Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Perfect Circle @ Chaifetz Arena (4/20/2017)

I missed the opener (not even sure who it was), but the guy next to me indicated that I should be glad that I missed them.  I arrived right as A Perfect Circle took the stage, so my timing could not have been better.  As expected, the band performed for the most part without any spotlights on themselves; Maynard, especially, was pretty much in the dark for the entire show.  They did have cool light effects in their stage setup, though.

The band haven't had a new release in many years, so most of the songs were ones that I knew from back in the day.  They did play a couple that I wasn't familiar with, though - not sure what release they came from.  One that I kinda knew, but had forgotten, was "Counting Bodies Like Sheep To The Rhythm Of The War Drums", which is a variation of "Pet" - it was a cool surprise for me.  They also played a cover of John Lennon's "Imagine", which I wasn't particularly fond of, but whatevs.

I'll also note a mild annoyance that had nothing to do with the band - a group of girls sitting directly in front of me decided to stand and dance for most of the show.  When I'm in the seats I prefer being able to sit and enjoy the show (especially since I had tired legs from a soccer game just before).  I was in no mood to stand on this day (partially due to being tired, and also not wanting to force those behind me to make the same decision), and so had to try to watch things "through" the girls.  Perhaps thankfully, this is one band where you wouldn't see too much of their on-stage performance anyway.  I was also annoyed by the number of times I had to stand up to let people pass by during the show; who goes out and gets multiple beers (or whatever they were doing) while the band is playing?!?  Again, it's unfair to pin these annoyances on the band, but the circumstances certainly didn't help my enjoyment of the show.

Without any significant new music in a while, it's tough to give the band that high of marks anyway.  I would also have preferred to be seeing Maynard's main band (Tool) in concert, and am eagerly awaiting release of their new album.

Rating: 4.1/5

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Radiohead @ Key Arena (4/8/2017)

The concert experience didn't get off to the best start for Galen and me.  We took our time getting to Key Arena because he wanted to avoid the rush and I had no interest in seeing Dudu Tassa again.  Unfortunately, by the time we got into the arena at about 8:35, Radiohead were in the middle of their first song.  Things didn't get better when we were turned away at the entrance to the general admission floor section for not having the necessary wristbands - we were supposed to have received them when they admitted us into the building upon swiping the credit card used to purchase the tickets.  We hustled back to the nearest entrance, only to find out that the organizers had pretty much run out of wristbands in the whole building (and there were a few other audience members waiting in the same situation as us).  After a few minutes of Galen (mostly calmly) reprimanding and complaining to them, they were able to rustle up a couple of wristbands for the two of us (though I'm not sure what happened to the others who were also waiting).  We made it down to the floor in the middle of the third song.  I wasn't too bothered by the ordeal because the first three songs were the same three that they had been playing to start off each show on this leg of the tour, including in Atlanta.

I ended up liking this show a tiny bit more than the one last week, because of setlist selection.  Two of my all time favorites, "Reckoner" and "Morning Bell", made an appearance this time around, as did the wonderful "15 Step", "Let Down", and "Lotus Flower".  Another notable inclusion was the B-Side "These Are My Twisted Words", which was completely unexpected.  This setlist was lighter on songs from The Bends, with only "Fake Plastic Trees" making it for the third encore (which I guess is a thing they do now - they've done three encores each show of this leg of the tour).  The band had a bit of technical difficulty during "The Gloaming" (a couple of false starts, and an off-tempo sequencer / drum machine), but Thom seemed to be able to eventually shrug it off after initially being upset.  And during "No Surprises" they made an extended pause after the line "They don't speak for us" to let the crowd voice their discontent with the current US presidential administration.

Overall, another great show.  I still wish they would have switched out a couple of the new songs for others that I prefer on the album (hence the slight deduction), but I once again can't complain.

You can find the setlist here.

Rating: 4.8/5

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Radiohead @ Philips Arena (4/1/2017)

So, the opener for this show (in Atlanta) was quite unusual.  It was a band called Dudu Tassa & the Kuwaitis - a Jewish/Arabic project that played supposed re-imaginings of legacy songs from Kuwait and Baghdad.  I can't say that I was exactly feeling it, but they only played for 30 minutes so I can't complain too much.  I can't imagine these guys getting this kind of exposure if this Radiohead collaboration hadn't happened.

Radiohead did not disappoint.  They started off with the same 4 songs as the show before - 3 from A Moon Shaped Pool and then "Airbag".  After that they switched it up (as they always do - never playing the same setlist twice) with a good mix of songs from all the albums since The BendsAMSP got the most representation, as expected, with 6 songs; unfortunately, only one of my top 3 from that album, "Burn the Witch", made the list - at least they played the best one.

They also played the back-to-back-to-back trio of "Myxomatosis", "Idioteque", and "The Gloaming", during each of which Thom got to roam around and showcase his dance moves.  An audience member commented after that show that he seemed to have been in a good mood, and I would agree.  A pleasant surprise at the end was a third encore (they typically do 2), during which they played "Karma Police".

Overall, I can't have too many complaints about the show.  I feel that they play (and sing) a few of the songs a little too loose (e.g., "Bloom", and most of the '90s era hits), but I think I'm in a minority in that opinion.  And I obviously would have traded out a few of the songs for my favorites, but I'll take what I can get with this band.  I'm hoping for "Decks Dark" and "Identikit" when I see them again in Seattle in a week.

The setlist can be found here.

