Monday, July 30, 2007

Encore Performance

Keeping with the concert theme I’ve been on lately, I realized something at my recent Police concert. While this was the first time I had seen The Police, it was my third concert seeing Sting. The first time was right after he started his solo career about 1987. He played the SunDome in Tampa and did a mix of Police and solo material. Near the end of the show, he stopped and disingenuously asked for requests. The crowd chanted “Roxanne! ROXANNE!” He paused and said “Twenty years from now, I’m going to come back to Tampa a old tired man and you people will still be screaming for Roxanne.” More prophetic and ironic words have never been spoken.

That made me think back on other artists I have seen multiple times and how they have evolved.

Jimmy Buffet (6 times): I first saw the son of a son of a sailor at Six Flags Over Georgia. My future wife was working there and could get passes so we saw a lot of free concerts. We saw him again the next year he came around. The following year, he played Chastain Park in Atlanta which is an experience all to its own. After we moved to Florida a bunch of us at my work bought tickets to see him at the SunDome. We spent all day at work playing Songs You Know By Heart over and over again. By the time of the show we were a bit burnt out, but had a good time nonetheless. Two years later, my folks bought me tickets to see him in St. Petersburg at what is now called Tropicana Field. This domed ballpark seats 30,000 for concerts and Jimmy marveled at all the youngsters in the crowd and professed he never dreamed he would become family entertainment. Perhaps misguided by that statement, when my son was about ten I bought lawn seats for his annual show at Merriweather Post Pavilion. All went well until the lights went down and the drunken sun-baked crowd surged and nearly trampled my family on the beach blanket. We left half way through the show and I haven’t seen him since. Reserved seats sell out instantly and I refuse to brave the Margaritaville lawn again.

Bruce Springsteen (3 times): Bruce and I kept missing each other in the 80s and then he went semi-retired for nearly a decade. I was bummed because his live shows are legendary. When he reformed the E Street Band I vowed to see him at any cost. I camped out and stood in line. My seats were the next to top row at the back of the MCI Center, but I was in the same building as Bruce at last. Two years later when he went on tour for The Rising, I snagged seats for his tenth and final night at Giants Stadium. It just doesn’t get better. Still, I had the bug. I scoured fansites and got two more tickets for his show at FedEx Field in DC. The setlists between the two dates only overlapped about 50% and that show was also great.

U2 (3 times): In 1987, my wife’s office Christmas party was the same night that U2 played the old “Big Sombrero” Tampa Stadium for their Joshua Tree tour. We left early and bundled up for the chilly weather and saw perhaps the best live concert I have ever seen. Nearly fourteen years later, we got tickets for their stop at the Baltimore Arena. Their post-9/11 tribute didn’t leave a dry eye in the house. Lightning had struck twice. We saw them again in Philly for the Vertigo tour. While the show was just as effects packed, they could never approach the power of the earlier two shows.

Melissa Etheridge (3 times): Read this post for more about my love affair with Melissa.

DaVinci’s Notebook (3 times): One Friday night while the family was hanging at BigBoxOfBooks, they had an a cappella group playing in the back. They were really funny and I bought their CD and laughed my ass off. A few years later, they played a show at Centennial Park in Columbia, but said that if you wanted to hear their non-kid-friendly numbers you would have to pay for a nighttime show, so we did. I got tickets to see them at Ram Heads Tavern and when they opened the show with their biggest hit “Enormous Penis” I knew we were into for something different.

Indigo Girls (2 times): I love Emily and Amy's music, but my experience with their live shows has been poor. The first time was at SunFest in West Palm Beach. In order to get good seats, you had to get there really early. By the time they took the stage, my toddler son had gotten super cranky and cried through most of the set. The second time was at Wolf Trap, which, as Claude will attest, is a great place to see performers. However, the night before we had seen Melissa Etheridge in an electrifying solo show at the Warner Theater and The Girls suffered in comparison. My wife rolled her eyes as they swapped out their guitars for banjos and mandolins for every other song. The pacing was so bad, my wife dragged me to the parking lot before the first encore. If I get to see them again, it will be by myself.

Amy Grant (2 times): My wife had heard about Amy while attending a small Baptist college. Since she was playing Six Flags and I got to see it for free, I was game. I liked the music but was puzzled by some of the evangelical related hand waving. A year later she had gotten some crossover success and her show that summer was very different. She wore her famous leopard skin jacket and had cut out her testimonial entirely. Interesting to see how much an artist can change in a year.

The Go-Gos (2 times): Another free Six Flags show, Belinda Carlisle stumbled all over the stage and never let go of her red plastic cup. It wasn’t until I saw Behind The Music years later that I would realize just how trashed she was. A few years back the band got back together to do an oldies tour with the B-52s and Belinda looked sober the whole show.

Eddie Money (2 times): Not something I’m proud of, but I have seen Eddie Money more than once. He was the opening act at the first concert I ever attended. I have it on good authority that Foghat was the headliner, but Eddie is the only part of the show I really remember. In college, my future wife and I went to go see Cindy Lauper. And the opening act was Eddie Money. He had sunk into obscurity and was on the comeback trail. Nobody needs to see a sweaty shortless ex-cop singing twice in one lifetime. To this day, I wince whenever I hear “Two Tickets To Paradise.”

Thanks for indulging my trips down memory lane. Hopefully, I will see a lot more of the good acts again. And I will try to avoid Eddie Money at all costs.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: What’s the favorite act you have seen more than once? Or what has been the most disparate pair of performances you’ve seen by one artist?

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Updated: July 29, 2007

I haven't done any quizzes lately, so in honor of The Simpsons Movie coming out, I give you this oldie but goodie:

You Are Lisa Simpson

A total child prodigy and super genius, you have the mind for world domination.

But you prefer world peace, Buddhism, and tofu dogs.

You will be remembered for: all your academic accomplishments

Your life philosophy: "I refuse to believe that everybody refuses to believe the truth"

Like there was any doubt.

A podcast I listen to (and still haven't won an iPod from yet) had the domain name to and lost it in cybercourt. Click on the attached link to see their version of the movie poster (possibly not safe for work).

I also Simpsonized myself.

