Archive for December, 2008

This Just In!

Photo © 2008 Cassie Melnikow, Montage © 2008 Stan Syckes

BREAKING NEWS: The blogging community has just increased by one. I am surprised and honored to announce that Cassie now has her very own blog: Sarcassm. Actually, she enlisted the help of famed web-maker Brandon to set it up as an Xmas present to yours truly. Little does she realize this only means that the triumvirate of Brandon, Stever, and I will pester her daily about posting since all we do at work is read and write blogs! Nevertheless, welcome Sarcassm!

Oh … and in 15 minutes the ol’ ball drops and it becomes 2009. It’s about 10 degrees outside, snowing a little bit, and super windy. So I’m staying inside, drinking and playing video games! That’s right … exactly what I was doing at this hour 20 years ago! Minus the drinking 🙁

Happy New Year!

  • Created James Bond banner
  • Changed rating system on Recording, Song and Album pages to display full/empty smiley faces instead of just text at musicDB
  • Added Cassie Melnikow’s Sarcassm to Personal Sites

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Simple Sample

I thought I’d check in with my music progress since the last few blogs have been kind of blah “weekend wrapup” posts (lo, how I loathe those). Since I never heard back from that cover band, I’ve been trolling the Craigslist musician ads looking for like-minded individuals in the area who sound normal and have decent musicianship. I’ve been less than successful these past couple of weeks so I’m thinking of switching gears just a bit.

While I will continue to search for bandmates, this hunt will no longer be my musical prime directive. Instead, I will pour the majority of my energy into writing new songs and building up my own skills. The goal is to have a couple of new MP3s to host on my myspace page where I point potential band members to. The understood rule when conversing through Craigslist is to include a Myspace or YouTube link containing samples of your songs or playing. If someone doesn’t respond with either of those (or directly sends an MP3), then I instantly move on. I don’t have time to meet up with someone for a cold audition. Unfortunately, my Myspace page hasn’t changed for sometime now. Worse, some of the songs hosted there are super old – one even from as far back as 2003. It’s high time for new blood and I’m tired of waiting around for the feeling of inspiration to happen.

However, I am completely burned out just sitting at my computer and coming up with music on my guitar. I’ve been doing it that way since 1999 and, though I can continue to be productive this way, it all comes out sounding the same. In the past, I’ve injected new ideas and fresh looks at old material by utilizing drum samples. The drums are perhaps my worst instrument and I’m extremely limited in writing for it – I continually hear the same beats over and over in my head. So, a good drum loop can really break down my writers block. I crave this sensation again but couldn’t track down any usable, free drum loops online. Really! I searched everywhere but there are no good rock beats for free.

Next, I seized upon the wild idea of hiring a real drummer, booking studio time, and just recording him performing beats live. It seemed like an interesting idea, but it would ultimately force me to rely upon Craigslist – the very thing I was attempting to avoid. Plus, with studio time and possible drummer compensation this solution might end up being more expensive than just purchasing drum samples. I casually mentioned my dilemma to a musical coworker of mine and he announced he was going to save my Christmas by giving me 30 GB of drum samples. My face lit up until I took a listen to his gift – they were all techno and dance beats.

Finally, I bit the bullet and bought samples two nights ago from a site called Beta Monkey Music. I don’t know why I didn’t just do this in the first place! I now have 3 CDs worth of rock, hard rock and pop-rock loops to use. A quick listen last night revealed that these loops are both very basic and professionally recorded so I’m just salivating at biting into them! I can already feel some creative juices flowing and will keep you posted as to what comes out of this!

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  • Added fades to top of blog posts / comments

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Comments:
  • Tuesday, December 16th, 2008 at 13:25 | #1

    My suggestions to spark your creativity are to:

    A: try to go listen to some live music each week (big concert or open mic, whatever).

    B: go play live in front of people maybe once a month even if it’s one song for an open mic solo.

    C: red-butt themed songs

  • Thursday, December 18th, 2008 at 22:45 | #2

    You know what I did? I updated to Cakewalk’s Home Studio 7 XL. Unfortunately, the new layout has disoriented me. But it’s new AND I fixed my computer’s sound screeching issues (by turning off any graphic acceleration).

    And I’m dying to lay down some tracks with the cheap-ass pocket trumpet.

    Play on, Stanimal.

  • Friday, December 19th, 2008 at 12:19 | #3

    Wow … Cakewalk! I know it can do so many things now, but to me Cakewalk will always mean MIDI programming. I guess that may have something to do with the fact that the last Cakewalk program I used was before it could handle sound recording. 🙁

    Pocket trumpet!? I hardly know you, Gary!

