Thursday, April 30, 2009

ari hest with rosi golan - 26 april 2009 - night cat

I am a newcomer to the Ari Hest fan club. I checked him out after I read about his 52 project. For someone who has trouble just blogging on a regular basis, the thought of writing a legitimate song every week for a year is intriguing. I wasn't a subscriber to the project, but I did buy Ari's Twelve Mondays CD. After the project was completed he let the subscribers pick their 12 favorite songs. A bold move. Overall, the album is a nice mix of tunes. The stand-out song, is probably Dead End Driving, a very radio-friendly offering.

The other song I stop and to listen to every time it comes on is Cranberry Lake. This is a sweet catchy duet; a little unexpected but lovely just the same. On the album, Amy Kuney shares vocals with Ari. At Night Cat, we were treated to the wonderful voice of Rosi Golan.

Ari Hest has a sound I've heard before. I just can't seem to put my finger on it. His baritone is strong and fills the room. One moment he is soothing you with his voice and the next he is singing in a full-on falsetto. (And pulls it off.) Countrymouse said Ari reminded him of Bruce Springsteen on Nebraska (my favorite Bruce album). I kept thinking (don't laugh) Neil Diamond (without the cheesy 70's mixing). His sound is definitely more pop than anything else, but whose life isn't a little pop songish some days?

Ari Hest made a very interesting comment during his show. He said three-minute pop songs were great and his goal was to master that enterprise. I'm sure the fact that Twelve Mondays is chock-full of three minute (or just under) songs isn't an accident. I love that Ari is an unapologetic entrepreneur. He has no problem marketing himself and has even solicited a group of fans he's dubbed the A-Team, whose purpose is to promote Ari.

Rolling into Night Cat minutes before taking the stage, Ari brought along guitarist Thad DeBrock. Thad produced and played on the Twelve Mondays CD. Although Thad has a career of his own, he was excellent backing Ari. Hest played acoustic guitar all night, but Thad primarily played electric guitar. This was a nice combination. It was obvious that the two men enjoyed playing together. With no prearranged play list, the two of them joked and offered suggestions to one another for the next song.

During the show, Ari dropped the names of friends Julian Verlard and Josh Rouse; both fellow up-and-coming artists. With friends like this is his camp and a growing fan base, you will surely hear more from Mr Hest. After the 52 project, he has a huge supply of material and he just keeps writing. He may indeed master the three-minute pop song before he's done.

I have a confession to make. Ari Hest piqued my interest, but if Rosi Golan hadn't opened for him, I probably would have passed on the show. Don't get me wrong, I do like Ari but with so many awesome acts coming through Night Cat, I might have chosen another one.

If you read my blog, you know I saw Rosi last week when she opened for William Fitzsimmons. (I am still replaying that show in my mind... the music was that good.) I don't think I have ever had the opportunity to see the same artist twice in a week's time. That was pretty cool. Her set was pretty much identical to the Fitzsimmons show (with the notable omission of Hazy). I realized this about halfway through and made a mental note of it, but wasn't put off by it. I was just happy to hear her live again.

Rosi has recently put out her first CD, The Drifter and the Gypsy so her repertoire isn't as large as some artists. Yet, she was able to perform a full set without covering every single song on Drifter. This leaves some sweet little gems for the fan who buys her CD at the show or who is motivated to buy it elsewhere afterwards. (I had downloaded the CD prior to seeing Rosi but actually bought the CD because I wanted an official hard copy.)

(This is from Rosi's first show at Night Cat on 18 April 2009. A h/t to kneeezy for the video.)

Rosi has an incredible voice. Part of the treasure of seeing an artist live is the variations from their recorded sound. If the live performance sounded identical to the CD, it would be a little anticlimactic. In her live show, Rosi's voice oftentimes crescendos from a whisper to a robust sound. I love this. It oozes passion. Along for both of her Easton shows was Jake Phillips. Jake's low gravely accompaniment is the perfect accent for Rosi's music.

Perhaps Rosi's first *big break* was a Pantene commercial. It's the one where Maria Menounos shows women how to have big voluminous hair. Pantene actually put her name and the title of the song (Shine) on the screen, much like a music video. This had not been done before then. Her music has found it's way on to shows like Grey's Anatomy and One Tree Hill.

In true Indy fashion, Rosi marches to her own beat. Her songs range from solid pop tunes to alt-country offerings to folk inspired anthems. She does a spot-on cover of Gillian Welch's "Look at Miss Ohio". (Gotta love a song with lyrics that say "I wanna do right but not right now".)

