Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Flaming Sophomore

I was a bit of a pyromaniac when I was in High School.

Not the “I’m going to burn down my house because it would be prettier on fire” kind of pyromaniac. I was smart enough to know that while the house would be warmer during the fire, it would eventually get cold when I had to start sleeping outside. Or in prison for arson. I just liked to light inconsequential things on fire. Sticks, paper, bugs, my hands… Things that no one would miss.

I was pretty good at it too. I never accidentally caught something I didn’t intend to on fire. If the fire spread, there was definite thought put into it. Except for the time that I lit myself on fire after my first assembly as a new sophomore on the theatre crew.

Someone had decided that the assembly’s theme was going to be The Wizard of Oz. Something to do with how Dorothy made it back home and then had a Homecoming dance. I wasn’t really paying attention to the story because, let’s face it, every high school assembly is the same, regardless of plot. I’m actually somewhat ashamed that our school tried to put a plot on a damned assembly in the first place.

I was very excited for the tornado scene. We obviously couldn’t bring an actual tornado inside, but laws of physics be damned, this was a theatre! We would find a way!

Our solution, in hindsight, was somewhat ill-conceived. It consisted of a spinning tube of fire. Not exaggerating. Fire, spinning, tube.

To elaborate, the mechanism was a wooden box with a motor inside of it. On top, attached to the motor, was a metal bowl, about 3 inches in diameter and 2 inches deep. There was also about 3 feet of chicken wire surrounding the bowl.

To get the effect, we would fill the bowl halfway with lighter fluid, drop a match to ignite it, and then start the motor. The spinning caused the fire to rise up in a tube-like shape.

Trusting high school students with this thing? That’s just bad judgment if you ask me.

The morning of the assembly was the first time we had a chance to practice with the contraption. After putting it together and depositing the lighter fluid, we decided to give it a spin without igniting it. Turns out that was a good idea, because if we had lit it, all of the curtains on the stage would be gone now.

As the junior member of the backstage crew, it was my responsibility to be in the dangerous position of flipping the switch. Once I had done so, the bowl containing the lighter fluid came off balance and tipped on its side. Combined with the spinning motion, everything within three feet, which consisted of me and the curtains, got soaked. It smelled fantastic.

We figured out how to work the thing without this happening again, but I didn’t have time to change out of my increasingly flammable clothes before curtains rose. Everything went off without a hitch, except for the fact that no one could tell that the flaming tornado of death was supposed to be a tornado. All that work and no one appreciated it? Yep, that’s a normal day for a techie.

After everything wrapped up and the theatre cleared, the senior stagehand told me that we needed to “stick around and clean up.” This, of course, was code for “playing with fire.” My day was officially made.

Playing with the spinning fire toy got boring after a few cycles, so I suggested one of my favorite fire games: cover my hand with hairspray or any other rubbing alcohol-based product, and light it on fire. Both of us being short-haired males, we didn’t have readily-available hairspray. The senior, being the wise, learned pyromaniac that I thought he was, suggested using the plentiful supply of lighter fluid instead.

Just so you know, the human skin absorbs lighter fluid a lot faster than rubbing alcohol. Due to that, my hand was stubbornly staying unlit. “Well, that sucks,” I said to the senior.

“I know just the thing! Let’s soak a Kleenex in lighter fluid, and use that as a wick to light your hand!”

“Why, that’s a superb idea! I assume you know what you’re talking about because you’re older than me and thus have more experience lighting things on fire!”

That wasn’t the exact conversation, but it’s close enough for my purposes.

Let this be a lesson to all of you aspiring pyromaniacs or theatre students: Just because someone has been lighting things on fire longer than you, it doesn’t mean that they know the best way to do so.

The Kleenex just sat there on my hand, burning. It was a rather uncomfortable feeling. I decided that I didn’t like it anymore, and that it wasn’t going to work. Logically, the best thing to do would be to use my other hand to lift it off of my hand and throw it into a metal container.

