Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Trump's Wall According to Pat Buchanan

I'm on Twitter, as all seven people who visit this blog once a year to see what I've posted know, but I'm growing so tired of the political talk on Twitter. It's not that I don't want to talk politics or I'm not interested, but the saturation of political talk at times is overwhelming. So after having said that, let's talk some politics. Specifically, "The wall." No, not "The Wall" by Pink Floyd, an album that was released in 1979 and (the answer to a Jeopardy question recently) hit #1 in 1980, but "the wall" that Donald Trump and his administration wants to build. For me personally, I don't like the aesthetics of a wall around the bottom of the United States to separate us from Mexico. Walls are generally pretty ugly. It's just an absurd thought to me, that there would be a wall separating the United States and Mexico.

I've found that I'm better at getting my thoughts down using "fisking" as opposed to writing 100% original content. I still prefer 100% original content, but maybe I'm just so uncreative I can't get an entire 100% original post written, maybe it's a time issue (for example, I started writing this short post four days ago), or maybe it's that I tend to write too much and therefore a combination of the first previous two reasons is the answer. So my Twitter friend and overall good guy @jonashdaniels (follow him...not literally, though he is nice enough to where if you literally followed him he may not mind entirely...just as long as you bought him a beer), wrote a post on Medium, which must be the 2017 version of the extremely dated Blogger (hi!), about Trump's wall. It was good and inspired me to (a) take on the same article and bring up similar/different points and (b) post his reactions to expound on them.

Here is the original post about Trump's wall and it is written by Pat Buchanan. Yeah, THAT Pat Buchanan. It reveals the hidden and not hidden agendas that he may have. I'm opposed to the wall, simply because I don't believe it will fix the issue Trump believes exists and it's going to be ugly, aesthetically at least. Plus, the wall reminds me of a song by Carlos Varela which states in part:

Ever since the world's existed
There's one thing that is certain
There are those who build walls
And those who open doors
Ah but this my love I'm thinking you already knew


For some it's always winter
While others have the spring
Some people find good fortune
While others never find a thing
Ah but this my love is something you already knew


That's how it's always been
And I know you know it
There can be freedom only when nobody owns it
I'm going to say that again
Because I know you know it
There can be freedom only when nobody owns it


It's pretty hippie-ish but for some reason it always pops in my head when a discussion of Trump's wall comes up. So, following up on Jon's post, here is where I see hidden and non-hidden agendas behind Buchanan's support of the wall.

And on the American left there is something like revulsion at the idea of the “beautiful wall” President Trump intends to build along the 1,900-mile border between the U.S. and Mexico.
The opposition’s arguments are usually rooted in economics or practicality. The wall is unnecessary. It will not stop people from coming illegally. It costs too much.

These are all totally legitimate reasons to not build the wall though. It's not required, it won't work and it's too expensive. These are nearly the exact same reasons many Republicans use to justify getting rid of Obamacare. I'm not sure why Buchanan would immediately dismiss reasoning that is based on economics and practical. 

Those desperate to see the wall built, illegal immigration halted, and those here illegally deported, see the country they grew up in as dying, disappearing, with something strange and foreign taking its place.
 
It is not only that illegal migrants take jobs from Americans, that they commit crimes, or that so many require subsidized food, welfare, housing, education and health care.

There is a lot of "preaching to the choir" taking place here. And preaching to the choir was Trump's campaign message that worked so well, other than "My opposition is Hillary and no one likes her, so vote for me because I'm the only other major party candidate and if you don't like her then vote for me if you want to vote for the only other candidate that can win."

Illegal immigrants are being deported. This is happening and was happening under President Obama. The United States is changing. Nothing, outside of mass genocide/deportation of anyone who doesn't fit the "classic" perception of what an American should be, is going to change this fact. We are becoming more diverse and the wall is simply another way to temporarily deny this fact. The wall may not be about immigration, but about a fear of change and covert xenophobia that new immigration will result in more parades for nationalities that believe/represents things Pat Buchanan doesn't understand or want to understand. People who believe/represent things many Americans don't understand. That's scary to many. I get it. I don't agree with it, but on an intellectual level I do understand. A wall between Mexico and the United States isn't going to change the eventuality that America is changing any more than the Berlin Wall didn't change the eventuality that Germany would never be a fully Communist country.

Also, I don't mind stealing talented individuals from Mexico and bringing them to America. Illegal migrants do jobs many Americans don't want to do because they are too busy trying to make college free so they can eventually believe themselves too good to do those menial jobs. Not to mention, Americans commit crimes and require subsidies as well. If the wall is about subsidies, then Pat Buchanan should want a wall around every Social Services building in the United States.

It is that they are changing our country. They are changing who we are.

Another non-hidden hidden agenda. "Our country" isn't our country. It's OUR country, which includes non-white people, and the change of who "we" are is going to happen, again, unless Trump's next plan is mass genocide/deportation of non-white individuals who don't believe what he believes. Even then, that will fail. Mass deportation (I'd rather not think too much about mass genocide, but I felt the need to mention it as a very extreme way to reach the goal of ensuring the United States doesn't change) will eventually fail in creating a "united" United States that has one unique set of beliefs and experiences.

Were we from the beginning a new, unique, separate and identifiable people like the British, French and Germans?
Or was America a new kind of nation, an ideological nation, an invented nation, united by an acceptance of the ideas and ideals of Jefferson, Madison, Lincoln and Dr. King?

It's interesting that Buchanan brings up Dr. King, since Dr. King's ancestors were essentially illegal immigrants forced to come to the United States to serve mainly as slave labor. I would say bringing slave labor to the United States changed who the United States is/was/will be. Abraham Lincoln also fought FOR changing who we are when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. He fought against keeping the country the same and fought against the status quo. He wanted African Americans to serve as more than slaves, which means he wanted African American culture to become a part of American culture. So I don't think Lincoln and Dr. King share as many ideals with Pat Buchanan as he may like to think they share.

We did not become a new nation because we embraced Jefferson’s notion about all men being “created equal.” We became a new people from our familial break with the Mother Country, described in the declaration as a severing of ties with our “brethren” across the sea who no longer deserved our loyalty or love.

The United States came into being in 1789. The Constitution created the government, the state. But the country already existed.

Yes, the land that makes up the United States was already here. It didn't just magically pop up out of the sea in 1789, just in time for George Washington to become President. Prior to The Constitution being created, the United States belonged to a group of natives who were forced to change who they were to accommodate the new settlers. So "who we are" goes back further than 1789.

When the Irish came in the mid-19th century to escape the famine and the Germans to escape Bismarck’s Prussia, and the Italians, Jews, Poles, Greeks, Slovaks came to Ellis Island, they were foreigners who became citizens, and then, after a time, Americans.

Every single group Pat Buchanan mentions here that legally immigrated came to this country, also changed the makeup of of the United States. They came here legally, not necessarily illegally. It doesn't matter when it comes to immigration though, the result of changing the United States is the same. Buchanan previously stated:

It is that they are changing our country. They are changing who we are.

Legal immigration also changes our country and changes who we are. The ethnic makeup of the United States, the traditions shared by the people of the United States and customs celebrated in the United States all changed with this legal immigration. So is the wall about the country not changing who America should be (in Pat Buchanan's mind) or is the wall about illegal immigration? I don't think Buchanan is entirely clear. It's fine for the United States to change as a result of immigration, but it just has to be legal immigration? That doesn't make sense in the context of what is being written. Does Buchanan think those who legally immigrate will come to the United States and adjust their customs to traditional United States customs, thereby not changing the makeup of the republic? I think this is so far-fetched no person could truly believe this is true.

Not until decades after the Great Migration of 1890-1920, with the common trials of the Depression, World War II and Cold War, were we truly forged again into one united nation and people.

This is the same period of time when women didn't have the right to vote and African-Americans were treated as second-class citizens. Is a "one united nation and people" really what the United States was at this point or did the nation seem united because certain groups of people didn't have a voice to express displeasure or even their own point of view? The fact Buchanan aims for this era when women and minorities had their voice suppressed as the shining example for how the current United States can "be one" says more than 10,000 more words on this topic could ever say.

By 1960, almost all of us shared the same heroes and holidays, spoke the same language and cherished the same culture.

