August 31, 2006

I believe … I have found my new career (Ben Harper concert review)

Filed under: My Previous Blog Archives — HighStakesBlog @ 10:29 am

I have found my new career.

As some of you know, my beautiful wife and I attended the Ben Harper concert here in Columbus last night.  The opening act was Bob Marley’s youngest son, Damian “Junior Gong” Marley.  He wasn’t bad…certainly had a lot of energy.  Sort of surprising considering the lethargic tendencies, bloodshot eyes and periodic White Castle runs of many of his fans.

But what fascinated me was this one gentleman on stage with Junior Gong.  This man was clearly in the band.  He was clearly a revered member of the band.  And yet, he didn’t sing.  He didn’t have an instrument (aside from the lone maraca held in one hand that NEVER moved).  No, he bounced from foot to foot waving the Jamaican flag.  That’s it.  Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes right-handed.  Sometimes left-handed.  But for the almost 1.5 hour set, that was his lone responsibility.  I couldn’t help but think back to the try-out process.  I want to be that man.

But I digress.  Ben Harper.  It came to my attention that many don’t know Ben Harper.  Sad.  A truly talented musician, songwriter and performer…can be found here. Beyond that, I believe he is married to Laura Dern.  Man was she hot at one time.  Sadly though, as my wife aptly put it, “She looks ridden hard and put away wet.”   To anyone that saw Wild at Heart, you know that’s possible.

Last night, Laura Dern’s husband (aka Ben Harper) played to a crowd who treated him like the titles of one of my favorite songs of his, “Beloved One.”  His main set switched back and forth from slower, more introspective songs (With My Own Two Hands, Take My Hand) to louder, more rock-like songs (Both Sides of the Gun)…but regardless, it truly showed the perfection with which he and his band play the guitar.  Ben is the best I’ve ever heard with a slide guitar.  Blows your mind.

His encore, as per usual, was just him, a mic and an acoustic guitar.  Brilliant.  Sadly, the effectiveness was lost on many of the 22-25 year-olds who didn’t know this is where he started and may or may not even know his fantastic debut album.

Unfortunately though, what my wife and I left with was discouragement and annoyance.  Not with Ben Harper, not with Marley, not with that darling man with the Jamaican flag…no, with Harper’s song Black Rain.

For those of you who don’t know, look up the lyrics.  It’s about Hurricane Katrina and bashing the government’s response.  Last time I checked, Harper was from California.  I know he has always been a socially conscious performer, but unlike actual ACTIVISTS like Harry Connick and to a lesser extent Marc Broussard, Harper has not (to my knowledge) lifted a finger for the displaced refugees or people of New Orleans.

I understand that artists have a responsibility to give voice and focus to what the country is feeling.  Some of my favorite songs hail from the 60s…where would American culture have been without this musical outlet?  But what gives people like Kanye West the right to say “George Bush hates black people.”  And more importantly, why do we listen and why do we care?

Is this just me?  Maybe some of you consider Black Rain a rallying cry/anthem and praise Harper for speaking out.  And stood up and urged Kanye on during his ridiculous statement.  I am interested.  Where/when do you feel artists should comment on social issues they may or may not have any actual involvement in?  And beyond that, anyone looking for a guy to wave a flag?  Lauri?  Does Brother Tucker need someone to wave Ohio’s standard?  I’m your man.


August 26, 2006

I believe … fall is vastly underrated

Filed under: My Previous Blog Archives — HighStakesBlog @ 10:24 am

You can take your summer and shove it. Spring? There is just no manly way to carry an umbrella. It doesn’t exist. I hate spring. And winter? If before you were born, someone said, “Listen, for ¼ of your life, you will not see the sun, every morning you’ll have to scrape ice off of your car using a credit card, you’ll lose half of your wardrobe to salt stains and, oh, the best thing going is hurtling down hills in ridiculous outfits with gigantic sticks on your feet. Wouldn’t everyone north of the Mason-Dixon still be pregnant? Yeah, winter blows too.

But fall. I LOVE fall. I really shouldn’t be this excited about fall. It feels icky. But for the last several weeks I have been sitting in the air conditioning, staring outside, BEGGING for a leaf to fall off of a tree. I feel like writing a poem about fall. Sadly, I cannot write poetry if it doesnt start with “There once was a man from Nantucket” SOOO…I’ll just list the reasons I love fall.

Football in general – FINALLY there will be something to watch on the weekend other than Beverly Hills 90210 re-runs (was there something sexy about Andrea or is that just me?). Okay, realistically, the beauty of football is its not confined to the weekends anymore. Monday Night Football? Check. I love Tony Kornheiser by the way. Great columnist from the Washington Post. Should do very well. Thursday night football? Check. Even my wife will watch hoping for a glimpse of Kirk Herbstreit. I give him 10 years until he’s David Hasselhoff redux. But I digress.