I know some of my regular readers have already Simpsonized themselves, so please leave links in the comments.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Tell me which one you think is best. If you don't know what I look like in real life and have a strong stomach, you can use the pictures on this post for reference.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Dino Rocker Roll Call

In my thirty years of concert going, I’ve seen a lot of good acts and plenty of bad ones. One trend I notice accelerating as I grow older is that the bands I go see are getting older too. Rock music is over fifty years old, so it’s only natural that the players as well as the fans age. While rock isn’t dead (despite what I’ve claimed in the past) it sure is ready for AARP membership.

It seems I value experience over promise. One big factor in seeing established artists is that they have a proven track record. An older artist is a known quantity. Newer bands not only don’t have a very deep catalog, you don’t know how well they play live.

My recent Police show made me think back on some of the highlights and lowpoints of the geriatric rockers I have seen. I’ve left out some bands that are still active like U2, Bruce Springsteen, and Sting that are still recording seriously, but they all qualify on some level as well. (Years are approximate. My memory isn’t improving any with age.)

1983 – Simon and Garfunkel. After the success of their Central Park concert, these 60s folkies decided to cash in with a tour. They played a rare date at Grant Field on the Georgia Tech campus. Tickets went for the then unheard of sum of twenty dollars. I think for their latest trip to the cash register, top seats went for over $300. In retrospect, I got a good value. The show itself was spectacular if a little understated. Neither Paul nor Art strayed more than five feet from their mics on opposite sides of the stage all night. But the harmonies were razor sharp and the tunes were all timeless. It was also the first show I ever went to with a serious video screen, even if the clunky 80s technology put the show an hour late.

1988 – Tina Turner. Tina made a great comeback in the 80s and when she played the SunDome in Tampa a bunch of us went to pay our respects. Unfortunately, our seats were obstructed view and I saw little of her above the knees all night. She has great legs, but the lack of visuals ruined the show for me.

1989 – Rolling Stones. The Steel Wheels tour was nominally to support their album of the same name, but only two cuts from that record made the set list, and I doubt anyone can remember what they were. The Stones truly are one of the greatest bands in rock history and they put on a great stage show. Not afraid to dip into some of their more obscure stuff, numbers like “2000 Light Years from Home” really lit up the night. The Glimmer Twins may be old, but they know how to bring the magic.

1994 – The Eagles. Previously, the last time The Eagles played Florida it was in 1979 at Tampa Stadium and I envied all the older high school kids that went. The Hell Freezes Over Tour was a clearly a soak-the-fans attempt and ticket prices reflected it. This tour began the current wave of monster reunion shows aimed at fat walleted baby boomers. I was undeterred. The wife and I drove to Orlando and back from West Palm Beach and were not disappointed. Their part of the show lasted nearly three hours and included a lot of solo material. I would have wanted to been in on the negotiations where Joe Walsh demanded as many songs as Don Henley.

2001 – Elton John. Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia can’t compete with the larger Nissan Pavilion for the hot tours, which leaves it booking a lot of bands either on the way up or the way down. I remember from my younger days Elton playing arenas and stadiums at will. To see him at an outdoor amphitheater is a great bargain. Elton himself was a little lackluster, but with his catalog, who can complain. The band he was touring with was outstanding. The drummer in particular was an older bald dynamo that stole the stage during much of the show.

2002 – Rod Stewart. Another giant from my youth, Rod the God has lived the history of rock. This tour for no reason in particular (except maybe for child support money) was before he turned himself into a big band artist. He played all his solo hits and a lot of numbers from earlier groups he was in like Jeff Beck and The Faces. He even gave some self-deprecating stage patter about his early days. I was reluctant to even go to the show, but the price for lawn seats was right, and I am glad I did.

2003 – B-52s, Go-Gos, Psychedelic Furs. Strictly a nostalgia show, this tour brought back a lot of 80s memories. Like any out-of-touch dad, I dragged my pre-teen son to the concert to expose him to how good music was made back in the day.

2004 – Joan Jett.
Not all past-their-prime rockers get to play stadiums or even amphitheaters. Joan was playing the DC National Barbeque Contest on Pennsylvania Avenue. I timed our trip to catch her show, the closing act of the afternoon on the Target Entertainment Stage. She played like rock was all she ever lived for. And it showed.

2006 – Crystal Gayle. The Rams Head in Annapolis is the greatest place to see music. I had had a crush on Crystal and her knee length hair for nearly thirty years. She isn’t the scrawny thing she once was, but she still has the hair and the pipes. Older dosn't always mean worse.

In the end, it is all about the music. Good musicians should play for as long as they can. Because there will always people that want to hear them. I will rock until I am old and gray. The musicians I like already are.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: What’s the most over-the-hill artist you have seen?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Comment Casting Couch

When I first wrote my Teenage Girl President Casting Call post, it was hugely popular. Many people including Ces thought it was a clever, if a little obsessive, tribute to a popular webcomic. However, as the traffic from my regular readers died down, a new groups of surfers started discovering the post. Ones unfamilar with TGP, but eager to become stars.

Through some weird quirk of the Google algorithm, if you do a search for any popular tweener show in combination with "casting call", my post lands on the first page. Try "hannah montana casting call" as test. Yup, number one hit. Naive, misguided, or just wishful-thinking kids mistook my tongue-in-cheek post for a legitimate audition notice and left messages for me to consider them.

Since I get e-mailed all the comments made on my blog, this started out as being mildly amusing and, as the pace increased, soon turned slightly disturbing. Clearly the parents of these kids had never read my Warning To Parents post about leaving too much information on the web. Way too many of the comments included e-mail addresses, real names, and other personally identifiable information.

As a postscript to my New Dehli Monkey Gang Audition post I linked to the comments. The shear audacity of the comments amused and alarmed many of my readers, particularly those with underage daughters. On the advice of my legal counsel, jfruh and demetrious-x, I decided to delete the comments and post a warning to not leave any more e-mail addresses.

However, these comments were just to rich to allow disappear forever. Besides, some people may think I was exagerating the idiocy of these Googlers. As the parent of a teenager, it's hard to overestimate the stupidity of tweeners in front of a keyboard. I have stripped the comments of any indentifiable information and reproduced them below. Several even left links to their MySpace type pages and I have scarfed the picture from their opening page. The one reassuring factor was that all the profiles were set to private. Maybe they had gotten too many friend requests or people offering them other roles. Roles that Chris Hansen may want to investigate.

