Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone! I think Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Although it was a lot more fun when I got to dress up and beg for candy. I guess I can go buy my own candy now, but that's not as much fun.

I made the owl cookies again this year. My mom used to make them for us when we were kids. Recipe here.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fall, Back

Fall finally seems to be here, such as it is. The temperatures have dropped, although they haven't quite dropped for good yet seeing as how it was 84 today. Tomorrow is only supposed to be about 70 or so, though. We usually don't get much in the way of fall foliage, although sometimes we do get some nice maple leaves here and there. Sometimes the oak trees will put on a nice show, but not until late November. Most of the leaves here just kind of turn a little yellow or brown and then fall off. Oh well, you can't have everything I guess.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

In Space No One Can Smell You Scream

I read an interesting article the other day, and I haven't been able to get this topic out of my head since. The article is about how NASA has asked a fragrance company to reproduce the smell of space. What?

My first thought was "space doesn't smell!". My admittedly rudimentary understanding of how the sense of smell works is that molecules from the item with the odor find their way into your nose and alight on your olfactory sensors, which then transmit the odor to your brain. A process that makes me cringe every time I smell poop - basically you have poop in your nose! Yuck. But anyway, space is a vacuum, right? A nothingness. But I guess there are "things" floating around in space (like Earth for example), so I guess it's possible that there are molecules floating around that can transmit odors.

So after I decided that maybe there are things that could cause space to have a "smell", my second thought was "even if space has a smell, no human has ever been exposed directly to the vacuum of space, so how would anyone know what it smells like?". I found an explanation of how space could be smelled here. Apparently astronauts who have operated airlocks after space walks have smelled space in the air within the International Space Station and on the suits of the astronauts who have re-entered the ship. I'll be damned.

So what does space smell like? The first article describes it as a combination of "hot metal, fried steak and the welding of a motorbike". Um, 'kay. The fried steak part kind of freaks me out, but those odors aren't in general unpleasant. So now I can't wait for the "Space" Yankee Candle. OK, maybe not. But I do want to smell it someday. Maybe they'll have a Smell of Space exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Cat Power, Dallas, 10-09-08

Last Thursday I went to see Cat Power at the Palladium Ballroom in Dallas. This was the show that was supposed to have happened back in April but was cancelled due to Chan Marshall having voice problems.

I got to the venue early enough to get a spot against the barricade about 5 feet to the left of center stage. Not bad.

The opening act was an outfit called “Appaloosa”. I didn’t know anything about them until the day of the show. They are a 2 person band consisting of a singer and a keyboard player. I was excited to read in one article that they sounded something like “Air fronted by Nico”. I guess the keyboard player couldn’t afford to tour this time, because a MacBook took his place. The singer did sound a little bit like Nico. I didn’t think the backing track sounded much like Air. I didn’t dig it that much. It was OK, but nothing I would seek out on purpose. You can hear some of their songs at their MySpace page.

Luckily there wasn't a terribly long wait after the opening act. The band came out first and started playing, and then Chan came out. There’s still something amazing about hearing that voice in person. I thought everything sounded pretty good. Apparently Chan didn’t agree. She was checking all of the monitors throughout the entire evening. And she kept going over to talk to the soundboard guy on the right side of the stage. Apparently she has been doing this quite often at many of the stops on this tour. I don’t think that venue was the best selection since it’s big and cavernous, and was maybe only half full. I wish whoever does the bookings for CP would do a better job of picking an appropriate venue.

Chan didn’t interact with the crowd too much as far as talking. She did a good job of moving amongst the various parts of the stage. She likes to come up to the front of the stage and lean out while she’s singing, and at times she was right in front of me. I was glad to see that she only smoked one cigarette when she first came out, instead of all throughout the evening.

Overall the show was pretty similar setlist-wise to the last time I saw her, but the vocals sounded better to me this time. Last time I couldn’t understand a word all evening. I was also more familiar with the songs this time. Most of the songs that were played were from the last 2 albums, although there were a few from an upcoming EP of covers (including “Fortunate Son”, which was really cool). About 6 songs before the end of the show Chan brought out Teenie Hodges, who is a legendary Memphis guitar player, and he played with the band until the end of the show. Teenie played with Al Green back in the 70s, and he has cowritten many famous songs such as “Take Me To The River”, “Love and Happiness”, and “Here I Am, Come And Take Me”. He also played all of the guitar on CP’s “The Greatest” album. They played for 2 hours with no encore.

