What I’m Doing

What I’m Listening To

The Sound of the Life of the Mind by Ben Folds Five.

You might expect that when a band has their first release in about 13 years, it might take them a minute to get their feet under them. Apparently, not so for Ben Folds Five. I don’t mean to say that they picked up where they left off exactly, but if you drew a line from Ben Folds Five to Whatever and Ever Amen to The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner, and then extrapolated that line out, The Sound of the Life of the Mind would absolutely fall on that line. The album makes sense, and doesn’t rely on nostalgia. It’s just legitimately good music for people who used to like Ben Folds Five-style music.

Everything that made Ben Folds Five is present; they’re still the ironic nerd rockers they always were. Only Ben Folds Five could do a rock song describing the academic life as “rocking like a mother” (Rosa Parks and DNA, Joan of Arc and JFK), and then title their entire album after that song. Only Ben Folds could work a “don’t tase me bro” reference into a song, and the old Ben Folds Five irreverence is there too (If you can’t draw a crowd, draw d!c&s on the wall). All the old harmonies are there (listen to the first 30 seconds of “Michael Praytor, 5 Years Later”, and you’ll have no doubt which band you’re listening to).

Before listening to this album, I couldn’t have told you exactly how the “Ben Folds Five” sound differed from the Ben Folds solo-artist sound. But listening to it, there definitely is something different. Make no mistake, Mr. Folds has always been the one driving the truck as it were, but even though he used all the same tricks on his solo albums (harmonies, drum/bass backup, storytelling lyrics), it was different. The solo albums were definitely solo albums, and all of the non-Ben Folds, backup stuff really was just backup. You could have removed most of it without fundamentally changing the songs. Robert and Darren bring the bass and drums forward; without them the songs would be hollow.

“Do it Anyway” is a good first single, and showcases the fun side of the band, but for my money the best tracks are “Erase Me” and “The Sound of the Life of the Mind”.

And hey, if nothing else, they have Fraggles:

What I’m Watching

Written by a Kid on the Geek and Sundry youtube channel

When I last talked about Geek and Sundry, Written by a Kid had not yet premiered yet. Now it has, however, and it is awesome.

The premise is that they have a kid tell a story, and then they have someone direct the story however they see fit. Some of them are live action, some of the are animated, all of them are awesome.  The best part is that the directors take the story very seriously, with real actors and special effects as if this were some big budget Hollywood script, while at the same time directing something that makes absolutely no sense (such as the elite police “squat” team coming it to take out the monster). The kids are adorable, the stories are great, and the production value is through the roof. Take a quick stroll through Goth Boy, Scary Smash, Fire City, or Kendall the Knight to see what I mean.

While you’re over at Geek and Sundry, check out some of the other great shows. TableTop continues to be one of my favorites. For a sampler, check out the Fiasco episodes Setup, Part 1 and Part 2.

What I’m Reading

The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss

OMG you guys. Seriously.

Okay, I know that I’m a little late to the game, since these are super-well known (Wise Man’s Fear was a #1 New York Times Bestseller) but wow are these good. If you’re looking for the next big fantasy series, this is the one (er…the next big thing that’s already half way done, since it is a trilogy with 2 out of 3 books already out).

And when I say the next big fantasy series, I mean that literally (662 and 994 pages respectively). But I’m not joking to say that 1656 weren’t enough. Unfortunately, Mr. Rothfuss seems to be on the George R.R. Martin plan of book writing (making us wait forever and a day for the next gigantic, amazing book), so I think it will be awhile before we get book 3.

Hmm, what to say, what to say. If you’re into magic, and music, and plucky street kids, legends and how they are made, fairies and fighting and romantic interests, inn keepers, demons, and exotic foreign lands populated with secret ninja training, and (of course) a school for kids who do magic, then read these books. If you want to be swept up in an epic story with fantastic writing, then read these books. If you’re into fantasy, or not traditionally into fantasy but looking for a good intro into fantasy, read these books. I can’t imagine you wouldn’t like them.

Then come back here and we can discuss them. Highly recommended.

Geek and Sundry

Can we first just take a minute to acknowledge how awesome it is that, in this day and age, someone can just go on the Internet and start their own television network? And I’m not talking about some kind of crappy home-movies, I’m talking about full production budgets with costumes real actors and witty writing. I’m talking about Geek & Sundry.

Geek & Sundry is the youtube channel of Internet royalty Felicia Day (if you know her from nowhere else, you should at least recognize her as Penny from Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog).

My introduction to Geek & Sundry actually came via one of the shows on the Geek & Sundry network, TableTop. I used to love a show called Celebrity Poker Showdown, in which celebrities played poker against each other while throwing out hilarious one liners. TableTop is like that, except instead of regular celebrities, they have geek celebrities, and instead of poker, they play geek board games. The show is hosted by none other than the king of the Internet himself, Wil Wheaton.

I anticipate watching TableTop to learn about awesome new games that I’ve never played before. However, I’m also excited to watch episodes where they play games that I know and love, such as Settlers of Catan:

However, once I was there on the Geek & Sundry network, I started to check out some of the other shows. I swear that someone has tried to get me to watch The Guild before, but I couldn’t find any reference in my email, so I guess it never really happened. However, The Guild is HILARIOUS and awesome, so someone should have recommended it to me if they didn’t. This show is as good as anything you’d find on traditional television, and a must-see if you are a gamer, or know a gamer, or even know what a mmorpg is. There are 6 seasons currently, but a whole season is about an hour long.

But I didn’t stop there! Geek & Sundry led me on to the fantasy and science fiction show Sword and Laser. They’re starting a book club, and they just so happen to have picked The Magicians by Lev Grossman as their first book. I just so happen to be about half way through The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Kismet. This is a book that I have heard tons about, and I’m very excited to read. And now I’m in a book club, which is a first for me.

There are other shows worth being excited about as well, such as Written by a Kid, which hasn’t premiered yet (fantastic premise, professional animators provide animations for stories told by kids).

Anyway, long story short, we have gotten to the point where there are a lot of non-traditional media streams out there, which leads to highly targeted, highly specialized sources that are apparently highly attuned to my own individual wavelength.

In other words, Geek and Sundry.