Best setlist of your life

I’m a sucker for “Top x” lists. I thought I would make one of my own that I haven’t seen before.

I like live music. From my first concert (Iron Maiden in 1986) I was hooked. I have seen literally hundreds of bands in my life, and I do mean literally. I had seen over 300 bands when I moved to Florida 23 years ago and stopped counting. What I’ve compiled here is the best setlist taken from all of those shows. If I could make one concert out of the best songs I’ve seen, this would be it.

These aren’t necessarily my favorite songs, or even the best that these bands have to offer. All that they have in common is that I’ve seen these songs played live, and the band KILLED it that night. Usually it had something to do with the way I felt about the song or how the crowd reacted to it, but that’s all part of the fun of live music.

I’ve tried to keep this list reasonable in length. Under 20 songs. I’d love to hear from you and know what your picks would be. Oh, and this show takes place at Red Rocks, where I also had the pleasure of seeing a show a few years ago.

Slayer – Reigning Blood – The best opening song in the history of ever. The crowd explodes with energy when this song gets going.

Offspring – Staring at the Sun – High energy fun that keeps speeding up. There’s more to living than only surviving. Maybe I’m not there, but I’m still trying.

Ramones – Pinhead – I could list a half-dozen Ramones songs. I could list a half-dozen that are essentially the same same song, but what fun it was.

Dream Theater – Finally Free – The closing song from the best concert I’ve ever seen. I still get chills to hear the last line: “We’ll meet again my friend, someday soon.” Ministry of Lost Souls takes a close second here.

Iron Maiden – Hallowed Be Thy Name – Many different songs in one. Maiden is one of the best live bands ever. I was spoiled that they were my first. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Flaming Lips – She Don’t Use Jelly – The Lips are a spectacle to behold. Pure goofy fun and the crowd is half the show.

Stevie Ray Vaughn – Tightrope – Guitars look like they were born to be in this mans’ hands. Only the luckiest ones were.

Jeff Beck – Where Were You – Probably the only person who could bring tears to my eyes with nothing but a guitar.

Snow Patrol – The Life-ning – “Waking up in your arms, a place to call my own, This is all I ever wanted from life.”

Ani Difranco – Shameless – A girl, a guitar, and utter fearlessness.

Rush – Turn The Page – A Taoist manifesto from one of the best live bands.

U2 – City of Blinding Lights – Not many bands can really pull off a show in a football stadium, but when they do, WOW.

Guns n Roses – November Rain – The highlight of a great night with great friends, when GnR was at the top of their game. The play of tension in this is superb. Just when you think it’s over, it gets even better.

Regina Spektor – On The Radio – There is more wisdom packed into this song than there was in my college philosophy classes.

Intermission with a story told by B.B. King. The man is a living legend and a joy to see live.

Al Green – Here I Am (Come and Take me) – Even into his 60’s this man could put on a show. The fact that I saw him at Red Rocks in Colorado made it unforgettable.

Peter Murphy – Ziggy Stardust – I’ve never seen Bowie, but Peter Murphy ends his set with this. It’s such a good song, and a great way to close out the show.

Assemblage 23 – Alive – “Here comes that old familiar pain, Like a long lost friend’s return”

VNV Nation – Perpetual – The show closer for me. May you all be never-ending light.

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Tempting the Fates

I think that in most cases I am able to do a decent job of enjoying the moment. I have my down times, but I have a deep appreciation for the moments where things are going well.

What I am less likely to do is actually acknowledge when things are going well. I may recognize it but I practically never state it. On the flip side I don’t always let on when things are going poorly either, but this is not one of those times.

Let me take a moment to express that life has been good lately. I am thankful for that fact, and deeply grateful for the good times that I have had.

I hope that such good fortune occurs for each and every one of you, and that you will be able to recognize it and appreciate it when it does.

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Observations on Sports Commentary

I enjoy watching some sports, either live or on TV. What I have no patience for is all of the circus that surrounds it. Sports talk radio, rumours, off-field drama, “sports yelling shows” where hosts argue over sports, whatever. I don’t care. Just tell me when the game or the race is on. It has been years since I’ve watched anything on ESPN that wasn’t a game that accidentally made it onto their broadcast schedule. I’m convinced that in the eyes of ESPN and many other sportscasters, they ARE the content that we all want to see.

