Saturday, October 29, 2005
Fathers' Night at the RBC
I'm a new dad, but in the last year I've learned how a little boy can climb into your psyche and become the greatest thing you've known in your life. I look at Logan (who turns 1 next week) every day and I swell with pride at how he's learned to walk faster than other children his age, flip the pages of a book, pick up the purple ball, etc. Little things for grown-ups, but amazingly huge accomplishments for a child who's seen fewer than 365 mornings in his life.
So I can imagine what it would be like to recognize in Logan a special gift of athleticism, an ability to skate, an especially keen hand-eye coordination, a stinging wrist shot. And I can imagine what it's be like to lug him off the ice rinks for practice every day before the sun comes up, towing bags of heavy equipment, to watch him develop into an elite hockey player -- one of the best in the world. That's a hell of a commitment, and the reward of seeing your son contribute to a team competing at the highest levels of the sport must be nothing short of amazing.
Peter LaViolette (young genius Canes coach [whose contract absolutely MUST be renewed after the season] and, for those not aware, coach of USA Hockey in this winter's Olympic Games) recognizes the commitment his players' fathers have made. So he invited them to spend a weekend with the team. Yesterday, 15 Canes dads from all over North America flew to Raleigh, played golf with the team, and watched the Canes beat the Flyers. Tonight they are traveling with the team to Pittsburgh to take in the game there. Dads will be encouraged to bunk with their sons at the hotel. Is that cool, or what?
Let me put it another way. If an NBA team had a father's weekend, how many dads would even show up?
The Canes fell behind 2-0 early to a quick Flyers team. Then, with less than a minute in the period, they scored to make it 2-1 at intermission. They tied it up at 2 early in the second period, then the teams traded goals to make it 3-3. But a couple bad penalties cost the Canes, and they were down two goals, 5-3, going into the second intermission.
In today's NHL, the only two-goal lead that holds up is the one when the buzzer sounds at the end of the game. The Canes tied it up at 5, then gave up a goal to make it 6-5. But the dads were in the house! This team wasn't gonna lie down! They tied it up at 6, then went ahead 7-6 with fewer than five minutes remaining. The RBC Center was euphoric. Seriously, I didn't think hockey fans here knew how to make noise unless an irritating video of Rick Flair saying WOOOO! urged them to do so. But the place was rocking. Swaying even. The Flyers pulled their goalie, and Vasicek turned a miscue of a deep faceoff into an empty net goal. Final score: 8-6. They did it for the dads, these boys did! They did it for the dads!
Last night's game was the fourth game in a row the Canes erased a two-goal deficit. They only lost one of those games, in Toronto, and that game went deep into OT (and to be honest, the Canes missed two gift opportunities in OT that would have reversed the outcome). Forsberg said after last night's game that no NHL team should lost a 2-goal lead (like his Flyers did, twice). He's right. Except he's played his entire career in the old NHL. In the new NHL, no lead is safe. Especially when the dads are watching.
Speed, skill, teamwork. That's what it takes to win in the NHL these days. And I'll argue the Canes have all three in spades. Kudos to Peter LaViolette for recognizing what it takes to maximize all three of those qualities in his Carolina Hurricanes team. And kudos to the dads for getting the kids there in the first place. You have a right to be proud.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Project Management Gone Bad
As I said earlier, this works fine most of the time. Let me back up about 8 weeks to set the scene.
There is some sort of a bus shelter replacement program going on in my area. They take down old ones and put up new ones. Even if the old ones work fine (my tax dollars at work). Several weeks ago MY bus shelter disappeared. Not a trace of it left save the holes in the concrete pad made by the bolts that held it in place. Not a big deal really since this was about 8 weeks ago at a time when we had not gotten any rain for a record 6 weeks. But I thought to myself it will rain eventually. We will need a shelter here. Long story short after a few weeks of being shelterless I was able to contact the person in my county responsible for this entire project. Turns out the contractor who removes shelters was a little overzealous and did not coordinate with the PM or the contractor who replaces shelters. (Yeah, there are two different contractors, in typical fashion there is a Remover and a Replacer.) The Removers were waaayyy ahead of schedule (imagine that, a contractor ahead of schedule). The Replacers were not close to being ready to replace the old shelter. I explained to my buddy on the other end of the line that it isn't a big deal since we havent' gotten any rain and, at the time, there was no forecast for rain. Could they just replace the shelter soon so I don't get rained on? Yep, no problem, we will fast-track it for you. Call me back in a week and let me know if a new shelter is up.
