Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Weekend in Concert: Gomez 2

Ahem, now that the tirade's over, I can say that I really do like hearing their songs in concert. "Fill My Cup" is fabulous for its intermingled lead vocals and this time I really enjoyed "Devil Will Ride," which hasn't really struck me at other concerts.

Around the middle of the concert, the Slow Runner fans in front of us took off and we made our move to the front row.Front row! Not counting high school choir concerts or college house parties, I've never been in the front row before. Even though we've been 2nd or 3rd row at Gomez concerts before, it was still very exciting to be in the front row.

I was surprised to find it also, well, a little awkward to be staring at these guys on stage, and actually facing the possibility that they might look back. A few times I think Ian and I made eye contact, and I quickly looked away because I didn't really know what to do. Smile? Wink? Shout "I love you Ian!" and go into Beatlesque meltdown mode? Hardly appropriate for Gomez's style, but I still felt like there needed to be something.

Being so close to the stage, I really saw and appreciated how much fun the band were having playing together. I saw the drummer, Olly Peacock (who, if the band thing didn't work out, was obviously going to have to go into porn with a name like that), making eye contact with singer/guitarist Ben. Ian and bassist Blackie did an impromptu guitar jig. Ben's microphone toppled over and singer/guitarist/keyboardist Tom picked it up and when it fell over again, threw it to the side and loaned his to Ben. Percussionist Dajon made faces at Tom at one point while Tom was on the keyboard.

They obviously like playing together and it really seemed apparent that they're a band. They write all of the songs together—they don't even have a main lead singer. I've been reading articles lately that cite this as a flaw, saying that Gomez's lack of a lead singer means they have no charisma and will never make it in the States.

I think the review is wrong: Gomez has plenty of charisma as a whole. And if they never make it in the States, I would be sorry for the lads but selfishly happy to still be in the first row for years to come.

They came out for one encore that consisted of only 3 songs. When it was over, I kept expecting a second encore (a la Pearl Jam), but it wasn't going to happen. The roadies began clearing the stage while we were still standing and hoping, and one handed me a set list from that night's performance. (So really I should be able to tell you exactly how many songs they performed off In Our Gun but it's at home.)

Gomez are coming to Cleveland this Saturday, which presents quite a dilemma seeing as how that's the Big Move day. But hopefully we'll be able to finish early and still have time to shower before resuming our front row adoration. I'd appreciate any ideas on how to handle the awkward eye contact, though.

The Weekend in Concert: Gomez

Where do I begin?

The concert venue had a capacity of 650—I believe the appropriate industry term is “intimate.” From the looks of it, Mr. Small’s Theatre had been a church in its previous life, thus giving solid stained glass and altar imagery reinforcement to the sense that the crowd considered themselves worshippers of great music.

We showed up about halfway into the opening band's set. We were running late, having been detained at Ikea--but that's another blog. I liked Slow Runner a lot; in listening to their CD since the show, I'm liking them even more.

I also think their sound (strong lead vocals, featured keyboard, songs that alternate between rocking hard and whispered vocals in one tune) meshed well with the schizophrenia that is Gomez live.

After Slow Runner finished, there came the interminable wait as the opening band themselves ferried equipment offstage and Gomez's roadies quickly refilled the empty space with pedal boards, guitars, clean fluffy towels and fresh, cold Beck's for all 5 band members.

When we were running late from Ikea, we were worried that we wouldn't be right by the stage. In our Gomez concert experiences (this being our 3rd show), we'd been spoiled by never being further away than the 3rd row. Unlike with Pearl Jam, I felt entitled to see expectorating and perspiring, et cetera, with a close, unobstructed view.

Turns out we needn't have worried. During the stage rearranging, we sidled forward a bit, moving into the 2nd row on the lefthand side of the stage. Being on this side suited us just fine, because it meant being directly in front of the lead guitarist, Ian.

Gomez is an interesting live band. The story goes that they started playing shows before they'd named the band. For an early show, they put up a sign for their friend—something to the effect "Gomez in here."

Being a fan of their albums long before seeing them in concert, I was surprised to learn that they are mostly known for their energetic live performances, rather than their recorded albums. ANd yet, singer/guitarist Ian has said they were initially more comfortable with the recording studio, and it took them a long time to find their feet as live performers.