Heroes, Shmeroes

Photo © 2008 NBC

The magic of Netflix introduced me to one of my new girlfriends this year in the awesome sci-fi/Gilligan’s Island remake, Lost. In fact, I managed to put aside enough time to watch all four season in a span of five months! Unfortunately, once I caught up to the current season (which happened to be the final episode of said season) I was left in the cold for months: Lost wasn’t returning until mid-January! I had built up my show-watching muscles and now they would wither and atrophy without sustenance … something needed to be done.

Enter Heroes. In so many ways it’s painfully obvious that Heroes is NBC’s answer to ABC’s Lost: both shows feature an international cast suddenly finding themselves in different environments amidst supernatural circumstances. Clandestine relationships between characters are revealed as viewer’s delve into the backstories via flashbacks. Both series are such sweeping epics that they necessitate long-winded narratives reminding you of what happened in previous episodes so you don’t get too lost. Anyway, I finally got through the first season of Heroes and I’m here to say …

… it stunk! Yes, me, a comic-obsessed kid (and still a comic-reading “adult”) couldn’t stand this show about a group of super-powered individuals attempting to save the world. Nay! Whereas Lost’s most stunning acheivement is solid, dependable consistency (ok, so there were a handful of cheesy elements early on like the polar bear), Heroes is nothing but hit-or-miss (and mainly staying in the miss category). And this has to be the result of poor planning. Every single element of the show is dictated by what needs to happen to clear up what went wrong in the previous episode. There were countless times when a character’s fundamental directive is changed between successive episodes. I get so tired of the lame “well, I was secretely waiting to do this the whole time! Earlier, when I was against it … I was lying!”

Absolutely no sense of time is adhered to. My favorite example: in a late episode a character stops at a Chinatown store with a friend to get something fixed. There, he stumbles upon a person from his past who proceeds to train him in martial arts. After this training session (which is long enough to necessitate a costume change into a dogi and learning a killer move to take out the badguy), the character leaves and wonders where his friend whom he arrived with went. Do the writers really expect us to believe his friend waited in this repair store for the hours? days? weeks? it took for all the martial arts lessons? Don’t even get me started on the fact that the martial arts trainer was someone who, again, completely flipped motivations within the span of episodes.

This isn’t a spoiler: the bad guy can “steal” people’s powers by cutting their heads open and figuring out how their power works. He explains this by saying he was a watchmaker and loves to see how things work. Ok … as I mentioned in my previous post, I’m perfectly fine with suspending my logic when watching entertainment. I assume his power is stealing people’s powers just like his good guy nemesis. But in an earlier episode a scientist looking for superheroes reveals that this bad guy is actually a regular human being. Now, I’m either forced to believe just by looking at a brain this regular guy can learn a superpower or that, somehow, someone was, again, lying. Ugh … such tired, lazy writing.

Sorry, Heroes, I will not be devoting any more time for other seasons with you. Besides, come mid-January I’m going to have an hour less of free time, anyway.

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Turkey Wrap

I’ve done a lot in the past couple of weeks. And I don’t want to write about any of it! For some reason I have no trouble contributing to The Doh Drop or Project NBA Sim – my two other blogs I manage – but [stanus.net] is hurting for inspiration. But I’ll grip the bathroom walls tightly and try to force one out here.

Quantum of Solace
My dad came to visit New York City two weeks ago and (as Schumie would say) we had a ball! The first highlight of the weekend was seeing Quantum of Solace. We checked it out in the huge Lincoln Square theater (we were in the pyramid-themed room). I’ll try not to spoil the movie for you but … it sucked. The Bond girls were absolutely unnecessary (really … another female spy? This is getting old) and the villains were turds. It seemed like all of a sudden the director realized they were at the end of the movie so there had to be a fight and an explosion. How is it Bond was able to incapacitate three Mi6 agents … in an elevator … while handcuffed but had trouble defeating the lame, nerd villain at the end? I’ll suspend my logic for any movie but once the movie throws it’s own rules out the window so goes any respect I have for it as well.

The worst part was the comparison a week later. I watched Casino Royale for a second time a couple of days later and realized that Bond hardly says a word in the new movie. Sure, Daniel Craig’s Bond isn’t a dandy at all (which sucks … come on, let’s have a character flaw somewhere in this superman) but at least he had a style in Royale. In Solace all he does is say a quip and then shoots people. Ugh … every bad action movie from the 90s rears it’s ugly head again. That being said, I can’t hate any Bond movie because I’m FOND OF BOND so I give it 6 out of 10 sucked-in Daniel Craig cheeks.

