, I felt no need to revisit their entire catalogs and bludgeon myself to death aurally. Jackson was a different case, I felt the need to listen to his work again and remember funny things from childhood they accompany. I remember seeing him do the moonwalk on the stage at Motown 25, "Thriller" scarred the pants off me when I saw it as a kid, my cousins and I all, embarrassingly so, imitated the moves at my parents' wedding in 1985 and I will always remember the first conversation I had with my mom's new husband (my dad). I was sitting at my grandmother's kitchen table in Dukes of Hazard pajamas, listening to Thriller on a walkman and telling him how good it was. I think my mom or grandmother gave me cookies there at some point as well. It's sad he's gone, but probably some form of relief can be drawn here too. I'm not going to go into it, but a cloud can have a silver lining. At least he gave us some truly great music, videos and moves that will be remembered for a long time. I'll hold on to his work and champion Off the Wall, Thriller and much of his work with his brothers as I've done for as long as I can remember.

One thing, no matter how crass or ignorant, that I do want to say is this: Farrah Fawcett dying was sad, but Michael Jackson dying the same day saved her from a bunch of mindless exploitation. If I hear or read someone or something talking about, "Why couldn't Michael give her a day?" I'm going to scream. I say that with utmost respect to those who know and loved her work when she was doing it. I personally can't stand Charlie's Angels, Logan's Run is one god-awful shit fest of a movie, but somehow watchable, and Myra Breckinridge was just terrible. Of course the primate male in me finds her attractive in 'the poster', I can't lie about that. She meant a lot of things to a lot of people, that can't be denied. But the media overblowing Michael Jackson is a different than everyone coming out talking about how her contributions were under-appreciated. She was a central figure in one of the most dominating TV shows in the 70s, but that never really took her anywhere else. She will probably always be remembered for 'the poster'. I apologize if I offend anyone with these remarks, but it's just not a fair fight no matter how you slice it.

In closing, I'll be publishing a feature via mxdwn tomorrow about Jackson contributions to the music video. It's a long one, but I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting all his clips again. Please check it out.

My Jackson Faves:

10. Songs

1. "Billie Jean"
2. "I Want You Back" - The Jackson 5
3. "P.Y.T."
4. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'"
5. "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough"
6. "Can You Feel It" - The Jacksons
7. "We Are the World" - USA for Life
8. "Thriller"
9. "Remember the Time"
10. "Rock With You"

5. Albums

1. Off the Wall
2. ABC - The Jackson 5
3. Thriller
4. Dangerous
5. Bad

I'm not going to do a countdown for his videos because I feel the best way to see them is as one complete evolution rather than one being better than the other. If there's one I have to pick above all others it's "Smooth Criminal," but if you can find a way to watch everything from "Can You Feel It" up through the film Ghosts including Captain EO and Moonwalker, it's worth the time for both the aesthetic and entertainment value.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Busy 2 Months

It's been 2 months and change since I've even thought about posting here. No one ever said I was going to compete in the blog Olympics, but I should probably try and do this a bit more often. Just more proof that I'm part of a natural order of species that just aren't evolved enough to manage all of the many ways to get worthless pieces of information about their lives into cyberspace. Like a stubborn old man with chores to do would say, "I'll get to it when I'm good and ready."

Since I last popped on here to pour a bit of praise Paul's Boutique's way, I've been involved with a bit of life activity. Nothing too extravagant, but changes is changes. We actually had to make proper house purchases like adults. We picked up a lawn mower, edge trimmer, grill and patio furniture. Coming from the midwest, I was hoping for some Hank Hill-esque euphoria when shopping for these sorts of things, but maybe I'm just not wired that way. Anyone I know from home or here that is hip to Hank Hill-isms has been giving me all manner of crap about not getting a propane grill to boot.

