Patti Smith

31 07 2007

Patti Smith Troc Banner
Patti Smith
began her national tour tonight at the Troc. She skews, um, older. I guess that’s not shocking news. She’s 60 years old! I sat up in the balcony, where the fans seemed to be even older. I haven’t felt that young since I saw Steve and Eydie at the Stardust Casino in Vegas last year. Kidding! Well, not really.

I also haven’t felt that normal in, well, my entire life. Kidding! Well, not really. She has “interesting” fans. Note the quotation marks.

Smith got a lot of flak for her recent album of covers. But some of the biggest reactions tonight were for her renditions of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Great concert. Smith whipped us into a frenzy. I was afraid I was too tired to go, but—on impulse—I headed over from work and snagged a ticket. I’m glad I did.

Great, great concert.



29 07 2007

I love tennis. I spend a lot of my evenings and weekends in front of the Tennis Channel. I mark the seasons by reference to the French Open and Wimbledon. I know the ad court from the deuce court, and I have strong feelings about whether Andy Roddick or Novak Djokovic is hotter.

But for some reason, I don’t blog much about tennis. I guess I’m afraid that I’d do nothing but tennis blogging if I started. Blogging about one tournament would lead to blogging about the next tournament, and soon I’d be blogging about James Blake’s blisters or Venus Williams’s nail polish. It’s a slippery slope, I tell you.

It’s probably safe to say this much, though. If you’re a tennis fan, you absolutely must be reading Jon Wertheim’s weekly Mailbag column for Each week, Wertheim answers readers’ questions, which are themselves a hoot. For his part, Wertheim is knowledgeable and witty. The Mailbag column never fails to make me smile. Usually more than once.

Take, for instance, this Q&A from a recent Mailbag:

I can’t be the only one who was put off by Rafael Nadal’s constant pulling of his shorts out of his butt crack during the game? Is it forbidden to mention these things?
Claudia Fletcher, Baltimore, MD

• Forbidden? My spellcheck now recognizes the word “wedgie” thanks to the heavy coverage we’ve given this issue. Also, is this the single worst endorsement for Nike of all-time? “Gee, I’m racing out to buy a pair of those pantaloons now that I see that the guy getting PAID to wear them can’t stop tugging at them in discomfort.” It’s like Suzie Chapstick constantly walking around with an oozing cold sore.

That’s classic Wertheim. It’s like Suzie Chapstick constantly walking around with an oozing cold sore. Brilliant! I hope Nike heard that.

P.S. I just remembered that I’ve mentioned Wertheim once before—in one of my 10-Not-So-Famous-People Meme entries. Hmm, it’s probably time to do another of those….

Teddy Thompson

28 07 2007

Upfront & Down Low
I don’t understand why Teddy Thompson isn’t a big star. He has the right pedigree (son of folk-rock royalty Linda and Richard Thompson), a beautiful voice (listen here), and three charming albums. He performed on the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack. He tours with Emmylou Harris and Rosanne Cash, and Rufus Wainwright is his friend and occasional collaborator. Everyone should be noticing.

Yet there he was tonight, by himself, on the tiny stage at the Tin Angel in Philadelphia, with maybe only 60 or 70 100 people there to listen.

There is no justice.

Thompson was at the Tin Angel in support of his new album of country standards, Upfront and Down Low. I’ve been a fan of most of these songs for a long time, and I was pretty skeptical at first about this project. Did we really need new versions of songs like George Jones’s “She Thinks I Still Care” or Ernest Tubb’s “Walking the Floor over You”? Apparently we did, because Thompson makes these songs his. Thompson has a real knack for songs of heartbreak, and, of course, country music knows heartbreak.

Thompson was in good form tonight. He did most of the songs from Upfront, and he did several from the folk-rock Separate Ways—which was on my Top 10 list for 2006. I just love that album, particularly the title track and “I Wish It Was Over,” two strikingly candid songs about relationships that aren’t going well. Thompson wrote most of the lyrics on Separate Ways, and they’re just about downright brilliant. Check out this bit of lyrics from “I Wish It Was Over”:

I wish it was over
I wish we were through
I wish when my phone rang
It wasn’t always you

I don’t even like you
Or can’t you tell
Whenever I’m sober
I treat you like hell

When he sang that tonight, some people laughed and some people nodded their heads. I got goosebumps. One way or another, the audience responded to Teddy Thompson.