Again, this is what was assumed because certain classes of people were not encouraged to treat themselves as individuals who deserve the same rights as all other individuals. Or as Jon said,

Is that really true? In 1960, blacks in the south couldn’t attend the same schools as white children. They couldn’t drink from the same water fountain. They didn’t have equal rights. This after a 1954 ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education that ended segregation. Yet we all “cherished” the same culture? That sounds prima facie absurd.

The white-washing of American history in this banal, uninspired article continues with the kicker: 

Given that 80 percent of all people of color vote Democratic, neither the Trump movement nor the Republican Party can survive the Third Worldization of the United States now written in the cards.”

Third Worldization? Most people associate the third world with the immense poverty of non-white people. Buchannan seems to be insinuating that our country is becoming third world because it is becoming less white.

Remember, we are talking about building a wall to keep illegal immigrants out. Doesn't it seem like from Pat Buchanan's perspective the wall is built more to keep anything that doesn't fit his view of when American was most unified from filtering in and ruining the utopia that has been created? It's no coincidence his utopian time frame coincides with when African Americans, women, and other minorities didn't have the equal rights they have now.

Is the wall about illegal immigration or the changing of America's culture from that which Pat Buchanan is comfortable with? It seems he is less concerned with immigrants taking his job and more concerned with the culture of American changing. And again, this will happen no matter what. So he should prepare for American to change, regardless of whether a wall is built or not.

In 1960, we were a Western Christian country. Ninety percent of our people traced their roots to Europe. Ninety percent bore some connection to the Christian faith. To the tens of millions for whom Trump appeals, what the wall represents is our last chance to preserve that nation and people.

And there we go. It's all about preserving our roots and preserving our  nation as it was. Going to desperate measures to keep the purity of a nation for Christian principles, or any other religious principle, has a long history of starting wars, genocide, and various other fights that ended up costing American lives. But hey, I'm sure this could be different.

To many on the cosmopolitan left, ethnic or national identity is not only not worth fighting for, it is not even worth preserving. It is a form of atavistic tribalism or racism.

Remember when the wall was about illegal immigrants? Remember when it was about jobs, crime and subsidies? Legal immigration will still be...legal. So what's the difference in a family slipping across the border (if there is no wall) and that family legally immigrating to the United States when it comes to the culture of America and preserving the identity of the nation? If a family immigrates legally, then they will be "taking away" part of the United States' national identity by simply staining our fine country with their own cultural identity.

Moreover, with the disintegration of the nation we are seeing, and with talk of the breakup of states like Texas and secession of states like California, how do we survive as one nation and people?

Definitely by building a wall. That's totally going to work. Once Trump builds a wall, California will decide not to secede and Texas won't be broken up.

I feel like the solution of building a wall doesn't answer the questions being posed by illegal immigration.

Though, as a side note, if the wall is being built around the southern border where the Texas-Mexico line is, what happens if that part of Texas secedes? Now there is a wall in the middle of a territory that doesn't even belong to the United States. Time to move the wall up north a little bit more so the new United States is separated from the new Texas! In this situation, would Trump tear down the wall and have Texas pay for it?

President Trump’s wall is a statement to the world: This is our country. We decide who comes here. And we will defend our borders.

There is literally no need for a wall to make this statement to the world. The United States defends its borders and decide who comes and goes. Building a wall is equivalent of the "Three Strikes" laws in the 1990's which resulted in prison overcrowding. It's basically saying, "We can't defend our borders, we can't enforce our own laws. We can't figure out who is and is not entering the country, so we can't decide who comes and goes. Let's build a wall in a way to just keep everyone out, as opposed to putting in the time and effort to defend our borders, while accepting some illegal immigrants will get through."

It's an overzealous response that isn't congruent to the problem it is attempting to fix. Trump may as well fill a moat around the US-Mexico border and put crocodiles in it. Parents put gates up so their young children can't go upstairs, because the alternative is monitoring their children at all times to make sure they don't go upstairs. Trump puts up a wall so illegal immigrants can't get into the United States, because the alternative is to think of new and different ways to monitor who crosses the border. Building a wall is much easier than thinking. More expensive, but easier.

The crisis of our time is not that some Americans are saying this, but that so many are too paralyzed to say it, or do not care, or embrace what is happening to their country.

The irony of Pat Buchanan saying many Americans are too paralyzed to embrace what is happening to their country, while actively refusing to embrace the move to a more diversified and less traditional America, while pining for the days when the United States was "united" through the refusal of equal rights to all is too much for me to bear. If anything, the crisis is that many like Buchanan think a wall built on the US-Mexico border can stop legal immigration from changing the makeup of the United States. Buchanan is in denial if he thinks the wall can.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Ranking The Concerts I've Seen

My post about Van Halen a few months ago got me to thinking about all of the concerts I had attended and whether I thought I could rank all of them. My concert attendance has slowed down very significantly in recent years since I have actual obligations and no money to meet those obligations, but figured I would give a ranking them a shot. I'm probably missing a show or two. I'm not including stage shows I saw in college because I went to quite a few stage shows in college with local college bands and probably was not sober for a good portion of them. I went to a concert one time in a small club and it took me five songs to realize the lead singer was black. I probably pregamed too hard. I have my favorite concerts in reverse order below. The worst one is probably obvious. It's Van Halen, but you know that already. Hopefully the year I went to the concerts are not incorrect either. And yes, you can laugh at some of these. I'm fine with that.

Van Halen (1998)- As much fun as it would be to harp on this, it wasn't a good concert. I've stated why and I still think Eddie Van Halen is a great guitarist.

Steve Miller Band and George Thorogood (1999)- Not that this was a BAD concert, but I don't like either of these two artists enough to attend a concert to see them, yet I did. This one is on me. Nothing I saw in concert convinced me to like them otherwise. Steve Miller was pretty good, though I'm not really passionate about their music, but after about 20 minutes of George Thorogood playing the whole "rowdy blues riff while women scream and he sings a little bit more about drinking" it got slightly grating for me. The two women in front of me really, really, really enjoyed the show though. Enough to scream the whole time and jiggle their scantily-clad bodies in my face when they were not of age or size to be scantily-clad.

Angie Aparo (2001)- I went to this concert, on a whim, in Atlanta. It is probably considered a stage show, but I had no idea where I was going so we were almost late and I spent most of the concert upset that all of the songs on his album were a full band and he played with just him and a guitar in concert. My friend who went with me, she could have explained that he played stripped-down, because it was a sort of letdown for me. She did not explain it. Curse her for this. I drove to Atlanta to see him and got surprised by not having a full band. I like acoustic, but only when I'm expecting it. He did a great version of "Rocket Man," but I felt awkward the whole time because everyone was so much older than I thought they would be and I couldn't yell or talk loud in the venue or else it would disrupt the music. Still love his first album, but this was a disappointment.

Guster and The Avett Brothers (2007)- This is a somewhat interesting story. My wife and I had never heard the Avett Brothers music, but we knew of them considering they were North Carolina legends already that point. We heard they put on a good show and we love Guster. We happily went to Raleigh to see the show. Well, the opening act came on at 7:30pm and didn't leave the stage until 8:30pm. Then the Avett Brothers came out at 8:45pm and would not leave the fucking stage. Guster didn't come on stage until 9:45pm and at that point they were nearly running into the Avett Brothers as they left the stage. They had to be off stage by 11pm, but the Avett Brothers would not leave the stage. Their set lasted too long and to make matters worse, the entire crowd was thrilled they were on stage. Every lyric was sung loudly and obnoxiously, not obnoxiously because it was bad music, but because I wanted to see Guster play, not the Avett Brothers. Naturally, this colored our opinion of the Avett Brothers for a few years until "I and Love and You" came out and now they are one of my favorite bands. The lead singer of Guster (they have two singers and one sings most of the songs these days) even didn't do an encore. His words were, "We usually leave the stage and come back on, but we are almost out of time. Pretend you clapped for us and we came back. Also, we can only do one encore because we are out of time." That was annoying. Eventually, I forgave the Avett Brothers and the unnamed opening act.

Counting Crows and John Mayer (2003)- It was pretty blah. I got roped into going to the concert with an acquaintance I didn't really like all that much, so that probably ruined it. John Mayer can play guitar and for some reason the only thing I remember about Counting Crows' set is they did a great version of "Miami" after Adam Duritz told a really long story about the song. Also, they changed the rhythm and lyrics to "Round Here" so that wasn't cool.

