Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Meaning of Life

What is life all about? Why are we here? Is it to seek truth? To gain wealth and status? To create beauty? To propagate a religion? Reduce suffering? Devote yourself to your family? What do all those things mean?

Those deep questions are best addressed by someone a lot smarter than I am. But it occurred to me today that it might be interesting to consider how various civilizations, cultures, nations answer the question of the Meaning of Life. I thought it would be fun to look at it from the point of view of individual cities: what they really have say about the Meaning of Life, and what they say they say (for instance, I'm guessing that the denizens of Washington D.C. would claim to be dedicated to things like Freedom and Equality, when I think the reality of the matter is more along the lines of manipulation of wealth. But that's another box of wine.)

I'm on the subject, because I think that Miami Beach would freely acknowledge, if it thought about such matters, that the meaning of its life has to do with the celebration of eroticized beauty and sensual pleasure. Which, for the last grand gesture of the Month of Mick, is just fine with me.

Now you might be thinking that I'm about to hit you with a bunch of spicy and saucy photos. Well, that ain't gonna happen. There are plenty of places on the internets where you can see that stuff. But I do have some pix from our stay for your amusement.

For instance, check out the Fontainebleau, Morris Lapidus' masterpiece.

And a shot of its tower, the edge slicing into the sky.

A couple days were windy enough that the parasurfers were out in force.

Thought I had more and better shots of these guys, but here's one catching a little air.

While the sort of philosophical questioning I was referring to might not exactly reach its fullest flower in Miami Beach, there is certainly some artistic expression. These are from the apartment where we stayed.

I like this one because it shows a chunk of the place, our gear thrown all over. Hey - it was meant to be a relaxing visit, right? Also, if you close up a little, you can see Cory tucked in behind the sculptures.

Here's a shot of the view from our balcony.

As if this weren't luxurious enough, I also had a spa day (!) as a birthday present, at this place:

Can't take credit for that photo, but I certainly enjoyed the day! A workout, a steam shower, some time at the pool, a Balinese massage, then out to the beach. Amazing. Mmmmmm... Balinese massage...

'Twas a good few days.

And back in New York, of course, we just had Halloween. This guy on Cory's block looks like he's had a rough time of it.
Think it's too late for a massage for him...

Happy Halloween

The Hoboken version of Halloween Parade (an extremely child-friendly event) has pretty much happened by now. Very cute stuff.

But Halloween is about scares too, and I just heard a scary thing on TV. I'm watching an interview with Carlton Fisk, and they discussed how he made $11,500 in his rookie season in 1972. That's eleven thousand bucks, people, not one hundred eleven thousand. Then, after he won the AL Rookie of the Year, he had to fight for an extra 5 grand.

Carlton Fisk?!?! The Carlton Fisk - one of the great catchers of all time, the guy whose signed photo is framed on my living room wall, maybe the best catcher the Red Sox ever had (sorry Jason, but I'm guessing even you would agree with that.)

Yes, that was before free agency. And yes, I know that there's an argument out there that pro athletes get too much money. But holy crap - that's less money than you'd have made working in a gas station in 1972.

Alright, you been waiting for me to post it... here it is: Harry Cabluck's iconic shot of Fisk waving that fly ball fair over the Green Monster in the 12th inning of game 6 in 1975

Friday, October 30, 2009

Back from the Beach

Ok, I've been a less-than-religious blogger lately. Part of the reason was that I was down in Miami Beach for four fun-filled days in the sun. I'll post some pix from that trip before long. Suffice to say it was a fab trip.

There was one little wrinkle...

Late Monday night/Tuesday morning, there was a small fire in the store on the ground floor of my apartment building. Nothing too serious, as these things go, but still - a lot of smoke, people were freaking out, the cops called my cell in the middle of the night (I didn't get the message until the next morning, which is actually a good thing) and the firefighters broke my door down. They actually broke down a bunch of doors in my building - it's just what they do when people evacuate without leaving their doors open (a number of people have doors that just lock automatically when you close them - those got busted into too.)