This was the very first comment that came in taking the post for real. She left her e-mail address, real name and hometown:

ok so i am the same age as Jamie lynn and i am from hometown could someone like me try out for a part like that???
i am trying to live my dream and i have acting experience LOTS of it !!!!
i want you to help live out my life long dream
thanks so much get back to me please
real name

The following "applicant" had a real Blogger name, but the blog it links to is an empty template with no posts:

BloggerID said ... (12:57 PM) :

I think this is the order from top to bottom of which one i would pick

1. Jaime Lynn Spears
2. Aly and Aj
3 Ashley Tisdale
4. Venessa Ann Hudgens
5. Emma Roberts
6. Amanda Bynes

could I also be in the movie as like a small role cuz i wanna be an actress and i'm african american. thanks write me back on my blog

OMG! i totally want to do this...i've been waiting for something like this...I've dreamed of being an actress....i would love to do something like that.

Then they started leaving descriptions of themselves:

Real Name said ... (8:29 PM) :

My name is Real Name, E-mail - but anyway, my dream is to be a famous actress on a regular...and am 14 have a little longer than shoulder length blonde hair.. a little short for my age, 4'11 and weigh about 95 pounds! please e-mail me if your interested!

This girl left her real name and a quick google search found a link to a hometown newspaper article that listed her as an honor student and the name of her middle school. This is the sort of info real stalkers could actually use:

Anonymous said ... (1:35 PM) :

hey my name real name and u don't know how much i would want to be a famous actress I'm 11 years old and i am ready to act i have shoulder lengh hair i am about 5 feet and 95 pounds my e mail

please im ready!!!!!!!!!!

Then they started getting catty by dishing on the real celebrities I had listed:

first name said ... (8:49 PM) :

Hey! This is first name . I honestly don't think any of those girls deserve the part. I think you sould give someone that hasn't been descovered yet a chance. I think I would be great for this part. I'm thirteen, I have blonde hair, blue eyes, and I'm 5 feet 4 inches tall. I would be honored because I have a lot of talent and I'm very outgoing. My e-mail address is thanks for taking the time to read this.

Not only catty, but sassy:

first name said ... (10:55 PM) :

i dont think any of them should have the role because FIRST NAME is here and she would rock this president gig.and u can reach me at thanc u and have nice day.......o and think about it

luv ya
first name

The phrase "fresh meat" is not something I like to hear from a thirteen year old:

first name said ... (11:07 PM) :

i think that i should get the part because i am fresh new meat an i am going to agree with sarah. iam 13 going on 14 in august and im 5 feet 4 inches tall with black hair and brown eyes and i am black and i think a black grl as a president would be cool im not saying it wouldnt be cool for a white grl because i look up to aly and aj but i think i could be the best funnest actor because all my friends say should be a comedy because i talk alot and im funny.and i am undiscovered but i would like to be so u can reach me by my email address....

luv ya and contact me

I have been fully deleting the e-mail addressed on most of these, but this girl's seemed particularly appropriate:

Anonymous said ... (12:18 AM) :

ya i agree with redacted u should use someone that has not been discovered i am 13 i have blonde hair and i am 5'4 hazel eyes and i am slim/slender so e-mail me if u want me to do the part

Making fun of kid's spelling on the internet is like shooting fish in a barrel, but this one is particularly confusing since what ought to be an e-mail address is gibberish:

Anonymous said ... (6:58 PM) :

it sototaly got to be miss Robertes. shez young, fun ,and proves her self as a leader and does it with a blonde attitide.if im not rirgt then track me down let me do the part.

cd c t 9e7ye0f77yr08yf80

This one seems to have a sense of humor about it and thinks it's funny people describe themselves, but she goes ahead and leaves an e-mail address anyway.

firstname said ... (8:11 PM) :

hey. ill do it! lol. im not going to go on about what i look like and that kind of stuff... but im 13 and i know all of those people lol.....{{}}..

This is perhaps the most convincing case made by any of them, but she forgets to leave the e-mail address. I suppose I am supposed to track her down by her full real name. It turns out there is a real actress with her name already, but I doubt she is thirteen. She (the actress, not the thirteen year old) would be welcome to play TGP in my book:
Full Name said ... (1:32 PM) :

i really want to be the teenage girl president. i am 13, have blonde hair and i love to act and i'm good at it. i can act like what ever u want me to. anyway, don't you want someone new and "fresh" not those other people who are already doing shows and movies. get some one who you can say, " i found that tallent" i should be that "teenage girl president"

Same Full Name said ... (1:34 PM) :

i know all those actresses and i think i could do better, or just as good as them. pick me

This is the youngest person to leave a comment:

Anonymous said ... (10:33 PM) :

all i want is for Ashiley Tisdale to get the part.. and if she doesnt get the part than plz email me and tell me when the show starts and tell me what channel it comes on if any bobies looking for a young singer than plz email me plz im realy amazing f anybodie needs a 10 year old girl soon yo be 11 on jan. 19 07 than plz email me for acting singng or modeling...Thank you

The following comment included a link to her MySpace page. The page has a not particularly sexy picture of her in a bathing suit looking pouty. The profile lists her age as fifteen and the name on the page is "JACK OFF FIRST NAME". It's an active page since it lists today as her last log-in. At least her profile is set to private. Her parents should be proud.

There was no way in the world I was going to send a friend request. Of all of the comments, this looks most suspiciously like predator bait, but she leaves comments on other MySpace pages, so I think she is legit.

First Name (with MySpace link) said ... (10:16 PM) :

hey my name is first name and ive always wanted to fulfill my beautioful dremas y being an actress on hannah montannah/miley cyrus tv show. I want to be known as a actress on her show.. i would do anything to be like her or even to act with her. When are the auditions?contact me-

Another contender in the failure of the public schools to teach basic spelling category:

Nickname said ... (7:31 PM) :

hello my name is Real Name and i am 13 years old not allot of acting exsperiance but i have my relitives who are exsperianced and i would love to be the female tenage princess!!! Email me with all the info please!!!

And they keep getting more and more assertive:

Anonymous said ... (7:24 PM) :

Hi my name is Real Name and I am very interested in acting. I want the job and I will do anything to get it even if it means flying on a plane.
I make the grades, have the looks,and you won't be disappointed if you e-mail me at!

And here it just starts getting boring and repetitive:

First Name said ... (7:11 PM) :

i have to vote for jamie lynn spears, just because she's so fresh and new. or...have you considered having an open audition for the part? i know that there are lots of teen girls who would love the chance to audition, and you could find some real talent in a place where the industry is big...

