Sunday, May 27, 2012

Remember More Than Just Your Grill

Steaks, burgers, chicken, kabobs - who doesn’t love these grilled? (ok, fine, vegetarians and vegans don’t, but work with me here). It’s Memorial Day weekend when almost everyone lights up the grill, puts the beer on ice and gets together for backyard parties and barbecuing. But Memorial Day is not national barbecue day. It is the day which we remember those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

So, go ahead and light your grill, drink your beer and enjoy having an extra day off (if you get one). BUt while you’re doing so, remember those who have fallen in the line of duty defending your rights and freedom to have that backyard party.

~ JC

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Sarah J Show

Typically I listen to hard rock/heavy metal/whatever you wish to call it. To prove it, if you asked me to list three bands I consider amongst my favorites (in no particular order) I’d most likely say Disturbed, Lacuna Coil, and Five Finger Death Punch. Sometimes, though, I want to listen to something different, something not so harsh. I’ve even been known to queue up guitar concertos, orchestral music, or even a little Enya, depending on my mood or activity.

I also have to admit, I really don’t buy CDs anymore, mainly because I subscribe to Slacker Radio these days, so don’t really see much point. Recently, though, I bought a pair of CDs from my friend Sarah J. One, to support a talented up-and-coming artist, and two because, well, she’s not on Slacker Radio (although she should be). The two CDs are “Before I Burn” by Sarah’s former band Ophir Drive, and her solo CD “Happier”. Sarah’s music, both solo and as a part of OD, also satisfies that need to hear some music that doesn’t make my ears bleed; music that has some soul to it.

I first met Sarah when she and my fianceĆ© were both working at a non-profit organization in Fayetteville, NC. We had the pleasure of hearing Sarah perform at a local coffee shop - just Sarah and her acoustic guitar. At the time, Sarah was married to a soldier, who got orders to relocate to Columbus, GA. We were sad to see our friend go and that we wouldn’t get to see her perform as much. But evidently moving to Columbus was just the ticket she needed to kick off her music career.

Sarah had already been performing and recording under the name Ophir Drive for a few years (to that point, I also own her previous CDs ‘Breakthrough’, ‘Hamonic Half Life’, and ‘Tunneling’, all released under the name Ophir Drive and which I was able to procure when she was still in Fayetteville, NC). In Columbus, however, Ophir Drive became a full blown band when Sarah joined forces with Jon Edwards (guitar) and Matt Austin (bass). Together they became a pretty popular touring group around the southeast region. They also recorded a CD - “Before I Burn”.
”Before I Burn”, frankly, rocks! Sarah’s powerful vocals (which have been compared to Janis Joplin), backed by Jon’s skillful guitar riffs make this album not only rock, but rock with passion, soul, and heart. You can hear their love for music in every song. They’re not doing this to become famous (ok, maybe they are a little bit); they play because it’s who they are. Their music is a part of them, and it shows.

After three years together, Ophir Drive split and went their separate ways. Sarah recorded “Happier” as a solo album and performs on her own as The Sarah J Show. If her vocals during her stint with Ophir Drive could be compared to Janis Joplin, her solo work can easily be compared to Tori Amos. It’s all piano, acoustic guitar, and Sarah’s soulful voice wound up in songs that evoke emotions to make you both laugh and cry. She proves she’s not “just a singer”. She’s an artist, both vocally and musically.

These days Sarah resides and performs in New York City, but she’s also done gigs in Los Angeles. And she’s been featured in Billboard. Yep, one of these days I’ll be able to say “I knew her when...” as she tours the world and hangs gold and platinum albums on her studio walls... but I’m still pissed she didn’t do a gig in Atlanta before moving from GA to NY *wink*.

I’ll admit, I don’t know the first thing about writing a music review (which is why this is a blog post and not an article in Rolling Stone), but I know what I like, and I really like Ophir Drive and Sarah J. I hate to admit that I haven’t had the time to listen to either CD enough to give you a breakdown of each tune, but I’ve listened enough to tell you you should go buy them both. If you contact Sarah through her website, I think she still has a few copies of “Before I Burn” available. “Happier” on the other hand is sold out (I got the last one), but it is available on iTunes. Do it... Do it now!!

