Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ba-con by the numbers

Last weekend, people headed to Palatine and Addison, IL to see my friends Luke and Sara get married. While some of us were eating dinner on Friday night, we were saying this is like a convention and though I proposed Wedding Con 2, people decided to call this weekend Ba-con due to the groom's fondness for the product.

As I do, I decided to list things that happened last weekend in number form trying to keep things in cronological order:

3.05 - distance in miles from my house to hotel (shortest trip by far)
14.14 - distance in miles from O'Hare Airport to hotel
13.46 - distance in miles from hotel to church
551.49 - distance in miles of longest drive from home to hotel
1,543 - distance in air miles of longest trip to O'Hare
3 - number of Chicago Italian beef sandwiches Chris Mezzolesta had always wanting to try it
13 - age in days of youngest person when things started on Friday night
5 - people impressed that I made a logo for the Rock Band group "I want TILE!" using 25 squares to spell the word TILE.
75 - total number of people there
13 - states they call home (FL, IL, IN, IA, MA, MI, MN, MO, NY, NC, TN, VA, WI)
7 - comedy/filk music artists
18 - people who have at least a solo line in a recorded song
15 - people who attended "bachelor party" Friday night at Dave and Busters
2:21.17 and 3:07.76 - My best times on the easy and moderate course on the Daytona USA game (best times on any of the 8 machines in game)
14 - Highest level Luke reached on original Mario Brothers Game
2.07 - fastest time in seconds for Chris Mezzolesta to correctly answer 5 of 5 questions in trivia game
382 - consecutive notes hit in song on Guitar Hero Arcade by DJ Tommy Tooney
3,000 - points in tickets converted by my wife for four teddy bears, a pencil box, pen, pencil sharpener, and a small box of Nerds candy (note: some points were already on card when she got there)
2 - people on each side of bridal party
5 - people who posted pictures of the ceremony or reception while it was happening
10 - people who were thinking about the cello notes during Pachabel's Canon in D Major while it was being played at wedding.
55 - pounds the much slimmer ShoEboX lost this year
0 - people who shouted "Tile", "ok" or something similar during wedding since Sara demanded no one do that during the wedding ceremony
20 - people who shouted "TILE!" right after bride and groom left getting it out of their system
37 - age of youngest person of the two who conspired to change the "just married" letters on back of car to read "jist a murder"
8 - number of tables with a three sided centerpiece consisting of a movie or tv show poster, an additional poster or collection of material and a drawing of the bride and groom in the movie or show. (2 more were made but not needed)
10 - number of people who cringed when Danger Woman appeared in the multi person greeting played for the happy couple where she told Luke he should call her giving her phone number
8 - number of wedding photos of people related to bride or groom on display
4 - people who belly danced at start of reception (including bride)
12 - lit candles on top of one piece worn on one dancer's head
1 - candle at very top of piece not lit to make sure the paper lanterns hanging from ceiling were not accidentally set on fire
3 - songs groom sang during reception
50 - times I have seen Luke perform "Just a Gigolo" or his parody "Just Mister Londo"
200 - times Luke's brother said he saw Luke perform that song
12 - people who were still in hall 2 hours after reception ended
1 - little girl who opened a door that was closed and then locked herself in the basement traumatized by the sight of something neither her no anyone else should ever see
27 - people who attended party the following day at couple's house to open gifts and eat leftover food
1 - Mc Donald's bathroom "Culverized" by Rob Balder
5 - comedy music artists who though tired perked right up when someone suggested they write and record a song
4 - games Josh and I played while they were writing and recording said song
8 - people who ate at the "dead dog" dinner at nearby place on Sunday night
8 - different people I drove sometime during the weekend
203 - total miles driven

Monday, September 20, 2010

the music I have seen

Last July, I showed the picture of me recording Luke Sienkowki proposing to Sara Trice and this weekend they get married.

Since I first met Luke at Alcon 2000, I have had the opportunity to see many musical performances by many talented people over the years and as appreciation of the work he has done on and off stage, am listing the most memorable ones. (Note: I am not including performances by Weird AL since I would have seen his shows whether or not I met Luke or got involved in the Dementia community. The ones listed are only cover those I saw because of Luke)

I am going to put them in cronological order:

Windycon masquerade. November 2003: As has has done at Gencon for years, Luke performed entertainment while the judges decided who won. He always adds extra backing tracks to his show CD just in case he needs more time than given. This time, the judges could not make up their mind and he was on stage for over 90 minutes instead of the 20 he was expected. I had to rush his back up CD of music to the person playing it and then with the playlist in my hand tell him what number since I could tell what he was going to play by either the audience request or his hint. Now with his background music on a portable device, that would not happen again but the chaos that happened on stage along with how well he handled it caused the show to make my list. If I ever write the book about my experiences with music and fandom, that night would be the first chapter.