At this point I started getting about one comment a week:

Anonymous said ... (9:05 PM) :

i would LOVE to star inthis great series
mi 13 years of age... please email me at
for casting info

thank you,
first name

The time tag is 1:25, so she is either on the west coast or up way past the bedtime of anyone that would leave this comment:

Anonymous said ... (1:25 AM) :

hello, my name is first name and i am very intresed in a part in the show"Americans teenage president and i wanted to know if you can take out time to see me, so i can audition for the part. If you can please contact me at thank you.

This girl's claim is that she looks much older:

real name said ... (12:31 PM) :

hey my names Real Name.
and I am very interested in this part as 'queen bee'. im 13 but i could pass as a 14 or 15 year old. This would be a great oppurtunity for me so I could really get my dream [to be an actress] on its way. I work hard and I can memoirze lines very fast.

Please contact me at


Another willing to give out physical location as well as e-mail contact. And a fondness for Capitalization:

Anonymous said ... (1:12 PM) :

Hey My Names First Name 14 Going On 15 September 24 From Hometown, State
I Love To Sing Dance An Act I Feel That I Would Be Right For This Because I Think I'm What Your Looking For

For Mor Information You Can Send Me And E-Mail At
Please Give Me A Chance To Make My Dreams Come True Thank You SoooOoo Much

Catty AND a horrendous speller and not very fond of the Enter key:

first name said ... (11:21 PM) :

well im a peson who knows these stars threw television, & i know what you are talkign about, im the age you are talking about, & i know wat people would prefer to see. take the first jamie, she is good, id liek to see more of her on tv, then you have aly & aj, too old.ashley is too playd out with high skool musical! & same with vanessa, amanda is too old with her newer show what i like abot you. i would choose emma roberts, she has been good in every productiong i have seen, i am amazed. also if you do not find what you are looking for in the following contact one of the other ppl who have responded to you, but if in doubt & need som1 well email me, i m blond hair blue eyes have done a few plays & ona few local comercials, i am 13 & perfect! first name! hope to hear from you, hopefully if the rite person chose it will be!

The redacted e-mail address for this girl suggests a future in the exotic dancer industry. I wish I could share it with you, but rules are rules:

Anonymous said ... (5:12 PM) :

I think that they should have a nobody as this, like look for a normal girl whos not famous because every one knows how they can act so its no suprise but i am 13my name is First Name and I have drak brown/black hair drak brown eyes and im 5'7 and my skin is a brown First Name color like my name so email me if you think i could be it my email

Finally, the subtle approach:

Anonymous said ... (10:45 PM) :

I know alot about each of these actresses, and I think Amanda would be the best for this part, but I also think that I might me. I'm not trying to be cocky or whatever, but these are all known actresses, why not use an undiscovered one?

Email me at
But then she had to try to close the deal:
Anonymous said ... (10:55 PM) :

I just made the comment above, and forgot to add this: I am 13 years old but people often say I'm 15. I'm 5 foot 4 inches, brown hair and eyes, white (skin tone). I live in State, and I'm an actress at my school. My name is First Name. I had always wanted to be in a movie or tv show. I love to act. I've been acting for about 3 years now, and have competed in competitions through school. I've won almost all. I have experience with acting, but have no agent. I was looking around on the web and found this page. I would LOVE to be in this movie.

Once again, my email is

Please help me make my dream come true!
And internet idiocy is not limited to any particular ethnicity:

Anonymous said ... (9:03 PM) :

hello my name is first name. im at the age of 13 gonna be 14 in august 3. my nationality is hmong mixed with thai. i haven't done acting alot..only when i get the chance.cause i do love to act.. i always wanted to follow the foot step of my cuz' "brenda song" you know from the show on disneychannel 'the suite life of zack and cody'.. i went to only one audition in my was the same adition that brenda went to.. i got the callback,but 2,000 dollars i have to pay..i didn't have that money nor does my parents..hahaha..well yea i wanna adition for this so heres my

love to hear from you

It also sounds like that if she needs pay $2000 for an audition, she is already being ripped off. And if you recognize any of these people that have left comments, please notify their parents and take away their internet access. And all the predators out there that have been scamming off my comments will have to go get their own phony audition blog.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Am I over-reacting? If you think so, leave your name and e-mail in the comments.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Police Report

In the spring of April 1979, at the very beginning of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40, I heard a song that just blew me away. The power of the guitar chords and the raw scratchy vocals were like nothing I had ever heard before. I had to hear more of this band called The Police. “Roxanne” was not a big hit and it peaked at 32. It would be over a year later until “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da” cracked the top ten. But I was already a fan.

In 1984, I wanted to see The Police when they played Atlanta, but either financial or scheduling problems prevented me from making the show. This legendary performance was filmed for their “Synchronicity” video. They broke up shortly thereafter, so my chance to see them live seemed doomed. When they announced a reunion tour, my issue was not if, but how and where to see them.

Their current tour is sponsored by Best Buy and a special presale was offered for Rewards members. The catch was that you could only try for one show for the entire tour. I tried to get some tickets for the New York dates but got shut out and my chance for advance tickets seemed doomed. A few days later, I got an e-mail from the Philadelphia sports complex that they were having their own presale independent of Best Buys. I snagged tickets for the whole family and we made reservations for near the airport for the night.

The show was at Citzens Bank Park, which is a very nice knock-off Baltimore’s Camden Yards. We got to the stadium right at the printed start time of 6:30 and Fiction Plane fronted by Sting’s kid Joe Sumner was playing. The guy is the spitting image of his dad and even the lyrics bear a certain similarity. The sound quality was muddy, but I distinctly heard a call out to Jack Kerouac. Another big number included a rather bitter song about a girl that wanted him for his dad’s money but also slept with his best friend.

The Fratellis, an energetic poppy band, was the other opening act and The Police finally took the stage about quarter to nine. For the next nearly two hours, they rocked through all their hits and a few early songs. The opening songs had a slightly jazzy tinge and I got nervous that Stings solo sensibility had penetrated the band. When I saw Sting on his last solo tour, he went into a long noodling variation of “Roxanne” that sent me to the restroom and it was still wrapping up when I got back to my seat. This time he stuck with a version close to the tempo of that song I first fell in love with. The Police are not a jazz band and they stuck with the rock.

