Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Review Thing

Wow, over a year between posts? Well, never too late to start it up again, and maybe posting any little thing will get the writing bug jumping. Here's my review of an incredible My Morning Jacket show at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago that I drove to last weekend (apologies to those who aren't as familiar with the band):

I always have the same reaction during My Morning Jacket shows: this is my new favorite. Of course, afterwards that thought slides back and the show finds its place in the natural order, because nothing will ever be better than your first, and there was the T5 TTF show...and there was...ANYWAY, at the time, living in those moments that make up an epic Jacket show which you are celebrating with your friends who have the same ridiculous ecstatic expressions on their faces that I do on mine, you know it doesn't get any better.
After having a great time at the outstanding fundraiser and meet-up, I arrived early enough to see Daniel Martin Moore and found my seat: all the way up every stair in the building to the top floor, and in the balcony set underneath and behind the very top balcony. The only other theater I had seen the boys at was Radio City and I was in the first mezzanine there -- so I remembered what happened that night, and I kept my mind open. The view to the stage was fine, but the overhanging balcony above my head had me worried about the sound, especially not being able to hear DMM very well over the pre-show talking crowd.
As I waited for Jason to find his way up, the XRT DJ introduced the band, and then it started: Victory Dance...and I was still in my seat along with every one else up there. Soon enough though, I was up and moving, and before I knew it, there was Jason with a big hug just as Carl began belting out those falsetto "setting sun!"s. CHILLS, man. The sound was great, loud and punchy, the Auditorium was incredibly beautiful, one of my favorite show buddies of all time was there rocking with me, and all was right with the world. We knew right then we were going to be treated to a great one, and yet we did not realize.
I am used to seeing the boys from below and from not this far away, but it is cool to see the stage from such a vertical vantage, and I drank in the view and the sweet sounds of Circuital and The Day Is Coming. Now, when we heard the Omnichord and the beginning of Touch Me, Jason and I looked at each other and remarked that we would not be getting the kind of setlist that there have been complaints(!) about. Sweet! Do NOT ever turn this feeling off. Wow, what a way to get this show going.
And goddamn, did it get going with Off the Record and Wordless, then First Light and Freak Out establishing themselves as up-and-coming face-melters. I'm listening to the FM recording as I write this, and the boys were just on fire, playing their hearts out and having a great time. Tom and Patrick were really kicking it up, tight and steady, with some exploratory fills and notes I have not heard before.

Ohhhh...Wonderful. The golden rainbow. Jim pleading with the light guy, "Come on, we can do this!" Daniel Martin Moore. Everybody in the house singing along. SO WONDERFUL. Then Golden to top that off, and it was just so beautiful.

Gideon was the perfect way to throw some more of that intense energy on us, and then I'm Amazed got me thinking that Jim and Carl could go absolutely nuts with a guitar duel at the end of that one. Now they toss in a super gem: Where to Begin! And more chills as the power and emotion hit me hard.
More kickass rocking out on Anytime and Dancefloors (especially Tom, wow), and my favorite so far from Circuital, Slow Slow Tune. Each one of those crashes in that song knocks me out, so powerful. It was nearly impossible where we were to catch all of Jim's words when he was talking between Dancefloors and SST, and I told Jason, "I cannot wait to hear a recording so I can find out what the hell he's saying!" On to Moving Away, such a sweet, beautiful, sad but hopeful song, and more emotion was flowing again in the upper balcony.

OH MY SWEET JESUS, are you kidding me? When I heard Patrick pounding out that beat to start Honest Man, I almost lost it, screaming with Jason, and headbanging those crunchy first measures. Just an unbelievable amount of awesome mind-blowing RAWK. Along with Where to Begin, a second rare SUPER GEM for this show. Apologies to the guy in the row in front of me, who received a bit of the beer someone handed to me as I went crazy, eating up the guitars, loving Bo's piano, fucking belting it out. Apologies also to the guy on my right, who never left his seat -- okay, I'm really just sorry for him for not getting it. Black Metal and Highly Suspicious were great fun rockers to follow -- I just love that scream and the "WOOO!" and Carl going nuts at the end of HS.

What?! One Big Holiday? This show is NOT over! Now we know we are going to get some madness in the encore. God, I love that moment -- WAKING UP -- screaming along with the crowd, watching and hearing and feeling the boys completely, absolutely tearing it up. And by the end of this one, after so much exertion, we're wondering if maybe it could be the end of the show. But of course the lights stay down and we're thinking we've got Steam Engine or Dondante on the way...or maybe both?

"I hope we all get to cross that golden rainbow together into the next dimension. Maybe we're already there..."

Steam Engine: astounding and new EVERY TIME. All the proof I need -- but Smokin' from Shootin' with the end of Run Thru (hoping we'll get the whole thing again soon), and then that unbelievable Mahgeetah closer proved it again: we are witnessing one of the most exciting, talented, and rewarding live rock bands in existence.