Kenny Chesney, Dierks Bentley and Rascal Flatts (2004)- I don't do country concerts and this is part of the reason why. The environment ruined this show for me. It was very...country. I am not a huge fan of Rascal Flatts but my friends were all going and I used to like Kenny Chesney a lot, so I figured I would go. I think the fact I can't really comment on it much probably shows what kind of concert it was. Chesney did a melody of his slower songs, which was nice since a concert isn't supposed to be a downer, but also a bit disorienting at the same time when one song starts and then the lyrics to another song start after a minute.

Chicago and the Doobie Brothers (1998)- Yeah, I went to a Chicago concert. My friends left the concert early because they thought Chicago's music was too slow. What the fuck did you expect? Really? Have you heard any of their music? The tickets were cheap and I like the music of the Doobie Brothers enough to bear with the slow parts of Chicago's half of the concert. The sad part is Chicago is really great when they do their material that is more horn-heavy, but there are the children of the 80's who just HAVE to hear "You're the Inspiration" and that's a problem for me. So the slow 80's stuff was the main material on the menu. The end result is I got a Doobie Brothers beer holder that I still own to this day. It was "The Doobie Brothers koozie" that gained infamy in college for some reason as my go-to koozie.

The Eagles (2003)- It's funny how a concert experience can be affected by the events around the concert. I went to this concert on a Thursday night (I believe) and had to be back at school the next morning at 9am for a summer law school class. It was a four hour drive by the way. Four fucking hours. So I left the concert and got home at about 4:00am after driving home in a rainstorm, smoking cigarettes and wondering if this wasn't a bad decision in retrospect. The concert was pretty much by the numbers and the band's set list, which isn't exactly uptempo as it is, was even more down tempo than usual. Plus, they led off with "The Long Run." Open the show with "Hotel California" or go home.

Carbon Leaf (2009)- This concert was on me. I went to see Carbon Leaf after they released an album I didn't really love (Nothing Rhymes with Woman) fully knowing they would play most of the album and I wouldn't like it. My wife wanted to see them and I wanted to hear "The Boxer," plus the concert too place three miles from our house. To make matters worse, I remember them backloading the set with songs from their new album, so as I got tired of standing, the music got a bit worse for me. Overall, a great band who I would love to see play again though...just not in support of an album I don't love.

Train and Far Too Jones (2001)- I went for Far Too Jones and the girl I went to the concert with went for Train. So that sort of created a minor issue in that we didn't really have a shared band that we liked. At the time, Train wasn't a band whose sole purpose was to stay together long enough to create more Top 40 singles. They had Top 40 singles, but were a band, which is the opposite of what they are today, which is a singer and a guitarist. Far Too Jones was really good and Train put on a good show too. I know it is hard to believe, but the lead singer of Train had a great stage presence and really engaged with the audience. I was more entertained than I probably care to admit at this time, given the fact "Hey, Soul Sister" and "Marry Me" are still the bane of my existence.

Mae and Locksley (2009)- I had no idea who Mae was, but they turned out to be a rock/pop/art band whose music had small Christian overtunes, but not to the point the songs seemed to actually be about God. They put on a really good show and the songs fit well in the club I saw them in. They were the main act and I wasn't disappointed after hearing Locksley play. Locksley is like a power-pop version of the Beatles and they were very fan-friendly, plus I love how high energy the concert was. Locksley's had a new bassist at the time and his girlfriend was standing beside me. I mention this to say she could not have been 17 years old. He threw her his pick about halfway through the concert and I heard her tell her friend after that something to the effect of "I'm showing this off in school tomorrow" and I am very sure she wasn't talking about a college-school. So that was interesting.

The Eagles (2013)- I dragged my wife to this concert because I wanted to see them play before I died. Sort of fortuitous now. They were doing the "History of the Eagles Tour" in support of the Showtime special that was out. Even if you don't like the Eagles, I would encourage you to watch that special. It's kind of crazy and few people mix the reaction of "What he's saying is making total sense" with "My God, he's such a condescending asshole" better than Don Henley does. His explanation for why tricked Don Felder into leaving the studio so he could cut his own vocal for a song was a mixture of, "I get it" with "What a fucking dick move." They played songs that didn't usually play in concert and had much more energy than the show the decade before. I love it when bands play songs in concert you don't usually get to hear. I'm not always there for the hits. Do I need to hear the Eagles hits over and over again? Probably not.

Locksley and Rooney (2008)- This was a really good show that I saw in Carrboro, NC. At the time the guitarist for Rooney was dating Mischa Barton and when the lead singer (Jason Schwartman's brother, son of Talia Shire) introduced him as the guy dating Mischa Barton you could tell he wasn't happy. Pretty sure they broke up shortly after this (he and Mischa Barton, not Rooney). One of the most entertaining parts was watching the bassist for Rooney stand in the very far left corner with sunglasses on acting as disinterested as possible in the fact he was performing at a concert. He could have been cooking spaghetti. He didn't care, he was just playing bass and standing very still wearing sunglasses. The lead singer of Locksley stood outside the club door after the concert and told the people attending goodnight and wanted to know where they had heard of them from. He desperately wanted his band to be FOUND and to know how that could happen. The fact he was so nice made me like the band even more.

Jimmy Buffett (1998) and Jimmy Buffett (2002)- I combine these concerts because if you have been to one of his then you know how it goes. Your parents or me (as the case may be in the future if Buffett doesn't die in the next 10 years...fingers crossed) get drunk and act like fools pretending they are at the bench when they are really in the middle of North Carolina and working at a job they just sort of like. One really good thing about a Buffett concert is he has his core songs he sings, but the set list changes every single tour and probably every single night. When you are a big fan like I am, it's nice to hear him end a show with "Survive" or bust out with "Lage Nom Ai" at some point. You don't always know what he will play and that makes it fun.

Bruce Springsteen (2008)- Then there are the drawbacks to a singer/band playing obscure songs that diehard fans enjoy. I enjoyed this concert, but went with my wife, who isn't a huge Springsteen fan. If she liked a song he was playing and knew it, things were great, but the obscure tracks didn't make for such a great time for her. Plus, I dragged my feet on getting tickets and we were behind the stage. It's not a great view, though Bruce tried his best to give us attention. 

The Bacon Brothers (1998)- I know. Go ahead and laugh. This is Kevin Bacon's band. Maybe it was seeing this concert at Myrtle Beach during grad week after high school. Maybe it was the fact I was in a good mood because I had obtained more alcohol for after the show. Whatever it was, this was a very enjoyable concert. The audience (in the parking lot of a Planet Hollywood...hello 1998!) was engaged and the band bantered a lot with the audience. They even played "Footloose" as the encore. I bought their album and listened to it a lot, much to the mocking of my friends. I still have that album and dust it off from time to time, much to the mocking of my wife. I don't care. I had a good time.

Guster (2010)- The worst part about this concert was I got there too early and was really tired by the time the concert actually started from standing the whole time. It was at a venue in Charlotte and there were no chairs. The venue was the Fillmore and I believed it had just opened. They opened with "The Captain" which I thought was kind of odd, since it doesn't scream "concert opener" to me. It was nice not to have the Avett Brothers present and hogging the stage.

Dawes (2011)- They are one of my favorite bands, so getting to see them live was awesome for me. They did not let me down. Oddly, the song I think I enjoyed the most was "Lawyers, Guns and Money" which of course isn't their song. They did a great cover version of it though. Of course, they played "A Little Bit of Everything" which is probably one of my favorite songs by them. I was distracted by the drummer's facial expressions though. My wife and I spent a lot of the concert figuring out if he had Tourette's or another condition which caused him to make odd facial expressions. More than likely, he was just into playing the drums. I did do a Google search after the concert and couldn't figure out whether we are the only ones that noticed it though or if there was some information about it on the Interwebs. Weirdly, this concert probably had the most hipsters of any concerts I've ever been to. I felt pretty uncool because I did not dress ironic enough.