I will say this, there's nothing that gives a pseudo manly feeling like mowing your lawn for the first time, with a mower you bought. Anyone who says it's no big deal is lying. Sure, it's not like taking a drive in your new car for the first time, but there's a bit of a satisfaction you take from it nonetheless. Now, what can take that feeling away, is trying to grill for the first time. My man credentials were severely questioned when it came to grilling. I'd never really taken much interest in how to actually cook on a grill rather than eat what has been cooked. That first time around a charcoal grill can really make a mouse out of you if you don't know what you're doing. Having said that, the fact that our first attempt at grilling turned out shoddy only motivated me to get better at it. So, my goal is to, by the end of the summer, be mediocre at it. Next year I'll go for my masters.

Taking a chunk of time out of grill practice will be a two-week vacation. We're going to Spain. While most that've interacted with me over the past 2 months may not have noticed, I'm absolutely stoked for this trip. We'll trekking up and down the country and seeing a ton. Let's not keep the cat in the bag here, I don't know much about Spain to begin with; at least not much in the grand historical sense. I'm excited to see the land that gave the world individuals like Cervantes, Pedro Almodovar, Luis Bunuel, Antonio Gaudi, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. I'm also curious about - this is going to sound weird - the different social climates in places like Catalonia, Valencia, Andalusia and (hopefully) Basque Country. Plus, being the football fan that I am, I want to see Estadio Mestalla in Valencia and Camp Nou in Barcelona. I'll possibly try and pick up a couple of jerseys while I'm there. If this is going to be anything like my first trip to Romania, it'll be one to remember as well as exhausting as hell.

Speaking of football, the season ended and what a conclusion it was. In England, it went almost to the last day with Manchester United taking the title over my Liverpool. While I'm sick of United seemingly winning everything put in front of them, I do have to say that my Reds gave them a proper challenge this year. With the possibility of huge names leaving United this summer and Liverpool keeping most of, if not all, its squad, next year could finally end the title drought for the reds.

In Spain, Barcelona showed the world what the height of all-conquering Catalan style can bring in terms of technique, class, dominance and flat-out entertainment. They made winning La Liga look almost academic while scoring and keeping the ball at will. Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto'o and Lionel Messi scored almost 100 goals between them and that's more than most TEAM's in the world have scored this season. They also became the first Spanish team to complete the treble (winning La Liga, The Copa del Rey and the UEFA Champions League). If they could play the way they did this season for a decade, I don't think anyone would complain.

Germany saw a VFL Wolfsburg win the league for the first time ever. Providing entertainment second only to Barcelona, Wolfsburg were a team that no one saw coming at all. They quietly wowed onlookers with the attacking brilliance of Christian Gentner, Zvjezdan Misimovic, Edin Dzeko, Josue and the defender-eating Grafite (scorer of my favorite goal this season).

France finally saw Olympique Lyonnais not win the championship ending their run of 7 in a row. Girondins de Boardeaux topped Ligue 1 when all is said and done. I will say that it was nice to see Paris Saint-Germain really put up a fight this season. Hopefully, they can build on it. Inter Milan won Serie A in Italy, but I can't say I really care. Italy was really hard to watch for me this year. Apart from seeing Genoa wreck some shop all over the place and finishing 5th, the always enjoyable Palermo, Napoli and Fiorentina finish in unsurprising spots, Serie A really lacked gravitas for me.

The best moments from this season though came in the form of teams breaking from tradition and delivering great performances where negative, defensive tactics were expected. In the Champions League, when Real Madrid went to Anfield, no one expected Liverpool to put on a show and light them up for 4 goals. Then, in the very next round, no one expected anything dramatic from a Liverpool - Chelsea tie (something that Jorge Valdano once called shit on a stick). However, viewers were treated to a two-legged affair that amounted to 12 goals (Chelsea going through 7-5 on aggregate). Sad to see my team eliminated, I could hold my head high knowing they went down fighting rather than worrying about damage control. Then, one week later, viewers were treated to a 4-4 thriller as Arsenal came to Anfield (one of the best matches I've ever seen). Again, their chances for the league title effectively eliminated there single-handedly by Andrey Arshavin, but they went down with a fight. Hopefully it's a good omen for the future.

That's all I have time for today. Be back soon!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Get Stone Bag Trippin' While You're Doin' the Bump

Sicka Sicka Shake Your Rump!