It’s a shame that audience isn’t bigger.

Session Beers

25 07 2007

PA Breweries
Last night, I attended a Tria Fermentation School session led by beer writer (and local beer, um, demi-god) Lew Bryson. Oh, and that’s also newbie beer blogger Lew Bryson. (See, it’s already in the blogroll.) Bryson’s topic was session beers, or relatively low-alcohol brews that can be enjoyed one after the other. That, of course, is an excellent topic for the middle of summer, when you’re probably not going to hole up, fireside, with a high-alcohol beverage to sip….

We sampled seven beers, and I’d have to say I enjoyed six of those.1 (I’m easy, let’s face it.) Two, in particular, I can highly recommend. The first is actually one of my all-time favorites, Lindemans Gueuze. A gueuze is created by mixing young and, er, more mature Lambic-style beers. It’s a Belgian thing, of course. I’ve previously mentioned my passion for another Lambic, also by Lindemans. In fact, I’ve previously mentioned my passion for all things Belgian; I’d have to move to Brussels if Philly weren’t so strangely filled with Belgian restaurants and beers and waffles and chocolates.

Anyway….gosh, was that a digression or what?…the Lindemans Gueuze is un-fruited but somehow comes across as fruity. It’s sweet and, like a good Lambic, also lightly sour. It’s pure genius. If, like me, you don’t demand significant bitterness from your beer, you should check out a good gueuze. I’m a fan of Cantillon’s gueuze, too, but I’m an even bigger fan of the Lindemans, I think. (Side-by-side taste test, anyone?)

I also particularly enjoyed Legacy Brewing’s Midnight Wit. And, again, that’s a predictably Belgian-friendly preference: Although Legacy is brewed in Reading, Pa., it’s done in the style of a Belgian witbier. It was cloudy, like many wheat beers, and it offered a pleasant lemony taste. There was one off-putting note in its bouquet, an almost sulfuric smell, but the brew’s taste more than made up for that.

I can also say fairly nice things about four other beers: O’Hara’s Celtic Stout, a pleasant stout; Orlio’s Organic Common Ale, which was malty and sweet; Dr. Fritz Briem’s ‘1809’ Berliner Style Weisse, a fairly plain but lightly sour brew; and Stone’s Pale Ale, a light(!) pale ale. I probably didn’t enjoy any of these four enough to go out and buy a case or anything, but I wouldn’t turn any of them away.

Tria served us a really interesting sheep’s milk Gouda, Ewephoria (ha!), from the Netherlands. It offered a nutty, slightly sweet flavor, and it wasn’t at all sheep-y. It was firm and rather dry; I really enjoyed the feel of it in my mouth. It held up well against even the strong flavor of the Celtic Stout. I’m definitely keen to have some more.

So it was a good night. My only regret? That I absent-mindedly forgot to bring my copy of Pennsylvania Breweries for Bryson to sign.

1The exception? Sadly, it was a local-ish beer: Tröegs Sunshine Pils, which always just leaves me flat. On my palate, it’s almost flavorless, just watery and bitter. I’m sure this is about me, though, because so many people seem to enjoy it.

Wiki Wednesday #17

25 07 2007

I haven’t mentioned in awhile that this meme originally came from The Long Cut, one of my favorite blogs. (See, it’s right over there in the blogroll.)

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

Here’s this week’s result:

Artifact (error)

An artifact is the error or misrepresentation introduced by a technique and/or technology. For example a week [sic] pseudo-random number generator would introduce artifacts into statistical research models.

This is really more of a dictionary definition than an encyclopedia entry. And aside from critiquing the prose (“week” for “weak”; how I yearn to put a comma after “example”; etc.), there just isn’t much for me to say. It’s an unobjectionable definition; the article just doesn’t discuss these kinds of artifacts. I don’t know what such a discussion would look like, but it sounds like it might be interesting. Are there several types of artifact errors? Are there famous artifacts? Gosh, I really want to know now.

La Vie en Rose

24 07 2007

La Vie en Rose
Wow. La Vie en Rose took my breath away.