I got to talk with Rosi both times I saw her. She is warm and engaging. You can't help but like her. She told me she showed up in Easton for this last show in all black and wearing pants. It was 93 degrees that day. So she did what any self-respecting woman would do. She went to Target and bought a new outfit. (A very cute white sundress.)

I think Rosi is heading back to NYC for a little r & r. I am looking forward to seeing her again soon. In the meantime, I'll have to be content with my iPod.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

dogfish head brewery

I come from good beer stock. My grandmother was born and raised outside of Nuremberg, in the heart of Bavaria... oompa! Just after I graduated from high school, I traveled to Germany with her. It was a great trip. We spent time in Nuremberg and Munich and traveled to Austria, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. While we were in Munich, she made sure we went to the Hofbräuhaus; this is something I appreciate more now than I ever did then. She insisted on taking the following picture when we were hanging out downstairs at the Hofbräuhaus. I think the fact that I could drink so much beer at the tender age of seventeen surprised (impressed?) her. (With my parentage, she shouldn't have blinked an eye!)

Growing up, I remember my father drinking Ballantine Ale. This was the only beer he ever drank and probably my first beer. Interestingly, most mass-produced American beers are lagers (think any of the Anheuser Bush products). Perhaps my father was onto something. The beers that make-up today's growing craft-beer/micro-brewed market are primarily ales. I personally think ales have more complex flavors. If you're downing a beer because you've been out working in the yard, a Natty Light works just fine. If you are kicking back looking to drink something yummy, go with an ale.

Yesterday, Countrymouse and I joined my parents on a tour of the Dogfish Head Brewery. We pretty much live in their backyard, so it was a fun, easy thing to do.

Our guide, John, was excellent. He is a homebrewer himself, so I think he was more invested in explaining what we saw.

My EC Brother is a certified beer judge and homebrewer. He is somewhat critical of Dogfish, but I like them. I think some of his wariness is focused on their more experimental beers. Take their Theobroma, for example. It's brewed with Aztec cocoa powder and cocoa nibs, honey, chilies, and annatto (fragrant tree seeds). The Immort Ale, one of their more popular brews, is made with juniper berries, vanilla and maple syrup. Probably not what your average Joe wants in his beer. Those are the kinds of beers I will have one of and move on to something else.

I love wine but beer definitely has a place in my life. Beer is easy. Popping open a bottle of beer is no big deal; opening a bottle wine can turn into a production from what do you open to how do you get it open. (Make no mistake, this is generally an undertaking I am prepared to deal with.) What I learned during the tour was the brewing process is a complex procedure.

I thought it was cool that you can change the flavor of a beer by brewing it in different containers... just like wine.

Part of the fun yesterday was that my parents enjoyed themselves. My mother is the most NOT A BEER DRINKER person I know, so I had some concerns. It was also a walking tour... ditto on the concerns. My father comes from that same good beer stock and it was his idea to begin with, so I knew we'd be good on that front.

The real shocker is that my mother had a good time! We each received 4 4-ounce samples at the end of the tour. (This is mandated by Delaware state law, but DFH was more than generous.) My mother tried each one of the four: 60-Minute IPA, Midas Touch, Palo Santo Marron and Immort Ale. In addition to not being a beer drinker, my mother is really not a wine drinker either. I kept wondering if they were brewing something with whiskey... that would have been a brew she'd like. She wasn't so crazy for any of them but did enjoy the Midas Touch. This is a cross between beer and mead, so it's the least beer tasting beer we tried. Cold it's okay, but after it starts to warm up it reminds me of a really sweet chardonnay. (Now I know what kind of wine to buy her.)

WC Brother's favorite beer is the Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA. (Good thing he moved to Calli after they started shipping DFH there last year.) It reminds me of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I like their Aprihop. It's surprisingly refreshing for a fruit ale. EC Brother thinks fruit and beer are two things that should never mingle. I always have a fridge full of some kind of pumpkin ale come fall. (But I always have non-fruit beers for the purists in my family, including Countrymouse.)

We bought some beer at the brewery. It's the freshest and cheapest you'll find it. We probably should have gotten more. Somehow, I think we'll find our way back to Milton a few times this summer to stock up!

