Month: February 2005 (Page 1 of 3)

We Have Teeth

M’s first two teeth pushed their way through her tender little gums this weekend. She’s a bit shy about showing them off, and they’re just barely visible, so it will probably be a couple more weeks before they’re photographable. She had managed to chomp both her mom and me a couple times, though. Sadly, she remains fairly cranky at times, so her top two central incisors may not be that far behind.

Finn Brothers, Indianapolis, Feb. 22, 2005

Here are my impressions.

It was a truly excellent concert. We wormed our way as close to the stage as possible, and had just two people and five feet of stage between us and Neil Finn. Probably the closest I’ve ever been outside some of those tiny bars and coffee houses I’ve seen bands perform at. The brothers Finn were using a rather non-traditional stage set-up. They were seated at the front of the stage with a bass player behind them. In addition to manning the acoustic guitar all night, Tim Finn had a bass drum in front of his right foot and an upright snare near his left foot. Oh, and he had to alternate between harmonizing and lead vocals all night. I can’t play one instrument or carry a tune. He managed to play three instruments and sing at the same time. If I hadn’t enjoyed the show so much, I would have realized I really suck.

Anyway, like I said, the show was fantastic. They did a nice job of focusing in Finn Brothers material while still giving Crowded House and Split Enz songs some love. They even threw in a cover of Van Morrison’s “Irish Heartbeat”. Despite the lack of a drummer or a full-time keyboardist (Neil slid back to an electric piano for some songs), it was actually a fully electric and loud show. Where songs are glorious, deep, and layered on their albums, in this live setting they had a hard edge to them. Even some of their happy-go-lucky songs got nasty guitar treatments from Neil. I was in awe of his guitar playing ability. It seemed as though he used a completely different style on each song, alternating between three different electric guitars, a couple traditional acoustics, and one 12 string guitar.

The crowd was rather subdued in a typical respectful, Midwestern manner. There wasn’t a lot of singing or dancing, outside of the big songs everyone knew. Mostly warm, polite, friendly feedback from the crowd throughout the night. Oh, and there were clearly some people there that discovered either Split Enz or Crowded House in the late 70s, early 80s when they were my current age. The Finn Brothers are known for their between song banter, and in Tuesday’s performance they shared past experiences in Indy (Neil had been there, Tim had not), quizzed the crowd on what key is better; D or E-Flat; and fielded requests. One intrepid fan tossed a paper airplane towards Neil early in the night with what appeared to be dozens of songs scribbled onto it. He opened it, laughed, and said, “We’ll probably get to a few of these tonight.” Like all good music geeks, I had a list of songs I wanted to hear. Five in fact, since I didn’t know how many non-Tim CH songs they would play and I wanted to cover my bases. They didn’t play a single one, yet I didn’t go home disappointed.

Highlights of the night were the Jack White-like treatment of “Won’t Give In,” which Neil gave an interesting half country, half garage feel on his guitar; “Weather With You” which turned into a sing-along; the classic “Don’t Dream It’s Over” which got an interesting and pleasing new treatment, and the night’s closer “I See Red” in which Tim jumped off the chair he had been perched upon all night and despite being 52, launched into his manic stage style that made the Splitz so popular back in the day.

I could go on and on about other things that happened over the hour and 45 minutes they played. I would have loved another encore with a couple more songs, but I can’t complain about anything I heard. It was amazing to see how easily the brothers adjust and find each other mid-song when their eyes are closed or they’re looking away. They certainly proved that they have the rare combination of insane raw musical talent, the ability to write songs that touch people, and the charisma to make every show interesting and engaging.
There was an opening act, a woman named Bic Bunga, who like the Finns, is from New Zealand. This was her first night on the tour, and she performed by herself with only a guitar. We talked about how difficult it must be to be any opening act. But to have to face a crowd in a small club with no one else on stage to support you has to be daunting. To be opening for the biggest musical act that’s ever come from your homeland can’t help. (Fun Split Enz fact: Their album True Colours sold what was equivalent of one copy for every ten Australian homes. I’m no math major, but to have an American band do that same amount of sales in proportion to the US population you would be talking about a shitload of records.)

Finally, S. thinks I should grow my hair out like Tim Finn’s. I informed her I didn’t think my hair could do what his does. I will say this, though: If I was 52, touring full-time, and had grey hair, I wouldn’t mind going with Tim’s look. I’ll try to figure out how to post a picture of Tim’s locks.
The Finn Brothers promised a large venue tour of the States in the summer. Be watching for them.

