there is water underground.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

This is gonna be fun.

A quote from Dennis Kucinich:

"I seriously believe we have to start asking questions about [George Bush's] mental health. There's something wrong. He does not seem to understand his words have real impact. There's a lot of people who need care. He might be one of them. If there isn't something wrong with him, then there's something wrong with us. This, to me, is a very serious question."

Wait till the talk shows get a hold of that shit. That is grade-A comedy material right there.

Monday, October 29, 2007

To David Ovens: Thanks for all the tacos! Love, Jacoby Ellsbury

Is there anything more precious than a very young child presenting you with a gift? Not really. I mean, a six-year-old who has taken the time to pick something out or, if you're really lucky, make something for you... that's pretty special. Wanna know what my cousin gave me?

A Red Sox hat. That's right, I've lived here for nearly five (!) years, and so it was decided that I should own some team paraphernalia. I have a shirt, but it's in Japanese (of course it is!) and I have it more for the visual factor of the kanji than the Sox fandom. But a Boston hat is the ubiquitous chapeau of the Red Sox fan's wardrobe, and I can now be counted among said fans. I tried it on, and I immediately felt the longing for a Fenway Frank and some Sam Adams. I felt the frat-boy rambunctiousness welling up inside me, and I had to fight hard to resist the urge to run through Kenmore Square chanting "Yankees suck!" while climbing lightpoles and flipping cars.

Alright, so some of that may not be true. And although I like wearing hats about as much as I like being punched in the nose, it was a very sweet gift, and you can be damn sure that I rooted for the Sox and I was very happy when they won. There are instances, however, where this rooting for the Sox will cease and I will don blue and orange. Yes, I am a fan of the Mets, will always be. Even while living in Boston and Chicago, the Mets were my team. In the beginning of September, I was really, really hoping that the red-hot Mets would wind up in the World Series against the Sox for a rematch of the historic 1986 series (and we all know what happened and where I was). I would've proudly strolled down Yawkey Way with a Mets jersey despite the dirty looks and eggs thrown my way. But then, the worst collapse in baseball history occurred, and the Mets gave new meaning to the term "suck." As the ever-so-politically-incorrect website put it, Ya Gotta Bereave. But there's always next year, and one can hope, hm?

But anyway, Jacoby Ellsbury, the rookie center fielder for the Red Sox has the dubious honor of being "the guy who won free tacos for America." Yes, if you visit a Taco Bell today between 2 and 5 PM, you can "steal" a taco just as Ellsbury stole second base in game 2 of the World Series. That was the inevitable conclusion of Taco Bell marketing chairman David Ovens' deal with major league baseball; the question was who would be the one to steal a base and provide 'sustenance' for the nation? (in quotes because Taco Bell doesn't really count as food) I really wanted David Ortiz to be the base-stealer. Obviously it wouldn't happen; the man has a bum leg, and even on a good day it would take him three minutes to reach first. But you never know (and hey, wouldn't that have been a coup for Taco Bell? Name a taco after Big Papi? It's a perfect name for a taco-esque product, don't you agree?). And while the games were being played in Colorado, it might've been possible for Daisuke to have stolen a base, leading to a Japanese take on the taco (note: asking for "taco" in Japan will result in your being served octopus. When I first went there, my host family told me that it was "taco night" and I had a very different picture of what they meant).

The funny thing about being in Boston right now is that the big story is not that the Sox won the World Series, but that the undefeated Patriots are destroying other pro teams by dozens of points. To make things more interesting, they're playing the undefeated Colts on Sunday, and the media is hailing this matchup as bigger than anything... including the World Series. Personally I'd like to see the Pats win, but it's more out of a thorough dislike for Peyton Manning than anything else (also, it's fun to root for someone named "Bruschi"). And one final thought: Rooting for the underdog, always fun... so let's go J-E-T-S.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Little Things

- I saw a Budweiser truck being followed by a Bud Light truck, and my first thought was shouldn't the Bud Light truck be smaller? ...And in front? know, 'cause it's lighter?

- There was a woman in Brooklyn who went to the bathroom in her apartment in the middle of the night and found a seven-foot snake curled up in her toilet. She found the snake after she had peed.

- There need to be more laser shows with cool bands providing the music. Rock out to Laser Gomez! Laser Bosstones! Or how about Laser Weezer?! (shit, I can't even say that without laughing)

- Both times that I have seen Rodrigo y Gabriela, there has been a lesbian couple directly in front of me making out the entire show.

- There's a dude who "runs" the second-largest chapter of the KKK who, according to USA Today (the preferred newspaper of business hotels), "hates with a passion." There's also a photo, and he appears to be the perfect example of why some species eat their young.

- "Only The Good Die Young" is a very strange song to hear at a Catholic wedding.

- At the moment I passed "Rock Street" in Saratoga Springs, "Thunder Road" by Bruce Springsteen came on the radio and I thought it was very appropriate.

