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Archive for May, 2007

Holy spit

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

I was watching the 2007 VH1 Rock Honors last night. Good show, I thought 2006 would be hard to top because of Queen, but they had a good lineup. Some good matches on the tribute groups, and the supergroup this year was Gretchen Wilson joining Alice in Chains to sing Heart’s “Barracuda” with guitarist Nancy Wilson (no relation, but I wondered if having the same last name as the sisters helped them convince to use a country performer). They worked great, and Nickelback doing ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” was good – the one that didn’t work was Keane doing “That’s All” (from Genesis). I think it wasn’t a good match for Tom’s range, he’s usually singing in a higher register. Robin Williams was his usual self introducing Genesis, and they and Ozzy were in fine form.

Anyway, I joined the Genesis fan club to get good tix for their show here in September. They had held a contest for a pair of front row seats for this year’s Rock Honors that I’d entered, and as I opened my mail as I watched I thought how cool it would have been to be there. Best Buy’s Reward Zone had also been running a contest recently for a pair of tix and VIP lounge passes for the Police tour (they’re the big sponsor) and I’d entered that as well, but it’d ended last week and I hadn’t heard anything so I figured I didn’t win that either. But the last piece of mail I opened was a FedEx envelope from a name I didn’t recognize. Sometimes I’ve gotten mortgage refinance offers that way, but not this time. Inside was a letter telling me I’d won a pair of tix for their Hershey, PA stop, as well as a pair of sweet tix (11th row) and directions on how to get the VIP passes. “Holy spit” was not what I said, and then I didn’t say it again.

I still think the Police will have a stop in our area besides the Virgin Festival, and I intend to go to both that and Live Earth, bringing up the possibility I could see them four times this year. I probably won’t, but knowing the volatile personalities involved this may be their last tour, and I’ve never seen them before and really like them. I picked the Hershey, PA show because not only is it the closest, it’s also the Friday of our vacation, so we can start heading north a little early (assuming that Jill can get out of school early, too).

Over-geeking

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

How many ladies dressed as Leia from Return of the Jedi is too much?

Keane night

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

Last night I worked late, then headed into DC to see Keane at the 9:30 Club. I’d seen them in the summer of 2005 when they did a co-headlining tour with the Killers at Merriweather Post Pavilion, but I’d really wanted to see them in February of that year at the 9:30 Club, but I’d been too slow on the draw for tix. Not this time, as I snapped them up the second they went on sale.

I actually got a little more caught up in work then I thought, and got to the club a half hour later than planned. That meant I missed openers Rocco DeLuca and The Burden (maybe another time, fellas), but I had time to get a beer and a decent spot on the balcony. Tim and Richard came out and performed instrumental “The Iron Sea”, then Tom joined them and they went straight into “Put It Behind You”. It was an energetic show, with a good split of songs between their two albums. Highlights were “Bend And Break”, an “almost acoustic” (Tim played synth) “Your Eyes Open” and of course the great finale of “Somewhere Only We Know” and “Is It Any Wonder?”. I wondered if the great enthusiasm of the crowd throughout the night would change the encore, but it didn’t – although that was ok with me, as ending with “Atlantic”, “Crystal Ball” and “Bedshaped” was perfect.

Is this the best author website ever?

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

I report, you decide.

One night out, then non stop cleaning

Monday, May 28th, 2007

Friday Jill picked me up at work, then we headed into DC. Our first stop was dinner at Equinox. Jill had taken me there once before for my birthday, and we’d much enjoyed it, so since we had to be in the area for the show, I decided we should go back. The amuse-bouche was a ball of fried risotto and a shot of cream of cauliflower soup with some curry flavorings. Not a fan of the soup due to my distaste for curry, but the risotto was tasty. Next, Jill had the cream of red pepper soup with shrimp and crab salad, while I had the foie gras with a pear-rhubarb compote – the compote alone was worth the price of admission.