The Eagles (1995)- Yes, I am very not cool. I recognize this. This was during their first "Grab some cash" tour after they had reunited after taking a 15 year vacation. Since I have been to two other Eagles concerts I can look back in retrospect and say this is the only one where they didn't feel/seem like they were doing a job of sorts. It seemed very natural up there, like it wasn't five guys who separate after the concert, which they probably did anyway and I have no delusions about this. I went to the concert at Death Valley, which is Clemson's football field. It was a pretty awesome venue to see a concert I have to admit. It was packed and they even opened up with Hotel California, did an acoustic set (or a few songs) and generally felt like they were the opposite of the band they are live...which is a band that tends to robotically play every note, instrument, and song as if it were programmed six months earlier. You know, like all the moves had been memorized so long ago they were second nature.

The Shins (2008)- I was very, very surprised how much I enjoyed this concert. I like the Shins, but my girlfriend (now wife) liked them more than I did prior to the show. This was one of those concerts that made me like a band more. I wasn't sure how the sound from the album would translate to the stage, but it did, and it translated well. I also didn't realize how many multi-instrumentalists there were in the band. "Kissing the Lipless" was the opener and it worked really well with the band behind a curtain until the rest of the band started playing a 1/4 of the way through the song when the curtain dropped. A pleasantly surprising concert.

Boston (1997)- There is a 56% chance I moved this concert up in the rankings because I spent almost half of the concert with a drunk middle-aged man talking to me like I was his brother. He thought I, a 17 year old at the time, was his brother and was joking around and talking to me like we were old family members who could recall stories together. It was very, very amusing...except when he put his sweaty arm around me of course. The band, who is of course old and not really selling a ton of records, was excellent in concert. They played all their hits and even some album cuts that weren't considered hits. Brad Delp, who has since died (see, they were old...though his death was a suicide), could still hit high notes and the band really sounded good. I did not win any cool points for going to the concert and I will win fewer cool points saying it was a great concert. There is something to be said for an energetic concert where the musicianship of the band is as impressive as the songs being performed.

R.E.M. (1995)- This was my first ever concert. I saw them on the ill-fated "Monster" tour where everybody in the band except the guitarist had major surgery or almost died. But I saw them BEFORE they all got sick, which was very fortunate. I'm glad I saw them after they put out their "rock" album, because it made the experience even better knowing there wouldn't be an entirely acoustic set. Not that I wouldn't want to hear an acoustic set. What was a little confusing at the time is how they played songs off "New Adventures in Hi-Fi" before the album was released. They were on tour to support one new album and ended up playing 3-4 songs off an album that would be released a year later. I'm not sure that R.E.M. ever got their due as a live act. It may be because in the small window where they were huge stars they didn't tour and when they did tour they almost died. So there is a small window where they were a huge act and got to play large concerts while touring behind a loud album. I got to see one of those concerts. I feel fortunate about that. Prior to this "Monster" tour they were a smaller band or a college band, and after the tour, they generally played behind albums that were a little bit on the slower, moodier side. They are really good live.

Bruce Springsteen (1999)- It's not a cliche at all that he is good in concert. This was an absolutely amazing show. It helps I'm a big Springsteen fan and knew all the songs, but he does a great job of setting a mood for a certain song and generally putting on a show. I remember moving seats so I could be more to the front and the crowd going crazy when he played "Badlands." Even the songs I could go without "Land of Hopes and Dreams" and "41 Shots" were great performances. This is the tour after the band got back together and seemed to combine Bruce not being too old and the band being excited to play together again. Fantastic show and it will be hard to top this experience.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Look at this Guy

I have another blog that is more sports-related as most of you know. Many matters have led me to stop posting on the site for the time being. But as I go through the comments periodically there always a few odd ones. The Internet is full of assholes and that tends to show in comments sometimes. So I wrote this post on my sports blog and one of the comments from "jkfan87" said the following:

"Do people REALLY still write blogs these days? Even when it is clear that no one reads them? It'd be one thing if you had a following and actually made some money off it. Or thought that maybe you could make it a career. But that is obviously not the case" 

I try to be nice in response to comments like this, or at least have in the past, but it's not easy. This is a doozy of a comment for several reasons though. So I felt the need to answer his questions and give a little commentary. Because let's be honest, the Internet is full of assholes and some of them need responding to.

1. Yes, people "REALLY" do still write blogs these days. They are everywhere and you can find blogs about all topics. The fact you found my blog essentially proves this.

2. How does he know no one reads the blog? Does this asshole have some sort of magical ability to see the statistics for the post without access to the blog? 139 people read this post I linked. That's not a lot, of course. It's not no one though. Supposedly the blog I wrote for has had about 500,000 unique visitors. Again, that's not a lot, but it's also not "no one." I'd love to know how he knows "no one" reads without having access to the blog's statistics.

And also, he made this comment on a post on a blog that he had read. Like, he read the post and then said no one reads the blog. Interesting.

3. "It'd be one thing if you had a following..."

Irrelevant. Why can't someone write for fun and because they enjoy it? Why does someone have to read what is written? I'm NOT trying to make a career out of it and therefore I don't give a shit if anyone really reads. If they do, great. If they don't, I'm not going to go into my room and cry into a pillow. So how would one start to write a blog and already have a following? Because there's no point in starting a blog if you don't have a following, so the following has to be there before you start it, right? Chicken v. the egg, I guess. Have a blog and no following? Stop writing. How do you get a following if you don't write on the blog though?

4. "...actually made some money off of it."

This is remarkably irrelevant as well. Who cares if money is made at it? There are plenty of people who make a living writing and have a blog they make $0 off. They are writers but make no money from their blog. Again, if the point of writing isn't to make money then the idea of needing to make money to write is irrelevant.

5. "Or thought that maybe you could make it a career."

I don't want to make it a career. The assumption is that no one should do anything if it doesn't make money and lead to a career. Therefore, pretty much anything that is done outside of your direct job which doesn't give you money is pointless and a person should immediately stop doing this. I'm sure "jkfan87" doesn't play video games though. Of course not, because what's the point if he doesn't make money at it or it leads to a career? Pure stupidity.

6. "But that is obviously not the case."

Yes, it isn't my career. I do okay for myself at the thing that is my career, but thank you for the warning about how my writing is pointless. And also, thank you for reading my blog and then telling me that no one reads it. That's not ironic at all. Maybe you should start a Reddit threat about the irony of this.

Of course, no one is reading this and my writing this is pointless because I'm not making money. So what's the use in even responding?

I can't figure out if some people on the Internet are more stupid or more assholes...

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Things Your Higher Education Professional Doesn't Tell You About Student Aid

"Reader's Digest" does this feature every month where they do "X Number of Things Your (Insert Professional Career Here) Doesn't Tell You." Yes, I subscribe to "Reader's Digest" so shut up. I figured I would do one that is tangentially related to my job and hopefully it won't turn into a bitch-fest because that's no fun for anyone. One of my biggest pet peeves about the information that goes out to parents and students about higher education is that it is all homogenized as if every school and Admissions department is the exact same. This isn't true, so generic advice is what parents get. The advice given is either from people who don't really know the answers they are giving (the lack of knowledge I find in some high school counselors can be frightening at times) or are so far up in the hierarchy of a school they have no idea what useful advice to give. So here goes. Here are things your higher education professional doesn't tell you about student aid.

1. Everyone wants college to be paid for completely. Your child deserves a full scholarship like every other child deserves a full scholarship. It's no fun to tell your child "no," but if your child is looking at a $40,000/year school and you can't afford that then you are only hurting your family and the child by pretending you can afford this. Much like it is not the job of a mortgage banker to subsidize the cost of a house you can't afford, a college can only do so much to subsidize the cost of a $40,000/year education. Sometimes even if your child wants to buy a Lexus, you have to buy the child a used Honda instead.

2. It's not always the place your child goes to get an education. It is the education your child chooses to get at that institution. There's no point in chasing a degree from a "name" college if your child can succeed at a university that is more affordable and gives the child the same opportunity to succeed in life.

3. Every letter/email/fax a Financial Aid counselor receives begins with some form of "Thank you for the generous financial aid award offer. We are so happy that X college offered the money and we are grateful..." followed by an appeal for more money. So excuse the counselor if it seems like there is a bit of an eye roll. If the award offered was truly that generous then you wouldn't be asking for more money. It's the "It's not you, it's me" of higher education and blowing smoke up a counselor's ass isn't going to get you further. Be honest, be straight and if you can't afford it, then be honest and straight with yourself.

