Wiki Wednesday #9

30 05 2007

Yes, I’m still at this.

1.) Go to Wikipedia.
2.) Click on “Random article.”
3.) Report on the outcome.

This week’s result:


Artapanus was a Persian General under Xerxes I. According to Ctesias’ Persica, Artapanus led the first wave of Persians against the Spartan force at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. Although he led a force of 10,000 men, they were routed by the 300 Spartan defenders.

Artapanus is not mentioned by name in Herodotus’ history of the battle.

Well, that’s actually a little bit interesting. I was a history major, after all, so I’m apt to find this kind of thing interesting, though. The next time I’m describing some spectacular loss—like being routed by the famous 300 at Thermopylae—I might even remember Artapanus’s name.

But no one else will have any idea who or what I’m going on about. And they’ll wonder about me. This is knowledge I may have to keep to myself.



My Memorial Day

28 05 2007

Amish Country Sign
I was invited to a barbecue today, but it was canceled (bummer!) and I had to scramble to find something else to do. It just doesn’t seem right to start summer without a grilled burger….

I decided to go with another (caution: sarcasm alert!) traditional Memorial Day favorite—outlet-mall shopping. So I got in the rented car du jour and drove out west into Pennsylvania’s Amish country. It was a gorgeous day, with the temperatures just into the 80s, and it was a beautiful drive. I love Lancaster County’s green, rolling hills, and I particularly watch for the thick work horses. I’m also a fan of the horse-drawn buggies, and I saw six or seven today; I even saw a large Amish wagon filled with kids. I love the tacky touristy places, too. If I weren’t watching my weight, I’d’ve brought back a shoo-fly pie from a place like this.

Gosh, I digress…. Shopping was the task, and I found my way to the outlet mall. There were tons and tons of people there. I drove around for 15-20 minutes, fruitlessly searching for a parking place, before I remembered a row of little-known parking spots behind the mall. There was a spot there, but just one. Just in time. (I really, really, really needed to find a restroom by then. If I hadn’t found that spot, I was probably headed to the shoo-fly pie place—diet be damned.)

You surely don’t want the play-by-play on the shopping. I intended to buy some shoes at the Timberland outlet. And I wanted to come back with a new shirt or two for work this summer. (We do the “business casual” thing at work, and I am so tired of the shirts I wear with khakis.) I came back with all of that and more. Way, way too much more. I came back with a pair of casual shoes, sandals, a pair of dress shoes (probably unnecessary). I bought two pairs of khakis (probably unnecessary). I bought something like five polos. And I came back with two new t-shirts (wholly unnecessary).

Egad. I have to watch my spending. When I get bored/lonely, I have a tendency to “solve” that with spending. My finances are in better shape these days than in a long time—but still. I should be saving up for a nice vacation or a move out of my hated apartment or something.

Still, it could’ve been worse. This was outlet-mall shopping, after all. I really didn’t spend all that much. I could’ve (and probably would’ve) done much more damage to my checking account at Bloomingdale’s. I have a serious weakness for Bloomingdale’s….

After all that shopping and walking and more shopping and walking, I was hungry. A visit to Arby’s, which is next door to the mall, helped with that. It’s a little bit embarrassing, I suppose, but I love Arby’s. And there just isn’t one all that close to where I live. So when I had the chance, I jumped at the curly fries.

Yeah, this is the kind of guy I am. If you’re ever trying to impress me, a visit to the outlet mall and a Beef’n Cheddar will do the trick.

Baltimore Orioles 8, Oakland A’s 4

27 05 2007

A couple of friends and I drove down to Baltimore today for the afternoon game against the A’s. I’ve been to Baltimore several times, but this was the first time I’d ever been inside Oriole Park at Camden Yards…. Anyway, we rooted for the home team, and—happily enough—the Orioles prevailed, 8-4. The Park was charming, although I think the sightlines tend to be a little better here in Philly at Citizens Bank Park.

A few random observations:

  • At that point in the national anthem when the singer gets to “O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave,” Orioles fans yell out “O’s” instead of, um, “O.” That would seem disrespectful in a lot of places, wouldn’t it? I thought it was sort of charming, though.
  • During the seventh-inning stretch, the Orioles go, as some teams do, with “God Bless America.” But instead of segueing into “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” the Orioles go to “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” Odd. At least it wasn’t the John Denver version….
  • We had pretty darn good (and shady!) seats out in right field (lower reserve, section nine), and they were cheap ($15 apiece). Even though it was 90+° today, there was a nice breeze. Strangely, during the entire game, only one vendor ventured up into our seats. At a Phillies game, there are two or three vendors in a given section every inning. Somewhere in between those extremes is the right vendor-to-inning ratio, surely.

After the game, we headed over to Fells Point for some seafood and people-watching. The next time I’m in Baltimore, I definitely want to spend more time in the neighborhood. I’ve overlooked Fells Point in the past.  While the Inner Harbor has become dominated by chain restaurants and shops (Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, ESPN Zone), Fells Point still feels sort of “authentic.”

P.S. One the way down to Baltimore, I persuaded my friends to stop at Waffle House. One of my friends, a New Yorker, had never been to a Waffle House. Since I couldn’t persuade her to have either a pecan waffle or grits, though, she still hasn’t had the Waffle House experience.

Vox Hunt: So Far, So Good

25 05 2007

Vox Hunt
: Show us the best album (new or old) that you’ve bought this year.

