Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Coolest Thing on the Internet

This is the coolest video on ye merrye olde interweb. 

I should know, because I have searched high & low.   Some would call it surfing, wasting time even.  I call it research.  It wasn't easy.  There is a lot of Bieber and Gaga taking up space out there.

But I fought through the nonsense, the ridiculous, the novices and the pretenders. And from the toils of my strenuous labor, here is the fruit.
And this is it.  FIN.  The End.  You can stop here.  I saved everyone a lot of time.  You can thank me later.

Through the magic of YouTube, here is Austinite Gary Clark, Jr. performing his song "Bright Lights" at the Crossroads Blues Festival in Chicago 2010.  Sit back, and crank up that volume.  Loud.

I know... Brilliant, Wunderbar, C'est Magnifique, etc.  Any language you want.  Gary Clark Jr is badass.  Watch it 20 times and you will notice something every time.  And you will fall in love.

He is playing the Belmont in Dallas in August 2012.  The show sold out in three minutes.  He is that good.  You are going to know his name by the end of the night.  Oh yeah.

He is destined to join and surpass such Texas blues guitar greats as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Freddie King, Albert Collins and Blind Lemon Jefferson.  And Leadbelly.  And T-Bone Walker.

And look for his acoustic stuff where he sounds better than Marvin Gaye.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fort Worth Botanical Gardens

A few weeks back before the weather turned too hot, we took a spin south to Fort Worth and spent a couple of very enjoyable hours at the Botanical Gardens.  Spring had sprung and everything was blooming great.  We started out with brunch at their restaurant and it was excellent.  There was a birthday party in session for a fine young man celebrating his 102nd year.  The things he has seen...  My friend Ray's mother is 103.  She lives in Kanas but I told Ray if ever she needs a date I have a young 102 year old in Fort Worth who is fit & able.
The gardens are beautifully cultivated and feature a rose garden, a Japanese garden, and more flowers, shrubs and trees than you can imagine exist. We really enjoyed strolling around taking in the sights and scents in a quiet corner of FW.
A well stocked Koi pond.  Sushi anyone?
The Japenese Garden

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I Got A Star On My Car...

... and one under my foot.  Not since T.O. spiked the ball at midfield in the old Cowboys Stadium has such talent graced the "Star".  Jerry wanted to sign me but I am holding out for better offers.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Concert Review: Rammstein

The show by which all future concerts will be measured.  The motto "Other bands play, Rammstein burns" is so apt.  Indoor fireworks are one thing; fireworks ignited by some sort of crossbow contraption aimed over the audience is another.  Still not sure how they get the Fire Marshall to sign off on the whole spectacle.  And how none of the band members have been immolated is unclear.  The show is like pantomime with and crazed edge, sort of WWF meets NASCAR.  You know its an act but you cannot look away, waiting for spectacular implosion and ensuing carnage.

Let Me Stand Next To Your Fire
PHOTO BY GROOVEHOUSE, Courtesy Houston Press
Flames that were felt in Row Z.  Flames that were in the wings, flames behind the drummer, flames that shot 30 feet in the air, flames that band members blew through some crazy fire-breathing contraption that Godzilla would envy.  Flame throwers.  Flames under the giant kettle-pot that contained keyboardist "Flake" Lorenz as lead singer Till Lindemann tried to cook him (loosely based on a real-life German cannibal...).

The Grand Entrance
A definite WWF moment, the band members enter mid-stadium to a slow anthem, climb up to a sort of large podium and then make their way along a narrow catwalk above the audience to the main stage.  One guy had a Texas flag, another a Rammstein flag, another a torch.  It was quite a beginning.  "Never in my 23 years critiquing concerts have I seen such an elaborate entrance. Never in my 23 years critiquing music have I seen a show like Rammstein’s" - Mario Tarradell, Dallas Morning News

The Music
Relentless pounding. No song introductions, just ripping from one to the next.  Played for almost two hours, belting out the favorites like "Du Hast", "Feuer Frei", "Ich Will" " “Mein Herz Brennt", "Engel", "Amerika" and so on... Disappointed we did not get treated to "Zwitter"...  Much moshing, although the American Airlines Center was far from sold out.  Apparently there was a significantly better attendance at the San Antonio and Houston shows.  Sound was very good.  Those not chanting along were dazed.

"Flake" dinghy surfing was cool, as were the huge angel wings during Engel - fitted with tips that spewed flames of course.  Over the top moments: the reverse crawl along the catwalk to the small stage in the middle of the floor... and the giant phallic thing that Lindemann rode and spewed foam over the crowd.

The Critics
"I could write three more pages full of words aimed at retelling all that happened during that performance, but this Rammstein show defies mere descriptions. It really was one of those you-had-to-be-there events. I’ll be processing it for several days."  - Mario Tarradell, Dallas Morning News

"In the world of pulsating metal, Rammstein's has no peers. Not even the mighty Slayer, in its glorious days in the mid to late '80s, could match this German outfit's intensity" - David Huff, Jam Magazine

"While their show is heavy on spectacle, it's worth mentioning that Rammstein is actually pretty talented when it comes to writing catchy metal songs. Their music meets nicely in the middle of a spectrum that features Metallica on one end and Depeche Mode on the other."  - Cory Garcia, Houston Press.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Book Review: Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air published in 1997 is Jon Krakauer's account of the ill-fated attempts on Mount Everest in 1996.  Krakauer, already an accomplished climber and author (Into The Wild) was given an assignment by Outside magazine to join one of the teams making the ascent in May.

The experts say that even at 29,028 feet, Everest is not the most challenging mountain in terms of actual climbing skill.  What it lacks in difficulty, it makes up for in frequent gales,white-outs, numbing cold (leading to frostbite) and worst of all, lack of oxygen.  After reading the book, you ask "Why?" The age old answer is "because it is there".  However, given the number of times it has been conquered, how unique is the feat and is it really worth it?  Most of those that make it to the top these days are not battle tested climbers, rather they are passably fit and more importantly can afford the $60,000 or so to pay professionals to, in some cases, literally drag them to the summit.

And therein lies the risks.  The professional climbers are paid handsomely but sometimes take extraordinary risks in getting their client a successful ascent. Others take the money put out a sub-par effort - just as bad. When Krakauer went up in May 1996, he was in a party led by New Zealander Rob Hall, a 35 year old who had scaled Everest four times previously.  Hall perished on that expedition, leaving behind a wife and child.  His troupe of weekend (weakened?) tourists clad in the latest North Face gear cost him his life.

Granted the 1996 climbing season was short, therefore jammed with climbers and beset by weather that turned bad very quickly.  Five died on and around May 10, 1996.  In all, fifteen people died on Everest that year.  They casualties seem to fall into two groups: the driven professional climber and the self-centered moneyed type.  Not a good combination.  The book gives a good account of the build-up, the effects of low oxygen, intestinal issues, the garbage at the base camps and of course, the Sherpas.  One of may favorite passages described a climber who after reaching the summit, could only last a minute or so and snapped a few pictures.  Cold and disoriented, the climber began their descent but perhaps hallucinogenic from lack of oxygen, began to descend down the wrong way - into China rather than Nepal.  He was saved from certain death by a Sherpa who spun him around and pointed him towards Nepal.

Into Thin Air is a very good read.