Music Review: SKILLET – Vital Signs

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sillet - vital signs

SKILLET
Vital Signs
Atlantic
2014

So there I was, beginning the 2-hour-plus some change drive on the way back from my cousin’s daughter’s high school graduation, a balmy late Saturday afternoon, when I began listening to this particular release from the band Skillet, a band that I remember starting off in the mid-90s as a kind of post-grunge modern rock band. I was about four songs in when I came to the realization that Skillet is, in fact, the Petra for the Millennial generation.

If you’re reading this and are not familiar with who or what Petra is (or was), here’s a bit of much-needed Christian Rock History 101 for you: Petra began as a 70s era rock band that sounded nothing like the rock they became famous for, playing more hippy-type rock n’ roll on their first couple of albums, then kind of a 70s singer-songwriter vibe on the next two. Then, the 1980s found them shifting to the more popular hard arena rock stylings of Foreigner and Journey, followed by a couple of keyboard-heavy rock albums in the mid- to later-80s, then really picking up the “Rock” connotation of their name with the final couple of albums in the 1980s and first couple of the 1990s, only to shift to a more alternative, modern rock vibe in the later 1990s, going so far as to release an album of acoustic versions of their older stuff, MTV Unplugged style. Compare that with Skillet: Their first couple of releases were mid- to late-1990s post-grunge, alternative rock styles, while the next couple of albums after that shifted to more of an electronic-based hard rock sound not to far from the type that came out at the time, followed by another shift to more guitar-centric hard rock like that of the era. Mind you, I’m not saying it was necessarily deliberate, but it is worth pointing out the shifts in styles with the shifts in rock music in general. Neither am I saying that’s a bad thing. Matter of fact, I’ve gone on record quite a few times saying that, save for the self-titled first album, Skillet is actually very good at crafting the music that they play. Better, even, than Petra did at times.

Anyway, one thing that I didn’t know while listening to the Vital Signs release, is that this is actually a UK-only released compilation of songs gleaned from the previous three albums released to promote their first European tour back in 2014. According to the band’s webpage:

‘Vital Signs’ is exclusive to Europe only and is not meant to be a ‘Best Of ‘ nor is it by any means a ‘Greatest Hits’. The track listing was put together by the band to commemorate 10 years of recording and performing. It includes many Skillet classics and is designed to show the versatility and uniqueness of a band who over the course of the past few years have sold more than two million units in the U.S., racked up more than 150 million YouTube views and amassed a diehard following (dubbed Panheads) whose members number in the millions.

Funny how this “career spanning” is limited to the three that were officially released by Atlantic Records, there. And as luck would have it, I own none of those three, so listening to this at first, I thought that Vital Signs was, in fact, a full-length studio album, and not a collection of previously-released songs. In case you were wondering, as I looked things up, the songs on here come from 2006’s Comatose (“Rebirthing”, “The Last Night”, “Whispers In The Dark”, “Comatose”), 2009’s Awake (“Monster”, “Awake And Alive”, “Hero”), and 2013’s Rise (“Not Gonna Die”, “Sick Of It”, “Rise”) releases, placed about hither-and-yon. The sound of the music is actually quite decent, going for more of a heavy post-Nu Metal (that’s a thing, right?) hard rock sound, with some very good production values and a polishing on the overall sound that makes it come off just right. Of course, any long-time Skillet fan would be reading this and think, “well, duh.” Keep in mind, I don’t normally listen to a lot of Skillet, and haven’t done so since I gave Collide a spin all those years ago. Also, post-Nu Metal (how is this not a thing?) hard rock? Kind of not my first choice when it comes to popping in something hard and crunchy to listen to.

Overall, though, Vital Signs was a pretty decent and solid listen from beginning to end. It may be merely a collector’s item for those who already own the three albums these songs were taken from, but for those of us who haven’t really made Skillet an integral part of their playlists, it’s a good way to check out some of their post-Collide output that you may have decided to skip on originally.

