Wednesday, May 02, 2012

So ya. Thought ya. Might like to. Go to the show.

To feel that warm thrill of confusion, That space cadet glow....
I saw Roger Waters' production of The Wall at the Toyota Center in Houston last night. 
It was actually worth the price of admission and the 100 mile drive (each way).
It exceeded expectations.  Significantly.
I didn't look at my watch during the show.  Not even once.
The music was great, the production inventive and thought-provoking, and technically amazing.
The only thing I didn't like about it was having to empty my pockets before being allowed in the venue, and was told that the Leatherman Micra on my keychain was not allowed in the building.  What the hell has this country come to when you have to submit to a search to get into a concert?  And then they make a stink about a multi-tool small enough to fit on a keychain?  Am I going to hijack the show with that inch and a half long blade or something?  They don't even care about that at the courthouse.  (And why the hell do you have to go through a metal detector and submit to an unwarranted, suspicionless search as a condition for entering a public building?  Especially one where your attendance is legally required through a jury summons?  But that's another rant.) 
And then through much of the first part of the show, there was a projected graphic of a surveillance camera sweeping the audience, in keeping with one of the central themes of the show--the evils of the police state.  When Waters sang the line, "Mother should I trust the government?," graffiti appeared on the wall saying, "No fucking way!"  And yet they act like a bunch of TSA dickheads at the enterance to the venue.  They didn't do that for KISS or AC/DC, so why for Roger Waters?  Was it part of the show or something?  A bit of twisted performance art?  I'd like to think so, but I doubt it. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Whatever happened to Saturday night?

If it was last Saturday, Meat Loaf played at the House of Blues in Houston, and that was the first line of his first song. Hot patootie, bless my soul, I really love that rock and roll.

But first, the opening act--Pearl. Pearl's frontwoman is Pearl Aday, Meat Loaf's step-daughter. The band seems technically proficiant and she can belt them out, and if she finds a Jim Steinman of her own, I'm sure she'll be a pleasure to listen to. But that's enough about them. To quote Christopher Lee's infamous Saturday Night Live introduction, "And now, ladies and gentlemen, I would like you to meet... Loaf! I beg your pardon? What? Oh! I'm... I'm sorry. Yes, of course. Ladies and gentlemen... Meat Loaf!"

On the scale of over-the-top awesomeness, "Bat Out of Hell" goes to 11, and doesn't stop there. In retrospect, I think it's the best album of the 70s, which really surprised me because I always thought "Dark Side of the Moon" had it locked up. Who'd of thunk it?

The band was great, and big enough to do justice to the music. Two guys on guitar, plus Meat Loaf towards the end of the show, one on the bass, another playing piano, another on keyboards and the sax, the drummer, and two additional singers.

I particularly liked the guy on the Flying-V with the Nigel Tufnel thing going on with his chin. You can't really see it in the pictures, but it looked like he'd taken a Sharpie to the cleft in his chin. I'm kind of surprised they let him out of the 80s.

The female lead was really good too, although when they opened the show with Meat Loaf's song from Rocky Horror ("Hot Patootie - Bless My Soul"), she was disturbingly reminiscent of Frank-N-Furter--the hair, the color of the dress, the rubber gloves.... Again, the cell phone camera pictures don't really show it, but they're all I've got.

She had a couple costume changes during the show and shed the Sweet Transvestite look. And she and Mr. Loaf made Paradise by the Dashboard Light as fun as that song deserves. Which is a whole lot of fun.

They played everything you would have wanted to hear, and then some. The show did drag a bit in the middle when they played several songs from the new album back-to-back, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I'd familiarized myself with the new songs first. There were also a couple parts that were slow intentionally, like Two Out of Three Ain't Bad, which didn't drag at all.

I don't remember what they were playing here, but it was good too.

And that's all I have to say about that.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Gord's Back

Back in Houston, anyway. And by "Gord" I mean Gordon Lightfoot, who played to a packed house at the Verizon Wireless Theater on Wednesday (August 25, 2010).

And he sounded pretty darned good. I saw him a few years not too long after his brush with death. It was good to see him still alive, but he was sounding a bit thin and the while the performance was executed well, it seemed a bit wooden. I thought it would be his last tour.

But it wasn't.

