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2002-03-17 7:48 p.m.

greyarea's (long) day of singular experiences

Let me tell you about my day yesterday. It was eventful, full of "singular experiences" and stuff. I don't usually make entries out of chronological descriptions of my life, but I'm making an exception this time.

"Well, it's quite long. And I'd like you to be comfortable. It's quite modern what I do and it may feel a little strange at first but I think if you're open then you might enjoy it."

Anyway, there is some interesting stuff in here, including Ben Folds's summary of western music theory.

I got up at 9am, got dressed up, and jetted down to campus, trying to get there without killing any of the members of the horde of run for cancer people blocking my path. Yesterday was the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Spring Research Conference, and I got 10 points extra credit in my technical writing class for presenting my poster on zinc finger design there. I set up my poster and answered questions about it from 10:15 to 10:50. Got back at about 11:15 am.

At this point I rushed upstairs to where I had arranged for the karate club to practice from 10-12 and 4-6 yesterday (as well as 7-10pm Friday). We're having course right now, which happens once a year when kickass black belts from Britain come over and work with us for a week- all told about 20 hours of karate practice. Friday night Junko and I made them (the British instructors) dinner. Anyway, it was enlightening- I've had some useful clarifications about stances and punches lately...

After that I just sat around with Junko watching anime waiting for Kelly to show up with our Ben Folds tickets. He was supposed to show up at noon, but he was late because he decided to go see Resident Evil again- more on that later. Then Junko and I went out to eat at Denny's because she wanted to eat a sandwich, but not a deli-place sandwich. Usually Junko doesn't really care where we go and we end up arguing over who has to decide where we go, so when she has a specific craving I'm usually happy to oblige.

(I have a burn (1st degree) on my hand now from a 450 degree oven rack. It happened Friday night, I think.)

Then it was back to practice from 4-6pm. Practice was in the building I live in on Friday and Saturday (yesterday) because we didn't manage to get rooms on campus. So I got permission for us to use the big commons room here. That's all well and good, but it means I felt responsible for every little thing that went wrong, like people completely ignoring the signs on the door and walking right through the middle of our practice to get to the other side of the building. Oh well.

Anyway, the Ben Folds show was 50 miles north of us, with the opening act starting at 7pm. Junko and I managed to get to the place at about 7:45. The crowd was a collective dick to the opening act guy, who didn't deserve to be treated like that. There were a lot of people saying a lot of stupid things all through the night- and people talking constantly through Ben's quieter songs, like Evaporated and The Luckiest, which bugged the hell out of me. In fact, crowds around here are usually a pack of assholes at concerts, with pathetically annoying concepts of what is "cool-" like the frat boys who obviously take "Rockin' the Suburbs" literally (or the people with the lensless glasses at the Weezer concert). I had thought that I perhaps hate concerts in general, but the Abbotts say California crowds are a lot better than crowds here, so maybe I just hate concerts here (having never really been to one anywhere else).

And I must clarify that I don't hate EVERYONE at these concerts, just the loud or obvious 30-40% of them who are jackasses.

Anyway, Ben was awesome. It was just him and a piano. Junko and I started out at the back, but with a little persistence managed to be virtually at the front with a perfect view of everything by the encore. (One thing I've noticed about people near the back of the crush at general admission shows (part of my ongoing observations of concert crowd psychology)- it's like a lobster trap. There's two basic attitudes back there- those who are trying unsuccessfully to push forward, and those who have given up trying to get any closer but sure as hell aren't about to let anyone else get up either.) Anyway, it was fun because Ben got the crowd to do the extra parts on the songs- sometimes before the song he would even break down a chord and have each part practice their note before having everyone sing together, and then he'd play the song. It was cool. In his encore he did a slow, minor key version of "Song for the Dumped," complete with Darren's lost lyrics, "you fucking whore." He said that since it's a sad song, it really should have been written in a minor key, so that's the way he performed it. It was really funny. Anyway, he prefaced it with the following discussion, which I have entitled, "Music Theory According to Ben Folds and as Filtered Through My Memory: A Discussion Tangetially Related to the Fact That 'Song For the Dumped' Should Really be in Minor Key-" [Sorry- I've been reading a lot of research articles lately.]

[All through this he played examples of what he was talking about- I guess it's probably more amusing if you know what a diminished or augmented chord is, or what the lydian mode is, but..]

"Music theory, for those of you who don't already know, is a bunch of rules of music, kind of like the Ten Commandments. You've got your major keys, which are happy... and your minor keys, which are sad. Diminished chords are the going down to hell chords, and augmented chords are going up to heaven. Augmented chords are also spacey chords. [This led to a discussion of how he would do it if he wrote soundtrack music, including "walking around the dark house," "opening the door," and "being chased by the man" music, among others.] Lydian is romantic- walking through fields and shit. Another thing about minor keys- they sound very legitimate, so if you want a career in music, write something in a minor key."

