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Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Nicsperiment's Nine Best Albums (I've Heard) of 2005

2005 was another strange year in music. I got to hear most of what I wanted to hear this year, but not all. These nine albums are chosen from what I heard. Considering 9 billion albums were released this year, these nine albums may not even come in the top million, but of the hundred or so albums I've heard this year, these are my top nine. Keeping to nine was extrememly tough this year, though. Making this list made me sweat.
If you have stumbled upon this and don't know who I am, I am a guy who is absorbed in the world of music. I listen to it a lot, I read about it a lot, and I think about it a lot. I am also a musician (who doesn't favor any particular instrument) and I have DJ'd for several years. So, while this list is just my opinion and nothing more, I am pretty well-informed.
I have included whether each album contains a parental advisory or not so you can find the version you so desire, if you are interested. Well, here is the list. I hope you enjoy it:

9. Project 86-...And the Rest Will Follow--Project 86 has finally been given (near) complete freedom to make the record they want to make, and without baggage. The thing is, vocalist, Andrew Schwab, can't seem to do this. If their last album, the rage-punk-experimental masterpiece, Song To Burn Your Bridges By(last year's #5), was a manifesto against the corporate music machine that stabbed Project in the back, this album is a manifesto both for and against the popular notion of Project 86. The opening line, "We once drew some lines in black/and now it's about time we took them back" is an immediate reference to the title of Project's second album, Drawing Black Lines. The song speaks of taking back something that was stolen and cutting off dead weight. In other words, Project is now back on track with fan favorite, DBL. ATRWF is heavy in DBL references, as if Schwab is haunted with that album's Gold-selling success. How does ATRWF do? Project drops the concept album thing, and adds, well, everything else. They still do the fist through the windshield, slam someone's face into the wall jam, but they have amped up the number of introspective ballads. This isn't "Project 86, Staind Edition", though. Project still keeps that dark, experimental edge they have always had that keeps them head and shoulders above their peers. They still have Schwab's unique, introspective lyrics and vocal delivery. This album is not as cohesive as the past three, but it is loaded with great songs. Project continues to push the envelope of what is possible in "Heavy" music, and music in general.
Parental Advisory: No
Website:http://project86.com/main.php


8. The Mars Volta-Frances the Mute--TMVs first album, De-Loused in the Comatorium, gave many people headaches. They sounded like Rush/At the Drive-In/Frank Zappa/and sounds of the Amazon Rainforest. However, that album had ten great songs, masterfully played, and reminiscent of another world. FTM is similar--it does take you to another world. It is dissimilar in that it is 80 minutes long, and only consists of five songs, one of which is 35 minutes long. There are songs buried in here, but they are trapped between walls of obnoxious, overindulgent noise. The thing is, when the songs burst out, they are incredible Latin-tinged grooves with crazy spinning guitar, ridiculously well-played drums, and Bjork-like vocals, sung by a man. This is really an album that requires patience and the right mood. If one can stand it, one is basically thrown into an apocalyptic (let's say right before an Asteroid hits) carnival-city, given GHB, and thrown into a street alley as the parade floats go by. Does that sound appealing? Well, sometimes some of the colors swirl together and look really cool, and sometimes the music coming from up on the balconies sounds like the greatest thing you've ever heard in your life. But then your head hurts again, and you can smell the garbage you're laying on top of. So, why is this on the list? Well, the music intermittently coming from the balconies is very, very good. Here's hoping the next album isn't so overindulgent, though.
Parental Advisory: No
Website: http://themarsvolta.com/

7. Gorrilaz-Demon Days--Gorrilaz' hit single "Feel Good Inc." was as close to song of the summer as anything released this year. Featuring melonchaly vocals, lilting guitar, a phat beat, and a special rap-bonanza by De La Soul, "Feel Good Inc." had booties shaking all over America, enough to make this album platinum. However, a million people were surprised to find an album comprised not of party anthems, but a melancholy electro-organic reflection of life in post 9/11 America. There are no tracks on this album even close to high-key in comparison to Feel Good Inc. Sure, there are four more tracks featuring some sort of rapping, but these songs focus on feelings of loss. Subtle electronics naturally weave around actual instrumentation in creative ways--every song holds some time of a surprise. Thankfully, the album also ends on a high note, the repeated lines of "Turn yourself around to the sun", belted beautifully by the London Community Gospel Choir in an appearance that feels completely natural and earned--not intrusive. This is a slow burn, an album that defies expectations, beautifully captures the feelings that come with missing the good days, hating the demon ones, and looking forward to betters ones. Good stuff.
Parental Advisory: I don't think so.
Website: http://www.gorillaz.com/flash.html

