Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dear Agony

I have been a fan of Breaking Benjamin for a long time now and they never cease to create great music. Their last album Phobia is on my list of favorite albums ever. Critics say that Phobia had a darker sound than their previous albums. Were they listening to the other albums? I think there are darker themes in Phobia, but the sound is pure Breaking Benjamin.

In their new album, they return with their signature heavy sound and lead singer Benjamin Burnley's raspy vocals. Their lead single "I Will Not Bow" is on the soundtrack of Bruce Willis' new flick, Surrogates, and seems to be their biggest hit of their career. Woohoo!

1. Fade Away: Signature BB sound with heavy guitar and drums.

2. I will Not Bow: Fantastic song paired with an amazing video. I love how the chorus is slower than the rest of the song and feels epic.

3. Crawl: This has a little more screaming than the other songs, but it's not disturbingly so. I actually didn't notice it until after I listened to it a couple times. I love the repetition of "Holding On."

4. Give Me a Sign: A rock ballad with fantastic lyrics. There are little gems in this song like "Shepherd of the damned" and "Forever and ever the stars will remain."

5. Hopeless: Excellent song.

6. What Lies Beneath: A mellower sound. The title makes me think of the movie of the same title. It would be interesting to see if the band made the correlation on purpose. Great song.

7. Anthem of the Angels: Great title! Kind of a sad song. Sounds like he's letting someone die. Depressing, yes, but the anthem of the angels seems to be a saving grace.

8. Lights Out: Hardcore Breaking Benjamin at their best.

9. Dear Agony: The title track of the album is a plea for release from life's agonies. Anyone can relate to this song at some point in their lives.

10. Into the Nothing: Fantastic!

11. Without You: An epic song that seems like a love song. "I can't face the dark without you."

Just a side note: I owe a lot, creatively, to Breaking Benjamin. I listen to their music when writing and it helps me think and create. My novel has enjoyed a lot of progress because of them. I look forward to more from this band. If you have not discovered Breaking Benjamin before this album, take a listen at all their other albums. I'm certain you will not be disappointed.

Brand New Eyes

I just purchased two new albums yesterday. Big deal, right? Well, it is a big deal! These albums just so happen to be from two of my favorite bands right up there with Tori Amos herself.

I will do two different posts for the albums.

Paramore's Brand New Eyes is a great album. They have not changed their sound a whole lot which is fine. The only real difference is that these songs seem a little darker, moodier, and angrier. The lead single off the album "Ignorance" is, essentially, about how the band was about to break up. According to lead singer Hayley Williams this song was the catalyst into allowing the band members to finally speak to each other again and really let out their feelings. I'm not sure about the details, but the band was about to break up. "Ignorance" is not only about a band near breaking point but it is also about relationships changing in general and how we sometimes treat those we know the best in the worst ways possible. It is also easy to see, in this album, the influence that No Doubt has had on the band. In one of the tracks Williams sounds a lot like Gwen Stefani.

There are a lot more acoustic songs on this album such as "Misguided Ghosts." I was also astounded by Williams' pipes in the final track "All I Wanted" where she belts out some amazing notes. It's also nice to hear the boys from the band lend their voices to some of the tracks.

1. Careful: Classic Paramore with a catchy beat and oodles of attitude.

2. Ignorance: Has an edgier sound coupled with the claustrophobic video this song is destined to be a classic.

3. Playing God: A song about someone who thinks very highly of themselves. "Next time you point the finger, I'll point you to the mirror." Great lyrics.

4. Brick by Boring Brick: Excellent title. Love it. And I dig the attitude in the "ba-da-buh-ba-dah-buh-bah."

5. Turn It Off: It might just be me. But this is the song that recalls, to me, No Doubt. I'm sure Paramore would take this as a compliment so I have no reservations of making the comparisons.

6. The Only Exception: A great acoustic sound and a love song that shows the softer side of the band.

7. Feeling Sorry: "Got no time for feeling sorry." Need I say more?

8. Looking Up: This seems to be a celebration of Paramore's success and wondering why they were willing to "hang it up." Their dreams have come true with their current success and this song is evidence that they are willing to stick through all the downs in order to enjoy the ups. "We're just getting started." Can I just say...YES!

9. Where the Lines Overlap: One of my favorite tracks from the album. A nice little ditty.

10. Misguided Ghosts: A very pretty song that shows that Paramore is a very diverse band that can rock it out with the best of them and then go soft with perfect clarity.

11. All I Wanted: I love that this one starts out so soft and sober then come in the drums. This is possibly my favorite track on the album. It laments the loss of love and highlights the loneliness after it. Another bonus is Hayley Williams' incredible voice which sounds better than ever in this track. There's a part where the music stops and she just belts out "All I wanted was you" and my first thought was "Wow." And then I smiled.

