November 29, 2007
I'm definitely not in shape for that
I got a phone call last night from a Maine number I didn’t recognize.
It turned out to be one of my relay teammates from last year’s record-setting performances. He was scraping around trying to put together relays for this year’s meet, and wanted me to swim a backstroke leg on a medley relay. I laughed for a bit, and then (once I figured out he wasn’t really joking) pointed out that the last time I had, in fact, been in a pool swimming laps was also the last time I’d done the backstroke leg in an MR, and I’d considered it a minor miracle that I didn’t disqualify the whole team for illegal turns.
So not only was he asking me to swim my worst stroke, but I’m not in shape to swim any stroke at all, right now; I’ve been running too much.
I feel a bit bad about it, because I know it would be fun. But I really couldn’t get ready that fast.
Now Playing: Waco Lake from Abigail by The Nields
November 27, 2007
The Breadman lets me down
My breadmaker won’t knead. Actually, it will; it does fine with small loads, like my pizza dough. But if I give it a full-sized loaf it quits turning the paddle. I can hear the gears turning inside, but something’s slipping somewhere under the resistance of the dough.
This is frustrating for several reasons. One, I got up this morning planning to put a loaf in and then go out and run; instead, I wasted an hour trying to get the dough to knead, and wound up cutting my run short and buying a loaf of bread at the Foodmaster on the way home. Two, I wind up taking perfectly good and useful ingredients and turning them into a useless lump of not-bread; I’ve done this a few times now, before I figured out how bad the situation was.
Three, I’m frustrated that somewhere, we made a decision to dedicate resources (plastic, metal, electronics, cash) to a very specialized piece of machinery which doesn’t last beyond three years of use. This is a big hunk of appliance; my choices now are to open it up and try to fix it myself (a questionable proposition, but one I’m toying with,) put it on Freecycle looking for someone else to fix it (probably the safest route,) or just throw it out (an idea which makes me cringe: what a waste!) Why couldn’t we make something more durable?
Certainly replacing it with yet another bread machine seems like a bad bet. I really need to retrieve my loaf pan from Amherst and make my bread a more old-fashioned way. (Or make my week’s bread while in Amherst.)
Now Playing: Dan Takes Five from In the Land of Salvation and Sin by The Georgia Satellites
November 26, 2007
This never happened in my research
It seems that Bernd Heinrich, University of Vermont professor emeritus and author of a few books I have on my shelves, is missing some ravens he raised from chicks for his research. (I suppose the fact that this makes the AP wire is a testament to Heinrich’s eminence.)
Now Playing: It’s No Reason from Hindsight by The Church
AOY: One for two
Come to think of it, Tyson Gay has been pretty good to me this year, and maybe I should’ve given him a vote for Athlete of the Year. I did vote for Meseret Defar, whose sterling 3,000m performance right here in Boston last January was cited as part of the reason for her award.
About two hours before the awards were made public, I found an announcement (carefully marked “embargoed until 19:00 GMT”) of the names in my email inbox, and I was snickering to myself about it all afternoon. After all, who was I going to tell? I could’ve posted it here, early, and not only would nobody who cared ever know that I’d spilled the secret, but nobody who did know would care.
Now Playing: Pressure and Heat by Patrice Pike
November 24, 2007
Some things can be fixed
Unlike my first iPod, the squeak in the bathroom door at the Amherst house can, in fact, be fixed.
I wouldn’t ordinarily be too disturbed by a squeaky door, but this one shrieked, and every time I closed or opened the door in the middle of the night I was sure I was waking up the whole house. My first instinct was to find a bottle of WD-40 and give the hinge a squirt, but fortunately there wasn’t one handy, and I had to do some research instead.
The best instructions I found pointed out that WD-40 isn’t much use as a lubricant (though it’s a great solvent for cleaning the hinges) and that my second guess, graphite powder (I didn’t have any of that handy, either) was likely to be a big mess.
Getting the pin out wasn’t too hard, but it was pretty grimy. I levered it out with a screwdriver to start, but I needed to tap the screwdriver pretty hard once or twice to get it un-jammed. Once it was out, I wiped it down first and then went at it with a small piece of sandpaper until it was pretty bright.