Movie Review: JURASSIC WORLD

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Jurassic-World-Poster-OfficialUniversal Pictures
2015
PG-13

“You just went and made a new dinosaur? Probably not a good idea.”

Twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Isla Nublar now features a fully functioning dinosaur theme park, Jurassic World, as originally envisioned by John Hammond. After 10 years of operation and visitor rates declining,in order to fulfill a corporate mandate, a new attraction is created to re-spark visitor’s interest, which backfires horribly.

Well, here we are. fourteen years since the last Jurassic Park movie stink bombed its way through the theaters, and we have another sequel in a series that started so very, very strongly. Honestly, I don’t think anyone was really demanding another sequel, let alone a movie like this. But, again I point out, here we are. Another Jurassic Park movie. This time, though, things are quite a bit different than the same-old yadda-yadda, it seems.

For the record, I wasn’t really planning on watching this movie, until it came out for rental much, much later. Especially after I watched the preview while waiting for the new Avengers movie to start; it just looked like they made it into Star Lord: Dinosaur Whisperer. Seriously, Chris Pratt was shown making friends with raptors. It definitely a different take, sure, but didn’t really make me want to rush out the day this movie opened and watch it in the theaters. Second-run, maybe. But, see it in theaters on opening weekend, I did. Blame boredom. And the fact that others from the Exalted Coven of Geeks went to see an early afternoon showing on the Friday it opened, when I couldn’t join along on account of I work for a living and such. Being an adult can be a real drag at times, it seems. So I found a couple more who haven’t seen it, and went to a Saturday evening showing.

One of my biggest concerns was whether Jurassic World was going to be a reboot of the Jurassic Park franchise. Indications were pointing strongly towards no, but I still had my doubts on that. It turns out, what Jurassic World is, it’s a sequel, but it seems to completely ignore the events of The Lost World and JP III. Which, really, is probably the best way to go at this point. I actually enjoyed The Lost World, and considered JP III pretty to look at but ultimately a pointless waste…let’s face it, we needed something that’s more than just a retread of the original story.

On the one had, Jurassic World is most assuredly a retread of the plot of Jurassic Park. Second verse, same as the first. But, it seems to have gone the route of ignoring the two sequels of the original, and taking place in a kind of tangent universe where the events of the first movie didn’t stop Hammond from refining and opening up the park to great success, as when we begin with Jurassic World, the park has been open for ten years now, and attendance has been waining due to crowds not being wowed by live dinosaurs anymore. There’s a social commentary there, I think. I’m not too sure.

I guess I should point out, there’s going to be spoilers in this rambling review of mine. It should go without saying, but you’d be surprised at how many get ticked off regardless. You’ve been warned.