Sooooo... that'd be the other reason I haven't been so attentive to this blog. I've got a bit of a mess to clean up, and my place smells like smoke a bit. All tolled, things could have been a LOT worse. We're all pretty lucky.

On the other hand, what is it with me and vacations and fires?

Friday, October 23, 2009

tick... tock...

What are you doing this weekend?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Saddest. Picture. Ever.

I hate that agony of defeat shit.

Bernstein on Bach

You can't really ever have too much Bach in your life, as far as I can tell.

This is part of his Omnibus Series, which was on TV in the 50s. Really really good TV. I think that at least some of those shows will be available on DVD later this year. Or, of course, you can just go to this guy's YouTube page and watch them right now...

Love this stuff. It reminded me of an ensemble I was part of at one point, where the conductor was telling the story of the Voyager Space Capsule that was loaded with sonic artifacts from around the world. The way he told it, the project involved a lot of international vying for hand ("put our guy in their" kind of thing) and a particularly 1970s-ish effort at multicultural sensitivity (not that there's anything wrong with Pygmy songs, Navajo chant, or meditative brain waves, but I do think that their inclusion tells us something about the time in which that probe was launched.) Amidst all those debates and deliberations, there came one voice of agreement from all nations: "Well, of course we're going to put Bach on that record." It was unanimous - it would be unthinkable not to include it in the representation of humanity being sent to worlds beyond. It was, as the best music usually seems to be, inevitable.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Treehouse of Horror

Did you see it last night? The 20th installation (count 'em, 20!) of the Simpson's Halloween Specials. Not the best ever, but the first couple segments were pretty effin hilarious. Kind of thought they'd make something out of it being rated XX, but guess we'll have to wait for the 30th incarnation for that joke to surface.

One of my sister's fave lines came from Bart in the brilliantly titled Hitchcock Homage Dial M for Murder (or Press # to Return to the Main Menu) segment: "Ding dong ditch means you kill her and throw that ding dong into a ditch!"

And I thought one of the best jokes came from Mr. Burns as an into to the preview for the new Jim Carrey Christmas Carol "The story is about a successful business man who is tricked into being nice by three socialist ghosts."

That is a pretty priceless commentary, but while we're on the subject, do we really need/want A Christmas Carol to be amped up for the action movie crowd? I'm not convinced.

Furthermore, it's too early for Christmas stuff to be out there! Too. Early. Yes, yes, I know Dylan released his Christmas record last week. And I'll buy it, but not until after Thanksgiving dammit.

More Ways to Dismantle Atomic Bombs

Here's yet another article on Obama's Nobel Prize, which would seem to be my new hobby. This one is by Bono, renowned international policy maven that he is.

In dangerous, clangorous times, the idea of America rings like a bell (see King, M. L., Jr., and Dylan, Bob). It hits a high note and sustains it without wearing on your nerves. (If only we all could.) This was the melody line of the Marshall Plan and it’s resonating again. Why? Because the world sees that America might just hold the keys to solving the three greatest threats we face on this planet: extreme poverty, extreme ideology and extreme climate change. The world senses that America, with renewed global support, might be better placed to defeat this axis of extremism with a new model of foreign policy.

Optimism? Sure. But I'm willing to go with that for a while. These lessons can be applied to other areas too - anything where some cooperation would be useful.

Friday, October 16, 2009

More on the Peace Prize

Here's another view on Obama's Nobel Prize, from Matt Taibbi.

You never, ever get a true dissident from a prominent Western country winning the award, despite the obvious appropriateness such a choice would represent. Our Western society quite openly embraces war as a means of solving problems and for quite some time now has fashioned its entire social and economic structure around the preparation for war.

I am all for encouraging the administration to work toward peace, and disarmament, and reasonable, productive foreign policies. But, while I think it is ludicrous to compare Obama's Peace Prize to Kissinger's (Really Matt? Really?) I also think it is very good to keep a watchful eye on the big picture.