I left a message a week later.
I left a message two weeks later.
I left a message three weeks later.
Finally, I get my buddy back on the line. Turns out there is no official record for the bus shelter ever being there. It isn't in their "inventory". "Trust me," I tell him, "There was a bus shelter, I've been waiting under the cover it provides for nearly two years now."
"Are you sure?"
"Mmmm hmmm. Pretty sure I was waiting under a bus shelter."
"I'll have to drive out there personally and inspect the site."
"OK, but when do you think the shelter will be put in place?"
"Well, first I have to confirm that there was one to begin with and then if that pans out, a couple days."
"How about I call you in a few days and let you know if there is a new shelter in place? I don't want to just call you with complaints, I want to let you know that the work has been sucessfully completed." I figured that the promise of praise might provide some incentive.
A few days later as I make my way down the street to my corner what reveals itself in the dawn's light but a shelter! I actually did it, I got the shelter back! There they were, three walls made of steel and plexiglass. And what's that? A bench too! God truly has been good to me. A bench! As I walk closer and closer to the shelter - my shelter - I realize that not all was revealed in this half-light. My joy turns to chagrin. I cross the street. I get to my corner. I stand in my bus shelter and look up. Perfectly framed by the steel rectangle that is the support for the shelter's roof is the sky. Yes, I have the three walls but no roof. I start looking for Kafka.
Monday, October 24, 2005
My right foot is getting heavier...
For me the ideal night driving song has some mystery to it. Just as your headlights illuminate only small bits of your surroundings offering you glimpses of what is around you a night song is calming but just below the surface or around the edges there is something more going on. During the daylight hours I think you need something that propels you down the road. A strong beat, a heavy bassline, something that nearly forces you down the road. Or something as simple as a great rhythm you can bob your head to while enjoying the scenery.
I think I've put together a good compilation of driving songs. Most, if not all, tested by yours truly. I hope you enjoy them.
Depeche Mode – Waiting for the Night
A full moon in the Indiana sky. Cornfields on either side of the two-lane road. I'm going 70 with the windows down on a warm summer night. This song proved its worth.
Hooverphonic – Inhaler
The light whisper-like vocals combined with the rising intensity of the music makes for a good driving tune in my book.
Eurythmics – This City Never Sleeps
OK, sure, so it is a fairly obvious choice but I think that Annie Lennox has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard. The hardest part is NOT thinking of 9 ½ weeks when you hear this song.
MC 900 Ft. Jesus – The City Sleeps
An interesting character study and makes for a nice counterpoint to the previous song.
Jesus Jones – Nothing to Hold Me
This has always reminded me of a song that would be in a John Hughes teen angst flick. I pictured some kid driving down a rain-swept street. Probably thinking about a relationship gone bad. Our perspective is from the outside of the car looking at him through the windshield, streetlights reflected by the drops of water that are periodically cleaned off by the windshield wipers. Work with me here.
Curve – Alligators Getting Up
I’ve been a big Curve fan for years. Toni Halliday has a great voice and the music on this song is a perfect compliment to it. It sounds seductive. Old film noir comes to mind when listening to this song.
Shriekback – This Big Hush
Just about the perfect night driving song. Delicate and menacing at the same time. The Fairlight synth playing against the deep vocals is great. I rewound the tape several times over driving between Lake Placid and Canton, New York one summer night.
The Sisters of Mercy – Driven Like the Snow
Builds slowly and steadily but when Doktor Avalanche kicks in it works really well. Coincidentally enough I was listening to this song while driving along the NYS Thruway on my way to Buffalo in a heavy snowstorm. Felt perfect.
Peter Murphy – Subway
This man has one of the most instantly recognizable voices I can think of. Seeing this song performed live is a pretty amazing experience.