But you wouldn't know it to look at them. They finally stride onto stage, give a few waves to the crowd, and jump into "Bring It On" from their 2nd album Liquid Skin.

Two of the 3 times we've seen them, Gomez have been supporting a new album. This time it's How We Operate, the title song of which had been featured on the season finale of Grey's Anatomy, provoking great fear and concern on my part that they would finally get the recognition in America that they deserve, and Keith and I would never again watch from the 2nd row as Ben's Adam's apple bobbed when taking a swig of beer.

Instead of screaming TRL-ers, however, it was the usual, laidback Gomez crowd. To my mind, Gomez fans are extremely loyal to their earlier work, possibly to the detriment of their newer material. For this concert, they were regularly alternating between the new album and the old favorites, but not spending much time in-between. They only played one song off their 2004 album Split the Difference. 2002's In Our Gun fared a little better (can't remember offhand how many IOG songs were played), but not much.

I understand where this mentality is coming from. The Bring It On album was strangely intriguing. It was like nothing I'd ever heard before. I wasn't even sure if I'd consider all of the tracks to be "songs"—some just seemed like rambling instrumental experiments with a few phrases thrown in.

Although it was odd, it kept sucking me back in, and the album grew on me. ("Like a fungus!" as my sister Erin would say.) Liquid Skin felt similar to me, and then In Our Gun confirmed me as a lifelong Gomez fan. It was still the distinct Gomez sound—lead vocals alternating between 3 unique voices, lots of guitar effects and keyboard riffs and pounding drums. But it was also a cohesive album with actual songs. Really, really good songs. I think I listened to it for several months straight and fell in love with it more every time.

Their two albums since have not disappointed, either. Even though I have favorites, I can't think of any Gomez song that I actually dislike. I love and worship Gomez.

So yes, I can understand the dedication to their fabulous back catalog. But being too loyal to their early songs seems somewhat stagnant to me. Next tour, how many songs will we hear off How We Operate? If the fleeting appearance of Split the Difference at this past concert is any indication, there'll be fewer off HWO than from their 1st album and I think that's a shame.

... to be continued ...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Weekend in Concert: Pearl Jam

Okay, I'm still tired but am sufficiently recuperated to finally report on the concerts.

First up was Pearl Jam at U.S. Bank Arena on Saturday night. It had sort of a strange vibe because it was the site of 11 fan deaths at a Who concert in 1979. For Pearl Jam, this hit especially close to home after they experienced 8 fan deaths at a festival concert in Denmark in 2000. Before the opening band started, Ed came out and played a solo version of "The Kids Are Alright." He wore a Who t-shirt and talked about the tragedy in Cincinnati in 1979 and in Denmark in 2000. It cast a somber shadow over the concert, but didn't really prevent us from enjoying the music.

Because Keith's a member of PJ's fan club, we had really good seats. PJ is about the only arena concert we go to anymore, so I'm getting very spoiled as to being close to the stage. We weren't on the floor, but the equivalent of 10 floor rows back, and then row G on the left-hand side of the stage.

We were close enough that I noticed Ed spitting a lot throughout the concert. Funny—I'd never been able to see that before. I think I could have done without it, but it did reinforce the caliber of our seats.

I thought the band had a good, relatively relaxed vibe. They seemed to be having fun, and Ed interacted with the crowd a lot. They played "Present Tense," which Keith had said before he was hoping to hear. I was hoping for "Crazy Mary" (yes), and our wedding song "Thin Air" (didn't happen). What was also surprising is that they played "Leash," which they categorically refuse to play live at all, so it was exciting to hear a song that very few fans have heard in concert. I admit: it made me feel "cool."

For me personally, I think this ranks as my 2nd favorite Pearl Jam concert, after the Cleveland concert on their "Riot Act" tour.

Since this is already significantly longer than my usual blog entry, I'm thinking I'll save the Gomez review for tomorrow. In a venue that has about a 600-person capacity, it was an entirely different experience.