Rating: 4.7/5

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A brief summary of my current philosophical worldview

I've been putting this post off for many months, but I think it's time that I finally wrote it.  The idea behind this entry, and hopefully future entries, is to capture a snapshot of my current philosophical thoughts about the world so that in the future I may periodically reflect upon how my beliefs have changed.  This post will probably be shorter than a baseline exposition ought to be, but I'm too lazy to put in the time and mental energy required for a comprehensive treatment.

On the topic that I would loosely describe as metaphysics, I can make a couple of clear statements about my beliefs.  I fall firmly in the naturalist camp, in that I believe that the natural world is the only one that exists - i.e., there are no supernatural or spiritual entities.  It obviously follows, then, that I am an atheist.  If pressed, I might make agnostic noises about how I don't think we can truly know if anything exists outside the natural universe, but in casual conversation the operative position is the lack of a belief in supernatural entities.

One consequence of my naturalist view is that I am a determinist - i.e., I believe that the future is determined by the past.  However, when it comes to free will, I don't know whether to describe my position as a hard determinist (who would basically say that free will does not exist because events are deterministic) or a compatibilist (who would say that a belief in free will is compatible with determinism).  I feel like both positions are plausible, and that in some ways hard determinists and compatibilists are talking past each other.  I think it is useful to talk of free will in a common sense in reference to choices that are not externally forced (i.e., freedom of action), but I don't think choices can in a deep sense be otherwise than has been determined by prior events.

In the field of ethics, I would consider myself some flavor of utilitarian, despite probably being a moral non-realist.  My moral non-realist position is that moral properties are mind-dependent - there are no moral facts that exist independent of minds (e.g., in the way that facts of physics or chemistry exist independent of minds).  That being said, I find the basic principles of utilitarianism (the best actions maximize the well-being of sentient entities) most convincing in relation to the minds that do exist.  I have a hard time pinning myself down to a subcategory of utilitarianism, but I think it's sufficient to say that my views lie somewhere in there.  This viewpoint has manifested itself in my vegetarian diet and my support of the effective altruism movement.

I have far less figured out when it comes to political philosophy.  I generally subscribe to John Stuart Mill's Harm Principle (the actions of individuals should only be limited to prevent harm to other individuals), but I have a hard time definitively saying much more than that.
Another area that I find interesting but don't have much to say about is the philosophy of mind.  Since I believe that our minds emerge from a purely physical system that is the brain, I think that artificial general intelligence is in principle possible.  However, at this point I will not make any claims about how likely we are to achieve such a thing.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Top albums of 2016

I was discussing my shortlist for favorite albums of 2016 last week with my friend Tom Musick when I made an offhand comment about only having listened to one-thousandth (i.e., 1/1000) of the music out there.  This was intended to demonstrate that, in addition to music tastes being highly subjective, my exposure level to new music is vanishingly small, especially for someone who kind of tries to keep up.

I became curious about the accuracy of that statement, and so decided to research it a minimal amount.  Based on the information here, there were about 75,000 albums released in the U.S. in 2011, which at the time was trending downward; let's leave aside the surprising fact that 60,000 of those sold less than 100 copies.  I don't know how album releases have trended in the last few years, nor do I know what the worldwide album release numbers might look like, nor what percentage of international releases I could have easy access to.  My guess is that I could reasonably potentially have listened to any of somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 albums in 2016.  An examination of the albums I listened to in 2016 shows that I listened to something like 71 albums that were released last year, which is on the order of one-thousandth of the estimated available released albums.  And 71 is not really that big a number...

Anyway, to the list...

1. Moderat - III
2. The Range - Potential
4. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
5. Anderson .Paak - Malibu
6. James Blake - The Colour In Anything
7. Tycho - Epoch
9. Young Magic - Still Life
10. dvsn - SEPT 5TH

11. Phantogram - Three
12. Yeasayer - Amen & Goodbye
13. Young Thug - JEFFERY
14. School of Seven Bells - SVIIB
15. Mogwai - Atomic
16. MIA - AIM

Also, here's a shout-out to Fetty Wap's album "Fetty Wap", which would have made my list last year if I had listened to it beforehand.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A new travel challenge

My coworker Nick Dare told me about a friend of his who has resolved to have visited more countries than her age for the rest of her life.  I thought this was an interesting challenge, and that I am probably close to my age on both number of countries visited and number of states visited.  Having recently turned 35, that is my target for the next year or so.  Below is my current list of both countries and states.  For both, I am only counting places where I have spent a night and/or done some sort of activity besides transiting through.  I'm within striking distance in both categories, though I am far more likely to reach my age in states sooner than in countries - due to being closer, ease, and plans in the works.  I hope to conquer the challenge for states in the next year and maintain the lead in that category until I turn 50.  I'll need to pick up my game in terms of international travel.

#     Country             State
8Czech RepublicIdaho
20New ZealandNew Jersey
21NigeriaNew Mexico
22NorwayNew York
26SpainSouth Dakota

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sleigh Bells @ Neumos (11/19/2016)

I was expecting some hearing loss from this show, and I got what I expected. The show was an assault on the senses, both very loud and with lots of flashing lights (I didn't even bother trying to get many good photos, as they would not have come out due to all the strobes). Based on 2 listens to the new album that dropped the week before, I didn't like it very much. Hearing a few of the new songs live didn't do anything to change that - not that you can really make out much from their live performances if you don't already know the songs.

Rating: 4.0/5