My Favorite Albums of 2014: A Highly Important List

Kaiser Chiefs, Real Estate, The Belle Brigade, OK Go, Broken Bells, Bear In Heaven, Jenny Lewis, Gerard Way, The Happy Hollows, Tennis, The Preatures, Wye Oak, The Black Keys

2014 was a sweet freakin’ year for music. I’m no music journalist, though, so I’ll preface this list by stating that I am not an authority, I just happen to really like these albums, and maybe you will, too.

What makes my list unique and interesting over all those other legitimate publications’ best-of lists is that I’m including the best song from each album to use as the soundtrack for a movie trailer. Clever, no?

Also, big disclaimer: this list is totally incomplete. There are too many albums for me to think of, and the longer I delay this post, the more I think of, so I have to just cut myself off and stick with what’s below. I apologize to all the awesome artists I omitted. Please trust that there is no rhyme or reason to it.

And now, in no particular order…

The Black Keys - Turn Blue“Turn Blue” by The Black Keys

This melancholy slow burn of an album from one of rock’s most relevant acts of this century is as close to psychedelia as anything they’ve ever done. Produced by Danger Mouse, which means it’s necessarily melancholy and psychedelic.

Movie trailer track: “It’s Up To You Now”

Music video: “Fever”

The Preatures - Blue Planet Eyes“Blue Planet Eyes” by The Preatures

Much like HAIM in some ways, this band channels the best of the ’80s and ’90s pop/rock and squashes the mix into one solid album.

Movie trailer track: “It Gets Better”

Music video: “Somebody’s Talking”

Happy Hollows - Amethyst“Amethyst” by Happy Hollows

This band was a happy discovery for me this year. Indie-pop-rock with a slightly spaced-out vibe.

Movie trailer track: “Supernatural”

Music video: “Endless”

Tennis - Ritual In Repeat“Ritual in Repeat” by Tennis

Tennis is fast becoming one of my favorite indie bands. I’m dying to see this act live.

Movie trailer track: “I’m Callin'”

Music video: “I’m Callin'”

Broken Bells - After the Disco“After the Disco” by Broken Bells

Danger Mouse again! This pairing of one of my favorite producers and one of my favorite songwriters (James Mercer of The Shins) plant their flag with Broken Bells’ sophomore effort. Dark and beautiful with disco influences through and through.

Movie trailer track: “Perfect World”

Music video: “Holding On For Life”

Wye Oak - Shriek“Shriek” by Wye Oak

It’s rare that when a band does as big a 180-degree turnaround in their sound as Wye Oak did this year, it works out this well. They went from acoustic folk to electric dream-pop on this album, and it COMPLETELY works.

Movie trailer track: “Logic of Color”

Music video: “The Tower”

Bear In Heaven - Time Is Over One Day Old“Time Is Over One Day Old” by Bear in Heaven

This one’s a little hard to defend, I just really like it. It’s slow-jam electronica at its finest, and I appreciate the science fiction tint. I also find it’s really easy to think with this album on. Not sure why that is.

Movie trailer track: “You Don’t Need the World”

Music video: “Autumn”

Jenny Lewis - The Voyager“The Voyager” by Jenny Lewis

The crown jewel of L.A.’s singer-songwriter scene brings us the closest thing to Tom Petty I’ve heard since, well, Tom Petty. Fun fact: this is my three-year-old daughter’s favorite album ever.

Movie trailer track: “You Can’t Outrun ‘Em”

Music video: “Just One Of The Guys”

The Belle Brigade - Just Because“Just Because” by The Belle Brigade

This quirky pop duo are the grandchildren of “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” (and other) film composer John Williams. That’s enough to sell me on giving them a listen, but as it turns out, this album is infinitely pleasing to my ears and absolutely one of my favorites from this year.