Anyway, after one of the more amusing fake-out shots I’ve been privy to, we’re introduced to our two young protagonists, getting set to go visit their aunt, who is a young and single powerful business gal who is in charge of the dino-park. Their parents need to be alone for some pointless character back-story angst, you see. When they arrive there, however, they discover that their aunt–who is apparently the ancestor of Enterprise-D medical officer Beverly Crusher, by the looks of things*–is so busy that she has her British assistant act as surrogate aunt to entertain the boys while she deals with the issues at hand; namely, the dropping attendance, and the newest addition to the dino-family that’s acting kind of peculiar. Meanwhile, in Subplot C, Star-Lord the Dinosaur Whisperer is training some raptors with a pig and what may be Beggin’ Strips, I don’t know. Star-Lord considers them a part of the family; his boss, on the other hand, wants to strap frickin’ lasers to their heads and use ’em for military shenanigans. The aunt shows up at Star-Lord’s modified trailer to ask him to help her out with the new dinosaur, and after some ham-fisted sexual tension, they show up at the dino’s pen…only to think it escaped from there. Of course, it’s a fake-out to get everyone inside with it, and thus the Super-Dino escapes and begins to wreak genetically-engineered havoc on the entire park. Which includes terrorizing the two boys (remember them?) who were exploring the park inside a hamster ball, while Star-Lord and Proto-Crusher give chase on foot. The military is brought in to take the thing out, but soon discover that, not only is Super-Dino super-smart, but is also part cuttlefish and can camouflage itself, and thus are made into dino-chow in short order. The boys stumble upon the ruins of the original Jurassic Park, where they somehow overhaul one of the vehicles that have been there since presumably the first movie and go driving off. Star-Lord and Proto-Crusher then arrive soon thereafter, only to have Super Dino let loose a legion of Pterodactyls (would that be a “flock of Pterodactyls”? And why is that not a band name?), which of course show up at the park’s main fairway to partake of the human smörgåsbord therein. Star-Lord’s boss decides now is the perfect time finally strap those lasers on the raptors and send them in to take down the Super-Dio…only that doesn’t go too well once the raptors decide to throw in with the Super-Dino as the alpha instead of these tasty-looking humans. Imagine that. Anyway, things wind up back at the park, where they’re all hunted by the turncoat raptors and the Super-Dino, until the raptors then decide to turn coat on Super-Dino because…reasons, and Super-Dino throws down with the mother-freakin’ T-Rex and is eaten by Shamu’s prehistoric ancestor. The end.

In the end, one has to ask, was it absolutely necessary to have another movie in the Jurassic Park series? And the answer is, no…but we’re going to see it anyway. Because, in all honesty, Jurassic World does nothing to really build upon the story that the first movie did, with the exception of having it open to the public prior. The thing is, Jurassic World seems to be self-aware of this, and manages to have some fun with it while not insulting our collective intelligence too much. The movie is obviously not perfect–we could have done without the whole “our parents are getting a divorce!” side story thing, the villains are unintentionally hilarious in their depictions, and the story’s big moral (namely, man playing God always comes back to bite them in the butt…literally as well as figuratively in this instance, with a nice heavy dollop of Military Types Only Think Of Weaponizing Everything, and let’s face it: the British assistant deserved a way better end than what she got)–and I admittedly was underwhelmed when the Super-Dino was revealed, but that really isn’t the point of watching this movie. The point is, obviously, watching dinosaurs run amok, which is what we got. The visuals are stunning, both Star-Lord and Proto-Crusher got some decent character development, and the throwdown between Super-Dino and the T-Rex was pretty much worth the price of the ticket right there.

So, in the end, yeah, I was very much satisfied by watching Jurassic World on the big screen. I would recommend watching it while it’s still in the theaters, with a big tub of “buttered” popcorn and a bucket of soda to take in the entire experience.

(*–Credit to that observation goes to Exalted Geek coven member Sarah Edwards)

MAY 2015 Part 3: O! Comic Con, our home and native land…

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IMG_20150613_094851508Here we go with the final installment on the month that was May in the year that is 2015. I know you were all waiting with baited breath to see how that month ended for your Uncle NecRo. And here it is, with pictures and everything. And in case you were morbidly curious, I’m currently listening to the Echoes compilation by Pink Floyd whilst I write down all the brain droppings from that event. I normally recommend a good quality pair of over-the-ears headphones while experiencing the spacy, mind-altering musical soundscape that is Pink Floyd, but that’s personal preference. Point is, pop in some Pink Floyd (or whatever it is you’re used to, I have no way of knowing…yet) and read along, mein Kinderschnitzel

Week 5 (May 30th) – The final weekend of May was the event that I was really looking forward to (not that any of the other things that transpired the past month didn’t get some anticipation levels going, mind you); this was the weekend of the First Annual Omaha Comic Con, aka the O! Comic Con, aka the Ironically Named Omaha Comic Con Because It Technically Was Held In Council Bluffs, Iowa. Yessir, my neck of the woods finally had its own convention where every kind of geek, nerd, n00b, lama, troll and enthusiast could gather together and find something to grock. Various booths dedicated to all the colors in the pop culture rainbow were represented, all within a fifteen minute drive from where I dwelt. I had my ticked a few months in advance, thanks to the enthusiasm of one of the Exalted Geeks that tipped me off to something like this existing in the first place. I couldn’t wait, and finally the day had arrived.