When the film first came out, I read a couple of reviews that made it sound like one of the best of the year. In one of those, Steven Rea, a favorite of mine, wrote that La Vie en Rose “visits the usual benchmarks, juggles them around, emphasizes sharp detail over seismic events, and delivers the portrait of a life that is vividly, explosively real.” Other reviews weren’t so kind, however. A.O. Scott of the New York Times wrote that the film “has an intricate structure, which is a polite way of saying that it’s a complete mess.” And Metacritic, which compiles the reviews of many prominent reviewers, gave La Vie en Rose a sort of middling ranking. So I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Rea was right: La Vie en Rose is brilliant. As you may know, it’s a biopic of French singer (chansonnier?) Édith Piaf. Her life—beginning on the streets and in brothels, reaching the heights of fame, and ending much too soon in physical and emotional agony—is inherently fascinating. Director Olivier Dahan’s nonlinear, impressionistic telling manages to make Piaf’s story even more absorbing.

Dahan’s method is a big part of the dispute between critics like Rea (“vividly, explosively real”) and Scott (“complete mess”). Going into the film I didn’t know much about Piaf’s life, but I nevertheless found La Vie en Rose‘s version to be compelling. If you had to tell the story of your life, you probably wouldn’t tell it in a straightforward A-to-B-to-C fashion. You’d talk about themes, and you’d dance back and forth a little bit through time. La Vie en Rose does that.

This impressionistic style absolutely does not get in the way. In general, the movie gradually takes the viewer from Piaf’s childhood to her premature death. Sure, there’s some “juggling” of time here and there, but I was never confused; I always knew what part of Piaf’s life I was watching. For me, Dahan’s use of time added complexity to the film, causing me to focus on traits/themes; it made the film more involving, not more messy.

Marion Cotillard’s performance as the adult Piaf is startling. In his review, Rea said Cotillard’s lip-synching was “perfect.” That’s not quite true, but it’s nearly so. More importantly, Cotillard seems just to become Piaf. It was easy to forget I was watching an actor. Cotillard does more than an impersonation; she captures Piaf. I won’t be at all surprised if she’s remembered at Academy Awards time. She’s that good. The two child actors who played the young Piaf are quite good, too.

La Vie en Rose is highly recommended. On a four-star scale, I’d give it three or, probably, three-and-a-half stars.

Go see it.


22 07 2007


A year ago today, my first post went up here at Rivers Are Damp. In that post, I introduced myself and wondered whether I’d ever find anything to say. I guess I did, because this is my 231st post. Gosh, I do go on and on.

On the occasion of my first blogiversary (hey, can a blog have a paper blogiversary?), I’d like to thank my four-and-a-half regular readers. It’s been awfully nice getting to know you through email, comments, messages, stink bombs, and otherwise. If you’ve been reading on the sly, at least once in awhile, I hope you’ll take this opportunity to introduce yourself.

One of the questions I get most frequently is about the blog’s name. It’s from my favorite poem, which—of course—I’ve already blogged about. (Will I actually run out of things to say in Year 2? Maybe.)

What are some of my favorite posts of the first year? Well, I recently blogged about that, too. I picked these three posts to highlight:

1.) “A Return to the Productive Life,” which detailed a strange assignment I received at work and conveyed—I hope—a little bit of the nuttiness we all feel when we’re not the boss. It might even be a little bit funny.

    2.) “Dear Soulmate-Who-Got-Away,” which is, by far, the most private thing I’ve posted here. It’s a letter to the man who thoroughly broke my heart. I wrote it last September, before my (gulp) 40th birthday. And although I frequently link back to this post, I’m actually feeling quite a bit, well, less heartbroken these days. In fact, in my daily conversation, I no longer refer to the culprit as The Soulmate-Who-Got-Away; instead, he’s The Bastard. I think that’s progress, don’t you?

      3.) “You were wearing a blue bow-tie on the 8:43 train….,” which combines two of my favorite subjects: Commuting and my passion for those strange Missed Connections ads on Craigslist.

      I picked those favorites in April. Today, I might add two more posts to that list:

      1.) “Happy Belated Bloomsday!,” mostly because it chronicled my conquering two things: Ulysses and, for at least one Saturday afternoon, my great fear of public speaking.

        2.) “The Man Trap,” in which I detailed my next project. And used the phrase “Twisted Metal slut.”

        And the busiest day here at Rivers Are Damp? That occurred last August when Jason Kottke, keeper of one of the best blogs in the business, linked to my post about the Five Quotes meme. I got an enormous amount of traffic here, over the course of two days, and then it was gone. Oh, how those abandonment issues flared! Well, not really. But it does feel a little bit weird to have, um, peaked in my second month.

        Thanks, again. I hope you’ll keep reading.