Sunday, June 29, 2008

Aaries Playing Poker

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Ben Folds Five / Hotel Lights

I bought a copy of Ben Folds Five's appearance on Sessions at West 54th a couple of week's ago. I remember when I first got into BFF while living in Minnesota, how I assumed the band was greater than the sum of its parts.

When Ben released his first solo album I realized what a genius he is, but watching this performance gave me a whole new appreciation for the band. BFF was a really tight outfit, an amazing mix of talent with varied skills.

I regained my appreciation for Robert Sledge's amazing skills on the bass. Sledge's bass formed the unique sound of BFF as much as Ben's stellar piano work. Sledge was so strong on the bass that you never missed electric guitar in this band. He filled in with amazing licks wherever they were needed.

I will admit my ignorance of what makes a good drummer, to me there are only two kinds of drummers: good ones and shitty ones. Darren Jesse falls into the former category for me. He's a good drummer, he never did anything flashy that made you notice him, but that was never asked of him. I did realize what a pleasant voice he has from watching the Sessions performance. Darren's vocals are strong, he has a keen understanding of harmonies and he can do it all while drumming. While I can't tell a good drummer from a great one, I can tell when someone is doing two things at the same time, both extremely well.

The performance got me curious about Sledge and Jesse. In truth, I was more curious about what Robert Sledge was up to, but I found more info on Darren Jesse and notably his new band, Hotel Lights.

Curious, I downloaded the band's self title debut. I was completely blown away! An amazing performance, Jesse singing and playing piano as well as writing compelling songs. Think mellow "Brick"-like BFF style music (Jesse wrote the chorus on the BFF classic) without the Folds sarcasm. Songs like "Stumbling Home Winter Blues" and "Follow Through" (which I really need to send to an old female acquantance in an attempt to explain what I was so fucking mad about) became instant favorites, if these were the old vinyl days, those tracks would be worn out already.

And it got me to thinking about Ben Folds Five. The band broke up after releasing The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner. I had always assumed that the split had much to do with Ben's desire to expand musically. But Hotel Lights sounds much more like BFF's final release than anything Ben has done since, in fact, while Ben broke the BFF mold with Fear of Pop and Rockin' the Suburbs, he's now back to the same instrumentation and sound of the early BFF records.

Hotel Lights has the same feel as Messner, thoughtful and moody, often depressing. Hotel Lights sounds nothing like anything else BFF ever did. I like both, I loved Messner when it came out and welcomed the new direction the band was taking. A direction that was never realized.

In the end, it makes me realize that I don't know anything. I made assumptions that were most likely wrong. Assumptions that were probably the exact opposite of what actually happened.

It doesn't really matter, I still love Folds' solo music and I've found a new favorite band in Hotel Lights.


Friday, June 20, 2008


Study: Most Children Strongly Opposed To Children’s Healthcare

From The Onion:

Study: Most Children Strongly Opposed To Children�s Healthcare


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

If you put me in a room of 100 people, I will most likely be the smartest guy in the room. I've never said that to anyone, I've never said it in a room containing myself and 99 other people, that would be terribly rude. I may be an asshole, but there are some things that even I won't do.

It's true though. I used to be able to produce documentation that this is the case. I used to carry a card in my wallet that confirmed this. That was really sort of pointless though. Now I just try to act intelligently and hope people notice.

I don't constantly correct people anymore. That was a big personal shortcoming in the past and I'm trying to completely rid myself of that personality fault. If someone asks a question and I have the correct answer, I will offer it.

If I don't have an answer to a question, I won't offer any. If someone asks me a direct question that I don't have a correct answer for, I will indicate that I don't know the correct answer. If I offer a guess to said question, I will indicate it as such - only a guess and why I believe it MAY be the correct answer.

I have integrity. I am an honest person. I have never been able to produce documentation confirm this, I've never carried a card in my wallet that indicates this, but it is, never the less, true. Oddly, having my integrity questioned doesn't bother me nearly as much as having my intelligence questioned. I don't know why this is. Maybe it's because most people aren't all that honest and I understand that people need to watch out for their own interests when they are promised something. I know I do.

I honor other people's intelligence. If I find myself in a situation where I am not the smartest guy in the room, I am able to deal with that. Testing for Jeopardy! was fun for me because chances were very great that I wasn't the smartest guy in the room. I also didn't need to hold back like I do in my every day life. I respect intelligence out of anyone who displays it.

I do not assume that anyone is an idiot until they give me a reason to believe so. This was not always easy for me. I've worked with lots of people who didn't speak English as a first language. I find that the way a person speaks is a good indicator of intelligence, but that usually breaks down when someone is using their second language.

On the other hand, speaking more than one language doesn't necessarily indicate intelligence. I won't bother to offer examples.

If I take the effort to open my mouth and say something, it's most likely correct and true. I don't think that's ever been respected about me. It certainly isn't being respected right now.

I respect other people's intelligence. I would like mine respected as well.


...of course, expecting people to treat me the way I treat them is just a sign of my arrogance...

Friday, June 06, 2008


Don't Mess with a Classic

I just watched the "Turkeys Away" episode of WKRP in Cincinnati, you know, the one where a Cincinnati mall parking lot is bombed with live turkeys. It's a TV classic, made all the more special by Les Nessman's (Richard Sanders) description of the event on live radio.