4. Speaking of asking for more money...sitting down with a counselor or even the Director of Financial Aid won't necessarily get you more money. It's not 1965 and a face-to-face meeting is no longer more effective than a well-written appeal or letter. Oftentimes it is a matter of budgeting and consideration with the Admissions Counselor on whether the student deserves more money or more money should be offered. Writing a letter or an email allows this process to begin, while a face-to-face meeting only serves to waste the time of two people.

5. Students who have succeeded the first or second year in college often will come to see if they can get more money for their good grades. You aren't seven years old and getting "A's" on your report card anymore. It's college and the money you were given is based on the college's anticipation that you would get good grades and be a contributor to the community. Doing so only reinforces you deserve the money given to you, but doesn't necessarily qualify you for more aid. If additional scholarships are what you want, the specific department within your major is your better bet. Academic departments like to reward students within that department who succeed with some of the departmental scholarships they have. I would usually try there first.

6. When writing an email or sending a phone call, do wait 24 hours for a return phone call or email if specified in the voicemail. Calling back repeatedly and not leaving a message in a desperate attempt to not have to wait 24 hours isn't going to get your call returned more quickly and writing an email after a voicemail will not either. Every college has caller ID and knows the phone number that has called repeatedly without leaving a message. Often it won't be 24 hours before your phone call is returned, but that message is left on the voicemail to protect the counselor who may get busy in the meantime from the expectation the phone call should be returned immediately.

7. This is more of a general rule for life in general. If you have left a voicemail for someone to call you back, always check your voicemail before calling that person back. In the field of customer service or in the field of life, there are few things more frustrating than answering a question in a voicemail only to have the person asking the question call you back and ask the same damn question again. If you expect the courtesy of a call back, then extend the courtesy of checking your voicemail.

8. Financial Aid counselors do have favorite students. The best way to not become a favorite student is to be a pain in the ass and require constant maintenance. Questions are fine and that's why your Financial Aid counselor exists, partly to answer questions. When a parent constantly calls and asks questions answered previously or has new questions on a regular basis rather than putting all questions into one email it becomes obnoxious.

9. Regarding being a pain in the ass. I find that many students/parents who become a pain in the ass actually end up receiving a lower level of service. It's not intentional, but whereas the squeaking wheel gets the grease, the squeaking wheel also is ignored in favor of wheels that don't squeak if given the opportunity. This is also a lesson in life also. Subconsciously humans don't want to do something painful or uncomfortable to do.

10. For divorced parents...everyone working in higher education understands divorce is difficult and the ability to communicate with an ex is not always easy. That being said, it is not the responsibility of the Financial Aid office to communicate payments due and other financially necessary issues to the non-custodial parent who is responsible for paying part of the tuition. We are not the middle man or a convenient way for you to not be forced to communicate with your ex. It's not about you. It's about your son/daughter's education. If that's not important enough to call your ex, then why should it be important enough to your Financial Aid department to make sure your ex understands when his portion of the payment is due? FERPA requires only the custodial parents on the FAFSA be notified of amounts owed to the school. Explaining to a Financial Aid counselor on the phone you and your ex don't get along is no reason for why the counselor has to become the mediator in your great battle to get your shared child's education paid.

11. I have had a parent tell me, "If you guys want to get paid, then you will call my ex and say what is due from him." In response I would like to say, if you want your child to go to school, then you will not be a child and communicate with your ex. Finance and the Accounts Department at a university see a bill either as paid or not paid. An unpaid bill has no feelings.

12. On a related note, if the child isn't on speaking terms with the non-custodial parent it still isn't the job of the counselor to be the mediator. Life is hard and sometimes you have to talk to people you don't want to talk to for a greater purpose. If the child wants to go to college and have that parent pay his/her portion, then no relationship is required, but notification when the bill is due will be required. You want it paid, forward the bill to the non-custodial parent.

13. What makes a person love this job is working with parents and students to get that student into college and see them graduate. It's nice to see students succeed and get an education.

14. You don't know how many times I've been asked, "Do you know anyone who would be good for X scholarship?" I will always name one of my favorite students who hasn't been a pain in the ass or one who has good grades. So please remember this when making that phone call after you have had a bad day, don't understand your bill because you haven't read it, and feel the need to have your balance explained rather than attempt to understand why the balance is due by viewing the bill.

15. It can be incredibly exhausting and not fulfilling being the one handing out the money. Students/parents remember their Admissions Counselor who recruited them, their coaches, favorite professors and anyone else who helped them graduate. The person who hands out the money and explains why you owe $5000 when you thought it would only be $4000 needs a pick-me-up every once in a while. Financial Aid often sees the worst part of the student/parent because they are always talking money. It's nice to be appreciated every once in a while by simply being thanked. It's so few and far between, that it's remembered.

16.  Financial Aid counselors don't know about scholarships at other schools. They don't know about every scholarship available either.

17. Financial Aid counselors are suckers for students who take their education seriously and don't require mommy or daddy to call after they have had a conversation they don't understand about Financial Aid. If you don't understand, then don't waste our time and pretend like you will understand. Just have your parent call.

18. Parents, if you have an AGI of $270,000 and your husband loses his job taking your AGI down to $220,000 then don't necessarily expect more Financial Aid because you can't afford college anymore. Cancel the country club dues, maybe lower your lifestyle demands a little bit. Someone who makes $270,000 a year who can't afford college is seen as a person who wants college further subsidized without having any type of sacrifice on their part. That's how it is seen.

19. You don't know how many parents who send their child to private school I talk to on a yearly basis. These parents just can't afford college, though they found a way to afford a $35,000/year private school because it was necessary due to some medical or emotional issue. I've seen students with behavior problems sent to horse camp or sent to boarding schools and their parents are happy to pay less for college. I've seen students who have behavioral or educational issues sent to private schools that cost $30,000+/year because "it's necessary." Pretend that college is necessary too. It's frustrating to see a parent who finds private schools necessary, but wants someone else to give them a break when it comes to paying for college.

20. College is too expensive. Few people disagree with this. It's expensive to run a college though and I guarantee you that the person in middle management you are talking to at the college isn't making as much money as you think he/she is. College administrators like the Chancellor, CFO, etc. make a lot of money. That doesn't always trickle down. When saying your income was cut to $170,000/year and complaining you can't afford college is a slap in the face to a person who earns half of that for his/her entire household and is planning on sending his/her children to college too. Know your audience and just generally understand how fortunate you are.

21. Speaking of college administrators. Few of them have guts and the intestinal fortitude to talk to parents who appeal for more money and decline their appeal. The difficulty of the situation is it is hard to get to these administrators because they direct any questions to their underlings to be answered. It's preached constantly to educate parents, students and be tough when declining an appeal for more funds, but it's always a different story when that administrator has to be tough.

22. For parents, no matter how much you don't want to admit it your child is an adult once he/she goes to college. He/she is having sex, doing drugs, making the decision to attend class or not, and making daily decisions you know nothing about. The student has to be treated this way and allowed to fail if he/she starts to fail. There is a time to step in and help your child, but delaying your child taking responsibility for him/herself and his/her mistakes isn't helping him/her nor will it help you.

23. On a related note, your child will receive correspondence from Financial Aid and saying, "Child X doesn't check his/her email" or "Child X didn't understand the email so she/he deleted it" is not a good reason for something requested to not be completed. Don't be angry with me, be angry with your child. In the real world, not answering an email or taking action on an email due to disinterest or because that person didn't understand it is an easy way to get fired. College is preparing a student for the real world, which involves reading email. If your child can update his/her Facebook or Twitter account, he/she can check his/her email hit the "forward" button to send the information to you.

24. I mean really, your child is a grownup. You may not like it and want to be the savior parent from time-to-time, but I will treat your child like a grownup. If you don't want your child treated like an adult it's probably best your child isn't in college preparing for a real world where he/she will be treated like an adult. I have had parents tell me their child's brain doesn't form completely until the age of 25 and that's why email doesn't get answered or a request isn't fulfilled. Regardless of the scientific nature of this claim, you must empower your child rather than continue to make excuses for why empowerment only will lead to failure. Failure teaches lessons that are remembered.

