Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Day at the Beach with President Garfield

Yesterday was one of those days I should have more often. Visiting a friend, exercise, walking on the boardwalk, historic sites. Of course, today I'm sunburnt, sore, and bitching about bits of bike seat still stuck in my butt. 

Bru invited me out to Long Branch for a day of bike riding, crazy dogs, and Jersey shore adventure, and I took her up on it. Before I went down, Mr. Higgy-Piggie ask me when was the last time I rode a bike. Had it been that long? He pointed out that he never saw me ride a bike and he's known me for about 14 years. And it's not like I was this bike-riding fool before I met him. Luckily, riding a bike is, well, like riding a bike. Not saying that I didn't almost run Bru down a couple of times.

After living around in the Philadelphia area for over 20 years, it still amazes me how quickly you can be at the ocean. The ocean! With a boardwalk and everything! Bru keeps explaining to me that this is why she lives in Long Branch, as if I need convincing. So very nice. And it was really beautiful yesterday. Almost too nice, which is why we both have sunburns.

We did a lot of bike riding. Okay, it was a lot for me, being the out-of-shape wimp I am. Poor Bru, had to listen to my whining. But we saw it all: the ocean; pretty, rich-people houses; Garfield statue; the Church of the Presidents; Asbury Park (for rock 'n roll cred). 

It was just nice to hang out in a beautiful, interesting place. Although I'm bitching about it today, it's kind of great to be sore from so much exercise. 

A good day is going bike riding with a friend. A good day is seeing the ocean. A good day is dorking out by a Garfield statue. A really good day is free dessert. A great day is having all of that in one day!

And, despite what she says, Bru's dogs aren't that crazy.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

More about the Olympics

About 15 or so years back, "Sports Illustrated" did one of those super-huge stories on what it takes to be a world class athlete. There was a lot about the drug abuse, but they also discussed the abuse on the bodies, the sacrifices (moving to be by world-class coaches, that sort of thing), the limits of the career even if you get to a certain level (short careers, little recognition for a lot of the sports, etc.), and how this was across most sports. And as I read this, it occurred to me that you would have to be bat-shit crazy to be a world class athlete. 

As someone who loves to watch sports, this article was unfortunate, as it has colored my view every since. It is especially true when I watch the Olympics, as, for a lot of these sports, this is the big spotlight. Think about it: those divers work just as hard (harder?) than the baseball players we heard about all the time. But the divers get that once-every-four-years shot (and what about the folks who don't even make the team!) Even if they medal -- has anyone really thought about Laura Wilkinson in an off-year? Yeah, love of the sport, blah, blah, fine, I'll accept that. But that doesn't mean it can't bother me a little.

For me, this Olympics has had a lot of the things that are wrong with sports, which is sort of the opposite of what it's supposed to be about. The craziness over age, dropped batons, stepping out of bounds, it's been about the details, not about the sports. I'm watching because I feel I should, not because I want to. 

There's been some cool things: Dara Torres, the water polo team, Usain Bolt, but not enough. Maybe it's the coverage -- not enough live events, not enough of the less common events, Bob Costas (he just seems grumpy and tired and bored), but something is missing. I miss the Olympics of my youth. Or, more likely, I miss watching the Olympics without knowing all the nonsense that goes on behind the scenes.

But, seriously, who is watching all the volleyball?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Thoughts on The Olympics

Ever since I was a kid I've been obsessed with The Olympics. Just insane over the whole thing. Rushing out to buy the "Sport Illustrated" preview issues so I knew who to keep my eye on, that kind of thing. But it's just not doing it for me anymore. I'm not sure why, but I've got a number of theories. Anyway, here's a few thoughts on what's happened so far:

Age things: First off, can there be a real conclusion about the ages of the girls on the Chinese gymnastics team. Aren't there some pictures? Look, she's celebrating her 8th birthday and it's the new millennium! (He's birthday is January 1st, according to the official record.) Do you remember that Romanian gymnast who got her gold medal taken away because she took some cold medicine? Hey officials, this is a bigger deal. There seems to be some convincing evidence that some of these girls are 14, and none that they are 16, besides those passports.