Movie trailer track: “Likely To Use Something”

Music video: “Ashes”

Gerard Way - Hesitant Alien“Hesitant Alien” by Gerard Way

Debut solo album from the lead singer of My Chemical Romance. Hard rockin’, yet focused and in control. Did you know this guy is also a comic book artist? Amazing!

Movie trailer track: “No Shows”

Music video: “Millions”

Kaiser Chiefs - Education, Education, Education & War“Education, Education, Education & War” by Kaiser Chiefs

I’ve been a huge fan of Kaiser Chiefs ever since they let me choose my own track order for “The Future Is Medieval” back in 2011, not just because I believe so strongly that track order matters, but because they seriously rock. This album proves the latter point.

Movie trailer track: “Coming Home”

Music video: “Coming Home”

OK Go - Hungry Ghosts“Hungry Ghosts” by OK Go

One of my all-time favorite bands. With this eclectically bombastic new collection, OK Go take their songwriting — and their music videos — to a new level.

Movie trailer track: “The Writing’s On the Wall”

Music video: “I Won’t Let You Down”

Real Estate - Atlas“Atlas” by Real Estate

Super-chill new album from New Jersey’s definition of mellow indie rock. Simplistic and beautiful, yet infinitely complex.

Movie trailer track: “Navigator”

Music video: “Crime”

Track Order Matters: “El Camino” By The Black Keys

The Black Keys - El Camino

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Black Keys’ 2011 album “El Camino.” That album is super-good, but there was always something missing, something mysteriously wrong. I finally figured out what it was: the track order is not what it should be.

Don’t get me wrong: as it is, it’s still a really strong album. But I get the sense that they intentionally front-loaded the best songs because, I don’t know, maybe they thought they’d get more record sales that way? Could be a number of reasons. The track order was clearly chosen carefully.

The main problem is that the best song of the album by a light year is placed fourth. “Little Black Submarines” is so brilliantly amazing that you almost don’t even realize it the first few times you hear it. But it is.

For those that don’t know the album, here’s a quick recap:

  1. “Lonely Boy” – great start to a great album of straight-up rock & roll. Lyrically, it could be sad and mopey, but the driving beat and the steady burn of the guitar take it much faster and higher than the lyrics would have you believe, and you know right away you’re in for more than you bargained for.
  2. “Dead and Gone” – a switch in tone from the previous track, but just as hard-drivin’. Whatever the first track left wanting, the second track picks up.
  3. “Gold On the Ceiling” – the breakout single of this album. A great, great, great rock song. Simple, accessible, but clever enough to switch gears seamlessly multiple times and keep you on your toes. If you listen more closely than your average radio listener, you get even more, because this song is secretly complex and beautiful behind its dirty façade.
  4. “Little Black Submarines” – by far the best song on an album full of great songs. It starts off slow and quiet, evoking both lyrically and musically a picture of a sad, pathetic man at a payphone. A haunting melody from an acoustic guitar leads the way. Then, all of a sudden, halfway through, for a split seconds it stops so completely you can almost hear the smoke clearing. And out of nowhere, the rockingest band since Led Zeppelin shows up and blows you back to the 70’s for a few more minutes of Rock Heaven before releasing you back to the present, back to “El Camino.”
  5. “Money Maker” – Back to the tone of the earlier part of the album, we are now faced with a fine tune, but it’s not strong enough to remove the memory of the track we just listened to.
  6. “Run Right Back” – by the end of the track before, we’re back in the zone and ready for some more hard drivin’, and that’s exactly what we get with this alternate hit single. Interestingly, there’s a pain we can sense by the end of the song, and it’s not resolved at the end. Which leads us into…
  7. “Sister” – one of the album’s more underappreciated tracks, this one takes the lingering whatever of the previous track and spins it into a dangerous-sounding beat. If this song is the soundtrack to your night, you are gonna find some trouble. Or else trouble is gonna find you.
  8. “Hell of a Season” – this track expands on the finghting tone of the previous track, but takes it down a notch from near-anger to near-introspection, and thematically, takes a broader view of time and whatever space the main character of our story inhabits.
  9. “Stop Stop” – lyrically, this song is fit for the poppiest top-40 radio station, but the fuzz and the drums of the Black Keys keep it away. This track also somehow carries the infusion of melancholy from the previous two tracks. At this point, the album is showing us its internal struggle, and we see where the arc may be headed but we don’t know what the outcome will be.
  10. “Nova Baby” – here’s that song that wraps most of it up. With one high note ever present above every sound in the chorus, watching over the Black Keys like some useless angel, this track makes a damn fine last chapter, but leaves plenty of room for an epilogue.
  11. “Mind Eraser” – Our final track here is where the problem always occurred to me. The previous four tracks do a marvelous job of getting the listener ready to be knocked out of his or her own lifetime, but this one does not do that. This one is fit for the middle of the album; it’s a good song on its own, but of this entire album, it may have the most forgettable outro. Thinking about it now, I can’t even remember what it sounds like as it fades out.