- There's something satisfying about being able to read the lips of the person in the car behind you as she sings Biz Markie (Oh baby yooooou, you got what I neeeeed). Obviously we were at a stoplight.

- I had two dreams last night. One was a dream where the Red Sox won the ALCS. One was a dream where they lost the ALCS. Given that I fell asleep during the seventh inning last night, when I awoke I was really confused about which team had prevailed.

- I noticed a sign that was misspelled on the way to work last week, and I called the number to let the company know (Lynne Truss would be proud). This morning, I noticed that it had been corrected! ...I'm such a nerd.

- I think Singapore Airlines is encouraging people to join the mile-high club. Their brand-new plane (the fully double-decker Airbus A380) has first-class suites in which the seat actually becomes a bed and you can close yourself off for privacy. If you're in the center of the plane, you can slide the partition back and the two neighboring suites can become one large suite... and one large bed.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I Didn't Even Have To Use My AK

Yesterday was a good day. It began when Mike sent me a text containing a single word: THROWDOWN.

I've known Mike for a long time. However, the word "throwdown" has only occasionally come up in conversation. On those occasions, it refers to the Mighty Mighty Bosstones' Hometown Throwdown, a series of five concerts in five nights at a club in Boston. Before the band broke up several years ago, the Throwdown was an annual event. Mike loves the Bosstones. He introduced me to their music, and as a result I too love their music. When I lived in NY I saw them a few times (once with the Dropkick Murphys, which was unreal), but I never had the chance to see them here. So when I read that text, and knowing Mike, my thoughts immediately were as follows:

Bosstones reunion? No fucking way. Can't be.

Turns out my intuitions were correct - the 'Tones are reuniting this December for the first Hometown Throwdown in about five years. And they're doing it at the Middle East, one of the best places to see concerts in Boston. Mike will be flying out here for at least one of the shows. He has his plane tickets already, much to the chagrin of his understanding wife. If you've been reading his blog, you'll know that Mike is going to be a dad soon... "soon" meaning early December. I'm super excited to see him and to go to the concert too.

Yesterday evening was just as much fun. My band played down at Felt, one of the swankier clubs in Boston. Even though we went on very late by Thursday night standards (11:45, and in a city where public transportation stops running at 12:30), we still had a good crowd and a dynamite set. I know it was the most comfortable performance that I've given, and everyone else was on fire as well. It might've had something to do with the shirt that Bryan handmade for me (seriously cool that Bryan started a t-shirt company), but it was probably the fact that the musicians in the band are just awesome. I've gotten to the point where I'm comfortable enough with my own part to shift my attention to everyone else and really enjoy the sound of the group as a whole. And it definitely had a lot to with the crowd; we have our faithful who came out in the rain to support us on a late night.

On the drive home, I was wired and felt the need to listen to James Brown at high volumes. It was a surreal drive - at 1:00AM the roads are empty, and the skies above Boston were dramatic and roiled following the huge rainstorm. Flash lightning illuminated the wet streets, and it invigorated me... I felt like I was driving through some sort of tinted alternate universe. All in all, a very fine day.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Good Thing I Don't Drive A Hummer.

There's something fantastic about waking up to a beautiful fall day, crisp and in the mid-fifties, and turning on your car stereo to a killer set of songs. First they played Sir Duke, followed by Jessica, followed by U Can't Touch This. Brilliant.

There's also something embarrassing about the following conversation. See if you can pick it out.

Car Dealership: Service Department, how can we help you?
Me: Yes, I recently ordered a new tire rim for a Forester and wanted to see if it had arrived yet.
CD: Hold a minute... yes, it just arrived yesterday afternoon.
Me: Great. Can I set up an appointment to have it installed?
CD: Sure - how about tomorrow at 2?
Me: Sounds good.
CD: Okay. Name?
Me: Andrew Berne.
CD: Okay Mr. Berne, you're all set for a rim job at 2PM tomorrow.
Me: (stifling laughter) Thanks.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Music's Never Loud Enough

Few things inspire me more than good music played passionately. The past two nights at the Somerville Theatre were filled with said music courtesy of Josh Ritter, who over the past few years has become one of my favorite artists. I first saw him out in western Massachusetts in a small auditorium on a double bill with Hem (and my thoughts on Hem can be summarized here); I had gone out there to see Hem but left with a newfound appreciation for Josh. Since then I've started to learn some of his music and have made the effort to see his shows whenever he comes to town. So imagine my delight when I got front row seats for Thursday's show!

Josh's genuine excitement and glee at having the opportunity to perform his music for us was obvious; it's one of the reasons I enjoy watching his concerts so much. Yes, the music's great, but he also has so much fun playing it! And from a vantage point of just a few feet, I was enveloped by the sound of ten musicians. Josh brought his band (bass, drums, keys, guitar) and a full horn section much to my delight. He said it perfectly during his banter with the audience - "I've always thought it would be cool to have horns... and it is." His new album is a much more cacophonic (?) record than his previous ones have been, lots of horns and bells and whistles, but it doesn't take away from the songwriting and the listener can still hear the acoustic roots. He began the night alone, with the delicate "Moons," before launching full throttle into "Rumors," both from his latest. When he sang "my orchestra is gigantic, this thing could sink the Titanic," the others on stage responded with that much more intensity and played louder; it almost seemed like Josh was challenging them as he sang about the music never being loud enough. I wanted to be swallowed up by the sound.