This time around he'd recovered a lot of his old voice. Maybe not the 70's voice we all know and love from Gord's Gold, but at least the 80s voice from Gord's Gold II, with a bit more of the lower register on the old stuff. And while the band was tight as ever, the performance had a much looser, more comfortable feel to it. It was a really good show.

They started at around 8:00, and finished up at 10:00, with a short intermission about 15 songs in. I don't recall looking at my watch once during the show, which is pretty rare for me. Or I suppose I should say it's a rare performer who can hold my attention that long. Willie Nelson can do it, and AC/DC, Al Stewart, Hayes Carll, and maybe a couple others. Did I mention that it was a really good show?

Sorry about the poor quality of the pictures; it was the best my phone could do.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

It's such a fine line between stupid and clever

"It's such a fine line between stupid and clever."
--David St. Hubbins

I'm still trying to decide which side of the line this one's on:

In my mind this raises two questions:

1) Is it meant to be taken seriously?

It seems to me that this is really stupid or really clever. It has the feeling of a South park parody, but it could just be a caricature of itself--an unholy union of "Christian rock" of the Praise and Worship variety and patriotic country that pushes each idiom far beyond its limits. I prefer to think of it as brilliant satire, but I'm afraid it isn't. Or at last wasn't intended that way.

Which leads me to my second question:

2) Does it matter?

Socrates and/or Plato wrote in "The Apology":
After the politicians, I went to the poets; tragic, dithyrambic, and all sorts. And there, I said to myself, you will be instantly detected; now you will find out that you are more ignorant than they are. Accordingly, I took them some of the most elaborate passages in their own writings, and asked what was the meaning of them, thinking that they would teach me something. Will you believe me? I am almost ashamed to confess the truth, but I must say that there is hardly a person present who would not have talked better about their poetry than they did themselves. Then I knew that not by wisdom do poets write poetry, but by a sort of genius and inspiration; they are like diviners or soothsayers who also say many fine things, but do not understand the meaning of them....
I think that may be the case here. Whatever the artist may have thought he intended, the Muse had her way with him,and, at least from an artistic point of view, intent is irrelevant. Whether the artist is mocking the protesters, or the Muse the artist, it's brilliant satire.

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Hey, look! It's somebody's mom!

This commercial has haunted me since I was 10 years old. For years I looked for it on the Internet with so little success that I'd begun to think I imagined it.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Last time I went to a big name, high dollar concert also happened to be the last time I posted anything here. It was Steely Dan, and, as you may recall, I was not amused. A hundred and fifty bucks a ticket ($125 each, plus and additional $25 for Ticketmaster's so-called "convenience" fees) to be tortured with a bad song selection and a horrible sound system. After Steely Dan, I'd just about decided to swear off big time shows in big venues.

Just about.

And then along came Cliff and Phil and Malcolm and those two other guys. They sure do know how to put on a show.


Friday, October 10, 2008

"Yes, they do Otto. They just don't understand it."

I just read the stupidest article that I've seen posing as legitimate, mainstream journalism in quite a while. It's called "An Antichrist Obama in McCain Ad?", and it was written by someone named Amy Sullivan, who appears to be working for the Obama campaign, but publishing under a byline that suggests that she's an actual reporter for TIME (in partnership with CNN).

It's all about this web commercial that the McCain campaign put out:

I though it was pretty funny. But apparently you can't poke fun at Obama's Olympian ego without committing some sort of unpardonable sin like racism, or calling him the Antichrist, or denying Global Warming, or some such.

The first "evidence" of McCain's nefarious intent is the ad's reference to Obama as "The One," which the author seems to think is a reference to the Antichrist character in the Left Behind books:

As the ad begins, the words "It should be known that in 2008 the world shall be blessed. They will call him The One" flash across the screen. The Antichrist of the Left Behind books is a charismatic young political leader named Nicolae Carpathia who founds the One World religion (slogan: "We Are God") and promises to heal the world after a time of deep division. One of several Obama clips in the ad features the Senator saying, "A nation healed, a world repaired. We are the ones that we've been waiting for."