I could’ve used bike chain grease to re-lubricate the pin if mine wasn’t with my bike (which is to say, at the other end of the state) but I did have handy option #2, petroleum jelly, which I often use to keep the sockets on my spikes loose. I applied a liberal coat to the pin, dropped it back in the hinge, and sure enough: it now swings quietly.
Now Playing: Keeps My Body Warm from Strangest Places by Abra Moore
The iPod that couldn't be fixed
I haven’t written for a long time about the saga of my oldest iPod, the 1st gen 5GB model with the wonky Firewire jack. I still get some traffic from my posts about my failed attempts, three years ago, to re-solder the jack myself; eventually, even my brother, who had some specialized equipment available, was unable to get the thing to mount (though it will charge.) I have it in a static-free plastic bag in a drawer somewhere; it may or may not be in pieces.
Today I read a NYT article about a Denver company, BuyMyTronics.com, which will actually buy old, non-working iPods, rehab them, and re-sell them. I went through the menus and got an estimate of $6.40 for my iPod, which I suspect reflects the desirability of the model itself (five years old, heavy, not much more storage than a new, $150 iPod nano) more than the difficulty of fixing it. I may send it in anyway; I like the idea of having it off my hands but not in a landfill, and getting some lunch money for it is better than paying for the component recycling.
(I’m not in the market for a new iPod, either; my current one, almost three years old and slightly clunky-looking now, still works just fine for what I ask of it.)
They say they’ll be taking old cell phones soon, though I’ve not had much difficulty with those; I usually keep one previous phone as a backup in case of failure (I just swap the SIM card back, and I’m in business,) and the phone companies often give a trade-in rebate for old phones when we upgrade. I wonder how many other good businesses are stowed with obsolete gizmos in other people’s desk drawers?
Now Playing: Stand from Green by R.E.M.
November 23, 2007
That was fast
Mindful of many warnings that it would take a long time to get my passport renewed, I followed these instructions for printing my own passport photo and sent in my application on November 7. Because my old passport was issued less than twelve years ago (I think that’s the interval) I was able to print a form and send form, photos, and the old passport by mail rather than having to do anything in person.
I was expecting the process to take a few months, but the new passport arrived today, just over two weeks later. The photo is a little dark, making me suspect that my home-printed version doesn’t handle the heat of sealing to paper as well as a “real” photo might have, but it looks like me and the passport office was OK with it, so I’m not complaining.
The accompanying flyer (and a little symbol on the front cover) explain that I do have one of the new RFID-equipped passports, so now I have to consider how paranoid to be about that. (When I search for “RFID passport”, the entire first page of results are from sites panning the technology.)
This will be my third passport. The second came back in the same envelope, with two holes in the front cover and a “cancelled” stamp on the first page, where my signature is. I’ll stow it in the same box as my first, once I can find that.
Update: Found the first passport and stowed the second with it. First was issued in 1990, good for five years, and picked up some nifty stamps but nowhere near the quantity over ten years of the second. However, it was stuffed with cash: early-90s Polish bills, some mid-90s rubles (both probably valueless by now) and a Bermudian $2 bill. Also, three 35mm film canisters (remember film canisters? Remember film?) loaded with coins, which I didn’t go through. I need to add some yen and euros which are currently kicking around in Somerville.
Now Playing: Two Princes from Pocket Full of Kryptonite by Spin Doctors
November 22, 2007
No more "beta"
We took the “beta” off the Common Kitchen logo this week, which is good, because it was annoying me. (Gmail has been “beta” for over three years now, which tells me that the label means nothing anymore… and I don’t like using meaningless labels.)
What it does mean is that we’re pretty close to where we’re going with the site—I’d say over halfway, but the other half is really behind-the-scenes and interface pieces to make the site more useful and more powerful, not big shiny features from the user’s end. Just in time for a big feast day, right?
So we posted a press release and sent an email yesterday, and now we’re working out our next steps. We have a long list of tickets to attack for CK, and some other projects in the pipeline to pursue.