Sting has lost some of that edge his voice used to have, but he is buffer than ever, and he always sets my wife sighing. Andy Summers did journeyman’s work on guitar and one solo in particular was impressive, but he mostly stayed out of the limelight. The real star of the show was Stewart Copeland who must be the hardest working percussionist in rock. Throughout the night, he was drumming as well as rushing over to tympanis, bells, snares, and gongs. Recreating the heavily produced Synchronicity era songs live would wear out a drummer half his age.

The staging was no-nonsense and the light show was interesting but not overpowering. Our seats at the back of the lowest deck behind the first base dugout and under the overhang (which was nice since there were some sprinkles during the opening acts) had excellent sight lines. At that distance though, you needed binoculars just to see the smallish video screens.

I have my own thoughts about DinoRock, but I enjoy seeing a band I have loved nearly my entire life give a hard charging energetic show. I won’t mind getting stopped by these Police anytime.

For a good review of another stop on their tour, see trusty getto’s write-up. He does a Separated At Birth that I wish I had thought of.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Updated 7/22/07

It is no secret that I spend a lot of time on Friday nights at BigBoxOfBooks, but anyone that has not been hiding from spoilers in a cave knows that last night was PotterMania. I read the first book to see what the big deal was, but decided I didn't need to read the same book six more times.

My son literally grew up with Harry Potter. The first book came out when he was in third grade, and now they are both seventeen. He has been a bit blase about the hype, but he did wake up early to get in line. For a kid that rarely sees the front side of noon in the morning, he got up and was third in line at 7:50 for the color coded wrist bands that put him in the first group for the book.

The scene at the local BBoB was probably the same as everywhere. For the past couple of years, we have been buying at OtherBigBoxOfBooks, but they make you stand outside. BBoB stayed open for the duration of the event so we could even fortify ourselves with overpriced highly-caffeinated milkshakes. There were plenty of kids, adults, and families dressed in Potterwear. The store had a costume contest and held a drawing for the privilege of buying the first one.

He may not be crazy about Harry Potter, but plenty of his friends are. One of his teammates on the It's Academic Team screamed when she got beat at the buzzer on a Harry Potter toss-up questions. They all met up to stand in line together, just to keep the party atmosphere going.

We got our book about 12:30 and headed home. Just to satisfy our curiousity, he went and read the last line out loud. In the eight years since these books have become a phenomenon, my son has grown and moved on. While his friends were determined to stay up all night and read it right away, my son went to bed soon after getting home. He thinks he might get around to reading it on Sunday. He has a hundred and fifty pages left in the fourth Robert Jordan Wheel of Time book to finish first.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Do you have PotterFever?

Update (7/22/07): At midnight last night we lost power to our house. My son found a headband flashlight and went to his room. At 9 am he came downstairs, dropped Deathly Hallows on the kitchen table and announced "Finished!" I quizzed him for spoilers and he went and put it on the shelf with the earlier six volumes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

New Delhi Monkey Gang Auditions

It’s the lazy days of summer and Best Friends Forever Hilary and Faye are reforming their band, The New Delhi Monkey Gang. They have been contemplating changing the name of the band several times to something that is a little more television friendly in hopes of getting a deal with a major kid’s network. As Entertainment Weekly details, a show on Disney Channel or Nickelodeon is a major career opportunity. It’s more than a TV show, it’s albums, concerts and movies. Just ask The Cheetah Girls or The Naked Brothers Band (yeah, that’s a real show, hopefully not as pervy as the title would make you think).

For these Sally Forth characters to make the transition to the small screen, proper casting is vital. Here are some tween stars that might make the grade. It is going to take a precocious actress to fit the role of a perpetual fifth grader trying to make it in the musical world.

Miley Cyrus
Hannah Montana
Current Age: 14

Miley just missed the cut for the Teenage Girl President casting call. In Hannah Montana she plays a pop superstar that goes to middle school incognito. She clearly has the musical chops to be a Dehli Monkey, but she might not want to get typecast in this type of show. Miley is clearly destined for bigger things, like a CW sitcom.

Role: Hilary most likely. Gotta get more mileage out of that blonde Hannah wig.

Miranda Cosgrove
iCarly, Drake and Josh
Current Age: 14

Miranda has a huge stage presence, but her musical talent is unproven. Her School of Rock role was as business manager, but some lessons should get her in the groove right away.

Role: Faye all the way. She has withering sarcasm down cold.

Jordan Todosey
Life With Derek
Current Age:12

Jordan has been playing a supporting role as Ashley Leggat’s baby sister Lizzie on Derek, but she is ready to move onto the big time. Going from a sidekick or sibling role to a starring vehicle is a traditional tweener show career path.

Role: With enough peroxide, Hilary.

Selena Gomez
Wizards of Waverly Place
Current Age: 14

Since starting out as a moppet on Barney, Selena has been working her way around the dial in bit parts and guest star roles. Now she could hit the big time.

Role: Could be either, but the ethnic angle would make her lean towards Faye.

Susan Olsen
The Brady Bunch
Current Age: 45

When it comes to pigtails, no one rocks them like the former Cindy Brady. Unfortunately, it would take a major time machine to get her back in her youthful prime.

Role: Hilary, natch. There really is no other choice.

Hey Kids: This post is a joke. There is no real New Delhi Monkey Gang show holding auditions. Yet. And you can quit leaving your real name and e-mail address in the comments of my TGP Casting Call post. Didn’t your parents teach you about stranger danger and giving away personal information on the internet?

Everyone Else: Who would you cast as a character in a Sally Forth sitcom?

Update: In the comments, mooselet suggested Selena Gomez as Hilary. She would have to go blonde, but she can work the ponytails. I can definitely see it.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rank Reunion

I was so looking forward to my 25th class reunion and I was so disappointed. Our 20th reunion was at a golf resort way in woods. Since I don’t golf, I voted for a beach resort for this one. It seems I was alone in this.

We checked into the St Pete Beach resort early and toured the place. After having been to Opryland earlier this year, calling the place a “resort” was a stretch. They had a dank looking creek with paddle boats, a couple of pools, and a inflatable beach slide.

What we didn’t see were any classmates. It got even more ominous when I went down to sign-in. The Friday reception was booked into the smallest meeting room they had. They had a list of people that had pre-registered. There were 45 names out of a class of more than a thousand. There were a few people registering at the door, but it wasn’t exactly gangbusters.

