Friday, May 15, 2009

What the World Needs

While the world needs this, it has to be located in the Raleigh area:

A restaurant that serves freshly prepared sushi...

and Eastern North Carolina style barbecue...

and margaritas. Big honkin' margaritas. Jose Cuervo. On the rocks. With salt.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wahoo Is Just Another Word for Tool

The University of Virginia was the first university I visited during my senior year of high school and topped the list of colleges/universities that I was considering. One quick campus visit was all I needed to understand that it would be a bad fit: the level of arrogance, snobbery, and elitism displayed by the admissions staff and student tour guides was astounding and ludicrous. And the constant references to "Mr. Jefferson" were surreal by the end of the visit, at which point I'd decided that those university officials who claimed themselves heirs of Mr. Jefferson's educational ideals could kiss my ass.

Here are two fascinating posts from the May 7, 2009, Marc Fisher chat on the WaPo website that help illustrate why I firmly believe that UVA has a higher percentage of tools than the vast majority of state-funded colleges and universities in the nation:

McLean, Va.: McDonnell has got the in-state thing wrong. My son is a junior at UVA, and my daughter is currently a sophomore. What's more, my husband and I donate heavily to the University.

The biggest thing we like about UVA is that the out-of-state kids, paying full tuition, are the "right" kind of kids for a place like UVA. They're kids who you would feel comfortable hosting at your beach house without embarrassing yourself with the neighbors. Having quotas of in-state kids just leads to more Richmond gang influence and Winchester Dukes of Hazzard types, and that undermines my children's college experience. Keeping the in-state quota low lets my children attend a university that is essentially private, yet with the lower tuition and our donations we get substantially more influence than paying full tuition (with no money left for a donation) at a Princeton or a Yale.

Marc Fisher: Well, that's an interesting perspective. It's clear from the admissions statistics that by bringing in top-shelf students from out of state, places like UVa and William & Mary can powerfully boost their reputations and the quality of education they offer. And those Virginia kids who do get in--still a huge majority of the students at each of the state's schools--benefit both from the mix of kids and from the massive subsidy that out of state students pay. But I don't know that you'd have such an easy time proving that the next batch of Virginia applicants, the ones who just missed getting in, are the Dukes of Hazzard types who so repel you. In fact, any admissions officer would tell you that they could easily fill the entire class with kids who are absolutely identical to those who are admitted--it's a numbers game, and in Virginia, the out of state kids do boost the academic profile, but most of all, they boost the bottom line.

McLean, Va.: Just a clarification -- I'm not saying we should BAN the Richmond/Winchester types forever. Just have them prove themselves, that they can contribute something tangible to the University family. If a kid walks away from the Crips or the Boar's Nest and spends a good 8 years in the U.S. Armed Services fighting terrorism there so we don't face it here, then I can understand giving the kid GI Bill benefits to apply to his tuition bill. But make them DO something first for our security and our stock market, rather than just looking for an in-state handout as though nothing's expected of them.

Marc Fisher: Shovel, please.


Amazing, isn't it?

(Oh, and just to clarify before someone makes the accusation, no, I did not attend Virgina Tech. I went to Tech for some incredible parties -- the sort of parties that would undoubtedly have mortified McLean's beach neighbors -- but never paid a penny of tuition -- in-state or out-of-state -- for the privilege.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

HBO Picks Up Treme, David Simon's New Orleans Project

As reported by various sources, Treme is a go. More info here:

There are differing accounts regarding the schedule, with a fall 2009 premiere being mentioned by some and spring 2010 being predicted by others. As much as David Simon fans would love to have only a six month wait to view his latest series, next spring makes far more sense considering that the pilot episode is the only one in the can as of now.

Some tidbits from the Hollywood Reporter article to give a quick idea regarding the show:

"Treme" is a post-Katrina-themed drama that chronicles the rebuilding of New Orleans through the eyes of local musicians. [snip]

Despite featuring "Wire" alums Pierce and Peters, people expecting the same show will be disappointed, Simon said.

"This is not a 'Wire' redo with a New Orleans soundtrack," he said. "It's more of a character study looking at people trying to reconstruct their lives after their city has been destroyed and at a city that [is] a living, breathing organism."

Worst Headphones Ever?

After appx 18 months of heavy use, the Phillips headphones I use for my iPod died yesterday. I'd planned stop at Best Buy on my way home this evening, but couldn't wait: not only am I accustomed to working while listening to my iPod, but several co-workers are suffering from various ailments that have them coughing and hacking and clearing their throats and so on non-stop: the constant annoyance is about to drive me nuts.

So I went to the drug store during lunch and bought the only headphones they stock, an earbud style model I'll call Oombay Ixstay sold by a company I'll refer to as Entrysay. Wouldn't want to get any angry corporate lawyers after me, so forgive my use of inscrutable code names.

At $6.99, I knew that I wasn't getting high quality headphones, but I expected something barely functional. These aren't even at that level. The sound quality is poor, but I could live with that for a day or two: at least I'd be able to listen to something to help drown out XX's mucus-clearing sounds. But the earbuds are so huge that they don't fit well; again, I could probably tolerate that for a short while. But the biggest problem is that the hard plastic is rough and has sharp edges that are not just uncomfortable but painful: no, they didn't draw blood, but I dabbed a tissue in one ear because I was certain that they had.