Monday, June 26, 2006

I'm Tired

I'm guessing not quite hungover, but functioning at close to the same level from a complete lack of sleep. In fact, if I even remember to upload this post on Monday and pick up the handset instead of the date stamp when the phone rings, we should all consider ourselves lucky.

See, I'm actually writing this on Friday. ("Cheater!" you gasp.) Because this coming/past weekend, Keith and I are going to the Pearl Jam concert in Cincinnati on Saturday night and then driving to Pittsburgh for a Gomez concert on Sunday night. Which means we don't get back to Cleveland until the wee hours of Monday morning, just a short snooze before we both get up and head to work.

So I thought it would enhance everyone's enjoyment of this blog and increase the potential of coherent sentences if I went ahead and pre-emptively wrote this blog before Monday. But I can tell you what Monday will be like: I'll be tired. Really, really tired.

Because I'm now old. Not so old that I had to sneak my cane into the concerts or anything. But old enough that going to two concerts in one weekend and staying up past the bewitching hour on Sunday night intimidates me, and makes me feel as though next week will be a very long week.

For today, just take solace in the thought that you're feeling better than I am. Because I'm old and wussy and sleep-deprived. Tomorrow/Tuesday, the plan is to let you know how the concerts were. If I manage to get out of bed, that is.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Office Snow Day

I feel like a kid who comes downstairs, bleary-eyed before school, only to discover that school's been cancelled and the entire day is hers to command.

When I got to work this morning, the office was all locked up tight. This had never happened before. In an office of 6 people (including myself), two will not be in at all today. Two go about their own business, and the remaining one may or may not have some small tasks for me to do.

But, for the most part, I think I may be left to my own devices today without anyone noticing or caring. Maybe now I'll go see what's in my Amazon Gold Box, or check out the latest celebrity gossip. I have (obviously) written my blog already. All the possibilities, and it's not even 8:45!

I guess it's not exactly a snow day. I'm still here for 8 hours, chained to my desk. But I get the delicious thrill of looking busy to casual passers-by, without accomplishing anything that would be considered actual work by the company. And I'm looking forward to it!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

World Cup Hopes

I've gotta be honest: I'm seriously depressed about the U.S. losing in the World Cup.

It took me a while to get into it this year. It wasn't really until it started that I remembered how exciting the World Cup is, and how much fun it is to get really involved.

It wasn't until the U.S. lost today that I remembered how much it sucks to root for a team that doesn't even make it past the opening round.

I miss the days when I lived, breathed, and slept soccer. In middle school/high school, I played on teams and practiced on my own. I played at least 9 months out of the year between indoor and outdoor teams. When I think back to lazy, carefree afternoons of childhood, what definitely stands out are the Friday afternoons the spring of my freshman year in high school. A bunch of people (mostly guys) would get together and just play until it got dark. It didn't really matter if you won or lost, as long as you played hard.

Rooting for the U.S. in this World Cup was bringing that feeling back to me. It makes me wonder what I've really played hard at lately. Trying to improve just for the sake of improving and seeing hard work pay off.

Even though the U.S. is out of it, hopefully I won't lose it entirely.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Driven Apart by Primetime?

Keith just bought a new TV for the basement of our house. (No, you didn't miss it; we don't actually move until the end of next week.)

It's a very nice TV: a 37" HD plasma screen with great picture quality. I like the TV. It makes me feel cool to have one.

But I'm starting to get a little concerned that, once we move into our house, Keith and I will be going our separate ways. If the fab new TV is in the basement, he'll be down there all the time. Meanwhile, my craft supplies, books, and comfy armchairs will be in the living room or attic room.

I picture us, separated by a floor or two, talking about our days via instant messenger. Will I always be forced to choose between Keith's company in the basement or enjoying the rest of the house?

I know he'll say I'm being silly. And, often, this is the case. But we spend a serious amount of time in front of the TV. Why would that change because we moved into a house? Will having more room drive us apart? *the sound of tender violins swells in the background...*

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Food Pushers

For the past couple weeks, Keith and I have really tried to eat better and exercise more. I was doing okay, until about the middle of last week.

While some might attribute my downfall to a complete and utter lack of willpower, that's not entirely correct. I do have a modicum of willpower, it's just useless in the face of Food Pushers. It's like using kryptonite to try and deflect Spiderman: can't be done.

