Sunday, February 28, 2010

I can’t find the words to say. They’re overdue. I traveled half the world to say you are my Muse.

Only one band has ever made me a violent. I don’t mosh at concerts and I’m not about to get in a passionate argument about Jim Morrison’s impact on rock and roll. I may have 3,422 songs on Itunes (add 14 to that when I import the best of Alphaville album), but I’d say I’m mostly a casual music fan except for one band.

In junior year, I punched my dorm room wall because of Muse.

This British alt rock band infuriated me. It was an anger I had never felt before and it was all because they cancelled their concert at the Glens Falls Civic Center, about five minutes from where my parents live. The tickets, dated for some day March 2007, rested on my desk and I would have ripped them up if they weren’t needed for the refund.

I adore Muse. I love them. Their music, like no other band, is perfection to my ears. Their fusion of electronica, face-melting riffs, classical music and similar-but-more-coherent-than-Radiohead vocals can make me head bang, listen contemplatively and sing along all at once. I don’t even care the lead singer, Matthew Bellamy, believes 9/11 was a conspiracy perpetrated by the U.S. government. When you’re music is that good you can believe whatever the hell you want.

Muse and I have an lengthy, mostly negative, history. They cancelled the Glens Falls concert after all the roadies came down with a nasty bout of (alleged) food poisoning in 2007. In December 2007, they cancelled another concert that I was planning to see while studying in Bangkok. One time, however, the show went on. It was heavenly. It was delightful. I know it’s clich├ęd, but it was unforgettable. It was also in Poland and I was jetlagged out of my mind.

I made it into the Gdynia, on the outskirts of the Baltic city G’Dansk on June 30. It was day two of the Heineken Open’er Fest and I met up with a trio of British guys also there for the show inside the hostel. We arrived too late to see Groove Armada and got there just as the Beastie Boys were on the stage. The Beasties, one of my all-time favorite groups since about second grade, were doing their thing I didn’t even care. I just wanted Muse to play.

Everything was a blur when Muse went on and I don’t think it was because I was drinking heavily. I was euphoric from the opening song (Time is Running Out, I think) to the last (Knights of Cydonia). I have a journal somewhere which documents the night in detail. I can't seem to find it.

I stayed up for 24 more hours after Muse finished up at about 1 a.m. The adrenaline was flowing as the guys and I went to the nearby club until 6 a.m. I was covered in mud when we made it back to the hostel. I only had time to shower until I had to catch my train. I stayed up for the entire five hour ride, although not by choice. The seats were crowded and as soon as I’d nod off, I’d accidentally lean over on the lady next to me. She was not amused and glared often.

I haven’t been to a concert as good since then, but as much as I love Muse, I’m tapering my expectations for next Friday. The seats, while decent, can’t be better than being on the ground level. I already lost my Muse virginity, so the second time probably won’t be such a religious experience. While I’m excited to see them, it’s not the same giddiness I felt the first time. Still, maybe it’ll be better than that night in Poland. All I know is that the beer ($2 in Poland) won’t be quite as cheap in the Garden.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Revenge of the Nerds


It didn’t take too long. The nerds have taken over.

When I was young, most kids had a Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis or just the plain old Nintendo. They were fun, we thought, but most people outgrew them as they grew older. Video games were no longer that cool. Sure, they were popular. Loads of people upgraded to the PlayStation and later systems, but it wasn’t something you talked about in public. It wasn’t something you’d see celebrities doing unless you were watching Fred Savage in The Wizard.

My peers loved watching the X-Men and Batman cartoons on Saturday morning, though the love affair didn’t last for most. Comic books, after all, weren’t all that cool. The same could be said about sci-fi films. The Star Wars series (both new and old movies) transcended gender and age barriers, but god forbid you were one of those losers that watched Star Trek or any other television show.

Now, video games are as mainstream as they can possibly be, with games like Madden and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare have become the new pastime for kids. Non-traditional gamers play the Wii. You can see that any senior home.  Comic book movies – even ultraviolent “niche” ones like Sin City make tons of money. The Dark Knight, a faithful representation of the absolute best Batman can be, is the third highest-grossing film of all time. Last year, one of the biggest movies was a reboot of the Star Trek franchise featured an aged, wrinkly Leonard Nimoy telling audiences to “live long and prosper.” Just this month, Titanic was overthrown as the highest-grossing film of all time. The new king, Avatar, is about a race of blue creatures who have sex onscreen. It was almost too nerdy for me.

