Sunday, February 28, 2010

Jonathan Coulton at the Moore Theater with Paul and Storm and Molly Lewis

Friday night (02/26/2010) I took the boys to see Jonathan Coulton. I’d been kind of wanting to go but was being wishy-washy about buying tickets. At first I thought I missed the show. For some reason I thought the show was on the Tuesday of this week. Just to be thorough (not Thoreau) I checked his web site and saw that the show was Friday.

I was sitting at my desk on Friday afternoon thinking about the fact that I could still go to the concert but didn’t have anyone to go with me. I checked with the online ticket site and they still had tickets available. I called and asked Calvin if he wanted to go see a concert with me and he said yes. Duncan said he would check out his videos online and get back with me. He called me back a few minutes later and said that he was in. I then went back to the ticket buying web site and the event was no available for ticket sales.

Fifteen minutes and they it went from “sure we’ll sell you tickets” to “go away kid, you bother me.” At this point I called the phone number on the web site and tried to order tickets over the phone; but was again told the event is unavailable. So I called back and indicated I wanted to speak to a real person. This is when I went on the hold from hell. Luckily I work only about 5 blocks from the Moore Theater, where the show was to take place. I hoofed it on over there only to find the box office closed. Next to the box office was an automated ticket machine. I did the correct touch-screen actions and was about to purchase the tickets when I was informed that this machine was out of printing supplies and it would be unable to finish the transaction.

I’m reminded of a thing they tell us in writing where you have to keep throwing obstacles in the path of your hero to generate interest and suspense. I’d had just about enough interest and suspense and just wanted the tickets. I wandered around a minute trying to think of something to do and started reading some of the things posted in the window of the box office. I ran across a notice that I could also buy tickets at the Paramount Theater at 9th and Pine. I was currently at 2nd and Stewart about a half mile from the Paramount. Luckily my normal bus stop is about a block from the Paramount. So off I go, over to Pine and then down Pine to 9th.

Now I’ve been on hold this entire time. All of these actions have occurred with my cell phone up to my face listening to sappy music with the occasional assurance that my call was important and would be handled in the order it came in. I was about half way between the Moore and the Paramount when I finally got to a real-live human being – a real live human being that told me they no longer had access to the event so they couldn’t sell me tickets either.

I finally get to the Paramount and there is someone in the box-office and a woman in front of me waiting to buy tickets. But the guy in the box office is on the phone; not selling the woman in front of me her tickets. I stand there and wait. He talks on the phone. I stand there and wait. He moves to the back of the box office and starts rifling through a drawer, probably making sure someone’s will-call tickets are in the right place. I stand there and wait. He finally gets off of the phone and starts talking to the woman in front of me. She wants to go see Chicago (showing at the Paramount) and goes through a complex ritual of finding the right seats in the correct section for the appropriate price. I stand there and wait. Eventually she is happy, money changes hands, and now I’m standing before the ticket selling guy. He asks what show. I tell him and he offers me tickets that are much better than what the online store offered. I do a little hysterical jump-for-joy dance (in my head) and hand him my credit card. I have the tickets.

Now I have to get home, get the boys, get dinner, get parking, get to the theater and enjoy myself; all easier said than done. It’s at this point I’m reminded of Dante’s trilogy of epic poems; Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise. The evening kind of proceeded like that and I feel like I just finished the Inferno part. This kind of worries me in that if I go on and on about the rest of the evening it will get read about as often as the 2nd and 3rd parts of Dante’s trilogy.

When I got home, I let Duncan know when we were leaving and he was not happy. For some reason he felt that if the concert starts at 8 pm then we should be able to leave the house at 7:30 and make it there with plenty of time. I knew that we needed to get dinner, get downtown, get parking and get to the theater. Not a 30 minute deal. So he’s giving me all sorts of grief that only a 14 year old knows how to give. I get them in the car and we go to get dinner. Calvin wants to go to McDonalds so he can get and iCarly toy. Duncan finally said he didn’t want much for dinner so that would be OK. I suggested he get a McChicken sandwich because it’s not that big. He corrected me that a “not that big” dinner at McDonalds was a quarter pounder with cheese, large fries and large drink.

At McDonalds we hit a pet-peeve of mine. When McDonalds has two toys at the same time, like they do now (Star Wars: Clone Wars and iCarly) they always refer to them as boy toys and girl toys. Calvin wanted the iCarly toy and I told the drive-through person that and he repeated back: one six-piece happy meal with girl toy. The perpetuation of that kind of cultural sexism just annoys me – girls can want Star Wars toys and boys can want iCarly toys.

