I saw Aretha Franklin in concert

Possibly the greatest singer of all time made her way to Orlando Florida this past weekend. I have always wanted to see Aretha in concert and I have been looking forward to it since it was announced. I am sad to say that it was a bit disappointing.

I know that when you have such reverence and high expectations for someone, that you are setting yourself up for a fall, but I don’t think that is the reason that the concert was disappointing. It was disappointing because Aretha just didn’t seem to be into being there in the first place. She wasn’t “into” the whole thing. Maybe because this was at Universal Studios and not at a fancy/expensive venue. Maybe she was sick. Maybe she is just tired of touring. It might even be a combination of all of these reasons. After performing for about an hour and a half (no complaints there) she left the stage without singing “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” which is, as everyone knows, the classic Aretha song. She pulled the classic, leave the stage move and everyone thought that she would come right back out for an encore to do that one last song. The crowd was chanting and everything and the band was still sitting there as though they were also waiting for her…but she never came back out. Slowly, the band started packing up one by one but they also seemed confused. Eventually, they brought up the lights and everyone headed home but the whole thing was just strange. The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if she saves that big song for the expensive concerts and not the large venues.

Either way, she is amazing. She is one of the few people that I put in my “gifted” category. She has a God-given gift that very few people on the planet have. Sure, lots of people can sing…and sing very well. But Aretha is on a whole different plane. No one on Earth can sing like her. She has complete control over her voice, incredible power, and the whole thing is effortless. she doesn’t strain…she doesn’t run out of breath. She just sings. When people say that someone can sing, Aretha Franklin epitomizes that. Aretha Franklin could sing the phone book and I would be mesmerized. I once saw her perform on some awards show (the grammys one year, don’t remember when) when Pavarotti was supposed to sing an opera song but he was too sick and unable to perform. Aretha stepped in on extremely short notice (I heard only an hour to learn the song) and sang this amazing and beautiful opera song…in Italian! Are you kidding me? And I was watching…it was beautiful…just amazing. I mean, you think of Aretha as motown and soul, which is true. But this woman can sing everything.

A lot of people claim to be divas and call themselves Divas, but Aretha is the only Diva in my book. I think the word was invented for her since there is no other way to describe her greatness. If you ever get a chance to see her perform, do it. Despite the slight disappointment I mentioned earlier, I would see her again in a heartbeat.

Convention season is over!

I just finally got settled back in after my recent trips to HOPE #6 in NYC as well as DEFCON in Las Vegas. I spent 9 days at each location and met lots of interesting and intelligent people (and a few a$$holes as well).

I was scheduled to present the first episode of season 4 of Binary Revolution Radio at HOPE in front of a live audience, which was something that I was looking very forward to. We also had a very special guest in attendance for that episode as well in the form of MC Frontalot who even performed live on stage for us (sans band). It was incredible for those in attendance, but thanks to the on-site film crew, I cannot share this memory with everyone since the recording stopped right in the middle of Frontalot performing! Not only that, but the end of the show had the entire crowd participating in our closing catch phrase (“Same Hack Time, Same Hack Channel”)in unison. It was a very special moment for me personally, and it is a memory that was not captured on film and lost forever. It really was a crushing feeling to find out that they had screwed up such an important event for me and I am not sure that I want to set myself up for that again by speaking at a place that simply didn’t seem to care about its speakers. But let’s not dwell on the negative, there were a lot of other great things that happened on my trip!

Speaking of filming, even though I had bad luck with the people who were recording mine, I did a little camera work myself over in track 1 which was surprisingly fun! Our good Friend Rax volunteers every year to do camera work, and after 2 long days of filming, I gave him a short break to grab some food and took the seat behind the camera for one of the presentations. I was a regular Scorsese behind that thing! OK, I exaggerate, but it was fun and I made it a point to really focus on the content of the speech and keep the camera trained on the speaker and the slides when appropriate so that hopefully it came out better than the recording of BRR that I mentioned earlier. If I go to HOPE again, maybe I will simply volunteer to run the cameras instead of speaking.

