Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Armegeddon is upon us!

No, not really, but this is some serious flooding up in here.
My original plan for today's blog was going to be to participate in the book blog trend called "Waiting on Wednesday," wherein bloggers pick a soon-to-be-released book that they're excited about and talk about it.  Instead, I guess I could sub-title this post "Wading on Wednesday."  C'mon, that was wicked funny!
Here's a before and after of my yard - taken from a slightly different angle, but you get the point.  I guess this is a 500 year storm or something, but that aside, our house still wouldn't have flooded if not for the Town having released the dams controlling the two streams that flow through our neighborhood, one of which runs across the back of our property.  When we got home from work yesterday, our back yard looked like this:

It was pretty bad, but it wasn't that bad.  We heard that the City was giving out free sandbags, so we headed over and picked up 10, thinking that would be plenty to set outside out basement door, just in case.  We used 6, and wound up giving the last 4 to a neighbor.  We were positive that the stream wasn't going to come over the banks, and even if it did, we thought it would just be an inch or two by the time it got up by our door.  No worries.  We made dinner, it got dark, we watched the URI basketball game, and we checked on the basement and sump pump now and then.  On my way to bed at about midnight (right around the time URI lost - that's a whole other post), I went down to check again, and the floor was wet!  I grabbed a towel and started wiping it up, and J came down to help, and around 1:00 am we realized that there was no way we were going to keep up, the water was coming in so fast.  We got everything up off the floor and I called my dad because I didn't know what I needed to know about our furnace or electric hot water heater.  
Daddy came over.  He's the best.

J and Daddy went to the DPW and picked up 20 more sandbags, which we lined up like this:

Thus creating a channel from the door where the water was pouring in to the sump pump.  Brilliant!  J and I wouldn't have thought of this on our own, so again, thanks Daddy!  By the time we finished and got to try and go to bed, it was a little after 3:00 am.  We slept until 4:15, then went down to check on it.  We had to pound the sandbags a little tighter where water was creeping between, but otherwise, there were a few inches of water behind the bags, but it was all being directed to the sump pump as planned, and still the same half-inch or so puddle over the rest of the floor.  Success!  So we went back to bed from 4:30 til a little before 7:00.
This is what we woke up to:

Oy vey.  That's the same horseshoe pit as the first set of pics, and that last pic in each set is of the stream itself.  Thankfully, our dolt of a Governor finally did something right and declared a state of emergency and told people to stay home.  Most schools were closed, and state government was shut down, giving me the day off.  I wasn't planning on going in anyway, but it was nice to know that the wheels of government weren't turning without me today.  But today was largely without rain, and the water in our yard had started receding by 9:00.  Outside that basement door last night when I was adding sandbags, the water was up to my knees.  Thank you to URI GSO for buying me hip waders back when I was working on the salt marshes, they came in handy the last couple of days.  I knew there was a reason I held on to those fancy boots.

Aaaaanyway, the water finally got low enough to stop flowing into the house at around noon today, and we got it all cleaned up.  The floor is still wet, but there's no more puddles, and we didn't lose anything of any value.  And honestly, I feel dumb complaining about a couple of inches when parts of the state have something like 9 feet of water invading their homes.  Roads are closed all over the state, including major highways like I-95, the Warwick sewage treatment plant is flooded out and the entire city can't flush their toilets or take showers.  So far they still have potable drinking water, but who knows if that will change too.  It's crazy.  My mom had to work today and she left the office at 5:10 - it's now 7:30 and I doubt she's home yet.  She works about 12 miles from home.  My dad went to get a haircut at his regular barber, about 15 minutes from home.  He got there fine, but it took him 3 hours to get home.  They live in Warwick.  They may be coming over tonight to take showers.  I leave you with some photos from around the state, and with my heartfelt thoughts and prayers for everyone who's doing a lot worse than I am tonight.  Good luck out there and God bless.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Columbine: the book

Is it appropriate to warn about spoilers when discussing a non-fiction book?  I guess in a way there probably are spoilers here, if you're not too familiar with the massacre at Columbine High School in April 1999.  There was a whole lot that I didn't know about that I learned from this brilliant book, and I think that most people unconnected to the school or the region are probably in the same position that I was in before reading this.  So if you are one of those people, then I guess this review will contain spoilers for you, but they're nothing that isn't already in the public domain when you search for information about the tragedy itself, so take the spoiler warning however you like.  And if you've already read my Goodreads review, further apologies, because this post is going to look pretty similar.