While I’m talking about work, I’ll add that we recently did some blog organization at CMI (shorthand for Common Media, Inc, our company.) We pulled all the tech-geeky stuff about development, etc. out into the CMI blog, so the Common Kitchen blog could be more focused on the sort of thing you’d expect to read there, i.e. the site itself, and food in general.
Tourism advice for me
Thanksgiving dinner involved no turkey for me, since A’s family went for ham this year. I like a good turkey, of course, but I don’t much like the resulting tryptophan stupor, so I was all in favor. I recalled my brother’s stories of a former teammate who would express great anticipation of going home to his mother’s “Thanksgiving lasagna” so skipping the poultry is certainly not too far from the mainstream.
The crowd in Amherst was a varied one, as they invited several parties who might not have done Thanksgiving otherwise. We had an economics professor from the college A’s sister lives near, who’s Turkish and has no family in the area; a student from The College who hadn’t gone home for break; and a family (mother, father, daughter) of Chinese immigrants who have been getting ESL tutoring from A’s mother.
These three were wide-eyed to hear that I was headed to Beijing next year. For various reasons, return to China is not an option for them, so they were enthusiastic with suggestions for what I should do with what little free time is available to me. I should go to Xian (only an hour by plane!) and see the terracotta army, and of course, I should see the Great Wall. If all I see is Beijing, “you will not have been to China,” they told me. Just an extra day or two!
I suspect that has been true of several countries I claim to have visited (two trips to Japan and I still haven’t been to Tokyo, or even seen Mt. Fuji?)
They also assured me that (a) having my housing and travel already arranged would be a lifesaver, because it probably couldn’t be done anymore, and (b) my first impression of Beijing was going to be, “too many people!”
November 20, 2007
Scheduling the pieces
After the races were over, while the successful athletes were collecting their trophies, a few of us from the media stood in the back and did what we do best: complain. (Writing is second on the list, actually.)
At Nationals, as with every big meet I’ve had experience with, there’s an annual alternation of the race order between men and women. This year, for example, the men’s race was first. However, with live TV this year, the schedule was a little compressed. There was a 50-minute gap between the start of the men’s race and the start of the women’s race, and since the slowest men take about 35 minutes to run 10km, I barely had time after the men’s race to get to the media center and dump photos to A’s laptop before returning to the course to shoot the women’s race.
The meet’s media organization, however, persisted in running post-race interviews with the top three finishers in the men’s race—delayed by the ‘necessity’ of television interviews, of course—immediately after that race, which meant that (a) I and several other reporters missed them entirely, and (b) the women’s race started while the interviews were still underway.
Now it’s hypothetically easy for the athletes to wait through the twenty-plus minutes of the women’s race; they may even prefer the chance for a cool-down. The handicap becomes drug-testing. There’s a time limit between the end of the race and when athletes must report to drug testing, and they need to fit all their media responsibilities in there. For WADA, it’s an hour, but the NCAA drug-testing isn’t run by WADA, and in theory, they could schedule this a bit better.
(N.B. Yes, I’ve been quiet this week. I’ve been too busy to write up the appropriate thoughts when they’ve crossed my mind; I may stay that way for a few weeks, too.)
November 14, 2007
Just happy to be here
My training, right now, could be best described as irregular. I try to get out six days a week, and I try to do more than an hour when I feel like it, but I don’t if I don’t. I’m plateaued at this particular level, without the time or energy to devote to pushing beyond it; I’m using that energy elsewhere.
The unusual structure comes from the once-a-week training group I’ve been running with for about sixteen months now. I’ve never been a centerpiece here, since I signed up to be A’s rabbit, and lately I’ve been running with either the low-mileage middle-distance women or the 25-year-old with significantly faster PRs. (He’ll spot me eight or ten seconds, then blow by me midway through each repeat.) Most of us are there for the coach, who has a bigger name than any of us and tells some entertaining stories.