I don't entirely get the Food Pusher's mentality. I can understand trying to be a good host and offering drinks/food once or twice. But the office FP last week told me three times that I had to try this carrot cake—it was the best carrot cake he'd ever tasted. I murmured polite disinterest or noncommittal noises all three times. Finally, he yelled from the other office for me to come over and stood in the doorway until I came over and got a piece of cake.

This is annoying. I can't make my own decisions about eating? When I'm trying to eat healthy, sometimes I do make bad choices. But I'd rather make my own choices, not be forced into consuming 2 million fatty calories by a Food Pusher.

I've been trying to think of ways to put off Food Pushers, because going the nonconfrontational, lack of interest route doesn't seem to be very effective. I'm considering becoming allergic to anything that may be pushed in my direction. The problem there would be, six months down the road, when I'm caught eating something I'm "allergic" to.

But here's the thing: I'm not the one with a problem. The Food Pushers are the ones that really need to change, not me. So think about this: Do you:
  • Offer guests/co-workers food more than three times in five minutes?

  • Never take "no" for an answer?

  • Act mortally insulted if someone tries to turn down your food offering?

If you answered "yes" to any and all of those questions, then you're a Food Pusher and it's annoying. Stop it right now.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Mistaken Identity

I'm not sure how many of you are "neat freaks" or "OCD" like I am, but I quite enjoy the show Clean Sweep on TLC. In the show, an interior designer and professional organizer, although with a carpenter and minions, team up to organize a couple rooms' in some hapless family's house. I get organizing tips, decorating ideas, and also the chance to feel superior because even at my worst, my abode never looks that bad.

We watched the show since the first season. In the second season, a new host appeared: Tava Smiley. The picture on the left is Tava, taken from the official Tava Smiley website. She's very cute and perky. Her bio includes stints on General Hospital, Nash Bridges, and Wild On! specials for E!.

With Tava, I assumed that what you see is what you get and not much more. So I was quite surprised when the intro to the 9 o'clock Cleveland NPR show introduced Tava Smiley as an author and activist for many years. Activist? In what—riding the world of clutter? Getting people to smile more? Perhaps fighting for the rights of blondes, who have long born the brunt of amateur comedians' jokes.

But no: Tava was on to discuss her latest book Convenant with Black America about racism in America. Really? Really?!?

I opened up the NPR website, which is where I discovered the guest was not TavA Smiley of Hollywood fame, but TavIS Smiley, Radio talk show host, author, and true activist.

And the world returned to rotating on its axis. Maybe I'll see if Clean Sweep is on when I get home tonight ....

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Too Much of a Good Thing?

I went golfing this past weekend. Early Saturday morning, Keith, my dad, and my dad's cousin, and I played 9 holes. It was chilly, but the sun was out and overall it was a great day for it.

Here's the thing: I'm bad. I'd say on the worse side of just "bad," even. Which is perfectly understandable, because I can count on one hand the number of times I've actually set foot on a course. So I take a big swing, hit the ground and then the ball and send a divot flying twice as far as the 5 ft my ball rolls. I tell myself it's fine—no problem. It's good for me to do things that I'm bad at, helps me learn humility, patience, etc.

But here's the other thing: I seem to be picking up more and more hobbies that I'm not very good at. First it was running, and then knitting, and golf .... what happens when the things I'm bad at outweigh the things I consider myself to be competent at? Is that still good for one's ego? Where's the tipping point where you're actually making yourself feel worse because you suck at everything you try?

Maybe it's because I'm getting older that I feel like I'm not very good at new hobbies. That other people have been doing them for years, and I'm behind. Maybe the key is to be bad, but find other people who are just a little worse than you so you can still be boosting your self-confidence at the same time.

Any non-golfers want to play 9 holes? I'll drive the cart. And the divots.

Friday, June 09, 2006

10 Trivial Things

Based on comments posted, I think it's pretty safe to say that I know and interact with 99.2% of my readers on a regular basis. Plus we've already decided that Andy is an honorary member of the group, even if we haven't met face-to-face. (If you're reading this blog and I don't know you, feel free to post a comment and boost my self-esteem!)