Yes, I know that the actual lyric is "Disco bag schlepping while you're doing the bump..." and so forth, but when I first heard this album in 1996 (yeah, I came to the party late, imagine that), that was how I understood it. Even after I read the lyrics to this album, I still said it that way. Not saying I think my version is better, but more than anything, The Beastie Boys' sophomore effort is about - maybe now more than ever - what the listener can take away from the experience. All of the lyrical references and samples don't need to be known for anyone to get maximum mileage out of this, possibly the most New York of New York albums, if that's even a category.

Can you believe it's been 20 years since this was released? I'm not sure what's scarier, the fact that 20 years have passed or that I'm still no where close to tired of listening to an album almost entirely stuck in another time. Funny as it is, if you examine those samples and lyrical references that I stated don't need to be known for full enjoyment, you'll find a hip-hop album that seems obstinately intent on dating itself. Robotron, the Quarter Deluxe, Green Eggs and Ham and Yosemite Sam are all name checked at some point along with countless others and a vast majority of the samples are firmly placed in either 70s funk or old school (as it was at the time) hip hop. This approach was so far out of left field in 1989 no one would've thought that, by 1998, it would be called one of the greatest albums in rock history by Vh1 or, in 2009, that Paul's Boutique would be able to look back and see the trail it blazed so prominently. Capitol Records clearly didn't know what they had in Mike D., Adrock and MCA because this album almost disappeared on arrival. Def Jam, the label that saw The Beastie Boys conquer the world with Licensed to Ill, looks even more clueless in retrospect, because all they wanted was more of the 'white Run-DMC' sound that brought the first album to the fore.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and go track by track into why this album's a masterpiece as plenty of folks have covered this - none better than Dan Le Roy though. What I can say now is that this album pointed a new direction in how music could be made. I'm not 100% positive that this is the first album where a collage of samples is the focal point, but in conjunction with The Dust Brothers (who produced this album), The Beasties forged a path for intelligent, artistic use of sampling that has oddly seemed to gain more traction in the rock arena than in hip hop from where I sit. Look at bands like Animal Collective or Dan Deacon whose music is almost 100% sampled from somewhere or even in Matthew Herbert's or Richie Hawtin's brand of dance music. There are many more artists today using the sampler than before. Thanks to The Beastie Boys, who are probably still getting sued for the samples within Paul's Boutique given their volume - there's an addage about omeletes and eggs that fits here.

I just wanted to take a quick few moments and give a 20th birthday shout out to one of the greatest (firmly in my top 5) albums ever made. And after 20 years - just like the man says towards the end of "B-Boy Bouillabaisse," "It's a trip, it's got a funky beat and I can bug out to it."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Bit of An Update From My World

As promised, I'm going to take some time to give you a bit of a peak into what I've been up to.

The short story is work. When you elaborate into what that actually means, you find a combination of moving, travelling, packing, unpacking, writing, interviewing, hiring, depriving myself of sleep, playing futbol, attempting to watch it on tv, as well as adopting, acclimating and raising a new dog. I've been a bit distracted with all of that. I don't want to make excuses, but that's the way it's been.

On the moving front, yes we've actually moved from an apartment to a house in Roxborough. More specifically, half of a duplex. It's about twice the space we had at our apartment, it's only a fraction more expensive.

We've officially settled in and gotten used to the fact that we no longer have to patron places that specifically deal in doing laundry. Love that! We also have a bit of a yard and a deck. Can't wait to get a barbecue going on that thing! We even have a garage and a shed. Inside, we've got more storage space than we know what to do with. We've got 2 living floors, plus a basement and an attic (I call it my fort). Now, all we have to do is have an actual housewarming and I think our living there will be symbolically official. Even better still is that the city is still completely accessible and the bus ride doesn't feel much longer than at our old place (which was actually in the city). We were really lucky to come across this place and even luckier to actually move in.