And the solution is so clear to me now. The entire journey peaks one third of the way through the album…the thing to do is switch the fourth and eleventh tracks. That would not only solve the problem of the strength of the ending, I believe that would elevate the album from “one of the best of 2011” to “one of the best of all-time.”

See the graph below:

The Black Keys - "El Camino" (As-Is Track Order)

See how you spike early and then the rest, though still good and better than most albums, simply feels like a letdown. Now see the optimized track order:

The Black Keys - El Camino (Optimized)

You can see from scientific evidence that with the optimized track order, “El Camino” would rock its listeners hard for a solid chunk of time, and then, for those who stay with the band for one more track, it would reward its most loyal listeners with an epic song unlike anything heard within a decade, and we’d exit the album on the highest of highs.

Track order matters, everyone. Track. Order. Matters.

If you’ve made it this far, go ahead and check out the official “Little Black Submarines” music video below. Do yourself a favor: turn the volume all the way up.

Artists & Sponsorship: Another Follow-Up

Nataly Dawn - Suit & TieBeing a teenager in the mid to late 90’s meant putting up with a ton of asshole teenagers at school ranting about this band or that band “selling out.” I guess that’s still the case, but luckily for me I don’t have to put up with asshole teenagers at school anymore, because I graduated in 1999. Now I’m a fucking adult, and it’s awesome.

But there’s still a mentality that, honestly, probably existed long before I was a teenager as well. It’s this notion that singers can’t accept money from corporations. They must only take money from fans. But there are two sides to this coin, and we sort of glossed right over it in talking about Amanda Palmer and her notions of making do as a performing artist.

Corporate sponsorship is not the enemy. Bullies are the enemy. Bullies can sometimes come in the form of corporate sponsorship, true, where a company pays the artist and then feels that because they are paying the artist, they have the right to turn them into their own little puppet. But that’s not always the case; in fact, I’d wager that’s rarer these days than one would think. In fact, I’ll bet that major record companies have historically been bigger bullies.

I used to have this rant a lot as a teenager, and I’m sure I was never even half as eloquent as Nataly Dawn, who rhapsodizes the freedom she feels as an artist backed by Hyundai Motors. Hyundai, as you may know, is a for-profit corporation that produces something other than music. They have previously used her side band Pomplamoose in their car commercials, and now they are sponsoring her solo tour. So she made a quirky video playing goofily on and with a new Santa Fe which they apparently loaned her for the tour; they didn’t pay her for the video, she just went and did it. Because she has a good business relationship with these guys. Because they are good to her.

Nataly hits the nail on the head in her blog post:
http://natalydawn.tumblr.com/post/48305906500/suit-tie

Go give it a read, and while you’re there, watch her video of her cover of a Justin Timberlake song starring her, her guitarist, and a Hyundai Santa Fe.

