Archive for the ‘music’ Category

So, Supportive Partner Woman and I hopped in the car and headed to Philadelphia to see the Steely Dan show at the Mann.

The Mann Center is a Philadelphia landmark. established in 1935 as a summer home for the Philadelphia Orchestra. Since 1935, it has sat in Fairmount Park, still hosting the orchestra, among many other shows.

This was not our first visit to the amphitheater (built in 1976). We once caught John Williams conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra as they performed many of his movie classics. This was the first time, however, we needed an ark.

The weather was threatening all day, but it held as we headed down to Philadelphia. We swung through University City and paid a visit to Bobby’s Burger Palace. Excellent food, and I could even eat it. I opted for a Palace Classic (burger with American cheese, tomato and onion. SPW went with a crunchburger and a chocolate/vanilla malted milkshake. We split an order of onion rings. Food was fabulous, and the restaurant was located next to a Chipotle, so it was like quick service nirvana.

Following dinner, we headed through the hood and up to the park. Parking was a reasonable $15, and we weren’t far from the venue. We packed up our disposable ponchos and headed in. For the summer concert series, the Mann was passing out a series of collectible baseball cards.

Regardless, we found our seats and settled in. The skies grew gloomier and showtime came and went. The Deep Blue Organ Trio took the stage as a warmup act and played some phat blues. Comprised of a guitarist, drummer and a big ole’ Hammond B-3.

They played about three or four songs, then it was time for the main event. The skies had opened and a steady rain was falling. Yours truly and SPW were huddled under cheap plastic ponchos from Walmart, gazing at some douchenozzle’s giant-ass golf umbrella.

The band, known as the Bipolar Allstars,  took the stage first, launching into a very jazzy cover of Gerry Mulligan’s Blueport, they were joined by cofounders Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, along with the three backing vocalists. They launched into Your Gold Teeth, followed immediately by Aja. There was a slight break at this point, as Becker launched into a monologue before segueing right into Hey, Nineteen.

This parade continued uninterrupted through 20 songs, ranging from newer songs like Godwhacker and classics like Time Out of Mind, Black Friday, Josie, My Old School and Reelin’ in the Years. The obligatory encore was Kid Charlemagne.

The band was exceedingly tight, as can be expected for playing together so long. The horn section, comprised of Jim Pugh on trombone, Michael Leonhart on trumpet, as well as Walt Weiskopf and Roger Rosenberg on the saxophones were amazing. Their brassy, sassy sound brought a level of depth to many of the songs, especially My Old School. The percussion, provided by jazz notable Keith Carlock, was a little heavy at times, but Carlock showcased amazing skill on par with any rock drummer I’ve ever seen. John Herrington on the guitar brought a certain edge, along with virtuoso skill.

All in all, an amazing show that would’ve been improved without a big ass gold umbrella right in the sight lines.

My current project is the Nerd Herd Banned Books Virtual Half Marathon. I did the first 4.8 miles today on the Lancaster Junction trail. Weather was fine, and the trail was actually kind of deserted. Wildlife sightings included innumerable cows and sheep, some goats, multitudinous grasshoppers and a quasi-curious woodchuck. Oh, and a pony!

I completed my 4.8 miles in 1:29:46. I’m getting a little faster, so that’s a good sign. The ankles are still not cooperating the best, but hopefully they will come around.

I’ve got two more legs to go to complete the half… so I’ll be back with those results in the next couple of days.

Song of the Day: Janie Runaway – Steely Dan

Currently Reading: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 

So, we’re back at Day 2. I took Wednesday off from the gym due to a creaky back and a creakier ankle. I was in a session yesterday and dragged my ass out of bed and got there this morning.

What a morning it was. Because it’s still freakin’ cold, I opted to take Supportive Partner Woman (Going to see Rick Springfield!)’s ride. XM First Wave was on the stereo and they were playing Frankie Goes to Hollywood. And no, not the one hit that everyone actually knows. No, of course not.

First Wave was playing Two Tribes, yo.

And not the harmless, generally sucky, 3 minute radio edit.

Of course not.

They opted for the 9 minute remix.

Yikes.

So, I figure I’ll switch stations… it’s gotta be better, right?

Let’s just say that all depends. Because, playing on other channels at the same time were Shalamar’s Dancing in the Sheets and the Village People’s In the Navy. At that point, I arrived at the gym and thankfully was no longer suffering from ear bleed.

Anyway… I did treadmill for a half-hour on a random hill setting. It felt pretty good. The ankle and back seemed to be behaving themselves and it kind of woke me up. Either that or the fact that it was cold enough to freeze my sweaty hair did the job for me.