I thought the show was pretty good, but there was something that kept it from being transcendent. I think part of it was that all of the futzing around about the sound may have killed some of the momentum and kind of transferred some of Chan’s anxiety to the audience. If she hadn’t seemed so bothered by it, I don’t think anyone in the audience would’ve given the sound a second thought. And I think that Chan maybe didn’t connect with the audience as much as she could have (despite the gesture described below). There was almost no banter at all, and her tendency to stay out of the spotlight hindered that connection a little bit too. It was hard to see when she would crack a smile or look out at the audience.

There’s also something about these songs live that seems to make them sound a lot alike. There are not a lot of changes in tempo or dynamics – everything seems to settle into a similar groove that gets a little repetitive after a while. I think Chan could benefit from mixing in some numbers that just feature her singing and playing guitar or piano. Maybe she could bring some of her older material into the mix more too. I think that I prefer the way that the records sound over the live versions that I’ve personally heard. Chan has an amazing voice, but she’s not a belter. I think her voice is a little quiet for the band setup that she has. On record it is balanced better than in the live setting. I guess that’s why she gets so freaked out about the sound mix. But maybe I’ve just been unlucky, because there are some YouTube videos of live shows out there that sound great. All of that said, however, I will still go see her the next time she comes to town.

I didn’t try to take my camera inside. The website says “no cameras”, and I just had a feeling that they wouldn’t let me in with it. They may have though, because there were a lot of people with handhelds. There was also the fact that I almost got kicked out last time for taking pictures, and that supposedly Chan herself decreed that no photos would be taken last time. It’s OK though, because just like last time it was pretty dark, and really I didn’t feel like messing with it. Chan apparently hates having the spotlight on her. Literally. In fact, the official photogs that were there were actually using flash. There’s a nice slide show here. My favorite photo is the one where Chan is handing out flowers.

Speaking of flowers, toward the end of the show an enormous bunch of flowers was brought out from backstage, and before the last song Chan proceeded to hand (and sometimes throw) them to the audience. I was thrilled that she handed me a rose. She then proceeded to give a rose to each member of the band as well as the sound board operator.

I totally got gypped as far as getting a setlist. The only people trying to get setlists were myself and the couple that had been next to me all night. There were about 5 setlists taped down on the stage. I asked one of the roadies but he didn’t acknowledge me. I then asked the security guy if he could hand me the crumpled up piece of paper with the Spanish lyrics to Angelitos Negros that Chan had pulled from her back pocket and read from while she was singing. It was tantalizingly close to the front of the stage. But he said that they weren’t allowed to take anything from the stage, and then another security guard came over and made us all leave. Crap.

After navigating the restroom with rose in hand (not a euphemism), I exited the venue and saw Gregg Foreman (keyboardist) and Jim White (drummer) talking with someone that Gregg apparently knew. Gregg saw me looking at him, and I kind of think he was thinking “oh crap, I hope this weirdo doesn’t talk to me”. I didn’t. But I did tap Jim on the shoulder, and when he turned around I said “great show”. He said “thanks” and stuck out his hand, which I then shook. And I meant it – everyone in that band is a badass.

OK, as with Beck, this setlist is from memory and is not in order for the most part. I didn’t feel like taking notes, I just wanted to enjoy the show. So I may have left a song or two out. I haven’t seen a setlist anywhere else to fall back on.

Ramblin’ (Wo)Man
Fortunate Son
Silver Stallion
Metal Heart
Lord, Help the Poor & Needy
Song to Bobby
Woman Left Lonely
Lost Someone
Don’t Explain
Keyboard & bass interlude
She’s Got You
Lived In Bars
I Don’t Blame You
Life of the Party
Making Believe
Dark End of the Street
Where Is My Love
I’ve Been Loving You
The Moon
I Feel
The Greatest
Angelitos Negros

Gilley's is part of the same club complex

Here is my offical Chan Marshall rose!


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

You're a Donkey. I Like That.

Nothing much all that exciting going on these days. I'm looking for a library job. I've applied to several, but I haven't gotten any positive responses yet. Seems like a really great time to look for a job, no? I'm very thankful that I am currently employed. The idea of moving somewhere else and having to sell my house in this market does not sound appealing right now.

I'm slowly getting up to speed on the new computer. I have moved most of the important stuff from the old one. I'm in the process of learning some of the quirks of Windows Vista. So far I haven't found anything absolutely awful about it, although it seems to be kind of a pain in the butt to find the button to shut down the computer. I'm having to hit CONTROL-ALT-DELETE and then click on the button. Surely there has to be a short cut somewhere. (UPDATE - Found it! Why do they change stupid stuff like that?)

In totally unrelated news, the following skit was on Saturday Night Live last weekend, and I thought it was really funny:

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Welcome To The 21st Century

I bought a new computer! The funny part? I still haven't hooked it up. I bought it on Friday. I'm think I'm more excited about the new monitor that I got with it. I hooked that up about 20 minutes after I got home. It's a 22" inch widescreen LCD. I had been using an ancient 15" CRT. So far I'm loving the monitor, but the graphics card in my old computer can't even take advantage of the full resolution. I was hoping to get the computer hooked up today, but the day just kind of flew by, and now it's time for bed. I just want to make sure that I have all of the programs that I use ready to load onto the new computer.