Ray

We watched Ray tonight, which I think means I saw one movie nominated for this year’s Oscars. Anchorman didn’t get any nominations, right? I liked Ray, I just thought it was oddly done. It was far too broad, and thus left me unsure of what to think of Ray. Was he a bad guy who turned good? A good guy who had some rough patches? They try to do too much even though the movie is two and a half hours long.

Jamie Foxx is brilliant, however. He gets Robin Williams points, though, since most of us think that people who start as comedians can’t be serious actors, and are blown away when they prove us wrong. A fantastic performance, although I think Don Cheadle’s work in Hotel Rwanda was far more important (said by the man who waits until anything that isn’t a Will Ferrell movie hits DVD to see it). He makes a 2 1/2 star movie interesting enough to stay with it. Other than his performance and the music, nothing hooked me.

Anyway, the important part was M’s reaction to the music. We’re talking ground-breaking, genre exploding and defining music by a man so gifted his nickname was The Genius. I’m pleased to report, that once Ray started singing his music, M. went nuts. She danced around, or at least danced as much as a seven-month old can while being held by their mom, and laughed and shrieked and grinned. It may have just been the formula talking, but I think she’s getting my music appreciation early. Next time mommy works on a weekend day, we’re breaking out all three disks of The Clash on Broadway and seeing what happens!

 

Genetic Link

This week was the anniversary of my mom’s death. I don’t say that to bum you out or earn sympathy from anyone. Just to point out she’s been on my mind a little more than usual the past couple days.

My mom was one of those people who always had 20 things going on at once, and consequently, was a little absent minded from time-to-time. As an example, one day I got home from school and went to the cabinet to get a glass for a drink. In the cabinet, I found a gallon of milk. I opened the refrigerator to get a beverage and found the iron. Apparently while rushing around before work, she was thinking of other stuff while putting them away and got the two items switched in her mind. I always laugh and think of her when I do things like that. Like this morning…

I had already given M. her bottle and came up from the basement to start some coffee. I was thinking of the Kings-76ers trade or something and next thing I know, I’ve got a new bottle in my hand and am headed back downstairs. I caught myself, shook my head, and went back to indeed make the coffee. Thanks, mom, for giving me your distracted nature. I’ll warn M. of what she has to look forward to. Maybe that’s why some days she holds her binky in one hand and shoves the book she has in the other hand into her mouth.

 

An Epiphany (Of Sorts)

Long-time readers and friends know that I’m a gigantic sports fan and a competition freak, both of which combine with a sometimes frightening intensity in my extreme devotion to the basketball team of my alma mater, the University of Kansas. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to have been born into a fandom that has provided many more high moments than low. One national championship in my lifetime. Two other national championship game appearances (Those loses sucked, but come on, we were one of the last two teams playing with an even money shot to win both times.) Six Final Fours since I was old enough to pay attention. Lots of conference championships, exciting wins over other highly ranked teams, and in general, just good, entertaining basketball.

I noticed a strange shift in my mood a few weeks ago, though. I was really looking forward to baseball season, which is odd since the team I followed growing up has little chance of ever competing again as long as its current ownership group is in place. I’ve bandwagoned a team or two to make the season more interesting, but I can’t say the passion I had for baseball as a child has returned. I also noticed that on KU game days, I wasn’t always looking forward to the game itself. I wanted it to be over quickly and painlessly. I guess I thought that the sooner the game was over, the sooner I could start the 2-3 hour cooling-down process I have to go through, win or lose, after each contest.

Monday’s loss to Texas Tech sucked, but in many ways it was a loss that was nothing to be ashamed or worried about. We battled a good, ranked team on their home court for 50 minutes and were a close call and a three pointer away from stealing a win. Take care of business Saturday, and we probably only drop a spot or two in the rankings. But Saturday’s loss to Iowa State was brutal. I can’t understand how a team that’s supposed to be full of experienced, talented players who have been through all the battles before can come out so flat, react so poorly, and show so much disinterest in a game. Give major credit to Iowa State and Wayne Morgan: they had a great game plan, executed it perfectly, and despite doing everything they could to lose the game in the last 70 seconds of regulation, got it to overtime and hit the shots to win. However, what I saw on the KU end of the court was too much to take. I was throwing things. I refused to talk to my wife, not because I was taking it out on her but because I was so wound up that I couldn’t speak. I barely acknowledged my daughter, who really wanted to play with daddy. These aren’t good things.

