2.26.2008

Baby Pool

Okay, so I'm officially 34 days away from my due date of March 31. Not that the due date means anything since technically giving birth anywhere between the 37th and 42nd week is normal. Unfortunately most first time pregnancies go at about the 41 week mark, so that's what I'm expecting. But if anyone wants to take a guess at my delivery details feel free... here's my prediction:

Delivery Date: April 5th at around 1 pm
Baby's size 7 lbs. 8 oz.

But I'm really hoping that I'll go long before then. In fact my main concern was not going before the Wilco show, but since that's behind me now, I'm pretty much ready to get this kid out of me.

One Last Vacation

This past weekend, Matt and I made a quick overnight trip up to Philadelphia. Our main purpose for going was to see Wilco in concert. Matt got us third row seats back in December before they announced they were coming to DC again (though this venue was probably better than the DC one since you had assigned seats, versus General Admission... I hate having to fight for a good spot). But it also gave us a chance to go away... just the two of us... one last time before the baby is here. Because who knows when we'll be able to do that again.

Anyway, I'm not really sure how much I've talked about how critical I can be when it comes to seeing bands live, so I'm going to do that now. I hold bands and musicians up to a very high standard when I go and see them perform. I have several expectations for any show, and when they aren't met, I am very disappointed and typically will decide not to see that band live again. So here are some of my requirements:
  1. This probably comes from my classical background, but I expect all the music at a live show to be performed live. Which means that I dont want to hear instruments or voices that appear out of nowhere because they are on a tape or some kind of loop. We saw Aerosmith this summer and they performed Love in an Elevator, which on the recording has several layers of Steven Tyler's singing in order to create the harmonies. And when they performed this song live, suddenly it sounded as if there were 4 or 5 Steven Tylers singing. Except there's only one actually there. I dont know why they couldn't have gotten back up singers or structured the song differently so they could perform it all live for real. Anyway, I understand that they wanted to make the song sound like the recording, but one person just can't sing more than one note at a time. And so when I hear several parts being sung by one person, I get annoyed... even if it's on a recording because my first thought is... well there's no way they're going to be able to pull that off in concert without backing tapes. But at least someone like Aerosmith should be able to afford back up singers for such occasions. I realize that most people dont have a problem with this, but it's one of my pet peeves.
  2. Songs should sound as good as they do on the recording. This refers only to quality. The songs do not have to sound exactly the same as they do on the recording, in fact I almost prefer it when they get mixed up a little for a live performance. I'm sure the bands and musicians must get tired of playing a song after the millionth time and so changing up the arrangement makes it more interesting for them, and also for me. If I just wanted to hear exactly what I heard on the CD, well I could just listen to the CD and save myself the aggravation and expense of going to a live show. But I do not want a drop off in quality. Sometimes I think bands rely too much on recording techniques to fix their mistakes or cover up their weaknesses, or even to give them a different sound, but then when they have to recreate it live, it just falls dead. And I dont want to pay to hear something worse than what's on the CD, it makes me feel like I've been ripped off.
  3. I want to see a show. This doesn't mean that I need pyrotechniques and fancy screens with animations and crazy stunts. It means that I dont want to be bored, which happens more easily than I care to admit. I want the experience of a live show to take advantage of the fact that the band can interact with the audience and offer the audience more than an audio CD can. For some bands it may mean using props (I think Peter Gabriel does a great job with this, though I've only seen his DVDs, never a live show), for others it may mean having a front man with some charisma, and for others it may mean playing with a lot of energy. One thing I dont want is fireworks going off for the sake of fire... I'd like some kind of performance with intergrity if at all possible. One concert moment I remember was at the White Stripes this summer. In the middle of one of the songs, I think as the chorus kicked in, all the lights in the venue went off except some pointing at a huge disco ball which was placed in the center of the venue and the whole place went sparkly. I know we've all seen disco balls before, but for some reason, this was just amazing... maybe because of the song and timing, maybe because of the scale of everything, but it kinda stirred that feeling in me I'd get as a little kid when I saw someone perform magic.
I think those are the big things I look for.