Gorillaz – M1A1
I was very excited to work this song in. It provides the perfect bridge between the “Night” and “Day” parts of the CD. Starts out slowly, kind of a lonely sound that builds, builds and builds. Kind of like watching the sun rise.
Fatboy Slim – Right Here, Right Now
It just has a real sense of urgency and steadily increases the weight of my foot. Sadly iTunes doesn’t allow me to edit songs and remove the cross over between this and the next song on the CD. You’ll live…
Freestylers – Here We Go Again
Lo-Fidelity Allstars – Battleflag
Stereo MCs – Connected
All three songs are pretty much the one hit these one hit wonders had but they always seem to get me going in traffic. Good Beltway tunes. Silly stupid fun but they get you where you are going. Plus, I think it was a masterstroke mixing them together, they just work really well as a group.
Filter – The Best Things In Life
The drum track is what gets me on this one - hard, fast and powerful. Plus the lyrics are appropriate.
Smashing Pumpkins – Apples + Oranjes
Old Billy C. actually sounds somewhat optimistic on this song. If only for that reason I included it on this mix. That and it is upbeat and a fun listen. Makes me think of summer.
Gang of Four – I Parade Myself
I’m breaking a cardinal rule, two songs by related bands on one mix. That aside, this is a really good song to drive to. It was also the only song Go4 played on their most recent tour that was not on “Entertainment” or “Solid Gold”. Means that I’m not the only one out there who likes it.
A Perfect Circle – Judith
Not to be too clichéd but this song simply rocks. And if you’ve never seen the video do yourself a favor and track it down.
Pearl Jam – Rearviewmirror
A helpfully titled song that captures the feeling of leaving something behind you. I’m of the opinion that PJ should have hung it up after their first two albums this song coming from the second.
The Afghan Whigs – Gentlemen
A nod to my days of living in Cincinnati - the Whigs hometown. In addition to being a great song to drive to it comes off an album whose cover ranks and one of the most disturbing images. Go ahead, look it up. You know you want to.
Rob Zombie – Living Dead Girl
Yes, I love Rob Zombie. Call it a guilty pleasure but the guy makes some great music to drive to. And to tell the truth, he is really quite literate and well spoken.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Yeah, I know it's late.
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Concert Review - Matson Jones/Sleater-Kinney
I have a new favorite band. Yep, the refreshingly creative sound of Matson Jones has grabbed me by the ears and won’t let go! It hurts SO good!
Matson Jones has solidified themselves as the best new band you haven’t heard – yet. I’m not sure how many times I need to pound this down your throats, but this band is the answer to the question “isn’t there a band out there that sounds different than everything you hear on the radio?”
If you are Jonesing for a band that is extraordinarily talented and has a completely different sound than anything you’ve ever heard, look no further than Fort Collins, CO. MJ formed there, and scrounged up enough money to record their first incredible CD. I reviewed it on my music blog before, and even told you where to listen to it and buy it! Now that I have seen them live, I am convinced that they are simply getting better.
The humble quartet walked onto the stage with Devo’s “Gut Feeling/Slap Yer Mammie” playing over the speakers. The ladies (Martina Grbac and Anna Mascorella) sat down with their respective cellos as the drummer (Ross Harada) and bass player (Matt Regan) walked over to the far side of the stage. They graciously thanked the crowd and the venue and then broke into their first tune, which I didn’t recognize. I had thought all week about how much I was looking forward to MJ playing their songs from the one and only CD they have released, but I changed my mind as they played. I realized that they weren’t playing hardly anything from the CD (2 of 11 songs), just focusing on new material that will be released on January 1. This was an unrealized dream come true! I’ve been dying for new material from them, especially because the first CD is a bit on the short side. Here they were – fulfilling my dream by banging through (almost) all new stuff!
The androgynous crowd bounced and swayed throughout the 45-minute set and cheered with glee at the end of each song. I mostly focused on drummer Ross Harada, a member who was a bit buried on the CD. He was absolutely incredible, keeping odd beats and throwing in impromptu Keith Moon moments. The new material was much more complex and refined, both lyrically and musically. The arrangements are more complex, and the time signatures are much more tricky now. It was true bliss!