Several walk-ups looked into the room and saw three buffet dishes of tepid hors’dourves and a cash bar and decided it wasn’t worth the eighty bucks the reunion company was charging. Instead, they stayed in the lobby where the hotel bar had cheaper, stronger drinks and the real party quickly moved out there.

The standing joke became how lame and poorly attended the event was. Several former members of the golf team were there, so I got to tell my story about the team captain getting mad at me at the five year reunion for ruining his life. In turn, they told me about how later that night the salutatorian got in a fist fight with his best friend. None of them had seen the guy in over a decade and weren’t sure what happened to him.

Fortunately, to save the weekend, we were sharing a suite with some good friends that we had gone to high school with. While they were both classmates of ours, they didn’t start dating until after high school. We also spent some time hanging out at the beach with a few other intra-class couples.

The main dinner had a total attendance of sixty including dates and spouses. The women were dressed to the nines and there was plenty of cleavage on display. Alas, on the backside of forty, that wasn’t always a good thing. The DJ ran a great music trivia contest, but once the real dancing started, the floor emptied after a half-hour and remained dead for the rest of the event.

I think the expense of both the event and the resort kept many people away. Having a reunion within five years of the last one may also have been too soon. There was a survey for when and where to have the next one. My vote was to just pick a date and a bar and just tell people to show up. It couldn't turn out worse.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: What has been the lamest event you ever attended?

Friday, July 13, 2007

On The Sponge Docks

We flew down for our class reunion a day early so that we could make the round of relatives since we were in Florida and they would never forgive us if we stood them up. My parents have retired to the sleepy fishing village of Tarpon Springs, which is one of the few delightfully dated tourist attractions left in Florida.

It began over a hundred years ago as a Greek sponge fishing village. The Greeks have been sponge diving for centuries and when they found out that the Gulf of Mexico is littered with sponges, they immigrated en masse and built the town of Tarpon Springs.

The sponge industry collapsed about fifty years ago, a victim of red tide and industrial polymers. Nevertheless, the town still hangs on to vestiges of the maritime life for its economy. The town icon is the bell-helmeted Captain Nemo-esque deep sea diver. Tour boats cruise down the Ancolote River to the Gulf where a brave member of the crew dons the full 150 pound diving suit and apparatus and plunges overboard to retrieve a pre-planted sponge. All for the benefit of the tourist camcorders.

The docks also have deep sea-fishing cruises, eco-tours, and waterfront dining. The sponge industry still struggles along, selling natural sponges as high-end alternatives to the mass-produced petroleum products that have usurped the name from the lowliest of multi-cellular animals.

Tarpon Springs stubbornly retains is overwhelming Hellenic roots. On Epiphany, the cross-diving ceremony where teenage Greek boys dive into the spring to retrieve a gold cross tossed in by the local Orthodox bishop is an annual spectacle that draws crowds from all over the world. The four or five block main strip along the sponge docks is peppered with Greek restaurants, pastry shops, and souvenir shops. The baby blue Greek cross flies just as proudly as the American stars and stripes.

For our afternoon with my folks we went down to the docks and split Greek salads (Tarpon Springs is the only place on earth where potato salad is a topping to Greek salad) and overstuffed gyros (no sane person can eat at one sitting). My parents prefer the little restaurants along the docks to the world famous but distinctly Red Lobster-ish Pappas. The restaurants are so Greek, you half expect Nia Vardalos to emerge from the kitchen in a big fat wedding gown.

We then went through a gift shop that shows a fifties eras documentary on the history of sponge diving, once considered the most dangerous job in the world. After the movie, they have a series of dioramas displaying information about sponges and sponge diving. The displays are very educational but look like they were put together by particularly gifted middle school students and they haven’t been updated in decades.

As we were leaving, we noticed that a sponge boat fresh from the Gulf had docked and it was brimming with fresh from the seas sponges. From our tour of the “museum” we knew that this bounty might net the crew maybe $500. Working on the water is a tough way to make a living.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: What is your favorite off the beaten path tourist attraction?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Rank Secret

We all have something in our past we like to hide. Something that we would prefer people never find out about. I have a secret from high school that I jealously guard, making sure that friends, coworkers, and particularly employers never find out.

I was my high school Valedictorian.

I had a class rank of 1 out of 1,048.

How it happened is a complete fluke. Like many places, my high school gives bonus points on the grade point average for taking advanced or honors classes. This makes the perfect 4.0 GPA just a starting point. Then it becomes a matter of collecting as much honor credit as possible.

At my high school, class rank was based on semester grades from ninth grade through the first semester of the senior year. What grades you got the second semester senior year counted for bupkis. As we were making out our schedules for the senior year, my girlfriend and future wife noticed that I had signed up to take Psychology first semester and Philosophy second semester. She suggested I flip them since Philosophy was an honors course and would inflate my GPA just that much more. I rolled my eyes, but in a harbinger of the habits that would make marital bliss that much more likely, I took her advice.

That fall I had a course in Problems In American Democracy aka Americanism Vs. Communism aka Civics (honors level, natch) with the over-achieving Class President. About the second week, he started quizzing me about my transcript. He was surveying a short list of top students to see who was in the running to beat him for Valedictorian. Most students had no clue what their real weighted GPA was or how to calculate it. The actual formula for adding the honors credit was extremely arcane and only about three people in the school really understood it: the head guidance counselor, the class president, and me.

By the end of the semester, the Class President had the whole race handicapped and it was mine to lose. By getting all A’s I finished with a GPA of 4.451 and beat the Golf Team Captain by a margin of 0.004 grade points. And it was all due to the philosophy class bonus points. The Class President landed a distant third and out of the money.

Why do I bring this up now, particularly since I have been close-mouthed on the topic for so many years? This weekend I am going to my 25th anniversary class reunion and everybody there will remember that I was the Valedictorian. Just like everybody remembers the SGA President, the Prom Queen, and the Football Star. I’m a cliché out of a John Hughes movie.

Don’t get me wrong. I love class reunions. I have been to my 5th, 10th, and 20th. I like seeing people I haven’t heard from in five or ten years. I enjoy finding out who has gotten married, divorced, had kids, lost weight, gained weight, gone blonde, and so on. The career vectors of my classmates are fascinating. We have a disproportionate surfeit of lawyers. Some of the biggest stoners are now medical doctors. The bubbly blondes all went into public relations. Class reunions are great studies in group dynamics.