Last week, for example, it was just me, the young guy, and Coach. They arrived together—Dan drives Coach, who can’t see well enough to drive after dark—and both of them joined my warmup, which is unusual. He wanted to talk about the Trials the previous weekend, and neither Dan nor I were eager to prod him to start the workout. We wound up running close to an hour with him, more than he’d run in two years, he said, and we didn’t do any workout to speak of.
This weekend, on two of my runs in Amherst, I passed a (relatively) young man who lives in our neighborhood and gets around in a wheelchair. It’s obviously one of these heavy, hard-to-move wheelchairs made by designers who expect people in wheelchairs to be pushed everywhere, but I see him struggling to push himself around the sidewalks while someone else walks beside him. I don’t know what I would say when I go by—is he enjoying the struggle, or is he fighting something? What does he see in me when I go by?—so it’s a good thing nobody really expects me to say anything.
This week, we moved indoors, and I put my spikes back on. Between repeats, I kept tripping as I would catch my feet on the track; it’s a miracle I didn’t go down. Dan and I were both laughing about it by about the third repeat. “Coach,” I said, “I need to get going; I keep tripping over my own feet when I slow down!”
I was grinning when I took off, and I was still grinning halfway around the track. My legs felt good, tired but not burning, I was on my toes and moving pretty well, and I thought, why wouldn’t I be smiling? I’m still able to come out on a Wednesday evening and push myself, apply a little force to the world and get it back through a pair of shoes with teeth. I can run 800m repeats, right on the edge between endurance and speed, even if neither are what they were five years ago. I can move around the world on my own two feet. Why wouldn’t I be happy about that?
Now Playing: The Only One I Know from Some Friendly by The Charlatans
November 12, 2007
And another weblog
I have another blog now. We recently added tools to Common Kitchen to allow all our users to run blogs on the site, not unlike the journals of last.fm users. Because the site is set up to require sources for recipes, we needed a way for users to list recipes for which they didn’t know the source. The solution we settled on was to create weblogs which would, in essence, provide a source for every recipe posted in them.
I’m not a tenth the cook Audrey is, of course, but I had to post a few things—like the detailed pizza recipe from my pizza—just in the name of testing, of course. I’ll post more when it occurs to me. If you’re interested in sharing your kitchen experience, come on over. Trust me, I’ve set a pretty low bar.
Now Playing: Next to the Last Romantic from The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter by Josh Ritter
November 10, 2007
Wearing our hearts on our shirts
According to Mark Remy, someone in the RW.com message boards is wondering if it’s “appropriate” to wear apparel from a presidential campaign in a race.
It occurred to me that I wrote about this almost four years ago, and on that very same site, but all those columns are lost to the internet for some reason I don’t fully understand. There’s still a copy on the Millennium Mile site, however. If you don’t want to read four-year-old geekery about what to wear in a race, here’s the summary: wear what you want, but think about what it means to you and what it says about you.
Amherst over Williams by 1 point
No, no, I’m not talking about this game. We don’t worry about football in the circles I travel in.
I’m talking about this race. It’s an entirely foreign feeling for me, hearing about it; the year I ran best in that race (and was Amherst’s first finisher) we were the last team with enough runners to compile a team score. A lot has changed since then, both for the College and for New England Division 3 as a whole; there are teams in that listing which didn’t bother to run ten years ago.
Things have changed even more in this race, given that the same year the men finished last, if I recall correctly, we didn’t have five women to score. But those changes have been around for a while, and a fifty-six point victory reflects dominance, not a close match that tipped our direction.
November 9, 2007
Distracting the audience
I went to the Bruins-Canadiens game at the Garden last night with this lot (and others). I noticed something about the Garden between periods which explains a lot to me about why hockey is definitely the fourth sport in Boston now (and may be on its way to fifth, with the Revs in the MLS Cup yet again.)
The new Garden has a nice, big scoreboard with massive video monitors on all four sides. There’s a ring of narrow video displays around the top and a smaller ring around the bottom. Then, at the front of the balcony, all around the Garden, is a matching ring of video displays, creating a seamless “crawl” around the entire arena, with this glowing, dancing thing in the middle. When the sponsor on those displays changes (or even when the blue beer-logo display fills up with golden beer) the entire color scheme of the area changes.