As is usually the case with 15 year-olds, my logic was faulty. In order to lift the Kleenex, I had to grab the corner opposite of the fire, lest my fingers get burned. Then, gravity decided that this was not going to be its day off, so the end of the Kleenex that I wasn’t holding got pulled downwards, placing the fiery end lower than the rest.

Time for a physics lesson that I could have done with remembering that day: Heat, and thus fire, rises. Fire going towards something that is soaked in a flammable liquid generally results in said item being on fire. Fairly quickly, I might add.

Survival instinct kicked in, and I dropped it. Makes sense, right? If you don’t want to be lit on fire, don’t hold a flaming Kleenex. Then I made a realization check, and decided that a flaming tissue on the stage of the high school auditorium would probably be a bad thing.

I stomped on the infernal tissue that was threatening my stage. Rather than be snuffed by my valiant efforts, it clung to the bottom of my shoe. Flames were licking the side of my pants as I started to riverdance to try and extinguish them.

I remembered something important at this moment: My clothes were covered in lighter fluid from the earlier mishap.

My pants went up in flames.

I started running to try and get away from the fire, but sadly enough, my pants were kind of attached to me at the time. I started river dancing again, thinking that if I stomped out the tissue, the rest of the flames would go out as well. I even went as far as to try and blow it out like a birthday candle. My birthday wish? To not be on fire anymore!

Eventually, my kindergarten training came back. I stopped what I was doing, fell to the floor like a rag doll, and rolled from one end of the stage to the other as fast as I could. My epic battle was over in a move that was as clich├ęd as how Obi-Wan defeated Annakin (High ground? Really?).

I regained my senses, and realized that there was someone laughing hysterically. The senior stagehand had been sitting on his little stool the whole time, laughing. I didn’t think it was funny at first, but as I replayed the scene in my mind, I couldn’t help but join the laughter.

We finally caught our breath, and another friend walked onto the stage. She asked us, “What’s so funny?”

“James just set himself on fire!”

“Do it again! I have a camera!”

So I did it again.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My head hurts...

The last two nights have been pretty awful for me. I take my ambien at about 11:00 - 11:30. On Monday night/ Tuesday morning, I woke up at 2:00, 4:00, 6:00, and finally at 7:30. Tuesday night/ this morning, I only woke up at 4:30, 6:00, and then 8:30, but when I woke up that first time, I was up for nearly half an hour trying to fall back to sleep.

The whole point of ambien is that I'll fall asleep quickly and stay asleep all night. It worked fantastically the first two weeks. The last two nights, only one half of the equation has been completed. Which, as we all learned from middle school algebra, makes babies cry.

So, after two weeks of knowing what it feels like to be rested, I'm back to my normal pattern. Which makes my head hurt.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I'm baaaack!

What's this? A new post? It can't be!

I know that I said that I was going to switch to be a music reviewer, but that didn't work out with the moving and my short attention span, so I'm just going to go back to posting whatever I feel like. This may or may not include some of my thoughts about music in the future.

I've decided that I have a bit of a problem. I started rewatching Gilmore Girls on Saturday, starting with the pilot episode. I have already made it to disc 3 of Season 2. I really need to find a life... Which, when combined with the fact that I never have time for anything, makes me wonder how I still don't have one.

I stopped using my G1 the other day and switched back to my old Samsung Blast. The G1's battery wouldn't even last for an eight hour shift at work before dying, and it ran as slow as a two legged dog that was covered in molasses. And frozen. And had a two ton weight tied to its back leg. (In my mental image, the dog's two legs are on the same side rather than both on the front or back. Makes him slower that way.)

It took that phone a full minute from the time that a text message to display on my phone before it would vibrate and ring to say that I had a new text. And then, as I was typing my response, the letters being displayed were between 16 and 10 letters behind what I was typing. I would sit there for another thirty seconds after I had typed the message before the phone would show my reply. And heaven forbid I make a typo and have to go back and fix it!