Selling out means changing what you believe in, or at least changing your behavior in a way that might betray what you believe in, because you are being paid to do so. That’s what selling out is. Being successful is not the same thing. Working with a corporation like Hyundai is not the same thing.

And speaking of the 90’s…

This Is The End, Sharkblog, The End (Kind Of)

ANNOUNCEMENT


Earlier this year I announced that BilGaines.com would be dedicated primarily to Sharkblog.

I was wrong.

I wasn’t wrong at the time. I really meant it. But through the course of events in the largest break between blog posts in BilGaines.com’s history, the only real objective Sharkblog ever had was achieved. I have started a career as in the glorious field of search engine optimization. That was what Sharkblog really was. The fun surface skin of shark hybrid monster studies was, as I mentioned repeatedly, nothing more than a veiled attempt at self-education. I simply chose shark monsters as a subject for consistency and control for the course of various experiments in monitoring traffic, garnering traffic from strangers across the web, putting things I read into practice, and so on.

And now here’s the thing. I have the job I wanted Sharkblog to get me. The job I have is like a crash course in hands-on optimization tools and techniques. I already know more in just a few months than I was able to teach myself in over a year on my own, because I’m using real tools to help real businesses. I also have actual humans teaching me things. It’s like grad school, where the things you publish get seen by real people who matter. Except they’re paying me, not the other way around.

And there is SO much I want to use BilGaines.com for that I had to make some tough decisions about Sharkblog. I really did enjoy it, and I am still planning to write those Orsonsharktopus screenplays at some point. But I am revoking all urgency and importance of Sharkblog as far as BilGaines.com is concerned. This doesn’t mean it’s going away entirely, it just means I won’t really be pretending to be shark-focused anymore, and any time I blog about SEO, it won’t necessarily involve shark hybrids.

I had wanted to give one final post about exactly what I’d learned from Sharkblog, but I’ve actually been away from it for so long and I’ve learned so much SINCE the last Sharkblog post that I don’t remember where the self-education ends and where the professional education begins.

However, I’d definitely like to thank each and every reader who followed Sharkblog with even the smallest interest. One thing I know that Sharkblog taught me was optimization, shmoptimization – if you don’t write posts that people enjoy reading, you’re wasting everyone’s time. So, thanks, all of you. This is the end. I’m breaking up with Sharkblog.

We’ll still be friends.

…Here’s the good news: the Hideous Hybrid Menagerie is officially up and running. This is a lovely little part of BilGaines.om where I send visitors far, far away. It’s not good business, but hey, I’m just some guy, not a business, so it’s okay. The Menagerie is a benevolent hub of links where you can read much, much more about your favorite shark monsters. And it will remain open for ever and ever. I can add to it over time as I receive information and requests for information. I am not anticipating many requests, so I don’t think this will be a great time hinderance.

Check it out!

Sharkblog’s The Hideous Hybrid Menagerie

At some point, I may add more images to really spruce the Menagerie up, but currently, I’m sans-Photoshop, so it’s pretty much all text. This may or may not be a temporary situation. Whatever.

Hopefully this music video will help us all move past this difficult grieving phase:

Once again, thanks for reading. Please enjoy the rest of BilGaines.com, and come back often!

New Gig: SEO Specialist (For Realsies)

Extremely good news, ladies and gentlemen!

I have landed a part-time gig as a Search Engine Optimization Specialist.  The words are capitalized because that’s the official title.  I’ll give plenty of detail, I’m sure, on the company itself and all the amazing goings on that occur on a daily basis just as soon as full-time work is written in stone with these folks.  We’re expecting sometime in the spring.  But for now, I’ll just let the world know I’ve got  up to eight hours a week of SEO work, and that is what I’ve been after.

To become really good at something (such as SEO), one needs not only theory but also practice and mentorship.  With Sharkblog, I’ve been giving myself a very small amount of practice, and there has been no mentorship.  This SEO gig should cover all three areas, and I aim to improve my skills dramatically in a short time.  The more SEO work I produce, the more powerful I shall become.