6. System of a Down-Mezmorize/Hypnotize--This double album, released six months apart by these Armenian-American masters of the bizarre, is a monster. System has always been hard to peg--heavy, fast, insane, yet pop--undeniably pop, with harmonies between co-vocalists Serj Tankian (keyboard) and Darren Malakian (guitarist) that bring to mind Queen's classic "Bohemian Rhapsody". This time around, usual front man Tankian steps to the side to allow Malakian the spotlight, and for the most part, he shines. SOAD's songs here go through mind-bending time-changes and pop harmonies as before, but continuously add more musical elements and traditional Armenian sounds. SOAD picks up a momentum on Mezmorize's "BYOB" that seems unstoppable and don't falter until Hypnotize's ninth track "Viscinity of Obscenity." But, boy, do they falter, and the blame lies specifically on the lyrics. After pulling off twenty-plus tracks of A-Grade blending of political/cultural commentary and the bizzare, SOAD veers into three songs worth of some of the most bizarrely annoying schmaltz ever recorded. The plus side?--I'm talking about three songs out of twenty-three. Barring tracks (9-11(coincidence?)) of Hypnotize, SOAD come close to creating a modern masterpiece, a comment on current society that is musically exciting and unpredictable. We can only hope that the best is yet to come.
Parental Advisory: Yes
Website: http://www.systemofadown.com/


5. Sigur Ros-Takk--In the past three years Icelandic band Sigur Ros have grown in popularity but refused to compromise their sound. After viewing a tracklisting consisting of only two songs past the eight-minute mark, I was personally worried they would be dropping their signature alien landscapes and beautiful, unidentifiable noise, which often culminates in the most lovely Divine-like aspirations of song produced in modern times, in favor of something more savory to the tastes of the American public. What a fool I was. Sigur Ros drop none of the things that have endeared and imprinted themselves upon listeners around the world. Sigur Ros still manage to pull off the sound of icy dew-drops slowly running down the back of God, while at the same time chopping off most of the excess that sometimes pushed them into over-indulgence. Sigur Ros also ups the joy quotient by a million. The first half of the album bubbles with near unbearable, beautiful joy. It is only in the third quarter that they make slight missteps, taking track seven, Milano, into the eleven-minute range, when it should have ended at five, and track nine, Andvari, into seven, when only four are necessary. But, I'm complaining about eight minutes out of 65, and my, how the other 57 are beautiful. This is the kind of music that will change your life.
Parental Advisory: No
Website: http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/

4. The Deftones-B-Sides and Rarities--The Deftones are not a band. After third album, White Pony, they ceased to exist as one, and simply became a mood, a feeling, an idea. Starting as a thrashing aggro-band, by album three Deftones had become an entity seperate from the world of music, creating a dark, creepy, beautiful, musical landscape matched and duplicated by no one. Then, they released their forth album, Self-Titled, and ruined everything. Okay, not necessarily ruined, but came back to earth, became human again. The soundscapeds were dialed back, and the rage dialed up to appease the small crowd of fans who complained that the critically acclaimed (and now landmark) White Pony was not "heavy" enough. Two years after Self-Titled, Deftones have yet to provide a follow-up album, instead giving us this fourteen-track collection of covers and unreleased songs, but... With this collection, Deftones provide all the evidence necessary to show why they have one of the most rabid, obsessed fan bases in the world. The Deftones are the absolute masters of atmospheric rock. Kicking off the album with Jawbox and Cocteau twins covers, the 'Tones then dive into a cover of their own dark masterpiece "Change", somehow creating a new version that is at once darker, more seductive, and mind-altering than the original. After masterfully covering songs by Skynyrd(!) and Helmet, they dive into the centerpiece of the album: a cover of Sade's "No Ordinary Love." What follows is five minutes and fourty-three seconds of absolute aural bliss on the highest, mind-bending scale. Get lost in this song and then suddenly look at a mirror to see what kind of expression you are making. Chances are, it will not be a face that can be shown on network television. For the remainder of the album, the 'Tones continue what they do best, creating a dark, post-apocalyptic ocean of violent unseen currents you don't ever want to leave. This is the dark, beautiful highway of rock, a world I can best compare to Portishead, not in style or sound, but in the way it takes over your very being.
Parental Advisory: Yes
Website: http://www.deftones.com/5_2/index.html

3. My Morning Jacket-Z--Of the nine albums on this list, Z is certainly the hardest to talk about. What is it? I still can't figure it out. It's not that the lyrics are obscure or arcane-in many ways they make perfect sense. It's defining the music I can't do. What is it? I will now turn one of those phrases I usually hate: Imagine Mid-60s Who shaved off their rougher edges, moved to Hawai, bought 21st century synths, added lots of reverb to the vocals, a little drum machine, and then took a really warm, refreshing bath. That's pretty much all I can think of. This is a consistent, genre-defining, beautiful rock record.
Parental Advisory: No
Website: http://www.mymorningjacket.com/

