Saturday, March 26, 2011

Review: Nerds and Music at the Aladdin

The Nerds and Music show at the Aladdin was the show I was waiting for since I missed the last W00Tstock. The Jonathan Coulton show wasn't exactly bad, but it didn't scratch the itch I was feeling. I was hoping that this show would be as fun as past shows, and I was not left forlorn. Some interesting notes about the audience before I talk about the show itself. First, this audience skewed much older than the JoCo concert, like seriously so; there were a number of blue-haired old ladies at this show, and I have no idea why. There were also almost no children present, which was good, because the show got blue in the first fifteen seconds and stayed that way. Second, there were no talkers in the balcony this time, thank the gods. There was a bar, though, which I took advantage on a couple of occasions. And the balcony seats are much closer to the bathrooms, which I had to visit a depressing number of times.

I really like the Aladdin, and have almost no complaints about it, but the one quibble I have is the Merch Booth location. I understand why it's right next to the door, but it also makes getting out (or getting Merch) incredibly difficult at the end of the show. I have no idea where else to put it, though.

The opening act (all of three songs!) was The Doubleclicks, which is a local folk-nerd duo that I recently discovered. I'm unabashedly a fan, and while I wish they had been given more time, they knew their audience and picked three excellent songs. They were, of course, a big hit and everyone loved them which is to be expected, because they are enormously lovable. I was also hoping for more banter, but given they were short on time and justifiably visibly terrified, they did a great job and I hope to see them more often.

Next was Mike Phirman, standup comedian and musician whom I've seen before, and who is also half of Hard and Phirm, the West-Coast version of Paul and Storm. I've said a number of positive things about his set, and I still feel that it's quite strong, so I'll simply say that I wish he would've gotten more time, as well. He's a polished and professional standup comedian, and it shows in his set (though, personally, I'd like to see a little more variety in the jokes, but that's a personal bias rather than a comment to his competence). His music is also excellent.

After Mike was Hank Green, who is apparently internet-famous. My grandfather told me that if I couldn't say something nice, shut up and move on.

Moving on, the headliners of the night were, of course, Paul and Storm. They set the tone for the show all the way through, and did the usual excellent job of being brilliant, funny, touching, and riotous by turns, with the standard sprinkling of "x is my y cover band" jokes and some new music which I adored. They opened, as usual, with Opening Band, and finished, as is normal, with the Captain's Wife's Lament. I should point out: Longest. Lament. Evarrrrrr. The experience of listening to Paul and Storm on CD doesn't compare to a live P&S show (which is, amusingly, exactly the opposite feeling I have for most bands including JoCo).

In the end, it was a really excellent evening overall, and I'd see most of these acts again, and be happy to pay for the experience.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Review: The Doubleclicks at Guardian Games

Guardian Games got a liquor license at some point in the past, so they've started to host a "grown-up gaming" night: $10 gets you tickets for pizza and beer. This Thursday, they decided to have live music at the event, and the live music was The Doubleclicks, who are a musical twosome featuring acoustic guitar, cello, and two-part harmony. The pizza and beer stuff I could give less of a crap about, because I went to see the music. Suffice to say that the space is great for casual boardgames, and the beer and pizza selection is nice, but it's about the crappiest place you could set up for a band, especially an acoustic duet.

How to categorize the Doubleclicks? I'm not actually sure it's even necessary, since it's entirely possible to simply say they fall under the umbrella of "nerd music" and leave it at that. But for anyone who hasn't actually heard or doesn't actually follow the Nerd Music movement, I'll give it a shot. Bear in mind, this is me at my fucking-hipsterish worst, so I'm about to mention a bunch of bands that you probably haven't heard of, either, in an attempt to explain things. This will be fun for me, probably less so for you.

At the most basic, the Doubleclicks could be called a younger, female version of Paul and Storm. Or maybe Hard and Phirm. Or possibly a duet-version of Molly Lewis, minus the ukulele. Or a younger, less jokesy version of Garfunkel and Oates, maybe. Essentially, the sister-duo is a team of singer-songwriters who invoke serious musicianship (I mean, cello -- there's nothing more serious than a cello) to evoke good solid melodies underneath some impressively nerdy wordplay lyrics. I mean, there's really only a certain person who can really appreciate the pain expressed in "Apostrophe". And a perfect summation of nerd thinking in "This Fantasy World". Or the Undergrad Angst expressed by "Modern Poetry". Or the brilliant and entirely correct position of "I Hate Beatboxing". Or, for that matter, the soothing balm that is "The Internet Will Always Be Here".