But the radio show wasn’t the only presentation that I gave. I always have presentations on my laptop, usually for my local BR407 meeting, that are ready to give at any time. When one of the speakers was unable to give their talk (airlines all backed up due to weather) I stepped in and presented “The Art of Electronic Deduction” which I had previously given at interz0ne in Atlanta. I originally thought this to only be a small presentation for a small group of people, specifically my local BR561 meeting at the time. Now here I was at a conference of 3000+ people giving this very same presentation and it went over surprisingly well! I had a lot of audience participation, which is what the presentation was designed to elicit, and people seemed to enjoy it! Several people came up after the talk saying that they were glad that they stumbled into the presentation, since they were not expecting this talk. I had run out quickly and placed some cardboard signs up at the last minute to try and let people know about the talk. The best thing was that the volunteer who was working in that area running that speaking room (track 2) came up to me and said some very kind things about it, which meant a lot. He had seen all of the speeches that whole weekend and for him to compliment me was very much appreciated. He was the only volunteer there who made me felt appreciated. Plus he had this 31337 Nigeria soccer jersey with the number 419 on the back and NO ONE SEEMED TO GET THE JOKE! I gotta get me one of those.

Shadowing MC Frontalot every step of his way was a film crew from Vaguely Qualified Productions that was filming a nerdcore documentary. I had to make some accommodations with the conference organizers to get them in, but it worked out well as they got some good footage and probably some really bad footage any time I ended up in the shot. The Frontingest one and I even sat down to do an interview for the documentary and discussed how and why nerdcore music was interesting to hackers and geeks. We also discussed some general tech topics, how and why I host his web site, and of course spent an unusually long amount of time on everyones favorite subject, pr0n. The crew there was not only VERY qualified, but they were extremely nice and fun as well. They were good people, and so was MC Frontalot guitarist/bassist (and friend) Brandon who was super nice and really seemed to be getting into the vibe of the conference itself.

After our radio show presentation ended at around 12:30, we got a group of people together to meet and hang out. Unfortunately, there really isn’t anywhere around the hotel that can accommodate a group of 30+ people and not be uber-expensive, so someone made the suggestion (I think it was Black Ratchet, but it wasn’t me believe it or not) that I could get sweet iced tea at White Castle (one of my favorite restaurants) so we proceeded to moblog the local white castle at 1 in the morning. We met some interesting people there, had the cops stop by for a visit and ask us to leave, but it was all worth it when I saw the look on the face of the clerk when he watched me lead a line of 30 people right up to the register!

At Defcon, I didn’t have the burden of having to speak this year so I was free to hang out and meet people and do the whole Vegas “thing” (I highly recommend anyone to go see La Reve at The Wynn hotel if you find yourself in the area). We organized a group meetup at defcon, just like we did at HOPE, which went wonderfully. Since not everyone was over 21, we avoided bars and since buffets in Vegas are not cheap (that is a myth) we did the traditional food court meeting at a local mall right there on the strip. Even though we got started kind of late, we had probably around 30-40 people or more and I enjoyed meeting everyone. I got to meet up not only with my long-time friends like dual_parallel and Elonka, but also some new friends like verbal, upside-down, and many many friends from our forums. There should be some pictures up in the BinRev Gallery.

The other thing that I planned on doing, and was able to do very successfully, was to meet up with some people to discuss some specific projects that I had in mind. I made some contacts and began the process of collaborative projects with some good people. Some who were already friends, and some who were not. I was doing some similar, or related research on a couple of topics that they were also interested in, so I think we may work together on some things in the future. I will not get into details now, since it would be pointless, but look for announcements here, or on the DDP blawg, when they become a reality.

So it was a great vacation that included sightseeing to the hoover dam in Vegas, the WTC site in NYC, and lots of places in between. It was filled with wonderful people, and I hope to keep in touch with everyone and hopefully get back into some projects again. In fact, it has already begun. No matter how hard people try to stop it…The Revolution Will continue to be Digitized!