If you watch the actual games on TV it’s a little better, but not much. At least you have the game to watch. Over time you will start to notice that most sporstscasters convey very little information. If you took out all of the pointless clichés and superlatives you’d be left with nothing but the noise of the crowd, occasionally interrupted by a few stories that may be interesting, and maybe even a little actual information about the game. I’m probably in the minority but I think that would VASTLY improve the broadcasts.

A good example of that played out today at work. We turned on the TV in the breakroom to watch the USA – Germany match in the World Cup. Not having cable, we watched the game on Univision, so all of the commentary was in Spanish. Someone would come into the room and see the game on, then come over to watch. They would be into the game, following the action and reacting to it for about ten minutes before they would look at the rest of us and ask “Are they speaking Spanish?” This happened several times. Yes there were sportscasters, but the fact that almost nobody in the room knew what they were saying didn’t diminish the enjoyment of the game.

Many people like sports. Practically none of us participate in them at the level seen on TV. Sportscasters get better access to the games and the players than the rest of us do, and too often they act as though that makes them a critical part of the action. I wish every sportscaster could have this experience of seeing people enjoy a game for a good amount of time without even noticing that the sportscasters were not a part of it.

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Spring Crazy

What a month and a half.

Seasons in Florida are a little backwards. In most of the country, people hide inside during the winter, and come out to play in the summer. Winters in Florida are limited to a handful of cold snaps. Summers consist of 95 degree weather with 90% humidity and afternoon thunderstorms for about 5 months solid. As a consequence, we do most of our outdoor play during the winter and spring, while our outdoor time in the summer is generally limited to the warm nights. March always seems to have the most going on as far as outdoor festivals go, and this year was no different.

From March until now, this is a partial list of the events we’ve attended:

  • Gasparilla Arts Fest
  • Gasparilla Music Fest
  • Alton Brown
  • Cigar City Hunahpu Day
  • Tapas & Wine Tasting
  • Carmen
  • VNV Nation
  • MacDill Airfest
  • 3 days at the St. Pete Grand Prix
  • National Geographic Live
  • 2 Lightning Games
  • Festival of Speed
  • Dinner at Berns
  • A class on making sushi

Sue skipped the Hunahpu day, but she went to everything else. Many of these events were back-to-back, so for example a concert one night was followed by getting up at dawn the next morning for the airshow.

There are still some things coming up, but it’s calming down a bit as summer draws near.

Time flies when you’re having fun.

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2013

2013 was more or less a continuation of 2012. A few small trips instead of a big one, and after going to the 2012 DragonCon we followed through with two more SF/Fantasy conferences in 2013.

First up was the ICFA conference in Orlando, followed by the WorldCon in San Antonio. At DragonCon last year, we wondered why there were so few writers attending the conference. We found out that it was because it’s the same weekend as WorldCon, where they give out the Hugo awards every year. DragonCon is in Atlanta every year, but WorldCon moves to a different location each year, as voted on by the members. This year’s WorldCon was in San Antonio which had the benefit of being relatively close as well as being a place I always wanted to see, so we made that trip over the Labor Day weekend.

If the 2012 DragonCon had very few writers, we more than made up for it this year. Between ICFA and WorldCon we got to meet dozens of writers, including Neil Gaiman, George R.R. Martin, John Scalzi, Joe Haldeman, Kij Johnson, Paolo Bacigalupi, and many others. San Antonio was fun, and I think we managed our time there well. We had just enough time to see everything we wanted to without being rushed. I’m all conventioned out now.

Other highlights of the year include seeing Sue win a couple of awards, seeing my friend Jenn graduate from college, and seeing Sue’s Brother graduate as well. I also managed to get 4 pictures published in an insert for the Tampa Bay Times. Between Sue winning awards and the conferences, I’ve lost track of all of the awards banquets I’ve been to this year.

Two small stories from the year, both from the ICFA conference in Orlando:

I met a guy from Sweden. The conference was his first trip to the USA. He said: “All that I know of America comes from TV and movies. I’ve always wanted to come to America, to see what it’s really like. Now that I’m here it all just seems so, well, fake.”
Someone answered: “You’re in Orlando.”

