Friday, November 30, 2007

evel knievel poetry friday

My RIP Icon series continues...

Evel Knievel died on Friday. He wasn't jumping over a row of motorcycles. He wasn't jumping over a fountain or a bunch of cars or rattlesnakes or mountain lions. After years of making America's heart skip an extra beat, his own heart stopped. He was part Starsky and part Hutch. Part Bo and part Luke. Perhaps most importantly, if not for him, there never would have been a Fonz.

When I was little, I heard Evel Knievel had broken every bone in his body except for his pinky. Even today, I didn't look it up on Wikipedia because I wanted it to be true. The really weird thing about thinking back on Evel Knievel and all of his stunts is how innocent they seem, by today's over-the-top standards.

And so, on poetry Friday:

Snake River Canyon
A necessary Evel
Ma! I want a bike!

Okay, not my best tribute, perhaps. But heart felt.

Here's a link to Evel Knievel jumping over 11 Mack Trucks. Man, I love youtube.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Neil Young's Blog

Lord knows I don't mean to be grumpy, especially on a weekend, but I just spent the most money I have ever spent on a concert ticket to see Neil Young and the show was "pretty good." A show can be pretty good for $16. A show can be pretty good for $30. But when you start charging more than $50 for the bad seats (and way more for the good ones) the show cannot be pretty good. It needs to be amazing.

Because of the price, my husband and I initially passed on tickets to Thursday's show figuring we would buy, say, a bicycle instead. But then Neil added a second date at DAR Constitution Hall. It was near my husband's birthday. It was near my birthday. One ticket for each birthday. We could almost justify that. Almost.

Pegi Young, Neil's wife, opened. I just want to say that:

1. I myself cannot carry a tune in a bucket and my guitar playing is only pedestrian. But when I asked my husband if he would let me open for him if he were performing on stage, he said "yes." Hmmm.

2. The sitar is a wonderful instrument. It has a unique sound. But putting it on Pegi's country song was a little like when my son decided to make a pie out of whipped cream and mayonnaise.

Neil started out with an acoustic set as he did when we saw him the last time (in Boston, a much better show and a much better price). But aside from "Cowgirl in the Sand," his song choices were a little off. Tempo didn't vary much. And his newer stuff sounded as if he was keeping some sort of stream-of-consciousness blog and one day he went looking through that blog and said, "I suppose these could be song lyrics." The organ on "A Man Needs a Maid," regardless of what The Washington Post said in its warmer and fuzzier review, seemed almost as out of place as the sitar. Some of the set was poignant, sure. Some of the blog-lyrics were even poignant. And Neil Young's voice is as reedy and beautiful as ever. His guitar playing, too. I still heart Neil Young! But last night the whole package just wasn't there and the pacing was off. The electric set was much better, particularly the lengthy, hypnotic jam on No Hidden Path, so at least we could leave on a high note.

I have a friend whose son is going to private school. She's not so happy with the school. I think the fact that she's paying $10,000 a year is making it worse. We'll call it The Neil Young Ticket Price analogy.

Some other notes:
Hair color of crowd: gray.
Behavior of crowd: stupid. I hate that people feel they have to have some sort of dialogue with the singer. It's one thing when you shout out requests from a musician who will take them. But it's another when Neil Young opens his mouth and actually says something, and then the crowd feels they have to respond with "NEIL. HEY NEIL. NEIL YOUNG." Note to guy who kept yelling that: DUDE, HE KNOWS HIS NAME.
A typo: As part of the set, a man stood on stage painting pictures and putting them up on an easel, announcing the next song. He had one painting that said "Bad Fog of Lonliness." IS IT WRONG, WHEN YOU PAY TOO MUCH FOR A CONCERT TICKET, TO EXPECT LONELINESS TO BE SPELLED CORRECTLY?
Best dancer: either the guy in the tux or the ponytailed dude whose repeat arm gestures during the final mega-jam invoked the drum scene in Freaks and Geeks. If I'd had a video camera, the number of you-tube hits would have rivaled tron guy.
Best merch; Would have to be the $70 Neil Young apron. $70? Good lord. That's almost the price of a concert ticket.
Best perk: My mother-in-law babysat!
New thing that you wouldn't know if you haven't attended a big concert in a while: Instead of holding up lighters now, people hold up their cell phones.
What that says about American culture: Nothing very good.

The setlist, courtesy of
From Hank To Hendrix
Ambulance Blues
Sad Movies
A Man Needs A Maid
No One Seems To Know
After The Gold Rush
Mellow My Mind
Love Art Blues
Cowgirl In The Sand
The Loner
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Dirty Old Man
Spirit Road
Bad Fog Of Loneliness
Oh, Lonesome Me
The Believer
No Hidden Path
Cinnamon Girl
Tonight's The Night
The Sultan

Thursday, November 15, 2007

poetry friday

A poem from my 5-year-old, written last year:

I love cats
in their hats
I love birds
swirling birds
I love bats
with running cats
I love turtles
Riding with Yertles
I love skunks
On big humps
I love twisters
Swirling with blisters
I love bumps
Near skunks.


So my son can't take medicine without gagging. He hates the taste. He hates the smell. When he woke up with a headache this week, I asked him if he wanted to take a caplet to make him feel better.

"You mean Motrin-easy-to-swallow caplets?" he asked between sniffles and tears. Now that's some scary marketing.