High school football – Stared last weekend. We are so tremendously lucky here in Ohio to have the high school football tradition we do. Friday nights truly are magical. Dreams are made, shattered and fulfilled all under the under-powered lighting of local football fields. And those are just the kids trying to get laid under the bleachers. The football is great too. Is there a better event to go to with your family than a high school football game? If anyone says a Wiggles concert, I will shoot them.

College football – Clearly I am an Ohio State fan and bleed scarlet and gray. But the lesser known gems are the Washington and Jefferson’s and Wittenberg’s of the world. Tremendous football teams, tremendous history and tradition and a fraction of the cost. Oh and they’re on DIII college campuses. Open container laws? Grilling restrictions? We leave that to the big time schools. Of course, theres no “Girls of the NCAC” issue for Playboy. So big schools do have some perks. There are few things that create Goosebumps quicker than hearing an alma mater at a football game. I didn’t even GO to Ohio State and I almost start weeping like Dick Vermeil when I hear those chimes at Buckeye games. Carmen Ohio, oh why are you so good? With the standard caveats (spending time with my wife/daughter, blah blah…sorry honey), is there a better feeling/experience than tailgating? Standing by a Weber, in the jersey of your favorite team, a slight bite in the air, just enough to feel those needle pricks on your skin, throwing a football, talking to random people just because they happen to be parked next to you, drinking something “hoppy” out of a can, joining in a tone-deaf rendition of the fight song…I think I may go home and grill in the middle of the street just for fun.

Pro football – Two words. Fantasy Football.

Start of Network TV Programming – No, there isn’t network TV programming on during the summer. It doesn’t exist. I will not debate this point. I love my wife dearly. And I love our walks in the evening. Every evening. But come on, agree with me here everyone, around 8:00 there’s just nothing more you have to say to each other. In the summer, you have to pretend…sitting out on the porch, saying how lovely it is. When in the back of your mind, you’re really thinking, “I may go inside and watch re-runs of My Name is Earl, I need to remember the plot line for next season.” Am I the only one geeked for the new Studio 60 show? And the return of Weeds on Showtime. Classic television.

Fall Festivals – Those of you not from Ohio probably haven’t had the pleasure of attending the Circleville Pumpkin Festival. Look it up. It’s huge. Something about wearing a long sleeve shirt and buying a cup of hot chocolate that makes those festivals enjoyable. In the summer, I would rather lose a finger. But in the fall? Priceless. And seriously, can anything where they sell pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin chili, pumpkin tofu, pumpkin sushi really be bad?

I stop sweating – Since I work with some of you and innocently flirt with others of you, Ill leave out the details of this one. Trust me. It’s a good thing.

The Little Brown Jug – I will probably lose many of you here, but it’s a tradition in my family. For those of you who dont know, this is a horse race in Delaware, Ohio that attracts almost 70,000 people. It’s like the worlds largest truck stop wet t-shirt contest. Its the Kentucky Derby…but without the pompous and ostentatious displays of money. And the godforsaken hats. At the Jug, everyone is friendly and just there to have a good time. The horse racing is fantastic, but really it’s the whole experience from fried tenderloin sandwiches to lawn chairs tied to the fence to save seats that make it memorable. Just trust me. Everyone should go once. I am NOT in danger of getting a job offer from their PR department anytime soon, eh?

Knee-length skirts and knee-high boots – There may not be a more welcome fashion trend in the past 50 years. You may have to go back to cleavage-forcing corsets in Europe. I’ll look into this.

Apple Cider – Warm. Cold. Who gives a crap? When I see the first gallon in the grocery store each year, I yelp. Really. Yelping. Not pretty.

Jumping into leaves – Aside from the rare amputee due to a hidden object, is there anyone who doesnt get giddy when thinking about jumping into a pile of leaves? I think not.

Okay…that’s enough for now. I welcome additions to this list. In the meantime, I’m going to go back to searching Ohio State tribute videos on youtube and pretending this half-caf, skim, moosed turtle mocha from Caribou is actually apple cider.

August 16, 2006

I believe … the Wiggles are a sign of the apocalypse

Filed under: My Previous Blog Archives — HighStakesBlog @ 10:20 am

When you’re about to become a parent, people tell you repeatedly about their own experiences with children and with how exciting certain milestones are. They talk about crawling, walking, first words, first time sleeping through the night. But there are also important, life-changing milestones that people NEVER talk about, milestones that parents reach. A few examples: the first time you call YOURSELF mom/dad, the first time you wake up in the morning, turn on the TV and realize the LAST thing you watched was not Sportscenter, not some god awful reality show, nope, it was the Disney Channel, the first time your spouse and child go away for the weekend and you are so excited, sleep in, wake up and promptly realize you have NO idea what you used to do before you were a parent.