I applaud you, Paramore, on another great album. You never cease to please and amaze.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Crazy Dreams

I've been watching the first season of Heroes with my parents. What a great show! This is the first time we've been able to watch the series because we missed it when it first came out and were never able to catch up with it. It's not one of those shows you can just drop in and know exactly what's going on.

So one night I was watching Heroes and couldn't stop watching it. I stayed up til about 2 am watching it! That night I had a really vivid dream of me being able to fly (one of the characters in Heroes can fly). One of the really scary parts of my dream was when I was running from this huge tornado that looked so real. Not only that, the tornado was going right through Rigby and heading for my parents' house.

Dreams are so interesting, aren't they?

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Here's my quick review of the latest album release from one of my favorite bands, Brand New.

Album Title: Daisy

Track 1. "Vices" Wow. It starts out with a soft, mellow recording of a woman singing in a very vibrato voice. This goes on for nearly two minutes so you get all used to the softness then Brand New freaks you out with a loud intro to the song. Holy cow. I seriously jumped and my heart began to race the first two times I heard the song. The third time I was prepared for it. It's a little too screamy for my tastes, but still a good song.

Track 2. "Bed" Love it. It's a little darker, mellower sound than "Vices" but this is the sound I grew to love from their The Devil and God is Raging Inside of Me album.

Track 3. "At the Bottom" A little harder. Has a catchy sound to it.

Track 4. "Gasoline" Love the drums in this one.

Track 5. "You Stole" Slower and mellow but full of hate. This is classic Brand New.

Track 6. "Be Gone" Love the background to this song. There's a guitar and a sweet beat to it, but the words are muffled to the point that you can't understand what they're saying. This was done on purpose, but it's my least favorite song on the album because of it.

Track 7. "Sink" Groovy beat that reminds me a little of The White Stripes. Great song. I even like it despite the screamo chorus.

Track 8. "Bought a Bride" Love it.

Track 9. "Daisy" One of my favorite tracks on the album mostly because of the lyrics. Stuff like "I'm a mountain that's been moved...I'm an ocean nothing floats on...I'm a sky nothing wants to fly in..." Good stuff.

Track 10. "In a Jar" Yep. Love it.

Track 11. "Noro" Great song. Starts all slow and then gives a nice buildup to a rockin' tune. Love the drums.

All in all I give this album two enthusiastic thumbs way, way up. Great holiday fun. :)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dang Knee

So a couple years ago I hurt my knee. My dad said that I tore a ligament or something. It swelled up like a balloon and I could not put very much pressure on my foot after it happened.

Just a few days ago I did something to agitate the injury and it has swelled up again and it feels like I just injured it all over again.

My workout routine has suffered because of this. But today I decided I would try to do the workout with a knee brace. I was able to do the workout but there were some exercises that hurt more than usual (not enough to make me stop, though).

Yesterday I worked 9 hours and spent most of those on my feet on concrete floors. By the end of the day my back, hips, and legs were aching. I felt like I was twice my age because of it. I've got to get this stupid knee working right again.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Latest Obsessions

These are a few of my latest obsessions:

1. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Hilarious (somewhat crude) show about 4 friends who run the worst bar in Philadelphia. It is reminiscent of Seinfeld only more immature, arrogant, and crass. But it is so funny! Watch it; you'll love it!

2. Criminal Minds: I could never pinpoint when this show was on so when I would catch an episode it was always exciting. I just purchased the first season because I was sick of not knowing what was going on in it when I would watch it. It's about a special team (Behavior Analysis Unit) of profilers in the FBI. The cases are especially dark and insane and the characters are all really smart. Love it.

3. Brand New: Great band. I bought their album "The Devil and God are Raging Inside of Me" when it first came out because I had heard of them. I'd never actually heard their music before. Truth be told I liked it but it wasn't my favorite. For some reason, on a trip to Seattle almost two years ago we were listening to this album and I couldn't get enough of it. Now I have it on my iPod and they are amazing. In fact, their music helps me when I write my novel. Their new album "Daisy" is coming out at the end of this month. I am stoked for it!

4. Breaking Benjamin: I've really, really loved Phobia (BB's last release). There were some bad reviews on it because of the darker sound and such, but I really like it when artists try different things. To me it shows they are not scared of their creativity and don't wish to conform. I've been a fan of Breaking Benjamin since their album "We are not Alone" came out, but "Phobia" is my favorite album of theirs. They also have a new album coming out this month. The first single from that album is "I Will Not Bow" which is on the soundtrack for the new Bruce Willis flick Surrogates. It seems BB is finally getting the break they deserve. This band is another one that inspires me while writing.

So, take a listen, grab a seat...let me know what you think of these shows and the music! Promise you won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Yet another book review!

I was feeling brave and philosophical, so I read Annie Dillard's masterpiece Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.