So my review of the Wilco concert. Well it definitely hit all three of those points. Plus some more... First of all I was really impressed by how well the whole band played together. I mean, Wilco's stuff is fairly complex, but they all knew exactly where all the breaks and changes were, who had to play out more and when, and who needed to back off and when. They were so in synch it was easy to take it all for granted. But they have some very high quality musicians in that band. Of course we all know by now that I think Jeff Tweety is a great songwriter, and even though he's not wild and crazy on stage, he still commands attention when he's singing. The lead guitarists, Nels Cline, is somewhat wild and crazy, but very talented. And he knows when to take the spotlight and when to give it up to other band members... which keeps him from being obnoxious for sure. The bass player provides excellent back up vocals in addition to the bass line, and the drummer never misses a thing. The other two add the textural complexity with a bunch of other instruments that gives the band part of it trademark sound. And they play a LOONG set. I think Matt looked it up when we got home and found that they played 25 songs. We think they would have gone longer, but there was a certain time they had to end by. I was thrilled when they started the show with Sunken Treasures... because they did the Jeff Tweety live version rather than the album version. One song I wish they had done but didn't was Theologians. Oh well though, maybe next time.

And did I mention that we had awesome third row seats?? We were so close that we could actually see Jeff Tweety's spit as he sang. Not that that's something you want to see, but the fact that we could see it just shows you how good the seats were.

The one complaint I have about just about any concert doesnt have anything to do with the band, musicians, or venue... it's the other people that go to the shows. It's inevitable that matt and I get stuck next to crazy drunk people who dance like morons and have no problem invading other people's personal space. We thought that by paying for better tickets we'd weed out these annoying people, but no such luck. I told matt that from now on we'll just have to buy all the tickets around us and fill them with our own personal bouncers. Oh well, I guess it's all part of the experience.

So there's my review. A great show from a great band! And in case you are interested, Wilco is going to be on Saturday Night Live this weekend.

2.14.2008

What's Wrong With This?

Last night I had a dream that had something to do with the Virginia primaries. Mostly that just tells me that I've been watching too much Daily Show and Colbert Report because I dont really watch the news or follow politics at all. Last night was the first time this year that both shows had their writers back... in all honesty, I wasn't that impressed. First of all I was disappointed that the Colbert Report didn't do the Word of the Day segment. I thought that had been cut specifically due to lack of writers, but they didnt bring it back yesterday. Hopefully they will soon.

Speaking of these shows, I think last week one of them had this Stanford professor on. He was there to promote his book The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. According to the author of the book his title comes from the story about how after God made man and told Lucifer to obey man, Lucifer stood up to God and showed him that man was not a perfect being and therefore should not be above him (the reason for tempting eve with the apple was to prove this). So according to this professor, in this Bible story, Lucifer was right to stand up to God and God was wrong to banish Lucifer just for not following what he says. The whole idea being that people shouldn't just blindly do what they are told to do, they should think about it and stand up for what is right and good. Then he went on to talk about a study he did at Stanford, and this is why I remember him. My college freshman psych teacher told us about this study... anyway, they took a group of good kids, and divided them so that some of the kids would be prisoners and the others would be the prison guards. The experiment was set to go for a while, at least a couple weeks, but they had to cut it short after only 5 days because the prison guards were becoming too abusive towards the prisoners to be able to continue it safely. Basically the guards got it in their head that they were better and could treat the prisoners (who were "lesser") anyway they wanted, despite the fact that no one had really done anything to deserve their role (being either the prisoner or guard). But it just shows how power can corrupt even good people. The professor also mentioned that very very few people will actually stop and think about what they are doing and stand up against what the think is wrong.

Which reminded me of another experiment my psych teacher told us about. This one took place in the 1950s or 60s. They set up the experiment like this: 2 people were involved. One person had to memorize a series of images or words, and the other person tested them to see how much they had rememberd. The person who was doing the testing was told to apply an electircal shock to the student whenever they got a question wrong. For each wrong question the voltage was increased slightly, but they were told that even at the highest limit, the voltage would not harm the other person. So as the experiment is going along the students are getting more questions wrong and therefore being electrocuted with a stronger dose and they start crying out that they are in pain and want to stop, but the people leading the experiment assure the tester that no harm will come to the student and all they are experiencing is minor discomfort. The truth of the experiment (which was revealed later on) was that the student was in on the whole thing, no real shock was being administered, but they were faking the pain they were in to see if any of the testers would actually stand up to the experimenters and stop it before they got to the end. But no one did. Every single tester went up to the highest voltage. Sometimes they would let the experimenters know that they didn't feel right about it, but they did it anyway.