We’re motion-watching animals. We focus on the biggest, brightest moving thing in our field of vision. And the builders of the Garden deliberately put a lot of bright, moving advertisements in to grab the attention of the captive audience (which, let’s not forget, paid good money to be there.) The advertisements were a constant distraction from the game we’d paid to see. If I hadn’t been making a conscious effort to watch the game on the ice, it would’ve been so easy to watch the video screen on the scoreboard the whole time, including ad after ad after ad. (You’ll notice that I’ve carefully avoided using the name of the bank which is the “naming sponsor” of the Garden.)
At this point, why not stay at home and watch the game on TV? Heck, why watch the game? When you pay attention, the Bruins are pretty pathetic; they pass, as Bostonist said, “like they just met each other yesterday.”
And it’s pretty obvious that the team and Garden management don’t really care if we’re watching, either, as long as they get paid for the ads.
Now Playing: He’s Got An Answer from Wholesale Meats And Fish by Letters To Cleo
November 8, 2007
An old shoes home
My former roommate, Warren, posts about delivering shoes to the Shoe4Africa program on Monday, and mentions in passing that “a running shoe can last as long as 1,000 years in a landfill.”
I’m retiring 4-6 pairs of running shoes this year, which is about average for me; in my peak year, 2002, I went through ten pairs. I sent my used shoes to the local Goodwill; whether they judged them worthy of reuse or trashed them, I’m not sure, but I’d rather see their life extended than have them taking up space in a landfill. Warren links the aforementioned Shoe4Africa group as one destination for old shoes, but RW also has a list of organizations which accept and reuse used running shoes.
So don’t bin your old shoes. There’s more use for them elsewhere.
Now Playing: Way Away from Bread and Circus by Toad The Wet Sprocket
November 7, 2007
Getting the tickets
I clicked the link thinking about the IAAF staff, and how they grumbled about empty seats in the stands during the evening sessions in Osaka, and how the Helsinki fans were so dedicated. And certainly BusinessWeek does a good job with the task at hand, comparing Beijing ticket sales with those in Athens.
But then I drifted back to my first international track meet. Not the ‘99 World Championships, but the 1994 Goodwill Games (remember the Goodwill Games?), which were conveniently held in St. Petersburg, where I happened to be attempting to kick-start my Russian language skills. (I failed, but the trip was still worth it.) I don’t recall what ticket prices were in dollars, nor what they might have cost had I attempted to buy them in the States; I remember that in rubles, they were pretty attainable, at least for those of us who bought our rubles with real dollars.
I went with a small group of fellow students to the Games headquarters on the north side of the Neva to buy tickets. We didn’t have to wait in line very long, but then we filled out forms identifying ourselves and what tickets we wanted. I was the only one interested in track (nearly all of us went to a night of figure skating, a surreal sight in the sweltering summer Piter had that year.) I got two tickets in the “cheap seats,” close to the front but about 20m around the first corner, and took the daughter of the family I was staying with. No problems; the Russians were largely disinterested in the “Games of Good Will” except as a means of attracting tourists, and most of them remained out in the countryside if they possibly could.
When the competition day arrived, we brought cookies and bananas and sandwiches, and saw the women’s 100m and men’s 800m and 10,000m. Maybe there was some pole vaulting going on. Her hero was Irina Privalova, but I think Gail Devers won the 100m. Marc Coogan (I think?) and Ed Eyestone ran the 10,000m for the USA; it was won by a Moroccan, I think, but the Russian was second, and when he came to the finish line I heard the crowd chanting, “Mo - lo - DYETS!” which translates as something close to “Good job!” I hollered “Good job, Ed!” to Eyestone as they walked off the track, and he looked back up at me; some years later, when he was meeting the RW staff and I went on a lunchtime run with him, I reminded him of that, and neither of us were surprised that he remembered the race but not some random guy in the stands who yelled to him afterwards.