It’ll be rough until I can do it full-time.  In the meantime, I’ll still be working at Edmunds.com in Santa Monica, a 50-mile commute each way from my place in Oxnard.  So this new work will be on top of that.

But it will be worth it, because if I can prove I don’t suck at life and actually get hired on with this company, I will transition from working 50 miles away to working at home.  My commute will be upstairs.

Even better than the non-commute, however, will be the work itself.  I’ve got no particular complaints with being an account manager for an automotive advertising & lead company, but account-managing has never been a passion of mine.  And the life-after-account-management career path is both vague and uninteresting.  The places I can go after being an SEO peon are way more attractive to a personality like mine.

What’s more, there’ll be more time at home to spend with my super-awesome baby girl Aliena.  I can’t even describe what a relief that is for the Parenting Department.  I can’t.  Even.  Describe.  (See: Harry Chapin – Cat’s in the Cradle)

I’m also anticipating a slight increase in productivity as far as personal writing projects goes.  In my current situation, I have very little time and even less energy to devote to the pile of StuffIAmWorkingOn.  By telecommuting, I open up about three hours each day.  And by not wearing myself down with driving those three hours, my brain, I expect, will be more useful.  So maybe I can finally complete 1) the adaptation of a play I’ve written into a screenplay, 2) a short story I started that gets longer and longer the more I write it, 3) a refresh of the novel I completed a draft for last year, 4) that book of poetry with those sketches I’ve been drawing, and 5) everything else that I’ve been planning to start but haven’t because of the previous four.

And the wonderful thing here, the truly wonderful thing here, is that I’ll be happy with my day job.  It won’t be just a day job.  It’ll be a day career.  It’ll actually be an inspiration to the personal projects instead of a hindrance.  I’ll be happy to do the work, I’ll aspire to go further, I’ll be proud to describe what I do.  More on this topic later.  As I write this, I’m actually at the office in Santa Monica.  I should get back to work.

Have a lovely long weekend!

Yours truly,

Bil
SEO Specialist

P.S. Awesome.

Pigeonslaughter

Driving down PCH at the blackest morning hour is a dangerous and unpredictable commute, but one thing I never thought I would see (let alone be a part of) is a moving lineup of the entire Scion brand.

There I was, casually speeding at a weak seven miles over the limit, when I noticed the headlights behind me were catching up, so I moved over to the right to let the car pass. In the side mirror, I noticed there was another car right on the first car’s heels. As the first car passed me, I couldn’t help but notice it was a fairly new Scion tC.

I gave the passing tC a little wave, like I do for all Scion drivers, even though I knew that a) it was pitch black and there’s no way the driver would see me wave, and b) the wave would probably only confuse the other driver, since my patent-pending “Friendly Scion Driver’s Wave” hasn’t caught on in the mainstream yet.

Then, as I let the second car pass me, I saw it was the delightfully boxy Scion xB.

OH MY GOD, I thought. This is my chance.

I drive a Scion xD. This completes the current lineup, I thought. Just like some pre-dawn, noir-styled brand commercial. How fucking cool is that.

The Scion iQ is not on sale just yet, which leaves Scion with just these three models. I knew the iQ goes on sale starting December first, a little over a month away, so that was probably the last chance I’d ever have to be part of a living car commercial.

So, as the xB passed me, I sped up just a bit to match their speed, turned on my turn signal, and moved into the lane behind the first two, gloriously completing the Scion trilogy.

And then I ran over a pigeon.

I had never run over a bird before. In fact, I’d never killed anything larger than an insect with a car before. It was really fucking awful. The muffled splat of an insect on your windshield is nothing compared to the “thunk” of a substantially-sized object in the road combined with what was surely the sound of tiny bird bones crunching all at once.

I was immediately so overcome with guilt that I fell into some kind of trance. I don’t know what happened to the other Scions, where they went or how long I was behind them. But I didn’t stop the car after it happened. I just kept driving. It happened so fast, I never even took my foot off the accelerator.