It got me to thinking about how this scene would have been done if WKRP were in production today. Undoubtedly, through the magic of CGI, we'd be treated to actual video of turkeys "...hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement!" The beautiful simplicity of the scene would be lost. The scene would suffer. It would be shocking, funny even, but it would not be a classic.

Sometimes less (or Les) is more. I watched a remake of The Andromeda Strain last week. It had been turned from a Psychological thriller into a poor attempt at Action/Adventure. This made for TV movie had an effects budget that surely dwarfed that of the original. It certainly didn't make the story any better.

It's no better when George Lucas screws with his own movies. What the hell was wrong with the original Star Wars? How many times has Lucas fucked with it? Yes, the enhanced scenes are cool, but really, what did it add to the movie? As far as I'm concerned, nothing.

I have nothing against special effects. They can certainly enhance a film when used properly. So can good acting and fantastic dialogue.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

...I guess the last straw for her was when she insulted me. How could I not expect her to get mad at me when she insulted me? I really was a horrible boyfriend.

Just my arrogance, I guess, like how I treat people and then would like them to treat me the same way. I really am an asshole.


Sunday, June 01, 2008


Reality Show

Though my job, I've been forced to watch a lot of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance this week. Through my job I also had to watch other reality crap-fests like The Bachelor (and Bachelorette), Farmer Wants a Wife, Beauty and the Geek, Big Brother, American Idol and Dancing with the Stars. I don't like any of this crap. I realize that some people do, and in truth, I've softened a bit on Dancing with the Stars and American Idol.

Idol and Dancing are just competitions. People tend to go a little overboard in their fanatical devotion to these shows (more people vote for the next American Idol than vote for the President of the United States..) but I can live with that. Idol even provides some fantastic talent.

We're in the early stages of So You Think You Can Dance right now, the stage of the program where contestants are selected. Thousands of people show up at locations a ridiculous number of hours before the event in hopes of getting a chance to be considered to be on a reality TV show. Idol has a similar stage early in their show.

Now you've got essentially two classes of prospective contestants; the person who truly thinks they're good enough to be on the show and the person that wants to dress up like a fucking idiot and make a spectacle of their self in hopes of getting on an early episode of the show ("Dude! Did you SEE me? I was on freakin' TV!!!").

The first class of prospective contestant has two sub-classes; the person who is truly good enough be on the show and the person who has no business dancing or singing in public. None. They should never engage in these activities where anyone else can see them.

This second sub-class is the saddest. You see deluded people have their dreams crushed. They swear at the judges, they scream at the camera. They make a spectacle that assures them of getting on an early episode of their chosen show.

I saw a touching moment this week, though. A woman on So You Think You Can Dance who thought she was good enough to be on the show, who when asked "Why did you try out for this show?" calmly answered "I wanted to see if I was good enough to compete with these people."

She wasn't. She wasn't a complete embarrassment to herself, she was a good dancer, just not that kind of good.

It got me to thinking about myself in 2002. I wanted to see if I was good enough to be on a game show, the best game show ever, Jeopardy!. There's really not much difference, structure-wise, between Jeopardy! and American Idol. You have to try out for the show so that producers know you're good enough, Jeopardy! good enough, to be on the show.

You have to take a test consisting of questions (or answers, as it were) that are the equivalent of $1600 and $2000 clues on the show. A score of 35 correct out of 50 is required to be even considered to be on the show. The test is so tough that a score of 70% (a 'D' when I was in High School) is good enough to be considered as a Jeopardy! contestant.

I've been to two testing sessions, each consisting of about 150 people who thought they had what it took to be on Jeopardy!, a vast majority of them went home unhappy. The first time, 13 people passed (very high for the test), the next 6 or 7.

Like the woman on So You Think You Can Dance, I wanted to see if I was good enough to compete with these people. I was, and in truth, that's all I wanted. If I had never been selected to be on Jeopardy! I would have been disappointed, but I would have known that I was good enough, Jeopardy! good enough, to be on the show. In my book, that's pretty special.

Of course, cameras weren't rolling during the testing. Nobody who had no business taking the test was there to make a spectacle of them self to get on an episode of Jeopardy! where they showed the selection of contestants. There was no chance of getting on TV by just showing up to, and being outrageous at a testing site.

There were people at both testing sessions I attended who probably shouldn't have been there, I can think of one person in particular. He was in a t-shirt, shorts and sandals (we were told to dress like we would on the show) and asked if he should put down that he was in the "mile high club" on his contestant information sheet. I don't know what he scored on the test, but it wasn't enough to be asked to stay.

Which brings up another point, I don't know what my scores were on the test I took, other than that both were greater than 35. They didn't tell us scores, we were just told to stay or go home. The people who didn't make the cut were not subjected to embarrassment. They were told to tell their family and friends that they "missed by on question."

While I'll admit that competition based reality shows have a lot in common with Jeopardy!, they tend to be mean spirited. They subject prospective contestants to national ridicule. Jeopardy! goes out of its way to make contestants feel good about themselves even among the other 149 people taking the test with them.

And the producers of Jeopardy! had the good taste not to name their show So You Think You're Smart Enough to be on a Game Show.


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The Bert Convey
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