On Maybe the 2nd day of the conference, Sue and I are getting ready to meet Neil Gaiman, who is a massively popular writer in geek circles. He is surrounded with people everywhere he goes at the conference. Sue walks up to Neil Gaiman, he looks at her, and his eyes light up. He smiles and says “Oh, it’s you! I love your hair.” How frickin’ cool is that?

Here’s to a great 2014!

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Keep Going

This is a Document

I went through three divorces by the time I had turned 15. I watched my Mom go through a lot of hell with some crappy guys. I watched my Dad become a very bitter person.

In what I suppose is cliché in the stories of fathers and sons, I did not want to be like my father. If there was one thing in the world I really wanted to be, it was a good husband, something that he never was. Ten years ago today I received this piece of paper telling me that I wasn’t. I have to live with that.

I thought I had done a good job of it. I certainly wanted to. Funny thing about this piece of paper though; everything you thought, felt, believed, or wanted regarding your relationship becomes irrelevant.

When my Dad heard I was married (him and I had not spoken for years when I married) he said “you’ll be sorry.” The first time I saw him after my divorce he poured out two glasses of whiskey, and after we drank them in silence he simply said “I told you so.” Like I said, bitter, but I had no response. The “fuck you” I wanted to give him seemed really empty under those circumstances.

The divorce was not my choice. All I could do was try not to become the bitter old man that my father did. Ten years later, I still have my optimism. I’m not sorry at all that I did it. I took a chance on something I really wanted. I sit here today, and although I remember the tough times, I am not thinking about what might have been. I am instead thinking about all of the possibilities for the next ten years. I feel like the luckiest guy on the planet right now.

Like the saying goes: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Things do get better.

Thank you, to all of my friends that stuck with me through those times.

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Ancestors

“If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh

Growing up as I did, I never got to know much about my family history. An uncle once told me that there wasn’t anything to know and that I came from a long line of murderers and horse thieves. He had an odd concept of “nothing to know.” Maybe that was just the romantic in him that was talking.

This has been a year of reflection in some ways. Along those lines, since both of my parents are gone I’ve done some thinking about them and the fact that I will be the end of that line. I’ve always said that I’m a walking contradiction and I think the reasons for that become clear when I contrast my parents. A few times this year I’ve tried to write something about that but I haven’t found a way to do it that doesn’t come off as cliché and melodramatic. Suffice to say I was lucky enough to have two parents who loved me even if I was never very close to either of them since the age of 13.

I think the strangest thing about them being gone is that I no longer have the thought that someone might be proud of me. I lived my own life, but as distant as we were at times, I still wanted them to be proud of the person that I was.

Like the quote above, I see both of my parents reflected in myself. There’s both good and bad in that. Strained relationships aside, I would not be here without my Mom or Dad. To them I owe everything. It’s up to me to separate the good from the bad and move on.

Back to the quote. In it I see a lesson about loss, and missing those that are gone. It is a lesson that I can relate to. I miss my Dad, but then I suppose I’ve missed him most of my life. No big change there other than the loss of any possibility of things getting better. I wish that my Mom hadn’t died when I was at a low point which seemed to break her heart as much as it did mine. I was able to see better days. She wasn’t. I’ve wondered about missing her though. I’ve wished over the years that I could introduce a few people to my Mom. I still do, but when I think about missing her, all I can think of is this:

I don’t have to miss her. She is a part of me.

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Conference Wrap-Up

Sue and I had the opportunity last week to attend the conference for the “International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts.” It is a small academic conference for students of the arts related to SF/Fantasy and other speculative fiction. This isn’t a convention geared towards fans. There are no costumes or bands. The conference mostly consists of academic papers presented by the attendees as well as readings by some of the authors in attendance.

One of the draws for us was the conference itself, as it attracts a lot of SF/Fantasy writers. The other was the fact that Neil Gaiman was one of the Guests of Honor this year. He is definitely one of my all-time favorite writers.