So, I’m taking a week off. I’m not watching Monday’s game against Oklahoma, nor am I recording it so I can watch later if I hear it was a great performance. We’re going to rent movies, probably something S. is interested in more than me, and spend our night watching those. I’ve long been a member of a private e-mail list for idiots like me who need to exchange 250 e-mails each day breaking down every game, every recruiting trip, every choice of uniforms. I’ve logged off for the next seven days. I won’t be reading every internet columnist and blogger who like me hyper-analyze the actions of college kids, sucking the life and joy out of what should be a wonderful experience. Frankly, no matter how much enjoyment I get out of the games, it’s not worth the recovery process after the game, nor the silent fury I sit in during games that prevents me from normal conversations with my family.

I’m sure a few of you are saying, “What a shitty fan! His team loses a couple games and he jumps ship! KU still has a great chance to be a #2 or #3 seed in the tournament, and have enough talent to go a long way no matter how they’re playing in mid-February. At least your team has more than (insert number of wins your team might have here) wins.” I assure you, it’s not just because of the losses, or the teams on the schedule this week. I wasn’t feeling much better during and after wins, so the past week’s events were just the final sign that I needed to distance myself and find some perspective. I’ll not be removing the KU license plate from my truck or stop wearing KU gear this week. I just think it’s important to spend seven days finding some balance. I don’t think this will entirely cure me of my problem, but perhaps it will help enough for me to get through the rest of the season without either working up an ulcer or my wife gently telling me I need to get a freaking life.

I’ve got seven days of detox ahead of me. Hopefully that means I’ll be able to watch the KU-Oklahoma State game next Sunday and regardless of effort or result, be able to watch like a semi-fanatical follower again rather than the churning, stressed out idiot I’ve turned into.

 

Essential Finn

My promised summary of some of my favorite Finn Brothers music.  I’m always a little surprised that I’ve become such a big  fan of Neil and Tim’s work over the years.  I’m generally not into the singer-songwriter thing very much, even when it leans to the alterna-pop side of the spectrum.  I guess I was entranced by the majesty of a certain song in the spring of 1986 and have never really gotten over it.  Rather than do mini-reviews of each Neil Finn product I own, which were turning out to be not-so-mini, I’ll share my top ten Neil Finn songs with you.  These are listed in chronological order, oldest to newest.

“I Got You”  Split Enz, 1979.  18 year-old Neil joined his brother
Tim’s band and immediately paid dividends, penning this New Wave
classic that proved to be the Splits’ biggest international success.
Neil’s pure pop sensibilities were already coming through, despite his
youth.  Interesting trivia note to music geeks: Neil had not yet
learned to play electric guitar when he joined the Splits….as their
lead guitarist.  Not sure if that’s a high level of trust from big
brother, or a case of throwing someone into the fire to see how they
react.

“Don’t Dream It’s Over” Crowded House, 1986.  Still my favorite song
from the 80s and one of my all-time favs as well, this was the first
single from the band Neil formed after Split Enz dissolved in 1984.
Unfortunately, it was their only big hit in America, relegating the
band to One Hit Wonder status despite their international success over
the next eight years.  A beautiful song full of conflicting emotions.
Is it triumphant or defeatist?  Hopeful or melancholy?  A little bit of
everything, this ambiguity adding to the genius of the track.

“Four Seasons in One Day” Crowded House, 1991.  Tim briefly joined
CH in 1991 and helped to create what was the band’s most critically
acclaimed disk, Woodface.  Much more mature and developed than their
work together in Split Enz, Woodface was both a brilliant apex for CH
and a sign of what was to come in future Finn brothers collaborations.
“Four Seasons” is an amazing work of simple harmonies and perfectly
restrained music.

“Distant Sun” Crowded House, 1993.  Most of Neil’s love songs have
an interesting twist somewhere along the way that keep them from being
songs that can be comfortably used in weddings.  There is always an
acknowledgment that partnerships are full of troubled times, wandering
eyes, and outright disloyalty.  Trust me, I listened long and hard
hoping to find a song we could use at our wedding.  This was the
closest I came; utterly gorgeous musically, but just a little too much
realism for me to ask a DJ to spin as S. and I started our lives
together.  “I don’t pretend to know what you want, but I offer love.”
More a song written for 30 somethings who have learned life isn’t
perfect but are still in love than fresh-faced newlyweds who still
believe in fairy tales (And yes, I know we were 30 something when we
got married!).