After MJ finished, we grabbed a beverage and chatted for a bit with some friends. We suddenly got the idea to see what kind of merchandise MJ was selling. When we got to the lobby, I was a little surprised to see the band literally schlepping their own gear! We spoke to them for a bit, got some info on upcoming shows and the new CD, and then headed back to watch Sleater-Kinney.
Maybe it was just the excitement of meeting the band, or seeing them for the first time, or the fact that S-K was playing the last show of their tour. Somehow, S-K didn’t do much for me. Carrie had some energy, looking like the bastard female child of Pete Townshend and Chrissy Hynde. Corin was unable to return for an encore because she had an allergic reaction to something. I didn’t witness this myself, because D and I looked at each other after about 40 minutes and decided we had already seen what we really wanted to see.
Friday, October 14, 2005
Let's consider the evidence. You say you've been cow tipping yourself? Really? Did you actually tip a fucking cow? No? You were too drunk to sneak up on them effectively, made too much noise? You got scared and ran away? Well, that doesn't count. Unless you actually tipped a cow, you didn't go cow tipping. You merely attempted to go cow tipping. That's different.
Ah, OK. You know someone who's tipped a cow. Who, exactly? Your brother's friend? Ah. OK. But you didn't actually see the cow being tipped yourself, did you? That doesn't count either.
When I heard a guy in Washington was killed getting it on with a horse (yeah, you read that right), I was suspicious of its authenticity, too. Then I heard it happened at a farm where people go to have sex with animals (eck, I know), and videotape it. So I figured this guy probably had his, uh, encounter, with the horse taped -- and in this day of digital file swapping surely I could find a digital copy of that tape somewhere. And I did. And I watched it, though I'm not terribly proud of that part.
So, surely... if the guy who makes sweet love to a horse and dies from it consents to being filmed, then no doubt with all the cow tipping going on in the world some college student somewhere has filmed a cow tipping incident and posted it to the web, right? I Googled "cow tipping video" and was encouraged to see 31,500 results! But when I started linking to those sites, not a one of them had any video -- they were all just chatter, like this post. So now, if you do the search, you'll see 31,501 hits.
OK then. Could you tip a refrigerator? What if it was sitting in the middle of a a muddy field? How about if it was just five feet tall and loaded with 800 pounds of lead weights? This analogy comes from an excellent article on Cow Tipping in the Wikipedia, required reading for any cow tipping skeptic.
The fact is, cows don't lend themselves to being tipped. They are heavy, and their weight is distributed low to the ground (think of those fat tummies). Moreover, cows are herd animals. They evolved knowing predators see them as easy prey, and have developed a pretty keen awareness of their surroundings so they can get away if they are approached by something unfamiliar. Oh yeah, I forgot: cows sleep on the ground, with their legs curled underneath them.
Despite an overwhelming lack of evidence or logical reasoning to support its very existence, people argue you can, in fact, tip cows. And they'll tell you it's true because they know someone who's done it. It's maddening, trying to explain the truth to these folks. Absolutely maddening.
Which brings me to "Intelligent Design"...
Saturday, October 08, 2005
In with the New
Carolina Hurricanes 3 (SO), Pittsburgh Penguins 2
RBC Center, Raleigh NC, October 7, 2005
I have seen the new-look NHL, and it was magnificent.
The Canes, a ragtag collection of youngsters and role players (you can call them inexpensive, if you like – that works, too) burst onto the ice last night with a dazzling display of skating skill that completely befuddled the top-heavy Pittsburgh Penguins (for a period, at least), outshooting them nearly two to one, and staking themselves a two-goal lead (that could easily have been a four goal lead), by the end of the first period. Sure, they dragged their feet in the second period, relying on the stellar play of Can Ward, their 21-year old netminder, to keep Pittsburgh at bay. And they took a bunch of ill-advised penalties (as young teams are apt to do) in the third, allowing the Penguins to tie it up with a minute to go. But they showed me they are a better team than anyone imagined them to be, perfectly suited for coach LaViolette’s wide-open skating style. More importantly, this team is well-poised to take advantage of the new rules, rules that were imposed by the league this year to encourage offensive output.