A few days later, the women’s 10,000m was on TV, and my host-father and I watched at the kitchen table. I think there was an Ethiopian or Kenyan woman who ran away with the race, but Gwyn Coogan and the Russian entrant dueled to the line for second, and the two of us—who could only barely communicate, given my weak grasp of his language—rose from our seats, yelling at the screen and pounding on the table, and for a few moments we understood each other with perfect clarity.
I think it was probably possible to pick up a few last-minute tickets to the World Championships in Osaka, if you happened to have been in town, but the price probably wouldn’t have been as cheap as those ruble tickets in Petersburg. I wonder if it has ever been possible to get such tickets to the Olympics—at least, in the last twenty or thirty years?
Now Playing: In Between Days from Speed Graphic (EP) by Ben Folds
November 5, 2007
Call it even?
I may have to bury a longtime grudge.
Every time I’ve moved inside Massachusetts, I’ve had to tangle with the RMV. They’re a wily bunch; they make some things easy (changing address can be done on their website, and they then send you stickers to apply to your license and registration.) Then they make other things really, really tough.
My last two moves were both at the beginning of September, which ran me in to a rough coincidence: I needed to change address with my insurance company and the RMV, plus renew my insurance (at the new address, with a different premium,) and renew my car registration. In both cases, the complications with the insurance company meant that the RMV demanded confirmation that I was actually insured before renewing my registration; I needed to schedule a trek out to Waltham for a stamp from the insurance company. (There must be a more efficient method for doing this. I’ve done it twice now, and it’s tedious, pointless busywork for all involved.)
I managed to jump all the hoops in 2005, but this year things were too hectic, and I didn’t get around to getting the stamp and mailing the registration form until last week, when a policeman asked me to move the car due to construction on the street and noted, “By the way, your registration has expired.”
So I got the stamp that day, and got the registration in the mail. Deed done, no problem.
Today, on my way back to Somerville, a town policeman followed me for a way—just pulled up behind me, I think, but then he must have noticed that I didn’t have up-to-date stickers on my plates. (I’ve occasionally gone a few weeks between getting the stickers and getting them on the plates, also not a good practice.) So he blinked his lights, and I pulled over and provided license and (gulp) registration. “This has expired,” he said. I explained that the check, so to speak, was in the mail. He was unimpressed.
But then he came back from the cruiser and gave me back the papers and nothing else a warning. Turns out the RMV backed me up; my renewal was already in the system, and all I was guilty of was not being able to prove that my registration was valid.
So I suppose I can’t grumble so much about the hoops I had to jump through to keep it so.
Now Playing: The Disillusionist from Priest = Aura by The Church
The shorter AOY short list
The IAAF announced today the finalists for the 2007 Athletes of the Year, and both of my picks (Haile Gebrselassie and Meseret Defar) are on the list, as are the two athletes who led the “internet voting” when I cast my vote (Liu Xiang and Blanka Vlasic). We’ll see who their panel of experts selects as AOY.
I was interested to read their explanation of how the six finalists were chosen:
Weighed at 70% the IAAF Family vote consisted in a list of 1320 recipients including IAAF Council Members, IAAF Member Federations Presidents, IAAF Committee Members, IAAF Meeting Directors, Authorised Athletes’ Representatives, IAAF Staff Members and selected members of the International Press.
So, assuming all 1320 of us voted for both men and women, my vote counted for approximately .05% of the overall selection.
As part of the Online Public Vote which weighed at 30% of the overall standings, the IAAF received a total of 165,616 votes (112,571 for the men and 53,045 for the women).
This is interesting for two reasons. First, more than twice as many votes for men as for women, suggesting that people care more about the men’s events. I suppose this is understandable given that the raw numbers are more exciting (e.g. faster times) but the competition is sometimes more interesting on the women’s side—see the pole vault, for example.
Second, doing the same math as above, an internet vote for the women counted for .0005% of the total (100 internet votes would be roughly equal to one “IAAF Family” vote) and for the men, .0002% (somewhat more than 200 internet votes to equal one “IAAF Family” vote.) Lesson: if you want your vote to make a difference, follow women’s athletics!