PS: I really did have a great time, even if I don't look like it in the photos. This was my attempt to smile gently instead of my usual full-on grin. Guess you just have to stick to who you are.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

william fitzsimmons with rosi golan - 18 april 2008 - night cat

I listen to a lot of music and a lot of different types of music. I have never come across someone who makes sad sound as beautiful as William Fitzsimmons. William's music is gentle and tender. He joked that his music was so soft sometimes he couldn't even hear it. If you could see his music, it would look like this:

That is until you listen to the beautiful sadness. William's 2006 album "Goodnight" was largely based on his parent's divorce...

from "You Broke My Heart"
did you think about my mother
when you shared the same bed cover
did you wonder if it changed her
when your sons became your stranger

and his newest release, "The Sparrow and The Crow" is about his own divorce...

from "Just Not Each Other"
Walked back home from this disaster
Saw your ghost under the plaster
Heart’s in throat and broken to pieces
I’m coming home

These songs are full of pain and regret and remorse. The listener is never sure where the blame lies but it's end result is palpable.

If you read any of the bios on William Fitzsimmons, you learn that his upbringing was anything but average. He was the youngest child of two blind parents. Growing up he was exposed to music and sound at a heightened level. He was educated as a mental health professional but found his way to a singing career instead. (Lucky us!)

William is the whole musical package... a tremendous voice, a moving lyricist and an awesome guitar player. It was a pleasure to watch and hear what he can do with a guitar. There were times his hands barely moved yet sweet, intricate music filled the room.

I have to tell you, William is what Countrymouse would call weepie girl music. This started out as a direct swipe at another band I really like, The Weepies. Now it's developed into it's own genre. This really doesn't bother me... I proudly own it. If this was all I liked, maybe that would be different, but it's just (a sizable) part of what I enjoy.

William sat on a chair during the whole show, which I always find interesting. Many artists stand or perhaps sit on a stool. However, when someone sits on a chair, especially in a small setting, I think he is showing his accessibility to his audience. In some ways, this is a gift from the artist to his fans. William's banter between songs was casual and easy, like he had known you for many years. I suppose when you are sharing the most intimate details of life in your songs, there aren't many walls left. He introduced some of his songs by saying, "This is a song about death" (Funeral Dress), "This song is about forgiveness" (You Still Hurt Me), "This is a love song" (Afterall). Each time this made me wonder who/what he was thinking when he wrote it. Other segues centered around how the Maryland flag was his favorite, unabomber jokes and football. Under all the weepie girl stuff, William was a real guy. While his songs are true reflections of him, he has found a balance in life. From an interview on The Drop,
"Dark stuff is dark. I don’t believe anybody really needs a reminder of that. What I wanted to do was to be as honest as possible with these songs, and perhaps the most honest sentiment I’ve found so far is that life is full of ambivalence, conflicting emotions, pain in the middle of a happy day, and joy following tragedy. We never seem to really experience life on only one pole, it’s always a back and forth. So is there a lot of pain in the record? Absolutely, because it’s the truth. And is there a lot of hope in the record? Absolutely, because that’s the truth too."
William's music is probably best described as folk/pop. (This is a term I really dislike but until I can think of a better one, I am stuck with it.) His live set was totally acoustic. He has been compared to Elliott Smith, Sufjan Stevens and Iron and Wine. All very good company. He has had some modest television success with his songs showing up on programs like Grey's Anatomy, Army Wives and One Tree Hill. (Why is it all the music I love shows up on these programs I would never watch?? The one exception may be Scrubs, which is an awesome show with awesome music.)

I would be remiss if I didn't comment on "The Beard". Those of you who know me, know I like facial hair. I may have met my match in Mr Fitzsimmons. Before William, Sam Quinn from the Everybodyfields held the dubious beard honor. All in all, it's kinda cool.

Rosi Golan opened for William Fitzsimmons. She's been doing some touring with him and they seem to have a mutual respect and appreciation for each other's music. She and her back-up guitarist, Jake Phillips lent their talent to a couple of William's songs and he actually is featured on a song on Rosi's brand new album, The Drifter and The Gypsy.

(This is another one of those One Tree Hill songs... really, what's up with that?)

Rosi was a joy to listen to. Her songs are thoughtful and expressive. Her voice reminds me of Feist at times. She was a perfect addition to the Fitzsimmons bill. Luckily for me, she is also touring in support of Ari Hest and will be returning to my humble little music mecca this weekend, so I get to hear her again! If you've made it this far in this post, I'll give you a break and spend more time talking about Rosi after the Ari Hest show. I would go even if she were playing alone. She's that good. I love having good music to look forward to.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

tea party

I turned 9 shortly before Richard Nixon won his re-election campaign in 1972. This is my earliest recollection of politics. We didn't grow up in a *political* family. We never discussed things like current events and certainly not presidential elections. I remember talking about the Nixon-McGovern race in school and was prompted to ask my father who he was going to vote for. When he told me Nixon, I didn't question it; I just mentally assented that Nixon must have been the right choice. (Those were the pedestal days of my love for my father. I never questioned anything he told me back then. I love him just as much these days, but that love is based on who he really is, not who I imagine him to be.)