“Suffer Never” Finn Brothers, 1995.  The highlight track from the
brothers’ first album as a duo.  Dark and foreboding, it serves as a
nice balance to the brothers’ more buoyant works.

“She Will Have Her Way” Neil Finn, 1998.  From Neil’s first solo
album, Try Whistling This.  For most of the album he attempts to follow
his brother’s more experimental path.  This track, however, fulfills
Neil’s perfect pop song quota.

“There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”, “History Never Repeats” Neil
Finn & Friends, 2002.  In 2001, Neil invited several musicians
whose work he admired and had been influenced by to join him at his
home in New Zealand.  They would rehearse for a week, perform for seven
nights, and then break up the “band”, never to perform together again.
Joining him were Sebastian Steinberg of Soul Coughing, Ed O’Brien and
Phil Selway of Radiohead, Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, Indiana’s own Lisa
Germano who performed with John Cougar Mellencamp for almost ten years,
his brother Tim, his son Liam’s band Betchadupa, and the genius Johnny
Marr of the Smiths.  The performances were documented on the tremendous
CD and DVD, Seven Worlds Collide.  In addition to classic Neil tunes,
the “group” covered songs of each participant as well.  Two of those
covers highlight the disks.
On “There Is a Light”, which happens
to be my favorite Smiths’ tune, Neil absolutely nails the lead vocal,
giving it a level of heartbreak that even Morrissey was unable to
reach.  The brilliance of the song lies in the combination of absolute
depression and disconnection to the world with finding absolute love
which gives life meaning.   One of the strangest love songs ever, the
chorus sums up that balance: “And if a double decker bus, crashes into
us, to die by your side, is such a heavenly way to die.  And if a ten
ton truck, kills the both of us, to die by your side, well the
pleasure, the privilege is mine.”  Fairly sick stuff, yet both
Morrissey and Neil make it sound beautiful and heartwarming.  Where the
dark one from Manchester sang with a disaffection that put the emphasis
on the angst of the song, Neil offers a warmth that puts the focus on
love.   Musically, the cover isn’t much different than the original,
but that change in emphasis turns it into a totally different song.
Vedder
and Betchadupa performed two Splits songs most nights, “I See Red” and
“History”, both of which were fairly straight-forward in their original
form.  With 16 year old Liam and his band, which were heavily
influenced by Pearl Jam, rocking away in the background, Eddie glams it
up and turns both into neo-punk classics.

“Rest of the Day Off” Neil Finn, 2002.  From Neil’s second solo
album, One Nil globally and One All (in a remixed form) in the States.
A gorgeous ode to turning off the phone, ignoring work obligations, and
kicking it with someone you love on a sunny, warm afternoon.

“Disembodied Voices” Finn Brothers, 2004.  After making music
together periodically for almost 30 years, one would think the well
could be dry.  Yet the Finn Brothers’ 2004 release Everyone Is Here was
loaded with tracks that were quickly labeled classics by their fans.
This gorgeous song is one of remembrance to times when young brothers
lay in bed talking about the possibilities of life at night when they
should have been sleeping.  “Talking with my brother when the lights
went out.  Down the hallway, 40 years ago.  And what became much harder
was so easy then.  Open up and letting go…”

Happy downloading!

 

Where Did All These Kids Come From?

We’re hosting S’s best friend and her two-month old son this week. Tonight, we had people from their high school group of friends over so they could all see the little guy for the first time. Including infants, we had 11 kids in the house. I’m really not sure why I bothered to clean this afternoon. When we had shown the last of our guests to the door and bid them goodnight, our kitchen, dining room, and living room were covered in a thin layer of crunched up chips, spilt milk, and ground-in brownie chunks. At one point, there was a train of four girls under five chasing a three year old boy through the house. A lamp was knocked over and the shade dented (Luckily it was a Target lamp so A) it was cheap and B) popped right back into place. I estimate our house will be clean until baby #2 (Who is still at least a year away) is two. After that point, we can look forward to a good 10-13 years in which our house will never be clean again. Someone remind me why I didn’t stay single and childless. (Kidding, of course.)

 

Internet Prayers Answered

Remind me to use the blog to wish for KU wins in March. After my post last night, not only did M. make it through the night with me only having to go put her binky back into her mouth two times, but she also slept (and thus so did I) until S. walked into the house at about 8:30 this morning. Behold the power of the blog!