So, today’s rant… WTF is up with people wearing pajamas all over the place? OK… I get if you’re walking out to the curb for the newspaper or maybe even going to the local convenience store for coffee. I expect it at Walmart. What I don’t get is going to the mall or a restaurant while wearing PJs. I don’t get wearing PJs to take a one hour train trip. The thing is, I’m usually someone who makes my fashion choices based on whatever doesn’t itch. Maybe someone can explain this phenomenon to me.

Hope you all have a good weekend!

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A Brave New Year

Posted: January 1, 2013 in Holidays, Lego, music

Happy New Year!

Yup… hard to believe it’s already 2013. It seems that it was only a couple years ago that we reached the millennium and I never thought THAT would happen. (For the record, I spent New Year’s Eve 1999 in the basement with a loaded rifle… I fell asleep and woke up about 12:15, saw the power was still on, so unloaded the rifle and went to bed)

It seemed a little strange, though to not have Dick Clark there. I know that he was in bad shape with the stroke and all, but the show is almost as old as I am, and it’s what I remember. The level of “talent” on that show has certainly gone downhill over the years. I’m not going to get into specifics, but if you really need AutoTune THAT much, well, you need some voice lessons.

This brings me into my annual (starting this year) list of celebs whose fame clocks really need to tick over from 14:59:

Taylor Swift
Bieber
Carly Rae Jepsen
Pitbull
Anybody with a surname of Kardashian

I also wanted to thank everyone for the 5,600 hits last year. That’s pretty amazing for a blog that I don’t uber-promote. I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read and comment.

Here’s to wishing you all the happiest and most prosperous New Year you can have. I’m going to leave you with something done by someone I have to assume is a demented bastard with too much time on his hands.

Ahhh… holidays

Posted: December 22, 2012 in cold weather, family, friends, Holidays, music

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or so sang the late Andy Williams.

In many ways it is. There’s usually a display of the best of humanity. Stories emerge of the layaway angel, or the anonymous donor who slips a rare coin or a large denomination bill into a Salvation Army kettle.

Sadly, though, many of these generous acts are overshadowed by the worst humanity has to offer. Even before the school shootings in Connecticut took place, Teh Interwebz was awash in stories of people brawling over women’s underwear at Victoria’s Secret storte in Sacramento or over phones at a Walmart. This has led to deaths, tramplings, even shootings in previous years. All to save that $20 off a PS3.

So, you have both the good and the bad. This blogger falls somewhere in the middle. I appreciate a good savings, but I do value life and limb over a $38 Blu-ray player. In addition, my time is far too precious to me to stand in line freezing my cojones off on Thanksgiving night.

I was trying to find a way to express the craziness of the season in a nice, neat package. I found this video:

It just kind of expresses the craziness of the season. Plus, it cracks me up.

I do love holiday music, though. I have an extensive collection of holiday music across all different genres. The song that sticks with me the most is Greg Lake’s “I Believe in Father Christmas.” It’s been criticized for allegedly being anti-Christmas, but I feel Lake is trying to speak out about what Christmas has become.

It’s more about the consumerism than the peace and forgiveness it used to be. Yes, when I was a kid I wanted nothing more than to get the cool stuff, but the older I get, it’s much more about being with family and friends and celebrating the year. The people who say that “we need to put more CHRIST in Christmas!” are not totally wrong, nor are they totally right. There are plenty of folks who celebrate a different holiday around the same time. Instead of making it all about one faith or another, make it about being the best person you can be. Do something good, make someone smile.

Make some memories, because all too often the people we make the memories with are gone too soon. If you’re estranged from a parent or sibling, swallow the pride and reach out to them. Life is too damn short for petty grudges.

I’ll close with these lyrics, because it’s very true:

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish, pain, and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there’ll be snow at Christmas
They said there’ll be peace on earth
Hallelujah, Noel, be it heaven or hell
The Christmas you get, you deserve.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

So, since Supportive Partner Woman (Editor extraordinaire!) had to work tonight, I headed off to the hinterlands of South Jersey to join in a family Christmas tradition at my cousin Kurt’s home.

I’m not sure if I mentioned this, but Kurt is a bit of an expert on ballparks. He’s written a series of e-books called Ballpark E-Guides, in which he tells you the best way to get to the park, best way to score low-price tickets, even the best concession deals. He puts a lot of time into the books and they are meticulously researched. I know because I went to a Brewers – Nationals game with him at Nationals Park and barely saw him… he was so busy checking sight lines and chatting up ballpark employees.

Anyway, Kurt and his lovely wife and daughter opened their home to a large contingent of the family. I drove down, survived the traffic at King of Prussia and the cattle chutes on the Walt Whitman Bridge, and spent an enjoyable afternoon with my favorite branch of the family.

Far_Side ©Gary Larson

Well, it’s a family tree.