For entrées, I had the strip steak with asparagus, creamed spinach and gorgonzola while Jill got the farm chicken with “dirty rice”. Unbeknownst to us, “dirty rice” was not slang for wild rice, but rice cooked with chicken livers. Jill nearly gagged, then sent her plate back for some innocuous steamed spinach. That was the only blemish on the night, both meats were excellent. We’d thought about trying the cheese course, but abstained. A good idea, because as dessert arrived we were both getting full. Jill had a dish with three sorbets (grape, coconut and raspberry) while I had the cheesecake, which came with some glazed strawberries and a scoop of strawberry sorbet. The only bad thing (for me) is I felt the strawberry sorbet was seasoned too stongly with basil – otherwise it was exceptional. With the bill came a macaroon, jelly and whit chocolate truffle, and if we were feeling full, that put us over the top. Another great meal there, and worth the $$$.

We got to walk off some of the meal by walking about 5 blocks to DAR Constitution Hall. Damien Rice had no opener, so he came on late, so we actualy had almost an hour to kill, so we just read in our seats. I’d discovered Damien when he guested on the Tori Amos song “The Power Of Orange Knickers”, and had wanted to check him out when he came last fall to the Lincoln Theatre, but Jill had a conflict. A shame, as I think we would have enjoyed that concert more. We still had a good time, but in the meantime Lisa Hannigan stopped touring with him, and she’s a big part of his albums. Also cellist Vyvienne Long was absent, and with only testosterone on stage, it turned into more of a rock show. Not that that was bad, just that we’d expected the chamber-pop from his albums. We headed out early and went to bed, as I’d been pretty short on sleep during the week.

The weekend was filled with cleaning – good thing we had an extra day. We’d been saying for a year we were going to clean the office. It was dreaded because when we’d clean the house, we’d clean the rest and just shut the office door, and things had been literally been piling up in there for years. But we agreed to do it before Jill started her summer classes, and that’s tomorrow. So for three straight days we pulled stuff out, then sorted, threw away and recycled things, sometimes while watching TV. We got the new bookcase in and we’re almost done, and it looks totally different – Jill thought it was like being on a home improvement show.

Movies I watched while sorting: The Rock (I liked Sean Connery, although Nicolas Cage was just a bit too whiney as the nerd turned agent), Sidewalks Of New York (I loved Edward Burns’ first two films, The Brothers McMullen and She’s the One, but the third, No Looking Back, was so depressing I gave up. I think that was a mistake, as Sidewalks was a return to form.) and V For Vendetta (the best Alan Moore adaption yet, liked it more than I thought I would). Jill and I also finished off the season of 24 (it bogged down in the middle, but finished off nicely).

Saturday I grilled some kielbasa, Sunday Jill wanted the big burgers n’ dogz cookout, and tonight I heated some frozen chicken dishes. I also grilled a leg of lamb and ate of some it by itself and as a lamb omelette (Jill is squicked as she’s reading this because she doesn’t like lamb or egg dishes).

So we didn’t do much besides the big clean. We’d thought about heading over to ViVa! Vienna! and checking out Mary Ann Redmond or the Brindley Brothers, but we just didn’t have the time. Luckily we get a redo on Mary Ann as she’ll be at the Herndon Festival Thursday, kicking off the festival and one of the weekends I look forward to the most (nothing beats concerts we can walk to). And we won’t be doing any cleaning next weekend.

Spycraft mission 1

Friday, May 25th, 2007

Since it’s in a protected area, here’s my writeup of our first Spycraft adventure:

Session 01: The Shroud
Opening Vignettes

Checkmate is in a nightclub in Prague tossing back shots with an attractive Ukranian woman when his phone rings. He pulls it out, looks at it, then stands up, saying “I’ve got to go.” The woman follows him out, confused, “Where are you going? Why?” He ignores her and continues walking. She pulls at the sleeve of his jacket, leaving a big scratch in the leather and tearing a seam, but he shakes her off.

Slick is at a parking lot, selling his car. He haggles with the price, then gets the call. He manages to have the guy give him a ride, and they drive off.

Shield is skiing down the Cascade trail at Killington when his phone rings. He pulls to the side, then takes out his phone. After he reads the message, he flips the phone shut and barrels down the mountain. Unfortunately he’s a bit too overconfident and nearly falls, getting to the bottom on one ski before pulling to a smooth spot. He goes into the lodge to get a drink, but Slick pulls up in Shield’s car, and he leaves it behind.