This is one of the most compelling works of non-fiction I think I've ever read. Most of what I thought I knew about the tragedy at Columbine was untrue, and I love the way that Cullen told the real story here. I couldn't stop thinking about this book for the whole week that I was reading it, and I know that it will stay with me for a long time to come. The book skipped around a lot, chronologically, and I think that was intentional on the author's part, to break up some of the more difficult to read portions about the massacre and the killers' planning leading up to it.

A number of revelations (for me they were revelations, anyway) completely blew my mind.  I didn't know about all of the bombs.  Had they blown up (even if a single one had worked as intended), this whole tragedy would've been a COMPLETELY different situation.  First of all, the number of people killed would've been multiplied by a lot.  Second of all, the whole theory that Eric and Dylan were targeting anyone would've been ridiculous from the start.  You don't target individuals with a bomb.  If even one bomb had gone off, maybe the SWAT teams would've charged in sooner.  Maybe the officials in charge that day wouldnt've told groups of students and teachers to stay in the building as long as they did.  I didn't know that evidence was hidden or that the Jeffco Sherriff's Office told out and out lies about whether they had information that could've stopped the attack before it happened.  I didn't know that the "standoff" that took place that afternoon was completely fictional and Eric and Dylan had killed themselves just 40 minutes after the attack began.  Not that the responders had any way of knowing that, but they sure could've if they had stormed the building sooner than three hours after it all started.  The "She Said Yes" story, which portrayed Cassie Bernall as a martyr who died because she professed her belief in God after one of the killers asked her about her beliefs, was a complete fiction that got blown so far out of proportion it's ridiculous.  The killers were not some bullied outcast types - they had plenty of friends, they had girlfriends, and Dylan Klebold attended the prom just 3 days before the shooting.  What blew my mind the most, though, was learning about the cover-ups and destroyed and hidden evidence and the legal struggles that were necessary for any of those public documents to be released because of what they revealed about the way that the matter was handled by the Jeffco Sherriff's Office.  Wow. 

I remember when the shooting happened, and I remember that it was huge and that everyone thought these kids were retaliating after having been bullied for years by the snotty rich kids and jocks at Columbine High.  Not so.  Not so at all.  Eric Harris was a full-on psychopath with a death wish, and Dylan Klebold was depressed and suicidal and desperately in need of acceptance, which he found from the wrong source in his psychopathic friend.  Dylan tried to leak the attack a few times before it happened, but no one picked up the signals.  Police had a search warrant for Eric's house a year before the attack that, if it had been executed, could've put an end to it well before it happened.  Seriously, I couldn't put this book down.  It was so completely engrossing.  It has piqued my interest in learning even more about the tragedy, and has me doing more research and reading more and more of the official reports that were so concisely summarized in the book.

I had one conversation with J about whether this book could be seen as one reporter's taking the opportunity of such an awful event to cash in, and I honestly don't believe that to be the case here. Partly because it was written 10 years after the incident, but partly because it feels like a truly journalistic venture. There were a lot of lies and a lot of cover-ups and a lot of hidden evidence and media misconception surrounding the shooting, and the author professes his guilt as one of the reporters covering the unfolding story as it happened on that point off the bat.  This book reads like what I think it was meant to be - an effort to lay clean everything that happened before, during, and after the attack without attempts to place blame or explain why it happened. It was excellent for its objectivity but also for its empathy and ability to humanize what for most of the world was a television/media-relayed tragedy. It was well-researched and well-written, and I highly recommend it to everyone.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Congrats Lupo's. I love you.

Turns out Lupo's at the Strand was a good decision after all.  I hadn't been there in a long time, but after the Creek show this past Friday night, I gotta say, it's a great live music venue.  They've sucessfully taken a historic theater and converted it to a great atmosphere.  It has a great, clubby feeling but without the stuffy, claustrophobic grip that old Lupo's could never seem to shake.  The high ceiling over the dancefloor goes a long, long way toward that end. 