~ JC 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Shaking My Head

Silliness and bullshit seem to abound this week. First, there’s the infamous passing of North Carolina’s Amendment One, which made same-sex marriage wholly illegal in that state (as though it weren’t already). Then there’s the story of the Catholic school that forfeited the championship game because the opposing team, gasp!, had a girl on their team. And of course, there’s the pastor, also from NC, who seemingly encouraged fathers to strike their sons if they see them acting effeminate.

It just seems that the U.S. is devolving into a nation of whiners, complainers, haters, bigots and the like. The ultra-conservative religious types try to curtail the civil liberties of non-ultra-conservative-religious types, while the ultra-liberal types cry about their civil liberties while simultaneously trying to prevent the ultra-conservative-religious types from practicing their religion. And in the end, neither side wins because neither side is able to see that they’re both wrong! If something offends you, ignore it - don’t look at it, watch it or read it. But don’t assume to tell me or anyone else that they can’t either.

Life in this country, simply put, has become entirely to political. And gods help you if you don’t have an opinion, because then you get to be a pariah to both the liberals and the conservatives and accused of being a ‘fence sitter’. Not everything is black and white people. Believe it or not, there are shades of grey and what is truth for you, isn’t truth for everyone else. Get over yourself.

As far as the gay marriage thing is concerned - well, Foamy puts it pretty damn well, so I’ll let him explain it:


Additional Links:

Sunday, May 06, 2012

LG Tone Bluetooth Review

I’m a big fan of Bluetooth. In fact, ever since I got my first cell phone (which was a Tracfone, for the record) I’ve been a big fan of hands free cell phone usage in general, mainly because at the time I got my first cell phone, the car I was driving was a 4-speed so I couldn’t very well hold a phone, the steering wheel and shift gears at the same time. Recently, my Samsung HM3500 broke. Not enough to make it completely unusable, but enough that it was obviously just a matter of time before it was completely done (note, I probably shouldn’t have kept it in my pocket when not in use else the earpiece may not have broken and been hanging by the, very, thin wires inside). This, naturally put me in the market for a good, though not terribly expensive, Bluetooth headset again.

I’ve owned at least a half dozen or more Bluetooths (or would that be Blueteeth?) in the last several years. Some cheap, some not so cheap. One thing I have always noted is that the cheap ones aren’t worth it. They tend to sound like crap and they conk out too soon. The most I’ve ever paid for a Bluetooth was round $100. The Samsung HM3500, at the time I bought it, retailed for around $70, but I found it on sale for $40. What I liked about the Samsung was that it was both a traditional, monaural Bluetooth headset for phone calls, but it also came with a set of stereo earbuds that attached via micro-USB, for listening to music. So, when that headset broke, my first notion was to either get that same model again, or possibly one of Samsung’s other models with the same features.

But then I ran across an article on Lifehacker titled “Five Best Bluetooth Headsets”. On that list, was the LG HBS700/Tone. It’s been my experience that any Bluetooth priced less than around $70 generally isn’t worth it. A friend of mine also already had this same Bluetooth headset, which, frankly, I honestly figured he had paid quite a bit more for than only $70. Naturally, I asked him his what his experience with the LG Tone had been. His indications were that it was an exceptional headset, especially for the price.

Research completed, I headed to the local BestBuy to pick one up for myself. I have now had it for just shy of a month, and I must say, I’m very impressed. First of all, it’s comfortable. I was a bit unsure of whether or not I’d like having it wrapped around my neck, but I actually barely notice it’s there. Sound quality is absolutely phenomenal! I actually have to turn the volume down on my Android phone itself because the headset does such a tremendous job of amplification. For phone calls, it’s equally impressive and so far no one has complained that they couldn't hear me or that I sounded far away or metallic. Battery life has been impressive as well, as I typically only have to charge it every three or four days based on my own usage.

I’ve only had one annoyance using the headset to listen to music. Occasionally, the audio cuts out. However, I’m not convinced that it has anything to do with either the headset or the phone because it only happens on the smoking patio at my office. It doesn’t happen at home, nor inside the breakroom at work or anywhere else. Only on that patio. Which makes me wonder what the hell is out there that fraks with the Bluetooth signal.

All in all, if you’re looking a good, affordable, bluetooth headset for both phone calls and listening to music in stereo, in my opinion, you can’t go wrong with the LG Tone. Apparently, it’s only officially available at BestBuy, but I’ve also seen it listed on Ebay.

~ JC