1980 brought us the contest between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. While I hadn't dwelled much on politics during the preceding 8 years, I had reached a point where I had developed a genuine interest. I knew Jimmy Carter was not someone I was proud to call President. I paid attention to what Ronald Reagan had to say and I liked it. I wasn't able to vote until November 1981, but that didn't stop me from getting involved. I proudly campaigned for Reagan and was truly happy when he won his bid for the presidency. (And still am... I think Reagan may have been the most insightful president so far in my lifetime.)

Countrymouse grew up in a very Mother Earth News-conspiracy theory-liberal family. He started drifting more towards the middle after we met and Bill Clinton gave him the final push to full-on conservatism.

Unlike my own childhood, my pups are being raised in a *political* family. I don't think a day goes by that we don't discuss some issue. We speak in terms of liberal and conservative, not democrat and republican. My pups know the difference between socialism and fascism, what a republic is and why the Constitution is crucial to our country. They will all make their own political decisions one day, but I am confident they will get there knowing the basics.

This past week, Countrymouse, pup #4 and I had the privilege to exercise our
First Amendment rights, which, among other things, guarantees freedom of speech and the right to assemble peaceably. We took the day off from work and school and traveled to Annapolis to take part in one of the many national Tea Parties held that day.

Many people, including some close to me, dismissed the Tea Parties and even mocked them. I find this offensive. These are the folks who freely exercise those same rights by involving themselves with groups like CODEPINK or ThinkProgress and other liberal causes. People like Janeane Garofalo feel empowered to run off at the mouth (and looking like a complete idiot, I might add) speaking about the Tea Party participants, "This is about hating a black man in the White House. This is racism, straight up. That is nothing but a bunch of tea-bagging rednecks. And there is no way around that.”

Well, I have news for Ms. Garofalo, that ain't me.

Part of the greatness of this country is that we can each believe what we choose and we can live without fear of retribution. That includes Janeane Garofalo, even though she seems to believe you should only have that right if it lines up with her views.

Personally, I consider myself a libertarian; I believe that each person owns his own life and property, and has the right to make his own choices as to how he lives his life - as long as he respects the right of others to do the same. By the very nature of this, I think government should be as small as possible. This doesn't quite fit in with either of the major parties. Liberals, conservatives and libertarians are defined in the college textbook, The Challenge of Democracy: Government in America this way:
"Liberals favor government action to promote equality, whereas conservatives favor government action to promote order. Libertarians favor freedom and oppose government action to promote either equality or order." I think this is pretty spot on.

Although he really wanted to go, Pup #1 couldn't join us at the Tea Party. He did, however, send Countrymouse and me a text message in support (ahhh, modern technology!). In his message he quoted Alexander Hamilton, "Those who stand for nothing fall for anything". Attending the Tea Party was taking a visible stand. Not agreeing with someones views doesn't make that stand any less meaningful. Disparaging someones stand only reflects poorly on the detractor. When the day is done, each one of us should be thankful that our country supports our freedoms and we have the ability to exercise them.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

the house playlist

When Easter rolls around each year, I always think about our house. It was sitting at Easter dinner in April 2006 that Countrymouse and I each had one of those light bulb moments. My clan's old family home had sat vacant for about a year; my parents had down-sized and really just wanted to close that chapter of their lives. My father made a statement that basically said they weren't looking to get rich with the sale of the house and threw an amount out. While neither of us said anything at that moment, we both thought, "Yeah, we can do that". Six months and all of our savings later, we were the proud owners of a 103 year old Victorian in The Green Garden County of Maryland's Eastern Shore.

I'll light the fire
You put the flowers in the vase
That you bought today

Countrymouse had always liked the house. He had known the house for 25 years at this point and was quite familiar with it's high and low points, along with it's many renovations. When we were dating and eager to start our lives together, we would play "What If". You know, "What if we owned this house...", "What if we converted the attic into an apartment for us...", etc. He had spent time over the years cataloging the things he wanted to do with the house just as a pleasant mental exercise.

Staring at the fire
For hours and hours
While I listen to you
Play your love songs
All night long for me
Only for me

I have to admit that while I did have the same initial thought as Countrymouse, it took a good bit of deliberation for me to come around. It wasn't my parents or the house's fault; the house represented everything I wanted to distance myself from... an unwanted move to Maryland from NYC, an awkward teenager-hood, a mediocre high school experience, a sleepy, backwater existence with little cultural or social outlets... Why did I think that almost 30 years later I wanted to *own* this house?