I remember going to shows at the Strand back in high school, and I know that I never appreciated the history of the place.  Then it turned into a crappy nightclub (complete with go-go dancers) and stopped booking bands before merging with Lupo's to share Friday and Saturday nights.  Lupo's shows would have to end by 10:30 and everyone had to get the hell out so that they could then open the doors to a top-40 style dance club.  It was horrifying.  But I guess that's not working out anymore, because Lupo's seems to have free reign of the place now.  And that's good news.  The go-go cages are gone, the bar areas in the back are opened up nicely. 

It now reminds me more of the music hall at the House of Blues in Boston, only the Strand has an almost austere feeling to it, where you can look around and really get the converted theater feeling. Plus it's more intimate, which is always a good thing.  Bravo.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Tommy Lee Album Review

It's time for nostalgic album review day again!
I sometimes enjoy reviewing random albums I like that have been around for a while, but never get old. 
Today it's Tommy Lee's 2005 solo venture, Tommyland: The Ride.

Blame today's nostalgic review on the fact that this morning I woke prematurely from a dream involving Tommy Lee and later found that the song "Makin' Me Crazy" from this album was stuck in my head.  For that reason, I have been listening to this album and Motley Crue all morning.  The reality is that I bought this album the week it was released, in August of 2005, and I've been listening to it in fairly heavy rotation since then, and it doesn't get old.  The only track I ever hit skip on is a skit called "The Butler," which is just a little dialogue from some British dude.  It's funny enough, and shows a little of Tommy's sense of humor, but it's really just unnecessary.  Other than a less-than-desirable skit, though, the album is well-written, well-performed, and well-produced.  I love it.  Tommy is working on a new Methods of Mayhem album right now over on ThePublic  It's a fascinating venture to me, and I urge you to clicky the linky and go check it out.  My curiosity is totally piqued, and I'm excited for the album to drop.  I love the other Methods album - yes that's right, I love it.

Back to Tommyland - I'm the first to admit that Tommy's singing voice isn't amazing by traditional lead-singer standards - that's why he's a drummer, not a lead singer - but the man can sing, and for what it's worth, I love his singing voice.  Honestly, I've had a celebrity crush on Tommy Lee for years; I could listen to him sing or talk all day long, so maybe you should take this review with a grain of salt, but I swear I know what I'm talking about here.  All of that aside, he has a lot of vocal help on this album, from bigger names like Joel Madden (Good Charlotte) and Chad Kroeger (Nickleback) to lesser-knowns like Andrew McMahon (Jack’s Manequin) and Dirty Harry (it's a chick, and I had never heard of her, either), and it all just works so well. The whole thing, beginning to end, is great.  In fact, my biggest criticism is probably that the two versions of "Hello Again" (original album version, and acoustic bonus track) are too close together when you listen to it on repeat, with only the lead track "Good Times" in between.

Good Times - This song reminds me of chillin outside with a beer, bare feet and jeans on a breezy summer afternoon.  Or driving to the beach barefoot with the windows open in the summer.  It's just that kind of song, and one of the best on the album.

Tryin' to Be Me - I agree with Good Charlotte on this one: if celebrities want to bitch about being famous, I will gladly take care of their houses and money and cars for them, and they don’t have to be famous anymore. You asked for it, buddy. That aside, I do sometimes think the paparazzi go too far with celebs who don’t thrust themselves into it and honestly just try to live a normal life. I digress . . . this song is fun and catchy, despite the mild whiny bitch feeling of the lyrics.  Chad Kroeger handles the vocals, and it's a perfect fit and a great complement to Nickleback's "Rock Star."

Tired – Another best of on this all around great album. Joel Madden was a great choice to sing the chorus of this angsty, upbeat tune. It totally reminds me of GC, actually – think Anthem or Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous – sort of angsty and angry, but upbeat and catchy at the same time.

Hello Again (especially the acoustic bonus track), Make Believe, and I Need You are all just beautiful songs.