At the five year reunion, the Golf Team President got very drunk and expressed how pissed he was when I, a transfer student, showed up out of nowhere and sniped what he had worked so hard for by making him settle for Salutatorian. If I had known it meant so much to him, I might have let him have it. Particularly since I did so little with it. I got to give a speech which I made just edgy enough to wake up some of the school administrators, but that was the one perk of the honor. By the point that class rank is announced, college acceptances were already in the mail and scholarships had all been awarded. It was a brief moment of glory I have been living down ever since.

Now you know my secret. As time passes, it becomes even less relevant. For just one weekend I will be again wearing that metaphorical mortarboard and living down my past. Wish me luck. I will report back with all the juicy gossip.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Do you go to class reunions, and do you enjoy them?

Monday, July 09, 2007

The China Blog

I spent the Independence Day holiday fighting off the somnambulistic effects of jetlag by downloading and sorting the pictures from our trip to China. After I deleted the unredeemably blurry ones, I had about 2,500 images to deal with. That is clearly more than anyone should ever inflict on anyone. Once I get them backed up to a dozen or so CDs for archival purposes, I will begin posting them to my Flickr account in big chunks. I will probably err on the side of inclusiveness.


At the same time I will begin posting to a separate photo blog that I have set up just for my China trip. In many ways it will be similar to Asia Trip 2005, the blog I kept for the pictures from my trip to Vietnam two years ago. This new blog, called China Sights, will have no real official connection to Foma* (which you are reading now) and will mostly be short posts describing a particular picture that hopefully reveal some aspect of Chinese history, culture, or society. In case you don't bookmark it or add it to your RSS feed, I have added a link in my sidebar.

I also have nearly three hours of video footage, some of which will eventually wend its way onto YouTube if I cut or edit it into enough bite-sized chunks.

Longer and more light-hearted posts about the trip will occasionally be posted here as space and time permit. There are just too many other things going on in the world for me to stop the world while I drone on about my travels. After all, the Foobpocalypse is in full swing and I have an upcoming class reunion to obsess over. And bad television isn’t going to snark itself.

I hope loyal readers of this blog will read both blogs, but the choice is yours. The great questions and comments I got on my posts about China make me eager to share, but there is only so much I can get to at once. My goal is to exhaust my photo material well before the Olympic games when way more people will be focused on China. Think of China Sights as your sneak preview to the endless scrutiny that will begin as 2008 approaches.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Foobocalypse Now

Quite a while back I made some predictions on the end game of For Better Or For Worse. I used the skills I honed in my childhood predicting that a) Gilligan wasn’t going to get off the island, b) Colonel Klink wasn’t going to catch onto Hogan’s latest scheme, and c) Batman was going to Biff and Pow the villain by the end of the show. Let’s face it, guessing foobish plot points hardly makes one The Amazing Kreskin.

Let’s do a recap of the major developments I expected to happen:
  • Michael’s Harlequin retread got a huge advance.
  • Mike got enough money to make the Oedipally troubling purchase of his childhood home.
  • John got the train cottage of his dreams, further emasculating the only non-psychotic male character.
  • Paul the Half-Breed got caught with his holster belt around his ankles.
  • Liz and Anthony finally started trading bodily fluids.

The only unresolved prediction is the final outcome of April’s musical career. I’m still thinking she will end up a highly popular singing veterinarian in the same way Gomer Pyle became a singing Marine.

Still, Lynn Johnston has thrown us some curveballs that I failed to anticipate, including:
  • Warren showing up just long enough to make the creepy former boyfriends of Liz a full set.
  • Shannon going all Norma Rae on her tormenters.
  • Anthony giving John Holmes his mustache back.
While, like the Rapture, we don’t know the time or place of the Foobpocalypse, by my reckoning we only have about 100 strips left to gift wrap this turd once and for all. Since most of the major plot resolutions are underway, I would like to see some truly mind-fucking twists come along to keep us on our toes. I would love to see:
  • Farley return from the grave to go all Cujo on April for killing him.
  • Kourtney Krelbutz file a wrongful termination suit and win Ellie’s Lilliputs nest egg in the judgment.
  • Lawrence and Weed compare notes and vow vengeance on that two-timing bitch Michelle.
  • Grandpa Jim commit suicide after mistaking Iris for a Nazi infiltrator of his RCAF unit and strangling her.
  • John wake in bed next to Lois Flagston and realize the last thirty years was all a bad, bad nightmare.
Come to think of it, just about anything would be preferable to the trite wrap-up we are bound to get. Instead, I predict we will get some hackneyed, heartstring-tugging, sniffle-inducing wedding ceremony with the entire Patterson clan posing together on the altar steps.

Only to be gunned down by Moldovian terrorists.

A guy can dream.

Blatant Comment Whoring™: How do you want the Foobiverse to end?

Private message to Stephanie Van Doleweerd: We know that Lynn and Entercom Canada are very protective of their intellectual property. What I do on my blog is clearly parody which is permitted under US copyright law. Show a little sense of humor and lay off the folks that poke a little fun at the foobs. And may I say that the new picture on your bio page is much cuter than the old one. Your boyfriend is a lucky guy. Call me if you ever break up. We can watch Dr. Who together.

Friday, July 06, 2007

BooksFirst: Travel Edition

Books Bought


Books Read

Rainbow’s End by Vernor Vinge
Rough Guide to Beijing
Naked Economics by Charles Wheelan
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman


This is a special edition of my regular BooksFirst post so that I can get back on track with posting at the beginning of the month. One good thing about long plane trips is that you have plenty of time to catch up on your reading, even after factoring in sleeping and watching bad buddy movies.

Vernor Vinge is one of the best science fiction writers nobody has ever heard of. This multiple Hugo-winner is incredibly creative and has continually turned upside down the conventions of traditional hard-sf milieus. On a per book basis, he is perhaps the highest quality writer in the field.

Rainbow’s End is his take on the cyber-punkish near future scenarios pioneered by William Gibson and Neal Stephenson and takes it to the next level. In Vinge’s world, the cyberworld and the realworld overlap with all sorts of multiple levels of virtual projection. It also posits a rapidly changing culture where a few years in a coma leave you’re irreparably lost in the wake of future shock. The rather intricately woven plot centers around three generations of a family of the future. The macguffin of the plot never quite lives up to its potential, but the book throws away more ideas than most novels even have. There are several gizmos and devices in the book that if not already under development need to be patented pronto. I particularly want the self serving refrigerator/kitchen counter combo.