In other news, how does this kind of thing still happen?


Rocktober in Boston

This has been a busy month for me. Mostly in good ways, but it's kept me from this outlet more than I expected.

So - broad strokes of last weekend in Boston:

Went up on Saturday - crap traffic. On a Saturday. Why??

Met with Sue and Steve in Somerville. Splendid, as always.

Went with them to the Cask 'n' Flagon near Fenway Park. Not for a Red Sox event, but because Sue and Steve were meeting friends there before going to a show featuring the Psychedelic Furs and the Happy Mondays. A whole bunch of friends, as it happened. Who knew that indie rock from the 80s would draw such a crowd? One of them had gone to a high school near where I grew up, and knew my school because we were competitors. I was all "I don't remember you guys being in our conference." And she said, "Well, I guess we didn't play football against you, but we'd go to your school for the one-act play competitions." She remembered being impressed by/jealous of our drama program. How funny is that?

As they went to the concert, I drove out to Allston for Chris and Tamiko's annual "Fat and Happy" pasta party. They make 4 giant pots of sauce from veggies and herbs they grow in their garden, they make appetizers, Tamiko even made fresh mozzarella for the occassion. Holy moly it was fun and yummy. Or, should I say, Fat and Happy.

Next morning I went to brunch with the Somervillains then met Molly at the Huntington to see my friend Brandon in Fences there. Holy shit what a good show! Really really well done - brilliant script, of course, and a solid production expertly acted. Kudos to those guys. And it was their closing performance, so we got to hang out backstage with them afterwards. Wine, cheese, noshes and rum. Fun.

The following day, Columbus Day, Brandon, Molly, Chris and I had brunch at Deep Ellum, a cool place in Allston that wasn't there when I lived there. Very good food and bloody marys.

Then Brandon and I drove back to NYC - first time we've had that much time to talk in a LONG time, which was cool. Talked shop, strategized, and just caught up. I took him to his place in Brooklyn, saw his place and said hi to Crystal, then headed back to Hoboken, where I have taken up residence once again (though to tell the truth I was only there for a little while before I came back in to the city to welcome Cory back from her Convergence in North Carolina.

I left the camera at home, so no photos. Just take my word - it was another good October weekend.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Birthday Bruce

So, ok - you've heard of Cory, right? Well, she takes really good care of me for my birthday. (My birthday was October 7, for those of you who pay attention to such things.) This year the first way that took shape was in the form of tickets to see Bruce Springsteen at Giants Stadium.

This, it bears noting, is a pretty good gift. A pretty AWESOME gift.

He did a series of five concerts to close the stadium, which is getting demolished to make room for a shiny new stadium next door next season, so these are special, historic shows. And these were field tickets, which unless you have a broken leg or something are so the way to go. To get the best spot on the field you have to show up early, so it takes a pretty good chunk of day to do it. And we had to miss my good friend Lia's birthday party in the Bronx, which was sad in its way, but everything lined up so amazingly as to make up for all else.

It was predicted to be a really rainy day, so we weren't going to go for the extra special super early version of tailgating in the parking lot. Instead we went the the gym and then hit the grocery store to grab some provisions and Cory went uptown to get the tickets from her friend and to pop in on the Dan Graham exhibition at the Whitney (Cory got soaked on the walk from her friend's place to the museum. That would be one way the stars didn't actually line up too well.) Meanwhile, I put the cooler together with beer, soda and food, and eventually the weather cleared up as we hit the road.

Comedy of errors with the parking staff, and we found ourselves in a less-than-ideal lot, but after a little bit of E Street shuffling, we ended up in a great spot and had some food and drinks and took in the scene. The sun was even kind of shining by this point, and it turned into a pretty nice afternoon. A couple things I wasn't prepared for in today's world of tailgating: the amount of fairly professional sound systems people brought for sharing their tunes with the world; and more surprisingly - the proliferation of professional-looking beer pong tables.