The Nick Atoms. March 2004: Luke told people you have to come to a convention called Marscon located in Bloomington, MN. 7 of us packed into a van and we headed there. I was going to the parties but decided to listen to their show. I was amazed by their unique sound and style and though they have gone their seperate ways now, appreciated what they had.

Da Vinci's Notebook. March 2004: I heard some of their music played on the trip to Marscon but was not impressed. I was still talked by Luke into driving to Madison Wisconsin the following weekend to see them on their farewell tour. From the first song, I was mesmorized by how well they performed together with no instruments. Upon seeing two of them a couple of years later as a different act, I mentioned that show and they both wished that someone was recording it.

Penguicon filk circle. April 2004: Filk circles are a staple of most science fiction conventions and they consist of people sitting in a room and in turn performing a song. Some are funny, some are serious. Most of the time when this is happening, I would rather be in one of the party rooms. This one was different as by 2 AM it consisted of comedy music artists rather than filkers. In turn they each performed a song to the dozen or so people watching. The finale was when ShoEboX from the group Worm Quartet decided to perform a brand new song which is his attempt to write the most evil song every written. The room was broken into three groups and each had a word to chant on cue. The song performed "What Your Parents Think (all your music sounds like)" is still enjoyed by everyone who listens to it and many people, including me, move to a specific part of the room when they realize it is time for that song so they can chant their favorite evil word.

Sudden Death. April 2004: On the weekend Weird Al's parents died from Carbon Monoxide poisoning, there was a small convention in the Chicago area. I had heard Sudden Death perform a couple of times before most notably to the backs of people who were in line to get an autograph from Weird AL and his wife Suzanne in 2002. With his projector, his show made fans of many there. He got a rare standing ovation by other artists about his song concerning work meetings. The folowing year he had the number one song on the Dr Demento show and in 2007, had numbers 1,2, and 4 and his album was considered for a Grammy.

Dragon*con masquerade September 2005: In early 2005, Luke started work on a special song to perform with Carrie and she could not wait for me to hear it once it was done. When she accidentally told me the name "Grease Wars" a month before it was finished I knew exactly what it was going to be; a series of song parodies from Grease telling the story of Star Wars episode 4, A New Hope. When I first saw it performed, I knew it was special. After hearing it many times in 5 different states, it was time for Dragon*con. They were able to get a spot in the masquerade and since I was filming it for them, I was able to join the room of over 5,000 people hoping they would react to the song the same way I did. The reaction was so positive, he must have sold over 150 CDs that night after the masquerade ended and more during it by people who saw it on tv and headed to his table to get the song now.

Gencon August 2006: Though Luke was the halftime entertainment at the Gencon masquerade for many years, he only in recent years also got time to perform regular shows there. Devo Spice and ShoEboX joined Luke and Carrie for 3 hours of total mayhem on stage.

Jonathan Coulton October 2007: The two members of Da Vinci's notebook who still wanted to do music formed a group called Paul and Storm. On a rainy Monday night, I drove to the House of Blues to see Paul and Storm perform in the upstairs bar and not the main stage. Before them was a stoic, bearded performer sitting on a chair playing a guitar and singng in a calm tone. I was aptiently waiting for Paul and Storm but while talking to the person at Coulton's merch table to find out more about him I heard a lyric that got my attention, "Kennesaw Mountain Landis was a bad mother fucker". Knowing who he was I stopped talking and moved toward the stage to listen to the rest of his set. After finishing with "Re:Your Brains" and "First of May" (done with Paul and Storm) I was back at the merch table to get two CDs. The next time I saw both groups perform Paul and Storm was first and with the popularity of Portal and the song "Still Alive" they played to overflow houses and had to move to two larger venues to accomidate everyone who wanted to see them.

Paul and Storm March 2008: After a long time, Luke finally got Paul and Storm to appear at Marscon. Half way through the show, they stopped the show to take a phone call from Jonathan Coulton on stage. Though they knew it was going to be over the time allowed, they had to perform their final song "The Captain's Wife's Lament". As expected with the crowd, everything went well over the top, and by the time they were done one person was laughing so hard he could barely breathe.