2. Blindside-The Great Depression--Blindside is the Rodney Dangerfield of rock music. They don't get no respect outside of small circles (but circles still large and dedicated enough to launch this album into the Billboard top #200). Many of those fans were immediately surprised and offset by the music coming off this disc. Blindside had never released two albums that sounded remotely similar until 2004s About of Burning Fire, which sounded like a less focused (and not as good) version of 2002s "Silence". Many mainstream critics hailed "Silence" as a modern rock masterpiece, and it was, combining classic rock, modern rock, hardcore, and intelligent lyrics to create a sound far beyond "Nu-Metal". For album five, TGD, Blindside found themselves in a conundrum: Where to go next? Instead of trying to please everyone, Blindside simply opted to make the absolute best record they were capable of. Replacing chop-shows and fan-pleasing antics with great songs, TGD follows the theme of depression in modern society. Vocalist/lyricist, Christian Linskog, fresh from an African relief trip, is a man possessed. Over the course of the album, Lindskog explores the dichotomy between troubles in Africa and American Middle-Class depression. He vocalizes in his trademark sing/scream fashion. Unlike "screamo" bands, Lindskog doesn't "scream the verse and sing the chorus". He does whatever is necessary, whenever it is necessary. His band backs him with a combination of modern/classic rock sounds with elements of hardrock/tango/electronica/modern pop/the kitchen sink. Everything on the album works. The concept and sound flow solidly from each track to the next. Blindside even bests hardrock masters, System of A Down, this year. Blindside's album isn't quite as ambitious as SOADs, but it is cohesive and flawless, even to the end, where SOAD falters. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, works. When the electronics kick in, they serve the songs--the songs don't serve them. Even Lindskog's infrequent bad grammar comes off as endearing, where SOADs comes off as cloying. Don't get me wrong--SOAD's work this year is brilliant--there's a reason I gave it the six-spot. But this year, the best hardrock album was made by Blindside.
Parental Advisory: No
Website: http://www.blindside-silence.com/

1. Coldplay-X & Y--Last year, I gave best album to The Cardigans' Long Gone Before Daylight. The response--shock, dismay, WTFs?, and joy. I know I am upping the WTF quotient even more this year. I'll be the first to admit, I am not a fan of Coldplay. Chris Martin and co. seem like the nicest people alive, but I have always found their music to be disappointingly boring. I want to like it, but I can't. Their songs always have a spark of brilliance, overcome by a huge shadow of repitive lack of ambition. This year, all that changed. I bought this album on a complete whim. It was on sale, and the single, "Speed of Sound", was beginning to grow on me. On first listen, I wanted my money back. Then, I listened to it again. The first thing that stood out to me were the synths: they're reminiscent of the stuff used by Marvin Gaye and Issac Hayes in the late 60s/early 70s, along with some of Brian Eno's stuff from the 80s. They've got a subtle urban grittiness to them, running beneath a beautiful, cavernous, cathedral-like wall of sound. Then, I noticed the guitars:instead of routinely playing the same part in a wash/rinse/repeat cycle, they change things up throughout the song. They many times come in unexpected, but always sound lovely. Then, I noticed the drums and bass:they aren't doing anything remarkable, but they are remarkably pleasant. Finally, I noticed Martin himself. His voice sounds like a good massage. His lyrics are broad--this is a turn off at first. Then I realize it--this album is brilliant. Coldplay have endeavered to create the most accessible, yet enjoyable album of all time. I think they may have done it. This is music your mother can listen to and enjoy, and your father, your sister, your brother, your boss, the guy down the street with a mohawk, your girlfriend, your dog, and the most important person--you. This doesn't mean the album is unambitious--I think in this case, the striving for accessibility has paid of in dividends. This album is universal in its appeal, but everyone will not like it. The New York times gave it a 2 out of 10. However, many publications gave it a 10, and I agree. This album is perfect. That's right, I said perfect. There are 13 beautiful pop songs here that any human being can identify with. I don't think this is as good as the stuff U2 put out in the mid-80s. U2 hit a political and historical nerve with their music that no one has hit since. But this is not that kind of music. U2's Unforgettable Fire has caused me to cry dozens of times. During my Katrina Aid-Work, just thinking of the opening chords of "Bad" sent me hiding, as I had enormous sobbing fits. I don't know if any song off of X & Y will ever make me cry, but it makes me happy, and it makes me feel like a member of the human race--not a subculture, not a particular color or gender--I mean it makes me feel like a member of a six-billion plus family. I don't know if Coldplay are ever going to interest me with any other piece of music they make, but I think if they break up today, they've still done something remarkable--
They've made my favorite album of the year.
Parental Advisory: No
Website: http://www.coldplay.com/index.php


But wait, there's more. Here are some brief comments on other noticeable releases:

Dredg-Catch Without Arms--Dredg creates some beautiful songs here, but they also falter. Their previous album was a unique work of art. The obtuse nature of the lyrics matched the theme of the album. Here, they attempt to turn their senseless lyrics into pop hooks, and it just doesn't work. That's okay, though, as for the most part, the music, including Gavin Haye's vocals, is still beautiful.

Iron and Wine/Calexico-In the Reins--I wish I didn't like this "trendy" EP, but I do. Seven songs of Southern ghosts mingling with the ghosts of the American West. It's beautiful.

Issac Hayes-Ultimate Issac Hayes--Issac Hayes is the man. His arrangements are unforgettable classics. This guy invented sounds that are commonly aped, even today. For any fan of classic R&B, you probably have all of this guy's stuff already, but if not, this 2-disc best of contains more than 30 tracks, including some of his ten-minute opuses, uncut. Sweet.