Oh, that sound. That sound is still playing on a loop inside my head, like some grim, undying echo.

I wasn’t sure why I felt so bad. In that split second between when I saw the bird in the light of my headlamps and when I lost sight of it below the hood, I could tell that the bird was injured. It was flapping uselessly with one wing, trying to fly in any direction at all, but it was just too wounded to survive. Either that, or it was break dancing in the middle of the road.

It was just a pigeon. I’ve been telling myself all morning that it was just a pigeon. Pigeons are not even close to an endangered species. They are not even popular among environmentalists. I hear vegetarians refer to them as “sky rats.” And this particular pigeon was already mortally wounded (or bad at break dancing), and I just ended its suffering.  It wasn’t vehicular pigeonslaughter, I tell myself, it was assisted suicide.

But I still felt terrible about it.

That was earlier this morning. I’m okay now.

But that sound. I can’t get that sound out of my mind.

There’s only one solution: Disco.

 

Five Songs For Sharks That Like AC/DC : All Songs Considered Blog : NPR

 

 

In the explosion of science following the discovery that sharks totally dig AC/DC, ever-prudent NPR weighed in because this revelation is simply too important to ignore.

Five Songs For Sharks That Like AC/DC : All Songs Considered Blog : NPR.

In addition to the author’s picks of Slough Feg, Deceased, Twisted Tower Dire, Premonition 13, and Scale the Summit, I would like to add a slightly more obvious (and therefore slightly more Australian) alternative:

Whether you agree or disagree with my final two cents, I think the entire scientific community can now agree that, factually speaking, the great white shark is the most rock-&-roll of all sea beasts. No question.

Polaroid vs. Cameraphone: Zeitgeist

Things learned from my 300 Days of 30 project so far:
1) A cameraphone is no substitute for a high-quality, multiple-megapixel digital SLR.
2) A cameraphone is a totally acceptable substitute for that party favorite of yesteryear, the Polaroid Instant Camera.

It’s not quite right to say that the Polaroids were there to define the spirit of the times, it just happens that now, years later, we look at them with both reverence and a sort of honorific irreverence. But I think with the hyperactive self-awareness we have these days, our cameraphones are becoming something of an attempt to connect with that past, taking poorly-planned shots of ourselves having fun and expecting that our kids will look at them the way we look at the Polaroid shots our parents took. At least on a subconscious level, we’re intentionally creating our own Polaroid-less Polaroid photos.

Interestingly, the distinctive shoot-and-print is coming back to reality, though now it’s more of a retro-flavored gadget for partiers and campers rather than the staple of American existence it was back in the 80’s.  The main obstacles I can see for this product in today’s world are that you have to purchase both the camera itself and then the film.  Also, you have to bring it with you – on purpose.

Only a relative handful of people would be willing to shell out the cash for this fun toy, and fewer still will remember to take it with them wherever they go.  Not that everybody did this in its heyday, it’s just that in Polaroid’s heyday, nobody had cameraphones.  With cameraphones, we take our cameras everywhere because we take our cell phones everywhere.  It’s natural selection at work.

So I’m pretty sure cameraphones will continue to document everyday life.  Future generations will look back on our under-lit, pixelated, out-of-focus snapshots of us with our friends the way that we now look back on washed-out, overexposed, out-of-focus Polaroid shots of our parents and their friends.  It’s that essential piece of human nature that makes Hipstamatic such a delightful and popular iPhone app.

Which brings up another point: cameraphone technology is evolving rapidly, so it won’t be very long before kids look at our cameraphone snapshots and comment on how old the photos look.

Case in point: they’re already shooting music videos on iPhones, and they look good:

So far, my little project, which I anticipated would teach me things about myself, has actually changed something about me: I no longer mind the awful quality of cameraphone shots.  I used to hate them on an artistic level, but now I appreciate them on a cultural level.