We got through the standard traffic-jam that is I-5 southbound into Seattle and got parking at 3rd and Stewart. After we walked over to the Moore, Calvin noticed that he forgot his Nintendo DS. Duncan was griping that we were too early; the doors to the theater weren’t open yet. I said we should go back to the car and get Calvin’s game. Duncan did not want us to do that. I told him that he should stay in front of the theater then because Calvin and I were going to go and get the game. He decided to come with us.

By the time we got back they were letting people in to the lobby but not the theater. I found a place for Cal to sit on the floor and play his DS, told Duncan to watch him and went over to the merchandise table to see what they had. I eventually bought Calvin a Skullcrusher Mountain shirt and a RE: Your Brains shirt for me along with a live CD/DVD for Jonathan Coulton. Duncan then asked if there was a way we could leave early so he could get back and do some gaming on Xbox Live. I said, “Let’s wait and see how it goes.”

After about 30 minutes in the Lobby they let us into the theater. The seats at the Moore were designed for children or anorexic models. Calvin fit fine but Duncan and I were wedged in pretty good. We were quite the geek family; Cal on DS, Duncan on his iPod Touch and me surfing the internet on a Windows Mobile phone.

The opening act started pretty much at 8 pm. The duo known as Paul and Storm started off with the song “We’re the Opening Band.” There was lots of comedy between and sometimes during the songs. They thought nothing of stopping a song two or three times to do some comedy or comment on something happening in the audience. Calvin really liked the song “Cruel, cruel moon” about a man and his girlfriend, who is a werewolf. In the end I think Cal liked Paul and Storm better than Jonathan Coulton. I can’t remember the whole set list but you should look them up and give them money.

After a short intermission where we stood in a long line for the Men’s bathroom, Jonathan Coulton came on stage. I’m really bad about remembering the set list but I can name a few songs I remember him doing; Ikea, shop vac, code monkey, creepy doll, skullcrusher mountain, Mr. Fancypants, the future soon, and the last song was re: your brains. Then he came back on and did First of May as the encore. I saw Duncan laughing many times at the songs and he didn’t ask once to leave early.

For some of the songs he brought Paul and Storm back out and also a ukulele player named Molly Lewis. She’s not the ukulele player on the DVD I bought but if you look up when Jonathan Coulton sings his song “My Monkey” to Will Wheaton at the 2009 PAX then you can see her playing ukulele. Just look up “Jonathan Coultan serenades Wil Wheaton at PAX2009” on You Tube and you’ll see it. Of course you can look up the user sweetafton23 and see all of her other videos and vlogs.

Calvin just pooped out about three songs short of the end of the concert. He snuggled up and dropped off. And then the loudest thing all night happened. The entire auditorium sang really loud, “All we want to do is eat your brains. We’re not unreasonable, I mean no one’s gonna eat your eyes…” and Calvin slept right through it. And when the encore was “First of May” I was kind of happy he fell asleep. Just look up the video on You Tube and you’ll understand why.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dining at The Leopard Fez cafe.

Calvin just brought me “lunch” from his Spongebob grill. He was wearing my leopard fez (from Archie McFee) so I dubbed his restaurant, "The Leopard Fez" where they make all of the wait staff wear them. It's a pretty cheap place (all of my food was free) and they have great lunch specials.

Here's what he broght me: one crabby patty, kelp fries, shrimp cocktail, one pizza (with the works), two hotdogs (with bottles of ketchup and mustard to use if I want them), a whole cherry pie, a chocolate covered doughnut, a cupcake, three scoops of ice cream (chocolate, vanilla and strawberry - very neopolitan), an Oreo, a brownie, two chocolate chip cookies, some broccoli, two sodas, a waffle, a fried egg and bacon.

He also was quick to point out that I not only get all of this but I get a taco too. What meal isn’t enhanced with the extra random taco?

Tacos Rule!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Reading Foundation in Seattle

Not quite as catchy as Reading Lolita in Tehran but I'm not in Tehran and I'm not reading Lolita. What I am doing is re-reading Isaac Asimov's original Foundation stories (collected into the "novels" Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation). They're not traditional novels, more a collection of connected short stories and novellas where the course of human history itself is a major character embodied by the Seldon Plan. The plan is to carry the Galaxy forward from the fall of the current Galactic empire through "Dark Ages" and on to a second reign of peace. The Foundation is the steward of this plan; or more accurately it's pawn as the dead hand of Hari Seldon moves historic forces this way and that to curtail the Galactic Dark Ages from 30,000 years to "only" 1,000 years.