Demon Hunter-The Triptych--Demon Hunter stick to a proven metal formula. Three hard songs, ballad, repeat. But my oh my, how they can work in this formula. A new guitarist adds some sweet solos, and a new drummer adds a different, more driving rythym. If you like REALLY heavy pop-music, you can't do much better.

Stellastarr-Harmonies for the Haunted--This is a good band, capable of greatness. Imagine the New York sound of today with less repetitive high-hat, Robert Smith like vocals, U2-like guitar, and sweet female back-ups. Good, solid stuff, better than their debut.

The Cardigans-Super Extra Gravity--After putting out my favorite album of 04, The Cards put out an album I just "like". They did the lounge-tinged alubm, the dark, dancepop-tinged album, and the country-tinged album. This isn't really anything tinged, which isn't bad. The songs are all good, and this is probably one of the best pop records of the year. I just hope they strive for more on their next album.
Stuff I should have put on last year's list:

These Arms are Snakes-Oxeneers, or...--Crazy, technical hard rock, screaming madness, but somehow, and don't ask me how, high-brow.

TV on the Radio-Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes--Neo-crooning-electro-soul. Hard to define, but easy to love.

Silver Mountain Revelries-Pretty Little Lighting Paw-Atmospheric--Drone/chant rock from GYBE! members. Beautiful march past the city, the forest, and the graveyard to the river.

Greenday-American Idiot--I have always loathed this band, and the attitude of their music. Then, they make an album that reflects on the very culture they helped create. One of last years' best--could be important in the future

The Arcade Fire-Funeral--What to say that hasn't already been said. There's a reason everyone is loving this, and I can't tell you why. Listen to Laika-you either fall in love or get sick.

Biggest Dissapoinments of 2005:

The Mars Volta-Frances the Mute--I know it's on my top-nine, but, guys, would you please make an album with real songs on it next time?

MXPX-Panic--After the high standards Relient-K and Greenday set in punk-pop last year, this stuff just ain't cuttin it, guys. This music seems to come from some saccharine tour bus where people just do "rad" things, and then, for some reason, think other people want to hear about it in song. They promise in track one to "Shine the light in the darkest places" but they never ever do. What happened to the days when MXPX's music could be indentified with, even in a hokey way?



Wow, I feel like a tool. All nine of my favorites debuted in the top 200. But they ARE my favorites, and I've listened to a LOT of music this year, as always. I hope you enjoyed reading, or at least glossing over this.
So what do you think? Is this the dumbest list you've ever seen, or what? Disagree with it? Agree with it? Have any questions? Want to make your own list? If so (or maybe if you just want to humor me), please comment. I will not post for several days to allow this post priority, but I will read and respond to all comments ASAP, which basically means as soon as I post this and neurotically refresh the page.
Happy New Year! I hope you all have a great one! I won't quite be spending it alone, but I will be at home and happy.
Goodnight!

REVENGE LIFE: Finally WE beat up on the hurricanes

Well, I'm back from the Chik-Fil-A Peach Bowl. In case you didn't know, we (LSU, the college I got my B.A. from) beat Miami 40-3. Ouch. I would call that poetic justice, considering hurricanes have cost my state approx 78 infinity million dollars this year.
Most amusing moments:

1. Several students hoisting that LSU Confederate flag I "love" so much. Then, the same students blasting gangsta rap from their truck and spending at least ten minutes talking about the positive aspects of the group "Dem Franchise Boys." Way to be diverse, guys!

2. After the game at about midnight: Me, dancing on the door ledge of the truck to the Bob Marley pouring out of the vehicle next to ours. A very scruffy man walking over and asking me a question. Me realizing that his question was in fact, "Hey, man, you want some of this good crunk?", and me noticing this scruffy man holding a very large, very dirty bag of weed. Me holding up my hand to say no, and he saying, "Oh, I'm sorry man" and running away.

3. As I walked next to our marching band as we jammed in victory, jaded Miami girl telling me, "Y'all still LOST to Georgia(in the SEC championship)," and me saying back, "Yes, but we just KILLED you." Her not saying anything back.

Anyway, I had a very good time, and Atlanta is a very nice city. I recommend the Sun Dial restaraunt, at the top of the Westin, the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere. The food ain't bad, and the view is spectacular.

Okay, now the moment you have been waiting for. That's right. In a few hours, I am going to post my "Favorite Albums of 2005" list. You know you can't wait...or at least, I can't wait. I've been thinking about it all year. I'll be back shortly. I want to watch the last sunset of the year.
-Nicholas
EDIT: THIS IS MY 101st POST!!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

PERSONAL LIFE: Spending New Years Alone?

I can only remember spending New Years Eve night at home and alone once. It was New Years Eve 1999. I had just had a cyst removed from my lower back/butt, and I couldn't walk. My mother and brother were home, but they were a sleeping non-factor.
I am seriously thinking of spending this New Years Eve alone just to do it. I remember having a lot of time for contemplation in 1999 (as I had just been through a lot(plus I was really hoping the world would end that night)). I've never been to a New Years Eve party or get together that justified itself. So maybe I'll spend the night alone and at home for the second time.
Until then, I am heading out to Georgia to see LSU compete in the Peach Bowl. I'm hoping to have a good time. Aren't we all, though? Well, YEAH!!!
When I return, I am hoping to write my 2nd annual best of the year music list (and maybe some other lists this time). You know you can't wait for my lists! You love them!!! Right?...
Well...YEAH!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

PERSONAL LIFE: New Song

I've got another song up. It's a bit stranger than the last one. Check it out, if you feel like it, right here.
Thanks again, Jordan, for your time, advice, equipment, and sweet mixing skills. If only we had more time...