Shotgun is a former Israeli army soldier, and his commander lets him know he will be working with a corporate response team. “They’re on a mission to retrieve an object. Your job is to make sure that object stays in Israel”, the commander tells him.

Jerusalem

The team has assembled with Shotgun, his commander, and a couple other soldiers outside a small hotel in Jerusalem. “Last night, a team broke into the secret lab of Yakamoto Industries located under the church across the street, wounded many and killed several before getting away with a piece of cloth that was being studied there”, says the commander. “We believe they were surveilling the church from this hotel, but we don’t know if they returned afterwards. However, we don’t have any other leads, and we need to deal with something else right now. I’m leaving you Shotgun as your liason with us”.

The commander and the other soldiers jump in a jeep and drive off. The team looks around, then heads into the hotel. Slick slides up to the woman standing behind the front desk. “How are you, sweetie’, he says, “Busy night last night, huh?” They get to chatting, she’s older and clearly flattered by his words. He establishes there were 3 occupied rooms the night before, two upstairs by Russian men and a German man, and one downstairs by a French couple and which rooms they were in. Shield catches Checkmate’s eye, Checkmate nods almost imperceptively and slides off.

As the sounds of voices filter upstairs, Checkmate appears at the top of the landing. He goes to the door of the room that the Russians stayed in, fiddles with the lock until it clicks and the door opens. He looks around, then goes inside shutting the door behind him. He quickly tosses the room, not finding much. He slips out and down the hall to the room the German was staying in. He picks the lock and goes inside to search. He has more luck here, unearthing a cassette tape under the bed. He notices a notepad near the phone and uses a pencil to shade the top sheet, revealing writing from the note scrawled on the previous sheet – Donna 972 2 6283282.

Downstairs the team has kept the woman occupied as Checkmate searched, but haven’t been able to check the room the French couple stayed in because it was in her line of sight. Shield asks to rent that room for the night. The woman agrees, but tells them housekeeping hasn’t come yet. Shield tells her, “That’s ok, we just want to put our bags down”. He and Shotgun go into the room and quickly search it, not finding much. Checkmate rejoins them near the front desk and they leave the hotel, sitting at a sidewalk cafe next door and comparing notes. Slick asks the waiter if he has something they can play a cassette tape on, and the waiter lets them borrow a Walkman he’s wearing after they order coffees. The tape is just polka music, but they decide to follow up the lead. Slick calls the number Checkmate found and a woman answers. He’d convinced the woman at the front desk to give him the names of the guests who registered, and he asks for Hans, the German guest. “Hallo!” Hans boomed. “Hans, this is Fuad from the hotel. Housekeeping found a tape in your romm, and we wondered if it was something you wanted” Slick said. “My polkas!” Hans cried, “I’ll be right there to get it”.

The team finishes their drinks and heads back to the hotel to wait for Hans. Aware this isn’t promising, Checkmate sneaks inside to search the room the Russians stayed in one more time. He is considerably more successful, finding both a picture of a cloth with rust colored stains, as well as hotel stationery with “IL 1053” written on it. Outside, a blond man with lederhosen and a cap is excitedly waving a cassette tape around, yelling “My polkas! My polkas!” Checkmate signals the team to join him and shows them what he’s found. It’s obvious the Russians are the suspects and they quickly deduce that the phrase on the stationery refers to an airline flight.

They pile into their rented Mercedes and head towards Ben Gurion Airport. Slick gets on the phone and determines there is a Icelandic Air flight 1053 scheduled to depart in 20 minutes to Helsinki. Shotgun calls his commander and convinces him to ground the flight claiming “mechanical difficulties”. Since the team is already on the road, they’ll be first to the airport and responsible for detaining the suspects.

Ben Gurion Airport

The team heads into the airport. They realize they need to gettheir weapons through security, so Slick and Shotgun create Mossad IDs that will allow them through without being checked. After they pass security, they head down towards Gate 21 where Flight 1053 has boarded. At they beginning of the gates, there are six fairly bulky guys, who are talking to each other in what appears to be Russian. When the team goes past, four men peel off and follow. Whispers are exchanged, and Slick and Shotgun head down to the gate while Shield and Checkmate peel off at a newstand. One of the guys follows Slick and Shotgun, the other three head towards the newsstand.