I got the feeling from this show that the band and Jim especially were feeling it extra much, it showed in the playing and the energy, and you can hear it in Jim's voice in the recording. You can hear him almost cracking with emotion, and there were four or five times when he let loose little laughs while he sang, as if he couldn't contain his joy. And that's exactly how I feel during these shows, each of which is always my favorite in those moments -- when I am lucky enough to be sharing wonderful space and time and music with this band and great friends.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Yoga Thing

So I've been practicing yoga for about three months now, and I am hooked. It is so good in every way you hear advertised: body, mind, spirit. Sure, I'm still a novice (can't give you any of the poses' Sanskrit names), but I notice improvement every time...in my flexibility and strength, and in the ways in which I find myself more focused and aware in my brain and in my heart. I enjoy myself, concentrating on breathing and balance, awakening muscles that have been out of use for ages, doing things I didn't know my body could do (and some it still doesn't, but getting closer)...I catch myself smiling in the mirror. My shoulders are becoming less troubled by the spaghetti-noodle ligaments holding them together. The guy I play racquetball with cannot beat me now. I actually think the guy in the mirror doesn't look ridiculous when I see him doing the poses (not to mention most of the other times).

I am not the least bit hesitant to tell all that to you, dear reader, and yet it's still weird to tell my buddies that I am going to be late to go have beers with them because I will instead be flowing through vinyasas with Dr. Carol (who cannot be recommended highly enough). It's interesting though, that it's only before class that I feel that way...afterward, I have no qualms about telling the guys what I've been doing and how completely badass it is.

And when I do tell guys about yoga, of course the only ones who think it's funny are those who have never done it (and must be unaware of the gender balance generally found in yoga classes). Sometimes I find several of my friends have tried it on the sly, and they know how hard, and how good it can be.

I do wish I had tried yoga earlier, but then it is really a perfect exercise for a 40-year-old guy who's always been in half-assed shape to discover. It's perfect for the conditioning, the challenges, and the fact that one doesn't perform or get judged, one practices, always aiming for improvement...an excellent goal for life in general, I say. Nothing new there, but something I have to remind myself to actually do sometimes.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Beer Thing

An Open Letter to the New Belgium Brewing Company:

Hi There,
I have lived in Oklahoma for 16 years after moving here from Colorado, and endured it with the hope that one day your beers would finally be sold here. Year after year, I have traveled to various states and found New Belgium being sold in more and more of them, and continued to be dismayed by the absence of your fine product here. Now I see on your website an attractive map showing that the territory of your sales has extended coast-to-coast, but still contains a big goddamn Oklahoma-sized hole in the middle.

The reason I have always been told that your beers are not sold in my New Belgium-forsaken state is that our antiquated liquor laws forbid the refrigeration of beer having an alcohol content greater than 3.2% in the stores they are sold in, i.e., not gas stations. I can understand that you don't want your product to suffer from the effects of the high temperatures we often experience here in our extremely air-conditioned liquor stores, and your probable desire to punish our legislators for their unwillingness to succumb to common sense. And so I offer to you the following image that I captured in a liquor store in COLORADO when I was recently there (and of course, this is a sight I have seen in many a liquor store where New Belgium beers are sold, and one with which you are readily familiar with yourselves, I'm sure):


Maybe I am wrong in my assumption of the reason for the unavailability of New Belgium beers for us Oklahomans...maybe it's the short-sightedness of our distributors here. Maybe your market research has determined that sales here would be pitiful -- my own market research, in the form of several cases of New Belgium products found in the back of my car every time I visit a neighboring state (for personal consumption, of course), can attest differently. Or maybe one of your guys came to Oklahoma once to visit family and stepped in something stinky, and has held a grudge ever since (heaven knows no stinky things can be found on the ground in Colorado). I apologize if this question has already been answered on your website, but so far I have been unable to find any such explanation.

I look forward to your response, which I hope will be accompanied by the sudden appearance of your excellent products in the liquor stores of my state, or just a coupon for a free beer the next time I'm in Fort Collins.


P.S. Bring back Old Cherry!

Edit -- the reply from New Belgium:

Hi Chris,

Thanks for dropping us a line and thanks for being such a loyal fan. I can definitely understand your frustration with not having Fat Tire in your state, let alone being surrounded by states that do. You are correct that our reasons for our absence in Oklahoma are definitely related to quality assurance and the fact that all beer over 3.2% must be sold warm to the consumer.

The quality of our beer for our consumers is a top concern for us no matter where it is sold. All of our beers have varying best before dates from 90 days on up. Included in this shelf life is up to 30 days of room temperature storage, like the picture you attached below. This is in place so our beers can be displayed for a maximum of those 30 days out of a cooler. Other than that, it must be shipped, stored, and delivered cold. Unfortunately we can’t guarantee that our beers will be held to this standard in states where the retailer is not permitted to store/sell our beer refrigerated.