The funny thing is that you won't see Nicolae Carpathia referred to as "The One" in the Left Behind books. As anyone with half a brain knows, "The One" is Neo on The Matrix. And, of course, it's what Oprah called Obama:

But enough of "The One." Let's move on:

The visual images in the ad, which Davis says has been viewed even more than McCain's "Celeb" ad linking Obama to the likes of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, also seem to evoke the cover art of several Left Behind books. But they're not the cartoonish images of clouds parting and shining light upon Obama that might be expected in an ad spoofing him as a messiah. Instead, the screen displays a sinister orange light surrounded by darkness and later the faint image of a staircase leading up to heaven.

Hmmm.... The light shining through the clouds in the ad "seems to evoke the cover art of several of the Left Behind books." I guess that could be true, if depicting sunlight piercing through the darkness in a yellow-orange color were an original creation of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. In reality, only the first book of Left Behind series bears even a passing resemblance, and they still got the colors wrong:

I still haven't figured out why yellow-orange light poking through dark clouds is "sinister," but if the folks at TIME (in partnership with CNN) say it is, who am I to argue? In fact, I think I'll use it from here on out. (Way too much on the orange side, but it'll have to do.)

And a less critical viewer might might mistake the "staircase leading up to heaven" referenced in the article to the stairs in the aisle of the theater where Obama was appearing. At least that's what it looked like to me when I went back and watched the video again. (And just what is Ms. Sullivan implying about Led Zeppelin?)

And I suppose they could have used the "cartoonish images of clouds parting and shining light upon Obama" that the author thinks would be more appropriate, but somehow, I think something like this would have spoiled the mock-serious tone that they seemed to be going for:

But enough of that. This next paragraph is the real howler:

Perhaps the most puzzling scene in the ad is an altered segment from The 10 Commandments that appears near the end. A Moses-playing Charlton Heston parts the animated waters of the Red Sea, out of which rises the quasi-presidential seal the Obama campaign used for a brief time earlier this summer before being mocked into retiring it. The seal, which features an eagle with wings spread, is not recognizable like the campaign's red-white-and-blue "O" logo. That confused Democratic consultant Eric Sapp until he went to his Bible and remembered that in the apocalyptic Book of Daniel, the Antichrist is described as rising from the sea as a creature with wings like an eagle.

I'm having a really hard time figuring out what was "puzzling" about this imagery. What better to follow Obama's announcement that his ascension has stemmed the rising tide of Global Warming than Moses demonstrating his mastery over the waters?

And what's all this about the seal? So what if it doesn't resemble the Obama campaign "O" logo that Ms. Sullivan finds more familiar? Since they're poking fun at Obama's Titanic ego, why wouldn't they use the extremely presumptuous faux presidential seal that he used earlier in the campaign? The one that looked like this:

Perhaps if Ms Sullivan and the rest of the Obamatons at TIME (in partnership with CNN) learned how to use Google, or better yet Google Images, she, or a fact checker or editor (if they still have such things) might have noted the absurdity of the claim that the eagle is a reference to the Book of Daniel.

Here's the part (Daniel 7:2-4) to which the Mr. Sapp Ms. Sullivan interviewed was referring:

Daniel spoke, saying, "I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other. The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man's heart was given to it."

If it were a reference to Daniel, the wings would be on a lion, not an eagle. An eagle, on the other hand, can be found on the Great Seal of the United States, which makes perfect sense as a reference to Obama's use of a faux Presidential seal on his podium earlier in the campaign.

And besides, any Fundi worth his salt could tell you that the beast with a body like a lion and wings like an eagle was the Assyrian and Chaldean empire under Nebuchadnezzar (after whom the ship in The Matrix was named), not the Antichrist. The Antichrist is the little horn on the fourth beast (you remember the fourth beast--it was different from the others and had ten horns but no mention of any wings).

And I'll conclude with a clip from A Fish Called Wanda that's totally irrelevant, except tho the extent that "confused Democratic consultant Eric Sapp" might be compared to Otto:

But what about Ms. Sullivan? Did she even read it, or did she just take some Sapp's word for it?


Friday, August 22, 2008

Can't Buy a Thrill

"Can't buy a Thrill." That's the title of a really good album by one of my favorite bands. (And I use the term "bands" loosely, knowing full well that Steely Dan is two guys plus a bunch of studio musicians). And that band, as you may have surmised (and if not surmised, parenthetically deduced), is "Steely Dan." And that band is named after a dildo in William Burroughs' "Naked Lunch." And much as I like their music, I'm tempted to say "aptly named."