Slick and Shotgun are walking down the corridor and decide to take advantage of the odds with their shadow. DOES SOMEONE REMEMBER THE ORDER OF EVENTS?

One of the guys at the newsstand is browsing next to Checkmate. Checkmate decides to cause something to happen. He slides the picture of a cloth into the center of the Guns and Ammo he’s reading, then shows it to the guy next to him. “Seen anything like this around?” he asked. “I think you should come with us if you want to find out”, said the man in heavily accented English. He motioned to another guy and they go escort Checkmate into a bathroom across the corridor. Shield watches them go out of the corner of his eye.

Slick and Shotgun stand over the prone body of their foe. Luckily no one noticed their fight, so they pick him up and act like he’s drunk as they head for the nearest bathroom. They go inside and lock the door. They wake up their captive and ask him where the cloth is. When he doesn’t answer they fill a sink with water and dunk his head in it.

Checkmate goes in the bathroom first. Behind him, one of the Russians falls back to guard the door. “Uh oh”, Checkmate whispers into his mic, “looks like trouble”. Shield’s been waiting for this and slides out of the newsstand, leaving behind a Russian engrossed in a romance novel. The Russians with Checkmate draw plastic guns, Checkmate draws his and smiles as Shield bursts through the door, gun raised and finger tightening on the trigger. He hits the Russian closest to Checkmate. The one near the door squeezes off a shot, but misses. Checkmate returns fire and doesn’t miss a head shot. The legs visible under the stall have vanished. One dead, the other down and offering no resistance, they wash up.

Slick’s heard the commotion on his radio and checks in. “Everything’s fine”, says Shield, “We’ll catch up with you”. Shotgun pulls the Russian out of the water. “OK, I’ll talk”, he cries. “They’ve got the cloth, and they’re on the plane!” “How many of them?” asks Slick. “Four!” sighs the Russian. “Gag him and tie him up” Slick tells Shotgun. On the way out, Shotgun jams the door closed and Slick leaves a “being cleaned” sign in front.

Shield and Checkmate show, and the four head to the gate. The plane is still at the gate, but it looks like the passengers have disembarked. The team spreads out, and Slick goes to talk to a gate agent. He shows her his Mossad ID, and asks her if she knows where four Russian passengers have gone. She points hin further down the hall to the gates where the charter planes operate. Slick signals and team catches up as he heads down the hall and briefs them. They get to the gates and see no one matching the description. They ask around and find out a plane was chartered to Helsinki, but it departed ten minutes earlier. With no other option, the team charters another plane and boards it.

Iceland & Arctic Ice Fields

When the team lands in Iceland, a Yakamoto Industries cargo helicopter meets them at the airport. Inside are two 2 man snowmobiles. The pilot alerts them that the Russians took off an hour ago, and the team is soon in the air and following. They are getting close to the halfway mark on the fuel gauge (which could force them to turn back) when they spy a small encampment of buildings with two helipads. On one of the helipads the Russian’s copter has landed, but no one is in sight. The team elects to land, rather than following in the air and potentially running out of fuel. They see snowmobile tracks and elect to follow them, Checkmate and Shield on one, Slick and Shotgun on the other.

Slick is more experienced in the snow and pulls ahead of the other two. It’s not too long when they spy two other snowmobiles in the distance, but it’s close to an hour by the time Slick and Shotgun catch up to the trailing one. Shotgun tries shooting, but the terrain is rough and his shots go wide. Finally he attempts swinging with his gun, and smacks the driver, sending them off their path, caroming off some ice and tipping over. They don’t stop, radioing Checkmate and Shield to stop for them when they catch up. Slick keeps driving and soon is neck and neck with the other snowmobile. Shotgun again attempts to knock the driver, but isn’t successful.

Meanwhile, Checkmate and Shield catch up to the two Russians who were knocked off the other snowmobile. They search them and ask them where the shroud is, but they just tell them the others have it. Shield tells Shotgun this, and he redoubles his efforts, knocking the passenger and finally the driver off. Checkmate and Shield grab the passenger first, but he doesn’t have it. When Slick searches the driver, he finds it. They take the Russians’ weapons but leave the snowmobiles and head back to the helipad.