Whatever bout of madness inspired him to write "To The Dogs Or Whoever" is a malady I'd pay dearly to get even a tenth of. The first song off his new album, it sets the tone for the listener and lets you know that Josh is one talented songwriter who might actually be as crazy as he is intelligent. The song seemed even faster and more driven in concert; he must have some set of pipes in order to pull that off as his third number and still have seventeen left. Over half of the show was songs from the new album, but he reached back to his previous The Animal Years for the next four numbers. Settling in a bit, "Good Man" was excellent; as the horn players left the stage, Josh's playing became less raucous and more refined. This song is the shell of a sprawling epic and I love listening to it. He really dug in and his voice was grittier than on the album; I could hear a whole lot of Springsteen and perhaps even a little Tom Waits in there. "Wolves" was another delight - the chorus of "so long, so high" seemed to resonate in the theatre and in my mind long after the show had ended.

More musicians left the stage. Only Josh and his pianist remained, and the crowd was amazingly silent as they played the elegant "Here at the Right Time." Josh's guitar barely a whisper, a simple progression providing the backdrop for some of the best lyrics out there. Then he launched into "Monster Ballads," the first song from The Animal Years that I learned to play. As the song went on, his band slowly returned to the stage and completed the sound. I love this song, even if it took me a long time to understand what the hell the chorus meant. Full of imagery and stories of travels in Egypt. He provides only slightly more details in his songs than Mark Sandman did in his Morphine days; there's so much left to the imagination. I like that; he puts his trust and faith in the listeners.

With his band back in full swing, he launched into "Harrisburg" from The Golden Age Of Radio, which I consider to be his best album (all of them are really masterpieces, but this one stands a little higher than the rest). He gave it a much harder feel, with the band coming in heavily on the first beat of the second measure of the verse... the fifth beat, and it coincides with the word "fifth" in the lyrics... okay, I'm a nerd, but deep down I think that was Josh's intention as well. He gave it the Springsteen treatment again - I know, I keep making that comparison, but it's accurate - and it was a gritty interpretation that really worked.

"The Temptation of Adam" has grown on me. When I first heard it on his solo acoustic tour last year, I wasn't a big fan, but the story and the lyrics have worked their way in. He played it alone, another demonstration of the way in which he started his career. "Naked as a Window" was a surprise - many people hadn't heard the bonus track - but then he played "Girl In the War" and nailed it. I've never heard it with so much urgency and poignancy. There's a moment - "her eyes are like champagne" - that destroys me when the band crashes in on the second syllable of 'champagne.'

The horns returned for "Mind's Eye" and also for "Right Moves," which would probably be the single off this new album. Far too catchy to remain out of the mainstream for long. "Still Beating" is another delicate one that sounded excellent, and the full band brought "Empty Heart" to another level - everyone in the room stood for the song and the chorus "don't let me into this year with an empty heart" became a mantra. Of course, his closer was the sublime "Kathleen," which contains my favorite lyric in all of music: all the other girls here are stars, you are the northern lights. He could've stopped there and it still would be better than most songs, but it became a hit a few years ago and is always a highlight of the shows. I thought the random free-form story he told in the middle of the song was a bit much, but then he finished the song and I have no idea what the story was about anymore.

He left the stage to thunderous applause, and came right back out (which is great; I hate it when artists take a long time to do that) to play "Lawrence, KS," which is one of my favorites. A clip can be found on Modern Acoustic, a treasure of a site which I recently discovered. But then... calling on some reserve of energy, he played "The River" by Bruce Springsteen. He played it without any amplification to either his voice or his guitar, away from any microphones... and the audience (still standing) was captivated. I glanced back out at the audience - mouths were agape, some eyes wet. Anyone who wasn't a believer before was now converted. It was one of the most moving musical moments of my life. There are no words.

The horns joined for "Real Long Distance" and went to town; the song sounded that much larger after what had just transpired. It seemed like Josh relaxed a little after playing that previous number and was able to let loose a bit more. Finally, the opening act Old School Freight Train joined him for the last number "Next to the Last Romantic," and what a scene. It was a true hoedown - mandolin, violin, lots of guitar (geetar?) - and it was a great sendoff for the night. Everyone left happy.

There are very few artists out there whom I would compare to Tom Waits, or whom I would see two nights in a row, or who would spend three hours after every show talking with fans. Josh Ritter is that talented and also that giving. I had the opportunity to meet him once; we talked about music and traveling and the good stuff. I can't emphasize how much his music has influenced me - I think I'm in the right place at the right time to hear it and learn it, and I try to bring others into the fold when I can.