November 4, 2007
The majors may be over
When Gete Wami announced that she’d run in New York, a few months ago, I posted a summary of what Jelena Prokupcuka would have to do to take the World Marathon Majors prize away from Wami. (In summary: Prokupcuka needs to beat Wami, with details.)
But right now, Wami is chasing Paula Radcliffe, who is apparently planning on lowering the course record. (At very least, she’s running very, very hard.) Wami, on five weeks rest, therefore has over two minutes’ lead on Prokupcuka. That’s not an insurmountable lead—when you crash, in a marathon, you can fall back very, very quickly—but it certainly makes life difficult for Prokupcuka.
Complicating Prokupcuka’s chances it the fact that this women’s field is not exceptionally deep. Even if Wami falls back, Prokupcuka needs to finish at least third and have Wami at least two places behind her (unless Radcliffe also fades and Prokupcuka can contend for the win.) There may simply not be enough women running fast enough to finish between the Majors contenders, even if Wami fades into the 2:35 range.
No words for it
When I first heard, I wanted to say something to someone, but I didn’t know who, or what. We’ve talked a lot, in the last day or so, about odds; how, among the hundreds of thousands of people who run marathons every year, there’s bound to be a fatality or two during the races. We don’t talk about how it’s not usually somebody whose name you know, someone you may have talked to once or twice in the course of his career. For the other finishers, someone they’d trained with, shared coaches with, raced dozens of times. They (we) knew his brother(s), his wife, his coaches.
We all want to say something, but we really don’t know what to say.
November 2, 2007
Sometime in the last week, Gmail stopped picking up any email sent to my various addresses at this domain. If you’ve emailed me here, and I haven’t responded, that’s why.
(This is also why I wasn’t a respondent to this survey.)
Now Playing: Everything Must Go from Left and Leaving by The Weakerthans
Technorati Tags: email
The Canadian music mafia
Let me trace this one back.
- Sarah Harmer plugs the Weakerthans at a show. She sings on a few tracks from their album Reconstruction Site.
- Kathleen Edwards brings Jim Bryson on as part of her band when I saw her. One of his songs is on her album Back to Me.
- Jim Bryson is touring with the Weakerthans, who I saw tonight (er, last night) at the Paradise.
I am now convinced there are only two or three bands in Canada, and the same eight or ten session musicians rotate between them all. (Both Bryson and Harmer have toured with Josh Ritter, too. Is Idaho in Canada yet?)
I’ll let you figure out what the Weakerthans are all about; there are some representative songs on their site. They’re earnest and energetic, loud music and soft singing, lots of poignancy and no irony unless they’re being earnest about it. If there’s a good side to living in a major metropolitan area, it’s that I could say which show I was seeing to half a dozen people throughout the day and not one of them had heard of the band before, and yet the show was sold out. A big room full of music geeks like me out to see a bunch of Canadians who look (and sometimes sound) like they woke up about ten minutes before coming on stage play songs with titles like “Psalm for the Elks Lodge Last Call” or “This Is A Fire Door Never Leave Open.”
The stage show is sort of like a cross between They Might Be Giants and the Replacements as played by Aerosmith (and they did play the Mats’ “Swinging Party,” which Bryson has also been known to play in live shows,) and John K. Sampson pretty much smiles through the whole thing, like he’s alternately bemused or overwhelmed by his own good luck.
The drawback to the fanatical crowd was that this kind of band draws just enough of the fans who have memorized every song, and don’t just sing along, but yell along, and apparently are utterly tone-deaf but don’t realize it. That guy was standing right behind me, I think.
Bryson played a short opening set, and I was surprised how many of his songs I recognized—“Feel Much Better” was in the SXSW 2005 Torrent, and Kathleen Edwards recorded his “Somewhere Else”—and then The Last Town Chorus played a set as well. (“The Wire Waltz” was also in that SXSW torrent.) I’ve been reading their travelogue for a little while now, and it’s kind of fun. She snapped a shot of a woman in the back, towards the end of her set, and said, “That will be on the Internet in twenty minutes.”
Now Playing: Our Retired Explorer (Dines With Michel Foucault In Paris, 1961) from Reconstruction Site by The Weakerthans