Showdown at the Heliport

The team dismounts at the encampment and heads inside to find their pilot. Too late they see a priest with guards waiting for them, but Slick thinks fast and switches to his vestments. The priest steps forward, “The Shroud of Turin is the property of the Holy Church. I have been entrusted with returning it safely. Hand it over or suffer the consequences”. The team looks at each other, torn. Slick convinces the priest he’s on the same mission, buying time for Shield to get out a vial of acid and threaten to pour in on the shroud. The priest and guards are shocked, and that gives Checkmate and Shotgun a chance to get to their guns, covering the guards and disarming them.

Checkmate and Shotgun cover the rear, as the team heads for the copter where their pilot is waiting for them. Checkmate runs to the priest’s and Russian’s copters, disabling them with shots to the control panel. As their pilot takes to the sky, the priest’s guards run to their copter. It won’t start, but they find weapons and shoot at the team. They miss, but Checkmate’s return volley doesn’t.

The team makes its way back to Israel, where they complete their mission and turn over the shroud to a representative of Yakamoto Industries.

Paul Simon tribute concert

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

Ok, I think I finally found a concert series that’s a little too rich for me here. Not that I wouldn’t go to shows by Prince, Billy Joel, Dave Matthews, Tom Petty and James Taylor, but for $3000 each? Wow. And if you want a rant on the subject, here’s Bob Lefsetz. So by that standard, paying $150 for a ticket to last night’s Paul Simon tribute (recipient of the first Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song) was pretty cheap. And it was in the cheap seats – I was one row from the very back, very glad I brought binoculars.

Jill came by my office, bringing Popeye’s for me and Chipotle for her so we’d get to see each other since we didn’t Tuesday night, then I headed into DC and the Warner Theatre. I got there about a half hour early, correctly figuring that gettting in would take some time and if I got a drink they wouldn’t let me take it to my seat. The seat was uncomfortable and it was too dark to read, but I stopped caring about that when the show started. Now I’ve been at shows that have been televised before, most notably a couple of Farm Aids and Live 8, but those were just concerts that had cameras. This show had stops and starts and redos if there were problems, but it seemed there’d been a rehearsal (or at least the band and stagehands knew what they were doing – good idea to use Paul’s touring band).

The show started with the band playing “Boy In The Bubble” (it was nice to finally see Steve Gadd on drums, but the find of the evening was trombonist/percussionist Jay Ashby), then an announcer introduced the show and the first artists: Shawn Colvin and Alison Krauss with Jerry Douglas doing “The Boxer”. It was a good version, but there was an ear bleeding wail of feedback towards the end, which made me wonder if they’d try another take (yes, they did, but later). Bob Costas was the main emcee, and was pretty quick on the draw when forced to. He introduced one of several short films they played throughout the evening, including a Woody Allen one about the Gershwin brothers. Next, Lyle Lovett came out with “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover”, which was good, but I prefer the 4 Way Street version. The first highlight of the evening was Stephen Marley on “Mother And Child Reunion” – the reggae beat was perfect for him.

Next up was Ladysmith Black Mambazo doing “Homeless”. Now I wouldn’t consider myself the biggest Paul Simon fan. I like the Simon & Garfunkel stuff (enough to see them on their reunion tour), and I certainly like a lot of his solo stuff, but what I really love is Graceland. From the very first time I heard “You Can Call Me Al”, I wanted to hear the rest of the album, so I bought a cassette copy (rare for me – even in 1986 I was waiting for CD and didn’t start buying those until midwy through college). For several weeks, I woke up to side B, which kicks off with “You Can Call Me Al”, and it’s one of those albums where I still remember every note. I’ve seen Paul solo once before, and was very happy with him playing some of my favorite Graceland songs. For this tribute I was hoping it would follow the Bob Dylan tribute format (which I still enjoy listening to), which would hopefully place a big emphasis on Graceland.