Sadly, we don’t see each other enough. Usually of late, it’s been at a funeral, and that’s gotta stop. We have so much fun… my cousins are intelligent and able to hold a conversation on multiple topics at the same time. For example, when I arrived, there was a big discussion going on regarding the best double albums ever recorded and whether or not they would be OK as a single album.

This is the kind of stuff we talk about at family gatherings. For the record, we figured that there’s no way Tommy or Quadrophenia could e trimmed, however, my cousin Doug feels that The Wall could be trimmed. There was not much agreement on that one.

They can be loud and boisterous, but better people are hard to find. A few weeks ago, when I was feeling pretty down in the dumps, my cousin sent me a lovely e-mail that brought tears to my ears, reassuring me that the family had my back. Not only that, he called my mom to make sure I was doing OK.

That’s what I love about this particular branch of the family tree. Not only do they care, they can laugh at the antics of some other branches of said tree. During our Giant Catholic Wedding Circus©, one of my cousins from Pittsburgh got exceedingly trashed and pretty much surgically attached herself to SPW’s arm, slurring all the way. This is always good for some chuckles at family gatherings.

Speaking of family, I finally told my mother that I intend to have the gastric bypass surgery. She took it a lot better than I expected. She said that she respects the fact I didn’t rush right into it and I took the time to talk to people who have had the operation with varying degrees of success. That was one of the major hurdles, because I fully expected a load of objections about the risks and all that. I told her that in my mind, the rewards outweigh the risks. Yes, it’s major abdominal surgery. Yes, it’s general anesthesia. Yes, there are risks. The chance to live a life free of the syringe makes all the risk worthwhile. It’s not going to be an easy journey, but after a year, I want to be patient of the month at support group, telling how I managed to make my decision and get off the fence and how it helped me lead a normal, non-diabetic life.

Plus, not looking like a whale in a chair is a great incentive.

Have a great rest of the weekend, folks!

Song of the Day: I Believe in Father Christmas – Greg Lake
Currently reading: A Blaze of Glory – Jeff Shaara

What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family. – Mother Teresa

Happy Monday everyone!

Standard Palace Burger

I hope this finds you well and that you all had decent weekends. I know Supportive Partner Woman (eater of crunchburgers!) and I did. Saturday dawned and SPW and I got some stuff done around the house, then headed to Cherry Hill, NJ, to meet our friend Fred at Bobby’s Burger Palace. This is a burger joint owned by Food Network chef Bobby Flay and it is possibly the best burger I’ve ever had in my life. I opted for the Palace Classic Burger (cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and American cheese), SPW got the Crunchburger (double American cheese and potato chips) and Fred wound up with an LA Burger (cheddar cheese, watercress and avocado relish). In addition, SPW and I split an order of onion rings and Fred went with the sweet potato fries. Everything was top-notch, but the real star of the show was probably the chipotle ketchup on the table. This was a delicious combination of smoky and sweet, coupled with a bit of heat from the chipotle. It was delicious and really set off both the burger and the onion rings. SPW (connoisseur of burgers!) said that this beat the burger she had at Burgers and More by Emeril. I understand that people have different tastes, but it was funny to read some reviews on Yelp! and fine people who say that it was almost as good as Five Guys. Sigh.

Before heading to Cherry Hill, SPW (writer of extraordinary talent) had gotten around to putting her spin on the Sandusky scandal. I think she did a great job with it… you can find it here. This is one case where I agree with her 100%.

The Wall

After eating our delicious burger goodness, we headed into the Philadelphia Financial District, which is what wags refer to the sports complex as. This is due to the naming rights partners of the sports venues, Lincoln Financial, Wells Fargo and Citizens Bank. We were headed there to see The Wall. I have a few things to share about the show.

For his age, Roger Waters can still rock the house. Hell, anyone of any age who can stage that show is amazing.

Upon arrival at Citizens Bank Park last night, you could see the top of what appeared to be an immense stage peeking out of the ballpark. It wasn’t until we got inside that you could grasp the scale of the stage. It spanned from foul pole to foul pole, with the wall spreading beyond the boundaries of the field and into the stands.

Ah, yes… the wall. As big of an attraction as Waters himself, this was a massive set piece. Measurements I had seen said it was some 500 feet long and 40 feet tall when completed. Not only did it serve as an integral part of the pageantry, it made for an amazing projection screen. More on that later.

The concert started with some dialog from the classic movie Spartacus. Suddenly, the band began to play In The Flesh?, setting the stage for a night of dead-on album sound. Images are projected on the wall, setting the tone and a model of a Ju-87 Stuka dive bomber crashes into the wall and explodes. It gets better and more intense from that point.

Let me just take a moment to praise the band. Made up of several Pink Floyd session guys like Snowy White, amongst others, the band is very tight. They should be, having played this tour for three summers. Other musicians of note included Robbie Wyckoff, a session vocalist who provided the David Gilmour vocals and former SNL bandleader G.E. Smith, who played guitar and ukulele. The band even included Waters’ son, Harry, who played keyboards and organ.