25. Oh, athletes. Athletes can be the best and they can be the worst. Your son/daughter can hit a ball well? Congrats, but despite what he/she has been told over his/her entire life this doesn't make her more important than a student with a 3.70 GPA in my eyes. The best athlete is one who excels in the classroom and on the field. The worst athlete is one who thinks excelling on the field is the only purpose. Most likely your child won't be making money as a soccer player, while the student with a 3.70 GPA will probably succeed and give money back to the university.

26. I laugh when I read stories about students who graduate with tons of debt and have an Art degree. It's not that I don't have sympathy for them, but when you go to an expensive school and come away with a degree there's no guarantee of employment. Again, school is too expensive, but the price tag is right there for many schools and students choose to purchase anyway. The media likes to jump on stories of unemployed students who have $100,000 in debt, but what they don't pay attention to is the Admissions Counselor who did/did not advise that student perhaps this school isn't the best one for him/her.

27. Speaking of student loan debt, there is no reason adult students should have the same loan limits as dependent students who are the age of 18-24. The cost is cheaper for adult students and all that happens is these adult students use the additional loans to pay for expenses through a refund check. Adult students should have lower loan limits than dependent students from ages 18-24, rather than allow them to use school as a secondary source of income. It only hurts the adult student that he/she is racking up so much debt at a more advanced age.

28. The two main questions I receive from adult students are: (1) "How do I apply for loans?" and (2) "When does my refund come in?" Trust me, I believe many of these students are in school simply to take advantage of the refund check. It's possible to graduate from a four year degree program as an adult student with less than $10,000 in debt.

29. Many families have two students in college at one time. The fact that you are calling me and saying you are helping your first child who graduated from college pay back his/her loans so you want me more in aid to compensate for having to pay back these loans is annoying. Why should my school subsidize promises you have made to your children? Don't make promises you can't afford and then expect someone else to subsidize your other child's education as a result.

30. When receiving an email that says "Your password and login is incorrect, please contact the IT department," don't call me and ask who you should contact. It's right there. This goes for other departments as well. I don't hold sway over your professor and what grade he gives out nor do I know why Housing put you in a certain dorm. Universities and colleges are big places. Just like someone who services your Bank of America IRA doesn't know why you weren't approved for a loan, I don't know why other departments do what they do.

31. I like my job and I like dealing with parents/students. The 75% of students/parents who aren't a royal pain in the ass make up for the 25% that are a royal pain in the ass. And yes, I find those figures are probably accurate. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Brutal Review of a Van Halen Show

I went to go see Van Halen when they came to Charlotte in 1998. That was when Gary Cherone was the lead singer. They opened with "Unchained" and it didn't get much better from there. When I'm asked to name the worst concert I have ever been to then I usually name this concert. This is something coming from a person who attended a Doobie Brothers and Chicago combined concert in the late 90's. "Detached" would be a polite way of describing the attitude from the band that night. I was about done when I realized there were synthesizer sounds coming from the stage and there was no one actually playing the synthesizer. It's not like Van Halen are poor, they can afford a touring keyboard player I'm sure. They just chose not to hire one, because why the fuck would they do that? This isn't the first time Van Halen played backup music in concert, including one time here in Greensboro. 

Right now, David Lee Roth and Eddie Van Halen hate each other. It's not a big deal because it has been quite a few years since Van Halen was a band, instead of a group of musicians who choose to play together in front of fans for money. They turned the corner from a band to a group of musicians who play music in front of their fans for money around the mid-90's, right after they fired Sammy Hagar, but not really, then decided they may want David Lee Roth back, but not really, but here is Gary Cherone, and then really who gives a shit let's just tour with David Lee Roth, but after we briefly get back together with Sammy Hagar. Now the band has again chosen David Lee Roth as their lead singer. The fans want David Lee Roth? They get him, they just don't get much else when they see Van Halen in concert. So here is a review of Van Halen at Red Rocks and it's brutal, but funny. 

Roth isn't a good vocalist, there's no doubt about that. Isolate his vocals and it makes you gain respect for his ability to put on a show and then wonder why he sounds so odd at times. So it's not surprising that his vocals didn't age well. He wasn't ever going to be Freddie Mercury. If a band hates each other and goes on tour to line their pockets or give fans a chance to see them, at least put on a good performance. 

The pioneering blues metal band Van Halen – anchored by the mighty Van Halen brothers Eddie and Alex – once bridged the gap between pop and metal. They defined a sound. Today, they remain as loud as ever, but their tired rock has reached its sell-by date.

I thought back in 1998 the band sounded tired in concert. I can't imagine how they sound now without Michael Anthony. And yes, Wolfgang Van Halen gets by well in this review, but I have no interest in seeing a person who wasn't born when David Lee Roth left the band originally performing on stage. Even if his last name is Van Halen too.

Even with a stellar setlist that included hits, deep cuts and some of the pioneering band’s most compelling riffs, the show fell spectacularly flat on Monday.

This reminds me, the first thing Gary Cherone did on stage when I saw the band in 1998 was do the "devil horns" thing that Elaine used to do on "Seinfeld." Maybe it felt like a "rock" thing to do. I don't know where the fuck Van Halen finds these guys. Well, they find them in other rock bands like Extreme...

If there was any star, it was Eddie’s 24-year-old son, Wolfgang, whose dynamic bass built a rich backdrop for his dad’s expressive guitar.

Maybe Eddie Van Halen is having the rest of the band perform shittily so his son looks better?

But Roth’s struggle eclipsed all moments of glory. If the consummate showman is troubled by blown lyrics and missed notes, he very likely spiraled into a deep funk late Monday. But Diamond Dave, who rotated through a rainbow of sparkling outfits at Red Rocks, has always been more flash than substance. With his fresh Japanese tattoos peeking from beneath his sleeveless vest, the 60-year-old did his best Jazzercise kicks all night while gasping and chanting every third word.

I love everything about this paragraph.

1. The knock against Roth for blowing lyrics (lyrics? How the hell can you blow Van Halen lyrics? It's not like they write 10 verses like Bob Dylan) and missing notes. 

2. The mention of Roth's sparkling outfits. He's the Madonna of rock. Wardrobe change!

3. "fresh Japanese tattoos..." Making it sound like Roth gets tattoos in order to seem younger.

4. "Jazzercise kicks..." But they are, they are Jazzercise kicks.

“Running … pant … devil … pant … whaaah!”

At least he sang the chorus. If you listen to the isolated vocal take he only sang the chorus as part of the background vocals on the album version of the song.

In one of the strangest moments ever for Red Rocks, Roth strummed an acoustic slide and blasted into a harmonica as he relayed the boring details from a decades-ago night with Ozzy Osbourne.

And now the drunken party boy who wants to act like he just came fresh off the beach to sing a few songs, Sammy Hagar, doesn't sound so bad does he? He may hawk some tequila, but at least he's not relaying stories about hanging out with one of the Nelson twins after a show one night.

Like him or not, it seems implausible that Roth can make it another 30-plus shows to Van Halen’s end-of-tour homecoming at L.A.’s Hollywood Bowl in October. 

Brutal. I swore off Van Halen after the 1998 show, so I feel very bad for those who are duped into buying tickets on this tour. It may not be so bad at times, but it seems like you gotta catch Roth on a good night.

While he never dropped his gape-mouth grin, Roth could not hide the fact that his voice is shattered after the tour’s first eight shows.

Given the fact Van Halen doesn't use that many different instruments on a song in the studio and didn't want to waste their time hiring a keyboardist a few tours ago, it wouldn't surprise me if they just had Roth's vocals dubbed in and he stood up on stage and pranced around for the entire show. They get paid either way, right?

And yes, when I saw Van Halen in '98 the piano intro to "Right Now" was played while the band just stood there on stage. There was a piano playing, but clearly no one was playing it.

Maybe it’s time to take a page from the Journey playbook and start trolling Manila nightclubs for a singer who can hit those sustained notes. 

(The reviewer drops the mic and walks away)

It's not that this is a funny comment, but Van Halen is currently touring with a lead singer the guitarist admits he doesn't like and who doesn't like him. The comment is funny because this would be something the band would do, because after all, why play with a guy who can't hit the notes and they hate when they could put some puppet strings on a complete stranger and have him sing karaoke on stage? It's not out of the realm that Van Halen would do this, so it's funny in a "Shit, they may do that in the future" type of way.