Even so, there may be a few surprising facts about me of which you many be unaware. And since you want to know everything there is to know about me ....

10 Completely Useless Facts About Me*

  1. I can clap with one hand. Oh yes! A highly sought-after skill.

  2. I have never been to Disneyland or Disneyworld, and that's okay with me.

  3. Much to Keith's surprise, I got a perfect score on the analytical portion of the GRE.

  4. I like to eat macaroni mixed with applesauce.

  5. In 4th grade, I tied for first place in a Hulahoop contest with Eric Bridenbaker.

  6. My favorite word is "mucilaginous", even if I can't spell it.

  7. If I were born a boy, my name would have been Ryan Charles.

  8. I am a failure as an English major until I finally read Joyce's Ulysses, but it intimidates me. Maybe someday.

  9. For breakfast this morning, I had Raisin Nut Bran. (Yes, it is in full supply in Cleveland—two different box sizes, even!)

  10. The first time I went white water rafting, I was sitting in front of the guide so he could keep an eye on me. Instead, he fell out of the boat during some rapids and I had to help pull him back in.

  11. There you have it! Ten random facts about me that you neither needed nor wanted. Feel free to share your own!

    *This blog partially inspired by "The Word" on The Colbert Report. To view a video of the inspirational, truthigious piece, click here and view the "Me" segment.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Useless Treasures

Do you ever look at your gold box? If you have an Amazon account, you can get SPECIAL "gold box Savings" on super-duper items.

Sometimes, when I'm all caught up on and the other very important news sites, I surf Amazon and see what's in my gold box. The general gist of the gold box is they want you to buy the maximum amount of excess crap and trick you into thinking it's a steal. For this reason, they've fashioned it like a Price-Is-Right game. You sign in and they say, okay: we'll now show you 10 fabulous deals, one at a time. At any given time, you can hold on to one of these deals (I think you're only allowed to purchase one of the items because it is, of course, amazing savings). You have 60 minutes to scroll through the ten items in your gold box and either choose one or reject them all. Remember, these are supposedly fantabulous deals that will only last for 60 minutes. So buy now! Supplies limited!!

This is what I found in my gold box on Monday:

  • eHealth insurance (.50 off)
    Actually, I was wrong about this one. I was a little surprised to be getting 50 cents off health insurance--didn't really seem remotely like a good deal to me. Then on the next page I realized that eHealth had actually been a Gold Box Sponsor and I totally missed what the actual GB item was. But, I couldn't go back to see. Once it's gone, it's gone!

  • 14k Yellow Gold Filigree Dangle Earrings (gold box savings: $5.50 off $55.00)
    I don't usually like yellow gold and I don't have pierced ears. The chances of me ever having bought earrings on Amazon are STN (slim-to-none). I thought the whole point of Amazon tracking every page you've ever visited was to have personalized offers. So where did this come from?

  • Nature Made SAM-eMoodPlus 400mg Double Strength Value Size, 36 Tablets (gold box savings: $3.44 off $34.39)
    Just looking at the name, I could tell it was some kind of diet additive. But what did it do? I clicked on the link for more info, which stated: "SAM-e enhances mood by promoting a healthy balance of neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin, which are part of overall healthy brain cell functions." Apparently it's also good for joint pain, detoxification, and generally just gets you into tip-top shape. I couldn't help but wonder what I ever looked at to get this offer. Although the $3.44 savings was pretty tempting, I managed to pass.

  • book: What No One Tells the Bride: Surviving the Wedding, Sex After the Honeymoon (gold box savings: $.51 off $10.17)
    Been there, done that. Sadly, the Honeymoon is long over (although never in my heart, my darling!). And only $.51 off? Not exactly drawing me in!

  • DVDs: The Lone Gunmen - The Complete Series ($1.00 off $19.97)
    This actually intrigued me slightly, after watching the X-Files all through college. Not enough to buy it, but a little. At least I didn't feel as insulted as I did when the mood enhancing pills came up.