I Don’t Get Lost, I Go Exploring

I took a little trip last night across the border.

I waited until dark and then I drove into the village of Skokie, IL.  I had a package to pick up at a FedEx shipping warehouse.

I figured while I was out there, I ought to pick up something I needed from Babies-R-Us, which is also out in the burbs.

So I hopped in my car with the box of wine I picked up from FedEx and drove further north and further west.

Once I realized I had taken the wrong route, I also realized I was in a place I’d never gone before, in a strange part of a town I rarely travel through.

Luckily, the street I was driving on is straight east-west, so it was just a matter of traveling back south and east.  I turned around in the parking lot of some suburban box store, and made a right at the next major-looking streetlight.

That’s when things turned weird.  As I headed south, the road forked and I took the eastern-pointing direction.  I wound up on a dark and winding residential track.

As I traveled through this no-man’s-land of driveways, lawns, and slight curves in the road, I lost my sense of direction.  The true-blue Chicago grid was both behind me and in front of me, and I wasn’t sure anymore if I was even going in the right direction, let alone on the correct path.

The streetlights grew further apart, and still the road twisted and turned.  I may as well have been in the middle of a forest on a cloudy, moonless night.  Trees obscured my vision, wind howled, and small animals ran amok in front of me.

I suddenly became aware of a pair of headlights that had been a safe distance behind me the whole time.  My blood ran cold.  My scalp started to tingle with fear and paranoia.  I wasn’t sure if it was just my mind playing tricks on me, but I could swear I saw a hitchhiker on the side of the road.  I zoomed past him without a second thought.

I leaned on the gas pedal.  I figured if I can’t outrun the murderous driver behind me, and if I’m just heading deeper into a jungle of my own despair, I may as well get it over with.  Or, similarly, if I was going the right direction, I’d get to Babies-R-Us faster.  In either case, it was better to speed.

Just then, in typical anti-climactic reality fashion, I found the street I was looking for.  I made a left and half a mile later I was in the right parking lot.

And since that night I’ve been thinking about the wild-turning road with no streetlights.  Who travels such a road but locals and Google Streetview trucks?  Certainly not passers-by such as myself.  At least not often.

But Devon and I are hoping to move to California someday soon, and when we do we will most likely wind up in a small town with twisty roads.

That’s a glimpse of the future, I keep thinking.  Only it will be warmer and less creepy.

Locals know the local roads.  Just like I know the potholes that make you turn your wheel to and fro in a city laid out in a straight grid.

They say home is where the heart is.  I say home is where you know the roads.

 

These guys know a thing or two about roads.

The Microwave Finally Died

Microwave HeavenThe history of our microwave oven is patchy at best.  Facts get confused all the way down to the origin of how we acquired him.  Scientists believe we acquired him shortly after we moved to Chicago five and a half years ago.  We probably picked him up for some ridiculously low price at what is believed to be a Wal-Mart somewhere in the suburbs.

We were poor and the microwave was cheap.  We were wide-eyed wanderers in a brand new town, and we had just gotten married.  The microwave was as unknown to us as the life we were just starting.  The situation wasn’t ironic, wasn’t memorable, but it was perfect in its own quiet way.  Our microwave was a reflection of us, and we used that microwave for many meals.

Tonight, while attempting to heat some casserole, I discovered our microwave had died.  Completely died.  He went peacefully, in his sleep.  There was no pain.

…Which was rather inconvenient, really.  I had to use the conventional oven to heat up dinner.

But the timing, however annoying, is almost poetic.  We bought our microwave at the same time as we bought our guest bed linens.  Quite fitting, then, that he should crap out on us now that our guest bed is gone in favor of a baby room.

We’re not going to get a baby microwave, though.  That would be ridiculous.