Eddie, graying a bit and casual in jeans and sneakers, joined his son in rescuing the spluttering Roth many a time, offering strong harmonies on every song, including rock-solid vocal arcs inside “Beautiful Girls” and “Ain’t Talking About Love.”

I'm betting $100 these vocals were supported by some form of background dubbing as well. If they will dub instruments in, why not dub a few vocals too? Plus, I'm supposed to believe a 60-year old guy who has had a third of tongue removed is throwing around some strong harmonies on stage? Not so sure about that one.

Touring in support of their first-ever live album with Roth – “Toyko Dome Live in Concert” – the band stormed through 25 songs in about two-and-a-half hours. 

Absent a reunion tour with a reunion album behind it, the idea of touring behind a live album always makes me chuckle. It's the lowest form of collecting cash by touring behind an album that is a recording of a previous tour. And yes, I attended the Rolling Stones "No Security" tour and don't regret it. I knew it was a cheap way to tour, but wanted to see the Stones. I have no regrets, but do recognize the whole "touring behind a live album" is the quickest and most effective way to do as little work as possible and separate a fool from his money.

The crowd thinned considerably about halfway through the show.

The reviewer didn't put a "thinning hair" joke in here. I wish he had. Such a missed opportunity.

Eddie and his older brother Alex on drums make an all-time team. Adding the younger Wolfgang has created an even more vibrant dynamic. The Van Halen family vibe was buoyed by Eddie’s apparent high spirits. He’s obviously stoked to be playing with his son and brother. Eddie roamed the stage on Monday, joining his brother on the sculpted steel drum platform and laughing with his old pal Roth. Those days of alcohol-fueled acrimony between Eddie and Roth seem distant.

Except for the part where they don't like each other.

If there were any fiery moments, they came late in the show with Eddie’s turbulent licks in Unchained” and their unique – yet straight off the album – take on the Kinks’ bluesy “You Really Got Me.” Roth played the drum major on the closer “Panama” twirling his mic stand like a baton and leaping maniacally in the encore “Jump.”

Probably doing Jazzercise kicks.

The lesson here is that if you plan on seeing a band in concert, try to decide if you just want to see that band play live or you actually expect that band to sound good live. I learned my lesson concerning Van Halen quite a few years ago. Maybe they were just having a bad night, but they were the worst band I have seen in concert and I have seen Kevin Bacon's band in concert. They were really good actually. One wouldn't think The Bacon Brothers would be better than Van Halen.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Music I Like I Think Others Should Sample

I tend to suggest music for my boss to listen to. I in no way believe myself to be a music expert or anything of the such. Still, I figured I would list some music I am listening to now just in case anyone cares to sample the music, agrees with me it is good music or doesn't care for the music. Heck, suggest your own music to me. I listen to a variety of music, but I generally keep up more with current more rock/indie (I don't know the difference to be honest...Mumford and Sons is really neither, but there are so many genres it's just easier to lump everything together) and R&B music. I listen to almost every genre of music, but I don't really enjoy much of today's rap and this pop-country shit has to go the hell away. Florida-Georgia Line can be drowned in the Bermuda Triangle for all I care (have I mentioned that before?).

If you have listened to these bands and hate them, that's fine. I recognize my music isn't always the best music to listen to for everyone.

Butch Walker

You probably remember Marvelous 3 from this song:


Don't run away! Please. He was the lead singer of that band. I stumbled upon his music because of this video:


Yes, that is Matthew McConaughey playing Wooderson from "Dazed and Confused." After I saw that video, I did some research on Butch Walker and he's really a great musician. He has seven albums out and none of them really sound the exact same. He skips around a lot with his sound. He's a very ADD songwriter. But all of his albums have good songwriting and he writes a good hook. It's like each album is his own experiment with the sounds he can try. There's not one album to suggest, it just depends on what you want to hear.

Left of Self-Centered: More harder rock, which echos some pop-punk sounds.

Letters: This album is still rock, but has a much more rock sound to it overall. He throws a lot of the emo out the window for a more pop sound.

The Rise and Fall of Butch Walker and the Let's-Go-Out-Tonites: This is basically a glam-rock album. Again, there are some pop tendencies to it as well, but a lot of it is a commentary on partying and the women involved with partying.

Sycamore Meadows: My personal favorite album. It's got a more introspective, slowed down pop pace to it. He uses more strings and it's just an overall more melancholy album about loss (his house burnt down before making the album). He even throws in his first real obvious attempt to get radio play with "Here Comes The..." It's a great album though.

I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart: This is the closest he has gotten to a consistent sound as it's more of a cousin to "Sycamore Meadows," but I would consider this one to be a straight-out pop album.

The Spade: This is an outright straight rock album. It doesn't sound as poppy as his other records and he moves away from too much sheen and goes for a rougher sound. Outside of "Synthesizers" there aren't too many good hooks on this one.

Afraid of Ghosts: This is basically an acoustic album. Very mellow, but probably one of his best records. Acoustic albums can be boring or they can be compelling. This falls under compelling for me. 

So depending on your mood, you may like Butch Walker.

The Gaslight Anthem

This is one of my favorite bands. I read them described perfectly and I can't remember where. They sound like Bruce Springsteen if he had let the Ramones record "Hungry Heart" and then launched that type of music into stardom at local New York clubs. For me, I consider their sound to be if Bruce Springsteen fronted the Replacements. That's how it sounds to me. They have five albums, one essential EP and one B-sides album that is pretty damn near essential. They are classified in so many ways, including punk rock. I don't consider them that though. Their best album is definitely "The '59 Sound" and they ended up doing the title track with Springsteen at a concert:


They've come to dislike the comparisons to Springsteen, which I think has in some ways taken them away from their strengths. I would start with "The '59 Sound," which is an album that references to other bands (including lyrics in the songs that are exact lyrics to other songs by other artists) on plenty of songs. It's got the best songwriting and sound the band has offered up yet. Though, trying out "Handwritten" is probably a good idea too. "45" is one of the best songs they have done and "Here Comes My Man" does sound like something Springsteen would do with the amps turned up a little bit more. Great band for driving and playing music loudly.

Farewell Milwaukee

And then there is this band who are not good for driving and playing music loudly. You can, but it's not quite the same thing as blaring loud music. I sometimes have a hard time describing music and they are a band I have a hard time describing. It's not soft rock, but is more 1970's acoustic rock. Sort of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young updated for the modern era. That's probably a bad description. Here are some YouTube videos that do a better job. 




Their best album is probably their second album "When It Sinks In," though all three albums are strong if you ask me. You can listen to nearly every song on their website, which is kind of nice.

Van Hunt

He is one of my personal favorite artists. I would put him under "R&B," though his discography is so eclectic it's almost pointless to try and classify him. I came into hearing his music on his first album which is mostly straight R&B/Soul. The difference being it's not really R&B. It's R&B with more guitar. Here is one of the hits off his first album called "Dust."



Then there is his second album, which went in a more dance-oriented direction. Here he is doing a song originally done with Nicki Costa, but done live with the Afghan Wigs. It's called "Mean Sleep."





His third album became less R&B and more rock-centered, along with a little more weird, but in a good way. It's just good music. Sort of what Lenny Kravitz wishes that he could be.




Marah

I probably should include a caveat to this band. They have eight albums and haven't put an album out that wasn't borderline crap since 2008. If you ignore their last two albums when the band started bleeding members, then you would really like them. They are an interesting band only in that they have so much talent and a great sound, but only put it all together for a few albums. They have a Roots Rock sound, but sort of a Roots Rock sound that is as discombobulated and messy as can be. If other Roots Rock bands are The Rolling Stones, then Marah was always The Faces. I'll go album by album, except skip the last two, which I believe to be crap.

Let's Cut the Crap and Hook Up Later Tonight: The debut album from the band. For a band that I am recommending, I feel like I'm saying "not my favorite" about them a lot. This is great album to listen to once you have gotten into the band. I would not start here. It's not bad, but it's not a very accessible album.

Kids in Philly: This is the second album that I would listen to if I wanted to hear the band's sound. It's got "Faraway You," "My Heart is the Bum's on the Street," and "Round-Eye Blues," which is a great song about war. Apparently if you live in Philadelphia or in the area then you can relate to some of the references. I don't live there, yet I still manage to appreciate the music. Very good album, but still a little bit messy...not in a bad way. 