In high school I absolutely loathed reading Thoreau, so it is surprising that I liked Annie Dillard's book. She has been dubbed a modern-day Thoreau, a naturalist, a philosopher, and an essayist. From what I remember of Thoreau, he was really inaccessible, wordy, and boring. After reading Dillard, I've actually wanted to take another stab at Thoreau to see if I can actually get something out of it. Dillard quotes Mr. Thoreau a few times in her book and the quotes she used were really great. Then again, she may have snatched the only really good quotes from him. I can't remember him well enough.

That being said...

Annie Dillard's book is fantastic! I was first exposed to her writing in a creative writing class where we read an excerpt from Pilgrim and also watched/listened to a reading she did at BYU back in the 80s. From that point I was changed. Her style is very descriptive and beautiful. In an afterword to her book, she says that her writing has been cut down since, but she left it the way it was simply because it shows her progress as a writer. Wow. If she sees this book as amateur-ish then I have a long way to go with my own writing.

Every chapter covers a different part of nature (i.e. reproduction, locusts and parasites, stalking, etc.). I think my favorite part was when she talks about stalking. She becomes obsessed with seeing muskrats which are, apparently, very elusive creatures. So much so that she basically becomes a stalker of muskrats. After very lengthy descriptions of the animals, of her surroundings, and of her stalking tactics, she begins to tie this in with Moses. You would not think that Moses and muskrats would have anything in common. Well, they don't. Annie likens herself to Moses and the muskrats are Jehovah. If you remember, in the Old Testament, how Moses could only see the "back parts" of Jehovah and he only got to look from the outside in at the promised land that he would never be able to enter. Such is how she felt while stalking the muskrats.

It's gems like these (and I can't do them justice by explaining them) that make the book worth reading. I am also reading The Hidden Christ by James L. Ferrell. It was interesting to see some correlations between Ferrell's book and Dillard's. Synthesis is one of the greatest and most fun things about reading and analyzing literature.

So, if you, too, are feeling brave and philosophical give this one a read. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

All About Steve

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Last night, my friend Mike and I saw the new Sandra Bullock flick called All About Steve. I had read some reviews about the movie. There was a huge gap between those who loved the movie and thought it was hilarious and the people who thought it was a complete waste of time and money. I fall in the group that loved it.

Just a brief plot summary. Sandra Bullock plays Mary Horowitz, a quirky crossword puzzle creator. Right from the get-go you can see the childlike, odd behavior of this woman and her devotion to words. Mary is setup, by her parents, on a blind date with Steven (Bradley Cooper) who she instantly gets infatuated and obsessed with. Steven, a news camera man, gets freaked out and makes up a quick lie to get rid of her, telling her that he has to go on the road and he wishes she could come along. Mary takes him seriously especially after she gets fired from her job for making a crossword puzzle that is All About Steve (quite humorous, I thought). And so Mary takes off on the road, following the news because "where the news is, Steve will be there." Steve, obviously, thinks Mary is a freaky stalker and his fear gets worse and worse throughout the movie. Mary's infatuation is only enhanced by Hartman Hughes (Thomas Hayden Church)who sees in Mary a chance to get his job as a news anchor.

There are some good laughs and some really great insightful moments. There's a part of the movie where they are covering the story of a three-legged baby and, somehow, Mary ends up on the pro-keep-the-leg-side. From a writer's standpoint, this was brilliant. The baby is an echo of Mary's quirkiness because of its leg. Everyone wants Mary to be "normal" and she sees Steven as her ticket to normalcy. By getting rid of the leg, the three-legged baby will be normal and just another person. But, by keeping it, the baby will be able to embrace the thing that makes her unique which is, essentially, what Mary must try to do: embrace her quirky personality.

Some reviews complained about the climax of the movie, but I really liked it. Mary is put in a dire situation (although the danger never really feels too dangerous) in which she comes to realize that she doesn't want to be normal.

Another complaint some reviewers had was that Steve and Mary don't end up together. Here is my defense for that. Steve grew up by the end of the movie. He realized that he had led Mary on and made her think that he was interested. Thus, he became a better person and he saw Mary as a woman who is beautiful in her own way. While I wish they would have had him ask her out or something...I still find that I was satisfied that he didn't get Mary because, in the end, he doesn't deserve her. Also, Mary has come to embrace and understand who she is and not care what people think about it. She gains some friends who are also just as quirky as her. So, in the end, Mary ends up happier and better off than before as does Steve.

I really think there was a good message in this movie. There aren't a whole lot of movies out there that are willing to teach a lesson. Those that hated the movie were expecting a lovey-gushy ending so they missed the entire point of the movie. I think it helped, too, that I related to a lot of the parts in the movie. Honestly, a lot of people could relate to this movie because there is a little Mary Horowitz in all of us.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Law of Nines

I just finished Terry Goodkind's new book, the Law of Nines. Before I go on, I will warn there are spoilers in this review.