We had a fantastic time. Neil Gaiman was probably run ragged with his duties as a popular Guest of Honor, but he was very gracious throughout the week and any room he entered became more funny and interesting by his presence. We heard him give a few speeches, watched him act in a short play, and watched him read the first few chapters from his upcoming book “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” We managed to get him to sign copies of Coraline for us, and discovered that he not only signs his name in his books, but he also draws a small illustration for you related to the story.

Aside from the probably once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Neil Gaiman, the rest of the conference was very enjoyable. Sue and I quickly discovered that we generally preferred author readings to most of the academic works. There were many published authors that we were able to hear. The real treat was the ability to hear readings from a few authors we had not yet heard of.

That brings me to the true reason for this post. If you like Sf/Fantasy writing at all then you owe it to yourself to check out some of these writers. I’m late to the party on some of them, and others are just getting started. Based on the readings that we heard, you may want to look into the works of these authors:
Lara Donnelly
Andy Duncan
Theodora Goss
Kij Johnson
Keffy R. M. Kehrli
Robert J. Sawyer
E. Lily Yu

Much of what they have is short fiction that may be difficult to find. Most of what we heard has not even been published yet, but I will be keeping my eye on these names.

Now if I could just find the time to read them all!

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2012

Apparently even quarterly updates are too much for me to keep up with on this site. Hopefully that is a passing phase as my workload drops back to sane levels.

It’s been a year of change in many ways. I lost one of my oldest and closest friends this year, I lost my uncle, and I lost my Father. I am now essentially the family elder on my Dad’s side. That’s an odd concept I am still trying to wrap my head around. Rough spots aside, as the year draws to a close I feel very grateful for all of the people that are close to me, and especially for the one who has stood with me through all of it.

2012 held the hope of a great deal of travel. None of that happened as planned, but we did manage some small trips throughout the year.

Sue and I spent almost a week in Sandestin FL before spending a weekend in Charleston SC with Chad and Leigh Ann eating great food (bacon butter on fried chicken skins!) and seeing a part of the city where the houses from the 1830’s were the “new” houses on the block. Wall of Texture

I drove to Atlanta on two consecutive weekends. Once for Chad’s Birthday to go whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River in Tennessee:
Ocoee River

The next weekend was to attend the DragonCon in Atlanta, and spend some time hanging with Chad and Leigh Ann again. They are not in this picture:
DragonCon 2012

Finally we spent Thanksgiving weekend camping out on Cayo Costa, which is an island off the west coast of Florida. 3 days of no electricity, cool temperatures, and camping with the sound of the waves.
Black Friday 2012

Finite Infinity

Giving Thanks for Quiet

As for events, we got to see the US Mens Soccer team beat Scotland 5-1 in Jacksonville, followed by a 3-1 win over Antigua/Barbuda in Tampa. We also got to see the Tampa Bay Rowdies win their league championship in one of the best sporting events I have ever attended.

Musically we had a few great shows, including Snow Patrol, VNV Nation, Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor, Johnathan Coulton, and the best Ani Difranco show I have ever seen.

Other highlights include getting some of my pictures published in the Tampa Bay Times, and getting drafted into a dragonboat team at the last minute. I’m still mad that we lost our last race by 2 tenths of a second :-)

Now that 2012 comes to an end, I look forward to 2013. There are few solid plans yet, but Sue and I have a talent for keeping our schedules filled with interesting things. Looking forward, I will try to keep this thought in mind for 2013:

“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”
– Lao Tzu

With that, here are a few songs that I got to see live this year (not necessarily from these recorded shows):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiCh0LeZ3Fc

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Computer Ads

Computer advertisements are running hot & heavy through the holiday season. I’ve noticed a theme, and the more I think about it seems like it’s been the same theme running through every computer ad ever made:

“Buying our computer will unleash a flood of creativity that you just KNOW you have inside you somewhere. Forget that our computer is just a slightly newer version of the one you already have, your current computer is keeping you down. If you buy ours you will suddenly know how to do all of the things you wish you had the talent for, or don’t have time to learn since you are too busy watching cat videos on YouTube.”

p.s. – I find that 1984 video amusing since Apple has become the totalitarian regime that it made IBM out to be in that ad.

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