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Friday cat (and ape, and elephant, and equine, and skeletal) blogging

Forgive me, all. I've seriously neglected blogging, aside from the lectionary blog. Things have been ... well ... I took a job, and I'm excited about it. And a bunch of other things have happened that I'm far, far less excited about.

But today was a lovely day. Karen and I went to the National Zoo, which is pretty much our favorite thing to do when we've got a day to do whatever we want. We usually also go to the National Cathedral on such days, but Karen was tired enough not to be dying to go, and since I'd just been there on Wednesday (my friend Raewynne Whiteley was giving a presentation at the College of Preachers), I was OK without my Evensong fix.

Tonight is the first night of the totally-fun-looking Boo at the Zoo celebration, where costumed youngsters roam the zoo picking up treats from booths and viewing some spooky displays along the way. This one was meant, I think, to ask us to imagine the truly terrifying: what church lawns would look like if their nativity scenes were designed by John Waters.



Well, it probably isn't all that much more terrifying than most awful giant nightlight nativity scenes that go on display. I enjoyed it.

There were some also animal-faced ghoulies around:

Koalaghoul_1 More cute than terrifying, I'd say – but fun.Tigerghoul2_1

And then some of the displays were more surreal than anything else:


Oh, and there were some animals there too:



You can see more photos from the day in this online album.

All in all, a fun and relaxing day.

October 28, 2005 in Cats | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

U2 in DC, 10/20/05

I caught U2 in concert once more, and this time I brought my camera:

I wasn't lucky enough to get inside "the ellipse," the walkway leading out from the stage, but I did get a spot right up against the rail outside the ellipse at its tip -- right in front of where the tom is set up on the walkway for "Love and Peace or Else," which was really something.

I think Bono had a cold. He dropped or raised things an octive or modified the melodies of songs a lot to avoid having to sing too high or too low, and notes he normally holds quite long (e.g., in "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own") trailed off early, and he took a number of breaks through the evening to drink water -- the latter of which I didn't mind a bit, as it led to some extended guitar solos and improvisation.

I was glad it was DC2 rather than DC1 the night before that I went to. DC1's set list was very close to what they played opening night at Madison Square Garden, which I was also lucky enough to catch, but DC2 featured "Out of Control," acoustic arrangements of "Walk On" and "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses," and a fabulous closer of "Bad," with liberal doses of Patti Smith's "People Have the Power" thrown in as a crowd singalong.

If you want to see more of what I saw that night, drop by the photo album. I admit that I'm salivating over Vertigo 2005: Live from Chicago, the DVD (due to be released November 15) from two earlier nights on the tour.

October 22, 2005 in Music | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

best. music video. ever.

If you haven't seen this music video, check it out; it's well worth watching. If one musician can accomplish this much with one project, just think what the world would look like if we all found ways to "go and do likewise," as Jesus said about a Samaritan traveler in one of his parables. If the budget from one music video can do this, just think what the world would look like if wealthy developed countries like the U.S. each spent one percent of their national budget on intelligent, targeted aid to Make Poverty History.

P.S. -- My honey made me promise to add that she wishes the video's makers understood that proper use of apostrophes is not in any way antithetical to Millennium Development Goals.

(Props to BreadBlog for this post.)

October 17, 2005 in Music, ONE campaign/Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

U2 at Madison Square Garden, Oct. 7th

Here's where I was on Friday night:


That's me in the yellow circle just to Bono's right.

Yes, thanks to the noble efforts of the love of my life, who nobly stepped in when I had to be in front of a college classroom at the time U2 tickets went on sale, I had General Admission tickets -- i.e., on the floor, and happily also the cheapest tickets in the house -- to see the band on its first night of five this year at Madison Square Garden in New York. Thanks to being unemployed, I was free to wait in line all day, so I was just the 71st person to be admitted into the arena. And thanks to some very good fortune, I was selected for entry into "the ellipse" -- the area right in front of the stage, limited to 300 people or thereabouts, enclosed by a walkway out into the audience that the band used at points throughout the show. Since I was toward the front of the GA line, that put me (and my good friend Susie, who joined me for the show) with just one person in between me and the rail in front of the main stage. For an idea of what I saw, you can check out this photo, which was taken by the woman in front of Susie, who was standing at my right elbow.

It was absolutely frickin' INCREDIBLE. I've been a U2 fan for over twenty years. My first U2 concert was on December 16, 1984, and despite all the camping out in front of Ticketmasters I did as a teen, I have never been anywhere near this close to the stage before.  I can now comment from personal observation on the complexion of all four members of U2.