Come to me now
And rest your head for just five minutes

Everything is good

Perhaps because almost 30 years later I wasn't the same young girl who had moved into the house with her family so long ago. I was now a woman who had been married more than half her life with 5 pups of her own. I knew the love the walls of this house would hold for my family, the memories it already held for them. My life in this house had hardly been the stuff of Anne of Green Gables and there were certainly memories I'd just as soon forget, but this house was part of me. This is the house I brought Countrymouse home to when he met my parents and where I dressed for our wedding. When I was away in college and when I was a new mom living far from my family, this was the house I always knew I could return to, no questions asked, and always be *home*.
Such a cosy room
The windows are illuminated
By the evening sunshine through them
Fiery gems for you

Only for you

It was odd when my parents moved out and we knew at some point there would be strangers living here. Like the end of a story you weren't ready for. I don't want to paint an image of me locked away somewhere lamenting; it wasn't like that. All of us siblings took it in stride... we're a resilient bunch... but it was an peculiar thought.

Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard

Life used to be so hard

Now everything is easy

'Cause of you

And our la,la,la, la,la, la, la, la, la, la, la.....

It took me about two weeks to get fully persuaded about buying the house. Countrymouse left the final decision up to me, though his desire was crystal clear. I did have some reservations, not so much about the house as moving away from the hub of our lives. When I considered everything, the blessings outweighed any drawbacks. The rest is history.

Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy
'Cause of you
And Our

We've spent the past three years making this house our house. We've torn down walls and cut down trees. (It hasn't always been easy for my parents to watch our changes, but I think they ultimately like what we've done.) There is something cool about being the third owners of a house this old. The funkiness of this old house is the perfect canvas for all my whims. It's been a good three years.

I'll light the fire
And you place the flowers in the jar
That you bought today

In celebration of another anniversary here, I share with you a play list of House Songs. No certain order, just stuff I like. Burn the play list and listen to it this spring in celebration of your own house as you shake off the weary shadows of winter.

  • CSNY: Our House
  • Basement Jaxx: Take Me Back to Your House
  • Blur: Country House
  • Madness: Our House
  • Animals: House of the Rising Sun
  • Dionne Warwick: A House is Not a Home
  • The Commodores: Brick House
  • Led Zeppelin: House of the Holies
  • Radiohead: Life in a Glass House
  • John Mellencamp: Pink Houses
  • Talking Heads: Burning Down the House
  • Paul Simon: Homeward Bound
  • Woody Guthrie: Ain't Got No Home
  • Blind Faith: Can't Find My Way Home
  • Tom Waits: House Where Nobody Lives
  • Vanessa Carlton: White Houses
  • Rosemary Clooney: Come On-a My House
  • Whiskeytown: Houses on the Hill
  • Lyle Lovett: Step Inside This House
  • Field Music: A House is Not a Home
  • LCD Soundsystem: Daft Punk is Playing at My House
  • Siouxsie and the Banshees: Happy House
  • The dBs: Spy in the House of Love
  • House of Pain: Jump Around (not really a *house* song, but too good to leave off)

Friday, April 10, 2009

i ginosko... do you ginosko?

There are some words in the English language that are limited. Take these words out of context and their intent is lost. Even in context, sometimes they fall short. When we speak, these are the words we italicize with our voices.

The word "know" is one of these words. In English we use "know" to cover a few different bases. In Greek, there are two distinct words to represent the different significance of "know". The first is ginosko. Ginosko means to know by experience. The second is oida. Oida means to know by perception or observation. This may seem like splitting hairs, but think about giving birth, for example. You can study the birthing process and watch a woman give birth and gain a good handle on the experience. However, unless you yourself have given birth to a baby, your knowledge is limited to oida. The new mom, on the other hand, has ginosko knowledge of birth.

Up until today, Countrymouse has only had an oida knowledge of colonoscopy. I, conversely, have a very ginosko knowledge. He's dutifully endured my whining about the prep and has always taken me for my procedures, but secretly I knew he thought I was just being *a girl*. When he scheduled his procedure, part of me smirked because I thought I'd be vindicated.

Well, guess what? The following is a pictorial aid that explains the differences in our digestive systems.

Posted by Picasa

I think this pretty much sums things up.

If I were more of a conspiratist, I would have known something was up when Countrymouse's prep was much tamer than mine. He is seeing my guy's partner, so maybe they have different protocols they follow... hmmmm.