Makin Me Crazy - I think it's the almost frantic chorus of this song that gets me, I'm not sure.  There's just something about this song though.  I wouldn't say it's one of the best on the album, but I think it's my personal favorite.  Maybe it's Tommy's background vocal on the chorus, because that kind of gives me chills a little bit, but so does the ethereal music in the intro and opening verse.  Sometimes on other songs, Tommy's singing voice almost sounds strained, like he's trying too hard, but this background vocal sounds so comfortable, and I love the way it complements Dirty Harry's rough-but-feminine lead vocal.  I don't know, but this song gets stuck in my head for days at a time.

This is a go-to album for me, and has been since the day I got it. 
If you like good rock n roll, it should be for you too.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Marketing and Music

I've said it before and I'll say it again, marketing dollars are well spent on me.  I buy shit based on how it's presented to me.  I think many people do, and at least I recognize it.  I wouldn't say I'm proud of it, but I certainly have fun with it.  Sometimes I think I should've majored in marketing, and I often think I'd make a great advertising exec.  It applies across the board, to just about everything I can come up with, except one.


Obviously music is heavily marketed, just like every other product out there is, but its an exception for me, and I'm somehow not so susceptable to music marketing.  I think music is something people either have a taste for or they don't, and it's not really a matter of packaging or selling it (yes, Disney, I'm talking to you).  Music is shopped to radio stations where it will fit in, it's marketed on TV shows and in movies the same way that Coke or Apple is, but none of that really hits me.  I'm pretty sure that there are endorsements in place for a lot of Rolling Stone's reviews, and while I like to have my computer handy while I'm reading Rolling Stone, and I love checking out all of the new stuff that I've never heard of, nothing in there can ever convince me to like something, or not to like something, just based on what it might say or who might say it. 

I pick what I listen to based on whether I feel it or not.  I rely on recommendations of friends or other artists that I respect and enjoy, and on reviews and publications like Rolling Stone to a far lesser extent.  I hate major record labels, I've never made a secret of that, and I think that they've hurt and messed up just as many bands and artists as they've ever helped.  I love that in the internet age in which we live, artists can self-promote and put out independent releases SO easily, and I love the musical atmosphere that having that ability has created.  I love that bands can make and produce and market music for less, and that they can pass that kind of deal on to people like me.  I love that I can follow my favorite artists' blogs and get music recommendations directly from them.  I love the open, direct communication that so many of these "underground" independent artists encourage.  It's amazing; it's fascinating; it's awesome. 

I have no shame about my taste in music, and I don't think anyone ever should.  Music is sort of a personal thing, and what you like or don't like to listen to should never have anything to do with what others think of you or of what you think of yourself.  At the same time as music is a personal thing, it's also so amazing in the way that it brings people together, on so many levels.  From the very base of making music together, to the enjoyment of listening to music together, to the fun and excitement of sharing what you like and learning about what your friends like, there's a connection.  One of my favorite parts of that connection comes when you're one of thousands in a big arena or stadium or field, and you and everyone around you are singing along with an artist that has touched every single one of you enough to make you want to spend your hard-earned cash to be there enjoying moments like that.  Love.  I can't even begin to imagine what that must feel like for the artist on the stage, and I could only imagine it's indescribable. 

Another of my favorite parts is learning about new music and sharing it with my friends.  My internet book club (yes, I'm THAT big a nerd) is currently doing a music exchange.  We all signed up (through and got matched up with someone that we're going to send a mix CD (or two or five, in some cases) to.  I started working on mine last night, and when I started I had 100 songs I wanted to share with my elf.  I got it down to 80, and I know I'll have to do some more narrowing down, but there's just so much music that I love and want to share with other people!  If my elf hates it all, then I'll definitely feel bad that she had a bad music exchange experience, but that's a risk we're all taking, and that's the fun!  I can't wait to get my CD(s) too - I hope that they consist almost wholly of stuff I've never heard before, because that's really the point, isn't it?  This is more exciting than Christmas morning for me.

