Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Good Samaritan

On Saturday I went for a long bike ride. I mentioned in the blog a few weeks back that I believed that I had torn my meniscus. An MRI (no one told me how scary MRI's are!), confirmed this. Apparently the vast majority of meniscus tears require arthroscopic surgery, however, my tear was in the 5% that may possibly heal without intervention. The nice doctor recommended I take a month and gradually work up to my usual activity level. We could then re-evaluate the injury and see how I was doing. So far, although still a little sore, it seems to be improving. Thus, I was riding my bike, (very little knee stress), through the fog up to the Golden Gate bridge last weekend, after a pleasant ride through Marin County. I never get tired of the view up the hill to the bridge. The San Francisco Bay drifts by to the left and the steep Marin hillsides tower above on the right. Dissecting them, the Golden Gate joins The City to Marin County, enabling that strange mix of great wealth, agriculture and hippies to mingle. As I climbed, a huge tanker ship sluggishly maneuvered its way under the bridges span towards the ocean, it's hulk appearing and disappearing as the wind drove the fog past. Directly above me the north tower of the bridge peaked out from above the thick fog. The fog despite it's negative impact on summer temperatures, makes for some seriously pretty views.

My reverie was interrupted by a suddenly flat tire. I kinda' deserved it, my balding tires needed replacing and the long fingered chore was well past it's due date. There was nothing to do but get out the patch kit, and get to repairing. Glue was applied to tube, and ten minutes later rubber was reapplied to the road. Within a minute the tire was flat again. I inverted the bike and removed the tube to discover that I had an unrepairable puncture. It had ripped around the base of the valve. This was bad. I didn't have a replacement tube, and I was on a little traveled side road, in freezing fog. Time to phone a friend, or the wife to be precise, and ask her to pack the kids in the car, and cross the bridge in rush hour traffic to just to pick up her idiot, tube forgetting husband. She was not happy. At all. At all.

Then my savior appeared. Pedaling furiously up the hill. Him, You alright ? Me, Ahh, actually no I'm not...

So, Dino, (thats all I know about you, your first name), I know you will probably never read this, but just in case:

Thanks for the tube dude!

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Live Earth

After a busy week that included having some relatives visit, I was quite happy to veg on the couch on Saturday. I had forgotten that the Live Earth concert was being staged that day, but found it while flicking through the channels. Luckily one of the high definition channels was broadcasting the Wembley and New Jersey legs in their entirety, so great quality sound and picture was guaranteed. I dipped in and out over the day and I was pleasantly surprised. Like many people I have charity concert fatigue, I thought Live 8 was a damp squib, and that heinous Diana concert last weekend was atrocious. Listening to that talentless shyster P-Diddy wiffle on about how Diana had been an inspiration to him made me want to puke.

However, the Live Earth broadcast, although filled with lots of filler (luckily I missed Snow Patrol or I would have turned the TV off), was filled with enough killer performances to make it worth watching. It was interesting the difference between the ages of the performers and the genres. The best acts were by far the older, seasoned hard rock bands. Big arenas are not the place for subtlety. The Chili Peppers and Linkin Park (and I HATE rap metal), were hugely impressive. Whereas Wembley stadium seemed to dwarf most, Metallica tore the place apart and made it feel small. Then again they are possibly the least subtle band ever. It was an awesome performance. Lars Ullrich could have held the audience all on his own. It always pisses me off at these events when the camera pans to some bored looking drummer. Fuck it, if you can't show some emotion while beating a pair of sticks off some drums on front of eighty thousand people, why bother? Ullrich was seriously punishing his kit, and looked like he could barely stop himself from attaining lift off in the process.

By all accounts the Foo Fighters were aces, which I unfortunately missed, and Madonna (someone who seriously gets on my tits normally), was great. She seems to have had a voice transplant - her singing was quite good, as opposed to sounding like a muppet hopped up on helium. Bon Jovi, despite the cheese, showed what it takes to hold a stadium in your hand. They also proved that New Jersey is the most dairy-loving state in the union. Every one in Giant Stadium knew the lyrics to "Wanted Dead or Alive." Another artist whom I normally don't like, but impressed, was John Mayer. His guitar playing is superb, without being flashy. If he continues to move away from the sensitive pop pap of the last few years, and follow the Curtis-Mayfield-meets-Stevie-Ray-Vaughan muse that informed his last record, he might even make a fan of me.

On the other hand, having Melissa Etheridge preach to me about global warming (a subject near and dear to me), almost makes me want to run out, join the Republican Party, buy truck loads of JCB tires, stick 'em in the back garden, cover them in gasoline, torch the lot, and start selling carbon onsets. She is abominable. Talk about giving middle-aged lesbian rockers a bad name.

One of the surprises was Cat Stevens in Hamburg, or Yusuf, as he is now known. His performance was strangely touching, and he seemed to be really enjoying himself.

Far and away the highlight was The Police. I am kicking myself I didn't get to see them when they played locally. Andy Summers was off the charts good. He has to be one of the most underrated guitarists out there. He played out of his skin, and barely broke a sweat in the process, and this guy is 65 years old! Stuart Copeland gave a master class in drumming and Sting looked great and sang even better. I loved that Kanye West got up and sang with them on "Message in a Bottle," he has a great air of unpredictability about him.

Message to Sting: If you record one new good album with The Police, you are forgiven for your all your musical sins over the last 20 years.

Of course the big question was: will the message get through? The broadcast in the U.S. was interspersed with short movies all around the topic of global warming. More than the music, this sparked my kids' imaginations, and several rounds of questions. Shane has been reminding me that I should turn off the lights and the TV when not using them. If they can get the message across to a five year old, I'm sure they can make inroads with the rest of us. There has been a sea change around this topic in the U.S. Last time I talked to my conservative businessman father-in-law, he was all excited about new green technologies - only a few short years ago, he was telling me how hybrid cars would never catch on in the U.S....

Sunday, July 01, 2007

My Version of Arthur McBride and The Sargent

As promised, here is a clip of me playing Arthur McBride and The Sargent. It was a little more intimidating than I expected. I am used to recording with mics etc., but stare into a camera, while watching myself on the small pull-out screen, was a bit off putting!
I spent a lot more time than intended trying to get this on YouTube. For some reason, when I did a direct capture (press play on the video camera and YouTube grabs the video directly), with a digital cable, no sound was captured. When I used the analog cables, a slight distortion was introduced into the sound. When I tried to capture the video on my PC (so I could upload instead of using direct capture), I got great sound but there were some skips and glitches. In the end, I went with the direct capture, even though it has slight distortion. If there are any video/YouTube gurus out there, I'd love to know how to capture good sound.

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