I almost didn’t go.

You see, I have this love/hate relationship with doing new things and going to new places. While I generally like the idea of stretching out from my comfort zone, trying out new things and checking out new places, I’m also a bit neurotic when it comes to doing it by myself. I’m not one to go exploring by my lonesome. Mostly due to fear of getting royally lost in the process. And while your usual adventure-seeking individual would be up for “going with the flow”, I tend to be more a creature of habit, with some adventurous tendencies. If there’s someone there with me trying out this new thing, I at least have someone to blame when something goes horribly wrong. Or at least try and trip while running from the horde of zombies to save my gelatinous butt. But, that’s besides the point.

ComicCon 2

Despite my careful study of Google Maps, I nonetheless got lost on my way to the Mid America Center, where the Con was being held. And when you get lost in Council Bluffs, and admit to it (like I am right now), everyone and their grandmother has the right to mock you outright. My knee was acting up because of the weather, and I still wasn’t out of the woods from the massive sinus infection that I had been battling since I got back from the previously-posted about Memorial Day Weekend hijinks. No matter. I was determined—if not a bit grumpy—to find the damned place, even if I had to turn around and get back to Point A. I did turn around, but I managed to find the road that lead to the Mid America Center. It didn’t help things that a big black pickup sporting a nosebleed altitude chassis, two pointless diesel exhaust pipes sticking over the cab, and stickers that screamed Insecure Redneck Overcompensation Mobile constantly tailgated the Aluminum Falcon most of the way their. This was Iowa. I was going to go the speed limit—in this case, it was 25—intimidation tactics or no. I was paranoid enough the way it is.

Inside Comic Con 3

Anyway, I made it to the North Parking Lot of the Mid America Center, where I soon discovered that the entrance to the Convention itself was on the South End. Of course it was. This section I was nearest was hosting a graduation ceremony for some high school I was too uninterested to find out the name of. So, being directed by the security guard on duty (heh…”duty”), I hiked around to the other side of the structure, seeing others that were clearly there for the Con making their way from the same areas of parking lot to the doors.

I got in, presented my ticket, and joined the throngs of people gathered together for this event. And just standing in the lobby, trying to summon someone from the group that I was meeting to find out where everybody was, I saw dozens of costumed individuals, cosplayers both amateur and professional, wandering about the place. I immediately spotted some guy dressed as Buddy Christ from Kevin Smith’s Dogma movie, and had I not been focused more on finding my tribe I would have definitely had my picture taken with him. Preferably in front of the Omaha Atheist Society booth I saw down the hall. My love for irony knows no bounds, it seems. Of course, I tried to find him…or Him, if you prefer…after I found the rest of the Coven of Exalted Geeks, but alas he was nowhere to be found. He may have ascended or something, I don’t know.

ComicCon 3Inside Comic Con 2

So, after finding the rest of the group inside the room that was hosting one of the panel discussions on the schedule for the day, we all settled in to listen to a panel discussion with Billy West and Maurice LaMarche, most familiar to me as the voices of Philip Fry from Futurama and Brain from Pinky & The Brain, respectively. They told stories, they dispensed some sage advice about the Voice Actor business, they took questions, and they both read the script of the original “Who’s On First?” Abbot and Costello routine, in the voices of Zapp Brannigan and Kif from Futurama.

Billy West + Voice Of The Brain

If you squint, you can make out their features…

And in case you were wondering, yes, I did have ask them a question. Only, the original one I had was asked by the guy who was before me. It may be a case of “Great Minds Think Alike”, but test result are inconclusive. I had to go with my backup question. And no, I’m not going to share what they were.