Aside from the slight problem that the microphone wasn't turned up high enough, so it was moderately hard to hear the actual vocals, and the fact that maybe six people were paying attention to the show rather than talking and playing boardgames and whatnot, I really enjoyed the show. These kids are gifted! You want to go see them live. This is made easier, if you're in Portland, because they're local. And now that I know they exist, I'm likely to be going to more of their shows.

Check them out at their website, listen to some of their music on youtube, and give them money. And I hope I'll see you at the shows.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

iPad: The First Week

There are advantages to having an iPad handy, not the least of which is that I can now see the keyboard I'm trying to use to type. It's also a bigger screen, which makes it look clearer (though my understanding is that the screen is exactly the same as the iPhone 3G). I'm also getting relatively good at typing one-handed (though part of that is due to autocorrect). Having something handy to joy down my ideas may in fact be handy and a boon to my creativity. I will need a keyboard to do serious long-form work, since my hand gets pretty tired pretty quickly, but that's a relatively minor complaint.

My usage is obviously going to be less games than gaming; the various possible game apps hold no appeal, but there are some seriously nifty gaming and productivity tools that I'm chomping at the bit to snag and try out. It does mean that I'm now even more interested in finding a game to play rather than running my own, so I really want Brian to get his Ptolus game back up and running again.

I do think that a superhero game would be awesome. I just don't know what.

Things I do like about the iPad: ease of use. Ease of accessorizing.

I've been surprised at how much I've been using it for notes and work. Especially with the ability to sync in evernote, I've been surprisingly productive.

Note that the keyboard in landscape mode is a nearly perfect size for either one- or two-handed typing, but in portrait mode it's just too small.

I desperately needed a screen cover or something, so I bought one, but I'm hoping that the manual is correct and the bubbles will work out over the next couple days, because it looks terrible right now. I did manage to pick up a clever little carrying case / stand, which I've been testing out and seems ok. I'll probably see more once I've spent some time gaming with it.

I've tried writing on it, but there's an impulse, for whatever reason, to stop writing and do something else that's moderately more fun. Having an actual keyboard might help, but I noticed that having the bluetooth keyboard at gaming made it much more likely for me to write down notes and whatever rather than ignore or assume I'll remember it later (and then not remember it).

So far, it's a net win.

Monday, March 07, 2011

And people think this is fun?

Went to CrossFit for the first time tonight.

Good: the people were pretty awesome.
Bad: I was not ready for the workout.

Par exemplar: warmup was interesting with lots of squatting and stretching and balance-type work, and already had me jelly-limbed at the end, and then we did fundamentals learning, which was the overhead squat, which nearly killed me, and then the Renegade Row, which turned my arms to noodles. And then, after I was already tired and woogly and dying, we did the workout.

The workout was a 200 metre sprint, then 15 pushups, then a 200 metre sprint, then 10 renegade rows (on each side). And then do it all again. What I managed to do: 200M sprint #1, 15 pushups (at the knees), second 200M sprint (including a stop to puke in the bushes), and 5 renegade rows. And then my right calf cramped up so bad I couldn't straighten my foot, and one of the instructors spent the next 5 minutes massaging me out of my writhing in pain. I was trying not to cry in front of everyone, but it was both very painful and extremely humiliating. Now, everyone else was cool about it, but I felt completely wrecked. I suppose it's one way to DNF out of the workout, but it was pretty embarrassing. I made a comment that I need to go to the gym to go to this gym, and I'm not sure I'm far off.

I don't know. On the one hand, I actually did better than I thought I would, but wow did I fail spectacularly. I was DYING at the end, completely destroyed.

So that happened.

I couldn't resist, and didn't really want to. So I bought an iPad. First Gen, but they're on significant sale right now, so I can use this one until July or august, when I'll buy an iPad2 and give this one to someone else.

I named it "conspicuous consumption" because it seemed like truth in advertising.

FYI, this blog post is coming from inside the tablet!

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Well, that's a start, anyway

So, yesterday between work and therapy, I talked to the CrossFit people, committed to the 3-class startup, scheduled my first visit to the gym on Monday, and started watching what I'm eating. A grand total of two meals so far, but it's working at this point. The hard part for me is going to be adding the vegetables and getting rid of the Coke; pasta I suppose I can live without, but avoiding the gluten / grain-based foods is going to be pretty hard, and giving up Coca-Cola I imagine will be nearly impossible, at least to start.

One step at a time, though. Get some momentum, build from the base. Don't worry about step 93 when I'm getting ready for step 1.

I'm not sure where this motivation and commitment is coming from, but I'm not quite stupid enough to look a gift horse in the mouth. Carpe Omnia.