Monday, April 30, 2007


There was a time when I was cool. Now I wasn't real cool but I certainly had a good grasp of coolness. Okay, I didn't even have that but I certainly wasn't totally hopeless.

During those days I would frequently discuss the latest in music with a knowing swagger that impressed the ladies. From Fugazi to the Talking Heads, I knew quality tunes when I heard them, and none of those tunes sounded remotely country. Indeed with the confidence of any punk rocker I disdained the acoustic guitar, freestanding basses were for museums or wedding bands, and the female lead singer was something reserved for pop radio.

Fast forward 15 years and as my 30th birthday fast approaches things have changed dramatically. My gray hairs are staging a full scale war against the black one's, those black hairs have decided to retreat to my back and ears, and I can no longer wear 15 year old Stew's t-shirts unless I want to look like I'm in my 3rd trimester. Worst of all I no longer even pretend to be cool about music. Indeed my music collection has considerably less Bad Religion and considerably more (and one could easily argue too much) Garth Brooks.

Now not all of this fall from coolness can be blamed solely on age, after all the teens of today are completely out of control and I never would have been like that at their age. Some of the blame must be assigned to Wife. Well I love her with all my heart (it was just our 7th anniversary and I think some of you have now lost your bets about how long we'd last. I expect my checks within 60 days), she did bring out a part of my persona that I never knew existed. The part that likes folk music.

Yet with that part firmly out Wife and I went to our first concert since we saw Midnight Oil in 2002. We went and saw Patty Griffin at the Egg in Albany.
The Egg
With the exception of bars and clubs I've never been to a concert that's seated less than five thousand people, and I've certainly never been to a show where everyone stayed in their seats and where people wearing ties and dresses (not necessarily together) were just as common as those wearing t-shirts and jeans. It was a crowd where I'm guessing the Ph.D.s outnumbered the high school dropouts two to one and where the unfortunate femi-mullet was all to common.

Yet that's exactly what we saw when we attended the concert. All in all the concert was great. Her set has a good folk feel that balances acoustic and electric. I was most impressed with her back up band, though I thought the free-standing bassist for the opening band was much better than the one she had. If you just consider the opening act it was probably the best show I've ever been to.

That said, enjoying that style of music makes me feel really old.

Here's a YouTube clip of a song from her latest tour:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Really Big Nerd

I just couldn't resist, though I think I'm much more of a Riker than a Chekov:

Your results:
You are
  1. Chekov 65%---Brash, rash and hasty, but everyone loves you
  2. Will Riker 60%
  3. James T. Kirk (Captain)50%
  4. An Expendable Character (Redshirt)45%
  5. Spock 42%
  6. Deanna Troi 40%
  7. Jean-Luc Picard 40%
  8. Data 32%
  9. Worf 30%
  10. Uhura 30%
  11. Leonard McCoy (Bones) 25%
  12. Beverly Crusher 20%
  13. Mr. Scott 20%
  14. Geordi LaForge 15%
  15. Mr. Sulu 15%
Click here to take the Star Trek Personality Test

Thursday, April 12, 2007

In Memorium

As most of you know Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., author of such classics as Slaughterhouse-five, Deadeye Dick, and Sirens of Titan passed away yesterday at 84 years old. I'm sure the so-called blogosphere is filled with memorials to this behemoth of literature. I can't say that I was his biggest fan, but I certainly appreciated his wit and social criticisms.

Yet since I heard of his passing today I can't help but think of some of the great things I've read through the years. True most of my teenage years were limited to science fiction/fantasy of varying degrees of awfulness, but I have read some great pieces over the years. That said I now give you my top ten works, now many of these you know but some you might not so bear with me. Oh and maybe if you're lucky Wife will give her list next though I think her favorites are 1-10 Anna Karenina.

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkein--Now why would this be first? Well this is the one work that I've read more than anything else in my life. Tolkein's world is rich, varied, and morally relevant. I also believe that without my early introduction to these books (I think I read them for the first time when I was 12) I would never have learned to love reading as much as I do.

2. Watership Down, Richard Adams--This was perhaps my introduction to allegory outside of a scriptural setting. Adams paints a believable world of the struggles of individuals for freedom in face of tyranny using of all things rabbits. It's a wonderful piece of literature.

3. Candide, Voltaire--I wish I had read this earlier. I didn't read it until I TA'd a History of Civ. class in college. What a wonderful piece of satire.

4. South:The Endurance Expedition, Ernest Shackleton--This memoir of the struggles of Shackleton's expedition to Antarctica is absolutely revetting. Shackleton chronicles day by day his voyage into the deep south and his struggles as he watches his ship crushed by sea ice. It's absolutely unbelievable that he and his men could have survived such circumstances.