My bible while in China was the Rough Guide to Beijing. When we plan a trip, we go to BigBoxOfBooks and browse all the travel books and pick a few that look useful. Rough Guides are less comprehensive but hipper than the big names. I liked the way it was organized by neighborhood with all the sights described by area. Nothing is worse than having to flip back and forth because shopping, dining, and sightseeing are all in different sections.

Every morning I would get up between 5 and 6 and go walking for a few hours before the scheduled activities began. I took with me my camera and a small backpack with a camcorder, the Rough Guide, and a tourist map I bought for a buck in the hotel gift shop. Between the map and the guide book I found all the interesting attractions to the north and east of the Forbidden City on my own.

Naked Economics is a wittily written primer that makes the dismal science interesting. The many absurd and clever examples illustrate even the most obtuse concept. Charles Wheelan leads the reader down a path of increasingly controversial topics with clarity and perspective. It is hard to read this book and not come away an ardent free trader.

Reading this book while in rapidly developing China was particularly relevant. Everywhere I looked I could see his examples of how education, drive, and human capital could overcome the severest handicaps. The Chinese have taken to capitalism like a gourmand coming off a long diet. The speed with which a dour authoritarian regime can become a neon-glazed temple of consumerism is astounding. Everywhere there were billboards and neon signs. With all the product and food safety scare articles coming out of China right now, maybe the pendulum needs to swing back a little towards increased government regulation and scrutiny.

I got literary goth rock star Neil Gaiman to autograph a hardcover copy of Good Omens, which he cowrote with fellow clever Briton Terry Pratchett, when he was at Balticon last year. To my shame, I had started the book a long time ago but never finished. I used the return flight to start over and finished it before the wheels touched the ground.

The book combines the premises of The Omen with The Importance of Being Ernest. An angel and a demon covertly conspire to keep the anti-Christ from bringing on the Apocalypse. The pace is madcap and the satire is razor sharp. Overall the tone in way more Ankh-Morpork than Neverwhere, still there are small strands of Gaiman darkness struggling to get out. Never has Manichaeism, pre-destination, free will, and the nature versus nurture debate ever been wrapped up so delightfully drolly. Still, the two authors tend to overstuff everything and the book could have been maybe 20% shorter without loosing any of its edge. A great breezy fantasy.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Wall Versus Canal

He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man.- Chinese Proverb


Some silly blogger recently compared the C&O Canal to the Great Wall of China. I have walked parts of both, so let’s do a comparison.

C&O Canal
The Great Wall
Length184.5 miles
10,000 li (~4000 miles)
Year Started1836
1368 – Portions of the Great Wall go back to at least 200 B.C., but the wall as currently constructed in its present location was built during the Ming Dynasty.
PurposeTransportation to Ohio
Defense from barbarians
OutcomeCeased operation in 1924.
Manchus bribed gatekeepers in 1644. The Ming Dynasty fell shortly thereafter.
Current StatusTourist attraction mobbed on the weekends.
Tourist attraction mobbed nearly all the time.
Admission Cost$5 per vehicle or $3 per walker/cyclist at Great Falls
45 yuan (~$6) per person at Badaling
Visible From Space?No
Opinions vary, but generally not. And with the smog as bad as it is in China, it’s barely visible from itself.


There’s no way the C&O Canal measures up in any way. In the words of Richard Nixon, “It is worth coming 16,000 miles just to stand here and see the Wall.” There you have it.

If you are travelling to DC, there are lot of things to see and do without getting anywhere near the C&O Canal. I wouldn't recommend going to China and not seeing the Great Wall. While the canal is a worthy source of local pride, it will hardly ever be the international destination that is the Great Wall.

I have more pictures of the Wall in this Flickr set.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Back From China

At 8:30 in the morning local time (or 8:30 PM EDT yesterday), I boarded a shuttle bus from a hotel in Xian, China to start heading home. About 24 hours later, I was eating a bacon hamburger in Sterling, Virginia. For the past twelve days, most of my food has been eaten with chopsticks.

While I will be blogging about this trip for months (more on the logistics of that later), I have some big pictures lessons I took back with me.

China is more modern than I expected. The level of industrialization and overall complexity of life was much higher than I realized. Beijing in particular is a big modern city with all the entailing problems.

The Chinese are much more fashionable than I expected. There was not a Mao jacket to be seen anywhere, even ironically. Golf shirts and slacks where the primary oufit of men. Women wore tasteful but attractive clothes that wouldn't be out of place in any American mall. Heck, a lot of it is the stuff that ends up in American malls or at least reasonable facsimiles. Polo, Diesel, and Levi's were particularly common.

China is cleaner than I expected. I spent a lot of mornings wandering the city, including areas that would be considered slums in our country, and everywhere trash was being swept up and disposed of. The mechanics of that are very different than in the U.S., but the job gets done nevertheless.

The air in China is breathable, barely. Here expections and reality came closest. China's smog is infamous and not entirely exagerated. While it doesn't induce immediate respritory attacks, if you like sunshine, China is not for you. Once you got used to the concept that you didn't really need to see things more than three blocks away, the perpetual gray haze background became just another fact of life.

The Chinese have taken to capitalism with a vengeance. From bargaining in the markets to huge malls to ubiquitous advertising, commerce is everywhere.

Parts of China are breathtakingly old and beautiful. The temples and historical places are both awe-inspiringly huge and gorgeous.

China is hell-bent on making a good impression at the Olympics in 2008. Construction and refurbishment was everywhere as the entire city of Beijing gets a makeover for its moment on the world stage. From the sidewalks to the monuments to the malls, everything was getting a facelift or at least a fresh coat of paint. Now if only the cameras can capture all the vibrant colors through the smog.

I came back with over a thousand pictures and more than three hours of video footage. I hope to share both big picture impressions and small telling observations. In the meantime I promise not to make this blog the cyberspace version of your relative's yawn-inducing vacation slideshow.

All-in-all, I had a great time but I'm glad to be back. And I'm not touching chopsticks for at least a month.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: What about China would you like to know (as if my week and a half visit makes me an expert)?