Anyhow, the entire reason that I started using the G1 was that my Blast had inexplicably stopped working about a year or so ago. Any time I would turn it on, none of the buttons would work. I think it was from a mishap with vodka being spilled on it, but I have no definitive proof of this.

Now that the G1 is crapping out on me, this phone is working perfectly fine. Odd how life works like that, eh? (Yay for Canadian accent! Only, you can't really hear that...)

Well, it is time for me to get ready for work, so this is where the post ends for now.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Delay

I know I said I'd have my first album review up by the weekend, and obviously I have failed on that count. I had a busy weekend, and by the time Sunday rolled around, I was so tired that I couldn't concentrate on the project. I did try though!

It won't be posted this week either, as I am going to be busy moving and whatnot. If I am able to, I will post it on Sunday, but I make no promises.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Paradigm Shift

So even though my blog is still new (this is the eighth post), I feel that it is time for me to shift the focus of the blog. From here on out, the focus will be on music, and particularly concerts. The random ramblings are more an item for Facebook status updates.

I don't have anything prepared to post at this moment, but expect to see a more formalized review of the 30 Seconds to Mars concert, and in the future, album reviews. My goal for this week will be to purchase a CD that I normally wouldn't purchase, and post an objective review of it. What this CD will be, I don't know yet. Most of the CD purchases I make are bands that I am already a fan of, so I plan on eventually reviewing a band that I don't like. The first project will probably be music that I haven't heard yet.

If you're a fan of my ramblings, I apologize. It has mostly been a way for me to clear my head at night, which I am steadily becoming less dependent on. Hence the Facebook status updates.

Also, as a last side note for the last post that is non-music related, I made the first steps towards becoming a college student today. I am in contact with an enrollment counselor at University of Phoenix, who has been a great help thus far. Right now, the only obstacle is financing, which I will hopefully be able to tackle. The goal will be to begin my classes by the first week of June, if not the last week of May.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

30 Seconds to Mars 05/08/10

Last night, I saw one of my favorite bands for the fourth time. It was the best performance of theirs I have seen yet! But we'll get to that. First, my review of the opening acts.

One of my favorite aspects of the concert as a whole was that there had been a competition among high school students with bands. The top 3 bands would win a chance to perform a number as part of the opening for 30 STM. Jared and the guys were even the ones to judge the competition and decided who would be performing.

I don't remember the names of the kids' bands, but each of them did a fantastic job! It made me feel significantly inferior as a former musician to have 15 and 16 year old students playing that well for my entertainment. Way to go guys! Keep it up!

The first major band to play was Neon Trees. I'm not sure how to classify their music, not because it's original, but because I'm not normally into that style. It was kind of a punky-dancey-weirdness... We're gonna go with dance-punk.

As I said, I'm not normally into that kind of music, and would probably look for something else to listen to if I heard them on the radio. But there's something about a live performance that just makes me want to move with the band!

They really did perform quite well, and kept the crowd engaged. They had a pretty long set for an opening band, but so did the second band. And so did 30STM. But enough about those other bands. I was entertained, even though the Provo-based lead singer had some very.... Eclectic... Dance moves. Much more entertaining than that other Provo band that got famous.

The next band was MuteMath. Again, not really into their style of music for the most part. It was some sort of electronic-rock hybrid. For the most part, I was almost bored during their performance. They did well, it just wasn't the kind of music that gets a crowd moving.

Until their last song, that is. It was a much more upbeat, move your body, get crazy kind of song than the rest of their set. And then, when things were going nuts, the singer started jumping on his piano and playing with his face, knees, feet. The guy was doing front handsprings off of it!!

Then there was the drummer. Oh, the drummer. They gave him a solo, but not your average solo. He pulled the floor tom over to the piano, while the guitarist filled in on the keyboard and the singer and bassist took over the main drum riff. The drummer broke out in a cadence that took me straight back to my marching band days. He played on both the tom and the piano shell, which made for quite the entertaining solo.

