PAX East and junk

by Nick Smith in


Apologies to those potentially existing faithful readers.  I spent the weekend at PAX East getting my geek on and spending some far overdue with the old college gang.  It's amazing how little really changed in our interpersonal dynamics, at least from my perspective.  We're the same old loveable bunch of goofballs we always were.  It was fun to contribute to turning them on to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, play a bunch of DoTA and a little bit of Settlers.  Expanding the description of spending a weekend with my friends is a futile gesture, as those who weren't there have little interest, and probably have a pretty grasp on getting a whole group of friends together for the first time since you ceased to coexist in the environment that put you together in the first place.  We went at it like a bunch of rambunctious puppies, gnawing at each others floppy ears with good-natured insults and slapping playful paws on each other's snouts. PAX East was incredible.  It was the first convention I have attended, so I have no parallel experience to reference just how monumental a happening this was.  My awe was so great I felt obliged to slink away down shortcuts I had not trodden in years, throwing my hat back in the ring of Magic: the Gathering, as well as nabbing a couple choice console titles I somehow failed to acquire at a more appropriate time.  There was literally nothing there you could NOT do if you chose.  Some things may have taken a little more dedication than others, but if you picked something you wanted to do, it was laid before you to feast upon.  I was not aware of the freeplay rooms heading into the weekend.  Once their existence was known, we spent hours in both the PC and Classic Console freeplay rooms, hungrily devouring memories recent and ancient, dreading the tap on the shoulder from the enforcer gently reminding you that there were thousands of people who wanted to do the same stuff you were doing at that moment (and why shouldn't they?).

While I did really attend any talks, I still came away feeling like I had been exposed to new things with which I can distract myself in the hours I have free to engage in productive pursuits.  At future conventions, I will be sure to give a closer examination to the schedule of events and develop more of an agenda.  While it was good to be with all my friends a lot, I feel it would have been more productive to splinter into smaller groups so more specialized interests could have been sated.

Another thing I took away was a whole heap of germs.  So that's fun.  At least I didn't start feeling sick until pretty much right when I left the convention.  But I may take a sick day tomorrow, as my body could definitely use it, and my mind could most definitely use a day of solitude and peace.  Sad my ailment is respiratory in nature, or I would consider it a golden opportunity to slap together another of those tunes I am fond of forcing upon you.

I have not been terribly productive of late, although I did get a little writing done at dinner Saturday night, as talk of my future plans and a trip to a bathroom with black porcelain urinals set the cogs in my mind creaking into enough motion that I was able to punch a few clever verses into my phone.  There's little nuggets of insight lodged in these lyrics I wrote that tickle me.  I am not certain as to what level of subtlety I have achieved in this endeavour.  I do not think them obvious, but then again it is difficult for me to tell because a. I wrote the goddamned words and b. I'm terrible at picking out the kind of thing I did when other people do it.  I'm not going to post those lyrics now.  They may show up in a song in the future.  They may not.  I have made no effort to write music for them as of yet.  If I do they'll show up here, but I will try to remember not to indicate that they are these specific lyrics.  Words.  Words.  Words.

I am fully on to The Sunset Tree in my Mountain Goats listening.  It is definitely not my favorite album.  I like it very much but it drags in spots.  That being said, I think more than anything else, it was the album John Darnielle had been waiting to make for decades, and when he finally could, he did a fantastic job.  Not having personally endured abuse, those aspects do not really resonate with me.  The stuff about breaking free and coming into one's own, however, is right up my alley.  "Up The Wolves" is the first Mountain Goats song that has ever really made me happier than I was before I knew it existed.  Don't get me wrong, I am much happier for having discovered the Mountain Goats, but the songs I latched onto either described things I wanted desperately but failed to achieve, caused me to look regretfully back to drag sandpaper over old wounds that weren't 100% healed beneath the scabs like you thought they were, or took a roughly photorealistic portrait of my current situation, but with all of the sore parts highlighted in the most vivid colors on the pallet to excruciating detail.  One listen paying attention to the lyrics and it becomes obvious.  There may be more subtle and less encouraging undertones I pick up, but from the perspective of someone casting a light about in great darkness, this is a reminder that barring a collapse, the exit to this cave could lie around any corner.  Actually there's another song that I already knew that does a little of this, but it did not hit me with the jaw-rattling force "Up The Wolves" did, and that is "Absolute Lithops Effect": the last song on All Hail West Texas.

There's also a lot of other really good shit on the album.  The first three songs are unimpeachable.  "Dilaudid" is solid.  I love the string arrangement.  The lyrics are merely OK by Darnielle's standards.   "Dance Music" a nice clash of tones.   "Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod?" is excellent.  "Love Love Love" is hauntingly good, and (seems to me to be) very abstract compared to the normal fare, not really telling a story but more focused on making a cryptic argument related to money and love.  "Pale Green Things" seemed like it would be a dud at the start, but it grew on me a little bit and I think really makes the album what it is and ties it together, the lyrics serving almost as liner notes for the album.

But this is the first Mountain Goats album where I look at it and there's a bunch of songs I just don't connect with.  "Dinu Lapatti's Bones," "Lion's Teeth," "Magpie," and "Song For Dennis Brown" either go way over my head as to what they are talking about or (in the case of "Lion's Teeth") are too explicitly about the terrible relationship John Darnielle had with his stepfather, so I do not connect with them like I do with the rest of the songs.  Maybe it's just a sign I need to listen to a new band for a little while.  Who knows?

Don't slip, Nick

One of these days, I'm gonna wriggle up on dry land