Oklahoma is in our plans for expansion, but I can’t give you a date just yet. The laws changing would definitely help us reconsider our absence in your state.

Thanks again for your support and bootlegging efforts.



Brian Krueger

Sales Co-Pilot

New Belgium Brewing Company

Curses! An unreasonably reasonable response!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Service Thing

Driving home this morning after Date Nite I was passed by a BMW SUV with the following emblazoned on its license plate: "ISRVGOD". After concluding that the driver was not questioning the deification of Stevie Ray Vaughn, I wondered how indeed was that person serving God? Tea? Subpoena? Oil change? Or were they on their way to serve God in the usual manner of such folks who like to advertise their faith - either by recruiting the unsaved to their side or by blowing them up? Surely not the latter, not in that sweet new Bavarian grocery-getter. Which brings me to my pointless, over-used query - why does God need servants? Can't he get his own shit, being almighty and everything? If I could swap out the motor in my car with the flash of a thought or wipe out scores of infidels with a flood, I'd do it, and I'd probably be able to get people to come around to my way of thinking too. It's obvious that God is no longer the Old Testament badass he used to be, and is now just a lazy corporate executive who sits on his ass and has minions doing all of his dirty laundry.

Damn, I was supposed to talk about homebrewing this time - instead, I'm going to be struck down by God's vengeful wrath. Except that He'll need one of His lunatics to do it for Him.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

An Irrelevant Thing

This is about a thing I've been thinking about for a while that is completely useless, mildly interesting to very few people, does not improve on an earlier version, and is not aesthetically pleasing. That means it's neither marketable, nor useful, nor even art, making it irrelevant to the world in general. I've even used a decade-old obsolete piece of software to simulate it and aid in design. But it's functional, and it will work, if I'm ever able to build it physically.

The thing is a Binary Rolling Ball Mechanical Clock. What. The. Fuck. - you say. Maybe you've seen or heard of the old rolling ball contraptions that rolls a ball bearing down a series of ramps every minute in a clattering, noisy, annoying spectacle of useless chronography. The balls collect in a series of 5 minutes, dump into another series of 60 minutes, then hours, and you can look at the thing and maybe figure out what time it is before the next ball rolls down.

Maybe you've also seen a digital binary clock, which displays hours, minutes, and maybe seconds in a binary format. I won't attempt to explain binary, if you know it, you know it - it represent numbers with only 0s and 1s, on or off, with lights, or flags. This clock is even more time-consuming to read initially, but as you learn binary, it gets easier. The time in the pic at left is 0011:011001, or 3:25. Google 'binary clock', and you'll see plenty of examples, so we know that there are huge numbers of total geeks out there.

My idea combines the two - a rolling ball clock that displays the time in binary (warning: skip this paragraph if you don't want to hear about really boring details). This can be done in a couple of ways, either with several balls sitting in particular positions which represent numbers, or a single ball which trips those positions and turns on a flag. Each of those number positions is a 2-way gate which will send the ball in the other direction the next time it comes through - which is how binary numbers are incremented. One row of those gates can represent minutes, and when the ball has counted to 60 in that row, the ball is sent to another row that represents hours. When the hour row has counted to 24, the thing is reset to 0. I've simulated this with an ancient piece of amusement software called Gravityball, which was last updated in 1997, in which you can use various objects to guide the little orange ball however you want. I built what you see in the picture below, and changed the program's images to make more sense, so you see blue lights instead of a double elbow. It actually keeps pretty good time (+- 10 secs/24 hours). See if you can tell what time it is in the pic (hours on the left, minutes on the right):

So building this thing in reality could be done with pre-fab construction elements like LEGOS(tm), which would be fun, or it could be done more elegantly with metal rails and such. That would be a challenge that requires learning to weld, and weld small stuff. Vo-tech, here I come! Now I wish I had taken metal sculpture when I was in art school.

My point with all of this was not to explain my worthless invention and thereby bore you to tears - it's that while this thing is irrelevant, it's interesting and meaningful to me, which I think is one of the keys to keeping yourself from losing your shit daily. Not everybody, and maybe nobody, will think those things that you enjoy are worth a damn, let alone enjoy them with you. So what - do your thing anyway! But if you ever do run into a person who hits that approval button for you, you'll just milk it for everything it's worth, probably to the point of total rejection.

People need hobbies. Maybe next time I should talk about homebrewing.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

It's Just the First Thing

There's just one thing:
It bugs the shit out of me when people preface statements with stuff like:
"I hate to tell you this, but..."
"To be perfectly honest..."
"Well, there's just one thing..."
So why the hell did I pick the particular offender I did to be the name of this here blog? Cuz it's the name of one of my favorite songs, that's why: Just One Thing