All valid examples and ones that non-parents probably really don’t understand the gravity of. I reached another one last night. We took our daughter to a Wiggles concert. For those of you not familiar with the Wiggles, please feel free to look them up here: http://www.thewiggles.com.au/. To give you a quick description though, they are this generation’s Barney. Read: the most unbelievably annoying program that entrances children of all ages and causes parents to contemplate suicide, but ultimately cause them to also fall under the spell and buy-in to this crap.

To me, the Wiggles are a TV show, a TV show that entertains my daughter in the morning while were getting ready. It never occurred to me that there would be concerts. Concerts are for major music stars like Dave Matthews and American Idol fifth place finishers. Not ridiculous TV characters. Heh heh. Stupid dad. So when tickets went on sale for a concert within two weeks of my daughters birthday, it was a foregone conclusion that I would shell out well over $100 for this experience.

My first inkling of the absurdity I was taking part in was when my wife began scouring e-bay and calling in favors from her contacts in the city to get us on the floor. Now understand, we are like five rows back from the floor. But clearly being ON the floor was important enough to collect old debts. As the day approached, it was like boot camp. My wife insisted we watch over and over again until songs like Fruit Salad and Rock-a-bye Bear were not merely songs, but became mantras that somehow found their way into daily life. “So its like they say in Fruit Salad, ‘the first step, peel your bananas’.” Yikes.

The day finally came and we had our plans all set. I left work early, joined my wife and daughter over at the arena and chaos ensued. It seemed EVERY human who has ever had a child in the last six years was in attendance. I am officially changing the phrase, “I was sweating like a pedophile in a Toys R US” to “Sweating like a pedophile at a Wiggles concert.” It was that serious.

Before we even entered the arena, we were bombarded with the hawkers. People selling cotton candy, light up trinkets that someone in Bangladesh made for 5 cents were going for $10, even ticket scalpers. Seriously? Scalpers. People must need those floor seats. Once inside, the scene was vomit-inducing. There were two distinct groups. Wiggle veterans and Wiggle newbies. The veterans were easy to spot. Their children were uniformly decked out like a Wiggle character (Dorothy the Dinosaur, Captain Feathersword…kill me). But what really gave them away were the roses. Apparently in this Cult of the Wiggles, EVERYONE knows that Dorothy the Dinosaur loves roses. So you have to bring one to the concert. Good God.

So those were the veterans. The newbies? They were easy to spot because they were in line. LONG lines. Not for food or beer…nope…for merchandise. And while in those long lines, their eyes reflected abject terror. Terror that the trinket of choice would be sold out. Terror that the t-shirt of choice would be sold out and they would suddenly be selling the apparel to their child as a sleep shirt. Terror that if they DIDN’T buy their child something it was akin to everyone lining up for vaccinations while they stood on a street corner BEGGING for their child to contract Polio.

As I belly laughed at those fools, I turned to my wife to have her join in my public disdain for these lemmings. She was in line. That didn’t take long. At that point, the decision began. What to buy my 2-year-old daughter that really cant distinguish between any of the crap anyway. Hmmm…$8 mylar balloon? $7 6 oz. cup? $15 light-up wiggles car wand? Or my personal favorite, the $15 feather sword, which was clearly a featherduster glued to a stick. After much debate, we settled on the light-up car.

We found our seats and I was aghast at the display. (aghast at everything that is except the never-ending MILF parade…but I digress) Parents and children were running around with toys, hats, t-shirts, holding signs, roses and gifts for the Wiggles. I imagined it similar to a Papal visit. Then it struck me. THIS is why everyone hates the western countries. I cant see Iraqis filling a soccer stadium to watch the Wiggles. It just wouldn’t happen. They’re too busying trying to, well, not die. We’re so busy protecting airlines and sporting events…if I were a terrorist, I would be targeting the Wiggles. This concert is the epitome of Western greed.

I won’t bore you with the details of the actual concert. And my daughter couldn’t give you any details of the concert since she spent the whole thing SCARED and burying her head in my chest. Regardless, the concert was really the secondary entertainment though. It was the parents that were worth the price of admission and not just the MILFs. Educated adults were turned into pre-schoolers. Dancing, singing, positioning their kids just right so that they could wave to Henry the Octopus. If I was that malicious, I could have ruined the professional lives of countless Columbus executives with video blackmail. Finally, at one point, I noticed people begin filing out. I thought they at least had come to their senses. Nope. I quickly realized they were stampeding their children down onto the floor to get their pictures taken with a Wiggle. Oh sweet Jesus.

Thankfully it lasted a little over 1.5 hours and I was home and entered into a poker tournament by 9. All was right with the world. That is, until I began humming “Fruit Salad…yummy, yummy.” I don’t deserve to live.

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