One of the funniest pieces I have ever read was Dave Barry's column on his own colonoscopy. Mind you, I read this with ginosko knowledge; I almost peed from laughing so hard. Even now, looking at it again, I can hardly read it aloud to Countrymouse without cracking up.

Then a nurse named Eddie put a little needle in a vein in my left hand. Ordinarily I would have fainted, but Eddie was very good, and I was already lying down. Eddie also told me that some people put vodka in their MoviPrep. At first I was ticked off that I hadn't thought of this, but then I pondered what would happen if you got yourself too tipsy to make it to the bathroom, so you were staggering around in full Fire Hose Mode. You would have no choice but to burn your house.

If you haven't guessed, it's the prep that I find so awful. The fact that you become one with the toilet or have some guy stick a tube a mile up your hiney or that you have to fast for a day or two before the procedure doesn't bother me. I had my last colonoscopy about 10 months ago and just the memory of the way the prep solution tastes is (literally) enough to make me ill. No joke... and I'm a pretty tough cookie.

Countrymouse had the nerve to tell me the prep solution didn't taste bad at all! He took two laxative tablets last night, which pretty much took care of most of the job, and has spent today just hanging out reading. I actually took the day off from work, just in case he needed me. (What was I thinking?) Countrymouse's only complaint is that he hasn't been able to eat solid food for the past 30 hours. He was so cranky about not eating that he went to bed last night at 8:00 so he wouldn't have to think about not eating. He has spent all morning dreaming of hot fried chicken and coleslaw. Sometimes life just isn't fair.

The real truth is, I am proud of him for getting this done. Colonoscopy is relatively a pretty easy procedure, yet so many people put it off. No one wants to talk about their nether regions and they definitely don't want to talk about their bathroom habits. All I can say is, get over it. Everyone poops. Like Dave Barry, colorectal cancer reared it's ugly head in my family. My body is fertile ground for just about everything you can think of... babies (the only good thing I grow), polyps, fibroids, cancer cells, adenomas, cysts... If it weren't for WC Brother's experience, who knows what would growing in my colon today. Yearly colonoscopies are not my favorite thing to do, but I do them.

Dave Barry used his wit to talk about colonoscopy, but he ended his piece on a serious note:

But my point is this: In addition to being a pathetic medical weenie, I was a complete moron. For more than a decade I avoided getting a procedure that was, essentially, nothing. There was no pain and, except for the MoviPrep, no discomfort. I was risking my life for nothing.
I am not meek when it comes to talking about colonoscopy. I don't talk about it in code words or a hushed voice. There should be no embarrassment associated with it. I suppose this is one of my causes... my missions. Just call me Gastro Girl!

UPDATE: In case you wondered, Countrymouse passed his colonoscopy with flying colors. His doc said he did a great job on his prep. We stopped by KFC on the way home.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

feeling a little green

I started school in 1968. Like all kids, I loved watching television. My brothers and I watched things like The Flying Nun, The Banana Splits, H.R. Pufnstuf and the Perils of Penelopy Pitstop. Well, really we'd watch anything that was on.This was way before the Television Masterminds realized that kids are bona fide consumers. Today, parents of young children can find age-appropriate programing 24/7 from birth on up. (My pups have moved beyond the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon and prefer the Sci-Fi network or MTV, thus, to my dismay, straying from what I consider age appropriate. Thank God we don't get HBO or the Playboy Channel.)

I think because every show we watched was considered a gem (even if it really wasn't), television had more of an impact on us. There's lots of media coverage on how television, et al., affects our youth. I am sure it does, but I think there's so much more of it, kids just don't take it all in (how can they?)... not like when we were young.

In the late 60's and 70's the environmental movement found it's voice. Thanks to groups like the AdCouncil, millions of television watchers were not so gently reminded that pollution was bad.

I swear I remember those commercials like they were yesterday! My mother is descended from American Indian ancestors. I always felt like the Crying Indian, Iron Eyes Cody, was one of *us*. (The truth is, I am more American Indian than he was. He was the son of Sicilian immigrants!)

My mother always taught us not to throw trash on the ground, but I think that might have been it as far as our environmental education was concerned. I remember being instructed in school (and on programs like The Electric Company and Zoom) about not leaving lights on when you left a room and not letting the water run. Of all those lessons, it was those commercials that definitely had an impact on me. I did not want to be one of *those people*.