Anyway, Ladysmith Black Mambazo is one of the featured artists on Graceland. He brought them on the tour, but I didn’t see it then (couldn’t drive yet), and it was always something I wanted to see. They performed a nice version of “Homeless”, but I hoped they would come out again with Paul later. Next up was James Taylor with The Dixie Hummingbirds, doing a gospel infused take on “Slip Slidin’ Away”. The Dixie Hummingbirds stayed on to give an appropriate background to “Sunday Morning With The Sensational Nightingles” a poem by Billy Collins. Another highlight for me was Lyle Lovett and Buckwheat Zydeco doing “That Was Your Mother” – also from Graceland, but heavily influenced by Cajun tradition rather than African. Lorne Michaels came out and talked about living on the same floor, and showed a montage of SNL clips featuring Simon, finishing with the full perfomance of Simon and George Harrison doing “Homeward Bound”.

James Taylor returned for a smooth “Still Crazy After All These Years”, then everyone left the stage. They set up a piano and drum set in the middle of the stage, then Dianne Reeves came out with a trio and performed the Gershwins’ “Our Love Is Here To Stay”, then Simon’s “Something So Right”, both with a swingin’ jazz style. The stage was cleared again while Charles Grodin spoke, then Yolanda Adams came out to sing Simon’s big gospel number, “Gone At Last” to a great response. Next, they brought out George Gershwin’s piano for Philip Glass to perform a solo version of “Sounds Of Silence” on, then moved it off and brought Marc Anthony on to do versions of “El Condor Pasa” and a rocking “Late In The Evening”. Alison Krauss and Jerry Douglas returned for a very subdued take on “Graceland” – different, but I liked it. Shawn Colvin joined them again for another take on “The Boxer”, which was once again marred by feedback – but I don’t think it was in the same place, so hopefully they can splice the two versions together.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington came out to introduce the man of the hour, and Paul came out with Stevie Wonder so Stevie could play harp on a jamming “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard”. The high point of the evening for me started with him saying, “I haven’t performed with them for a few years, but they’re my brothers from South Africa,” as Ladysmith Black Mambazo joined him for a nice long version of “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes”. The first encore of the night had Paul return with his longtime partner Art Garfunkel for “Bridge Over Troubled Water” – earlier they’d played a short film with a number of cover versions, and it was clear that there was only one person truly meant to sing that song. The audience went wild, and they returned for a second encore with “Cecilia”. Not enought by any measure, and Paul returned for the recent “Father And Daughter”, before bringing back both Stevie Wonder and The Dixie Hummingbirds for the stupendous finale of “Loves Me Like A Rock”. That performance wasn’t without it’s hiccups, as when Stevie went to sing, there was some problem and they had to start over, although not before Stevie brought the house down with a quip about not being able to see his cue cards.

A great show, worth the money and staying out late on a school night. The only thing I could have asked for was “You Can Call Me Al”, but at least I’ve seen him do it another time. It’ll be interesting to see how they whittle down the nearly 3 hour show for the 90 minute broadcast on PBS June 27th.

Not Prickly Tree

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

I broke my rule against no weeknight shows in Maryland again Tuesday night, once again for a band fronted by Steven Wilson, Porcupine Tree, but this time in Baltimore. I left around 3:45, but the American Legion bridge traffic was horrible and it took me 2.5 hours to get there. But I’m an “eat my vegetables first” kinda guy, and that was the worst thing to happen that night, so that was good.

I parked in the garage above Rams Head Live!, then headed downstairs. There was a line of people waiting for doors to open, but I wasn’t in the mood for that. Instead I headed to the waterfront, getting a crab cake and fried fish platter and enjoyed the view while I read the Post. Didja know there’s a new treat for crab cake fans? Now you can get a crab cake dipped in the fish/shrimp batter and fried – it’s called a crab cake fluff. I declined that, but did stop by Ben and Jerry’s. I was hoping to try Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream, but it was a small place and didn’t have that, so I had a cinnamon bun flavored cone. Not bad in general, but the chunks proporting to be pieces of cinnamon buns were reminiscent of poor quality cookie dough ice cream chunks.