And, boy, do those new rules make a difference.
While it’s entirely possible it’s just been too long since I’ve seen an NHL game live (almost two years – where did the time go?), the new-look NHL seemed faster and significantly more exciting than the old NHL. Without middle-ice obstruction mucking the game at center ice, the action zipped back and forth at an almost dizzying pace. And whoever decided to eliminate the whistle for a two-line pass was a genius – I haven’t seen so many breakaway opportunities in years.
As I mentioned, the Canes started hacking away at the Penguins late in the third period, allowing future star Sidney Crosby to set up the tying power play goal. This set up a 4-on-4 overtime period in which neither team scored (even though the Canes leapt on the Pens just like they did in the first). At the end of the overtime period, with the score tied at 2 goals apiece, the Zambonis were brought out to clear a narrow strip of ice for a shootout to decide the game.
The shootout is new to the NHL this year. It’s a gimmick that has been used in the minor leagues for years – a quick way to resolve a game that the crowd really enjoys. Some people believe it's unfair to decide the outcome of a team-based game with what is essentially a one-on-one skills competition. But everyone agrees it's an awful lot of fun to watch.
In a shootout, each team picks three players to take on the other team’s goalie, mano a mano, to determine which team would be awarded an additional point in the standings (if a game is tied at the end of regulation, both teams are awarded a single point).
But for a team like the Canes, a shootout seems patently unfair. When your rookie goalie is scheduled to face the likes of Mario Lemieux (an undisputed legend), Ziggy Palffy (not quite a legend, but an All Star nonetheless), and Sydney Crosby (no less than the second coming of Wayne Gretzky), you begin to second-guess the guys you’ve selected to take the shots: Corey Stillman, Matt Cullen and Josef Vasicek.
You make the best of what you’ve got, I guess. Stillman, who scored on a breakaway (as the beneficiary of a two-line pass on his way out the door of the sin bin) in the first period, fooled the Pens’ goalie one more time. It was all the Canes needed. When Cam Ward stuffed Sidney Crosby’s shootout attempt, the Canes emerged victorious, 18,000+ fans erupted in joy, and the NHL had thanked Raleigh for their patience and support in the most dramatic of ways.
Welcome back, National Hockey League. Welcome back.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Broken Social Scenesters
FA and FF are gonna have to wait until later because I'm bound and determined to get inside the BSS first -- and two full run-throughs plus a couple partials later I don't think I've begun to penetrate the shell. And I haven't even bothered to remove the "bonus ep" from its sleeve yet.
The first cut, "Our Faces Split the Coast In Half," befits a band with, let's see here, SEVENTEEN regular members. It's dense and oddly mixed, with Feist's vocals buried so low I couldn't help but twiddle with the knobs (like that's gonna do anything) to see if it was something with my stereo. It wasn't -- subsequent listenings have verified the sound is, in fact, exactly what the producer intended. Subsequent litenings have also begun to reveal a pretty good song, too -- something that wasn't exactly apparent to me after the disc first slid into the player.
Song two jacks up the drama -- and the density. So does song three, but with, perhaps, a bit more of a nod to accessibility. So it continues, song after song, until song six, "Fire Eye'd Boy," for the time being the disc's apex. On the first couple spins, it's the catchiest song here, but I'm beginning to think it's star might fade to make room for another favorite cut next week -- maybe "Windsurfing Nation," or "7/4 Shoreline" (which is, for your reference, also song three).
It seems like this disc will mature like Arcade Fire's "Funeral" did, with new favorites revealing themselves on each successive spin.
I'm tempted to compare the overall sound of this CD with Part II of YFIIP, which (as you may or may not recall) meanders a bit more than Part I, and emphasizes atmospherics over hooks. But I've only had it a day. I'm sure I'll feel different about the particulars next week, next month, next year.
However my opinion of it matures, this CD is one hell of an accomplishment for BSS, and a fitting follow-up to one of the best CDs of the decade so far. I give it a solid A.