Along the same lines, I went to see Bushwalla last week (see earlier post) with my friend Shan.  Shan had never heard of BW, and thought, until the man himself walked out on stage, that we were going to see DISHwalla, the alterna-band from the 90's.  I will forever take issue with the fact that BW named himself that, because it leaves me forever explaining the difference to people when they ask about him, but it also piques people's interest, so maybe it was good marketing on his part (har har har).  Anyway, when he started his set, Shan and I laughed about the confusion and settled in for a fabulous show.  Shan was stoked that she was there and glad to be introduced to a new artist that she really liked, and I was so happy for the chance to introduce a friend to a new artist.  (Incidentally, I use the word "introduced" quite literally - BW stuck around for a while after the show to sign some autographs and take some pictures and hand out some hugs.  It was so great to get to let him know in person, face-to-face, how into his music and his style I am.  And to share a gratitude-filled hug.  I have so much respect and love for artists that take advantage of the opportunity to actually talk to fans every chance they get.  BW and I are facebook friends now, BTW.)

Bottom line - I just think it's so neat how taste-driven music is, and also how broad an effect it has on people in generally, all without the millions of dollars in marketing that's often required to create interest in so many other products.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Wrestler


So, I sort of had a thing for 9 1/2 Weeks Mickey Rourke.  It is safe to say that ever since the promos for The Wrestler, his "resurrection" or come-back movie, started appearing on my TV, I have been very much over whatever thing I had for young Mickey.  Eeesh.  Maybe I actually had a thing for John, his character in 9 1/2 Weeks, and not for Mickey at all, I don't know.  I finally got around to watching The Wrestler last night, though, and after seeing it, I'm totally looking forward to some of the other eight or nine movies he has coming out in the next year or two.  It's the story of a washed-up professional wrestler who just can't let go, and can't manage to fit in anywhere outside of the ring.  He's got a failed relationship with his daughter (his fault), a crappy job at a grocery store, a trailer that he can't manage to pay his rent on, and is a little too regular at the local strip club, with a crush on an over-age stripper who he's basically paying to be his friend to show for it.  He drops after a particularly ugly match (seriously, there was a staple gun involved), he has heart surgery, he finds some happiness working the deli counter, he retires from wrestling and starts to mend things with his daughter, he gets recognized at the deli counter and can't handle it, he comes out of retirement for one last fight (against MDs orders, of course).

The Mickey Rourke in this film is a hot mess.  But you know what?  He was PERFECT for this role, and he did a fabulous job in this movie.  The dude is a pretty good actor.  I get all of his nominations for this role, I really do, and I'm tempted to say that maybe he should've won on a few more of them.  I even get all of the film's nominations - it wasn't bad.  It was maybe a little slow at times, but never boring, IMO.  It wasn't awesome by my discerning "movies I love to watch over and over again" standards, but it was really well put together, and pretty thought-provoking in its own way, and I totally see the Oscar/SAG/Golden Globe-worthiness of it as a film.  What I absolutely do not get are Marisa Tomei's multiple nominations for her role as the over-age stripper.  I think I could've played the role just as well as she did, except she's got way more of a stripper body than I ever will.  But really, you don't get Oscar nods for prancing around naked for half a movie, so I guess I'm just missing it.  I thought Evan Rachel Wood did a better job as the daughter than Tomei did as the pseudo-wannabe-girlfriend.  I also think it might be one where I will like it more and more the more times I watch it.  I've only seen it once so far, but it just gives me that feeling.  Plus, the more I've been thinking about it, the more I think I like it.  Movies like that are always nominated for lots of awards.

The ending was half cop-out, half perfect.  When it ended, I though, "no way, it doesn't really end like that, does it?"  But as with most films that spur that thought in me - I honestly can't think of what ending would've been better.  So while I'm tempted to call it a cop-out without closure, I also fear that if the story had gone on for even another minute after where it ended, it would've sucked.  The point wasn't meant to be whether The Ram lived or died that night in the ring, it was that he couldn't (or wouldn't) live outside the ring, ever again.  There's a shot right before he climbs up on the ropes where he glances up at the curtain where Tomei's character had been watching the fight, and you can almost hear the thought in his head: "if she's there, I'll just pin this dude, collect my dinero and head back into retirement with her.  If she's not there, I'm gonna Ram-Jam this guy and, if I survive that, every other opponent I ever face in the future, 'cause I ain't got shit outside of this ring."

One thing I will say about this movie is that I haven't stopped thinking about it since it ended, and in that way I totally see the Oscar-worthiness, and for that reason alone, I recommend it.  If you're into film, I recommend it.  If you just like watching movies, I don't.  If you don't get the differentiation, this one probably isn't for you.