So here are my thoughts on this: first of all, I hope that I would not fit into the norm for either of those experiments. I really hope that I have enough integrity to stand up for what I think is right and not just blindly follow what other people tell me is "ok." I think i've made decisions in life that support that. But I think religion is a tricky area when it comes to this type of thinking. How much are people just supposed to follow along with because "God says it's right?" (a person of religious authority could also be the one speaking on God's behalf...) And there are plenty of examples in history that show a big failing when this happens (the crusades come to mind). Really? is it ever ok to slaughter other people because they dont believe the same thing you do?

I think if we take religion out of it and just look at things in life from a moral perspective then we can see that it's good to do what's right for the sake of doing the right and good thing... not because someone else tells you to, and not because you are afraid of being punished (hell), or expecting a reward (heaven) for doing one thing or another. Right is Right and Might is just Might in my opinion (to allude back to my 10th grade Arthurian legend days... my english teacher would be so proud to know that I still remember that). But I think the idea that Might (authority) dictating what is Right to the masses often does just lead us into places I don't want to go.

Okay, enough of my rambling. I'm sure about 90% of that doesnt make sense, but I'm writing this post while I finish waiting for a cake to bake so I had a lot of time to kill. But now it's done so I'm going to wrap up.

2.13.2008

Icy Day Thoughts

Not too much has been going on lately. I had my baby shower a few weeks ago (click here for some pics). That was a lot of fun. Unfortunately we aren't quite ready for all the baby stuff to be in our house, so it's still all sitting in my mother-in-laws dining room. Matt plans on painting the baby's room this weekend, so I'm hoping that once that is done we'll be able to start moving baby stuff in.

As far as the pregnancy goes, everything is a-ok. I'm starting to have trouble sleeping though. It seems like I'm destined to wake up in the middle of the night for about 2 hours. And it's really hard to move around. Yesterday I spent about an hour and a half screwing a new shoe rack together. It probably wouldn't have taken that long if I were able to bend over and move around easier, but instead I had to sit on the floor and move the rack around me. My back was in agony by the time I was done, but I was determined to put it together myself.

Other thoughts... only a week and a half until we go up to Phillie to see Wilco. I'm really excited, and as far as I'm concerned, the baby is free to come any time AFTER we get back from that. I was so bummed that they didnt win the grammy for best rock album. I mean, the Foo Fighters album is ok (it won), but I think they've way overplayed it on the radio and I'm just sick of it. Speaking of the grammys, Matt and I watched most of it. Here are my thoughts:
  1. Someone should tell kanye west he's lost touch with reality... what was he wearing? and he acts like he owns the grammys or something... so whoever tells him he's lost touch with reality should also tell him that in about 5 years from now people will be saying "kanye who?" Maybe he'll get lucky and wont dwindle off for about 7 years, but in the grand scheme of things, I dont think his music will endure the way great music does. Also the same person should tell him that making good music should be about just that... not about winning a grammy.
  2. Personally, I enjoyed the classical performances. The Rhapsody in Blue duet really made me realize how much I miss going to concerts on a regular basis (like I was forced to when I was in school). The pianists were outstanding, and even though I'm not sure why they made it a duet (it's really just written for 1 pianist), it was fun to see the different techniques and styles the two had and I was glad that I knew enough to pick up on the subtleties (like they both had very different finger technique and attacked/release techniques). Also the duet by Josh Grobin and Andrea Bocelli was really pretty. It reminded me that I had planned to see an opera sometime before the baby is born, but unfortunately I just haven't been able to find one in the area that I'm willing to pay lots of money to see. I'm hoping next year's seasons will be better. Really I'm mostly looking for a good Puccini opera, it shouldnt be that hard to find.
  3. Amy Winehouse's reaction when she won her first Grammy was priceless. She really looked stunned. And it was great that she was surrounded by her band and family and able to celebrate it with them right away (since she was in London and being broadcast via satellite instead of in the grammy audience). It was way better than the lame acceptance speeches most people give.