  • The next few items all fall into the same category: actually relevant to my interests and previous purchases. But with such paltry savings that I was not tempted in the least.
  • book: Travel Writer's Guide ($.90 off $17.95)

  • book: Writing Down the Bones ($.52 off $10.36)

  • book: Travel Photography: A Complete Guide to How to Shoot and Sell ($1.15 off $22.95)

  • book: On Writing ($.40 off $7.99)

  • book: Lonely Planet Travel Photography: A Guide to Taking Better Pictures ($.58 off $11.69)

Overall, two things struck me as I rummaged through my Gold Box:
Firstly, I thought that these were supposed to be great, great, GREAT deals, with the time limitations and all. But they were all pretty crappy.

Secondly, I was slightly alarmed at how irked I was that these deals, at least to begin with, weren't personalized to my tastes. Is this how it starts? Getting used to The Man knowing your business? Maybe I should be glad that the gold filigree earrings showed up, since obviously Amazon doesn't know me that well. Unless the gold filigree was a red herring ...

Monday, June 05, 2006

Is It Really That Hard?: Wait staff

My mom and I went out to dinner at Applebee's the other night, which is apparently always a risky choice.

Why are so many restaurant servers crazy?

In the past few weeks, I've had a lot of crazy servers. I know this is partly due to the fact that, in the past couple weeks, I've eaten out a lot. But even so, I feel that the ratio of sane, capable servers to the crazies is much too low.

It's not so much that they're incompetent, although that's part of it. When we were in Kentucky a few weeks ago, Michael's and my beers didn't arrive until after the food. Long after the food. What good is that? But what was the icing on the cake was when, after we'd complained to two other servers (she never came near enough to our table for us to get her attention), our server made a big show of telling us that, in the 20 years that she's waitressed, this is the first time she's ever been so busy that it took her so long to get drinks. It's never happened before. Riiiight.

So like I said, my mom and I went to Applebee's, the chain where, strangely enough the above incident had also taken place. Perhaps Applebee's hires particularly incompetent/crazy waitstaff? During this excursion, our waitress took a mental break in the middle of taking our order and made me repeat my entire order. This is after I tried to order a glass of red and she didn't even know what kinds they had—she mentioned one or two of the labels, but not the actual wine (chardonnay, merlot, etc.), which I tend to find more relevant.

After all those fun times, when I had signed the credit card receipt and she stopped by to pick it up, she actually said, "You're leaving me? I didn't do anything wrong and you're still leaving me?"

I'd assume she was going for funny. But it came out as stalker. Not funny.

I could go on, about the waitress that sat down next to Michael one time and talked about what a long day she'd had, or the time our server ran off to Yemen to find his long-lost twin brother before we'd even gotten our appetizer, but I'm sure you all have had that happen to you, too.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Mysterious Stretching of Time

Why do four-day weeks always seem to last forever? After having a fabulous 3-day weekend, this week has stretched into infinity. The four work days somehow stretched and morphed into a painful, 7-day, 18-hours/day work purgatory.

How does it happen? Why does it always work like that? I wonder if it would be different if you always had a 4-day week. Would a 3-day week seem endless? I have a hard imagining a 3-day week ever feeling long.

I remember hearing in a French class, long long ago, that in France instead of having a weekend they typically have Wednesday and Sunday off. Whether this is true or not, I have no idea. But it's an interesting concept. Would it be better or worse if you split up the weekend? On the one hand, you'd never go more than 3 days without a day off (assuming you're the typical 5-day/week office drone like myself). But, no Saturday?!? I don't know if I could handle it.

Of course, if others are to be trusted, the French never do much work anyway, so it's a moot point for them.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A Telling Sound

My work keyboard is extremely loud. As I write e-mails or *ahem* blog entries, I feel like the "clacking" sound is reverberating around the entire office. People should be poking their heads out in wonderment at what I could possibly be typing.

Because, let's face it: I don't have that much to do. And what little work I do have does not require massive amounts of extended typing.

My boss today mentioned that the last girl just didn't work out. She could hear her typing all the time but she never did any filing or anything—she figures the girl must have been sending e-mails.

I wonder if my face gave me away as I quietly closed gmail and pretended to be hard at work on the latest report. If I do the filing and type e-mails at a furious rate, do you think I'll "work out" or be booted out?