Fast-forward 40 years. I have to admit that I am not what would be considered *green* by most standards. I suppose my contribution to the cause is on my terms. I recycle newspaper and sometimes (but not always) glass. I try to turn off lights when they aren't being used and keep the thermostat set conscientiously. I wash clothes in cold water most of the time and will walk when it's reasonable. I have a hard time tossing anything that still has some life left in it. I think there's too many *good* things taking up space in our landfills. This bothers me for obvious reasons, but it bothers me because there are other people who could have used that item.

I came across a post on a website called Right@Home that was titled, "7 Ideas for Recycling Your Clutter". On the surface this got my attention because I am always on the lookout for ways to better organize my life/home. However, what really got my attention was the list. Some of the things I am happy to report I already do (like Freecycle and Goodwill) but there were things listed that I had never even heard of before (like the Nike Reuse-A-Shoe program. I have 5 sons, do you know how many old, ratty pairs of sneakers I've thrown away??). Read the list for yourself.

Personally, I am excited by the thought of doing something positive with our old sneakers and books. I like the idea of taking something I no longer want/need and enriching someone else's life. This kind of recycling is a sure fit with how I think and that is the foundation that will make it easy to maintain.

Just because I'm feeling nostalgic, here's one more PSA for old time's sake:

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

living in a post-atomic world

I realize that not everyone wants the same things out of life or even lives by the same standards. Maybe in spite of myself, I am just old-school enough that a lot of what I strive for is considered *traditional*. I am at the tail-end of the baby boomers, but that's mostly a label because I really don't fit the bill. I didn't really grow up with Howdy Doody, Woodstock or the anti-war movement of Vietnam, although those things were on the periphery of my childhood. I always knew who the Beatles were (and even had the photos from the White Album proudly tacked to my bedroom wall... although that had to be later than 1968 when it was released) but I was never part of that phenomena. The baby boomers were (are?) a generation trying to distance themselves from everything their parents represented. I don't think that generation was always so bad.

When I look at life during the Atomic Age, I see certain qualities that I think our society could benefit from today. Sure, society had a stronghold on many of the creative movements we value today, and even take for granted, having always had those outlets in our lifetime. (On a more silver-lining kinda note, we wouldn't have had the very cool Beatnik movement without the need to break away from that suppression.) But if you drill down to the core principles of that era, I think you see that their reticence was more from fear (of change, of losing control) than anything else. It is the great human flaw to fear what we don't understand.

The mores that I am drawn to from that time include pride in country, a love of God, and the nuclear family. (I told you they are traditional.) These are concepts that, at best, are considered *nice* today. I think it's possible to incorporate these principles in our lives, make them ours, so to speak, but still reckon to the original tenor.

I tell you all this to explain that I spend a lot of time thinking about my family and how I can make their lives better. Sometimes it's little things and other times it is the memorable things (like our trip to The Netherlands.)

Like all parents, I want my pups to look back at their years under our roof as happy times. I want them to be proud of their family and overall think we did our best.

Lately, I've been thinking I've been letting the little things go a bit too often. I've been trying to think of ways I can change that. I work outside the home, so once I am here the list of things I need to do is endless. It is way too easy to focus on what I need to do instead of who I need to do it for. Keeping my thoughts in check is my infinite challenge. I endeavor to be peaceful. (Some days it's easier than others.) Balancing all the aspects of life can be hard work.

Years ago, a friend of mine made the comment along the lines of: Just because they're kids doesn't mean you shouldn't do your best. This was a new concept for me. I had been groomed as a parent to think just the opposite: They're kids... what do they care? Well, the truth is, the reality of that is somewhere in the middle. There are times that the little things are just that, little, and other times they are important. (I told you the balancing thing is hard work.)

Her rule of thumb was that if you would go the extra mile for *someone else*, you should do it for your family. That's an interesting proposition. Ultimately, I think she was on to something. Shouldn't we give the people we love the best our best? When we treat each other with this level of respect we learn graciousness and hospitality and compassion from one another. These are all qualities that get vacuumed up in our hectic post-atomic world. I think irregardless of how we chose to live our lives or raise our families, these are virtues we all value.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

guggenheim grotto with jason myles goss - 02 april 2009 - night cat

Well, The Boys are Back in Town! (I amuse myself sometimes... I actually remember that song circa 1976 by another Irish group, Thin Lizzy.) You all know about my quasi-obsession with The Guggenheim Grotto, so no one should be surprised to read that I went to their encore show at Night Cat this week. It would have taken some catastrophe for them to disappointment me, but with the show they played, it wasn't even an option.

Kevin and Mick were every bit as affable and engaging as ever. I think for Countrymouse, this is why he likes them. He likes their music fine, but what he really likes is them. They are the kind of guys you want to have a beer with. (Although we spoke to them briefly before the show and they were drinking Coors Light. (Ack!) I almost said something disparaging to them and thought better of it.)