Float Away with the Friday Night Gods: This album got killed at the time by critics because the band took their sound, threw it away and turned into Oasis. Really, they hired the guy who worked with Oasis and the Verve to produce the album. Every song is long and every song is very poppy. The band even knew it at the time. The cover is of a disco ball blowing a bubble with sunglasses and headphones on. They basically were like, "This is our pop album." Fans didn't hate it, but didn't love it. Eventually the band did the whole album again in a more acoustic setting and released that as a record. It's sort of a shame because there were some good riffs on the album, especially on the lead-off track called "Float Away." I enjoy the album because it's louder and I know it's not entirely serious. It's a completely different sound from anything they would ever do. Just for shits and giggles, I would have this be the third album I would listen to.


20,000 Streets Under the Sky: So then the band went back to their old sound like nothing happened. Daddy hit mommy at the dinner table, let's just go back to eating. Weirdly, this album either got critical acclaim or dismissed by critics. It didn't seem like there was much in between. I think it's a pretty good album, though the last thing about it is that the songs are catchy. They are good songs, but they don't stick in your head for a while.

If You Didn't Laugh, You'd Cry: This is their masterpiece album and probably the one I would pick up first. Sure, you are starting at the top, but they never mixed their ragged sound again with such great lyrics and catchy music as they did on this album. It's full of catchy songs. There is "The Closer," "Fat Boy," and "The Hustle."



But, the best songs on the album are probably the slower songs they do. Until this album, the band had not really seemed to have done straight slow songs that weren't story songs. Most of these songs aren't sappy, but about people trying to escape their situation and constantly running into themselves as their biggest obstacle in life. Apparently the band could relate to people trying to get ahead in life who just couldn't get it done. "City of Dreams," "Demon of White Sadness," and "Walt Whitman Bridge" are all great, great songs. They are slower though, but still really good.


 
 


Angels of Destruction!: The band was having some internal problems here and it wasn't hard to tell. Once you have enjoyed them as a band, I would buy this album. It's a step back from their previous album back to a more "Kids in Philly" and "20,000 Streets..." sound, but still good overall.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Cutting the Cord Isn't Easy

I have had one goal in life for the past three years. I want to cut the cord with cable. Every year I get one step closer to doing it, only to back off. Three years ago I thought about it, then didn't do it. Two years ago I wanted to do it and looked at some devices that would get it done, but they didn't seem viable. Last year I kept looking into these devices but still felt the time wasn't right. This year I was planning on cutting the cord, and still may, but I keep running into the same issues this year I have run into before. I've looked into devices and gotten the pros and cons of each. It's just a matter of doing it, but then there is also the matter that it seems so hard. A friend sent me to this subreddit. Some of this shit is like Greek to me. I have specifications to cut the cord and there is no easy way to get it done at this point without having 3-4 devices.

1. No satellite or anything that has to be placed on the house. This is my wife's only stipulation.

2. I want my Braves games and all of the college basketball games I watch. This means I need local channels AND ESPN. Some devices have one but not the other.

3. I rarely watch anything live, so I need a way to tape my shows and watch them later. If I get rid of Time Warner Cable then that means I need to find a device that tapes shows. I have found a few, but they don't seem to have the capability of the DVR I currently have.

4. I need children channels as well. The kids gotta watch something on television.

5. I still need to pay for Internet, which isn't cheap. I can find shows on premium channels online and find a way to watch those if I need to.

The problem is there isn't really a device that delivers all of this content in one package. Roku doesn't have the local channels I need, plus I have to purchase apps on Roku which would drive the price I pay even higher. Throw in having to purchase a recording device for some of the content I want to watch and getting rid of one cable box has turned into a 2-3 device affair with no guarantee it will meet my television needs.

My cable bill isn't as bad as the bill others would pay. So I don't think I have it worse than others. I simply hate Time Warner Cable and am tired of their shitty customer service. It's only going to get worse. It's already bad enough when I call their customer service line I explain what I want and the representative won't listen to me. I explained a couple months ago I do not want premium channels, wanted to cut my bill and needed a quoted price for that. What they came back with was MORE premium channels and an INCREASE in what I pay. Really? Then what followed is I was referred to a retention specialist who then decided that he can give me a deal that includes a free three month trial of EPIX with a slight decrease in monthly cost. I told him I want fewer premium channels and was told that it's actually cheaper to have more channels. Of course it is.

Finally, I bitched on Twitter and got TWC to respond and they had a representative call me. This was February 13. Unfortunately when she called I was in a meeting and when I called her back I left a message. I'm still waiting for a call back. They don't care though. They know it's not easy to cut the cord. Why call me back when there are so many other customers who they can screw over by sending a massively high bill to in an effort to get them to call and re-negotiate their cable bill? That whole thing of sending an incredibly expensive bill to a customer in an effort to get them to negotiate is the sign of a horrible business practice. I can't wait until cable companies go out of business and the public can piss on their ashes.

I looked into Roku and then would get a subscription to either Netflix or Hulu. Great. Unfortunately, what am I going to do about the sports I want to watch? Well, I could get the Slingbox for $20 and then upgrade for $5 per month. So now I have two devices and am paying for Internet. I do want to watch Braves games, so a subscription to MLBtv is required and there is a slight chance that the Braves will be blacked out in my area. Then there is the issue that I have a television in my bedroom too, which means I will need to buy two Roku's. Not a huge deal, but it's an upfront cost.

So say I have decided that I am cutting the cord and get Roku. Now I have to decide if I want Amazon Prime, Netflix, or Hulu Plus. Each has their own positive and negatives. Hulu Plus is the only one with recent seasons of shows ready to be watched a day or two after they air. Netflix has a ton of movies. Amazon Prime has a good selection of shows, plus offers free shipping on items purchased from Amazon.com. There are more decisions to be made at this point and another monthly bill that has to be paid. It's another upfront barrier to cutting the cord. Even if most of these services are month-to-month, I prefer to be in a situation where I know what service I'm buying, even on a month-to-month basis. That's not realistic in this situation.

It's not that I am lazy or don't want to cut the cable. I hate cable companies. I despise them for their greed, inability to adapt to what consumers obviously want (which is to choose the channels they get and pay for them based on what they want), and general disregard for their customers. Their customer service agents don't listen and then try to justify the jacked-up prices by explaining that they are providing NEW AND IMPROVED services! My Internet can now be faster! I don't want that. I don't want faster Internet. Mine works just fine.

So I am about to go through this song-and-dance with Time Warner Cable again. I'll probably bitch about them on Twitter and then some "retention specialist" will call me and we will try to work something out. If cutting the cord were easier for me, I would do it in a heartbeat. It's too complicated with too many unknowns at this point. I hate Time Warner Cable, but there is no "cutting the cord" option that will allow me to flip channels between local sports and ESPN. I can't find one.

I can deal with the learning curve, but cutting the cord requires making choices and sacrifices that just having cable doesn't require me to worry about. What's worse is I still have to have an Internet connection to use Roku, so I'm not totally done with the evil cable companies. I still want to cut the cord and I still am going to try and do it this year. It's so hard to wrap my mind around all the options I have. There are layers of options to get through once I have cut the cord and I don't feel technologically advanced enough to make this decision right now. I wish I could. There is always the concern that getting me to the point I want to be will push my cable bill right back up to where it was with Time Warner Cable.

One day, a company will come along and make things easier for the consumer. I can't wait to see Time Warner Cable and other companies lose even more customers when that day comes. Ten years from now the idea a cable company would jack up the price of a service in an effort to get you to call them and re-negotiate will hopefully seem as ridiculous in reality as it seems in my own head. That's the dumbest business move to make, piss off your customer in an effort to get them to stay with you? But right now, the common person will struggle to cut the cord. It requires so many decisions to be made and to further complicate the television-watching life of a family. Cable still has the consumer by the balls, but that will change once cutting the cord is made easier for the common person or more complete knowledge about the options once the cord has been cut is available. For example, if I cut the cord, these are the options I have if I like certain shows, sports, and movies. It's all still a little fuzzy now.

It's hard for me to make a decision because I feel like I don't have complete information on how to make the decision I need to make to cut the cord. I read subreddits, do Google searches to make it easier on me and I become further confused. It's all a cable conspiracy I'm sure. Suggestions to resolve my confusion or new curse words to pass along to Time Warner Cable are always welcome.