Another cool thing -- as a guitarist I've learned everything I know from observing and, when I could, playing with the best guitarists I could find (I literally TOOK NOTES while watching Stevie Ray Vaughn at two concerts when I was in high school -- something that didn't escape his notice, as he sent someone out to ask me why, and was generous enough to invite me backstage to meet him and his wife, and to get a brief lesson!); Friday night's concert fulfilled my ambition of about twenty-five years to see The Edge play -- and I mean see EVERYTHING he was doing.

What it's like to get caught up in that vortex of energy around the stage is difficult to describe. It was fun to be close enough to catch little unmiked laughs the band were having with one another between (and sometimes during) songs. And I was caught by surprise at how intimate that little area in front of the stage feels when band members are noticing how you and people around you are reacting, and they're playing directly to it. In a word:

INCREDIBLE. I woke up the next morning actually wondering at least momentarily if it was one of my occasional series of recurring U2 dreams.

Some personal highlights from the show:

"Cry/Electric Co," a song played in my first U2 concert. Over twenty years later, The Edge was still electrifying, and his playing is honed to laser precision. That's not quite the right metaphor, as it sounds too mechanical, but you know what I mean -- this man can do precisely what he wants to do with his instrument, and do it with at least as much passion as precision. I believe that was also the song where Bono baptized Susie and me, splashing us three times with a bottle of water he opened and swung like a hyssop branch at the Easter Vigil.

"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," the song (other than "Gloria") which I most wanted them to play but thought it was a coin toss at best that they would play.

The "Love and Peace Or Else"/"Sunday Bloody Sunday"/"Bullet the Blue Sky" sequence. I was surprised how moved I was by this. I suspect the audience read it as subtly as I think it was intended. Predictably, two audience members chucked Irish flags onto the stage toward the beginning of "Sunday Bloody Sunday," one of which got draped over the microphone stand for most of the song. Toward the end, though -- during the part most often taken by spoken interludes -- Bono asked for someone to find an American flag and get it onto the stage. As he lifted it, he said, "This is your song too now," and the arena erupted in cheers as he draped the American flag over the microphone stand, where it stayed for "Bullet the Blue Sky." As I read that combination of words and actions in the context of those songs, Bono was saying that the U.S. is now a country directly affected by terrorism, and ensnared in spirals of violence, with all of the justifications for occupation and retaliation ringing hollow amidst all of the pain and destruction. It didn't make me feel patriotic -- but I did feel recognition, and empathy.

"Miss Sarajevo." It's not a hit single, and certainly not an anthem, but a song that's all the more effective for how understated it is. Bono sang the part that on the record is done by Luciano Pavarotti, and I was surprised at how well he did it. Bono's been talking since before How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb came out about his sense that his father, an opera lover, left him a gift when he died -- a big, operatic tenor voice that Bono hadn't felt was his own before. Perhaps it was that we heard when Bono sang Pavarotti's part, and given how much Bono switched gears from a rock style of singing (pushing that chest voice WAY up in his range -- that's gotta be a strain on the vocal cords over twenty-five years!) it wouldn't surprise me at all if there were some classical voice coaching in there as well.

"Crumbs From Your Table," which I think is one of the most underrated cuts off the new album, soared live, and seemed especially meaningful in the long, long afterglow of the African-flag-lit "Where the Streets Have No Name" (yes, I know "Crumbs" came a long time after "Streets," but "Streets" afterglows are usually enough to make Geiger counters squeal for days!).

"Fast Cars," a bonus track from the collector's edition of the new album, was much more polished live than I'd expected, and, well, it was a LOT of fun -- something I'm saying just because the fabulous woman who got pulled on stage to dance with Bono and wowed Bono and the whole arena happened to be someone I waited in line with all day. She's a HUGE fan who made her way to New York just hoping to get a ticket, which took a day of scrambling, and she deserved the experience she had on stage.

That part where U2 was performing (Keane was good too, by the way). In other words, I have a really hard time coming up with highlights, as the whole night was mindblowing. I do wish they'd played "40" (I suspect they'd been planning to do so, and "Bad" may have been considered as well -- Dallas Schoo, the guitar tech, played a bit of it in the last-minute checks before U2 went on stage, and just about everything else he played parts of turned up in a set later), and my knees, back, and ears (forgot the earplugs -- I have to remember those for the concert in DC on 10/19!) paid a price that night and the next day, but I absolutely can NOT complain after such an amazing night.


[The photo at the top of this post, by the way, was modified from an original from Flickr user "tammyloh," -- you can find it here.]

October 9, 2005 in Music | Permalink | Comments (22) | TrackBack