If your only entrance into a crowded entertainment-related market is to manufacture a product at such low costs that purchasers experience pain and discomfort as a result of using your product, well, you might want to ask yourself if having a presence in that market is really so important after all.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


I was bummed this afternoon when I saw that Ted Leo's show in Charlotte next month was on the same night as Steve Earle's show at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, a show for which I'd already bought tix. But I noticed on TL's sched that he was playing the next night, June 11, in Athens, GA, at the 40 Watt Club. It's a six-hour drive down to Athens, and I've often wanted to check it out, so I mulled it over and quickly decided, "What the hell, I'll road trip."

While I was looking at making hotel reservations, I decided, "Hey, I've never been to Athens before, so I might as well stay two nights and check the town out a little bit." So as I'm poking around the Web, trying to figure out what to do and what to see, I notice that the night after the TL show the very same club is hosting a certain Los Angeles punk band that goes by the name X.

So I'm going to go to three shows on consecutive nights to see Steve Earle, Ted Leo, and X.

How frucking cool is that?!?!?!

(Oh, and just to make it as utterly awesome as possible, the Athens hotel is 3 blocks from the club, which means I can drink during the TL & X shows worry-free. "BARKEEP!!!")

NC Museum of Art: Part 2

Amid the surprising number of trails within the museum park are several outdoor art exhibits. Below are shots of an impressive multi-piece structure called Gyre.

NC Museum of Art: Part 1

Took a trip over to the North Carolina Museum of Art this afternoon.

This first picture is of the current museum and was taken from one of the many trails on the extensive park grounds.

There has been a massive construction project under way that is billed as a museum expansion. They would have us believe that what is being constructed is a new building for both exhibits and art storage, but I think the truth is obvious from the photos below. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a building to house art; no, this is a greenhouse for growing human-alien hybrids.

An Agnostic at a Tent Revival Meeting

Back from Greensboro where I saw Springsteen.

Don't know what's gotten into me lately, but this is the third concert I've been to in the last two weeks. I saw the Connells two weeks ago, Mike Watt + Dinosaur Jr. last Monday, and Bruce tonight. I'd have to search back years in my memory to remember the three most recent concerts I'd attended prior to two weeks ago. Plus, I have tickets to see Steve Earle in Carrboro in June and tickets for U2 in Raleigh in Sept or Oct (I'm too tired and lazy to look up the date). At this rate, people are going to think that I'm something other than a cranky, boring old dude.

As for Springsteen, it was a good show. Not great, but good. For one thing, the show came five days after that incredible performance that Mike Watt put on: it would be nearly impossible for a coliseum-sized show to come anywhere close to the energy level of a three-piece punk band playing fast and loud in a small club.

Beyond that, when it comes to Bruce, I'm somewhere between a casual fan and a fanatic: I own all but two of his albums and like most (Nebraska being the one that I absolutely love) but am not so familiar that I know all of the lyrics. And it turns out that his concerts are sing along affairs to a surprising degree. So while most everyone around me screamed all of the words to "Badlands," "Born to Run," "Thunder Road," etc., I just sort of took it all in and wished that I was enjoying the show half as much as everyone else.

Despite those minor issues, though, it was still a good show and enjoyable enough for me to actually move some... moving in time to the music being a much more accurate description that to say I was dancing. Oh, and I clapped along where appropriate, keeping much better time than most: a coliseum of white people (there were far more black folks in the band than in the entire audience of ~20,000) can't find or keep rhythm worth a damn.

The band is incredibly tight, although I guess that shouldn't be a surprise, especially after spending a good portion of the last year on the road. I thought it was interesting that Clarence Clemons gets the biggest applause for his solos; he's quite good, but Nils Lofgren impresses me far more. And Max Weinberg's 19-year-old son, Jay, took about half of the drumming duties, and that kid is also pretty impressive.

Springsteen is every bit as engaging as I'd been lead to believe. He spent a few minutes at one point tonight talking up the Food Bank of Eastern & Central NC and an anti-death penalty group. He seemed sincere enough without overdoing it, preaching to the audience, or coming off as self-righteous (unlike Bono the last time I saw U2 many years ago... although, to be fair, I was in a rotten mood that night, so he might not have been nearly as annoying to 99% of the audience as it seemed to me... but that has nothing to do with Springsteen, so why am I bringing it up here?).

With the hour-plus drive back to Raleigh on my mind, I cut out early, a bit before 11:00, which was 2 hours and 45 minutes into the concert. That part impressed me: I knew he was known for 3- and 4-hour concerts back in the day, but I assumed they were probably a couple of hours these days (the dude is turning 60 this year, after all: that's a lot of work for someone who's been on the AARP mailing list for a full decade). So I was disappointed that I couldn't stay for the whole show but I was dreading the gridlock exiting the parking lot and trying to get back to I-40. And as tired as I was by the time I hit my exit back in Raleigh, I'm glad I did: that's not a long drive at 4:00 in the afternoon, but when you've driving back at midnight on a Saturday night and most other drivers seem to be having problems staying in their lanes and/or trouble maintaining their speed, it makes for a tense and exhausting 75 minutes at high speeds.

Overall, a good evening. Glad that I can say that I've seen him but I don't think I'd go out of my way to see him a second time unless I somehow drift over into that obsessive Boss fanatic territory where I find myself able to recite scripture with the other true believers.