Ben is awesome. His performance was awesome. I can't say enough good things about him.

After the concert was over, I saw a small group of people huddled around one guy who was writing a letter. I kind of looked over/listened in and saw/heard this: "Dear Ben, We are a band called 'Sweet Haven.' We are writing a letter to you to tell you that you will be receiving a demo tape..." I left then. Poor, stupid bastards.

After the show Kelly and Oliver wanted to go see Resident Evil again- I think it was their third or fourth time. I've played those games a little before, so I knew what I was getting into, but... I haven't been freaked out by a movie like that since I was a little kid. Most of the so-called horror movies I've seen in the last decade haven't really been scary at all (too often "gory" is mistaken for "scary"), but this one was really well done. I'm glad I saw it, but I don't ever want to see it again, and I didn't really enjoy myself. The characters weren't too interesting, it was a little too gory for my tastes, and it was not a little disturbing. It screwed me up, man. Kelly seems to think it's a life affirming movie. ... Even though everyone but Milla Jovovich dies (is that a spoiler? aw, how the hell did you think it would end?). Anyway, we came out of the movie theater into an empty parking lot in the middle of a blizzard, and it was spooky- I was ready to kill anything that might present itself as a threat, especially if it was a zombie. I was a touch jumpy, yeah. I probably would have dreamed about zombies all night if "Fun With Blizzard Driving" hadn't distracted me.

Anyway, this snow storm was one of the worst I've ever seen. Winter weather has a tendency to be at its worst in December and March around here- January and February are often pretty mild. Anyway, we (Junko and I) tried out the freeway, but visibility being somewhere around 10 feet or less with gusting wind, we pulled off and waited at a Denny's right off the exit for the storm to die down again. So we ended up eating at Denny's twice in one day.

This Denny's looked and felt like a fifties diner, and most of the walls (about two thirds of the perimeter) were just big windows looking out into a white blizzard void where nothing solid could be made out- this lent an eery Twilight Zone kind of feel to the whole place. And then as we came inside there was this guy outside smoking. He was probably in his fifties, with a big ol' pot belly but really not a very big guy, wearing a navy blue t-shirt and shorts of the same color and material as the t-shirt (now that I think of it, he kind of reminded me of Stephen Root's character in Office Space- not as big, but he moved the same way and had the same look in his eyes). He stared at me as I came in. We sat down, and he came back in and sat in a chair at the counter near us and stared at me. I stared back at him until he turned away. Then he moved to another chair at the counter, and stared at me again. I again turned to stare him down again with a decidedly non-friendly expression on my face until he turned away. Then he moved to the booth behind me, and I turned sideways so I could keep an eye on him. I don't think he was staring directly at me this time, but he was watching me out of the corner of his eye. Then he got up and moved to a booth behind Junko and sat there for a while doing the same thing. Then finally he moved to the other side of the restaurant and ordered some food. He went out and had another smoke, came back in and ate his food. When we could see across the street again we decided it was time to go, and Disturbing Old Guy came out and had a third smoke and stared at me while I got all the snow off our car. I don't know if he was retarded or crazy or homosexual or some combination of the above, but... My fight or flight mechanism was already cranked way up from Resident Evil and the atmosphere of that restaurant wasn't doing anything to turn it back down, so I was totally ready to tear into him, should it have come to that. Anyway, to all the pretty young women out there who have been ogled by an if-flesh-could-crawl-my-skin-would-fall-from-off-my-bones-and-run-away-from-here old man, I feel your pain.

Back on the freeway, the roads were bad, but the snow stopped after a while. But then it started again. It didn't get as bad as it was when we left the theater, but it was pretty bad. There weren't really any good places to stop, so we just kept at it. I didn't tell Junko this, but it was by far the worst conditions I've ever driven under. Visibility was really poor at times and the interstate was covered with snow, making it hard to make out the road and its curves. Sometimes the snow would blow at a weird angle across the windshield in a way that made me dizzy and nauseous. At one point Junko said something like- "In Idaho you probably get storms like this all the time and you just drive anyway, right?" The real answer to that question would be a resounding "Hell no!" but I didn't want to worry her so I just said, "Yeah." (It's like in So I Married an Axe Murderer when the guy's in that little Cessna plane with a pilot flying through a storm at night, and he asks the pilot, "You've done this before, right?" and the pilot says, "Oh yeah, I do this all the time! ... I've never done it at night before.") Anyway, I got home about 4:30am (we left the theater about 2am- the drive up earlier in the evening took 45 minutes). Last night I also experienced for the first time the extreme irritability of a driver driving in severe weather, which I remember very well from winter trips with my mother to Montana for swim meets when I was younger. Anyway, it's another fun life experience under my belt...

If you read all that, I love you.

i'm gonna change to a rattlesnake,