Luke and Carrie Gencon 2010: The Gencon audience for Luke's show has always been the best con one that does not feature a lot of hardcore fans. Since Luke's wedding plans made it too difficult for him to make a complete new album, he did not need to play all new songs but decided to play material from his past as well as present material with Carrie who also played new material. In one song, the crowd, without having heard it before, was able to chant Wil Wheaton as the line before it led people to that rhyme. When the introduction to Grease Wars played (a song they had not performed in almost two years at that time) started, the reaction from the crowd gave me chills and though the song has become redundant for me as I have heard it over 250 times and seen it performed 45 times live, it was awesome to see it done.

While doing this, two other performances which are personally special to me need to me mentioned:

Rush June 2008: Yes, the group with Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeton and Neil Pert. Sara (who has a picture with her siblings and Geddy Lee on her wall) is able to get comp tickets and that year, she asked me to go with her. Sitting on the floor of the United Center ten rows from the stage is something I will never forget. I can't believe they have never even been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Carrie Dahlby March 2010: In 2007 Carrie wanted to parody the Eminem song he did with his daughter and used my kid for that role. Though she had performed on stage with my kid before, it was special to see them on stage at Marscon.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Over Labor Day weekend, tens of thousands of fans flocked to downtown Atlanta for Dragon*Con for their annual convention. Being large enough to cover multiple hotels, they have many top notch media guests from movies, tv, and writing. In the years I have been there, I have seen people from Firefly/Serenity, Buffy, and Mythbusters, along with Mickey Dolenz, Adam West, Eric Estrada, the Iron Sheik and cartoon voice actors Billy West and Roger Bumpass.

Since Dragon*con has grown over the past couple of years, they decided to remove the comedy music track as it did not draw enough guests to their liking. Therefore, making that trip to Atlanta is no longer as desirable as it used to be.

In 2007, Notre Dame played Georgia Tech in the Georgia Dome on Labor Day Saturday to a full house. After seeing that, Chick-Fil-A, which is headquartered in Atlanta, decided to sponsor a Labor Day Saturday game in the Georgia Dome giving almost $2 million each to the two schools who sent teams there.

This year Louisiana State played North Carolina. Each school sold 31,000 tickets. Fans flocked to Atlanta to see the game. Many of them found out about Dragon*con and reserved rooms at the convention hotels at the Dragon*con rate stating they were attending it. Others decided to hang out there and watch the geeks. It got overcrowded and crazy fast. The hotels had to eventually check for badges before people were allowed into the hotel and that created a problem since some hotel attendees were there for the game.

The chat in the channel I hang out this week focused on this and the fact that Dragon*con needs to follow the lead of Gencon and Convergence by not allowing hotel reservations to people unless they have purchased membership at the con.

However the chat turned towards anger to the football fans and being one, I took offense to some of what was said especially when I won't be seeing much of the opening weekend of the NFL season or week 3.

This made me think of the song idea I had a few years ago comparing my life in the mundane world to that in fandom but never really got it past the development stage.

Here is a chart of some of them:

I do have a bad habit of exploiting the differences I have with people rather than the similarities no matter which group I am with. I need to work on that.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Family Circus style driving part 9

At the risk of this blog turning into "ignorant things done by the person stupid enough to marry me", I am posting this. Though it involves driving a longer than normal route, it really is unlike the others I posted.

About 5PM six years ago, I had to drive north to get my four year old daughter from day care. On the way back, I saw a bunch of smoke around where my house was and got really scared when the police blocked the street where I live. I drove around, parked on the street and ran carrying my daughter to where the fire was. It turned out that the house across the parking lot, 75 feet from mine, was on fire. Sad, but relieved, I took the kid inside as the fire truck pulled into the lot.

About 45 minutes later my wife rang the front door bell and I could tell she was upset. She said she got a ticket. I asked her what happened. She stated she had to drive around the block because the police would not let her on our street and when she got to the corner, they tried to block her again and after she drove through it, they gave her a ticket.

When I explained to her that the house across the parking lot was on fire and the lot is blocked so the fire truck can get there, she did not care. All she cared about was parking her car in her spot behind the house and now she has to leave the house again to move her car.

Here is the map:

Though the house was not completely destroyed, it took about a year of repairs for it to once again be habitable.