I'd heard that Steely Dan was strictly a studio group, but when I saw that they were playing in Houston, I went and bought tickets. I logged on to Ticketmaster relatively early, and ended up with a pair of tickets in row P in the center section at the Verizon Wireless Theater in Houston. And they weren't cheap. $125 per ticket, and with Ticketmaster's "convenience charge" and tax, it was just under $300 for two decent-but-not-great tickets. Add in gas to drive to and from Beaumont, dinner and drinks, and we're talking almost five hundred bucks for a night out. But what the hell, it's Steely Dan. It'll be worth it. Right?

Turns out that the answer to that question is "no." And I'm pissed.

Dinner and drinks were good (the Raven Grill gets a really big 'thumbs up') but Steely Dan in concert totally sucked. And by "totally sucked," I mean "totally sucked." It was not worth the time, much less the money.

First of all, the sound absolutely awful. The keyboards were way too loud relative to everything else, with a rasping, piercing sound only marginally less unpleasant that fingernail on a chalkboard or rubbing a balloon.

But even really bad sound can sometimes be ameliorated with really really good music, and Steely Dan has lots of really good music that they could play. Did I mention how much I really really like Steely Dan's music?

(BTW, in addition to Mr. Steely and Mr. Dan, there was an eight piece band (keyboards, drums, trombone, trumpet, two saxophones, bass and guitar) and three big 'fro'd backup singers. All of whom, I'm sure, were masters of their respective arts.)

But did they play good music? Hell no. It wasn't five minutes into the "Steely Dan" part of the show that I started looking at my watch. I don't know what that first song was, but it went on and on and on and just wouldn't stop. And it wasn't even slightly musically interesting. Just the same thing over and over again, until it started sounding like a dentist's drill.

And for what seemed like the first half hour, it was pretty much more of the same. Just the band--sans Becker and Fagen--doing some sort of Spinal Tap-esque Jazz Odyssey while we waited for the folks we paid an arm and a leg to see to finally come out and do their job.

And when they came out to do their job, they mostly played a lot of b-side crap. There were a few of the hits thrown in, and a bit more densely as the night wore on. So basically it was painful for the first half of the show, and then got mostly tolerable with even a few good moments on those rare occasions when they played something recognizable. But they somehow managed to leave out every single song I paid to hear--no "Rikki Don't Lose that Number;" no "Deacon Blues;" no "Do It Again," no "Reelin' In the Years." Not even in the encores.

And if all that's not bad enough, Fagen seemed to be self-consciously trying to look cool, but he ended up looking like a cross between Ray Charles in "The Blues Brothers" (for the smile, head movements, and shades) and George Carlin as Rufus in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" (for his general appearance).

Pardon me for being a Philistine,but if I pay big bucks to hear a big name band play in a big venue, I expect to hear the big hits played over a good sound system.

If, for instance, Al Stewart plays the Mucky Duck or the Cactus Cafe and he decides to dig deep into his catalog for most of the songs, I think that's just swell. He's playing a small venue for mostly die-hard fans who paid $25 or $30 per ticket to see the show.

But if you're a big name group playing what looked to be about a 5000 seat arena at roughly a hundred bucks a ticket, I think you have an obligation to play the stuff even casual fans came to hear. And you absolutely, positively have an obligation to make sure that the sound is done right. That part's non-negotiable. Steely Dan did neither, and I feel really ripped off.

For an alternate take on the show, click here.


Sunday, June 08, 2008

Still Livin' in a Hell Hole

As everyone who knows me knows, the house I live in is a dump, or, as I put it in a previous post, a hell hole.

Of course, it's not all bad, livin' in a hell hole. At least you know where you stand in a hell hole. And sometimes folks lend a hand in a hell hole.

But the fact of the matter is that I could easily spend a week just making a list of the things that need to get fixed around here. And one thing on that list would be the plumbing.

The genius who designed the 1940s remodel (or more likely some subsequent remodeling job) decided that the washing machine belonged in the kitchen, and it drains into the same line as the sink. I' sure that at one time this arrangement worked well enough, but it seems that over the years the pipes have narrowed like a Cajun's arteries. ("The Louisiana diet will kill a man as surely as a sword.")