5. A Man Without a Country, Kurt Vonnegut--This is easily the most recent publication on this list. If you're a big fan of Bush don't read it as you'll find it obnoxious, but if you are open minded to critiques of this country you will see quite a bit of truth told from someone who has lived some of the worst times this country has experienced.

6. Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card--This is the only Sci Fi book that could make this list. It's easily the most entertaining and accessible sci fi book I have ever read (unlike classics like Dune or the Foundation Trilogy). A little dated, the book is set in a future in which the Warsaw Pact and NATO were still vying for supremacy. It still appeals to me as Card is great at character development (though he uses the same plot for everyone of his books). I wish the battle room was real.

7. The Story of my Misfortunes, Pierre Abelard--Picture this story. A 12th century university teacher who happens to be a priest falls in love with a young female student in his charge. Already an enemy of the great men of the Church, he further alienates them by gaining disciples and impregnating said student. Fleeing for his life his enemies catch him, torture him, and castrate him. How can you go wrong with that story?

8. Hamlet, William Shakespeare--I don't care what people say when rating Shakespeare's works. I read this as a 15 year old and any play that could inspire a 15 year old must be good.

9. Les Rhinoceros, Eugene Ionesco--This was the first play I read entirely in French and so has stuck with me for a long time. Ionesco's writing was highly absurd which made his critiques of conformity that much more salient. I'm not sure if this English translation is any good so if you can read French, read it in French.

10. Pere Goriot, Honore de Balzac--This, like most French literature, is incredibly depressing. However like the rest of Balzac's Human Comedy, it shows the dangers that selfishness, ambition, and materialism pose for mankind. Like Vonnegut and Voltaire, Balzac offered a scathing critique of contemporary society in this 19th century work.

Well that's it for today. Now don't get the idea that I'm going to keep posting everyday, I really don't have that much to say. Or at least I do but you don't want to hear it. Let me end this post with a quote from Vonnegut:
I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.
R.I.P. Kurt

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

These are a few of our scary things

(Please note that I do not intend to offend anyone ever at anytime with anything I say. That said I'm sure I've offended many of you over the years with my tirades. I guess I'm just naturally a very offensive person, deal with it!)

There are a few things in this world that are naturally terrifying: the amount of debt we carry from month to month, the prospect of Dick Cheney being leader of the free world, endives served for dinner (vile vegetable). There are also natural monsters among the human family; Hitler, Idi Amin, Stalin, and anybody who puts a Wayans brother in a movie.

With this natural terror in mind please let me set the stage for you.

The Place: Sears Home Improvement Section
The Time: Sometime after work
The People: Wife and Husband and....well you'll see.

(This is where the creepy music starts if you're reading this like a 1950s radio show. Also if you are familiar with 1950s radio shows you might be a nerd and I might have some Suspense vinyls I could sell you (really a great radio program))

It was a cold damp day, like most New York days. Wife and I had just left our favorite watering hole following an after work aperitif. She looked stunning in her black evening gown. Her hair pulled up behind her ears and her glasses tilted at an angle gave off the sophisticated air of a high school librarian. Indeed she was the epitome of every man's dream at that moment.

With a lilt in her step we walked the brown stones of Albany to our car. Knowing I was a man living a charmed life, upon whom the gods obviously smiled I did as all gentlemen should. I opened every door, lifted her lithe form over every puddle, and shot dead every attempted mugger.

Nothing could mar the perfection of that day. Indeed I felt a giant among men, or at least I did until we met THE MONSTER. For that day I made a tragic mistake and assumed that perfection would not be marred by a simple errand.

So we went to Sears to pick up some lawn and garden materials. Wife on my arm I surveyed the crowd with casual indifference until I saw the horror that awaited us. I knew that Wife couldn't handle it if caught unawares. So in my most gallant manner I nudged her and said quite simply "Don't look now, but something wicked this way comes."

Here in was my undoing, never use a Shakespearean reference to indicate for no sooner did I say this than Wife cast her pure and helpless glance to the oncoming menace. Terrified, Wife screamed bloody murder and leapt into my arms, demanding I bear her away from this evil.

Sadly at that instance my own terror took hold and shoving Wife to the ground I ran for it as best as my little legs could carry my over fat body, leaving her for the terror that lurked selling vinyl siding. For in face of such a monster not even the bravest of men could stand.

What did she see asks the reader? Something terrifying beyond human description, THIS ALBINO SALESMAN!

Or at least one that looked like him. Might I add that while the details of this story might differ somewhat from what happened, there was actually an albino salesmen and Wife did jump and let out a little squeal of terror when she saw him.

Song of the day: Well I'm going to hate myself here but I love this song for some reason. I think it's because Hasidic Jewish Reggae is a genre that I have neglected in this blog. Enjoy.