One last note from the parenting front: Sometimes it takes less time to hunt through the dirty dishes, find the blue plate and wash it than it takes to serve the eggs on the already washed green one.

puppy grows

We got an early start on the holiday season when we visited my dad in Columbia, S.C. and he bestowed upon my children their Chanukah presents. My daughter received a toy known as "Puppy Grows and Knows Your Name."

Where to begin?

Let's start with the name. Because they want children to be able to name their own puppies from one of their computer generated lists, they can't call it Rover or or Sir Wags or Guinevere or whatever else you'd name an animatronic poodle. Okay, I accept that. Allow at least a little room for a child's creativity. But how about something like My Little Puppy? My Furry Friend? Something a little more innovative than Puppy Grows and Knows Your Name? As is, it's setting a new precedent for toy naming. For instance: Globe on End of String that Goes to Floor and Comes Back Up Again. Small Human-Like Figures That Fit in Small House. Would the Frisbee have been as successful if we'd just called it a Flying Disc?

Which brings us to the next question: Do we want this product to be successful? My daughter's Puppy Grows and Knows Your Name has not yet been programmed because we want her to be able to share with her brother. I'm not sure Puppy Grows and Knows Your Name is able to serve multiple masters, which is bad news given that it costs anywhere from $40 to $75.

Then there's the voice, a woman's voice that says things like "You'll always be my special friend." Think Phyllis Diller working a 1-900-line.

My daughter, who has named her Puppy Grows and Knows Your Name "Pokey," loves this creature. We do not. She loves to feed her (bones, for which the dog responds with a great rhythmic slurping noise, followed by a burp.) We do not. She loves to measure her, to see how much she's grown. Puppy Grows and Knows Your Name can become a dog in a week. Fortunately, there's a reset switch, because little girls like the puppy stage best.

That's my rant for today. I'll let you know when Puppy Grows and Knows Your Name breaks. Or when my husband causes her to meet with an unfortunate accident.

more music

In the Hey, Ma, Get a Life Department, I've actually seen more music in the past two months than I have in the past couple of years combined.

Nov. 8: Tinariwen at Lisner Auditorium. Incredible percussion and smoking electric guitars. They wear their native Bedouin clothing, which makes them look as if they should be standing in front of camels instead of amplifiers. Make no mistake, though: this group is what brings the real heat to the desert.

Nov. 14. The Gourds at State Theater in Falls Church. This is the second time I've seen The Gourds this year, but no matter; the band requires repeated viewing. One night with them is like seeing five bands perform. So many influences merge here, and the result is always good. Plus, they look like they're having a great time: Kevin Russell, whose voice reminds you that the devil was an angel once, too; Jimmy Smith, the rocker with his vices on display and whose name sound generic but who is as unique as they come; Max Johnston (formerly of Uncle Tupelo where he was equally good, but never looked quite as happy) with his many instruments, Claude Bernard with his accordion (and many instruments) and drummer Keith Langsford, steady with a flare. I heart The Gourds! Watched the first half of the show from the floor in front of the stage, surrounded by big hairy men. Watched the last part from a barstool where my husband and I watched over a beer for a guy who said he would be right back. We saw him wandering around the room later in the evening, looking for something, but he was too far away to hear us call. Then the band kicked into "Lower 48" and he forgot what he was looking for.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

poetry friday

You might be asking, if you ask yourself such things: What is Poetry Friday? And isn't it Thursday?
And I might be answering, if I answer such things:
Poetry Friday is a day set aside for blogging about poetry -- by kids, for kids, for grownups, for geese -- from the people who blog about that sort of stuff anyway (and from the people who blog about that sort of stuff as it relates to kids lit in particular.) I blog about that sort of stuff only sometimes. In fact, I blog only sometimes, which is why I'm writing this on a Thursday. Who knows where I'll be tomorrow?

Today's poem is by my 3-year-old gal, who has recently been learning about rhyming. She meant it to be a song lyric:

I fly high
up in the sky
I bumped my head
and I didn't cry

Monday, November 5, 2007

a very late post about del

The Del McCoury band continues to be my favorite -- not just in bluegrass, but anywhere. I love listening to these guys (even their new kids' CD, Little Mo' McCoury, rules, despite a few missteps). But the live experience is something extra special, something that you need to remind yourself about by attending a Del show at least once a year.

Dave Reimer, a bass player in Blacksburg, Va., first turned me on to the band about the time of their Cold Hard Facts album. We saw them perform at a high school in Craig County. Five guys. One mic. They wove around that mic then as they do now, as if they're dancing around the May pole. The show I saw last month at the Wolftrap reminded me of the Craig County show for a few reasons: it was comprised almost totally of requests; and the band remained extremely tight while giving off the loosest on-stage persona of any band I've ever seen. Nothing seemed preordained. They were playing in that room, that night, for me. I've seen so many bands over the years where they give a single shoutout: Hello Roanoke! (Or Austin, or Washington, or Columbus). And that's the only time they veer from script, the only time they acknowledge that they're in a different city than they were in the night before. Not so with Del, who seems so happy to be standing on that stage, playing with his sons (along with fiddler Jason Carter, who must be like a son by now, and Alan Bartram, who replaced Mike Bub on bass a couple of years ago). Their music combines old and new. It has a history and it has an edge. And every time I see the play, I go home smiling.

The Wolftrap show is being turned into a live album, despite Ronnie losing his voice, which will be put out on the band's own label (check out A label means that, creatively, they can do pretty much anything they want. But it seems that's what they've been doing for a long time now. And it works.