Friday, December 16, 2005

PERSONAL/RANT LIFE: Demons Gathered Around My Bed

One night in the tenth grade, I lay in my bed, listening to hip-hop music. All the lights were out. I stared at the stereo, looking at the lights on the face. I thought they were a little too bright, so I tried to turn over. Much to my surprise, my body did not move. The music seemed to be getting louder, and I reached for my remote. My hand, my arm, nothing would move. I started to panic, but panicking is strange when your body is involuntarily frozen. The music got louder and louder. I noticed the sound of a violin I had not heard before. The violin grew louder and louder, but I had heard this song before, and there was NO violin. The glass around me began to shriek. A beautiful girl appeared before my bed. She began to sing, harmonizing with the violins. The music kept getting higher and higher. I could not breathe. Air began to rush out my lungs. The violins grew unbelievably shrill, and the girl's voice went high along with them. Suddenly, the flesh of her face began to peel back to reveal a black shadowed outline of a skull. I tried to scream, but I couldn't hear myself over the screaming of the girl and the violins, now sounding like a million bees. The girl reached my bed, bent over, put her hands on my chest. I couldn't breathe. She held her face inches from mine and screamed. Her head exploded into a thousand shards of glass, and the shards tore threw my face, ripped my body to shreds.
Suddenly, I gasped in air. As the glass exploded, the room went back to normal, the shrieks died.
"Oh, God," I gasped, terrified. "Thank you that I'm alive."
I had no idea what had just happened. All I knew was that it was real. I was not sleeping.
***
Two weeks ago, I woke up early in the morning. The sun had just begun to rise, and faint light spread under my curtains. I tried to yawn, but for some reason, I could not move. I felt a slight pressure on my chest. The room began to darken. A man in a black cloak, hunched over, began to crouch toward me. He moved unbearably slow, and from behind him, a sound like bees buzzing-alien, terrifying-rose. I tried to call for help, but my mouth was sealed shut. The figure got closer and closer, and suddenly his hand dropped down, his fingers inexorably unfurled, and he beckoned my breath from my lungs. I couldn't breathe, move, or scream. Without warming, the figure faded away, and the light came back into the room.
This time, I laughed out loud, but to be honest, I was still very afraid.
Incidents like this have happened throughout my life. The details are usually different-the appearance of the dark figure, his actions. Sometimes, he is not there. Every now and then, the experience is almost beautiful, transcendent. As I child, I once had a minor surgery. In the middle, I awoke on the table, but could not move. I heard beautiful, strange, high-pitched music. I couldn't move, but I could see everything going on. This time, there was no dark figure. Strangely, I realized I had begun to hover above the bed. Before I knew it, I was looking down on myself. I can only think of a handful of these experiences that were pleasant like this-many were not-but all were very real.
I grew up in very conservative evangelical churches that taught there was a huge spiritual battle going on all around us. I was scared to talk about these incidents then. I was sure that demonic presences were visiting me during these 'episodes'. As I've grown, I've left my more superstitious tendencies behind. I no longer attend a conservative evangelical church. But these experiences are still frightening.
Last summer, I bought a CD by a band called Dredg. This album was called "Catch Without Arms." I liked it but didn't love it. I had seen the band before, and thought that the material they had played then was better. Last week, on a whim, I picked up one of their older albums, entitled "El Cielo". This bands music is hard to describe. I guess art rock would be the best description of the band, but the best way to describe the sound would be "pretty". The guitars sound like brushes painting clouds, if that makes any sense. On first listen, I was a little detached, and was not able to get into the music.
I put the CD on later and was struck by the beauty of the music. It sounded strangely familiar, beautiful and dreamlike. Near the end of the album, I caught the lyric:

I too once thought that the radio played
We act like children as we sleep paralyzed

Why does that seem so famiiar? I thought. I listened to the song again Then I caught the line:

The sound of a hundred bees...
Your body is asleep, but your mind is awake

I pulled out the CD booklet to read the lyrics. Unfortunately, there were no lyrics. Instead, there were photos of handwritten letters. I can't tell if the letters are real or fabricated, but I think they are a mix of both. At the heading of all the letters was the phrase "Sleep Paralysis". Apparently, El Cielo is a concept album revolving around sleep paralysis.
Huh, I thought. I decided to wikipedia the term. Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia. Here is what I found:

During these incidences, I was indeed experiencing sleep paralysis, a medical condition (from here out, this condition will be called SP). During SP, one's body is asleep, but one's mind is somewhere in between wake and sleep. SP can happen as one goes to sleep-in this case, the body falls asleep first-or when one is waking-in this case the body wakes up last. During SP, one wildly hallucinates, but strangely, the hallucinations of those experiencing SP are very similar. One often feels a malevolent being in the room, hears a high noise like bees buzzing, and cannot breathe. In every culture, there is a similar story about demons that wake people, freeze their body, and takes away the victim's breath until they suddenly awake. Many experts think that 'demons' such as the Incubus and Succubus are only continuations of interpretations of SP. Many experts feel the same way about the reports of alien abductions.
Apparently, scientists have just begun to dig into SP and don't have the whole thing figured out yet, but they are discovering more and more everyday.
I feel strange about all this. I am glad to know that, as I expected, these incidents are just a natural, scientifically explainable event. At the same time, I'm a little sad. In many of us, there is a desire to believe. Personally, I still believe in the Christian faith, but I certainly fall on the more liberal side. The night after I read the Wikipedia article (and did other research as well), I couldn't stop thinking, but not in a bad way. I was reflecting on my favorite show, The X-Files, a show that's been my favorite for more than ten years. Something I love about the show is the dynamic between believer and skeptic. Scully is obviously the skeptic and Mulder the believer, but on certain issues (religion for example) their roles are reversed. Personally, I want to have both qualities. I want to believe in something higher, but I do not want to believe in something that is false. My religion's sacred text asks believers to test everything, and I think that is a great way to go.
But back to topic:
The final song on Dredg's El Cielo begins with the line:

Does anybody feel this way?
Does anybody feel like I do?

I am curious to see if anyone else suffers from SP. Ever experience this and not know what was going on? Ever been too afraid to talk about it before? Did you ready know all this, and did you say, "He's suffering from sleep paralysis!" before finishing the first paragraph? Did you make it through this gargantuan post? I'm interested in talking to you.

NOTE: I hope I did not give the impression that I suffer from SP on a regular basis. I have SP maybe once a month at the most, but I sometimes go through very long periods where I do not have it at all.

NERD LIFE: I Like Kong

For some reason, I refuse to write normal reviews of films on this blog, even though I am capable of doing so. Why must I always be so difficult? Instead of reviewing Kong, I will review the emotional undercurrents (I am assuming everyone already knows the story...if not, sorry. (Not really, though:))

Act One: We start off in New York City, where we are introduced to our human characters. Jackson keeps an air of sadness in these scenes, but intertwines it with a feeling of opportunity and possibility. We are in civilization. There may be a "Great Depression", but the modern human spirit seems to be prevailing. We get onto a boat and see humans interacting on a smaller level. Humans are still master of the domain, even out at sea, the space seperating the primal from the modern. Our characters may die on the water, but in a human fashion.
Act Two: We reach the island. Things seem deserted, and our modern human characters seem to be in control. Suddenly, we are plunged into hell. We are no longer in civilization, no longer in control. This is the wild. The demonic, primal humans that inhabit this place seem nothing like our modern characters. They begin to kill our characters off, as if killing is natural. After fighting off these natives, our modern characters are in a battle against nature itself, though the natives seem only an extension of nature in this environment. Through all of this, the beings attempting to kill our characters seem to harbour no ill will or malice to our characters-they are only performing acts natural to their being. Are our human characters' desires to bring Kong back to civilation any different?
On this island, we also witness an understanding and compromise between the primal and the modern-our main character, Ann Darrow, and King Kong become "friends." Sort of. Let us just say that they bond on a very deep, nonsexual (*phew*) level.
Act Three: We are back in New York City, ever the constant symbol of modern society and progress. Kong is captured and on display, but this, we know, cannot last. Kong breaks loose and attempts to find Ann. Of course, in this civilized world, Kong cannot exist any more than our modern humans can exist in the primal world. He is hunted just as our human characters were, and like many of them, he is killed.
This Kong is more of a tragedy than previous Kong's but it still has fun moments, and it is still awe-inspiring. Every death seems tragic, and Jackson never tries to make death look fun, though one can inadvertedly have a good time attempting to avoid it. Don't avoid this movie, though. There isn't anything like it: it entertains, it makes your brain work (subconciously and conciously), it makes you say 'whoa' like Keanu, and it doesn't make you feel like a whore when you walk out of the theater. It's long, but it's worth the time. It's got a huge heart, one that beats until Kong's unfortunate end.

PERSONAL LIFE: Old?

Twenty-four is not just a TV show. It's also my new age.
Is this good or bad?
I hope to post a lot, later.