Breakfast Club--Guns N Roses shirt

That’s good parody…

I Like You Shirt

and in case you were wondering, yes I did wear this to church…

After some wandering around the convention’s merch area, getting a taste for what was there, we all had some lunch at a nearby Texas Roadhouse, then came back for some more wandering around the merch area. I was taken by how very little actual comic book paraphernalia was at this Comic Con; there were only two of the local Omaha comic shops with tables set up there: Legends Comics and Krypton Comics. And Legends was only serving coffee at their table. And as Nex pointed out, he had more comics in his collection than Krypton actually brought to the convention. There were trades and comics being sold at the various artists and writers tables, but they were the ones they were associated with. And none of the general comic book industry companies were there, that I could see. Then again, this was the first year of the convention, so here’s hoping that will be rectified in the following years. There were booths galore, though, catering to any and all fanboys and girls, ranging from fantasy, horror, sci-fi, and all points intersecting. Of course, I chatted a bit with the peeps at the Dr. Sanguinary booth (I really, really miss the live shows at the theater formerly known as the 20 Grand), and discovered Atomic Cotton, a shirt company that specializes in rather unique horror and other pop culture shirts. I couldn’t resist, and bought a couple that caught my eye. If I left the convention without buying something, I would have the stench of failure about me for weeks thereafter.

Count Fuzzynipples ComicCon1 Inside Comic Con 4Inside Comic Con 1

The anxiety levels were spiking a bit due to the congestion of people inside the merch area, so I found the rest of the Exalted Geeks in the main lobby area, where we then went to another smaller room to take in the Science Of Stargate discussion. This turned out to be, not a talk with someone who was associated with the actual show, but kind of a bullpen talk by a local Stargate fan talking about the scientific stuff used on the show. Kind of like when your High School teacher tries to make his class sound cooler by tying in the lessons with things found in Star Trek. Or Star Wars. Or what have you. I was like willingly listening to someone you just met at a social gathering go on and on pedantically about something you were kind of into, but obviously not at the same kind of level as this guy. He didn’t’ even use the microphone or podium that was obviously set up for another possibly more interesting panel discussion for that day. Eh, it was all right, I guess. I did throw out a topical request on the cloning process of the Asgard versus Natural Reproduction. It was either that, or the time loop probability from that episode where O’Neal and Teal’c were stuck in that Groundhog Day kind of thing…and looking back at what I just wrote, I believe I made the right choice for topic. I left the convention soon after.

Science Of Stargate

“…and when those actors from Farscape came on the show, things just got more awesome! Hey, is that guy asleep?”

So, there we have it, the goings on in the month of May of this year. Comparatively, June is downright relaxing. Gives me some time to write, in any case. Hope you enjoyed my inane ramblings, my wonderful freaks. Until next time, then, cheers.

::END TRANSMISSION::

NECRO SHOCK RADIO – Series 3, Session 4

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necro shock radio logo 1

After a nasty bout of sinus infection, Uncle NecRo was able to maintain lucidity long enough to bring us another hour or so of the Brutal Music Therapy!

Featuring the likes of:
Becoming The Archetype, Chatterbox, Drottnar, EnGrave, Fearscape, Grave Declaration, Holy Danger, Klank, Royal Anguish, Saint Spirit, Still Breathing, and Tourniquet…

MAY 2015, Part 2: Playing Hooky, Pancakes in Iowa, and Memorial Day Shenanigans…

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RED GREEN!

Spotted at my Aunt’s house…sadly, it didn’t come with a roll of duct tape…

Continuing on with my assessment of the month that was May…

Weekend 3 (May 16th): This was the day I planned on going to a folk metal show in Lincoln, but decided that morning to skip out and do nothing. I wasn’t feeling like traversing all the way to a city that bears nothing but bad memories and the like, just to get my face melted off by a trio of bands that, admittedly, I am not very familiar with, outside of checking out some clips online. They’re very obscure, and I know I would have enjoyed them more had I gone, maybe even picked up some merch and looked into buying a download of one of their albums. I would have even been supporting live \,,/METAL\,,/ playing in Nebraska. But, my despondency levels due to my ongoing depression won out, and I instead remained in Omaha. I do not regret this decision.