They opened their set with Philosophia, which I thought was apropos since this is the first cut on their first *official* CD. Their set included a nice mix of their two albums, Waltzing Alone and Happy the Man. I had secretly hoped they would play Rosanna, but they didn't. *sigh* When I mentioned that to Mick later, he said, "That's what everyone says!". (Just like a man to not take a not so subtle hint!)

I could list the songs they played and comment on each, but the truth is, if you've heard them you know what the songs sound like already. You don't need me to tell you about how *awesome* they are. (If you haven't, you really need to listen to them!) But, what I found especially cool is that for their live show they changed things up a bit. This is what fans live for. We get used to hearing songs sung the same way (on the CD) and part of the joy of seeing an artist live is the gift of spontaneity. (I am not so naive to think that shows are truly spontaneous, at least short of Phish or some other jam band.) Countrymouse is very content to hear things the *way they're supposed to sound*, but I am always looking for the twist. We saw REM in 1985 in Cleveland in a very Avalon-esque old theater. I thought the show was fantastic. Countrymouse hated it because a) Michael Stipe sang with his back to the audience all night and b) their songs didn't sound like they did on the albums (because they really were vinyl back then). But I digress.

The Guggenheim Grotto work so well together that sharing songs is probably not a problem. They sang together on songs that are recorded with one singer and even totally switched things up on others. Their final encore was Cold Truth from Waltzing Alone. This is one of my favorites, in part because it is a Mick Lynch song and in part because I find the lyrics moving. Thursday night, Kevin May sang the song. It was excellent. This speaks to the level of musicians these guys are.

Seeing them perform again brought home the talent these guys have. Mick Lynch whipped out a violin to play one song and also played the ukulele on a couple others. Kevin May, a lefty, adeptly took over Mick's (right-handed stringed) guitar and played several songs. These guys rock. They told me they are headed back to Ireland in a couple weeks but will be back in the States for the summer (not a bad move, considering what summers in Ireland are like). The closest they will be to me is Baltimore, playing a free (yay!) show on July 2nd in Baltimore. Countrymouse's birthday is July 3rd, so I can see this being an event.

I don't have a crystal ball that predicts what will happen in the music world, but I will humbly say that I am oftentimes ahead of the curve. I fell in love with REM in 1983 and Coldplay in 2000, both long before anyone even knew their names. (Not to sound too cocky, there are plenty of bands that I adore and I remain a fan of one.) I always feel this twinge when a band I've *discovered* goes mainstream, but what can I really say? Isn't that the end goal? I think that Guggenheim Grotto is poised to *make it big*. I'm just happy to be along for the ride.

Opening for Guggenheim Grotto was Jason Myles Goss. I have to admit that I am such a GG fan that I was disappointed that anyone was opening for them. (Sorry Jason.) I have to concede that I enjoyed Jason's set. He really is a good guy with a good voice. The wonderful benefit of seeing someone at a small venue like Night Cat is you may actually get to to talk to the artist. (How awesome is that!?) I liked Jason's music but I especially liked him.

Jason hails from Boston (maybe Cambridge, if I remember what he told me). He currently makes his home in Brooklyn. This intrigues me because Boston is a real music destination in it's own right.

Jason Myles Goss has two distinct sounds. The vibe I got hearing him sing is that he prefers his *softer* (for lack of a better term) sound. These songs are pretty... much like John Mayers in his Room for Squares days. I loved Jason's more rocking tunes. He sings a song about coffee and wine. I felt like we were friends in another life.

Com'on, any song that epitomizes my two great loves is gonna rock it for me. (Unfortunately, this is only a partial video. I can't find a full length video of this song, but it was my favorite, so I am leaving it here.) Jason is an excellent guitar player. He's the kind of guy you can be hanging out with drinking the day away and he picks up his guitar and starts singing. (I wonder if he's spending any time on the Eastern Shore this summer. All we have is a pull-out couch but he'll never want for coffee or wine.)

Jason's newest release is A Plea for Dreamland. It will be available early summer. I think Mr. Goss is one of those sleeper artists. He's good at what he does but what he does is under the radar. It will take a huge exposure to make him big or a lot of touring. I think he has what it takes, it's just a question of finding the fan base that will embrace that.

I am not the mastermind behind the Easton music scene, but I would totally invite Jason back for a second or third show. His music is what makes us all feel good. It is filled with rich vocals and harmonious chords. You leave his set feeling good about life... and that's not a bad thing.