Friday, December 09, 2005

NERD LIFE: Back from Narnia

When I was about four or five years old, my mother read C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" to me. As soon as I learned to read, I read it myself. I have read it several times since then. Saying I have reverence for the source material would be a bit of an understatement.
I knew I was going to be disappointed going into the film, but not this much.
My main problem with the film (which will from here on out be called TLTW) is the main problem I had with The Lord of the Rings' films, only amplified by ten, because I liked Peter Jackson's trilogy for the most part.
The problem is that both films in some way miss the focus of the books, the hearts of the stories. The Lord of the Rings' main focus is the ring. The ring must be destroyed, and can only be done so by "the least of these", a hobbit, a creature no one has any expectations of. The smallest, weakest creature becomes the most important. This is my favorite aspect of the book, and also the film. The film somewhat marginalizes this aspect, instead playing up on the battles of the greatest warriors-but the film does not forget the hobbits. They get lost sometimes but are still given their due. They are still the heroes, and they still get their moments. I still tear up when Sam tells Frodo, "I can't carry (the ring) for you, but I can carry you," not because I think of their characters in the books, but because the characters in the films are well drawn, and I care for them-I understand who they are and what they are supposed to do, I like them, and I root for them.
TLTW is an entirely different beast. The focus is on the restoration of order-which is also a central theme to LOTR, but is even more important to TLTW. Narnia is lost in a 100-year winter under an unjust ruler, the White Witch, a woman who turns her detractors into stone. Four children come to Narnia from Earth, just as Aslan the Lion, the true ruler of Narnia, is coming to make things right. The children don't choose to go to Narnia, but when they get there, they do make decisions.
Edmund, one of the four, betrays his siblings to the White Witch and by Narnia law, he must pay for his crime. Meanwhile, Aslan arrives in Narnia, the winter ends, and spring comes. This is obviously a joyful moment. It hasn't been spring in a hundred years. Aslan also decides to take Edmund's place in judgment and will die for him. The Witch kills Aslan, and because she is evil, decides to wipe out everyone who is on his side. After she leaves with her evil army, Aslan comes back to life because of an even older Narnian law (If an innocent victim dies for a guilty one, the innocent will come back to life, the film spells out). Aslan goes to the Witch's castle and sets free all she has turned to stone. The hero's sins are paid for, the captives have been set free, and now Aslan can kick evil's ass. He does so quite easily. He sets the children up as kings, and Narnia rejoices.
Obviously, the theme of restoration isn't just the theme-it's the story.
So why hasn't someone told this to Andrew Adamson, director of TLTW? I'm not sure what his film is about. I know his film ends with a thirty minute battle scene the book gave one page to. I know that the battle isn't the important thing-it's Aslan's resurrection and healing of the land that is important. Once he takes care of this, he knocks the witch around like a rag doll, and it's over with. (Aslan heals the land-thirty pages. Aslan's army fights evil, and Aslan kills the Witch-one page)
Instead of focusing on the important things, the important things become details. What becomes important is a fight where we are expected to root for characters we don't know, lead by a character (oldest child, Peter) who is unevenly developed. Aslan and all that healing crap get about five minutes. What's important are LOTR wannabe fighting shots in a movie that wishes it could have a PG-13 rating, but can't.
ALSO, the four children grow and develop their distinct personalites in the book. They do not in the film-if the book did not exist, this argument would remain.
In the LOTR's books, I know and like the characters, I understand what they have to do and why. The same goes for the LOTR's films. The same goes for TLTW by C.S. Lewis.
The same does not go for TLTW by Andrew Adamson. I like the performances by the actors, especially Georgie Henley as Lucy, and I like some of the sets, but I do not like the film.
I could whine all day, but I think I will leave it at that. I'm not happy.
Also, WHY did Dianne Farr leave Rescue Me for Numbers, a far inferior show?
Why, Santa Claus, why?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

PERSONAL/RANT LIFE: Working till your eyes bleed

I am now of the theory that no matter how much one likes something, if one does it enough, one won't like it anymore. For instance, writing. I have had to do so much revision of my own fictional works in the last month for grad-school apps. that my eyes are bugging out of my head. When I see a comma I am uncertain about, I get a headache. I change sentences I wrote two years ago back to their original form after making huge changes to them over the last twenty-four months. I am involuntarily developing my own short hand-I am so used to certain words that I simply don't type them, leading to sentences such as:
I to the store, finally, bought what we for the week.
Do you know what that means? Well, I don't!
Anyway, I am definitely a big fan for everything in moderation. I can barely look at this screen, anymore. So, I thought, why not blog for a little while-whoops-I forget that modern society requires all interaction and activity to be done through a twenty-inch screen. There is no escaping it? That question mark was intentional.
I also wonder if the collective eyesight of the world is going to completely go to pot over the next few years. How are we going to keep our sight when we have to stare at a screen for so many hours of our life? I don't know.
I'm sleepy. Bright lights annoy me, so I have the lights out, the curtain partially drawn, and a candle lit. It is gray and nice outside. I wish I were bundled up and sleeping beneath the leaves. Oh well. A guy can have his slightly paganistic dreams, right?
Goodnight. Or something.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