But our baby will need to grow up with a microwave of her own, and we have some decisions to make.  We may decide to replace him with the old clunker of a microwave that is currently taking up space in our pantry.  How we got that other microwave is even more of a mystery.  I think we picked it up on the side of a road in Boston many years ago.

At any rate, the old microwave was with us through good times and bad times for almost our entire time here in Chicago, and he deserves a proper farewell as we send him off to Microwave Heaven…

Free Cocaine!

Not really.

But now that I have your attention, I’d like to officially welcome you to BilGaines.com, and invite you to bask in the glory of our grand opening on this day, May 5, 2011, my 30th birthday.

The site is not complete yet, but I figure there’s enough here to gather some interest in returning, and that’s what I’m truly interested in.  I’ll be using this website as my personal playground for search engine optimization experiments.  I’m also hoping to provide enough interesting content to create a “readership” or “following” or whatever you want to call my cult of devotees.

I’ll be using the ever-handy Google Analytics to create my own infographics and share the results up here.  I love infographics – like, a lot – and I hope to contribute some back to the universe that provides so many for me.

Here’s a video briefly explaining why I’m such a geek for infographics:

“Pie charts suck, be wary of them.”

Honestly and truly, I want to offer my personal guarantee that every link you see on this website is worth clicking.  Here are some particularly interesting sections:

Sharkblog
The SEO component of this journey will rely most heavily on Sharkblog, where I discuss the hybridization of sharks and other beasts.  Also, the splicing and fusing of sharks and movies, sharks and advertising, sharks and music…basically sharks and shark monsters in pop culture.

Gaines the Photographer
I am also offering up my own photography.  Steal away, I won’t come after you over copyright infringement.  Be aware: my wife & I are expecting our first child ever in the middle of June, so there’s going to be an explosion of baby photos coming my way over the next year.  I’ll try to only put up the really interesting ones.

Gaines the Writer
Furthermore, you can read some scripts I’ve written.  You can even produce them if you want, royalty-free.
*Note: The scripts page is not yet finished – I’ve only got a few up right now – but I’ll be adding more over the next few days, so check back often!  (See what I did there?  String ’em along, Bil, string ’em along.  Keep the wolves hungry, they’ll come back for more.)

I’ll also occasionally throw a music video into blog posts, because music videos are one of my favorite forms of entertainment.

Lenka – We Will Not Grow Old

At any rate, this is just a little bit of what you’ll find here.  Hope you like it.

Hope to see you again soon.

Django

I use WordPress. If you’re reading this, it means you use WordPress, too, but more for the reading and not necessarily for the publishing. I use it to publish this which you read. WordPress helps us all out.

The latest version of their platform, version 3.1, is called “Django” (after old-timey jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt). Since I happen to know that the world’s most famous Matt, Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress, is a bit of a jazz fanatic, I can only assume that Matt loves WordPress 3.1 as much as he loves Django Reinhardt, which is probably a lot.

I, too, love Django Reinhardt. I would like to believe, therefore, that I too will love WordPress 3.1.

So I’ve downloaded it and installed it, but so far I detect no noticeable difference. Perhaps it’s got more to do with site architecture and SEO friendliness. I guess I could go read up on it. Maybe. Maybe not.

The only thing that I hoped for, really, was for my website not to look like this on my computer at work:

Pssst...if this doesn't look any different to you, please let me know.

Unfortunately, the upgrade did not help. It still looks like that at work. Not a big deal, I haven’t been hearing from anyone else that it looks so bad, but you never know. If it’s a Windows 7 thing, I may be in trouble down the line, but not so much right now.

Luckily, this video of Django Reinhardt still comes through beautifully.

Man. Look at that pencil thin mustache. It is something to aspire to. I’m working on a beard to distract from my too-short haircut, but perhaps when my hair is of a length appropriate to cream-oil the bejeezus out of it, I’ll trim my face down to the suave Django look.

Then maybe I’ll let both my hair and the ‘stache grow out. You never know. It was a pretty popular look once upon a time.