Tuesday, March 06, 2007

3 Days of The Geek

Last week I attended 3 events that represented the Holy Trinity of what Umlaut is about: Rock Geek > History Geek > Geek. Coincidentally, the 3rd event fell on the 3rd day of the month, which was also the day that the first full lunar eclipse in 3 years was occurring.... 3-3-3... and if you multiply that by 2.... Oh Lord, yeah!

Fu Manchu / Valient Thorr
Slim's, S.F.
February 28, 2007

I realized halfway into their set that I've been seeing Fu Manchu live for over a decade. The mongoose flies on by, man... The Fu still delivers onstage and I dare anyone not to boogie when they slam into 'King Of The Road'.

Backing up for a sec: Valient Thorr's brand of Rock N' Roll was fine for awhile; I kept thinking about Raging Slab during their set. However, their sorta homeless guy singer got all hippie and jumped into the crowd and told everyone to sit on the floor around him as a display of solidarity.... I understood it to be a display of solidarity against The War and for Rock N' Roll... Uhh, ookaay. I kept standing.. Fuck that Hippie Shit.

Now back to Fu: The band went through a rough patch since their last tour, so it's very cool they're back in the saddle again with a new record label, a great new album, and a world tour. The Rock Godz smile.

Something I've noticed at the last couple of Fu shows is there have been a few dudes (2-3 at a time) who sing along to every song.. However, most of the time they're not singing at the stage, but at each other. Must be some male bonding thing that I haven't been privy too... sorta like playing grab ass in the locker room shower or something; it's not gay, only latently homoerotic. "So put the keys in my hand.. IN MY HAND.."

A Rock band will not save the world, but it can effectively take your mind off the world for 75 minutes or so. For the record, the new songs stood up to the live test and my fave Fu song was played ('Squash That Fly'). For the geeks: The final song of the night was the Fu classic 'Superbird'... which was, like, SOLID.

I forgot to do a merch tally... my bad. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. By my count, this was my 42nd visit to Slim's since 1988 (the year it opened).

Useless Trivia in My Head: For several years, Fu Manchu's tour manager was the infamous Richard Cole.

48 hours later it was:

Ken Burns’ THE WAR, Part One
Letterman Digital Arts Center, S.F.
March 2, 2007

Miatomic and Umlaut have a long history of shared geek moments, but this one might have been the most profound: (1) Ken Burns was screening the first 2 hours of his new documentary on World War 2 and (2) The event was held in the theater at the new Lucasfilm facility, which for both of us was like visiting the new house of an ex-luvah, although that was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

The idea of Ken Burns doing for WW2 what he did for Jazz and Beisbol sent my geek meter into the red. Now, before you accuse me of being a War Monger or some other simplistic PC archetype, I will cut you off at the knees and knee you in the face by stating that I am a History Geek. History fascinates me and I was interested in WW2 long before I was a Music Geek. That period in history is a particularly sobering example of how fucked up humans can be to one another... plus some really cool airplanes and tanks were developed to carry out that carnage. Dude, how cool was the Spitfire?! Damn straight.

For the newbies: World War 2 geeks are as self-absorbed and opinionated as the worst Star Wars geeks ("That general shoulda done this".... "That airplane was better than that airplane"... "Their anti-tank weaponry was superior to our's", etc. etc..). Judging from the screening we saw, Burns has brilliantly neutered the geek factor from his WW2 project by not having "experts" pontificating onscreen about the war's strategy, politics, economics, etc.. Brilliant!

His film focuses on the stories of regular people (soldiers and civilians) and their personal experiences in combat and on the homefront. Listening to an old man in the twilight of his life tell his experiences during the horrors of the Bataan Death March as a 17-year old prisoner of war is fucking mind numbing. He's lived with the memories of those horrors for more than 60 years. What were you doing at 17-years old?? Listening to Fugazi with a straight edge "x" on your hand thinking you were changing the world? Fuck that Hippie Shit.

The Q&A session with Burns will rank as one of the intellectual highlights of my year. I've been watching the man's documentaries for years and he came across as articulate, passionate, and humble as I imagined he would be. I also enjoyed how he cut off the questions of the WW2 fanboys when they started to get too self-absorbed.. It was almost like they were testing Burns on his knowledge of "their" subject... "Mr. Burns.. I consider myself a student of World War 2... How would you rank the importance of the ENIGMA Machine to the Allied cause..." blah blah blah.. I'd pay to see an Indian knife fight featuring WW2 Geeks vs. Star Wars Geeks.

I'm counting the days until PBS airs the complete 7-part series in September (the DVD release will follow in December). No matter what your politics, watching these stories of sacrifice and horror during the most violent time of modern history will affect you.

Useless Trivia in My Head:
GI's said the muzzle report of the German MG42 machine gun sounded like a sheet being ripped in half.

24 hours later it was:

Moscone Convention Center, S.F.
March 3, 2007

My brain hurt after only 25 minutes... There was way too much nerd energy and not enough shielding on my hull to prevent me from getting contaminated; I had blood draining deja vu of Comicon. In my youth, seeing overweight guys dressed as Boba Fett might have made me laugh in fanboy camaraderie; now it gives me the urge to practice random violence against costumed fanboys.

The obligatory Star Wars "celebrities" were present to reap the cash rewards from nerd wallets. This Con featured Ray Park, Peter Mayhew, and Daniel Logan... and if you can name their SW characters I think I might have to slap you about the neck and face. WAKE UP!

Also, why the fuck can't someone do some cool Cthulhu merchandise??! All of the Cthulhu stuff at these conventions are cutesy and cartoonish; it's so fucking annoying! Cthulhu is TERRIFYING, not CUDDLY! If I see one more Cthulhu plush doll I'm gonna go Yog-Sothoth on someone. Really.

There wasn't nearly enough Battlestar Galactica content at this Con. However, if you're a Lost fan, Umlaut friend David came up with the idea of forming B.A.L.L.S. (Bay Area Lost Lovers Society). I would start watching that lame show again just to join the club.

Geek Moment: While walking down Aisle 700 I noticed a man standing at a booth looking at vintage comics... He was wearing rumpled black jeans, a rumpled black button down shirt, scuffed up shoes, and a rumpled black hat... "16 shells from a thirty-ought six will whittle you into kindling..."

It was fucking Tom Waits!

I made a u-turn to make sure it was him. It was... but I couldn't pull the trigger and go up to him. I had a geek freeze and didn't know what to do for a second so I did the next best thing to bothering one of my musical heroes: I called Ted and told him that Waits was in Dah House.

A vintage Star Trek Hair Salon Playset (Sulu optional)

Some other favorite moments:
  • Seeing the guy who played the "crippled" Captain Pike in the STOS (Star Trek: Original Series) episode "The Menagerie". A sign at his booth proudly introduced him as "Sean Kinney - Crippled Captain Pike".
  • Checking out some cool World War 2 tank models and overhearing the dealer say how he gets shit from some people for doing "historically inaccurate" dioramas featuring Nazi soldiers as zombies.
  • I also came across this author at one of the booths:

WTF!?? Skychick NEVER told me she was a "New York Times Bestselling" author! It's like I don't even know her.... WTF..

It was a fun afternoon but, man, I am so not into alot of this nerd stuff anymore. I can be around it for awhile, but then all of the inert fanboy energy starts to drain my soul. I've always said "Hope I die before I get old.." but maybe I am when it comes to pop culture detritus.

Useless Trivia in My Head: The next day I was at the pet store and a guy was wearing a Star Wars logo ringer tee and had the Mandalorian insignia tattooed on his forearm. It frightens me that I can still easily recognize that kind of minutiae, even while buying dog food.