Speaking of age, how 'bout that old bag Dara Torres? I'm surprised she can even make it to the pool to practice!

Ugly American: Am I the only one who thinks that the announcers are trying too hard to make China seem just wonderful? I'm not saying it should be a bash-fest, but aren't there some issues here? When they interviewed the female diver (Jingjing?), she said how much she hated it and how she was afraid to dive when she first started. Could we point out that this might be a bad thing? When these little kids are taken away from their families so that they can learn tumbling, I'm not thinking, "Oh, how cute!" When racers bike past Tiananmen Square, shouldn't we all be reminded of more than its "beauty"? 

I am over beach volleyball. Especially during primetime.

Usian Bolt may be Superman. He ran that final like it was a qualifying race and still kicked everyone's ass.

Yeah, I watch the marathon. I actually look forward to watching it, so stop interrupting me, Bob Costas.

Why does my HD Olympic station show so much boxing? 

More handball, please. It's what soccer would be if soccer were awesome. 

Friday, August 15, 2008

iTunes store

Since I am old and don't listen to the radio much, I need new ways to discover new music. This is one of the reasons I started to play with Pandora, but that has been a disappointment, as I have already mentioned. Before I was playing with Pandora, I had tiny, tiny hopes for assistance from places like amazon and the iTunes store. Yeah, that didn't work so well.

Oh, iTunes store, do not judge me based on what I buy from you. The first song I bought was "Romeo's Tune" (shout out to Brunella!) and most of my purchases have been, well, impulsive. "The Groove Is in the Heart", oh yeah! The Darkness? Hell, yeah! Buying a handful of Christina Aguilara songs is cheaper than buying the whole greatest hits album, so I grab those (no, I won't tell you which ones.) There are some real embarrassments on the list (even than "What a Girl Wants" -- shut up!), but, at 99 cents a pop, who cares? 

However, this means that the music they recommend for me is just random and a bit scary. I try to modify the suggestions by rating other things and telling the store what I already own, but the crazy remains. Right now it is recommending Jimmy Buffett, "Still the One", and Brandy. Oh my. And no. Just no.

Oh, look! It just recommended "Jesus Christ Superstar"! Maybe there is hope after all...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Thoughts on Pandora

Lately I've been playing with Pandora and I'm trying to decide if I like it. I like the idea of its potential to expand my musical horizons. I like that it's free. I like that you can update your preferences, etc. But I am finding it limited.

I haven't really listened to it very much (probably a total of less than 10 hours) and the number of repeated songs I have had is higher than I would like. "Imagine" has come up a couple of times and, although I like it, there are so many other John Lennon songs out there. "Imagine" illustrates another point: Pandora doesn't seem to dig too deep into the catalog, which doesn't really help you discovery new music. If I check that I like "Imagine", shouldn't Pandora play something a little less common? Play "Jealous Guy", see if I like that as well, and then keep going further. I'm also wishing there was a better rating system. Thumbs up or down is not enough. There are a lot of songs I like okay, which I may throw a "thumbs up" at, but if it's something I really love (or really hate), shouldn't that affect things more? Once again, I like "Imagine" but we've all heard it a million times. I really love "Nobody Loves You when You're Down and Out", but all I can do is give it the same rating as I gave "Imagine."

There seems to be a love for live versions of songs, which, bleh! Sure, once in a while live versions are cool, but there's usually a reason a band has spent months in a studio recording an album. And because of the limits of the rating system, I don't want to hand out a "thumbs down" just because it's live. The other day it played a live version of "Badge". I like Cream, I like the song, didn't like it live. I want to hear more Cream, so I give it a "thumbs up" but now am I going to get more live stuff?

I'm trying to give it more time, but the repeating thing is getting to me. Right now, it's playing "Rebel, Rebel" again. I know that Bowie is a one-hit wonder and all...Grrrrr.

So, a blog and Pandora. Am I the coolest girl in 2003 or what?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Music for Old People

As promised, here's the rundown from The Police concert. Now, people my age want to think that The Police and Elvis Costello are so hip, but, let's be honest, we're all older now, and this was an old-people concert. If you doubt it, let's note that the ticket said that the concert was to start at 7:30, and, at 7:28, the lights were out and Elvis was on stage. We are old and do not have time to waste!