As a result, when the washing machine drains, the water will overflow onto the floor if the pipes are already full of water from the sink. But I found that a bit of lye now and then keeps things running smoothly, and generally prevents a puddle on wash day. I used to use Red Devil (the powder, not the liquid), but it seems to have disappeared from the market, and I switched to Drano Kitchen Crystals. Like this:

But just keeping the drains draining isn't enough. A few months ago, water started dripping out of the cabinet under the sink whenever the sink got much use. In a rare fit of initiative, I decided to fix it.

It turned out to be not too big a problem. The washer under one of the slip joint nuts had deteriorated almost to the point of non-existence. In case you were wondering, this is what a slip joint nut and washer are supposed to look like:

This is what the ones under my sink looked like (the washer is the gray-green crud):

I replaced the washer, and things seemed to work fine for a while (except for the washing machine drain occasionally overflowing), but then about a month ago another leak developed. I figured it was another bad washer, but couldn't seem to muster the initiative to do anything about it. There were lots of things that needed doing more, and besides, the occasional leak gave me an excuse to mop the floor.

Which brings us to this morning.

A house-guest of mine, laboring under the absurdly optimistic misapprehension that the sink had a garbage disposal, removed the strainer fro the drain so some food scraps could get ground up by the non-existent appliance.

Not a good thing.

But I had a can of those Drano Kitchen Crystals next to the sink, and I figured they'd dissolve the clog. So I poured some down the drain, and ran a bit of water over them to wash them down.

By the way, in case you were wondering:

And if you're wondering if that applies to plastic pipes as well, not to worry. Just read the fourth line down:

Well, maybe to worry a little. As the crystals interacted with the gunk in the drain and the noxious vapors bellowed forth, a very bad sound came from under the sink, followed by a gush of water. The pipe (the one whose washer I had replaced a couple months ago, as it happens) fell off the sink. And it didn't fall off because I put it on wrong. It fell off because the pipe, having been significantly heated by the chemical reaction within, had lost all its rigidity. It was sort of like a garden hose, only not nearly as stiff.

I tried to push the pipe back in place, but only succeeded in getting my hands covered with an extremely caustic mixture of sludge and lye. And a couple globs of wet Drano Kitchen Crystals splashed onto my arm and gave me a pretty good burn. I went to the bathroom to wash it off, but something about that slimy feeling that wouldn't go away reminded me that if you have a chemical burn from a base, you need acid to neutralize it. (I finally found a use for those high school chemistry classes!) Fortunately, I had a big bottle of vinegar on hand.

So I poured vinegar all over everything, but especially my hands and arm, and then spent about an hour cleaning up the mess. I didn't think the under-the-sink cabinet had ever been cleaned. At least not in my lifetime. It wasn't pretty. It took about an hour just to clean up the mess.

Anyway, here's what the pipe looked like after it had cooled and stiffened up again:

You may have noticed that, in addition to no longer being a proper cylinder, the end of the pipe isn't even round anymore:

And it certainly wasn't straight:

But somehow I managed not to appreciate the fact that the pipe was no longer pipe-shaped when I made my first trip to Home Depot to get replacement washers and slip joint nuts (I figured I'd replace them all, just to be on the safe side).

Of course, when I got home and picked up the pieces to put them back together, I realized that there was no way that was going to work. But at least I found out where the leak came from. It seems that something had eaten a hole through the side of the "T" junction:

Given the odd shape of the "T" junction, I'm guessing that the hole was the result of a previous run-in with Drano.

Once I got the mess more or less cleaned up and figured out what I really needed to do the job, fixing everything was surprisingly cheap and easy. I made another trip to Home Depot and got the parts to replace everything for about ten bucks. And it only took about fifteen minutes to put it all back together. Now it looks like this:

The cabinet's still disgusting, but at least the plumbing's sparkling clean.

But then, after it was all done, I found this in the sink:

I didn't put it there, and I've never owned silverware of that pattern. The only explanation I can come up with is that it must have been stuck in one of the old pipes and fallen out somewhere along to way.

Finally, in fairness to the good folks at Drano, the directions say to use one heaping tablespoon. I may have used somewhat more than that, in keeping with the seriousness of the clog.


Monday, March 03, 2008

The Results Are In!