I loved Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. Finally, some fantasy with depth and vision. What made that series so incredible was the way he mixed in philosophy (the objectivism found in Ayn Rand's books) with a really great and entertaining fantasy tale. Richard and Kahlan, the two main characters in that series, were believable as lovers and as heroes. They both progressed and developed in very natural ways that made the reader get really attached to them. He had created a world that did not seem irrational because it mirrored our own so well except it had magic. The ending of the series was particularly interesting because it was unexpected. Lord Rahl, Richard, ends up sending those who are against his philosophy (the bad guys) to our world. What a cool commentary. Goodkind essentially said, in the end, that those bad people live in our world and they are trying to push the same philosophies here as they were there.

I needed to tell you all that information for you to understand my review of the new book. Now, I had heard that Terry Goodkind was going to write in the thriller genre. I was ecstatic because I don't think that authors should always have to write in one genre. Certainly, if you are a good enough writer, you should be able to write in several genres.

It was a little weird, at first, to realize I was reading Goodkind when all that was happening was on our world and in a modern time. Not only that, the writing quality was nowhere near the quality of the Sword of Truth series. I read a review that called the writing "blocky and strained." I was willing, however, to overlook the lower quality of writing because I believed in Mr. Goodkind.

Then he started throwing in all these hints about the world from his other series. I was shocked and a little excited because it was unexpected. But then I found that the fact that he tied in this book with the other world made no sense. We get 1,000 years worth of history between the end of Sword of Truth to this book in just a chapter. I felt like someone had taken a beautiful painting and written all over it with marker. Oh wait, that's what happens in The Law of Nines not only once, but twice, a detail which was confusing because somehow the bad guy, Radell Cain, had been watching Alex Rahl the whole time.

That brings another point. Alex Rahl. Rahl is Richard's last name. How the hell did a Rahl get to our world? This is a detail Goodkind never addresses. Then, not only that, his love interest is Jax Amnell which is the same last name as Kahlan in the other series. Correct me if I'm wrong but, if Richard and Kahlan got married (which it's not outlandish to think that they did), Kahlan would no longer be Kahlan Amnell. She would be Kahlan Rahl. that case...wouldn't this relationship between Jax and Alex be a form of incest? I was really confused. Her last name was supposed to be some big revelation, but I found myself wrinkling my nose in distaste because of the implications. Whether or not that was intended, I know not.

Moving on. Alex is a nice guy, right? He's your average Joe at the beginning of the novel when he saves Jax from a van that's about to run her over. Somehow, in the midst of all this, Alex goes from regular Joe to a killing machine. There is a gruesome description of Alex strangling a nurse at the psych ward where his mother is being taken care of. The nurse is a bad lady, but this is one of the first acts of violence in the book. It makes me less sympathetic to Alex simply because we have not seen the bad guys do anything really terrible up to that point.

Another thing. The action scenes drag on forever. And I found myself skimming a lot toward the end because I wanted to get to the main point of the story. It took forever for the climax to come around and it was disappointing. It all felt like a rehash of The Wizard's First Rule. Well, more like a cheap imitation of it because WFR is fantastic. This book is just mediocre.

I guess I could sit and nitpick at the book all day long. Kudos to Goodkind for trying to get out of the fantasy realm. I've been trying to figure out if it is best to read this book without having read the other series, or if you should read SoT and then read this book. I don't know. This book relies so heavily on you understanding what happened in SoT that it would be even more confusing if you had not read them.

So...I would only recommend this book if you're a die-hard Terry Goodkind fan. I am still a fan because he was able to produce an amazing series, but I hope his next book is not as hard to get through as this one was. It was entertaining, but not worth getting excited over. I kind of hope he returns to fantasy. We shall see.

Here are the links to some other reviews on this same book:

Entertainment Weekly

The Sword of

The Book Reporter

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Soul Burner Update

I am writing a novel. The working title, right now, is Soul Burner. There are other titles floating around in my brain, but I've yet to come across something that I like as much as SB.

Call me nerdy or trendy or whatever's about vampires. I'm trying to make the story less about the vampire aspect and more about the relationships within the story and how even vampires have human foibles. I want it to have more depth than your average vampire novel. We'll see how that goes. Judge me all you want, I like vampires. I'm not some goth. I just like the idea of them in a literary sense.

Right now I am at about 46,000 words which roughly translates into approximately 184 published pages. This project has been about two years in the making so it's not really all that good that I've only been able to do that much in so long. For a first novel, though, this is quite an accomplishment for me. My goal is to have the rough manuscript done by Halloween then spend November and December fixing stuff and getting it ready to send off to publishers in January. Cross your fingers. I worry that I'm doing all this work for nothing even though I really have faith in this story. I love the story and want to share it with everyone.