I've already told you a bit about Elvis, and I really did enjoy his set. The mix was a bit off (too bass-y, as these things tend to go). He mostly did the "hits" ("Watching the Detective", "Radio, Radio", etc.), which is fine and appropriate given the audience. I can't help but feel that if we went to one of his concerts where he was the headliner and he wasn't playing to Police fans, he would've dug a bit deeper into the catalog. I loved the arrangement of "Everyday I Write the Book". He did "Alison", which I always find a bit boring, but Sting came out to sing it with him. The way Sting was singing along, like he was a huge fan and he won some awesome contest: "I get to sing on-stage with Elvis Costello!" And, ha! to all you jerks who came late because they only wanted to see The Police.

I still can't get over how much Elvis wants us all to sing along. He did this last time I went to see him (18 years ago! Good God, I am old.) We were all listening politely, because I paid to hear an Elvis Costello concert, not to hear the jerk next to me singing the wrong words to "Accidents Will Happen." But he still yelled at us for not singing. 

Okay, now to the headliners. Let's just say I could watch Stewart Copeland play the drums for 24-hours a day and not get sick of it. And when he stepped away from the kit to play other percussion (for "Wrapped around your Finger", etc.), so very awesome. Now, here's the weird thing I noticed. About mid-way through the set, it occurred to me that no one member was leading them. It was three guys, each playing their part (quite well, I must add), but they were so tight, they didn't need one of them to lead. They each had a part of the stage, and I just don't think they could see each other, but they were totally together. There were a few bits where they had to move closer together, which just proves the point that they probably couldn't see each other. Well, I was impressed.

And we were on the road by 10:30. Old people -- we've got to get our sleep; we have jobs, you know.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Why being a girl sucks

I really know virtually nothing about her, but I do have something to say about Miley Cyrus. Well, not her exactly, but reaction to her. Last week, I'm buying the "TV Guide" with Miley on the cover (for my 9-year-old niece. Really!) As I go through the checkout, the (older generation female) cashier looks at the cover and says, "I don't understand why she's so popular -- I don't think she's that cute." Now, I have no problem with someone questioning her talent, but why does she have to be cute to be popular? And then, that night, my mom said the same thing! Mom! Well, at least I could give my mom a hard time.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Too shy, shy

So, how do you tell people you have a blog? I don't know, it seems a bit vain. "Hey, read my opinion -- it's so very awesome." I'm not sure of the reaction: "um, okay?" I think my generation is a bit more private than these kids today. Of course, I read a few blogs by people I don't even know. (In fact, I don't read anything by people I have actually met. I have to wonder if any of my friends have a secret blog.) (Now I'm imagining the conversation when we all reveal our secret blogs...)

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Poor Elvis

So, last week Mr. HP and I went to see The Police with special opening act the awesome and fabulous Elvis Costello. I'll write later about The Police and other thoughts about the concert in general, but let's talk Elvis. 

I absolutely love me some Elvis. Having Elvis on the bill was what pushed me over the edge to get the tickets (or, more specifically, forced Mr. HP to buy the tickets.) However, I knew there would be drawbacks to having Elvis as an opening act. First, most folks in the audience are there to see The Police. Sadly, there was a certain amount of "who's the dude?" from the people who bothered to show up on time. Second, Elvis needs hours to get through a fraction of his material, not the 45 minutes or so usually allowed for an opening act. Plus, he's promoting a new album. But he's still Elvis.

Before we go further, yes, he was great. But there was a moment... I've seen Elvis before. He really likes it when the crowd sings along (which, frankly, I find a bit weird. I was there to hear him, not us.) As I mentioned above, most of the crowd wasn't really into the Elvis scene, but he clearly wants us to sing along to this next song he's rockin'. So here's what he picks: "Head to Toe." Really?! Sure, I love it, but it's not even a "hit" -- Mr. HP had never even heard of it and he's at least a kind-of fan. And then Elvis screwed up the words. Oh, Elvis.

Still love him. Still would see him in concert any day of the week.