The sound, provided by Clair Brothers, was impeccable. The stadium was wired for surround sound, which really makes my home theater seem wimpy, and they had a nearly perfect balance. The staging and rigging were like nothing I had ever seen before. I was pleased to see many open seating areas where they did not sell tickets as the view would’ve been obstructed by a lighting tower or projection unit. Our seats in the Hall of Fame Club were excellent. They were wider than standard ballpark seats, so standing up did not produce any sucking sounds as my bulk was levered clear. The seats cost a smidge more than the lower level seats but were well worth it.

Merchandise offerings were plentiful, with the standard T-shirts, hats, trinkets, etc. The best value was an 18×24 tour poster, suitable for framing, for only $5.00. The T-shirt was $40 and features the crossed hammers on the front with the tour locations on the back. On the way out of the stadium, I also procured a second shirt via the secondary market. It’s a quality shirt, a Hanes with no tag. Guy wanted $20, I started walking and he quickly lowered his price by $10.00. I scored the second shirt and left happy. I bought both shirts in a size that’s too small, but I’m confident I will fit in them before too long.

Its easiest to describe the concert as an almost sensory overload. Between the music, which was loud and yet crystal clear, to the video messages, to the giant puppets and the underlying anti-war theme, there were messages left and right. I also gained an appreciation of how a mob mentality can work. At the climax of The Trial, as the judge was exhorting everyone to tear down the wall, the energy was palpable. As the stadium shook (yes, shook) and 45,000+ people screamed, “Tear down the wall!”, well, I really wanted to go do that. It was a visceral moment. Other highlights included the playing of Comfortably Numb, where both SPW and I had tears in our eyes.

All in all, it was a show I was glad I had the opportunity to see. It ranks right up in my top three shows, if not number one, with Pink Floyd’s 1994 show at the Vet and U2’s Joshua Tree show at JFK in 1987. I’d tell you to go see it, but this was the last US show. There’s one more North American show, at Quebec City’s Plains of Abraham on July 21. Supposedly Waters is considering running the tour for another summer throughout Europe, but that’s probably to get the money’s worth out of the staging, which was reported to cost upwards of $60 million.

I’ve heard tell that this might be the last major rock spectacle to ever be staged live. If that is the case, I’m glad I was there. To hear one of the most amazing albums ever recorded performed live as it was intended is certainly bucket list material. What do I cross off the list next?

So, had a bariatric class today. Usually one of the first things you do is weigh in when you have class and with all the time I’ve been spending at the gym, I was excited to see the results. See, I’m currently too fat for our at-home scale, so I really don’t have any idea how much I weigh on a daily basis. The last time I got weighed on that scale, it was 368.

Today? 365.

I somehow expected it would be about ten pounds less. I feel so much less fatigue when I climb steps, my clothes are fitting better… and, well, I’m still pretty hefty.

Today’s session was about stress and its effect on eating habits, with a dose of night eating syndrome and a bit on binge eating disorder. Very timely. If I hadn’t been made to think about my stress reactions and the compulsion to eat, I probably would’ve gone home and gnawed the lining out of the fridge. Instead, I did something both more beneficial and less productive.

I took a nap.

Dr. Collins, the psychologist who works with the bariatric team, normally conducts this session. She was out today and her slot was filled by a Dr. Christa Coleman. Dr. Coleman talked about how adjusting to stress and developing better coping mechanisms can help aid us in our quest to be healthier. That’s something I need to learn to do. I usually internalize a lot of my stress, which really doesn’t help my metabolism and doesn’t help me in the weight loss quest. I just have a hard time letting go of things and I’m a worrier. Maybe I need to learn how to meditate or do yoga or something. Of course, if I try to bend myself into a pretzel, well, I’ll probably stay that way.

So, to make a long story shorter, I came home, had a sensible lunch and took a nap. Dinner tonight will include some pulled pork carnitas in a wheat burrito with salsa and a little cheese. Supportive Partner Woman (master of the slow cooker!) makes a mean carnitas that is reasonably healthy and loaded with protein.

View from our seats. Hall of Fame Club!

Tomorrow, SPW and I will be meeting up with our friend Fred and taking in the Roger Waters show at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia. Roger will be performing The Wall in its entirety and as Fred described it, “This is bucket list stuff, dude!” The set is supposed to be incredible, dominated by a wall measuring some 40 feet high and 500 feet long. We are supporting the local economy as well, seeing as the rigging is done by a Lititz, PA-based company called Tait Towers and the sound is by the world-famous Clair Brothers, based in Manheim, PA.

In short, there’s a chance my next post will be a review of the show. I hope I’ll be able to capture some video, although any video I might capture will not do it justice.

Have a great weekend, folks!