I have to give credit to my best friend Wadleigh for first noticing just how damn cool it is to be a nerd these days. It’s a golden age for sci-fi nerds who are into video games and comic books. I was just years ahead of the curve.

As I was flipping through comic books in elementary school, I never would have guessed that my beloved Wolverine and Spider-Man would become mainstream icons to old people, young people, girls, boys and all the other demographics. It’s gotten to the point where I’m often out-geeked by others when it comes to video games. I’m the senior staff writer at a gaming Web site, yet my nerdom doesn’t hold a candle to the millions of fanatical World of Warcraft players throughout the world.

Still, I know I’m one of them. At this point of my life, the thought of episodes of Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica waiting for me at home is more appealing than the thought of a wife, kids and hot dinner. Wait – let me rephrase something. I’m not one of them. I’m one of us. All of us.

The nerds have taken over.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Asia: The Trilogy is Complete

As much as I want to move/report/teach in Southeast Asia, I know it’s not going to be a blissful paradise free of worry, hassle and stress. Most of the time it will be the opposite. There are a number of things that will piss me off or make me homesick. Here are just a few of them.

1. I’m going to be a hairy beast. Being white with blonde hair and blue eyes has a lot of advantages (especially when out in da club), but in general, my height makes me a freak, my body hair makes me a monster and no matter how thin I am I will likely be considered fat compared to the locals.

As I’ve already learned, being the center of attention is fun for a while but it quickly grows old. There are times I just want to blend in and be ignored and that could never happen. My unique features also make me a target. If I’m walking anywhere, taxi drivers will hassle me. If I’m perusing a market, I will be hollered at and given a huge mark-up on anything I want to buy. Even the aggressive hookers are annoying.

2. I’m not sure where I want to live most, but if it’s in a city then the pollution will most likely be vile. Bangkok was in a perpetual haze that put Los Angeles to shame. Bottled water is a must. God save the poor children who swim in the rivers around there. The monstrous monitor lizards are reason enough not to dive in, but the gross amount of pollution also seals the deal. There are beautiful blue skies and undeveloped beaches to be had throughout Asia. The odds of finding a job near such things are unlikely.

3. I think I’d be a good teacher and I really enjoy kids, but from what I read a lot of schools are absolutely hellish. Spoiled rich kids don’t listen to anything. Students are expected by administrators and their paying parents to receive passing marks regardless of how they act in class. There are good batches of kids, no doubt, but the constant battle for order seems like it can be tiresome. This coupled with the hassles I might get outside of the class room isn’t too appealing.

4. I would miss my mom, my dad, my grandparents, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins and, of course, my friends. I know my best friends would come visit me. My parents conceivably could do the same. If my brother moves to China as he intends to do we could meet halfway (maybe trek through Tiger Leaping Gorge in southern China or some surfing in Vietnam). Such moments would be rare. They might not happen at all. I will be a stranger in a strange land and that can be pretty depressing since I love my family so much.

5. This one is obvious and expected, but the language barrier will be tough. Since my Ultimate Goal in Life © is to be a worldly international reporter, this can be problematic. As I learned in Poland, spending a lot of time in rural areas where English is rarely spoken is a sure-fire recipe for isolation. Any translators out there?

6. I’ll definitely miss some foods because no matter where you go outside of America it’s hard to find a perfect hamburger. This isn’t a huge problem, but the other piece of Americana I’ll miss is football. Satellite TV makes it possible for a couple games to be aired no matter where you are, but it’s not just watching the Giants that I love/hate so dearly. It’s the lazy Sundays with friends where we chill out, drink beer and eat wings that I’ll miss the most. Watching games early Monday morning just isn’t the same experience. I found that out when I was in Thailand watching the Giants play (and lose) at 5 a.m.

So my life won’t be perfect. It will be fun, however. And sweaty.