I got back to the Rams Head around 8, about when the opening band, 3, was supposed to start. They hadn’t, so I wandered around. I had read a friend’s account of a show there recently, and as I suspected the club reminded me strongly of the late lamented Hammerjacks, particularly the balcony where if you aren’t the first or second person at the edge you can’t see very well. I definitely prefer the 9:30 Club – now that DC is smoke free, it’s finally breathable, plus I much prefer their tiered balcony. It wasn’t as bad for me since I’m taller, but after 3 I staked out a post on the lower level and had a good view.

After reading reviews online, I was hoping to get the new album tracks straight through because that’s how I’ve been listening to it, but by starting with the title track and ending with the last two tracks, it reinforced the theme of the album over the whole show. The place was pretty packed, and it seemed to me that “Blackest Eyes” got the biggest crowd response, though all of the songs met an enthusiastic reception. As much as I enjoyed Blackfield live, I think I prefer Porcupine Tree. As a long time Rush fan, I appreciate songs and albums with a grand scope, and their live performance was great. Steven Wilson was great on guitar and keys, and his voice could be accused of being thin and reedy, but he made the most of it (it’s not a Geddy Lee voice for you Geddy haters out there, although he bears a striking resemblence to a young Geddy). Gavin Harrison was a powerhouse on drums, and John Wesley was good on guitar on backing vocals – even picked up a solo CD from him while filling out my Porcupine Tree collection.

Pizza N’ Jamestown music

Monday, May 21st, 2007

Friday we’d thought about going to see Friday Night Live!, but it was cancelled due to the rain. I asked Jill what she wanted for dinner, and she wanted pizza. I heated up one and made a salad, and it wasn’t until we sat down to eat I remembered we’d agreed to have pizza the next night. Personally I prefer to not have the same thing two days in a row, but since I’d forgotten about it, I couldn’t be too upset. Saturday morning and afternoon was nice, took Illa on a long walk then relaxed.

Saturday night we met my sister at Valentino’s in Alexandria. It’s one of those places mentioned when talking about the best pizza in the area, but I’d never been there, even when I lived in Alexandria. Sharon was running late, so Jill and I ordered a salad and a large pizza for all of us. The salad came quickly and we started on that, eating about half (it was big). I was surprised that the pizza didn’t come until about 30 minutes after we ordered, plenty of time for Sharon to arrive and eat some salad. The pizza was enormous, and very good. It was NY style, and had the right amount of grease – might have soaked through one paper plate, but not two. The sauce was tangy and the crust just crunchy enough, and there were 3 slices left over – we would have been unhappy with a medium.

After that we headed over to the Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall at the Alexandria campus of NOVA to see my mom and the rest of the Reston Chorale perform “Foundations of Freedom”, a new piece by David Ott commissioned to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Virginia. The piece wasn’t performed until later in the evening – the first half was a mixture of music and dance featuring various cultural influences with narration about Virginia’s history. I hadn’t been aware of the early German and Scots-Irish settlers in Virginia – interesting given my own German/English/Irish/French heritage. “Foundations of Freedom” was pretty good. I didn’t find the melodies used that interesting, but using writings from Jefferson and Bacon as lyrics was inspired.

Being a product of Virginia schools, we were taught Jamestown’s preeminence among American settlements, so it was ironic that during fourth grade we did family trees and we used that opportunity to verify a family legend. Francis Eaton, a passenger on the Mayflower, is a direct ancestor of mine on my mother’s side. Now I’m torn between the two, as I was taught that Jamestown was not only first but best, and my ancestors, as I now have two family
crests.

Sunday was fairly lazy. I had a couple things to take care of online, but spent the afternoon reading the paper and listening to music (lots of concerts coming up). I made tacos for dinner, and we ate in a rush because Jill had found a bookcase she wanted on freecycle. It wouldn’t fit in her trunk (she measured to determine hers was wider), so we popped it on her roof and tied it down. Luckily the folks giving it away were barely a five minute drive away, so we got it home without a problem.

Tonight I’ll make chicken pesto pasta using rotisserie chicken Jill got last week, then we’ll watch some TV as the DVR is approaching critical limits and there’s still a number of shows I’ll need to save for later as I’ll be out the next two nights.

Coolest. Directions. Ever.

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

I know this is geeky, but if I ever have to do directions again online, this is what I’m doing (it’s Shockwave if you don’t have it).