Weekend 4 (May 23rd-May 25th): Memorial Day Weekend. Due to the events happening last year, I decided to once again participate in the annual Pancake Feed that the Dunlap, Iowa Volunteer EMT puts on in the Firehouse the Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend. I actually enjoyed helping out last year, and this year I thought it would be a good way to come full circle for certain things. I arrived Saturday morning around 10:30-ish to my Aunt and Uncle’s place (it’s been a familiar home-away-from-home since I could remember), and napped in my Uncle’s easy chair for a while, as my Aunt Joyce was called away to help with an accident that happened on Hwy 30 a mere fifteen minutes after I had driven in that area myself. Chilling. But, she finally arrived back, and after chatting for a bit, I accompanied her to the local cemetery. She was helping map the entire place, and she had to go back and double check a few things. I got to walk around a graveyard, which is one of my hobbies. Don’t act so surprised. She pointed out some of the more interesting monuments there, including some gravestones dating back to the Civil War period, and a couple of her favorite ones there. Gleeful chats of the morbid abounded. I’m beginning to understand the part of the gene pool that got sloshed onto me. So now, whenever one of my parents ask me, “Where do you get that kind of morbid behavior from?”, I can now smile conspiratorially, instead of wonder myself.

Dunlap Graveyard

Later on, Aunt Joyce had to take part in some church activities, so Uncle Pat and I joined my Cousin Rob and his kids at the local ice cream and burger joint for some dinner and catching up. My Cousin Julie and her family showed up as well, so it became a nifty family reunion of sorts. Then we all went back to the firehouse to a surprise party thrown for Uncle Pat for his birthday. Yeah, I forgot to mention that it was his birthday that day. There was cake. Very good cake. The kind with toys on top that the kids there made short work of removing to play with when the cake was cut. After all the birthday-related hobnobbing was over, those who were to be involved with the Pancake Feed commenced with the pre-setup duties. For me, that entailed helping to bring over all the foodstuffs needed, breaking open several dozen eggs into five gallon buckets for the scrambled eggs (the highlight of the whole thing), bringing over various cooking implements and the like. Basic grunt work, like last year. There were a few there that remembered me from last year. A couple of people I didn’t recognize praised my work ethic, which always makes me rather uncomfortable, as I’m always thinking that I could always put more effort into whatever it is I’m doing than what I am. Kind of a messed-up situation, having people tell you you’re doing awesome, while you’re thinking that you’re really sucking at what you’re doing. Anyway, we finished that up and went back to Casa de Cogdill, where I immediately went to bed, on account I was looking at a 5:30am start time the next day.

Uncle Pat's Birthday Cakes

the cake, sans the toys…the kids made off with the majority of them…before I could play with them…

I awoke to the alarm at the prescribed time, somehow managing to not instinctively throw the Android across the room to make it shut up. I don’t care if I was raised in a farming family, 5:30 in the morning is a time when only the truly bent really enjoy being up at. Oh, I’ll do it, but just don’t expect me to be cheery at that time. Or coherent. Or able to conjugate verbs, for that matter. I was lucky enough to conjure up the motor skills needed to turn the shower knobs. But, shower and dress I did, and I was off to meet Uncle Pat at the Firehouse to begin the final setup for the Pancake Feed that was to start at 7am. Others started trickling in, as we set up some signs, moved the emergency vehicles outside, set up tables and chairs, and got the food prepared. I nominated myself for juice duty, as it was something I did last year, and it also kept me from having to manhandle the food serving too much. That, and I could indulge my OCD side, in making a bit of a game with seeing if I was able to keep an even amount of juice-filled styrofoam cups out at any given moment. The goal itself was to maintain a perfect square of juice-filled cups, which…okay, I’m beginning to now see how kind of sad that is. Still, no one ran out of juice cups to grab. Yay, me.