NERD LIFE: A Nerdy Christmas

I think I am going to try a little something different. From now on, entries fall into three main categories- NERD LIFE, RANT LIFE, and PERSONAL LIFE. This should give a better idea of what the coming post will cover. Of course, every post is personal, but I think you know what I mean. Also, there will be combinations. Anyway, on with the post.
Are you excited about the big holliday, I mean... Christmas films? Sure you are. Don't lie to yourself. Secretly you're a tool of Hollywood just like the rest of us. We've already had some big films in the last few weeks, but there are still many ahead.
Arguably, the two biggest films are The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and King Kong.
Which one are you looking forward to the most? Personally, I am a huge fan of C.S. Lewis' Narnia books...which is why I am most looking forward to King Kong. I have a huge fear that TLTWATW is going to destroy its source material. Actually, I shouldn't have said "huge fear" because I actually don't care that much. The book means so much to me, I don't need anyone to show me their own visual interpretation, which is surely going to change details of the book that are important to me. That being said, I will probably see The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe at least five times.
I am still looking forward to King Kong more than anything. Once again, I'm a huge fan of the source material. The 1933 version is awesome. It's one of the most fun movies ever made (I think). But it is 70 years old, and it's not so deep a story, so I don't mind a remake. If Peter Jackson proved anything with his LOTR films, it's that he can make big epic scenes look really good. That's what I'm looking forward to. I can't wait to see King Kong fight more than one T-Rex for several minutes. I'm not sure what the plural of T-Rex is. As much as I am a snob and hate every movie, I really like seeing pretty things that don't completely insult my intelligence, so I am looking forward to King Kong (and Naomi Watts...(drools)) alot. By having the simple expectation of seeing big things go boom, I think I will have a swell time.
HOPEFULLY, I'll be done with grad school apps. by then, and have time to go see both these films seven times apiece. Seven, because these kinds of films don't translate so well on the small screen, and I'll probably only watch them once or twice on video.
And that was my first NERD LIFE post.
I hope it fogged up your glasses.
I just noticed that by removing the first two letters of each word in the previous sentence, you get:
pe gged ur asses
Deep, man. Deep.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Why Fats was important

I got mauled by a cat when I was a small child. When we found Fats in our yard, I was thirteen, and I hated him and all cats. But when I tried to torture him, he just rubbed all over me. When the dog tried to chase him, Fats just rubbed all over the dog. Fats loved everybody. After Fats won me over to the cat side, we became fast friends. Fats and I developed a level of communication beyond normal people-to-animal communication. In fact, in some ways, I think Fats and I developed better communication then most people have with each other. Sure, Fats' vocabulary was limited. But the things he could say:
"Wanna vege out?" "You look tired. You really should go to bed." "I don't understand why you are laughing so much. This show really isn't that funny." " Hey, dude, feed me." "Dude, I'm about to pee on myself. Let me out." "You know, Nicholas, it's kind of hard for me to sprawl out here with your crap everywhere." "No, I don't want those eggs. Give me some bacon."
He could actually say all those things and many more with his eyes and body movement, and he seemed to understand and sense my moods. He sat in the chair next to me at almost every meal. Even if he hated what I was eating, he would still sit straight up. If he liked it, I would pass him some, and he would grab it with his paw, and pull it too his mouth. He always sat in his chair, and kept his elbows off the table. Fats went on walks with me, in the woods. How many people walk their cat? I don't mean on a leash. I mean that we would run into each other in the land around my house, and we would walk together. Sometimes, he would get tired, and make me carry him. He would do this by diving at my feet, and refusing to move. Then, when I'd pick him up, he'd hug me.
Ask anyone who knew him. Fats gave hugs. He would wiggle his fat little arms until you brought him close to your neck, and then he would wrap his arms around you, and start purring. Fats liked to use me as a human pillow and vice versa. His favorite days were the ones I didn't do anything. Fats went out all night, and slept all day. Fats was the greatest creature I have ever known. He transcended the words "cat", "pet", or "animal." He became his own species: Fats.
On the simplest level, Fats kept me company. I am going to miss him.
Between losing him, and my old dog this summer (who died at fourteen), my home life just got a lot lonlier.
To Wink and to Fats:

Anyone else ready for this year to be over with?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Jazzy "Fats" Fatcat (1995-2005)

My fuzzy little buddy is dead. Someone found him this morning about a quarter of a mile from my house. We think he got hit by a car. Fats was my cat. I loved him. This really sucks. I'm happy I got to hang out with him for the last ten years, but I really would have rathered him not die.






I buried him under the ground, then made this little mound over the grave and covered it in leaves.
Fats:
Woke me every morning at five by pushing open my door and jumping onto my bed
Took a bath inches from my head as I tried to go back to sleep
Preceded to sleep in my bed the rest of the day while I had to be awake
I miss you, my Fat Fuzzy Little Buddy

From Neutral Milk Hotel's "In the Aeroplane Over the Sea", because I know he loved this song:

What a beautiful face
I have found in this place
That is circling all round the sun
What a beautiful dream
That could flash on the screen
In a blink of an eye and be gone from me
Soft and sweet
Let me hold it close and keep it here with me

And one day we will die
And our ashes will fly from the aeroplane over the sea
But for now we are young
Let us lay in the sun
And count every beautiful thing we can see
Love to be
In the arms of all I'm keeping here with me

What a curious sight we have found here tonight
There is laughter that sounds from the trees
There are lights in the clouds
Anna's ghost all around
Hear her voice as it's rolling and ringing through me
Soft and sweet
How the notes all bend and reach above the trees

What a beautiful face
I have found in this place
That is circling all round the sun
And when we meet on a cloud
I'll be laughing out loud
I'll be laughing with everyone I see
Can't believe how strange it is to be anything at all

...