I would like to note that I went to the theater two days before seeing Solace there to make sure it was the right theater that I thought it was. As soon as I got to the entrance I was surprised to see that … Daniel Craig was standing right outside the entrance! It was some film festival and 30 photographers along with a fence separated the two of us but it was still a moment to remember 🙂

Knicks vs. Mavs
My dad must have done some massive planning as his visit coincided directly with the Mavericks coming into town to take on the Knicks. I knew he wouldn’t be able to stay away from Madison Square Garden with the threat of entertainment of that quality so I decided to get tickets. Oh, that and I had already committed myself to getting rediculous good seats for the game, anyway. So we showed up for the slumping Mavs who had lost 5 straight. The game, unfortunately, was more of the same as the boys from Dallas never led at any moment in any of the four quarters.

… But they did tie at the last second and dominated in overtime! Huzzah! It was actually a great game though games where the correct team wins always seem to be better than those other unmentionable matches. And since Dirk and I were in the same building the Mavs have only lost 1 game. He just needed his inspiration back, I guess 😉 Alright, although there were several stories from the game, I’ll let the matter go since no one else likes the perfect sport of basketball 🙁

Thanksgiving
I had Thanksgiving and the day after off from work so I took an Amtrak train down to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the annual Mills Thanksgiving festivus. It was fun to see all the cousins show up (even with a new cousin-in-law!) and was just long enough where I didn’t go crazy. Seriously, when I am finally in charge of Thanksgivings they will be something very, very different (is it sad that I am a 27-year old man who still receives orders to do certain things on Thanksgiving?). The feature presentation form the night was when Stever went up against cousin Zack’s wife, Alexandra, in a heated Saved by the Bell trivia contest. It was kind of like the NBA All-Star game where both sides were just silly and goofing off at first but then the competition started getting serious. I don’t know if I could declare a winnner between them but I definitely declared a loser.

Before getting to my grandparents house in Harrisonburg, VA Stever and I stopped by the old stomping grounds at JMU where we walked, photographed, and (in my case) swiped memories. I grabbed a broken-off brick from my freshman dorm, Ikenberry. Maybe I’ll copy Stever and paint something on it, who knows. It’s interesting to note that – should I keep the memento – I will continue to bring a broken, dirty brick with me in each of my future moves.

After dinner I drove my mom’s car back home where I finally played a Wii for the first time. In a turn for the cooler, my dad has gotten back into video games. He’s obsessed with the Tiger Woods golf game for the console and I got to experience the gay-mote … I mean wii-mote action in person!!! Instead of a full, natural golf swing he does a whipping motion at the bottom of his swing where he would normally come into contact with the ball. It must be seen to truly be appreciated. Anyway, I still find the wii-mote wand – in its current form – to be a bit gimmicky. I mean, I enjoyed playing the sensor games in the arcades (I remember one where you were a cop and depending on where you’d move your character would duck or dodge bullets) but only for a gag. Then I’d immediately go back to the skill games of Street Fighter II or the like for hours. For casual gamers this is obviously a godsend but for me, I dunno. I’ll try to keep an open mind but my first impressions didn’t do much to convert me. We’ll see how the next gen goes.

Virginia Tech vs. UVA
Over the weekend I was also given the opportunity to witness the craziness of division 1 college football in person. Now, I had actually been to a Virginia Tech game back in 1999 but the experience was worlds different. My view was from the marching band stands and I was rooting for JMU who never had a chance (and who got their asses destroyed). This time I was with Cassie (a UVA alum) and her sister (a Tech alum) so I got to see the full spectrum of insanity. I can’t say I understand it (I have many reasons why my love for the Mavs is different but I won’t bore you here with those airtight reasons of pure fact) but it sure was an interesting study in human psychology.

We (along with father, “Papa Mel”) arrived at the campus at the downright batshit time of 7:45 AM to an empty parking lot outside a really nice “frat” house. It wasn’t the type of frat house I was used to – this one was more of a social club. Very nice and nothing like the beer-drenched debautery I was familiar with. Slowly, the place filled up with Virginia Tech alumni – all in their maroon and orange glory – and all way over the age of 50! One man even pulled out a hand-cranked calliope that played the Tech school song (complete with bell-ringing Hokie statue)! It was fun for a while but I probably didn’t drink as much as I should have for when we made the trek to the game at noon I was freezing (it was so cold it actually started snowing towards the end of the game).

Oh yeah, I was also dressed as a UVA fan since Cassie demanded I root for her team (so far this always happens at away games where every giant man thinks I’m some huge fan of the opposing team and messes with me). Actually this time it wasn’t so bad since we were in the alumni section of the stadium. The game was close and (dare I say it) entertaining with the Hokies winning 17-14. Luckily, I thanked my amazing decision to not drink at the game for when we all finally got back late that night I was the only one not experiencing some form of a hangover!

There you go … a busy couple of weeks condensed into a blob of a blog. It was messy but I managed to get it all out! And don’t worry, I feel another one coming on soon 😉

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