Sunday, November 30, 2008


In my adult life, I've had three major hobbies - theater, birding, and sports car racing. Pretty much as different from one another as three hobbies could be. But for me they all have a few things in common. First, I garner tremendous enjoyment from doing them, and have somewhat of an aptitude for them. The first part of that falls into the "well, duh!" category - obviously it makes little sense to have a hobby you don't enjoy. And as to the second part, let me caveat that by saying my aptitude in racing is limited to race officiating - working as a corner worker and serving as race controller. My aptitude most certainly does not extend to behind the wheel of the race car. As much of an adrenaline rush it is to be behind the wheel, I probably get greater satisfaction from my work as an official because I have the self-satisfaction of knowing that I'm good at it.

As hobbies, they all have different requirements from the perspective of time commitment. being successful as an actor requires a focused commitment of between 4 and 8 weeks at a time. Being successful as a birder has no hard and fast rules, as long as you are committed to a lot of early mornings. Being a successful race official has a more structured schedule - I already know the bulk of my weekend commitments for 2009, as race schedules must be fixed well in advance.

But for me, enjoyment and aptitude are not necessarily enough to make a hobby a passion. The third ingredient is social interaction, and that is the other component that each of these three share that has caused me to pursue one over the others at different phases of my life. Theater was my primary hobby throughout my undergraduate college years, acting in 11 shows throughout my 4 years at Washington & Jefferson College. It was the people I acted with for 4 years, and the friends that I made there that really turned theater into a passion. When I left for graduate school, I left the core social group that I had come to know so well, and because I was afraid to commit the same level of effort to theater that I had as an undergrad, I drifted away from theater, and it was 12 years before I did another show. In graduate school, birding became my primary hobby, and it really was turned into a passion when I was at the University of Florida. It was there that I got involved with the Gainesville birding community, which provided that key social element. However, when I moved to Virginia in 2001, a couple of negative interactions left me with the impression that the Northern Virginia birders operated in a closed clique, and that took the passion out of local birding for me. I still love to travel and bird, and I still love to go to Florida to bird with the friends I made there. I still travel to Gainesville every year to participate in their Christmas Bird Count. Though it would be a lot easier and cheaper to stay and do the local Northern Virginia counts, it would not be as fun. This year marks my 15th Gainesville CBC, with the last 11 of them requiring me to travel either from New Mexico (1998 - 2000) or Virginia (2001 - present) to participate. It does make me a bit sad that I don't have that passion to go out and bird locally anymore - and it makes me think that I can't really call myself a birder anymore. I'm more like one of those people I used to look down on - the birder who only chases rarities, or who only travels to other locales to have someone show them new birds. Perhaps it is time to give the local birding community another shot, especially during these winter months when racing, my current "Enjoyment+Aptitude+Social=Passion" is in its off-season. Maybe a New Years Resolution is in order for 2009.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Guild! Season 2!

No time to do an in-depth post today, but need to say Season 2 of "The Guild" debuted today! Created and starring Felicia Day, produced by Kim Evey (two of my favorite people), "The Guild" tracks the interactions of a group of online gamers. You do not have to be an online gamer (I'm not) to enjoy this series. Season 2 is sponsored by X-Box Live and Sprint, and is now streaming on MSN (see below) and downloadable on X-Box 360 and the Zune Marketplace. Check it out!

Link the Loot
Link the Loot

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wow! A new post!

The current lineup of G n' R

OK, it has been over six weeks since I last made a post here, and my one lone reader long ago stopped checking for updates. What can I say, a combination of a heavy workload and a severe mental rut left me with little energy or desire to communicate with, well, anyone really. Hopefully I'm starting to pull out of that, so PERHAPS there will be more frequent updates here.

So, on to the news. At midnight tonight, in what is sure to be the definition of "anti-climactic", the "new" Guns n' Roses album Chinese Democracy debuts. Actually, when I go back and re-read that sentence, the words "Guns n' Roses and "debuts" are also deserving of their own set of quotation marks.

Let's examine:
"new" - work allegedly started on this album in 1994. Axl Rose has promised a finished version for at least the last nine years. Rumors suggest that well in excess of 13 million dollars has been spent on the recording of this record.

"Guns n' Roses" - The only member remaining from their superb 1987 major label debut "Appetite for Destruction" is lead singer Rose. Keyboardist Dizzy Reed remains from the "Use Your Illusion" albums released in 1991. The current G n' R lineup is Axl Rose: vocals, Dizzy Reed: keyboards, Tommy Stinson: bass, Bumblefoot: lead guitar, Richard Fortus: rhythm guitar, Frank Ferrer: drums Chris Pitman: instrumentalist. And yes, you are forgiven for saying "who?" Bumblefoot is actually the third lead guitarist used on the project, following Buckethead and Robin Finck. If you want to hear what classic Guns n' Roses should sound like today, pick up either of the releases from Velvet Revolver, which feature original Guns guitarist Slash, original bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer from the "Use Your Illusion" era Matt Sorum, along with vocals from Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland. Alas, Weiland has rejoined Stone Temple Pilots, and Velvet Revolver is on indefinite hiatus after recently being dropped by their record label.

"debuts" - It is possible that a few of these new songs may stimulate a feeling of deja vu in some people. A recording of the song "I.R.S" was leaked in 2003, and again in 2006, along with demos for three other songs on the album: "Better", "Catcher in the Rye", and "There Was a Time". In addition, G n' R has been playing some of these songs in their infrequent concert appearances since 2001.

So, all that said, this record actually doesn't suck. I was prepared to hate it, but surprisingly I don't. None of the songs sound like they would fit on "Appetite for Destruction", but "Street of Dreams", with its piano riffs and orchestral backing, and the aforementioned "I.R.S" would both sound at home on "Use Your Illusion". The title track, which has been released as the first single, is a decent rocker. "Shackler's Revenge" bears no resemblance to the G n' R of old, but carries more of a new metal vibe with it's detuned guitars and industrial rhythm. Some of the songs are outright misses. On "If the World" Rose sounds like he is channeling Rik Emmet, singer for the 1980's Canadian power trio Triumph.

Chinese Democracy is currently streaming on Guns & Roses Myspace page. At midnight it will be available as a download from Itunes, and probably elsewhere. However, if you want to buy a cd, you will have to go to Best Buy, as that is the only place they will be sold. Oh, and back in March, Dr. Pepper stated that they would give everyone in America a free Dr. Pepper if Chinese Democracy was released in 2008. So starting at midnight and lasting 24 hours, you can get a coupon for a free 20 oz Dr. Pepper on the Dr. Pepper website.