Juice 3 juice 2

The pancakes were really good. The sausages were fantastic, though. They were Farmland brand, I was told, and I found myself having to make myself not snack on those tasty links of spiced breakfast pork meat the whole time. The eggs were good, though needed a bit of salt. The ham was good, but I do have to admit that I kept looking at the bunch of ham that was being served, and couldn’t help but think about a certain Patton Oswalt bit and snicker, which drew a few confused looks from the servers at times. I didn’t really explain, as I’m not going to do so now, really.

HAM!

“ALL OF THE HAM!!!!”

Massive amounts of people came, consuming mass quantities of carb-laced goodness. I think Uncle Pat gave more firetruck rides for the kids there than before, not certain exactly how many he gave. It was a lot, enough for him to comment on it later. I managed to stay and help out until a bit after Noon, when my body began aggressively insisting that I go lay down somewhere, and soon. So, I was given leave to head back to Casa Cogdill, where I gratefully crashed on the couch for a few hours. I was told I looked comfy. I was.

Pancake Feed 2 Pancake Feed 1 Inside Pancake Feed 3 Inside Pancake Feed 2 Inside Pancake Feed 1classic dunlap fire truck

The next day, Memorial Day, I didn’t have to be at work, so I stayed one extra night, and went to the nearby town of Woodbine, where my cousin Rob dwells with his family, to hang out a bit. It was his youngest child’s third birthday, the one I came to nickname “Boo”, on account of her uncanny resemblance to the toddler in Monsters, Inc. Watched Big Hero 6 (which is something I have to get around to reviewing now), hung out with the kids, chatted with the cousins and family, then I made up a cup full of various fruit and grabbed a diet Root Beer for the drive back to Omaha, for the planned Cookout & Movies gathering at Nex’s place. Got there in time for a couple of hot dogs, then watched Stargate and The Grand Budapest. I did more socializing that weekend than I normally do in a handful of months. And my introvert nature was making me hyper aware of this.

cowboy hat n' motorhead

As my Gran’pa always said, “Son, if you ever get the chance to wear a pink cowboy hat, don’t pass it up.”

Last part is coming up…

::END TRANSMISSION::

MAY 2015, Part 1: Blockbuster Movie Time, and a Graduation…

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dead fish in hooper parkThe month of June is here once again. The Middle of the Year that is 2015. And May is over with. None too soon, as I marvel and wonder at how exactly I managed to survive the goings on of that month. It was jammed packed, the weekends were, the sacred days of when I’m not obligated to go to work and exchange my services for the currency needed to exchange for goods and services. A vicious cycle, that.

But, anyway, the point of all this is to share what the weekends of the last month was, complete with nifty pictures captured on my Android. Let’s reminisce along with your Uncle NecRo, shall we?

A couple of things before we begin: 1) that picture of a dead fish up there was an actual fish I found in the middle of the park in Hooper, Nebraska, when I was walking around one sunny Wednesday afternoon there, thinking about stuff to write about. It seemed random and odd. So obviously I had to get a picture. 2) I’m listening to the self-titled album by White Lighter, one of the bands Stavesacre/The Crucified vocalist Mark Solomon sings on, while I write this. Not too bad, for an indie rock record. You might want to pause right now, purchase the download on Amazon like I did, and listen along while you read this. You know, for the full effect. “Getting into the mind-frame of the writer” and all that. If that’s a thing. I don’t know if it is. Let’s pretend it is, for the sake of this blog.