The move, I must say, was simultaneously easy and a pain in the ass. We were lucky in that we'd just paid our rent at the old place and, due to the whole first month/last month clause in the lease, were able take the better part of 2 months to get from one to the other. That was a great thing to think about. Throwing a wrench into that engine was the fact that we had to move over Christmas as well as do the whole Christmas travel as well. There's nothing quite like biting off more than you can chew.

Christmas was quite the fiasco too. I went to visit the parents in Portland (yeah, they moved to Portland, Oregon). This was our first trip out west and, believe it or not, it felt more like an Iowa winter than anything else. We get there and there's probably a foot of snow on the ground. To make things worse, no one there has any idea how to deal with it, people talk like it's the friggin' apocalypse and the mention of snow shovel meets more blank stares than anything I've ever seen. At any rate, the holiday was basically a microcosm of how living at home was for me. Everyone is happy to see each other for a few hours, we all coexist in some form of harmony and then someone disagrees with someone else (like always, this happened to be me) and the waters grow rough. The one anomaly was the fact that all parties involved here were able to amicably agree to disagree. Then what comes is the all out war that usually breaks out (usually because someone wants to jump into the middle of something they don't belong in - this is also my territory normally, but not this time out). The war is timed to perfection to be the night before the first part of us leaves (which is usually us) and then order is restored. It's not a vacation with my family without a fight and we refuse to disappoint.

In the midst of all this, I had to basically hire another newswire staff for mxdwn. That entails dealing with the lovely, but often uncooperative, folks at CraigsList. While I have my problems with them, I cannot fault their ability to give me an outlet to hire decent individuals. I could easily go on a rant against them, but the red tape they require me to get through in order to get an ad posted has to be needed for some reason. And, while it's not a full compliment yet, the staff I've gotten together are really pulling their weight well and learning quickly. I don't consider myself good at interviewing or training, so that makes the work doubly hard because I have trouble getting motivated for it. But, it has to be done, right? Right!

Staying in the mxdwn realm, I was given the opportunity to review what may become the best album of 2009. If you don't recognize the image on the right-hand side of this text, it's the cover of Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion. This album not only combines everything that's made the band great to this point, it contains a lyrical timelessness that'll make it great for years to come as well as enough accessibility to bring plenty of new fans into their camp. If you haven't heard, please go listen to it in any way possible. If for some reason you don't like it, I apologize for wasting your time, but with songs like "My Girls," "Brother Sport," "Summertime Clothes," "Bluish" and "Also Frightened," I can't imagine how anyone can get through this album and not find at least one thing they like about it. Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist have once again brought forth an album that exhibits the joy of making music in bold, new, thought-provoking ways.

I was also given the chance to review the new Asobi Seksu album Hush. Now, this album may not even be in the running for album of the year by the time July rolls around, but there's still a certain greatness due for a band that makes albums that are akin to genre films in the golden age of Hollywood. Shoegaze may not be on the radar of every hipster in the world - hell, Loveless by My Bloody Valentine may have been the album to kill the style despite being the undisputed heavyweight champion of it - but Yuki Chikudate and James Hanna have, over 3 albums, injected new life and energy to the style. Songs like "Mae No Meh," "Layers," "Transparence" and "In the Sky" create a solid foundation of a great set of songs, but the really jewel of this set is "Me & Mary." A lovelorn ballad of drained emotion and loss, Chikudate's in perfect vocal form and an argument could be made for this as Hanna's strongest hook to date. That's why I nominated it for song of the year last year.

And finally, the biggest thing that kept me busy over the recent past was the newest addition to our family. His name is Milo and he's coming up on a year and a half. He's a rescue dog with bags of both personality and strength on top of being adorable as hell. Overall, we really couldn't be happier with him, despite him driving me to question whether or not we were ready for another dog after Brixton. He's got a very dominant personality and he's a challenge to keep calm, but he listens the vast majority of the time and is pretty good about going into his crate for the day when we go to work. On walks, he tends to be more of a challenge. He knows that, inside the house, he's not the boss. He's still trying to be boss outside. It could be worse, he could have a bad attitude and be aggressive. Thank heavens he's not. Instead, he's just a fantastically welcome addition to our household.