But he wasn't done. He laid the floor tom on its side on top of the piano, and grabbed one of the other toms. He laid it down on the piano as well and jumped up to join them. He broke out in another solo, using the shell of the floor tom for the clicks, the head of the floor tom to give you that good ol' bass groove, and the set tom to fill it all out.

All in all, MuteMath made up for the boring songs with their finale.

Then came the band we were all waiting for. It's no secret that I am a major fan of 30 Seconds to Mars. But here's something I bet you didn't know:

I don't really listen to them all that much. Their CDs get old after just a bit. They are one of the bands that I consider to be better in a live setting than in the studio.

From the instant they came out on stage, the crowd was going wild. I didn't have my feet on the same place on the floor for more than 10 seconds if I was lucky. It was like being pushed and pulled by an ocean of people.

The lighting for their show was incredible! It pulls you in, and helps set off the emotions that are in each song. It was the perfect complement for the band's music, and I'm sure that Jared had something to do with that. You damn artistic genius, you!

The thing I like about their performances is that they truly bring the crowd together. No one's fighting, no one's bickering. Everyone is moving as one mass of people. People might be stepping on your foot, or have their elbow pressed up in your back, but you don't mind because you are part of something great. 30 Seconds to Mars makes this happen, and that feeling is exactly why I go to concerts.

Near the end of their set, Jared took an acoustic guitar and went to the back of the crowd for a bit. It was just him, but it was a great way to bring the folks back there into the show. He played a song back there, with just that acoustic, and gave everyone a chance to rest up.

After that song, he did an acoustic version of the beginning of The Kill. Before he started, he had the crowd make a path for him, from the back all the way to the stage. When he got done with the first chorus, he set down the guitar, jumped down into the path, and ran through the crowd back to the front, all the while the band was playing harder than they had all night, getting the crowd back into a fever pitch.

While the crowd was at the craziest they had been all night, he climbed onto their hands. He stayed up there, singing and screaming, supported only by his fans, until the song was over. It was quite the moment.

After that song was over, he pulled someone from the crowd onto the stage. It was just some little kid who had a pomegranate mo-hawk, just like Jared's. He spent some time making the kid feel awesome and just talking to him. He let him stay on stage while they played another slower song that I hadn't heard before.

Then came their final number. Before it started, they had anyone who wanted to join them on stage. By the time they told everyone that they had enough, there were probably 20 - 30 fans with them on the stage.

They ended the night with the song that I have described as being full of joy and hope. It is the kind of song that just makes your heart swell and makes you feel good about being a human being. Hearing this song live multiplies that feeling by about a hundred, just for the simple addition of companionship with the hundreds of people there with you. If you haven't heard Kings and Queens yet, do it now so that you know what I'm talking about.

That was the end of the show. They didn't do an encore, probably because they had such a long main set, as well as the openers having longer sets. If you read my previous concert review (HIM Concert 04/26/10), then you know that I was disappointed with that show.

30 Seconds to Mars more than made up for it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Tired

It is way too early for me to be awake on a Saturday. I should still be asleep for at least another hour.

Tonight is the 30 Seconds to Mars concert. I am soooooooooooooooo excited for it! This will be the fourth time I have seen them, and they have yet to disappoint. Plus, the venue they are playing is just awesome. Hopefully, this will make up for the HIM show. I shall give you a more detailed report either tonight or tomorrow morning, depending on how I'm feeling.

I have to head into the office today to grab a money order I left there. It's kind of annoying because I hate having to go there on the weekend. It's so creepy-quiet, and the people look at me funny.

I'm thinking I might have to start a separate blog to write about specific topics. This one is fun, and a great way to clear my head, but I don't think that very many people will be thoroughly entertained. If I went to more concerts, I would start one specifically about those.

Anyhow, the bed is right there, so I'm gonna lay in it some more.