Who knew?

At around 6 we went to the gate - they weren't letting people in yet (other than the first thousand, who'd been there since about midday to get the spots RIGHT up against the rail.) It wasn't that bad a line, and they let us in at about 6:30. We got wristbands of our own, which let us go up to the front portion of the floor they'd laid down on the field. We had a great spot! 20 yards or so from the stage, close enough that we didn't need those jumbotrons to see what was going on.

And what a show!!! The Boss knows how to do it up. Such an artist; such a showman. I didn't bring my camera, natch, so was limited to what I could catch on my cell phone.

As I said, these shows are going to be the last concerts that happen in Giants Stadium before they tear it down, so Bruce wrote a song for the occassion.

We got to be among the first to hear it! Ok, among the first several thousand.

For this series of shows, the band is playing albums in their entirety. We got to hear Born in the U.S.A., which of course was the record that took Bruce from stardom to Monster Mondo Mega Stardom. It was fantastic - of all his albums, this is probably the most stadium-friendly, the one that was kind of built to fill these ginormous venues. Here's the setlist, with the U.S.A. songs shaded red.

Wrecking Ball
Out in the Street
Outlaw Pete (does anyone else think the riff on this song sounds dangerously close to the Kiss song "I Was Made for Lovin' You"?)
Hungry Heart
Working on a Dream
Born in the U.S.A.
Cover Me
Darlington County
Working on the Highway
Downbound Train
I'm on Fire
No Surrender
Bobby Jean
I'm Goin' Down
Glory Days
Dancing in the Dark
My Hometown

The Promised Land
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
The Rising
Born to Run
Raise Your Hand (instrumental version, while he went out into the crowd to pick up request signs)
Jersey Girl
Kitty's Back
Detroit Medley
American Land
Waitin' on a Sunny Day
Thunder Road

Do you see that?? The first request he played was "Jersey Girl," which was AMAZING because a) he hardly ever does that song, b) hello - it's just a-ma-zing, and c) hel-LO? - I was there with my Jersey Girl! And then he did another rarity in "Kitty's Back" that completely blew me away, really let the band stretch musically: solos from Charles Giordano (rest in peace, Danny Federici) Curt Ramm (a phenomenal trumpeter who joined them for these shows) Roy Bittan and Bruce himself (people still underrate his guitar playing, in my opinion) just took the show way over the top. No Rosalita that night, but Thunder Road brought things home very very nicely.

One more blurry photo before I go. When he does "Dancing in the Dark" he usually brings someone up on stage to dance (a la Courtney Cox in that video way back when the song came out.) For this show he brought up this teenage gal who looked nervous for about a half a second and then totally tore it up with the Boss!

After they finished the song, Springsteen let her friends (her mom?) take their picture, then he showed us the sign that she'd held up to get his attention: "13th Birthday Dance?" Pretty rad.

Potential vs. Accomplishment?

Gotta admit I didn't see this coming.

In the wake of the announcement, on the other hand, this aspect of it is entirely unsurprising.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Good Vibes to Grandma

There is a lot for me to write about this week, including some amazing shows and an incredible early birthday celebration yesterday, but for now I want to devote some attention to my grandmother, who had a couple of TIAs ("mini strokes") within the last several days.

Here's a shot of her at home on the farm from the trip we took to visit them last month. She's doing very well under the circumstances, and we all have plenty of reason to be optimistic; I'm just putting out some good vibes and would be happy for you to do the same. She's an amazing woman, and super strong - please send some thoughts and wishes and prayers or whatever fits your worldview in her direction.

Much much love to her and grandpa and the whole family.

Friday, October 02, 2009

More Texas

But then there's this, which would seem to be an improbably forward-thinking decision, and reason for (very) cautious optimism. Even in Texas.

I don't understand anything.


Once again, injustice has been taken to a level that defies my comprehension.

I really feel like I don't know how to live in the world sometimes.