Three candidates come to mind, but—today, anyway—I’d have to go with Emotionalism, the new album from the Avett Brothers. The Avett Brothers are a sort of bluegrass-meets-punk-meets-folk-meets-rock band from North Carolina. I’ve been a fan for awhile, and I’ve seen them in concert a couple of times. But I just wasn’t prepared for Emotionalism, which—in my opinion, anyway—is now the band’s best album. The songs on Emotionalism are musically refined, with a spare sound produced almost entirely by the banjo, guitar, bass, and twangy vocals. There’s a lot of variety on the album, too, with sounds ranging from alt-country to quasi-contemporary folk to something that might’ve found a home on a 1960 album of brother harmonies. The lyrics on Emotionalism often have a definite punk vibe, and I certainly appreciate the delicious incongruity of the pretty sounds with the not-necessarily-so-pretty words. Take, for instance, these lyrics from “Shame”:

Shame, boatloads of shame
Day after day, more of the same
Blame, please lift it off
Please take it off, please make it stop

Every day, I fall for a different song on Emotionalism. How often can you say that about an album?

For what it’s worth, I’m also listening a lot to two Canadian albums right now: Great Lake SwimmersOngiara (listen here to my favorite song, “Your Rocky Spine,” and other GLS songs) and Royal Wood‘s A Good Enough Day (listen here, especially to “A Mirror Without”).

Ongiara Royal Wood

Wiki Wednesday #8

23 05 2007

I can’t remember why I even started doing this WW thing anymore. But I’m a man who follows through….

1.) Go to Wikipedia.
2.) Click on “Random article.”
3.) Report on the outcome.

This week’s result:

D’Amour Ou d’Amitié

D’Amour Ou d’Amitié” is Céline Dion’s second and last hit single from [her] Tellement J’Ai d’Amour… album. It was released in Quebec, France and Belgium in April 1983.

The song became a hit in Quebec where it topped the chart on May 7, 1983 for four weeks and spent forty weeks on it. “D’Amour Ou d’Amitié” was certified gold for selling over 50,000 copies. Dion received four Félix Awards in that period.

Well, one, um, feature of this meme is that it forces me to confront unpleasant things think about things I’d normally avoid. And Céline Dion is one of those things. It’s not that I affirmatively dislike her; I’m just not a fan of, um, treacly pop music.

I do have one good memory of Céline Dion, though. A few years ago, I recall, she was asked to fill in for Barbra Streisand, whose “I Finally Found Someone” had been nominated for an Oscar Natalie Cole, who was scheduled to sing Barbra Streisand’s “I Finally Found Someone” at the Academy Awards telecast. Despite what I just said about treacly music, I loved that song (and still do, probably because I’d sing something treacly if I finally found someone). And Dion’s version was amazing—better than Barbra’s. I wish Dion would record it. That I’d buy.

Anyway, I don’t know “D’Amour Ou d’Amitié,” so I don’t have much to say about it. If you check out the Wikipedia page, you’ll see a sort of creepy picture of a 15-year-old Céline Dion in the video for the song. She looks like the star of an ABC After School Special. Since I’m not that much of a fan of the adult Céline Dion, I figure I’d be even less enthralled with the teenage version.

Dion certainly has an incredible voice. I just wish she’d use it on some better material. She should team up with a cool punk band or turn polka maven or something.

Question of the Day: Should’ve Seen Them Live

20 05 2007

Talking Heads Flatt & Scruggs Jimmie Rodgers Hank Williams
Which band or artist which is no longer performing or alive would you have loved to have seen?

Submitted by Rev Stan.

Talking Heads: Yes, I could see David Byrne sometime, but it wouldn’t be the same as seeing the Heads—my favorite rock band ever. If I could go back in time, I’d have to see them at CBGB’s, right?

Flatt & Scruggs: Yes, I could still see Earl Scruggs, and I really should (sometime very soon), but I really wish I could’ve seen the preeminent bluegrass act of all time (sorry, Bill Monroe fans).

Jimmie Rodgers: Um, no. No, there’s no way I could’ve seen Jimmie Rodgers, the father of country music. But wouldn’t that have been great?

Hank Williams, Sr.: When CMT named the 40 greatest men of country music, Hank Williams was somehow only No. 2. I mean no disrespect to Johnny Cash, but that’s just nuts. Hank left a mark on country music like no one else. I wish I could’ve seen him.

Who else? I feel like I should pick someone like Mozart, but I’m not at all sure I want to go back that far in time. I like microwave ovens and modern refrigeration and antibiotics….


18 05 2007

Continuing one of the most active (yet dateless!) weeks of my life, I caught a performance of Doubt tonight. I saw the Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning play on Broadway nearly two years ago, and I was really taken with it. As you probably know, John Patrick Shanley’s story involves suspicions by a 1960s-era nun that a priest may have done something (the obvious something) improper. Doubt, of course, is the theme. There are the doubts that the priest did anything wrong. Just as interestingly, the priest himself admits to some theological doubts. The audience wonders if that’s why the nun, a hardliner, is suspicious. But we know she just might be right, too.

When I saw Doubt on Broadway, it still starred Cherry Jones and Brían F. O’Byrne. Jones had just won the Tony for her performance, and deservedly so, and it was mystifying to me that O’Byrne hadn’t won for his strong performance. The touring Doubt also stars Jones, and she was as good as I remembered. O’Byrne is gone, replaced by Chris McGarry—who is good but not quite as inspiring as O’Byrne. O’Byrne’s sermons, especially the opening one built around the idea that doubt can be the actual bond of a community, were riveting.

The last time I saw Doubt, it was with the Soulmate-Who-Got-Away (SWGA)—during the weekend he confessed to having some, well, doubts about us as a couple. A part of me, I suppose, will always associate Doubt with SWGA’s damn doubts. I hoped seeing the play again would help me disassociate the two very different things; only in time, I guess, will I know whether my strategy was successful. Regardless, I know that Doubt is a helluva play, and it was a real pleasure seeing Cherry Jones play the leading role again.