I've had a few thoughts reading through this series again. I'll share them with you now; aren't you thrilled. Asimov's fictional method for predicting the course of history is a form of statistical analysis of large bodies. The same kind of analysis that is done on things like gasses and other large collections of atoms. This "Psychohistory" combines math and psychology to predict and manipulate humanity on a grand scale. While reading the first stories I came across an article on NPR talking about "The Quants." These are a group of highly skilled math geeks that have revolutionized the financial world; both for gain and now almost to the brink of ruin. The Godfather of the quants is a guy named Ed Thorpe. He and those that came after him are profiled in "The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It" by Scott Patterson. I'm going to pick up this book (or check it out of the Library).

My second thought on the Foundation stories is that almost everyone smokes. The only person who doesn't smoke, so far, is one of the bad guys. Every hero is chomping on cigars while others smoke cigarettes or pipes. Unless they do something to tobacco in the next 15 to 20 thousand years, I don't see a space-faring culture where even the air you breathe is a commodity being quite the smokers that are portrayed in the stories. Of course this is more a sign of when the stories were written and the place that tobacco had in America of the 1940s and 50s.

Along that same vein, the stories are fairly sexist. It's kind of a cultural sexism that America isn't quite over yet. And even though there are some strong female characters (Bayta Darell and her granddaughter Arkady), they and the culture of the Foundation treat them like women in the 1940s and 50s. Again, not surprising in the context of when they were written but it makes the stories oddly dated in a way that the more science-oriented parts aren't. It probably goes more to a generic deficiency of the "Hard" SF authors; whose reputation is that of being more interested in the ships and ray guns than the characters and other societal what-ifs that the "New Wave" SF authors addressed. Asimov usually has good characters but unlike other classics of the genre there is no main figure that strides across the saga. There is no Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter or even Paul Atreides or Lessa from the Dragonriders of Pern, or Ripley, Buffy or Xena for that matter.

Foundation really suffers from being a collection of short stories and it's probably one of the main reasons it hasn't been made into a movie or mini-series. That and the collection of stories is seen as a whole; The Foundation Trilogy more than any one book or story. Interestingly enough the second set of Foundation books written by Benford, Bear and Brin all have Hari Seldon as a main character and are more easily translated onto the big screen.

With all of that said, I still love the stories and will probably re-read them every decade or so. I first read them in the sixth grade and I think that remembering and recapturing a bit of that youth is one of the things that make this series special to me; like listening to Boston or Styx and thinking about all of the people I hung out with in middle-school and high school.

My Music List for Today

Sometimes I walk around and listen to music. Almost every day I have to walk one mile between my office and a data center to do some work. On the two mile round trip I will either listen to the radio or my MP3 player (not an IPod). I have a little over 6200 songs on the player (and I have lots of CDs yet to rip). I like to put the whole mess on random and see what comes up. Sometimes a song I like will come up and I won't be in the mood for it and I'll just skip it. But every now and then I get surprised by a song I had forgotten about and the little bit of random Joy at remembering it. Here's the list:

Lisa Loeb - Too Fast Driving; Pendulum - Propane Nightmares; KMFDM - Trust; Bowling for Soup - I Melt with You (I usually sing the chorus: I'll stop and melt the world with you); Shonen Knife - Boogie Monster; Me First and the Gimme Gimmes - One Tin Soldier; Tracey Bonham - You Don't Know Me; Orbital - Lush 3-4; Velvet Acid Christ - Collapsed; Skinny Puppy - Hospital Waste; Kate Bush - Aerial; Metallica - Sad But True; Pizzicato Five - Sweet Soul Review; Yello - Dr. Van Steiner

Monday, February 08, 2010

Getting Back Into Writing Is Hard

I find it amazing how hard it is to write something every day. I was ill for most of last week and that really throws a monkey-wrench into any writing plans. Add that to being busy at work, busy with the kids, mildly depressed at not dating anyone, and with a monumental pile of laundry to fold and put away, it’s a wonder I can get anything done. This is my writing for today. It’s not much but I made myself do it before going to bed.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

I Feel Like Poo

For some reason I got the idea that even though I feel like poo, I should write a blog entry. I think it has something to do with the future. Years from now I'll look at these posts and wonder at what went on. As it is I look back on my blog and see massive gaps. Usually I can go look at Tamara's Blog and fill in the blank spots. But this time I thought I'd put in a note saying I'm sick. Sick and tired of Love. From below and above.

Ya. Yah yah ya ya yaaaahhh!

I'm kaput.