I've known that I would be needing a new computer for a while. My old computer is 7 years old! I added a new hard drive a couple of years ago, which helped it last a bit longer. But 512MB of RAM (and that was an upgrade!) just doesn't cut it these days. And the music and photos are really starting to add up. And forget multitasking. I'm one of those people that likes to burn a CD, listen to something else, edit a photo, and surf the web all at the same time. Now I may actually be able to do all those things without the computer crashing. Or, er, at least I will be once I get the new one up and running. Will it improve my blog though? Ha! You wish.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Beck Rawks Tulsa

Sunday night I went to Indian Territory to see Beck with Holli, Faith, Tom, and Holli’s friend David. The concert was at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa. This was my third time to see a show at Cain’s, and it’s starting to feel like a familiar location to me.

Our plan was to get right up front, since this would most likely afford us the safest place to protect a 4 year-old child. Despite being a bit far back in the line for the door, we did manage to secure a spot up front on the right side of the stage.

They were very emphatic about the fact that no cameras of any kind would be allowed. There are some really good photos taken by a local paper here.

I had never heard of the opening band, MGMT (apparently pronounced “management”). Apparently they are currently generating a bit of buzz. The fact that I didn’t know that shows how out of touch I am musically. I thought they were decent and possibility worth more investigation. They have kind of a hard rock/synth-pop/dance thing goin’ on. The fact that Holli has apparently dismissed them after seeing their videos makes me both curious and frightened.

I usually don’t wear earplugs to concerts. Most of the time I don’t feel the need, but perhaps due to a concern for saving my remaining hearing I brought some to the show. As soon as MGMT cranked up I decided that I didn’t care whether I looked like a dork, and I stuffed them in my ears. It was pretty loud.

The wait for Beck after MGMT finished playing stretched a bit long, but it seemed to pass quickly though. As the lights went out, the band came on one-by-one, with Beck coming out last. He was dressed all in black and wearing a hat. His hair is extremely long these days. As Beck and company launched into “Devils Haircut”, it soon became apparent that the earplugs would be staying in place for me.

This was my second Beck show. Last time was a much more theatrical affair, what with the famous puppets and rapping bear. This time Beck favored a more straightforward approach. Between the volume and the song selection, the uptempo side of Beck was more evident. Beck didn’t talk to the crowd much at all, and most of the time there was no empty space between songs – they just launched right into the next one. Pretty much the whole band was new this time, the only exception being the keyboard player. And the new guitar player (Jessica Dobson) is really cute!

I thought the band was pretty good. The sound mix could’ve been better - it was very heavy on the bass and the guitar was mixed way too low. And of course the whole thing was a bit too loud.

At one point the whole band ditched their instruments for headphones and various electronic gadgets (one of which I coulda swore was an iPhone), and they all huddled at the front of the stage to perform “Hell Yes”, “Black Tambourine” (reminiscent of the Adrock remix), and “Clap Hands”.

Towards the end of the set Beck brought out the acoustic guitar to do “The Golden Age” and “Lost Cause”, and it was kind of a disappointment that he forgot the words to LC and then didn’t properly finish the song. Beck did provide a shoutout to the history of Cain’s by mentioning Hank Williams and then doing a cover of “Lonesome Whistle”.

Overall I thought it was a really great show. It was definitely cool to be so close to the band. I thought the crowd was pretty into everything, and of course everyone went extra nuts for “Loser”. For me the highlights were “Devils Haircut”, “Chemtrails”, “Nicotine and Gravy”, “Loser”, “The Golden Age”, and “Where It’s At”. I didn’t get to hear my favorite song from the new album, “Volcano”, but them’s the breaks. And I was really impressed that Faith made it until the next-to-last song!

Devils Haircut
Think I’m In Love
Mixed Bizness
Nicotine and Gravy
Hell Yes
Black Tambourine
Clap Hands
Que Onda Guero
Profanity Prayers
Modern Guilt
Soul of a Man
Gamma Ray
Lonesome Whistle (Hank Williams cover)
The Golden Age
Lost Cause

Where It’s At

Setlist note: I was fully expecting to be able to find an accurate setlist online somewhere, like I do with almost every other concert I go to. But I couldn’t find one! If I would’ve known that no one else was going to do one I would’ve taken notes! So this is the setlist as best as I can remember. I am confident that all of these songs were played, but I don’t have the correct order except for the first 2 and last 2.

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