Ready? Here we go, then:

Weekend 1 (May 2nd): Not too eventful, outside of finally getting to see a showing of The Avengers: Age Of Ultron along with members of the Exalted Geeks. Saturday was the day most of us could find the time to get together. Saw a bunch of the Geeks that I haven’t for a while, and we all went to the Aksarben Theater, which is one of those tragically hip modern type movie theaters that feature, among other things, an open bar and a Blue Bunny Ice Cream counter. I had to partake in a small dish of Peanut Butter Panic. Cost $5, but…I had no choice in the matter. Sorry. As to the movie itself, I expounded more upon that in my review here. Then I went back to the Victorian and called it a day.

Alisha n' Uncle NecRoWeekend 2 (May 9th): This was the weekend of my cousin’s second-oldest’s High School graduation. It was a bit of a mixed bag, as far as how I felt about this. I mean, on the one had, not only is it a Rite of Passage of sorts for Alyssa (the kid in question, here), an event to be celebrated happily, but it’s also a chance to finally see that side of the family this year (most of them, anyway) without having it be a funeral for once. And there was cake. That’s always a good thing. On the other hand, though, it also meant one more glaring indication that I am getting old. The passage of time stops for no man. Or woman, if you want to argue the point.

If you’ve never been to Palmer, Nebraska, I don’t blame you. It’s one of those middle-of-nowhere small towns that only the Midwest can produce. The kind of town that, if you’re not familiar with to begin with (like I was, despite having lived in a slightly bigger small town nearby at one point in my life), while driving there you begin to think that the town itself does not exist in reality, that it only appears in the light of a full moon, when the veil between this reality and the parallel one it lives in is finally lifted. But, I found it, and made it to the High School in time for the graduation ceremonies to begin.

I was struck by how small the graduating class was. This coming from someone whose own graduating class barely made it past the 50 mark. Alyssa’s own class was roughly half of mine, which says something. Well, not really. If you’ve seen the size of Palmer, then you could probably understand. That didn’t stop the gym itself to be packed with all sorts of people, presumably the family and friends of the graduates. I, of course, sat with my own family, which consisted of an entire row of chairs. The blood runs thick in our family. I was seated next to the two youngest members of their household, so I was more or less obligated to try and make them lose composure and giggle during the presentations. I’ll give those two credit—they were very well practiced at keeping their composure. Although, I they could have obliged with a grin or something, rather than those “who is this oddball, and why is he related to me?” kind of looks I got mostly. Eh, whatever. Made the older kids laugh, and that’s what is really important. I think.

Alisha's graduation

After the graduation ceremony, there was a kind of joint reception put on by the families of three of the graduates, Alyssa’s being one of them. There was the afore-mentioned cake, the requisite tables full of pictures and other memorabilia, streamers and balloons, and a nifty pot-luck style of buffet that was nice. I drank a lot of iced tea, snacked on a lot of fruit, chatted with the various members of the family from all of the age groups, and generally had a very good time just hanging out like that. Then the DJ showed up. They hired a DJ. Which makes sense, really. Problem is, I haven’t been hip to what it is the young’uns are listening too, as I mainly don’t care. For the most part, general pop music is something I don’t mind having to sit through, as I built up a decent brain filter to block the unpleasantness without having to turn into Mr. Music Elite Jerkwad. For the most part. The problem is, there seems to have emerged in the pop music world a mutated abomination that is known as “Hip-Hop Country.” Or is it “Country Hip-Hop”? It doesn’t matter, as this takes the two of my least-favorite genres—Country and Hip-Hop Rap—and creates something that is somehow worse than Dub Step. I never thought there would ever be a style of music that I would consider more unlistenable than Dub Step, but lo and behold, here we have it. And it’s not a situation where a Country artist collaborates with a Hip-Hop Rap artist, either; no, this is where an otherwise Modern Country song has the singer start rapping. And it’s the whitest and most horrible thing that will make your ears sad. So when the DJ broke out the rappin’ country dudes, that’s when I decided to give my final congrats and goodbyes to Alyssa, hopped inside the Aluminum Falcon and bid farewell to Palmer. Until the next one graduates. Here’s hoping nothing worse crops up in the music world by then.

(Part 2 Coming Later)

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