Teething Sucks

Man, I had to deal with full-on screaming tonight. M. has cried hysterically, shrieked, yelled exceptionally loud, and I probably even characterized some of her outbursts as screaming in the past. But tonight, there’s no doubt it was a scream. She literally stopped crying so she could scream for five minutes, then started crying again. Some non-parents out there are probably saying, “What’s the big deal? Babies scream.” Yes, but my daughter has proven to be pretty tough so far. She routinely cracks S. or I in the skull with her head, and while we’re fighting back tears and waiting for the wailing to begin, she just looks at us and blinks her eyes. It must be some kind of pain she’s in now; she was so distraught that I was reduced to tears at one point. That good old helpless feeling from the early days of her life when we were tired and had no idea what to do, so we just cried with her.

In better baby news, she has a new thing I call the Yearbook Look. When you’re doing something that is particularly interesting to her, she cocks her head to the side and stares at you with a grin on her face. It’s like she’s looking around some imaginary pillar to see what’s going on. She always does it when you’re not looking, so it’s hysterical to move your focus back to her and see her clearly trying to get your attention. When your eyes meet hers, she laughs. Good stuff.

Even better was our encounter at lunch Sunday. A couple with a ten month old boy was seated next to us, the boy in a high chair with his back to me. M. was asleep and hidden in her car seat, so the boy had to entertain himself by looking at us. At one point, he was completely leaned back in his seat, and he was giving me the Yearbook Look. He just stared and stared, totally expressionless. Hilarious. When M. woke up and we took her out of her seat, we tried to get them to interact. However, they both just stared at the doodlebug that hangs from the handle of her seat rather than at each other. No, I had no idea what a doodlebug was seven months ago, but I now use the term in casual conversation.

M.’s new game is grabbing my hair. I knew the time would come when my hair became a target for little baby hands. With that in mind, I’ve been keeping it shorter than I had done over the past two years or so. Now, when I try to blow raspberries on her stomach, legs, or feet, she grabs at my hair and laughs. Eventually, I just lean in and let her touch my hair to amuse herself. Last night, she grabbed a handful and moved her face to it so she could stuff it into her mouth. That lasted about two seconds when she spit it out and got a look on her face like we’d given her something foul to eat. Maybe that’s where the whole hair in the food complex comes from?

She’s in bed, hopefully for a quiet night with mommy at work. Last night was another awake at least once an hour night. Daddy could use some sleep. I’m working on my Finn Brothers-related posts, and hope to get at least one up tomorrow. We’re less than a week away from the concert.

Random Bits And Pieces

Why is Liza Minelli always on TV? I did some checking, and while she won an Oscar and is the daughter of famous people, it’s not like she’s done much to generate all the media attention she gets. There are some people that older generations are gaga about, and while people our age may belittle their talent, we at least understand they were once huge stars. I’m not sure I understand what Liza did in her career that makes her so interesting. I was flipping around Monday night and saw her on Larry King or some other show talking about how messed up her life has been. Best I could tell, she’s just a washed up entertainer turned media whore who is willing to talk about drugs, abuse, etc. in order to get on shows. Why can’t she go Elizabeth Taylor and be crazy but remain secluded most of the time?

A bill banning the use of cell phones while driving was killed in committee in the Indiana legislature. People who talk on their phones while driving too slow, fast, too erratically piss me off, but I don’t get legislating against the practice. Studies have shown tuning the radio, changing CDs, lighting a cigarette, and even talking to a passenger are just as distracting to drivers as talking on a cell phone. If we could just get computers to take over our driving like in Minority Report, all problems would be solved.

Daylight Savings Time may or may not make it through the legislature this year. Apparently if they just vote on it, it will pass. But if they get into any discussions, it will fail. I tried to read an article in the Star about it yesterday and that was the general idea I took away from it. I can’t say I understand. I did enjoy one legislator who said his district is evenly split on things like gambling to pay for the Colts stadium, gay marriage ban, but on DST, they run 9-1 against it. “Hell no, hell no again, hell no a thousand times is what people in my district tell me.” Is it really that hard to move your clocks twice a year? I heard a funny description of people who aren’t technically savvy last week. “Flashing 12s.” You know, people who don’t know how to adjust their VCR clocks so they flash 12:00 constantly? I fear my new home state is loaded with those types.

 

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